Writing Out Of The Presence
June 28, 2014 to July 5, 2014
Ellen Michaud at the 2014 Friends General Conference Gathering
As he began his Journal, John Woolman wrote that, “I have often felt a Motion of Love to leave some Hints in Writing of my Experience of the Goodness of God…” This workshop is for those who share Woolman’s experience. Workshop participants will open themselves to that of God and learn how to listen deeply as they write. They will also sharpen their writing skills, share their work, develop an approach to criticism in the manner of Friends, and learn how the writing process is itself a vehicle of spiritual growth and an act of faith. When they are finished, they will have completed a short narrative suitable for publication or, for book or memoir-length projects, the first chapter of a manuscript.
Specific topics will include: Deep listening. Discerning what you’re led to write. Story theology. Identifying your reader. Preparing to write. First words. Building a story. Sharing a story through publication. A brief overview of publishing today.
Each workshop will begin in silence. As I am led, I will move into a short lecture on the day’s topic. The lecture will evolve into a group discussion as I draw participants into the topic and relate it to essays by writers in the anthology A Syllable of Water: Twenty Writers of Faith Reflect on Their Art (Wipf and Stock, 2013). Worship, lecture and discussion will take about an hour. When I sense the group is ready, we will move into silence and then, as a part of that silence we will begin to write for the second hour. During the first workshop session, participants will be given an initial writing exercise that opens them to a deep pool of contemplation and a centered, writing experience. (In subsequent sessions, the exercise will be replaced by the participants’ own writing projects.) When I sense the group is ready, I will ask them to “Tell me a story” and, during the third hour, we will share our work out loud and offer one another criticism in the manner of Friends.
Workshop participants should bring a laptop on which to write. They should also bring anything that will help them focus on or add details to what they feel led to write—photos for a memoir, a book for review, research for an op/ed—even that manuscript they’ve had tucked away in a bottom desk drawer for a year just waiting for the opportunity to work on it.