Orion Magazine is an ad-free, literary magazine that digs beneath and addresses the environmental issues of the day, while trying to bring us back to an awareness of place. At Orion you'll find authors and activists like Bill McKibben and Derrick Jensen laying out startling evidence of environmental degradation as well as corrective courses of action, and you'll find contributing editors like poet Wendell Berry and novelist Barbara Kingsolver, touching on the spiritual connection we have with our earth, and so, our concomitant responsibility for true stewardship. Perhaps you've gathered that I'm an avid fan of Orion.
Last year I discovered that the magazine sponsored a writer's workshop: one week at historic Sterling College in Vermont, with 30 other writers from across North America, two editors from Orion, and three authors/teachers. Writers are selected on the basis of an essay and a cover letter. My application was successful. I was informed of this on April 1, so of course I double checked the validity of the correspondence.
I elected to study under poet Alison Deming Hawthorne (Nathaniel Hawthorne's great-great-granddaughter). To receive finely articulated critique as well as credit from her, was, you'll understand, a highlight. In all, an idyllic week.
There's a problem with this of course. As we all know, after coming back from a rewarding conference or workshop, the reality of the blank page seems twice as daunting. But we also know that something has been added.
The Wildbranch Writing experience encouraged me to step out and apply myself in the face of what I may think are insurmountable odds. It has given me some confidence that I can write, but it has also helped me experiment with style and form, voice and method, which in turn has helped focus my writing, find my place.
My encouragement then is simple: that retreat, workshop, writer's circle, course, you always wanted to take or try...well, give it a (another) shot.