Dorsey: Examining the literary workshop, is it for you?Written by John Dorsey | | email@example.com
When I sit down to write most mornings, I go it alone. Such is the case for many writers. It wasn’t always like this, I started out my career in the company of others, eventually ending up in the back room of the sadly now defunct Teatro Café just outside of Pittsburgh, for what was, in my experience, the best writer’s workshop I’ve ever attended.
Since moving to Toledo in 2003, I’ve spent nearly every night of my life engaged in one literary activity or another, but rarely have I found another workshop environment as fulfilling and inviting as that first one, but a piece of news I recently received has given me hope, at least for now.
I’m talking about Joel Lipman’s ABRACADABRA Studio of Poetics, which bills itself as a community workshop dealing with practice and methodology, featuring direct one on one instruction.
Those of you who’ve spent any time in Toledo’s poetry community probably know Lipman from his many years serving as Lucas County’s First Poet Laureate, maybe he was your professor at the University of Toledo, where he taught for several decades, or maybe you’ve read his work in countless small press literary publications. Maybe all of the above. My point is this, if you’re looking for experience and commitment, particularly on the local level, he has it in spades. He had this to say about ABACADABRA-
“I think ABRACADABRA Studio of Poetics will fill a useful niche in the city, as much for what it’s not about as for what it is. By studio size limitations alone it can’t & won’t include all poets. That should generate purposeful tension.”
I had thought about writing a feature article about ABRACADABRA, but as that was already in the works when I found out about the space, I decided instead to take a few paragraphs at look at the value of both attending and paying for a workshop.
The first question I really wanted to put out there is–why are you there? Writing can be a commercial enterprise, but to begin with, it is, hopefully, a highly personal journey of self- exploration or at the very least, good therapy. Before you even consider attending a literary workshop, even one offered by an accomplished literary figure, you need to ask yourself, why do I want to be there? What do I hope to take away from the experience?
Are you looking to find your voice? Are you merely trying to build self-confidence? Are you just looking to have a good time? Are you looking to publish? Do you just want a second opinion or a friendly voice at the end of the day? Can the workshop in question help to improve your work as a writer? These are all questions that no workshop has the answer to, though the people you meet may indeed help you find some direction for your creative outlets.
If I’m being honest, while I have gotten a lot out of one on one instruction, what I look for in a workshop is a friend, perhaps a mentor, someone or even a group of people, that doesn’t make me feel like some weirdo who likes to play with words. If you’ve read this far, I think you know what I mean.
One last question I think you need to ask is, to pay or not to pay? There are all kinds of workshops out there, academic, paid, not paid, you can find many of these in a Writer’s Digest reference volume. You could easily set some card tables up in your garage and invite some people over to discuss their literary endeavors. What is the experience worth to you? Is it worth paying a fee? In the end maybe you should just attend a workshop and find out. For now you can find more info on Joel Lipman’s Abracadabra Studio of Poetics at http://abracadabrapoetry.com/
Until next time…keep your pencil sharp.
John Dorsey is a widely published poet. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.