Nearby Café Home > Literature & Writing > Stubborn Pine
On Writing Workshops

Writing Workshops

I’ve been spoiled. When I started my first prose workshop in New York City in 1948 I had Julie Fast (Howard’s brother, author of the book and creator of the term Body Language), Eric Blau (Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and many, many books of prose and poetry), Mark Harris (Bang the Drum Slowly), Willard Manus (Mott the Hoople), and many more. It’s what we did that was so remarkable, the approach we had to our work. Whatever job we held had little to do with our lives. Of course we were poor. Wasn’t everyone who mattered? We had things to say.

Drawing of Earl Coleman

It followed that my living room was jam-packed, that we started promptly, that we went until two or three in the morning, that there was no time limit on the pains we took to critique each manuscript -- well, of course, this was important stuff, it’s what we did!

Some of that (enough to make it worth while) can be created today. For example, I run a workshop for gifted and talented kids ages 10-15. All writers. Always prompt. Always running overtime. We meet on Saturdays so they want to be there, pay to be there, need to be there. Other kids are at the mall, playing baseball, goofing. Not my kids. It’s a chore for them to leave. We deal not only with our words but with the world. We speak honestly with each other because we’re serious about our work. We write to be seen because we have important things to say. We submit to journals for publication. Sometimes we get published.

What is it then that binds? Words. The wonder of our language as a social glue. The need we feel to have our say in a world where most everyone is saying the same thing, using phrases from the same TV shows, recognizing as we do that if “most everybody” will wind up in the quicksand on this path, then so will we.

So -- you want to take a stand in the culture wars now raging (whether that’s clear to you or not, raging they are), the cloud of nationalism that is gradually overtaking all of us, not only in the “trouble spots” but right here? Then form a workshop. Write. Think. Inform. It may not sound like much sand to throw into the cogs of their machine but everyone has to start somewhere. A nation can be lost for 200 votes.

-- Earl Coleman

© Copyright 2001 by Earl Coleman except as indicated. All rights reserved.
For reprint permissions contact Earl Coleman,