Main Street in downtown Yellow Springs, Ohio
I just Love a Good Story. Don’t you just Love a Good Story?
I have another Good Story, but also a rather sad story. I just heard through Facebook that the Antioch Writers’ Workshop has closed down. Antioch was like a parent to me.
Many years ago, I received a brochure from a writing conference telling me all the wonderful things about their conference and why I should attend. I read it through, and decided that I wasn’t going and threw the brochure in the trash. Then, I pulled it out of the trash looked at it and decided that if I’m going to be an author, I would have to start taking writing a bit more seriously. I threw it in the trash and promised myself that I would attend the next workshop or conference that came in the mail. Two days later, the brochure for Antioch Writers’ Workshop appeared in the mail. I threw it in the trash, too. But for this one, there was an unrest inside me and I knew it was about the promise I had made to myself, the promise that I needed to take writing more seriously. So I got it out of the trash. I asked myself who would send me this anyway? How did this place get my name and address? Remembering my promise, I put the unnecessary questions away, completed the application and sent it in.
When I arrived in Yellow Springs, Ohio, I was surprised. It was a cute little town that seemed stuck in an earlier time period. I loved it right away. It had an aura of calm, and comfort that seemed to change my attitude. I was anxious to start the conference.
The Tavern where many of us ate
I found my way to the home of my host. One on the nicest features of Antioch was that an attendee could stay for the week-long conference (Saturday to Saturday) in the home of a resident. How nice was that? I signed up for that. The next morning, I realized that I was sharing a home with two other presenters. A Newbie, and already I was placed with an award winning poet, and an awarding winning author. I took this as a good sign. The home owners were beautiful people. During the week we shared and talked, and I got to know not only the presenters, but the town and some of the wonderful people in it.
My first year, our speaker was Robert Inman who spoke about character and ways to develop character in stories. His talk was so good I went and bought all of his books. All the conferences after that were always filled with award-winning authors who talked about craft. I learned how to create good strong characters, meaningful dialogue, the need for an outline, and the need for a strong plot. I also bought many books and asked these brilliant authors to sign them. Each year there was so much information imparted that I found it impossible to take in so much material in one five-day session, so I returned the next year to learn more. I had become an “Antiocher.” It was clear that the goal of the conference was to help us to develop good writing skills in order for us to become good writers and become published authors. I loved the idea that the emphasis was on craft, teaching us how to shape and mold a story into something excellent.
The library Antioch College
Another good feature of the conference was lunch with the keynotes and authors. Sitting next to someone who wrote a novel, is very encouraging. Speaking with them and asking questions about how they got started, clarifying something in the talk earlier, or just generally talking enable me to see that I could do that, too. They were people just like me. Our ideas came from the same place – the heart. I needed to understand that. One year, I was the only one lunching with Silas House. That session became dear and important to me and I will always cherish the fact that he made a choice to continue with one person. He taught me that no matter how many or how few people show up, give it everything, honor them the way you would a larger group. And he did. Today, every time I do a book signing, give a talk, or teach a writing class, I think about that day and I find I don’t worry. I’m going to honor whoever shows up.
Antioch Writers’ Workshop made me into not only a writer, but an award-winning author of two novels so far, That Ever Died So Young, a finalist in the Somerset Literary and Contemporary Fiction Award, 2014, and Blessings and Curses, ranking in the top ten Most Popular novels in the Frankfurt, Shahjar, and Guadalajara International Book Fairs, 2018. Antioch Writers’ Workshop helped me bring my skill to light, and Antioch Writers’ Workshop helped me refine my skill.
The auditorium where I began as an “Antiocher” was torn down and something else in its place. Antioch College closed down and the conference moved to Glen Helen Nature Preserve. Years later, when Antioch University opened, the conference moved to the edge of the city into the university. The bookstore where many read their work in the evening went out of business and the readings moved to a café. After some years, the host program was discontinued. I am forever grateful to all those keynotes and intensive leaders and intensive participants who through their talks and critiques enabled me to see my value. Antioch, like parents, will pass on, but Antioch grew me, and as one of its many children, I will continue to grow from the many craft sessions, lunches, and critiques that I received from my parent.
A nice restaurant good for lunch/dinner
Antioch has done so much for many of us that it shouldn’t just go out quietly. It should go out with a big band. Why not have a “Going Out Party.” I think Sharon Short should send out invitations to everyone who ever attended and have a big party. We will be able to see how many of us have benefited from their workshops over the years. I would delight in that.