12/21/23

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Yesterday, when I walked into the AllWriters’ classroom to lead the Wednesday Afternoon Women Writers’ Workshop, I was greeted by 10 merry-making women, a table loaded with food of all kinds, and the makings for a happy afternoon, which would lead into a happy holiday season.

The Wednesday Afternoon group has always been the personification of why I teach. I don’t know why it works out to be that way – I teach a lot of classes, meet with lots of students, and coach many, many writers individually. Since starting AllWriters’ 19 years ago, I’ve maintained a steady schedule of 85 hours of teaching per week. I am thoroughly enchanted (and exhausted) by all of my students and clients, who share a deep passion of writing with me. No matter who walks in the AllWriters’ door, either the on-site door or through the miracle of the internet, I know I will always have something in common with that person. And it makes for really tremendous relationships.

But the Wednesday Afternoon group…maybe it’s special because it was the very first class I ever taught. 29 years ago, I walked into what was then the Friday afternoon SeniorScribes, a class held by Waukesha Park & Recreation that was specifically for people 55 and up. I was asked to teach because their previous instructor suddenly left. I’d never taught before, never considered teaching, didn’t think I wanted to. I was planning on saying no, but my then-husband, who always had dollar signs in his eyes, insisted I take the job. I said, “Okay, I’ll do it. But if I’m ever teaching more than I’m writing, I’ll quit.”

(Hint: I don’t write for 85 hours a week.)

At the time, I was 35 years old, and I fretted over teaching “Seniors”. “They’re probably all writing about their grandkids and their latest operations,” I moaned. But while I moaned, I was also absolutely terrified to walk into my first classroom. What did I have of any worth to say to these wanna-be writers? While I was well-known as a short story writer, I didn’t have a book out yet, and I was walking a path of terror that I would ultimately be a failure. Teaching offered me yet another way to fail, and I really didn’t want to do it.

In that first class of seniors, filled with people I expected to write about their grandkids and operations, I listened as a man read a poem about a bracelet on his wife’s wrist that was so sensual, it made me sweat. Someone else read a piece about growing marijuana in his back yard.

Boy, did I ever have a lot to learn.

But as it turned out, so did they…from me. By the end of that first session, several students achieved their first publications. This had never happened in this class before I got there.

And by the end of my first year of teaching and as my new reputation spread, I’d had more offers from continuing education departments of several colleges and universities, as well as online for Writers’ Digest and other online schools. I went from not teaching at all, not even thinking about teaching, to 65 hours a week and traveling everywhere.

And my one constant for my full 29 years of teaching now…the Wednesday Afternoon workshop. The class has always filled and maintained its presence. When Park & Rec let me start a Wednesday Evening Workshop for all ages, they also let me move the Friday SeniorScribes class to Wednesday afternoon. When I started AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop LLC 19 years ago this January, Wednesday SeniorScribes became the AllWriters’ Wednesday Afternoon Workshop, with no age limitation. And when the workshop grew to all women, and I absolutely loved it, it became the Wednesday Afternoon Women Writers’ Workshop, filled with women of all ages and backgrounds and abilities. But even with all those differences among members of the class, it has consistently held one attribute:

Heart.

The Wednesday Afternoon Women Writers’ Workshop embodies the AllWriters’ tenet of All Writers Are Welcome Here. The biggest goal I had for AllWriters’ when I created it was that it would be more than a school, more than a place of education and encouragement and enlightenment.

It would be a community. A home. A family.

In a wonderful moment of kismet this morning, I scrolled through Facebook memories, an every-day collection of my posts over the years I’ve been on Facebook. One showed up today, from 12 years ago, on this day in 2011:

“The Wednesday Afternoon Workshop just threw one whopper of a Christmas party in the classroom.  Complete with lights strewn across the workshop table.  And homemade rhubarb wine.  I’ve never had rhubarb wine before.  I’m going to have a lot more.  It might just solve my sleeping problem.  Rum chata was there too, and all sorts of yummy food.  Wednesday Night Workshop, you have a lot to live up to!”

As I sat at the head of the classroom table yesterday, at yet another Wednesday Afternoon Workshop Christmas party, and watched these women sharing food and experiences, and later, sharing stories and poems, I saw the AllWriters’ I envisioned 19 years ago.

Writing can be a lonely avocation. But at AllWriters’, no writer is ever alone.

Including me.

Oh, and I also have to ask that Wednesday Afternoon Women Writers’ Workshop: HEY! WHERE WAS THE RUM CHATA? WHERE WAS THE RHUBARB WINE?

Just kidding. Maybe.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

AllWriters’ front window.
The AllWriters’ classroom.
AllWriters’, and my home. AllWriters’ is on the first floor, and we live on the 2nd and 3rd floors.
The Wednesday Afternoon Women Writers’ Workshop Christmas party yesterday. (Taken by student Mary Ann Noe)

4 Replies to “12/21/23”

  1. By the way, drinks are for the Summer Soirée…after class. No drinking before reading aloud a piece of stellar writing. That’s why no Rumchata. ???? Thanks for the good times and the companionship!

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