I started writing as a teenager. I soaked up all the advice about writing groups and going to conferences. But I didn’t know how to find a writing group, and even when I got my shiny, new license, all the conferences seemed impossibly far away. So I kept writing, plunking away on Mom’s old college typewriter that I pilfered from the shed.
Somehow, I learned about the drop-in writing work shops at the Log Cabin Literary Center in downtown Boise. The cost was a requested $2 donation, to cover the heating/cooling during the workshop. What was there to lose? I packed a new spiral notebook, my favorite G-2 pen, two back-up pens, and a water bottle. I left early, and thus spent half an hour waiting in the car. I didn’t, after all, want to be the first one inside.
The Log Cabin is a beautiful old building, constructed in the 1930′s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. When I stepped inside, it smelled like wood, varnish, and books. A nice lady directed me into the workshop, and I slipped my $2 into the large manila envelope in the center of the table.
Probably a dozen people showed up that evening. The next youngest person was double my age. I squirmed at the odd looks I got, looks that seemed to say Are you a writer, or some punk kid here to crash our workshop?
We introduced ourselves. Memoirs, non-fiction, poetry, literary novels…I was the only person working on a fantasy novel. This didn’t exactly diminish my discomfort, or the odd looks.
The instructor talked for a bit, then gave us a prompt for free writing. When the time ended, each person had the chance to share. One lady stopped dead in her reading, glanced at me, and coughed. “Umm. There’s some swearing here. Umm. Right. The next sentence starts…”
Then it came to me. I was grateful for my water bottle — my throat had glued itself shut. I managed to squeak out what I’d written.
When I looked up, the table had changed. Soft smiles. A grin. Thoughtful nodding. I hadn’t come to mock them — I was a writer, and they accepted me. After the class, I got a chance to chat with some of them. Ask the octogenarian about his memoir, the middle-aged woman about her poetry. And someone asked me, sincerely, about my projects.
I couldn’t stop beaming the whole way home. I still didn’t know how to find a writer’s group. The conferences were still hundreds of miles away. But I’d spent an evening with other writers. That energy filled me for the next few weeks, buzzed around my skull. I poured out chapter after chapter.
That evening taught me that there’s something amazing about being part of a community. When I got the invite to be part of Gem State Writers, I waffled. Would I have enough to blog about? Would I be able to figure out the technology? But my mind came back to the Log Cabin, and I couldn’t pass up a chance to be part of a great community. Thanks for inviting me, everyone.