Pismo Beach, CA
The California Central Coast Writers Conference has been around for thirty-two years yet this was my first time to be invited to teach there. Though the conference was held on College Campus in San Luis Obispo (SLO is what the natives call their lovely town), both faculty and out of town writers were lodged at a beach front resort hotel in Pismo Beach. Humpback whales blew water into the air and magical sunsets awed us daily. A full weekend conference where I served on a non-fiction panel, did 15 minute 1 on 1 critiques, and taught two workshops.
The catered food was delicious and several small tables in a large courtyard served by perfect weather in the 70’s.
A highlight for me was meeting a favorite British author, Anne Perry, who has written eight-five mystery novels. At breakfast, we sat together and talked. Now in her mid-eighties, I was inspired to hear that she writes six days a week still.
I did a 1- on- 1 critique for a middle-aged woman in 4th stage cancer who persevered with her dream of writing and attending this weekend conference. She had a wonderful spirit and grateful for the comments on how to improve her story. I felt, if nothing else, I came for her.
My second workshops, Finding Your Voice in Memoir, drew a large audience, reminding me that memoir is the most popular genre today. I urged them not to write what I call a ‘shopping list’ memoir, listing everything one does and thinks. But to find a continuous thread of meaning throughout the life you are sharing with the readers, a clear theme. And focus not only on outer life events but on what they taught you or how they imprinted or changed your life. Suggesting also to add collective events or what was happening in the world surrounding your personal life. This makes for a multi-layered story and one which the reader can identify with as well.
In The Way of Story workshop, the aim is to integrate the craft of writing with the ‘invisibles’ – that is writing from feelings, gut, intuition, and even getting out of the way and channeling. Tools such as visualizations, listening to a poem with closed eyes and choosing a word or theme then writing whatever associations arise, writing from a sense memory. There are so many resources within so why write only from the left logical brain?
The response to both workshops was enthusiastic which more than made up for the long hours and driving to and from to teach at this well-organized conference where writing is a fun and sacred act.
It is exciting, too, to see older writers who had set aside their writing dream and now returning to it in full force. Also to see students in their late teens and twenties begin a writing life. Unlike ballet or other pursuits, writing has no age limits and it’s never too early or too late to embrace the writing life.
All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.
– Ernest Hemingway on Writing
Keep Writing, Keep Discovering Who You Are!
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