Universe smiles on committed writers

2013-05-16T00:00:00Z Universe smiles on committed writersOpinion by Alexis Powers Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

One of my favorite quotes is, "At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you," from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Nowhere is this more evident than at the writer's workshop I conduct at the Oro Valley Library.

The workshop started about a year and a half ago when I asked Jane Peterson, the main librarian at the time, if I could use the library to start a workshop.

"Sure," she said, "give it a try."

Two people came to the first workshop.

A bit discouraged, I met with her.

"Only two writers showed up. Should I schedule it one more time?"

"I'd give it another shot," she said.

The second workshop was better attended. Eight enthusiastic people participated. The session went really well. The participants were eager to express themselves through writing. We decided to meet every other Wednesday from 9 to 11 a.m.

The third time we met there were about 15 students. That number continued to grow.

At each meeting I explain that our workshops are motivational. I tell the students, "This is not a writing class. This is not a critique group. No one will criticize any other writer. You cannot say to someone, 'That is the worst writing I've ever heard,' nor can you give someone else advice like 'You can't say that.' We are here to encourage, not critique."

Many students come to the workshop not sure what they want to write but aware that they have a burning desire to write something. Some are in the middle of a novel, some have thought about writing a novel, a few write poetry and several want to write a memoir so their grandchildren will know something about their lives. There are a couple of people writing historical novels based on old letters or diaries dating back to the pioneers and World War I veterans. Hearing about what these people went through is mind-boggling.

One of the students published what she referred to as a "fictionalized memoir." I had not heard this term before but have received emails from people showing that the fictionalized memoir is a legitimate memoir, based on a "protect the innocent" kind of thinking. (I'm beginning to think most memoirs are a bit fictionalized.)

If someone wants to write but is not sure what to tackle, I give them a simple assignment. If they are interested in writing a novel, I ask them to do a profile of their potential protagonist. If it is nonfiction, I ask them to draft out the opening paragraph. Little steps lead to a long walk and hopefully publication.

In today's world, self-publishing is easy, with costs varying. I encourage my students, explaining that there are very few things more exciting in life than seeing a book with your name as the author.

What I get from the students fulfills me. Giving folks who only dreamed of writing the opportunity to express themselves gives me joy.

Remarkably, the students are completing their projects, looking at ways to publish. We are planning a book signing early in November for our published authors.

The reason these writers are successful is because they are committed to their projects. And because they are committed, the universe has smiled upon them. I can't wait until November.

On StarNet: Read recent columns by Alexis Powers at azstarnet.com/alexispowers

Email Alexis Powers at northwest@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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