Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference

I did it.  I went to a writers’ conference.  It was frightening, scary, exciting, exhausting, and the best thing I’ve done for my writing in a long time.  In my 2017 goals post, I listed a number of things I was planning to do this year and this was goal number eleven.  It turned out to not be so easy to find a conference to attend that had a poetry track, which is currently my main focus in writing.  There aren’t that many and some have a selection process to that you have to submit an application to be accepted into.  Sadly, one of those rejected my application.

Early in my search I came across the Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference (MCWC) and found a poetry master class taught by Shara McCallum.  Yeah, I didn’t know her either, but she turned out to be the best poetry teacher I’ve had and the most gifted poet I’ve had the privilege of talking to.  You’ll want to check out her recent poetry book, Madwoman.

I had to submit ten poems to workshop and I have to say, I was a bit pleased when I found that I had ten poems stashed away on my computer of a quality that I wasn’t embarrassed to send out to eleven people I don’t know.  Each of the attendees had three selected to be discussed in workshop. 

No, I am not going to tell you which three.  Some day I might, but that day is not today.

The process of the class was to do some general discussion of poetry topics, some exercises – which one morning included yoga (lucky for me the conference photographer was elsewhere while we were doing this in the courtyard) – and finally we’d discuss the work of the group’s poets.  It was wonderful to engage in productive, honest, and supportive conversation about the works.  Shara has a talent of asking insightful and thought-provoking questions.  The conversations that came out of that deepened my understanding of poems and the craft of poetry.

I’d like to report that I was happy and eager to have my three poems discussed, but I wasn’t.  I was a mass of nerves and unnamed free-floating anxieties.  I don’t take criticism well.  Externally it might look like I take it well, but underneath the thank you and vague smile is that fear of not being even being adequate.  Yes, I know that’s not true, but emotions do weird things and are often hard to control.

In the end, I formed a bond with my group which was truly trying to help each other.  The wonderful comments I received and suggestions for revision proved to be worth every bit of the emotional work of just being in that room.

On the first day of class, Shara had us introduce ourselves and say what we were expecting to get out of the workshop.  I’ll admit that I hadn’t really considered the question very deeply and when my turn came I said something like, “Yes, I am looking for something.  I am a pilgrim at heart, wandering around looking for stuff.  So, I am here to find something.”

Shara, asked me to tell her after the class what I found.  I promised a blog post.  This post.

I found a group of poets and writers like myself who struggle for the right words – a group of people who came together for three days to help each other and learn.

I found new insights, new skills, and inspirations.

I found my writing self re-energized.

I’ve found strength and confidence to continue my pilgrim journey to the next destination.

Peace,

Andrew

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I work in the high tech world doing software release engineering Then I got prostate cancer Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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45 Responses to Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference

  1. slpsharon says:

    Closest I have come was a year of attending Poetry Club at the local library for a year. They did critiques after reading. That was scary enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m terrified of writing conferences but know one day i will have to plunge in. Thanks or the nudge.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. inesephoto says:

    So very inspiring!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So happy you had such a great experience and did something on your list. Too bad for our sakes not yoga pics. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Congratulations I’ll bet that you feel ten feet tall!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. So many people, as they get older, stick to what they know and “try to keep busy”. It’s inspiring to see someone taking a risk, trying something new, especially with the vulnerability that art creates. Glad you’re finding things–and then sharing them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. dorannrule says:

    Sounds like you had a worthwhile and inspirational experience. Kudos for getting up and going!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Annika Perry says:

    Well done for going, Andrew and it sounds like an inspirational day! Yikes, how I dislike the introduction part of these courses…you did well to answer truthfully and I love your list of ‘founds’ at the end. I look forward to reading some of those poems in due course on your blog hopefully! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • The intros can be uncomfortable, but are needed. Honesty is best and it helped set the tone for the three days. Likely, I’ll be posting a few revisions of poems here before wandering off to new poems.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I admire your bravery and strength in listening to that small, still voice inside of you, Andrew. It’s not easy opening yourself up like that. But oh…the rewards, when you take that risk! Bravo!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. There’s nothing like cracking open your chest, pouring out your emotions and having someone else say, “Yeah, me too.” Congratulations on attending the conference and thanks for sharing your experience with us.
    Ω

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Awesome! Sounds like you’re very glad you took that first step of attending the conference. Now, you’ll soar with your new-found confidence, I bet.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. That sounds like a wonderful experience. I’ve never attended a poetry workshop before mainly because they are no other poet’s around where I am, but I would love to. We all have those fears, believe me. Great that you attended and made those connections!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This sounds like a wonderful workshop. I like the small group approach where you work closely with fellow writers for a period of days. I’ve done a few of those and seem to get a lot out of them. Congrats on such a great experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do like the small group approach. It can be difficult to get the right mix of people in the room. Last week we had a great mix and an outstanding leader. It was worth the effort.

      Like

  14. This is great. Congratulations.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Energized, and the wood shop will now suffer for the word processor.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I really enjoyed reading your post Andrew and pleased to hear that the conference was such a positive experience for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. jfwknifton says:

    Glad you enjoyed the experience and got so much out of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. jennypellett says:

    it’s good to know that you got so much from the group . I know your feelings of apprehension well – I used to attend a weekly writers group where we had to read out out short stories created from an inspiration the week before. It was terrifying! But such good practice. I’m forever grateful to the other attendees and our tutor for helping me hone my writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Beth Pine says:

    That’s just fabulous, Andrew. And you came to our neck of the redwoods to do it! Just being here is inspirational to writing poetry, don’t you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve always loved the redwoods and have always been inspired by the Mendocino coast. It’s a great place to let poetry seep in, and the conference was an wonderful way to gain even more.

      Like

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