Hope you are all having fun and starring in whatever you are up to these days!
It has been nearly two weeks since Cheryl Strayed’s Memoir Writing Workshop, which Literature Studio had the privilege of organizing. And we have received the first round of feedback from our brilliant participants. Here is what they have to say about the workshop:
Mr Arvind Passey, a well-known writer and blogger, summarizes the experience beautifully in his blog. Here is an excerpt:
“…Cheryl said, ‘Show, don’t tell.’ And this, I think, is the real mantra of memoir writing… in fact, a principle that helps anyone write anything better. I do remember reading the weekly column of Paulo Coelho and the one thing that stands out is that he shows, never tells.
Well, the short session on memoir writing that a few of us had with Cheryl Strayed, a writer from America on her way back after attending the Jaipur Literature Fair, was rather revelatory. Like the others there, even I was able to hesitatingly reveal a bit more about myself to me…”. Click here to read more.
Thank you Mr. Passey for putting together this lovely post.
“It’s not often that I care to attend workshops.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I think they are useless, it’s just that I’m lazy and don’t ascribe much to the learning potentials of these workshops. They are usually boring and I end up fidgeting my way through the session.
I would have as par for the course deleted the email I received from a friend who thought this workshop would be helpful. But something about this mail refused to be treated as an inferior intrusion of my space. It stood it’s ground and I took interest. I read, got intrigued and made the effort to reply to Vibha with a short bio I felt would get me a slot in what was surely limited seating once in a lifetime opportunity to meet and interact with Cheryl. I had read about Cheryl and her writing as part of a post from Brainpickings.org on a review on Dear Sugar. I loved it and filed it away for future reading and promptly forgot about it.
And then this mail, surely this was meant to be.
I got the much-awaited reply from Vibha securing me a place in the second group. I quickly scanned the emails of the recipients. Only 12 participants and I was one of them. I spent the rest of the day feeling like a champ who had secured a place in an elite special literary squad.
On the day of the workshop, I did a quick research on memoir writing, reached well on time and was taken in immediately by the warmth and ease of Cheryl. Right from the start, Cheryl made all of us comfortable and dived right into what was for me not merely a writing workshop but an opportunity to articulate, write and express some of my fears and expectations.
The nearly 3-hour session was conducted more as a friend than a writer of repute. Cheryl talked about her own life and that enabled us to be honest with ours.
HONESTY.COMPASSION.PERSPECTIVE.RANT.FORGIVE.SHOW.TELL – some of the pertinent guides to writing shared by Cheryl really helped me with the writing exercises she gave us. I have never written with the ferocity I did that day. My pen flying across the page as my memories collided head long with the emotions whirling within me. I would pause, think, recollect and be brutal with my own life and had tears in my eyes as I wrote with tenderness about situations and people I had mothballed.
I wrote about my childhood, my parents, my dreams and failures.
“ Be Ruthless”, “Don’t hold back”, “No Cover up’s”, “ Reveal and realise “ – urged Cheryl as she talked about her own experiences that resulted in her writing – Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.
I read out aloud to the rest of the group what would have been private moments of self-defeat and at that moment as I stared at the words I had written, I suddenly saw what was always there to be seen. The seed of my story waiting to be told! I looked up to where Cheryl was seated on the raised stage in the auditorium at the American Centre. The tears in my eyes forcing me to look down as I quickly wiped them away. I looked up and I knew why I had attended this workshop. This was destiny. This was meant to be. There is a place and time for everything. This was my time and this was the place.
Thank you Cheryl. Thank you Vibha and the team at Literature Studio for an amazing workshop.”
We are moved beyond words by his kind words, and wish him luck with his writing.
Here is what Shailza Sood Dasgupta, the founder-director of Chalo Lets Go, has to say about the workshop:
“It was inspiring to hear Cheryl Strayed. The small writing exercises that she made us do were helpful. It’s always good to know and interact with like-minded. Thanks for organizing it. Will look forward to more of such interactions and workshops.”
Thanks Shailza, we look forward to more such sessions too and, God willing, we shall have them soon.
Varsha Tiwary, a bureaucrat and a well-known health blogger, wrote about the workshop on her blog. Here’s an excerpt:
“…The whole two hour plus session : the way she elicited responses by nudging and persuading us to inhabit our pasts was a unique experience .And also emotionally draining.
The biggest Take Home message was : take everything that life has given you : when you embrace it and make it your own it turns into a Beautiful Thing ,a thing that nurtures you .
Thanks Varsha for the kind endorsement. It means a lot!
Mujahid Ul Haq, a passionate traveller and a writer, was also very kind with his words. Here is what he wrote to us in an email:
“I sincerely appreciate the amount of effort Literature Studio put in to make this workshop happen: from actively scheduling with the participants to organising the presentation aids for the author at the venue. Huge appreciation for their hard work and for providing a conducive platform for developing our writing skills…”“Cheryl Strayed’s workshop on memoir writing was an enriching experience. The author was humble enough to share with us her toolbox for tuning our memoir writing skills. She talked about tapping into our raw emotions and using consciousness to delight and connect with the reader. We practised with her on using the elements of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste to enhance our stories.”
Thanks Mujahid, and we will pass on your words of appreciation to the American Center too.
Chitra Kalyani, a freelance writer and a journalist, shares her thoughts with us in the following words:
“Thanks for the wonderful opportunity to meet Cheryl Strayed and actually spend time learning the tricks of the trade. “Wild” was a memorable piece of writing – brave and raw. As a writer, it was great to dig one’s hand in the process of writing with someone so talented and generous. I especially appreciated the time Strayed spent listening to and engaging with the writing done in-session. Very encouraging, and really looking forward to more writing sessions in the future. ”
Thanks Chitra, it was a pleasure having you there. We will keep you in loop about the future workshops as well.
Jaideep Bhoosreddy, a young writer and the author of Dead Underground, writes:
“I came to know about the workshop organized by Literature Studio through one of my readers. Since I had recently completed a manuscript in the same genre, I didn’t waste a moment to learn from one of the best in the field of Memoir Writing. Sadly, I found that I wouldn’t be able to reach the workshop but Vibha squeezed me into another workshop the same day, which was lucky. I absolutely loved hearing Cheryl Strayed speak about her journey and her works. It put perspective in my own works. Being a writer myself, I got exactly what I wanted from the workshop, and was also able to interact with the hurdles I needed answers too. While writing many times we face situations, where we are uncertain as to how we should proceed, and at that time we want to know how considerably more experienced authors would tackle it. Thanks to Vibha and Literature Studio, I got to do just that and also make new friends.”
Thanks Jaideep and we were very happy to see you there. All the best for your memoir!
We will share more as we hear from other participants. We are humbled by all the love and support we received for this workshop. We are looking forward to a workshop-filled summer so will keep everyone in loop. Hoping for great things ahead!