The power (and gift!) of brainstorming

So, as a published writer I often hear comments from people who are surprised when I tell them that I like to go to workshops on writing. Aren't you too experienced? You've published three books! What is there left to learn?

The truth is, lots. There will always be things about yourself, and writing, that remain elusive and ready to discover, no matter how many books you've published. Writing workshops help you get there. 

Last year I spoke at NESCBWI's one-day workshop ENCORE! 2012 , held in Providence, R.I. I stuck around for the day to hear the other presenters. Jo Knowles and Cindy Faughnan, in their workshop, had us draw a map of a familiar, important place from our childhood. Could have been a map of our town, school, neighborhood or even our bedrooms. I chose my neighborhood, and I made sure to put in all of the houses I remembered, the elementary school and playground and the church at the end of our street. Then they prompted us with this phrase: "I remember..." The rest was up to us.

Well, I started writing about the time I kissed Keith Johnson, in sixth grade, behind the church. I remembered that it was a warm, fall day. And that later I had to hurry home because Billie Jean King was playing Bobby Riggs in the famous Battle of the Sexes tennis match. Then our writing time was up and the workshop was over.

I, however, wasn't done. For days, all I could think about was that match and it's implications in my life (sorry, Keith, I let our experience alone!). And so I wrote an essay about it that was recently published on the opinion page in my local newspaper. I hadn't set out to do this. I was a fiction writer, not nonfiction. But Jo and Cindy's workshop did what it was supposed to do. Got me going in a direction I didn't think possible.

Want to read the essay? Be my guest! Essay