Notes from the Colony
Am I A Writer?
[Editor's note: For her first column of 2013, regular CCN columnist Alison Taylor-Brown wanted to review the progress of the Community Writing Program since its beginning last June. But this essay from a student says it better than she can, Alison says. "This is why the Community Writing Program exists," she said. "If you've ever thought you'd like to write, please read Linda's story. Let's make 2013 the year of your dream."]
There had been a little something on my back-burner for quite some time. It was just a tiny spark that ignited when someone spoke about their own creative projects. It lit up like the first firefly on a summer evening. Just a blink. But I noticed it and felt it in my soul. My niece gifted me with some of her very special "words." Blink! A favorite author read some of her poems. Blink! People listened intently when I spoke about something with passionate energy.
Blink! Hearing words in my heart while driving and being compelled to pull over and write them down. Blink! Little scraps of paper with "words" on them tucked away in books and drawers and notebooks, but I hadn't done anything with them. Blink!
Then an article appeared in the local paper about a new program specifically for locals who were aspiring writers. Really? Am I that person?
I had never thought of myself as "a writer," but I did think I might have something important that needed to be said. The article made it clear that anyone could come to the workshops. I had never written anything, except little scraps of paper.
But, I decided to go to the first workshop anyway and see what it was all about. Maybe I am a writer, and I just haven't paid enough attention to her? Blink!
I felt warmed by the very first workshop. Alison never ceased encouraging, and Mike loaded our plates with writing truths and examples of language usage. How do you develop a character? How do you use dialogue to move the plot forward? How do you "show" the scene and not "tell" it?
I came to the workshops with no expectation. But, as one workshop led to another, I slowly felt something bubbling up.
The first turning point was Alison's question. "Think about the essence of your life's journey and put it into a few sentences." When I opened my mouth and heard my own words, I knew I had spoken something important to myself. "The essence of my life has been a spiritual quest for healing and wholeness amidst the three great losses in my life. And who I have become because of it." Wow, did I really say that? Yes, that is it in a nutshell. Loss and healing, and how that happens in the soul. For the first time, I started to seriously think about writing a memoir.
The second turning point for me was deciding to join one of the new Writers Circles, even though I had not written anything. Two of us hadn't written anything yet, so Lizzy took the lead. She fearlessly put her words out there for us to learn from. Alison spoke to artistry: does this work here or in the next paragraph? Does this word say it well enough or is there another word that says it better? We met twice a month to be inspired by each others stories.
After our second session, I drove directly to the lake. And the words just started to come. No beginning and no end. Just these words from long ago and far away. They left the land where they had lived all this time to come and visit me here and now, like an old friend. And then the scene became a little story, little bit by little bit. The Writers Circle was synergy: the energy of the group, the inspiration of the stories shared, the raw honesty and vulnerability that became "the voice" of the story, and Alison's persistent presence and encouragement to "write on!" And we do, and it feels so good!
\See the complete schedule of 2013 writing workshops at communitywritingprogram.com. For more information or to register, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 479 292-3665.
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Alison Taylor-Brown directs the Community Writing Program at the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow, which provides creative residencies for writers of all genres, composers, and artists. More than 850 writers from 44 countries have created at the Colony since its founding in 1999. Her column appears on the first and third Tuesdays.