Donald Maass Writing Workshop

The Donald Maass writing workshop was a major hit! I had a theatre class years ago which helped me see why Donald Maass’ writing workshops are so powerful. He is using a theatrical approach to writing. He is encouraging us to perform on the page. No matter what your genre is, his writing workshops are extraordinary for developing craft. I have taken classes at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival before this time. In one of my classes at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, my teacher had his writing instruction book Writing the Breakout Novel clearly displayed on the desk. Donald stayed onstage for a good 7 hours, talking about the process of characterization, setting, world building and other elements of craft. He stated, “Most of theatre is getting rid of your inhibitions. And the same should hold true of writing as well.”Donald Maass

 

Start Over

Windy City Donald MaassI trashed my first manuscript of fiction after literary agent Donald Maass taught a writing workshop in March 2015. I was half way through it, but I’m not mad. Seriously! I am a member of the Windy City RWA (Romance Writers of America) professional writing organization. We had been planning to bring him here to teach one of his legendary writing workshops for nearly two years.

I have had a mixed media project of nonfiction writing and textile arts in mind for years. However, I’ve spent the better part of nearly 8 years trying to fit myself into molds that were not by, for or about me. He knew about the major fiber arts based presses and their importance, such as University of Nebraska and Yale University Press. I told him about my art instillations in graduate school. He knew about the Gees Bend quilters. He also knew the names of various quilt designs. His office is block away from the Fashion District and City Quilters of New York.

I told him City Quilters of New York was my favorite quilt shop ever. I also told him there was a local quilt shop in Chicago named Quiltology (now out of business), that was heavily influenced by City Quilters of New York. He’d been to the American Folk Art Museum in New York many times. We talked about the exhibits we saw.

“The people who drive this market are all of you, the textile artists” he said. “Textiles are a very lucrative market, especially in writing.”

“I was trying to write to market,” I told him. “For me, it seemed to me like that John Cougar song, ‘I could fight authority, but authority would always win.’”

“You shouldn’t do what other people are doing,” he said. “You should do what you believe in.”

“It’s been so long to get something off the ground,” I told him.

“But would you rather keep going in the wrong direction for even longer?” he asked.

That did it. He had a point. It was a leap. It was also another setback. Almost four years of working full time and attending graduate school part time. Five years after graduation, weeks upon weeks, years of upon years of professional writing organizations meetings and conferences to get craft instruction and learn about the business of publishing. I was trying desperately to fill in the gaps that my undergraduate and graduate education left out. And it all came down to one thing and one thing only.

Do what I knew to do.

It wasn’t like it was a radical concept, but then again, it actually it was. It has been a fishing expedition for me on what to do and how to do that. This is the challenge with art. There is no clearly presented path. And either you are willing to find your way out of no way, or you aren’t. It wasn’t like I didn’t know how to do me or be me. I had done that for years. I am a writer. I am a visual artist, textiles to be exact. I was also an activist in rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters. But the question was how to best go forward as an artist?

Another issue is that I learned all about other people’s paths both in school and out. I had tried to write a book of romantic suspense. I have respect for all writing. I was even given an offer to help with a true crime novel, but something in my spirit sensed that my own artistic path was quite different. I knew this. I needed a blog site to start off. I simply didn’t want to go into my next art instillations without one. Most people have been establishing a blog following for years.

I was just starting.