Tonight something remarkable happened. A rag tag group of writers with seemingly nothing in common came together and became greater than the sum of the parts. I’ve taught at a lot of conferences and I usually walk away quasi-suicidal. But tonight I felt wonderful. Tonight I saw each person transform in front of me, either in their ability to comment on another writer’s work or their ability to see their own. One woman seemed to have stepped out of a Roz Chast cartoon, had only written in her head thus far, but was adorable and no-nonsense in her feedback. One man, probably the smartest about writing in the group, was as shy as a blanket, but eventually made great observations. But the biggest surprise came from the woman who read her work last. We’d been listening to everyone’s work over the three hours. Now, we were tired and ready to get home (or in my case hoping to make a late movie). That’s when it happened. From her first sentence we were all transfixed. The quality and the power of the writing and story was undeniable. I welled up with tears. The room had shivers. And in her victory, we were all lifted up a little.
Earlier in the evening, we talked about taking chances with cover letters and in the writing itself. We talked about how you have to take chances to do anything that’s going to break through, but you also don’t want to do anything crazynuts. How do you know the difference? I told them to exchange emails with each other if they wanted to, and to be readers for each other. That finding reader friends at workshops is one of the most valuable aspects of attending. Having a trusted reader or two, especially where you feel safe enough to take risks, is priceless.
When we finished, as I was leaving, one woman asked the others if they wanted to exchange email. And then they did.
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