It’s been quite a few years since my first trip to Wildacres Writing Workshop, way back in 1995. I was much younger then (weren’t we all?), and having survived 3 semesters of short story workshops in college, I thought I was a good writer. It had been over 4 years since graduation, so I decided that I’d toiled in a vacuum long enough: it was time to get feedback from other writers again.

Back then, the electronic story-swap hadn’t been introduced, so you didn’t see your classmates’ work until you arrived on the mountain. That first night, we were handed copies of the story we’d discuss the next morning: a piece by Bruce Hoch, a frequent attendee and an amazingly talented writer. I can still vividly remember sitting on my bed that evening and reading his work; when I was done, all I could think was, “Oh God — I don’t belong here.” (I suspect there were also some thoughts along the lines of “I’m doomed” and “my story is complete and utter crap.”)

But while there may have been a tiny grain of truth in those thoughts, I never heard them uttered by anyone else there. I’m not saying I didn’t hear some criticism — I definitely got my share — but I got equal doses of encouragement and understanding from my workshop leader and my classmates. Everyone went out of their way to tell me I should keep trying.

If I had been at a different workshop, a more competitive one, I probably would have heard my doubts voiced by others — and I probably would have given up on writing.

I did keep trying, and I kept going back to the mountain; in fact, I’ve been there so many times that I’ve lost count. I’m a much better writer now, and I can honestly say that I have the writers at Wildacres to thank for it.

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