Archive for the 'Workshops' Category


Have you ever wondered? Of course you have. However, you may not have realized what a powerful tool wonderment can be. It is the beginning of all creative activity. When you allow yourself to wonder, you experience life in new ways. Words help capture those experiences.

On a writing retreat in fall of 2007, I wrote the following poem in response to a writing prompt. When I first wrote it, it just seemed like a stream of consciousness, but I liked playing with the ideas. Three years later, I rediscovered this piece, and I reread it with fresh eyes. Suddenly, I realized what I had been doing–I had been wondering.

Dancing with Words

Midnight dances to her own song, velvet skirt swirling softly.

Stars pinprick the sky, diamonds on a ribbon of light.

What is it like to touch their points?

In a carnival of sound, owls hoot, crickets chirp,

water spills over pebbles in a stream.

The blue-black night backdrops much mysterious movement:

silent spider spins her web; thunder shakes the mountain;

flickering fireflies circle the merry-go-round.

What is it like to fly on gossamer wings?


So, go ahead, play with words: experiment, take chances, explore your world, enter new worlds, open your perceptions, and engage your senses—after all, words are wonderful.

Why a Writers’ Workshop

Recently, one of my students called me from Pennsylvania, where she was participating in a writers’ conference. She went to pitch a chapter book she had been working on in my Words in Play workshops. I was the first person she called with the news that a publisher wanted to buy her book. Now, this was great, but what makes it even greater is that this woman joined my workshops about two and a half years ago, and in that short span of time she has completed the manuscript for this chapter book, written parts of another chapter book to be in the series, written an outline and several chapters for a full length novel, published several magazine articles online and in print, published several poems, and started her own blog.

The point I’m trying to make is that she almost didn’t write any of it. She wanted to write; she just didn’t know how to get the stories out of her head and onto the page.

That’s where the writing workshop comes in. This dear person, I’ll call her “Z,” joined the group with as much hesitancy as anyone could have and still show up. The writer’s workshop was a place where she could feel safe to share her ideas, play with new ideas, and receive the constructive feedback she needed to make real progress. Her stories took shape in every class. She learned that the support of a committed group of writers is more important than knowing where or how to begin.

Begin anywhere. Stories are made up of a mosaic of scenes. If you create one scene, it’s a beginning, but it doesn’t mean you can’t move that scene to the middle. I’m sure you’ve heard this before: writing is 90% discipline – you’ve got to write every day. I do know that if you don’t have support (a cheering section, critical feedback, ways to generate new ideas, proper guidance) you can have all the discipline in the world, but you may never get out the door to roadtest your work.

Begin anywhere, but if you have stories inside you, find a great group of like-minded writers and just begin. It’s the best advice I can give.