Summer school

Typing away at my desk can sometimes feel like creating in a bubble, so when a couple of writing courses crossed my inbox, I decided to go for it. So far, I am exploring new skill sets and meeting new writing friends, so I feel like I’m off to a good start.

The WOW! Women On Writing newsletter, which always has a ton of cool info, interviews, and places to publish, introduced me to Venturing Beyond the Hero’s Journey: Exploring the Paths of the Heroine, Healer, and Seeker with Kimberly Lee. Most of us who have studied writing and literature are familiar with Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, a useful but very narrow, linear narrative arc that is supposed to be the basis of myths and stories all over the world. Of course, Campbell also theorized that only men could be heroes and that collaborative or inclusive storytelling didn’t count, leaving many narratives in the dust.

Not all storytellers squeeze round stories into square boxes, so over five weeks, the writer and instructor Kimberly Lee led a group of us from around the world through online lessons about five alternate narrative arcs, such as the Journey of Integrity, the Seeker’s Journey, and the Virgin’s Promise. Through literature, film, fairy tales, poetry, videos, and podcasts, we dove deep into each one, experimenting with writing prompts and interactive exercises and offering supportive comments on one another’s creations. I learned so much and have been inspired to try these alternative arcs in my own writing. I’m hoping to stay in touch with my classmates, who really engaged with our exercises and discussions to the point where I feel like I got to know them. I would also happily take another course with Kimberly, an excellent, thoughtful instructor and facilitator.

As that course comes to an end, another course has just begun. NOCCA, the local arts high school that my younger son hopes to attend, offers several summer writing workshops for adults, including one for writers of science fiction and fantasy: Writing for the Real World II with Alex Jennings. Over the course of seven weeks, we’ll meet and discuss our work in person and online, emphasizing our love for the SFF and horror genres.

So far, this class has been a real inspiration. Alex Jennings is the New Orleans-based author of The Ballad of Perilous Graves, which has received tons of accolades and awards, as well as the writer of a regular speculative poetry column in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and many short stories. He’s also a dedicated writing instructor, so it’s exciting to have him help our small group of local writers discover our strengths and challenges in our own writing journeys.

Last weekend, we workshopped the first chapters of one of my projects, and I came away with a good sense of what was working and what I need to improve, as well as some fresh ideas about how to go about doing just that. I look forward to continuing to get to know Alex and my fellow writers through our work and discussions. May our shared interests in all things creepy and weird be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!