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The Time I Tried Going to a Writing Workshop

October 11, 2014

There’s a writing group that meets every Saturday in Lafayette. I noticed the fliers when I moved back, three years ago. They started meeting at the place I used to work and sometimes when I was in catching up on work I sort of observed them from the glass offices next door.

I kept telling myself to give it a try. So, today, I finally did.

I don’t really know the guy who organizes it. I mean, I’ve seen him around. His ex-girlfriend is a friend of mine and we rented a room from the same person. He wears alot of faded black and sandals with socks.

I entered the familiar boardroom and sat in the same seat I used to sit in for staff meetings which was immediately weird. Though I was only 5 minutes early, Mark, organizer was the only person there. I told him it was strange coming back to the place I used to work. Weird memories. About ten minutes later he made a joke about my ex-boss, slurring his words as he attempted to reference a conversation that was over. I had to ask him three times what he said. By the time I understood him, it was far from funny, having neither good timing nor delivery.

Before anyone else got there, he reached behind his chair and pulled out a small flask-shaped, glass bottle of clear alcohol and offered me a swig. I declined. He helped himself to a gulp. It was 2 in the afternoon.

The way the group works is someone gives a presentation as a way of a creative prompt and then everyone writes something and shares what they’ve written. Mark was the presenter. He proceeded to tell a weird personal story about how he was a geek in high school who was picked on, a situation that got worse when his mother moved his family to a “white” neighborhood where he was called the n-word. (Mark is very white.) He then spent about half an hour reading from a novel that explores race and class in Atlanta. The ruse of this reading was to introduce the concept of a character’s “voice.” Or the different kinds of people a writer may portray using slang, vernacular, accents etc…

I was in a rotten mood and the whole reading just felt to me like one person’s excuse to hear himself read in different voices and use disparaging labels, in the name of literary intellectualism and creative exercise. It wasn’t working for me and I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable.

At the end of his extended reading he announced, “So yeah, that’s an example of portraying the diversity in say, Atlanta which we all know is vast and colorful but not nearly and diverse and expansive as here in Louisiana. So, you can write about that, or no. You can write about something else.”

We had fifteen minutes. I didn’t want to do it. I had nothing. I thought about the time, many years ago, when a woman I worked with asked, “slant eyes and everything?” when I had told her my husband was Chinese. That was the most racist thing I could think of and it kind of felt like we were being prompted to write something about ignorant people. That’s not how I work. It wasn’t working for me.

I texted Liz and another friend: “Call my phone plz.”

Amy called. I excused myself then told her I just needed a phone call to get out of there.

I went back in.

“Sorry, I gotta split. I’ll try again next time.”

I shamelessly escaped.

So much for the writing workshop.



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