Feast for Seven Women

Who would have thought that six weeks ago, seven women writers would bare their writing souls so willingly using the Amherst Writers & Artists method, developed in Amherst, Massachusetts, by Pat Schneider and described in her book, Writing Alone and With Others (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003) and have it work? From young, to, ahem, not so young, the group gathered to write, listen and offer critique.

It started with a friend passing the word along that there was a sign up in our little local bookshop, The Raven, a six week Women’s Creative Writing Workshop, run by two Kansas University MFA’s.

Why not try some fresh faces, new ways of approaching writing?

I liked that the leaders insisted on meeting each member first over coffee. I liked that the flyer stated, “Writing can be easier, more satisfying, and more fun than we often make it, but it is always an act that makes one vulnerable.” That one sentence gave me hope.

The leader, who understood the importance of vulnerability, was also organized–“We’ll move onto this writing exercise now. We’ll break for a little refreshment.”

The other leader is doing her own work in non-fiction and immediately exhibited her insight, humor, and vulnerability in writing anecdotes about her family, which set the tone for doing it ourselves.

During a session on conveying the complexity in family gatherings, one woman wrote about her relationship with her sister using the metaphor of a ripe peach; fresh and juicy, but always with a hard pit at the core that she had to spit out in order keep her own identity. Another writer wrote of meeting her notoriously violent brothers–in-law for the first time on a family rafting trip when–wouldn’t you know–the violence erupted.

Over the course of the first week, parts of manuscripts were submitted to the group so that the next week’s session would include a formal critique. By the second week, we girls knew the drill. Respect of people and procedure brought security so that jokes salt and peppered the meal and made it very tasty.

Fresh eyes on the page, and new ears on the spoken words stimulated our writing appetites, so that we wrote more easily and with a sense of fun. After all, to a writer, there’s nothing more satisfying than a writers’ feast.