The Inlandia Institute will once again host free writing workshops in Redlands.
Romaine Washington, in partnership with the University of Redlands, will offer one – poetry for beginning and intermediate writers – every other Tuesday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. starting January 11 on Zoom.
Washington is the author of two books of poetry, one of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has appeared in local and national publications. She led workshops for Inlandia for two years.
Washington hopes attendees will leave with inspiration and “new ways to see what they write.” She wants writers to think of themselves as writers, to stretch themselves, and to learn how to improve.
At each meeting, the writers read their poetry. Other participants listen, comment, and then ask the author what kind of feedback they want, as well as what they hope to accomplish with their work. Always, Washington said, “the writer has power over his work.”
Listening is an important aspect of the experience, Washington said. Often, writing workshops focus primarily on the writing itself. “But as an audience, we learn to listen.”
It also offers optional guest speakers, guest speakers, and introductions to new forms and poets.
If a newbie is hesitant to join, Washington said, “You don’t have to share what you’ve written. You can sit back and enjoy, and when you feel comfortable you can share. There is no judgment. It is a place where we can enjoy the creative process.
It is also about building a community.
“It’s really nice when we get to know the writer too,” she said.
Entrants are eligible to submit their work for publication in an Inlandia anthology, and once Washington knows the writers’ styles, she sometimes suggests other suitable venues as well. Writers, she said, “learn a lot when they submit to other places.”
Mae Wagner Marinello, who has written for insider journals for many years, has been leading an ongoing workshop in partnership with the Joslyn Senior Center since 2014. Participants write everything from poetry to science fiction to memories. She agrees that community is the highlight.
“People come because of the camaraderie,” she said.
Many participants have been present for years. Jerry Ellingson, who joined five years ago, said the group was “like a family. What she (Wagner Marinello) has done is create this space where we are totally comfortable writing down the things that mean the most to us and sharing them.
Unfortunately, a member recently passed away. The group is so close, Wagner Marinello said, that they will attend his funeral. The man’s wife was also a participant and came to the group two weeks after her husband’s death, Ellingson said, because she needed to be with them.
The “Joslyn Joy Writers” met exclusively on Zoom in 2020 and wrote a poem about the experience which featured in that year’s Inlandia anthology. Ellingson said Zoom meetings are something to look forward to during a tough time for everyone.
When the center reopened, the workshop began operating simultaneously in person and on Zoom, as some regular members were immunocompromised.
Wagner Marinello was adamant that the Joy Writers were not a group of critics. She started, she says, because “everyone has that same sadness that they didn’t ask questions when they had the chance.”
She wanted people to write stories for their children. Participants are not required to share their work, although they almost always choose to do so. “I wanted people to be free to write,” she said.
The Joslyn Joy Writers Workshop is full, but those interested in enrolling in the Washington Poetry Workshop can visit https://tinyurl.com/CWWWinter2022.