Monday, March 10, 2014

Field's End Writers' Community

"At the field's end, in the corner missed by the mower
Where the turf drops off into a grass-hidden culvert,
Haunt of the cat-bird, nesting-place of the field-mouse...
One learned of the eternal..."
- from "The Far Field," a poem by Theodore Roethke

You may recall reading here about a writer's conference I attended two years ago on Bainbridge Island at lovely IslandWood. The organization which hosted the conference is called Field's End, and local author David Guterson is one of its founders. I attended with a bit of fear and trembling; it felt presumptuous to call myself a "writer," just as it has always felt presumptuous to call myself an "artist," though I majored in art in college and have many years of experience in creative expression.

Criticism of the product - whatever I produced - is part of the classroom experience for an art major, and I internalized all of the many critiques I received, until I began to experience fear and blockage when faced with a blank I stopped painting altogether. That's what I call an artistic injury.

There is a wonderful painter/teacher named Flora Bowley whose writing and approach to art (and living) is helping me to re-visit this injury, and to breathe healing energy toward that place. I hope - someday - to attend one of her workshops, and for now, am benefiting from reading and reflecting on her blog postings and newsletters.

Back to writing: after Katie died, writing became a lifeline for me, and I grabbed hold of it, writing freely and frequently. Writing has always felt like a natural outcome of my inclination to talk and to process my feelings verbally. Though I wrote regularly on several blogs (this one, and three on my sidebar: Katie's Comforters Guild, the Katie Gerstenberger Endowment and Hopeful Parents), I didn't think of myself as, nor dare to call myself, a "writer."

I wrote and published "Because of Katie," served as a speaker, was published in magazines, but still the inner critic slid over from the painter-side of my brain and whispered, "...But you SELF-published your book; you're not a REAL writer, yet!" So I was hesitant to even attend this workshop. Thanks to encouragement from warm-hearted friends who also wanted to attend, I went anyway - and loved it.
A post-writer's-workshop function
I've since put my name on the mailing list for Field's End newsletters and email, and due to the inspiration received at the conference, my friends and I formed our own writing group, the "Sh*tty First Draft Writing Group" (the name is a nod to Anne Lamott's advice to budding writers to get your fanny into a chair and make "sh*tty first drafts," saving the editing for later).

A few weeks ago, Field's End put out a call for volunteers, and though I couldn't attend the meeting to learn what they needed, I replied to the call and arranged to meet two of the members of the Core Team afterward. I thought I might be able to help with hospitality, registration and whatnot. It was fun to meet both Barbara and Kathleen; they are welcoming, encouraging, kind and open-minded. We shared a lively brainstorming session, and the result of that meeting is this: I was invited to join, and am now a member of, Field's End's Core Team! It's an exciting step for me.

Field's End recently sent out a questionnaire to its mailing list and received 400 responses; that is a sure sign of a vibrant writers' community! Their mission statement includes these words:
"Field's End serves the writers' community and nurtures the written word through lectures, workshops, and instruction in the art, craft, and profession of writing."
The core team seeks to encourage writers who have not yet started, and desire to do so, as well as those who are farther down the path of writing; those who have self-published as well as those who have a publisher. It's a welcoming organization, not a snobbish/exclusive one, and I sense that there will be no artistic injuries inflicted here; perhaps even repair and restoration may come to those who have been silenced by an inner (or an outer) critic. I can hardly wait to see what unfolds.

"See I Am Doing a New Thing," continued...

You can read all of the postings about my life-changing week at Rancho La Puerta