Coming to you from New Delhi! It’s just past midnight on Tuesday but let’s count this as Monday’s entry because I’m still on Pacific Standard Time. Just a few hours ago I was on an airplane chowing down on breakfast while watching “Rock of Ages” – terrible movie except for the times when Tom Cruise is on screen – he really is quite the actor and was he doing his own singing? He sounded great.
But what I really want to tell you about is Writegirl’s most recent workshop. I should have been home packing for my trip, but I couldn’t abide the thought of missing the workshop. I’m so glad I went. It was one of the best Writegirl workshop I’d attended and I’ve been attending workshops for the past five years! The workshop, focused on Non-Fiction/Memoir writing, was held last Saturday at the Autry museum in Griffith Park. The Autry was a fabulous venue that inspired the girls to turn out some of their best work. The anthology deadline is looming but I would love it if even just a few of the pieces the girls wrote and shared with the group could make it into the next volume.
The tone of the day was set by Diane Glancy (http://www.dianeglancy.com) who demonstrated what a poet can do with random words and images. From an observed “Pasture for Rent” sign, an overheard conversation about a bride who cried through out her wedding and two other images which I am sorry to say I have already forgotten, Diane crafted a beautiful poem. She challenged the girls to look at the displays, the art, the memorabilia available at the Autry’s many exhibits and galleries and to see what resonated with them. Those items which spoke to them, however disparate, she proved could be crafted into something magical. I should clarify, while she aimed her comments to our young mentees, her words were meant just as much for the mentors.
Amy Friedman, who just released “Desperado’s Wife”, was the afternoon special guest speaker. I am lucky enough to have taken a workshop with Amy which was nothing less than cathartic. One part of me wants to spend all my waking hours with Amy but the other is afraid of what would bubble to the surface. Amy has a way of getting to the heart of the matter the way an experienced diamond cutter knows just where to tap to release the best the stone has to offer. She shared her process with the girls, and mentors, and discussed the evolution of her career and her most recent book. I hope the girls were paying attention when Amy said that she writes every day! Not only that, she’s been writing a column, thus making a deadline every week for the past twenty years! That’s the type of commitment it takes to succeed as a writer. Amy worked one on one with some of the girls on their pieces. She brought out the gleaming facets of their work. As I’ve already said, the girls surpassed all expectations with what they wrote at this workshop.
I had a chance to chat with Amy for a brief moment during the workshop. She congratulated me for what I do, working with Writegirl, mentoring the girls. But what I told her is that it’s a selfish giving. Spending time with these young, talented but still raw girls gives back to me more than I ever give to it. I am a better writer for the time I spend with Writegirl and I’m a better person for the time I spend with these girls. My life is so privileged compared to theirs. It’s good for me to see the obstacles these girls overcome. Mostly I’m impressed with how early in their lives they’ve embraced writing and strive to make their words soar. When I was their age I was writing trite drivel mostly about some boy or a teacher who I didn’t think was being fair. I didn’t pepper my words with metaphors or similes, I just spilled. These girls don’t spill, they ooze.
I realize that only a fraction of them will become professional writers. Despite that, the time they’ve spent honing the craft of writing and thinking about it as a craft, will stand them in good stead throughout their lives. I’m proud to be a very small part of that.