To kick-off our 2021 summer writing program, the Collegeville Institute hosted three virtual writing workshops that originally were scheduled to be in-person in Minnesota during summer 2020.
Despite the challenge of moving to a virtual format, participants met over zoom during the workshop week and were given a stipend to help secure a private place away from daily responsibilities for independent writing time. They shared and critiqued personal writing, as well as learned from workshop leaders who gave craft lectures.
Apart, and Yet a Part: A Workshop with Writing Coach Michael N. McGregor was held via zoom on Wednesday, June 2 – Wednesday, June 9th, 2021. Writers briefly met each morning, worked independently on personal writing projects, and had the opportunity to connect individually with Michael for specific feedback and coaching. They also gathered on zoom for several evening conversations.
One participant reflected on the virtual experience: “I really appreciated the one-on-ones with Michael, which really shifted my understanding and confidence in myself as a writer, and in my ability to discern prose and personal essay from sermon writing. I learned so much… It was therapeutic in exactly the way I needed it to be.”
Another commented: “The Collegeville Institute offers something that writers of faith have a hard time finding these days: a supportive, understanding and professional community that really wants to see them succeed in sharing their gifts with the world.”
The Exploring Identity and (Dis)belonging through the Personal Essay writing workshop (Monday, June 14th – Saturday, June 19th, 2021) was led by writer and speaker Enuma Okoro. Participants workshopped individual writing samples and discussed sterling examples of personal essays, as well as met in small breakout sessions. Participants were Christina Causey, Melissa (Mel) Champs, Joanna Currey, Lucia Edafioka, Laura Everett, Katrina Huffman, Karen Reed, Laura Jean Truman, and Shamethia Webb. Following the workshop, Okoro wrote about the experience of being a writing mentor for the Collegeville Institute in her weekly column for the Financial Times.
In their evaluation, a participant wrote: “The richness of the course was equally derived from the input, feedback, and serious engagement of each student.” Another reflected: “Enuma’s a great facilitator who positively brims with insight and writing wisdom.”
The final writing workshop this month was Our Own Deep Wells: Writing on Vocation Across Race and Culture led by Dori Baker and Patrice Gopo, which met via zoom Friday, June 18 – Friday, June 25, 2021. This workshop explored the power of writing from lived experience to help others – young people, peers navigating their own vocations, and faith communities – to explore the “why” of their lives with intention and creativity.
Drawing from her research with Collegeville Institute’s vocation projects, Kathleen Cahalan spoke to the group on their first day together about the theology of vocation. Participants also had the opportunity to meet with Patrick Reyes, who wrote the groundbreaking books on vocation Nobody Cries When We Die and, most recently, The Purpose Gap. Guest speakers from the publishing industry, Patnacia Goodman, Acquisitions Associate at Bethany House Publishers, and Bob Ratcliff, Editor-in-Chief at Westminster John Knox Press, shared their expertise in acquiring and editing theological books with the group.
In their evaluation, one participant wrote: “The excerpts on vocation from diverse and marginalized communities were eye-opening and very much appreciated.”
When asked what insight they will take with them following the workshop, one person reflected: “It’s okay to write for myself, my people. Not everything has to be for public consumption.”