I was browsing through a magazine several years ago and found an ad for the Algonkian Writers Retreat. This was to be my first submersion in the writers world. I had no experience and was too naïve to realize what I was headed for.
The program took place along the Potomac River in Washington, DC. There were two cabins with five bedrooms and two baths in each. Men and women were mixed in each cabin, though I can say, everyone worked together wonderfully.
On Day One the instructor, Michael Neff, pulled us all together in one cabin, plied us with a few donuts and rolls, then proceeded to give us an earful about how few of us would ever follow through what he'd be teaching us and actually write! He told us we didn’t have a clue about what we were doing and more than likely were crappy writers. It felt like boot camp. By the time Michael left for the evening, there wereten really disgruntled people. We all crabbed about Mike, bonding like we were Polident on dentures.
We put up with his degradation for one more day, then launched at him like pit bulls. He laughed right out loud, making us finally realize he’d meant it as a group exercise all along. Before the week was done, we'd written some wonderful and imaginative short stories and were feeling like we had had learned a great deal about what might lie ahead for us.
I still think about that group and the encouragement they gave me.
At the end of the week, I knew I wanted to write…….and Michael Neff? He turned out to be an okay guy.