Let me preface this post by saying I have suffered from “imposter syndrome” these last couple of months. Meaning that annoying but ever so persistent voice in my head has been making me feel like the worst writer in the world, and that who am I to talk about writing and help my fellow struggling authors. It has taken a toll on me, and I have hardly posted anything because of it or have written hardly a word in any of my many WIPs.
So when the Harborfields Library asked if I wanted to continue to help teens by leading their writing workshop program this summer, I nearly regurgitated what that annoying “jerk voice” in my head has been saying. I wanted to say NO, that I am not worthy of teaching writing, that I am not the bestselling amazing author out of the many amazing authors out there. That I am a fraud. Sure I have written and published books, but what have I done lately? They are better off finding someone else.
Yet, the woman running the teen space in the library called me again and said she really wanted to try to put this on this summer, and to hopefully meet in person, since the past year we have only been able to do virtual workshops. After enrolling my daughter in camp, I figured I could do one evening a week. What harm is that? Maybe somewhere deep within my subconcious, a little voice was trying to break through the manganimous foe like in a heroic tale and yet it was only a whisper but a dull spark that spread like wildfire in my cold and purposeless heart. “Say Yes.”
So I said yes. And then when the day was approaching, I was unprepared. In fact, I didn’t have anything prepared at all. Usually i would have a powerpoint or something, but this was going to be an outdoor meeting, with some veteran and some new students ranging from 6th, 8th and 11th grade. All different levels and ages. Oh God, what did I sign up for?
The day of the workshop, I grabbed my notepad, with four hours to spare…talk about procrastinating. I finally forced myself to prepare something so I wasn’t some bumbling idiot for a 2 hour workshop. I thought about what I would want to do if I was doing an outdoor workshop. So I thought about doing a small scavenger hunt where the girls had to walk around and see if they were drawn to an object. Then to describe that object in detail. And then to write a story with that object. I thought it sounded fun, and the evening was supposed to be nice. Then i started worrying. 2 hours! I can’t just do one writing exercise for TWO HOURS!
As I was freaking out, I printed out an old PDF I had created about the basics to storytelling so that the new girls would be able to use it, hoping not to bore the other students by doing this again, but it’s always good to have a refresher, right? Of course my printer ran out of ink half-way through the copying process, but I thought, hey, it’s a library. They must have a photocopy machine. I was proud of myself for thinking positive since all these negative things were trying to deter me from going. I was going. I had committed. No turning back!
I drove the 40 minutes to the library and met the girls outside. Luckily I was already prepared to do it outdoors since one of the girl’s mom called and said her daughter wouldn’t be able to go if the workshop was indoors due still being nervous about COVID. Luckily, they had a cute picnic area at the front of the beautiful brick-styled building. The library was a combination of old and new, and the landscaping was like we were within the beautiful manicured gardens of an arboretum, despite the busy road adjacent to us.
I decided to start with an ice breaker to get a sense of what the girls were working on and to get to know their names and grade. The two new girls entering 6th grade said they hardly do any writing, except for school projects. One of the 8th grade teens I knew from our virtual meetings said that this workshop got her excited about her story and she started writing it again so she had something to share during the meeting. That made me happy because the workshop gave her a deadline to jumpstart the writing process again. So far so good. The 11th grader said she was rewriting her novel, after 2 1/2 years working on it. But now she finally was happy with the new direction. I told her not to worry about the time but to trust the journey and each day she is becoming an even stronger writer and the story is unfolding the way it was meant to be.
We started going through the presentation and it was a great conversation. We discussed character traits, our favorite characters, why certain antagonists we love to hate! We talked about various settings and then one of the girls had to leave early. That made me realize it was already an hour into the workshop and none of the girls had gotten to write anything yet. I told them about the scavenger hunt idea and they seemed to love it. The 8th grade teen was drawn to an old fashioned bench behind where we were sitting, that looked dilapidated and weathered with age. I hadn’t even noticed it was behind me. The two younger girls took off together and discovered a secret alcove in the manicured bushes, like you were entering a secret garden with the trellis draped ever so slightly over an oval opening that led to a place where you’d expect the animals to be sitting at a picnic table and sipping tea like in Alice in Wonderland. Evening was encroaching on our workshop but the 6th grade girls’ faces were illuminated as the ideas kept jumping out like lightning. They were inspired to write an amazing story together and ran back to the picnic tables to get started.
The 11th grader was busy writing a scene from her WIP, utilizing this exercise to get her creative juices flowing. The 8th grade girl was still unsure, but said she was still drawn to write about the bench and that she noticed it was in memory of a late librarian. It looked pretty old so we went to discover if there was a year and the young girl said “It’s a book!” Sure enough, the bench was shaped like a book, the spine curved along the edge and the other side was carved pages. The part you sit on was the cover and there was a lock, like calling to us to unlock a secret magical world. The excitement brewed around us like magic and the young girls thought they would incorporate this book bench now into their story, like the spirit of this late librarian was invigorating all of us with the magical wonder of imagination and storytelling.
As the night progressed, everyone had wonderful ideas that sparked incredible stories and I was so proud of them and can’t wait to see where they take their stories for our next meeting.
And as I drove home that night, I realized it was a good thing I didn’t say no to this workshop. Maybe this workshop will bring about even stronger writers then me. Maybe, this workshop will unlock a key to a hidden passion for those girls to explore throughout their life. The amazing secret key to a passion I have unlocked in various stages of my life, but had lost the key along the way. It was always there, just waiting to be reopened. I just have to believe.