Writers At Work 20th Anniversary — Angela Brinskele

Writers At Work 20th Anniversary — Angela Brinskele

Terry arranged a public reading for my class, “Crafting the Story” at Beyond Baroque.

I’d been writing less than a year at that time and couldn’t believe she would want me to do any such thing. I practiced telling her “no” for a week. Then when the time came for me to mention I wasn’t going to do it, she looked into my face and said, “The story is compelling.” It was this,  and the fact that she had this great idea that we all do a rehearsal that made me do it after all.  I will never forget that day, the day that I decided I would call myself a writer. The day I read my work in front of an audience and they gasped.

http://writersatwork.com

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Writers At Work 20th Anniversary — Dylan Gailey

Writers At Work 20th Anniversary — Dylan Gailey

Writers At Work remember
I hold you sacred

Memories:

I remember discovering that a poem I’d fallen
in love with had a name
It was Sonnet

There is the memory I rely on daily
At Writers At Work I learned to breathe
To inhale and exhale evenly
And sometimes, just for fun
My breath iambic pentameter

I have a memory of laughter. I have a memory of my skin
remembering the feel of  the gentle guidance offered
as you touched my cheek all rosy and warm.

http://writersatwork.com

Writers At Work 20th Anniversary — Ann Pibel

Writers At Work 20th Anniversary — Ann Pibel

I kind of feel like I haven’t been a part of the Writers at Work for long enough…. but I guess it has been almost two years.

I could say that my confidence as a writer has increased ten-fold. I’ve gone from feeling like an aspiring writer to a “working writer.” The way you moderate the workshop ensures that every individual’s unique voice is preserved.

I’m not sure this is the kind of thing you need, but I wanted to say something, because you asked — and because I really value the community of writers you have nurtured.

http://writersatwork.com

Writers At Work 20th Anniversary — Matt Knight

Writers At Work 20th Anniversary — Matt Knight

I have so many memorable experiences during my One Page At A Time stint that it’s hard to pick one. So, why not start with the first – my first critique.

For someone who had never written a manuscript before, turning in my first chapter for critique was daunting, especially for a perfectionist. At the time, I was working as a biotech lawyer with an insane 60-80 hour work week (lawyers and litigation, what can I say). To finish the chapter, I carved out time in the early morning hours before work. Demonic compulsion, I quickly learned, was a necessary trait for a writer who worked a full-time job. I labored over that submission. Often, I was stagnant with self-doubt, afraid I couldn’t deliver the necessary elements of a knockout first chapter. When I finally submitted the work for critique, I was forced to wait a week. The passage of time was so unbearable I ate a box (okay, maybe four) of Girl Scout cookies. Thin Mints, because those babies are oh, so good.

My two-hour critique was filled with anxiety and a whole lot of sweating. Silently, I wrote down every comment and scrap of advice. In the end, I survived the ordeal, even continued with the class for another ten years. Still a perfectionist, but with thicker skin.

http://writersatwork

Writers At Work 20th Anniversary — Wendy Adest

Writers At Work 20th Anniversary — Wendy Adest

One of the best aspects of participating in Writer’s at Work is that it keeps you honest. Every week we all have to fess up – that is, report if we wrote that week or not. It’s embarrassing to go too many weeks without performing. I found that if I set myself a small, completely feasible goal, and if I met that goal, it prompted me to do more.

Terry provides a safe environment to get instant feedback on what you’re writing from a diverse group of intelligent, articulate like-minded people, so you don’t have to annoy your friends and family. You get to see right away if something is working or not. The insights can be profound and sometimes surprising. You get to read a variety of projects from novels to short fiction to creative nonfiction.

The workshop has given structure to my creative process and for that I will be forever grateful. Last week I completed a draft of my first novel, something I always thought I would accomplish but I know never would have happened without Writer’s at Work.

http://writersatwork.com

Writers At Work 20th Anniversary — Julia Gibson

Writers At Work 20th Anniversary — Julia Gibson

Knowing Terry has changed my life in so very many ways. Her workshops stretch me, her friendship enriches me, her writing expands me, and she’s introduced me to people who have become vital for me. Two of them and I have been whatever we are for twelve solid years. We have no official name or even a decent descriptor. Affinity group, accountability cadre, support team – none of these words do justice to what we are and what we do. Every Monday morning (about 600 of them to date), we check in by Skype or phone to help each other set intentions and goals, contend with psychological and spiritual barriers, celebrate milestones. We only rarely critique each others’ work, but we critique each others’ work habits and habits of mind. We tell the truth gently and fiercely. We raise the bar and encourage the crashing of barriers. We want the best for one another. We discuss productivity, positivity, strategizing, networking, artistry. We’re comrades in the struggle toward becoming better writers and humans. Without our Mondays, I’d be lost in the forest of my tangled mind. They’re my untanglers, my wranglers, my navigators, my guardian alligators. Thank you, Terry, for making us possible! One of us calls us the Rah-Rahs. Rahh!

http://writersatwork.com

Writers At Work 20th Anniversary — Cara Chow

Writers At Work 20th Anniversary — Cara Chow

Participating in Terry’s One Page at a Time workshop from 2000 to 2009 was the most important thing I ever did for my writing, but it also had an unexpected, life-changing side effect for me as a person.

I grew up in a homophobic home and religious environment. By the time I graduated from college, however, I believed that my education had enlightened me and cleansed me of all my prejudices.

Then I joined Terry’s workshop. During the first class, we critiqued a memoir about a lesbian feminist’s political and romantic struggles. The other story was about a man who invents a gene therapy for homosexuality and his gay brother’s fight to suppress it. Two gay stories: I thought this was a strange coincidence.

The following week, we critiqued a memoir about a lesbian feminist writer’s experiences in the lesbian feminist arts movement of the 70’s and 80’s and a thriller about a grief-stricken woman who falls for a dangerous woman.

After the third class, I confessed to my husband, “I think there’s something about me that’s different from the others.”

My husband’s reply was, “Didn’t you know that Silver Lake is the Castro of LA?”

I had no idea. I learned two things about myself that day: 1) I had no gay-dar, and 2) I harbored a guilty, nagging discomfort that belied my progressive self-image. As a Chinese-American woman, I had viewed myself as an ethnic and gender minority, but I had been blind to my privilege as a straight person until I became the straight minority in a writer’s group. Would I fit in? Would others in the class accept me as one of their own?

In the end, this group turned out to be the smartest, kindest, and most generous community of writers I have ever known. Over time, my colleagues became my friends. Some of my fondest memories of the class were from the time when I was pregnant. Everyone offered weekly doses of kindness and encouragement as I passed a 5 month bout of severe nausea. One of my classmates, who was raising two kids with her wife, passed down her beloved baby products to me. Later, my classmates pitched in to buy me a stroller, which I used everyday until my son outgrew it.

Because of my experience in Terry’s class, I’ve come to believe that one of the most powerful ways to bring about social change is to have people live and work with those we perceive as different from ourselves towards a common goal. My colleagues and I didn’t have “awareness talks” about our gay and straight experiences. We just read and wrote and persevered together. It is through experiences such as these that the “other” becomes “we.”