Psychologists call it an approach-approach conflict, being torn between two equally attractive choices. Although it’s supposedly the easiest of internal conflicts, I struggled with it a couple of weeks ago. Should I go to the SC Book Festival or attend a daylong intensive writing workshop in Rock Hill? I’d been to the Book Festival several times and knew it would be an energizing and memorable experience, but the workshop sounded so inviting. When a couple of people in my writing group expressed an interest in the workshop, I said, “Count me in,” and I’m so glad that I did.
Nick, Verena, and I headed up Hwy 97 around 7:00 o’clock on Saturday morning and enjoyed the beautiful green foliage and rural landscapes along the way. As Nick expertly maneuvered his smart sports car around the curvy narrow road towards Rock Hill, I think we all had the same thought: This is going to be a great day! And we were right. We were enlightened, fed, and entertained in the presence of delightful company in a lovely setting.
The workshop was entitled Bridging the Publishing Abyss, and the three of us were impressed (even amazed) at the quality and quantity of offerings, the organization of the proceedings, and the smooth manner in which the Rock Hill Chapter of SCWW (South Carolina Writers’ Workshop) worked together. They were a team in every sense of the word. The group provided breakfast, lunch, and snacks, and I’m pretty sure that some of those delicious cakes and cookies came straight from kitchens of some of the members.
Held at Grace Lutheran Church in Rock Hill, the workshop setting was perfect. On and off throughout the day, we heard someone playing the organ in another part of the church, and that added a certain ambience. Meals, readings by local writers, signings by SCWW authors, and large sessions were held in a big room. Smaller group sessions were held in perfectly sized classrooms on another floor.
Throughout the day, there were twelve classes from which to choose. Four timed sessions, each offering a choice between three concurrent classes, were led by local writers. Naturally, I couldn’t attend all twelve so, with difficulty, I narrowed it down to four, the first of which was led by author Craig Faris and entitled “The Wrong Way to Get Published.” Faris, author of The Spectrum Conspiracy, gave his listeners much food for thought, including the encouragement to join a writers’ group.
I also learned much from writer and publisher Roxanne Hanna about some differences between character driven and plot driven fiction. Hanna encouraged her audience to follow Ron Rash’ advice and “find the universal” when writing and suggested that it usually involves an emotional tie. Later that day, my chapter friends and I returned to learn about “nonfiction fibs” from Hanna. While Nick, Verena, and I absorbed a lot of information, one of the things that resounded with me is the reminder that we need more stories that compel us to think afterwards.
Lee Miller, author of The Journey, held several sessions about the importance of keeping a personal history, and I attended one of them. Reading ancestors’ memoirs can encourage children to ask questions, have courage, and take chances. Listening to Ms. Miller speak of being an encourager and a wise risk taker was an inspiring experience. I especially related to the discussion about branching points and defining moments.
Lunch time was fun. Several of us sat around a big round table munching on subs, chips, and a variety of desserts as we discussed what we had learned. Book signings were held during and after lunch, and later writers in the Rock Hill chapter read some of their work. Can I just say “awesome?” I don’t want to single out any particular writer/reader, and yet Nick and I are still chuckling over the story about the dead man found in the bathtub. And then there was Joy, a young woman who mesmerized everyone in attendance when reading “Anger Management.” I had chills!
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I won a door prize. It was a bag of books. Imagine that! Reluctantly, we packed up our goodies, including the individually wrapped cookies that the Rock Hill chapter had prepared for the road, and headed home. I think I speak for everyone who attended the daylong workshop when I say that a good time was had by all.