Many of my stories had their origin in my experience in a writers workshop at Kenyon College. Unlike a conference where you sit and listen to a lot of speakers, this was an intense immersion into the practice of writing with a small group of people (in my case ten people). Every day we wrote short pieces and read them to the group.
Our workshop leader, Rodger Kamenetz, gave us prompts that helped us recount significant memories, or “spots of time” (as Wordsworth called them). He encouraged transparent, honest writing, with feeling (“naked writing”). And this happened! There I was reading my work about my greatest failings, hurts, and joys to people I just met.
The people in our group were from all over: New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, North Carolina, and New Orleans. Several were from a Jewish tradition, others from Christian backgrounds—both conservative and liberal, ranging in age from thirty to late sixties. Because the ten of us were being real for hours a day, we became close. Our different beliefs did not create barriers. I had meaningful one-on-one conversations with each of my workshop mates. We shared our beliefs and listened with respect and curiosity.
It was incredible for me to realize my work could move the people in my group. And the more I was willing to delve into my own imagination and emotions, the more they seemed to feel the writing. Each piece I wrote caused me to revisit a memory and take a new look at it. I realized I had drawn some very negative messages from a couple of memories. My group helped me see them differently, and I felt set free.