“Theater is poetry that rises from the book and becomes human enough to talk and shout, weep and despair.” – Federico García Lorca (1936)
After the high of the VONA Workshop, I found the Winter Tangerine online writers workshop and immediately jumped at the opportunity to keep writing and learn more about different genres. Winter Tangerine is “a literary & arts magazine dedicated to the electric” founded by Yasmin Belkhyr and publishes poetry, prose, and art—and that’s just in their anthologies. They also host two sessions of intensive three-week workshops geared towards poetry and prose.
The workshop is ambitious, packed with daily autowrites, writing assignments, and reading/watching assignments. Each week we tackled a different topic: first Character, then Aesthetic, then the Absurd, and were provided with a syllabus of video clips, poems, prose, and interviews for each day. We were split into smaller groups, with other writers/storytellers as our small group leaders. Brianna Albers was my wonderful and kind leader, and Sarah Maria Medina (tweet at her!) posted all the autowrites in the main group each day and ran two Word Wars with the students.
I found some of the prompts stumping, mainly because as a playwright I’m used to more concrete prompts such as “Choose these three objects and write a dialogue between your characters.” One day, an autowrite prompt was “Silver spoon.”
My reaction: whaaaaat?
But it was great. It’s precisely these type of prompts that push your creativity and your skills as a writer. It’s okay to be stumped. It’s okay to write something you don’t like. I once had a poetry professor tell us that if we wrote something terrible, we could always blame the prompt. And sometimes a weird or impossible prompt can give you a beautiful piece of work that you would have never reached otherwise.
What’s more, I used a lot of the prompts to experiment and explore my play’s environment and characters. Writing dialogue as poetry is something I’ve always kept in the back of my head (thanks, Lorca!) and finally practiced in this workshop. I ended up producing a lot of other new works as well.
Most of all, I loved the seminars. For about an hour, we Google-hung-out with Clint Smith, Richard Siken, and Stevie Edwards, discussing everything from self-censorship to how you fly in dreams. And as a major bonus, Stevie even offered to critique one of our pieces that we wrote for her class!
There were some organizational hiccups that always plague virtual classes (damn you, Google Hangouts!) and working across time zones can be tricky. It can take some maneuvering to build a community online, especially in only three weeks. I didn’t feel all that connected to my small group since we were out of synch, but I think other groups were more cohesive.
Overall, I would encourage writers to apply to this workshop, especially if you’re in a remote place and can’t attend or afford or take time off to get to a physical workshop—but I would put aside the time to respect your craft, join in the conversations, and attend the classes. I also put aside at least an hour to write every day (it helped that I was doing a 14-day writing challenge at the same time) – which was hard between work, class, and health (and let’s be real, I didn’t finish all of the assignments/prompts), but ultimately daily writing benefited me in ways I didn’t expect. Community holds you accountable. And this was a pretty fun and challenging way to build community.