Monday, April 16, 2012

Taking a Workshop at The Writer’s Center, by Jennifer Handford

Writer's Center workshops have played a big role for winners of Amazon book competitions.  Novelist Patricia McArdle recently gave a fascinating slide presentation at an Open Door reading in which she noted that Tammy Greenwood's Revising Your Novel workshop was very helpful as she wrote Farishta, a novel based on her experiences in Afghanistan.  Farishta went on to win the the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel in the general fiction category.

Now we have good news from Jennifer Handford. Jennifer took a workshop with Barbara Esstman, and went on to be one of three first place winners of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. Her novel, Daughters for a Time, is due for an April 24 release, and can be pre-ordered from Amazon now.

 - Sunil Freeman

Taking a Workshop at The Writer’s Center
by Jennifer Handford

It must have been a good twelve years ago when I first signed up for a workshop at The Writer’s Center. At the time, my husband and I were trying to start a family and were failing miserably at it. As a depression seeped into my bones, my husband tried to cheer me up by suggesting that we take up hobbies. He signed up for cooking classes with Roberto Donna and I signed up for a novel workshop with Barbara Esstman. Until we could work out our baby-making problems, we’d immerse ourselves in things we loved.

In Barbara Esstman’s workshop, each participant was required to provide a chapter to be shared with the group. The participants were charged with reading a few of the chapters each week. In our sessions, we would critique the work we had read. When it was my week to have my work reviewed, I was filled with a bit of anxiety but mostly with excitement. I kind of liked my chapter and I thought that it would receive praise. But it didn’t. Some readers were confused, others gave suggestions, and some just said nothing. Quickly we moved on to the next participant’s chapter. Her chapter, they loved! Her chapter, made them laugh and cry! Her chapter, they commented, was reminiscent of Ann Tyler! I drove home that evening in a slump because Ann Tyler was my idol and if there was anyone who wanted to be compared to her it was me.

The workshop ended and I started on a different project: a novel about three sisters. I sent it to Barbara to critique. She sent it back. And although it was bloodied in red ink, her comment—and I remember this well—was that my project was “worth pursuing.”

Years passed and my children finally came: three daughters. In bits and pieces, I continued to write—a chapter here, a chapter there. Plot outlines were written and crumpled and thrown away. Character sketches and timelines were done and re-done. In 2010, with a just-barely completed manuscript, I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. In June of the following year it was announced that I had been awarded one of three first place prizes.

When I was offered publication, the editor noted that my work reminded him of an early Ann Tyler. More than a decade after my first workshop, my writing was finally praiseworthy.

Jennifer Handford is the author of Daughters for a Time, due to release on April 24th and now available for pre-order

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