October 25th, 2009


Hotlips writing workshop

This morning I spent a couple of hours at the local Hotlips Pizza for a writing workshop. This event is held in the morning on the third Thursday and last Sunday of each month (no Sunday workshops in November or December) and is a chance to "experience the transformative power of writing in community" and to support Write Around Portland with a donation ($10-30 sliding scale). See http://www.writearound.org/events/events.html for more information.

About twenty people attended. The structure of the workshop was that we were given a series of writing prompts and then a few minutes to write on each, after which those who wanted to could read their pieces aloud, then the floor was opened for reactions. Only positive comments were allowed -- this was an exercise in energizing writers rather than improving writing. Each excercise included two or three different prompts to choose from, and we were encouraged to write whatever we wanted without worry, apology, or fear of rejection.

The writing here was much different from what I usually encounter on the printed page or in critique groups. It was all raw, first-draft stuff, of course, but everyone who chose to read what they'd written had prose that was not only coherent but sometimes brilliant. The big difference was that everyone except me seemed to be coming from a modern-fiction, slice-of-life, or personal-memoir background. Some of the pieces seemed autobiographical, others were clearly completely fictional, but there was a lot more focus on emotion, memory, and poetic language (example: "the blue sky hanging in acres above the yellow leaves") than I have in my own work or am used to seeing in SF. My own stuff seemed commercial -- plotty, slick, and facile -- by comparison with the best of these. Not that this is a bad thing, but it's useful for me to be exposed to completely different kinds of writing every once in a while.

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