Memphis Daytrippin’

On Saturday, August 30th, I had the opportunity to travel to Memphis, Tennessee to visit with some writing friends. Susan Cushman hosted an event at her home and the guest speaker was Neil White, author of In the Sanctuary of Outcasts. He recently launched a new venture under his Nautilus Publishing Company called Triton Press, a hybrid publishing house.

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A Writing Workshop

So later this month I am attending the 2011 Memphis Creative Non Fiction workshop. In order to participate in the group critiquing portion of the workshop, all attendees were required to submit ten pages of creative nonfiction which include personal essay, memoir, travel writing, food writing, and/or journalistic writing.

I decided to go with personal essay and I wrote about the decision I had to make about sending my 12-year old son away to military school.

Well, yesterday I received all the other attendees writing. There are a total of ten people in my group (two groups of 10 for the entire workshop). Part of this group critique is for each participant to critique everyones work. Then at the workshop, we will come together for discussion.

I received my group’s submissions yesterday. I am excited to get started but also scared to death. I’ve never really done an “official” critique of anyone’s work before. I understand the process and can figure out “how-to” to give a constructive critique but it still scares me.

At any rate, I will be busy over the next week or so with this new assignment.

It Is Done

Back several months ago I decided to sign up for the 2011 Memphis Writing Workshop put on by my online writing friend Susan Cushman. Part of the workshop was to submit a 10-page creative nonfiction piece for the group critique session. Well, I hem-hauled around for forever on writing my 10-page essay. I mean I knew what I wanted to write about and I know I had to have bored the snot out of my writing group with the same ole stuff every week.

First, I had to get my brain to wrap around what exactly this creative nonfiction genre was all about. I mean I had a notion of what it was but since I had never taken a stab at it before, well, I was apprehensive to even try.

Weeks went by, turning into months, and I managed to write a page here and there but nothing cohesive. So last night, now that we are down to the wire, the essay is due September 2nd, I finally sat down to try and piece it all together. It was late and I was getting frustrated because I felt the deadline looming. I knew it was my own fault for procrastinating. About midnight last night I decided to give it up and go to bed.

Apparently a good night’s sleep was all I needed. Well, that and a pumpernickel bagel from Brueggers with plain cream cheese this morning for breakfast. I sat down in front of my Mac and began again. This time, however, I was all into it and it flowed and things started coming to me and before I knew it, I had eleven pages written.

I know it needs to be edited and tweaked and I have gone through it several times already. I’ll leave it alone for a day or two and then go back through it one more time before I submit it to the workshop director. To me, my part is done. I wrote the essay. That’s all I wanted to accomplish, so far.

What comes out of the workshop is just icing on the cake. I am looking forward to attending the workshop next month and learning all kinds of things pertaining to writing. It will be my first “traveling” workshop. In other words, this will be my first workshop away from home.

Remember when the Alabama Writers’ Conclave came to Huntsville last month and I was so nervous to attend because I had submitted my 10-pages of my novel manuscript for critiquing? In the end, my manuscript disappeared and I wasn’t able to get a face-to-face professional critique? I have the same kind of nervousness with this creative nonfiction workshop coming up too. But I don’t care because I am happy I did the work (writing) in the first place, so to me, my part is over. I realize I have to carve out some time to critique the other attendee’s pieces before we all converge in Memphis the 23 – 25 of September. That’s not a problem. I can do that part. I also realize that I will have to sit eyeball to eyeball with a professional while they critique my work. I can do this too.

At any rate, the point I’m trying to make here is that I am so relieved to have finished my 10-pages.

Oh, and by the way, I got a big envelope in the mail yesterday (August 27). It was from one of the professionals from the Alabama Writers’ Conclave. In the envelope was my 10-page manuscript with her edits and a nice apologetic note. Other than the regular suggested edits for grammar, punctuation, and flow issues, she also wrote on the first page, “Very, very promising!” I was like a kid who just received a gold star on her “What I did for summer vacation” essay in the 4th grade!

At any rate, it’s been fun so far.