Volunteer Karolina blogs about the Writer’s Center.

The Potomac Review has a long-standing friendship with The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, having had publication launch parties and conference events there, as well as having published some of their workshop leaders.  It’s no wonder, then, that having heard about The Writer’s Center through my work at the Potomac Review, I would be intrigued.

Generally, I write more when I am inspired by other writers and involved in the literary community.  So, currently between undergrad and grad school, I was on a mission to put myself back into a circle of writers to help ignite my writing “spark.”  I checked out The Writer’s Center’s workshop page, and perused through their fiction workshop section (you can search workshops by genre).   I finally selected a “Fiction II” workshop, after debating between that and “6 Stories in 6 Weeks,” which seemed like too much of a challenge.

However, my life has a funny way of kicking me in the butt sometimes.  It turned out that “Fiction II” was cancelled for that section because of low registration.  Quickly, I signed up for “6 Stories in 6 Weeks” with Sinta Jimenez instead, with a knot in my stomach.  But it actually turned out to be a very good thing.

I showed up for the first class early, and was pleased to discover that the workshop room was well lit with floor to ceiling windows, and furnished with wide tables and extra chairs—plenty of room for personal space.  At the start of the class, everyone introduced themselves, their level of experience, and reason for taking the course.  I was excited to find out that the participants all had different backgrounds and levels of experience, which has proven to be beneficial in receiving a variety of feedback.

Then, Jimenez let us know how the workshop was going to work—because the idea of the workshop is to produce a large quantity of work in a short amount of time, it’s not as much of a traditional fiction workshop where everyone reads each others’ stories and gives a long critique.  In “6 Stories in 6 Weeks,” we discuss a theme or topic each week, and after the discussion have a long period to write on it.  At the end, everyone reads what they have so far, and gives each other constructive criticism.  If we want to finish the stories at home on our own, we have the opportunity to email the leader for additional feedback.

Sure, anyone with a good book of prompts can generate some topics to write about, but for me the most helpful thing in the workshops has been the discussions about the topics.  The opportunity to hear from everyone has given me different perspectives and ideas I would not have come up with on my own.

So far, we’ve written about conflicts (I wrote about a Russian-American girl trying to fly a kite with no wind, a very simple man vs. nature) and the end of the world (a theme I contrasted with details about ordinary life and a protagonist who seems apathetic about the whole thing until the very end).  The first started out well for me, but probably won’t turn into a story—still, good practice.  The second topic, though, is turning into a full-length short story, which I’m very excited about.  My goal is to come out with at least three finished, full length stories, and as far as I figure, three full stories in six short weeks is pretty good for me.

Though this workshop is fun and will hopefully generate a lot of content for me, I am definitely interested in trying a more traditional workshop at The Writer’s Center, or one of their one-day workshops, like “Building Tension” or “How to Write A Lot.”  In fact, The Writer’s Center has a lot of great workshops for writers of all genres, ages, and skill levels.  For someone like me who needs a sense of community to help stick to my writing habits, The Writer’s Center is a great resource.