In two weeks I'll have the pleasure of hosting author, Amy Ferris, at Mammoth Women Writer's Summer Workshop in Mammoth Lakes, California. I wrote this piece because I'm already tingling with anticipation for the upcoming weekend and wanted to let my guests know what to expect if they'd never attended an Amy workshop previously.
What to Expect at an Amy Ferris Workshop
Expect to feel welcomed. These aren’t the kind of groups who don’t welcome new people. A lot of the women there will already know each other, from other writing endeavors and friendships, from social media, or from attending a previous Amy workshop, and those women, the ones who have sat down and written and shared together before, their connection is intense. They look in each other’s eyes and remember the words spilled on paper and read aloud, the whole group as their witness. Even still, with those compelling connections throughout the room, if you walk into an Amy Ferris workshop not knowing anyone, you’ll be greeted with a smile by strangers, with hugs even, you’ll be offered a chair, and your anxiety about attending something like this for the first time will be gone.
And then Amy comes in and we’re all excited to see her and hopped up on coffee or tea if that is your thing, it’s okay if that is your thing, and Amy begins. She holds a well-worn pad of yellow paper and flips over the pages as she writes down everyone’s name and the group, one by one, shares their first writing prompt. With each piece read out loud, the weekend’s intimacy beings to build.
Expect for certain pieces you write to be easy to share. You’ll breeze through writing and reading them. We’ll all laugh together at the funny parts. There will be other pieces that surprise you though. When you try to speak your voice will crack, you may find tears streaming down your face. You’ll mutter, “I didn’t think I’d cry when I wrote this.” Tissues will be passed around and not just for your tears, but for those listening too. A good host will have multiple boxes of tissues strategically placed around the room.
Prepare to be challenged. Amy Ferris has an uncanny talent with writing prompts. She listens to your writing, sees you through it, and gives individualized prompts that push you. They move your writing further, to the place you need to be. When she announces your prompts throughout the weekend they hit you like a blessing, sometimes like a curse, because they are always meant especially for you. Embrace the prompts. Write what you need to write. It’s why you came after all.
There will be wine, or non-alcoholic beverages if you prefer, it’s okay if that is your thing. After the first full day of writing there is wine and cheese and fruit and crackers and fucking sparkles exploding out of everyone’s eyes. Some people are huggers. Amy is a kisser. She grabs your cheeks and plants them right on you. If you’re lucky enough to get an Amy kiss notice how soft her palms are. Her lips too. If you’re a hugger, you can hug her tight. She’s fine with that as well. Amy likes white wine.
After my first day of my inaugural Amy Ferris workshop, after the writing, wine, and the hugging and kissing, I went back to my AirBnB and could barely get off the bed, exhausted emotionally and mentally from the day’s writing breakthroughs. This July in Mammoth will be my fifth workshop with her. Yes, FIFTH. Now I get more invigorated than exhausted because I’ve worked through a lot of the hard blocks when I was with her. I move into exciting new territory with her prompts in these weekends. No matter how large or small the group, her personalized prompts cut right through to each person and their writing path. Roll with it. Embrace the prompts.
When people break for coffee (or tea) on the second day, and when lunch comes and feels like an interruption instead of a break, you’ll know that the end of the weekend is nearing. You’ll watch the clock and savor the last hours. You’ll wonder about asking if we could just write for a bit longer with each other. Can this day, this weekend, not end? Please?
But it will. And there will be hugs, kisses, and maybe wine if there is any leftover from the day before. And when you leave an Amy Ferris workshop everything stays with you. The words of all the women assembled. Their stories and tragedies and triumphs. You’ll be able to close your eyes and in a second remember the lyrical writing of your new friend, Jane, the straight-shooting words of your new friend, Ebony, and the way that your friend, Lizz, transports you into her writing with a magical realism that takes your breath away.
What can you expect at an Amy Ferris workshop? Writing. Breakthroughs. Friendships. Tissues. More writing. Other’s writing. Your own writing. Motherfucking sparkles shooting out of your eyes, out of your fingers tips. The word fuck (if you hadn’t caught that already). Wine. Hugs. Kisses. And always the prompts. Remember: embrace the prompts.
I hope I get to meet you at one of Amy Ferris’ workshops soon.