Confessions of a Former Fence-Sitter: Why You Should Attend The WSR Writing Workshop This Summer, by Sarah Howard
It’s almost summer in Minnesota and everyone’s already busy trying to jam as much as they can into our few habitable months each year. But in between barbecues, vacations, and family get-togethers, why not take a little time for yourself and help jumpstart your writing?
This year, The Water~Stone Review Writing Workshop will be held from Sunday, July 24 – Friday, July 29 on the campus of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. An easy 45-minute drive from the Twin Cities, the WSR Summer Writing Workshop provides a great opportunity to work with nationally-renowned authors close to home while also having some relaxation and fun.
Sold? Great. Head on over to the official web page and sign up! But maybe you’re more like I was before I decided to do it: indecisive, skeptical, not fully committed. If that’s you, let me offer some more concrete reasons why you should attend.
Being in a new environment.
Wherever you do your writing now—desk, table, secret cave—have a look around. It’s easy to get stuck in a writing rut when staring at the same surroundings day after day. Plus, if you’re anything like me, a number of distractions surround your writing space, like Netflix, and the internet right there on your computer whispering to you to check if anything’s happened on Twitter in the past five minutes. If you’re having trouble writing, or even just having trouble finding time to get a project done, a solid week-long block of time can give you the fresh start you need to get going on a new project or continue an existing one. If you’re inspired by nature, the lush, wooded campus of St. Olaf will be a perfect place to write. If you’re not the outdoorsy type and prefer the comfort of tall buildings and city lights (hi), there’s still plenty of interesting things on campus to help get your imagination going. Your friends will be impressed that you’ve been in the actual place they named Rose Nylund’s hometown after on The Golden Girls. (And if your friends don’t like The Golden Girls, time to make new ones.)
Hearing new voices discuss your work.
Whether you’re in an MFA program or not, it’s always good to have someone who hasn’t seen your work before give a fresh perspective. And there’s no better local opportunity this summer than to participate in one of the WSR workshops. It’s a star-studded list once again this year: Sven Birkerts in creative nonfiction, Chinelo Okparanta in fiction, and Rebecca Lindenberg in poetry. Take a look at those great names, check out their websites, figure out which one fits your style best, and go for it. The advice and new ideas you’ll learn from these talented authors is invaluable.
Hanging out with other writers.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to attend AWP, you already know how cool it is to be in a place where everyone is doing the same thing you do. If you didn’t, no better time than now to find out! People who “get” the writing thing can be so rare in everyday life. You’ll be in a workshop with other writers who all want to focus only on writing for a week, just like you, but that’s not the only place you’ll see them. At meals, at events and panels, hanging out in the dorm, and most especially at the offsite events at The Contented Cow and other places in the Northfield area, there will be a group of people you can talk craft with and not have them look at you strangely. It’s great! There will also be an opportunity this year to hear panels of publishing professionals and WSR staff talk about topics vital to today’s writing world.
It’s not a summer camp. It’s so much better.
This was my biggest concern going into last year’s workshop. I’m a person that likes to have all the comforts of modern society close at hand. Staying in a dorm on a wooded college campus for a week sounded suspiciously to me like summer camp, a nightmare for indoor kids like me who have grown into indoor adults. But let me tell you, the reality was not at all like the nightmare I anticipated. Everyone gets their own room, and there’s a sink in each one, a luxury my dorms in college did not have. And if you’re worried you’ll be trapped without amenities, Northfield has both a Target and a liquor store, so you will be OK. And the rest of the workshop is nothing like summer camp. No three-legged races or canoe trips or whatever else we’ve all tried to forget. Just writing and hanging out with other people who like writing. Sounds pretty good, right?
Former Assistant Editor in Creative Nonfiction