Thursday, August 12, 2010

About writing workshops: the real thing

On writing and writing workshops because PWP, 2010 no exception, includes a poetry writing workshop.... Have you signed up yet? Ask about rates for partial workshops, e.g. a single day or session.  Contact Dale Harris, for more information. 

Excerpted from The real thing via Books: Books blog | by AL Kennedy, 8/10/10

At their best, writing workshops can show us the intangible magic of inspiration taking shape.

I have just – I hope – put the finishing touches to an essay on writing workshops....Turning to that essay, I am glad I put an end to my major distractions by writing about workshops. This isn't so much because I like them – in fact, much of the essay was taken up with detailing what can go wrong with workshops and how un–useful the standard "lets sit round in a circle and read ourselves and each other with inadequate attention in a strained setting before allowing the blind to lead the deaf" type of workshop can be. But it also allowed me to remember the sheer wonder of a successful workshop. 

Apart from anything else a good workshop can allow us to see – as near as we ever will – writers writing, writing happening, the thing itself. There are few things better than sitting in a room that is suddenly united in action, that suddenly has that tingly, ozone-y feeling of something on its way – of inspiration taking shape, of words struggling or plummeting or bubbling through. When we work ourselves, we're too engrossed in the process to really be aware of it – to be frank, once we're aware, it tends to have gone away. 

When we see it in others – perhaps as part of group authorship, perhaps in a series of solo contributions – then there are moments when we can actually grasp the ungraspable, when we can see a very specific type of joy: the way a face clears and becomes beautiful when it is absolutely focused; completely itself and yet open to something other than itself, touched.

Part of what annoys me about the deadline and contract side of publishing is that it really has nothing whatever to do with writing, nothing to do with that beauty – the same beauty you see when someone is really reading, completely engrossed. I always say that writing and readers are misunderstood, because if you glance casually at people who are reading and writing, you may simply see people who appear serious, frozen. But if we happen to glance at people just before they kiss (not in an intrusive or unpleasant way, Best Beloveds) then their expression is the same – oddly solemn, intent. And yet nobody ever suggests that kissing is dull, or pathetic, or a bit of a waste of time. I happen to believe that giving and receiving a kiss operates very much along the same lines as giving and receiving a word – it's simply that the giving and receiving are done in different rooms at different times – they are still an attempt to touch, be touched, be recognised, to exist in passion, to be human.  Onwards. AL Kennedy

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