04 Nov Lake Michigan & A Question
How 7 nights, 8 days, and 1 Question changed the course of my writing.
I heard about the Lake Michigan Writers Retreat randomly on FB. A friend of a friend posted that the workshop with Leslie Leylands Fields had one opening and a half price deal was being offered. I looked at my calendar and had SEVEN days with not one commitment on it. That NEVER happens. So I signed up. And went.
Twelve women. One teacher. And a cabin on Lake Michigan.
I went not knowing why. Not having any specific expectations. Boy, oh man! I might not have known why, but I needed to go.
Backstory: I’ve written 120 pages of my next book. I’ve written it as fiction for Young Adults, as fiction for adults, in one voice, in three voices, with one narrator, with three narrators. I’ve written it in past tense. I’ve changed it to present tense. It was seriously driving me crazy because it wasn’t right.
As part of the conference, Leslie sat down with me to talk about my current work. She listened. And then she asked me one question. “Why aren’t you writing Creative Nonfiction?”
I didn’t have an answer.
I walked Lake Michigan for two days.
Searching. Thinking. Reflecting.
I’m not writing Creative Nonfiction because I’m afraid. I’m afraid of my own story. I don’t want fear to be the motivating factor in my decisions.
I came to the painful and yet freeing conclusion that my next story HAS to be nonfiction. And I sat down and wrote out the first 20 pages (again) and it works.
This is what I learned: my next story is a love story. About the Netherlands. I am writing in the same ‘voice’ as the Zambia story. I’ve studied CNF for fifteen years. I know how to do this. I don’t need to spend five more years of my life studying and learning a new genre.
So CNF it is.
Other than that life changing, book changing, question … well … the writing week was fantastic.
I met lovely women, rode a gorgeous horse, learned how to make a book journal. I heard stories about Alaska, hospitals, jails, churches. A lot of the women came carrying exhausting stories, shattered lives, and narratives about broken children. I was touched by their grace and strength. Their weakness. Their trust and grit. The world needs to hear their stories. And someday it will.
Thank you to each and every one of you. Yummy food. Talks by the bay window. A new long list of books that I HAVE to read. And a necklace. One of the women recycles old books and Bibles. She made each of us a necklace. In the background of my “J” necklace are the words, “No Fear.” Really? Yes. Okay. Okay. No Fear.
So I offer up a giant thank you to Leslie Leyland Fields who graciously entered my writing world and offered me a question. Sometimes the best gift a friend can give is to ask a question. And listen. And she did.
I came home ready to write.
A “Fluffle of Bodacious Balancing Bunnies” accompanied me on my trip home. One of the writers introduced them to me. It was love at first sight. I am happy to report that the bunnies are quite lively and are thriving on the North Dakota prairie. But they have informed me they want to be featured on future blog posts. “Why not?” they ask. Okay. Okay. Stop asking me questions!
Thanks to everyone who made the week so very, very special. Happy Writing to you all!
Feature Photo: I collect, tear, cut up and abuse used library children’s books. I wish I could credit the artist from this photo, but I have no idea which book it came from. If anybody knows, please let me know!