Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Frankly: writers' conferences and retreats
My impression of writers' conferences and retreats is pretty negative. I think of competitive people sucking up and looking down -- and feeling like I'm in 7th grade, NOT as part of the in-crowd. But Alvina's post yesterday got me thinking. Maybe I am being way too negative, maybe it would be fun to go to one, and useful, too.
As you may have guessed from my last post (and like everyone else, I apologize for not posting more lately), I'm living on a small Scottish island. I am writing, every day except Sunday, but I want this book to be good so much that I'm clutching. The word comes from a pitcher on This American Life who said no matter what he did, he couldn't get the ball near the batter and the harder he tried the worse it got. They say in baseball that you can't think and hit or pitch at the same time, and maybe the same goes for writing.
A retreat or writers conference where I could do some exercises and get some tutoring on how to get out of my own way, and have some laughs with the other attendees in the evenings and MAYBE have someone read my work without having a meltdown (that is me I'm worried about melting down, not them) -- might be just the thing.
There is a retreat for writers in Scotland, above, where no one seems to take themselves too seriously (the bio of one staffer described her as making a huge change in her life "in a mad fit")....and someone who attended one of the workshops described her experiences as "magical." A friend of mine in America went to a workshop on the writing process at Kripalu (the teacher didn't read anything they wrote, just talked them through sitting down and getting it done) -- three months later, she's still getting up at 5.00 a.m. (two hours before her children) to write. I know a lot of it will be the luck of the draw -- who the teachers are, how they like me and my work, what the group dynamics are -- but maybe it's worth the risk?
What do you think? Have any of you attended a conference as a writer/student (not one of the teachers) and had good experiences? Feel free to answer anonymously if the answer is no!
As a first step, I am definitely going to a one-day workshop at the Scottish Story Telling Center (for 1/20th the cost of a weeklong retreat). They have lots of classes to choose from -- I'm going to the one on fairies in Scottish legend, literature, and song, that has everyone singing as well as listening to talks and practicing their own story telling. No way can I take myself singing seriously! And it will be fun to go back to Edinburgh, which I have finally learned to pronounce. Here they say Edinburra.