Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Finding My Voice

by: Carol Westreich Solomon
The Writer's Center's
2016 Undiscovered Voices Fellow

Seven years ago, on the first day of my retirement from teaching, I sat on my patio with
a glass of wine and began to write creatively after a 40-year hiatus. What I started that day
evolved into a self-indulgent teaching memoir revisiting my professional life. Though valuable
as a spiritual transition to my new life, my teaching memoir had an audience of one—me. I
wanted to write for a wider audience, but my creative skills had rusted, and the writing world
around me had changed.

I first ventured into creative writing instruction at the DCJCC Writing Retreat under the
direction of Michelle Brafman and Faye Moskowitz, both of whom provided tremendous
encouragement and pointed, constructive suggestions. Later I joined the DCJCC Writing
Workshop, in which participants critiqued each other’s work in three-hour sessions, but soon
the limitations of 900-1000 words read aloud chafed. I could craft three or four pages that
worked, but what about the structural issues of a full story or even a novel? Three of us in the
workshop created our own separate writers group focusing on longer works, and I thrived with
the critical commentary of my colleagues, producing a couple short stories that were published
in print and online.

However, after years of working with the same writing group, I needed a fresh critical
audience to identify different areas of concern in my work. A friend suggested The
Writer's Center, and I enrolled in Aaron Hamburger’s novel writing class. His detailed criticism
of a large chunk of my YA novel provided valuable feedback, as did the commentary of
classmates. As a result of substantial edits, my self-published YA novel Imagining Katherine earned a 2016 Notable Book Award by the Association of Jewish Libraries.

In Fall 2016, when I learned The Writer's Center, had named me an Undiscovered Voices Fellow, I was thrilled! With unlimited financial support to enroll in workshops, I knew my writing could continue to grow rapidly. I decided to focus on short fiction, taking John Morris’ workshop “Writing Short Stories,” Julie Wakeman-Linn’s “Write Off the Map,” and her extended workshop “Fiction II.” I also did literary cross-training with the dramatic format in Richard Washer’s single-session playwriting classes. John and Julie’s comprehensive written feedback, offered with encouragement and tact, led me to question assumptions about my writing and modify techniques.

One year later I have finished Echoes of Love, a compilation of short stories, many
written or substantially edited during the past year. But just as important, my teachers at The Writer's Center, as well as Michelle Brafman and Faye Moskowitz, have taught me
how to marry passion with technique. Now I’m ready to find a wider audience for my work.
Thanks, Julie, John, Richard, and the fabulous Writer's Center!

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