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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop Wrap Up


It is proving very difficult to describe why the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop was a life-changing experience for me without it sounding all hyperbolic and starry-eyed, but I have to admit that I'm all starry-eyed, anyway.

Sitting among 400 people in the same place who get it, who understand the thrill of writing humor and human interest for the sake of writing it, and not necessarily just to sell it, is validating, energizing, and a little humbling (in a good way). Getting encouragement not just to keep writing but to stay authentic, kind, and earnest in our work, from people who have achieved so many impressive milestones, was more than a little inspiring. I walked away with new purpose toward completing my writing goals, but also with new purpose toward being the person I want to be. I can't imagine asking for more.

OK, more chairs in Kennedy Union Room 222 would be OK.

But otherwise? Nope. I assumed I'd enjoy this workshop and that it would be awesome to discover people who might tick a little bit like me, but I had no idea it would lead to such a soul-searching, life-affirming experience. And that's on top of the slew of practical tips I will studiously... er, study.

Yesterday I wrapped things up with a session on developing a distinct blog presence and voice (which I lack since I'm pretty scattered) with the super sharp and very personable Anna Lefler, and presentations that I found incredibly inspiring by Kyran Pittman (I barely took notes because I was mesmerized by her lyrical Canadian accent), and Karen Walrond, who thinks you (and you, and you) are uncommonly beautiful.

Kyran focused on finding the authority to write. I found her ideas about "writing" vs. being a "capital-W Writer" so eye-opening. It's important to assess what your goals are there.

She also spoke about writer Seth Godin, who has written about the importance of delighting the people who are already paying attention. This would be in contrast to the people who you keep hoping to attract. It's a sure way to keep your voice authentic, and it's not that it's not a fine goal to grow an audience, but sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the stats and numbers, and the further that boat goes out to sea, the harder it becomes to remember why you came to the shore in the first place.

Karen's gorgeous presentation focused on sparking your creativity. She is a mathematician turned lawyer turned photographer/writer, and she is simply wonderful. One idea I loved was "100 paces, 20 shots," which I think is pretty self-explanatory. I'm dusting off my Canon 20D as we speak. Here is what Karen had to say about the workshop.

I will try not to gush on these pages too much, going forward, but I wanted to document a little bit about my experience here. If you've landed here thanks to a google search about the workshop, yes, do sign up. It will sell out, and you should experience it. I wish I could take every one of my writer friends with me next time. It was intimidating at first, but so liberating and empowering by the end.

In the words of Erma: "It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else."

I'm so glad I did.

11 comments:

Jen said...

Okay, you've sold me. I'll go with you in a few years, when I no longer have a kid attached to my chesticles half the day.

I know I've said it before, but I'm so glad you did this for yourself. You're too talented not to explore any opportunity to stoke your creative fires.

Sarah Hunt said...

Yes! I thought several times "oh man, Jen would love this woman, or Jen and I would totally be in trouble in this session snorting with laughter..." Oh, and there were women with a giant bird that I think was a heron but looked a lot like a goose! They wore feather boas and had a ROCKING good time, let me tell you. :D I would love it if you went.

And thank you for the nice things which you have said that have made me feel suddenly awkward and unable to accept a compliment without rambling incoherently for 75 words.

Kyran said...

Thanks so much for the wonderful feedback, Sarah. I'm also still feeling the warm fuzzies :-) Seth Godin is the person who talks about delighting the people who have already given you the honor of their attention. It's such a simple, yet revolutionary, concept, isn't it? Godin is not a Great Writer, but he's a great thinker. I read his blog most days, and recommend it.

Maybe I'll see you at EBWW '14, if not sooner!

other Jen said...

What an amazing experience! I am so glad you took the time to share it with all of us. Although I am not a writer (or even close to a capital-W Writer), I learn a lot from what you write on here.

It is your last line that struck me the most. I have a terrible fear of failure, so I rarely share my dreams with anyone else...especially since the pursuit of my big dream ended in utter failure. My current dream will remain firmly in my closet, for others to ask about or notice.

Some day, I hope to have your courage. You inspire me, Sarah!

Sarah Hunt said...

Thank you, Kyran. :) I'm so impressed that you'd take the time to comment, and I will definitely check out Seth Godin's blog on your recommendation. I'll credit and link to him in my post, too. Thanks again for your inspiring talk (and I totally agree that writing is part of the service industry - that was a great discussion).

Sarah Hunt said...

Thank you, other Jen! That's very nice of you to say.

I have to argue with your at least gently, however. I absolutely disagree that your big dream ended in utter failure. That you even went for it is huge, and the fact that what you did will live on in the families who were lucky enough to find a pony to love through you, means it isn't a dead dream. Just because the industry is changing doesn't mean you didn't contribute something valuable to it. You worked HARD, and with a kind heart and a well-trained mind. I have seen "utter failure" before (for instance, "16 and Pregnant" on MTV (and it's not the pregnant teens that have failed there)). Your experience doesn't qualify, sorry. :D

I'd love to hear your current dream, at any rate. We should probably escape our children at some point and meet up for dinner/lunch/brunch/coffee/spinach.

Oh! And on not being a "writer" - trust me, you can get so much from writing even if you don't consider yourself a writer. Please check out Women Writing for (a) Change in Silverton. So many women go there to share their writing with other women and it's SUCH a cathartic process and a great, eclectic mix of people. Highly, highly recommended for every single woman in my life.

Amy said...

You are so right -- it's hard to describe EBWW and do it justice without sounding like you've just drunk some kool-aid. Amazing experience. I missed Kyran's presentation. Sounds like it would be worth getting the audio to.

Anna Lefler said...

It truly was an amazing weekend, wasn't it? I'm still quite starry-eyed myself...

Thank you so much for attending my session - I love hearing that you're happy you did. Hope to see you in Dayton again in two years!

In the meantime, best of luck with all your writing projects!

:-) Anna

Sarah Hunt said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment, Anna! Yours is a session I will definitely suggest to my husband when my CD comes in the mail. That was truly great stuff. I went through my notes today and kept saying "yes! Exactly!" Thank you. :)

Sarah Hunt said...

Yes - Kyran really makes you want to go study philosophy under a big tree somewhere breezy. :) That kool-aid was the good kind - no lime flavor in sight!

The Bearded Iris said...

Karen Walrond's session was one of my favorites too! So inspiring. Damn, I'm really sorry I missed Kyran's now. :( It sounds like a winner. That Seth Godin reference really resonates with me. So important to remain authentic and loyal to ourselves and our current readers. Counting down until 2014! See you there!

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