In June 2014 I attended VONA Voices, a writing workshop for people of color. I participated in the memoir track taught by Andrew X. Pham. For the first time in my life, I had the luxury of a week spent reading, writing and workshopping my writing.
We devoted at least two hours to each story; exploring, critiquing, sharing our thoughts and giving suggestions on the work. I got invaluable feedback from Andrew and the team but most of what I learned came from paying attention to the comments given to other people’s writing. I got a better grasp of constructing a story, creating compelling characters and making scenes pop by studying the work of my colleagues.
We took turns reading excerpts from our memoirs, pouring our hearts and souls into the room, trusting each other with our deepest fears and darkest moments. I was humbled by the care and commitment everyone brought with them.
Every day I came prepared to give, engage, listen and write. I’ve never felt this sense of community with any of my creative endeavors, the experience has been life changing.
Andrew was a marvelous teacher; kind, patient and generous with his time. My classmates were a gifted bunch of storytellers, I am grateful and humbled by the wonderful people I had the pleasure of meeting.
After the workshop, I felt an urgent need to surrender to the calling I’ve never had the courage to pursue. This time I would not squash my desire to write.
Since the workshop, I’ve kept myself busy writing and reading. Tomorrow, I start the rewrite of what I worked on at VONA. I wanted to distance myself from the piece so I can work on it with as new a perspective as possible.
I strongly urge anyone who writes to attend a VONA workshop.