Man, oh man. I took a few days before I could sit down and write this post, partly because I had so many emotions that I didn’t know how to put them in blog post form, and partly because I was soo exhausted from everything I’ve learned in those five days.
As I’ve said before, I had the opportunity to attend An Aspiring Writers’ Workshop in Tennessee founded by Natalie Parker, alongside 40 other aspiring authors/writers to learn from Maggie Stiefvater and other amazing authors: Victoria Schwab, Julie Murphy, Dhonielle Clayton, Renee Adieh, Natalie Parker, Tessa Gratton, Myra McEntire, Carrie Ryan, Courtney Stevens, Brenna Yovanoff, and Justina Ireland.
Prior to the trip, I had so many things to think about. I’ve never been to Nashville, how was I going to get there? What would I learn? Would I be “recharged” enough? I had just come right off a trip to Maryland so I didn’t even have time to think and really prepare myself to spend a week in Nashville with other authors (other introverts can relate.) I also had another question, nagging me in the back of my head on the 7 hour car ride to Nasvhille…
How would I act? Other girls of color can relate. Do you ever feel like you have to “put on” when you are the sole representation of an entire minority? I was not the only black girl in attendance but there were only 4 of us, and two were authors. How would I be perceived? I can’t fake it for too long before my true self would start to show. Luckily, I realized soon that this would not be a problem for me.
As soon as I got in the van with Meghan, Sus, Sabina, Kati, and Ruby and we made our way to Lyles, TN to the lodge, I knew that I was going to be in a space where I could be 100% myself. I was in a space where everyone was from different walks of life, but had similar versions of the same passions and struggles: their love to read and write, making time to read and write, and trying to become a better reader and writer. I have never been around so many creatives at one time, so many people who wrote novels, loved them, writers who were itching to perfect their craft and desiring to have their work shared with the world.
and then there’s the teaching. I’m honestly have trouble reading anything new because I’m seeing stories with a much more critical eye. There are so many aspects to storytelling that you don’t even THINK about but it makes so much sense once you hear it. I have notes upon notes of ways to become a better storyteller and to build a coherent story. I honestly cannot wait to apply these notes to my novels! It’s one thing to love writing, but it’s an entirely new thing to want to become the best writer you possibly can. I think before this retreat I was so thirsty to be a published author that I was willing to submit something “good”, or even something “great” to agents, but not something that was my absolute best. I left the retreat feeling not only like I want to become a published author, but a published author who writes and tells fantastic stories to the best of my abilities.
The Writer Community is so helpful and supportive. I think it’s the realization that we all need each other, no matter what stage of publication you are in. The authors who were there to help us were so candid and open with answering our questions and even talked about things that you wouldn’t even have known to ask prior to coming to the retreat. They were fun and inviting and inspiring and so very helpful:
Renee: Thank you teaching me the questions I’d never think to ask and giving me makeup inspiration everyday! The small talks that we had were so valuable to me.
Victoria: Thank you for showing me that hard work and sacrifice does pay off. And thank you for writing a book with my brother’s name in it because he is now excited to read it.
Dhonielle: Thank you for letting me know that “my kind of feminism” is just as important as anyone else’s, and being living proof that #BlackGirlAuthorsRock. This is really something I needed to see.
Tessa: Thank you for opening my eyes to the complicated concept known as #worldbuilding!!! I feel so much more confident about it now!
Sarah: Thank you for being sweet, and letting us become just as excited about your debut novel as you are.
Justina: Thank you for being so unapologetic when it comes to doing and saying what’s right. Your teaching was so helpful I couldn’t write down notes fast enough. Thank you for also showing me that #BlackGirlAuthorsRock.
Julie: Thank you for unknowingly feel more secure about my body during a time where I am not completely happy with my weight. Also, thanks for the picture of me watching my fears burn to the ground in box form. (see below)
Carrie: Thank you for your insight on pushing a story forward and figuring out what’s right for me in my career as a writer and aspiring author.
Myra: Thank you for being the first author to talk to me at the retreat and sharing a love for South Carolina. I love your resiliency.
Courtney: Thank you for honestly being one of the most motivational and uplifting people I have ever met. Your ability to evoke intense crying in crowds is unheard of. And the 1-5 method is amazing.
Maggie: Thank you for inspiring me to create my own uniform, blowing me away with your prose, writing the first “scary” book that I’ve read from beginning to end, explaining the importance of storytelling, and just being an all around cool girl.
Brenna: Thank you for being a walking book character with a gentle personality very, very, cool hair.
and Natalie: Thank you for putting this entire workshop together and helping me learn about Beta Readers and critiquing the novel I am currently working on. Also, thank you for putting me in a space where I’ve made lifelong friends.
I’ve learned so much about myself and my writing in this retreat and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who is serious about writing. The things I learned at this retreat are things I will cherish and apply to my writing forever. I honestly can’t even put the retreat into words. I did try to put together a video, but neither this video or this blog post truly captures the essence of this trip.
I’ll also leave you with this picture of me burning my fears and doubts and insecurities into this fire, and being incredibly happy about it.