Since I began to write seriously, I have been blessed by my association with a number of groups who supported, believed in, and encouraged me to pursue my writing dreams. My allegiance to those organizations has been unwavering. So, it is with a sad heart that I acknowledge the ending of one of my favorite workshops — the Antioch Writers Workshop.
Held in July in Yellow Springs, Ohio, for all but two of its 33-years, the workshop featured a unique schedule. Each morning authors of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry would present hour-long sessions on those genres, interspersed with presentations on query letters, small press publications, agent talks, and first-book talks by authors who attended the workshop. In 2017 I was privileged to be the first-book talk speaker. The afternoons were dedicated to small-group writing sessions. Attendees would read and critique each other’s submitted work with the guidance of established authors. As a participant, I immersed myself in the ambience of tiny Yellow Springs. During the early years, classes met in a number of local establishments and buildings. Lunch involved making the rounds of the great restaurants in the town. If one stayed late enough, you could listen to authors reading from their works and perhaps share a drink and conversation in one of the town’s drinking establishments.
After attending a few workshops, I applied to be a workfellow, eager to increase my involvement with the community and the dedicated members of the Board that organized and ran the workshop. I loved the behind-the-scenes activities — making airport runs to pick up presenters, copying handouts for morning classes, assisting the afternoon sessions with whatever last-minute changes occurred. As an attendee and as a workfellow, I had the honor of meeting and working with Silas House, Nahid Rachlin, Lucrecia Gerrero, Elizabeth Strout, Myrna Stone, Nikki Giovanni, and so many more talented and creative minds. Every piece I workshopped at Antioch ended up being published, which allowed me to apply for and win the Goddess Award for a piece that started at AWW and went on to publication. Many more ideas were birthed in the waters of the week-long writing stream.
But as the years passed, changes took place. The workshop moved from downtown Yellow Springs to the MacGregor Building on the edge of town and then to the University of Dayton. The number of participants dwindled. Despite all the added activities — mini workshops at Books & Co, a fall writing weekend, literary salons — the difficulty of financing the program became evident.
Now, the Board of Directors has decided that the workshop can no longer sustain itself. Like my writing group that dissolved under the pressures of time and interest, like the Ohio Writing Project that morphed from a teachers’ workshop to encourage teachers who teach to also write into a series of classes to be taken for CCUs, AWW has reached the end of its run. I am saddened by the loss of this quality conference close to my home, which made it accessible, affordable, and so very instrumental in my writing. Certainly, the proliferation of writing conferences held in every part of the world means I will not run out of choices. However, most of them entail a larger expenditure of money, time, and travel, and the formats of each tend more toward the nuts and bolts of writing than the actual writing itself.
I already miss the close comfort of a week spent with writers focused on writing, the long summer afternoons dedicated to reading fellow authors’ work and composing/revising my own. Already nostalgia rushes in to fill the space anticipation used to occupy. Thank you is not enough to let the Board, staff, and participants know how much this workshop has given me. Of course, like all things, on this earth, there is a time for each to prosper and a time for each to die. I wish it were not so for this pivotal event in my writing journey. Perhaps another local group will step in to fill the void. Perhaps, like the legendary phoenix, AWW will rise from the ashes, reborn from desire and dedication, and fly again.