I spent most of yesterday at a travel writing workshop given by Laurie Gough. There were about a dozen of us there ... all but one were women. Laurie did not start with one of those artificial circle introductory sessions ... she let things unfold naturally by creating situations in which we chose different partners with whom to interact, so we all met a variety of people and shared our passion for travel and writing.
Laurie relies on the same books I use when I teach writing skills ... Nathalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones; Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird ... and on the work of some travel writers who have published books about travel writing. But mainly she reaches into her own experience as a travel writer and as a freelancer.
It was a very good workshop, not only because of the solid content base but also because of the people involved. Writers all. Travelers all. Interesting people with stories to tell, experiences to share.
Often these local workshops are peopled only by Wakefielders, but this one attracted a range of people from as far away as Montreal. And they brought with them stories of backpacking in the Himalayas, years spent in India or Indonesia or the Fijian islands. Most of them had traveled solo, and all their stories revealed a sense of adventure. I heard stories of trips gone bad, youthful naivete resulting in terrible mistakes, miraculous rescues, and discovery of one's roots far from home..
We spoke of honest writing and balanced observation; of ways to structure our chronological memories so that they would hold together as stories and maintain interest. Laurie views travel writing as stories with plot lines, set in interesting places ... and most important, peopled by fascinating characters. She touched on things like effective dialogue, concision and vibrant prose, and the workshop contained elements of teaching, group interaction and individual writing. The course could have been much longer than the 6 hours she had allotted.
At the end, people wanted more ... more opportunities to work together ... more chances to share with one another. We hope to create a writing group, perhaps on-line, maybe getting together once a month or so.
I spent a good part of today walking Kenya and later taking a friend to the Ottawa terminal ... so more tomorrow when I am up for writing again.
The house felt emptier than it has for the past while ... and greyer. I will have to fill it with colourful words and paint, I guess. It's time ... and maybe I will start with one of the ideas birthed by the workshop.