“More than a dozen Pulitzer Prize-winning writers and master teachers will share the most reliable secrets of their craft. . .in a free-flowing sequence of lessons. Participants will experience an inspirational and instructive writing workshop.”
Description from a workshop, Voices of Social Justice & Equality
Launching Prayers – Chinese Lantern Festival
We sat on the front row, where I like to sit. My curiosity only slightly peaked. I’m not a journalist. Each lesson only ten minutes. I clearly forgot TED. I got tons. Insights and tips for writing. Tears from stories, like from from a lesson on observation, the description of the trembling blood splattered shoulders of a man who murdered the mother of his child with a machete. Or schools turned into failure factories from a lesson on the power of simplicity, even in stories born from thousands of hours and documentation. Stuff I can use to write novels and essays, like who we are, really. And where we connect. How this lies in the defining moments of decision and action, the external context that influences our thoughts, emotions, choices – forgotten in our introductions so full of what happened & when. Halfway thru I thought, I want to do this. Can I become a journalist. It was the same feeling I had at Stony Brook Southampton Writers Conference learning from the best, watching performances by the best, when I thought I need to move to New York. And watching an ancillary short for the movie ‘Across the Universe,’ the one where they talk about gathering a team stellar in their field to CREATE, feeling a longing and recognition for that experience of co-creation in collaboration with genius. And like when I saw the images of the retreat center on Maui where author Cheryl Strayed led a writing retreat, uttered the words this is how I want to do my work. Like rarified air I want to breathe. Two days later I was shown more.
Every Tuesday and Thursday night for eight weeks my husband Art went to the Church of Christ fellowship hall. Attended a professional and personal development program called Jobs for Life. His teachers all volunteer members of the congregation. Sunday was Graduation. He asked me to go. They talk a lot about the bible, are pretty regular sorts of folks, he said. They indeed quoted scripture. Had three prayers. Sang three hymns, every stanza. Most dressed like we used to expect one dresses for church. A nice change to my thought. Each person on the team – teachers, coordinators, counselors, volunteers and champions – welcomed me, told me how much they appreciated my husband. We sat with the woman who coordinated the outreach program. Who took the course at another church, learned how to do it. Bought it home. We looked at programs for homeless, battered families, she said. In the end decided the jobs program. Because it’s something that can be built upon, carried forward. That gives participants tools for continued growth on their own. That can enrich whole communities. What I heard. . .they wanted to help people be their better and best selves. And they know we’re not islands.
Out of 30 who registered, eight showed up and finished. I teared up as participants shared what they got from the experience. The painfully shy young gal who’s now considering toastmasters. Her mother, dressed in a white lace dress, a brilliant turban of aquas and ocean, black slippers and socks, walking with crutches, who took the class to support her daughter, found something for herself in the process. The young man with professional athletes for parents who broke his back, was forced down a different path and found mentors. The former drug addict who’ll teach her kids principles she learned. My husband speaking up as a leader. I felt my heart vibrate with the chords of a dozen harmonized a cappella Amens from one of our earlier songs.
Someone recently said I ask a lot of the Universe. Her words shocked me so much I didn’t ask what she meant. When I sat with it, I saw the message as either step up, be bigger, earn what I ask for. Or I expect too much, step down, be smaller. The latter is not an option. Earning is not in anything I’ve read or studied about prayer, spirit, the Universe, or asking. Action is.
We start where we’re at. Hold the vision we’re able.
Those people I met Sunday are as genius to me as the Greats I aspire to. They put in the hours. gather the pages, define themselves toward their vision of their best selves in action. It’s the same path I’m walking.
What vision are you walking toward?
Another small journey. Getting to Wise.
A Writer’s Life.
A secret: Look for those defining moments and outside influences on my About Heloise page in the coming weeks.
A favorite: A capella voices