To Workshop or Not to Workshop? Heck Yeah!

I had the chance last Saturday to participate in ENCORE, held by the Northeast Region of SCBWI. They hold their annual conference every May, as well as a workshop day in October with the four highest rated workshops from the conference. Given the fact that the workshops looked great, the price couldn’t be beat, and it meant a Saturday to myself, I jumped at the chance.

The day was the perfect balance of lecture and writing exercises. Here’s what the agenda looked like:

  • Do Your Kid Characters Sound Authentic? (Karen Day)
  • Saying Stuff Good: A Workshop about Strengthening Your Writing with the Effective Use of Voice (Mark Peter Hughes)
  • Keeping It Campy: Writing Camp for Grownups (Jo Knowles and Cindy Faughnan)
  • Dialogue: Crafting Conversation in Fiction for Young Readers (Mitali Perkins)

For each workshop, the speaker took us through the concept in a fresh way, gave us specific examples to refer to, and led us through exercises to apply our learnings immediately. Several challenges forced us to work together with our fellow participants, so no playing wallflower for anyone. I left with a journal full of books and blogs to read, new contacts, and ideas for tackling the next revision on my current novel. I even have some new ideas for my next two novels.

To Sally Riley and everyone else who worked to put together the ENCORE program, I say Bravo! It was well worth the 2-1/2 hour drive for me each way.

For me, the best judge of a workshop or conference is whether I learn something that forces me to look at my writing in a different way. I have never considered myself a poet (well, since high school, anyway). Perhaps I get caught up in the temptation to rhyme. Or as Joanna put it, starting poetry from a blank page is daunting. One of the exercises from the Writing Camp session was all about writing a poem. But we had a construct to work with. Here’s the exercise:

Write your phone number down the page, one number for each line. Now write a poem about something or someone you love. The number on each line tells you EXACTLY how many words you can use (no more, no less). A zero is a wild card.

Give it a try- even those of you who don’t consider yourself a writer! If you are willing to share, please post your poem in the comments. We’d love to see them!

Here’s how mine turned out:

I love…

Her sweet little face

beaming at me

her little hands spreading across my back

kissing my nose.

She smells of syrup and playdough and soap

and childhood.

She giggles, crinkling her nose.

I’m somehow a funny Mommy today to my precious

Elizabeth.

Thanks to Jo Knowles and Cindy Faughnan for the exercise (and the inspiration- it may be just me, but I think my poem isn’t half bad. For a non-poet, that is.) To check out more writing prompts, Jo has tons on her website here.

Best wishes for a creative week, whatever your area of interest!

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2 thoughts on “To Workshop or Not to Workshop? Heck Yeah!

  1. Workshops are wonderful, aren’t they? I absolutely love your poem – so beautiful! I’d love to try a version for Short & Sweets, but I think I’d have to give people more direction than simply the phone number for number of words per line…

    • Thanks for stopping by Susanna! Out of curiosity, what additional direction would you give? I struggled with how to demonstrate this without directly giving out my phone number… 🙂

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