“Prove to the world you’re worthy of the skill you seek and good things come to you.” Luis Urrea
Before I left for Luis Urrea’s Advanced Fiction workshop at Aspen Summer Words, I received an unexpected email with some great news. In May I had learned I was waitlisted for Bread Loaf in Sicily — and, since they only accept six writers in each category, I did not expect to get in. I was honored to have come close. But, as you’ve probably guessed, that good news email before Aspen was letting me know a spot had opened up and I was in for Sicily!
In the days that followed, I found myself wondering, over and over again, why me? I know many writers – many fabulous and talented writers – who for a variety of reasons, wouldn’t be able to consider going to one of these workshops. Their reasons are varied and real: financial concerns, children and/or parents to care for, physical issues, and let’s not forget fear, which can be a risk-avoider’s stamp of “let’s stay put.” At different times in my life, many of those issues would have prevented me from applying too.
But, here I am, over-blessed, well aware of it, and grateful for it.
On our first day meeting with Luis Urrea, he said, “I’m all about gifts and blessings. Life sends endless gifts to help you write. Accept the daily gifts…..Every morning is my birthday. I have to pay attention to the gifts all day long.” And, yes, I got chills. It was one of those rare moments when you feel, with a clarity not always available, “I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this time in my life.” For me, my thanks go to God. For you, perhaps, your thanks go to the Universe, the Force, yourself, whatever. In his early discussions with us, helping us understand where he comes from in his teaching, Luis said, “There is some sort of spirit of writing, a literary drive in the earth. All religions have expression in poetry.”
So, I sat on our first workshop morning in Aspen, on a deck with a mountain view (remember my need for mountains?), filled with gratitude, surrounded by talented, kind writers, certain I was supposed to be in Urrea’s class, aware that in a few days I’d be discussing my novel with editors from Random House, Houghton Mifflin, Little Brown and Tin House. Aware that I have worked (and will continue to work) long and hard. Aware that I had been blessed by the “spirit of writing” to share a book which deserves an audience. Again, I felt I was exactly where I should be.
As often happens in a great workshop, I was awed by the variety of pieces we work-shopped, by the talent, energy and giving spirit of my fellow writers. We work-shopped my story on Thursday. I had submitted a chapter from my novel which was from a male perspective. I was wanting validation that I had successfully captured the male POV, as well as ideas for turning the chapter into a submittable short story for top tier literary journals. The feedback from Luis and my colleagues was very positive and one suggestion in particular will enrich the final three pages of that story. Thanks to those awesome critiquers! I floated from the workshop to a quick lunch and then on to my editor meetings. In advance of the conference, each editor had received a packet with my bio, a synopsis of the novel, and a ten page excerpt (not the piece I had just work-shopped.). I had submitted a slice that I thought conveyed well the heart of the story, the main character’s voice, and my writing style. Let’s just say that the light-footed floating continued as I went from meeting to meeting, confident I was receiving sincere praise, ready to follow up with requests for longer excerpts, ready to revise my synopsis based on suggestions, ready to submit to a suggested agent. My face began to feel like it had on my wedding day, sore from smiling.
This entry has been much more about me than most. I hope you find some things in it that will be helpful for you in your writing journey. As I often remind us all, giving up gets you nowhere. I would not be in this position of feeling like I’m where I should be if I had surrendered any number of times when I wondered if I should keep going. Perseverance. Perseverance. Perseverance. That is the mantra for anyone who wants to make it in any field. And, add to that, recognizing gifts and blessings. Maybe you call them luck. Synchroncity. The stars aligning. Whatever. Accept them and be grateful.
Perhaps, for me, if the over-blessings continue, I will be working on novel revisions in Sicily, based on an editor’s requests. And, I’m trying to embrace a different question than I did earlier: Why not me?
Why not you, fellow writers? Why not? Would love to hear of unexpected gifts and blessings that have enriched your writing life. Happy #writing!