I was recently invited back to a group I’d spoken to previously. When the subject is related to my books, I’m so in my comfort zone and can talk a blue streak. But since I’d already covered that ground, clearly, I needed new material.
With fear and trepidation, I prepared a presentation optimistically titled, An Interactive Writing Workshop. My plan included a brief description of setting, character development, genre and point of view. Keeping those topics in mind, I’d follow up by reading the opening paragraphs from several of my books. Then, (cue music) the scary part. I would ask them to write the beginning of a story.
Assailed by doubts, the following scenarios appeared in my overactive imagination. What if nobody showed up? What if I was met with truculent glares and they refused to participate? What if I heard mutterings like, “Why the heck did I come to this stupid thing?” “You want us to write???” Or, worst case scenario, maybe someone would initiate a stampede to the exit.
Because of my anxiety, I over prepared. I arrived armed with a long list of possible settings and dozens of writing prompts. Guess what? Not necessary.
Jim arrived early so he could show me the book he’d written about his life, titled The Farm. Many others filed into the room armed with paper and pens. After my brief introduction, I asked them to write, either individually or with a partner. With nary a grumble, they got to work. What they produced was educational . . . for me.
Bob, a child of the depression, came home from school to find the all family’s possessions piled outside their re-possessed home. Despite abject poverty, Bob served in the military, earned his M.D. and had many interesting experiences as a county coroner.
When Judy, along with three small children, arrived in the Philippines to join her military husband, he was nowhere to be found. Unfortunately, nobody told him she was coming. It was Sunday. None of the stores were open. There was very little furniture in the house and no food. Unlike today’s Millennials who panic when they can’t get cell service, Judy prevailed.
Sharon’s story of visiting her parents’ graves moved us to tears. Her husband’s description of an outdoor adventure was eloquent as well.
One group took the challenge of using a story prompt and penned a story about a group of 13-year-old girls gathered around a campfire and their rough-around-the edges visitor, Whopsy Willie. Creative, indeed!
If you decide to undertake a similar project, here’s my advice. Look for a group of well-seasoned adults who have lived life to the fullest. Their stories are amazing. I promise you will be richer for the experience. I know I was.