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Midwest Writers Workshop 2013: Thank You

Wow. What three days those were.

Weeks and weeks have passed since those three days and I’m still thinking about them. Have you ever wanted to blog so badly but your mind was foggy?? Well, that’s me.

After the 40th Midwest Writers Workshop, July 25-27, I feel like my brain has been soaking in a tub of brilliance and questions — the folds soaking up the yes and the what was and the what is next.

MWW13 represented my 34th conference and my 10th as director, and it always has stretched me all kinds of ways, and I am glad I said yes.

My heart is huge with affection for all those attending, and my brain has shrunk under the weight of all that was MWW13. As MWW director, I had the great privilege of serving the 16 faculty and 237 participants and so, all this time, I’ve wanted so much to say something meaningful and to say it well and yet I am tragically bereft of words.

Oh, perfect thoughts appeared, brilliant words. Problem was, they arrived at 3 a.m. Then dawn. And where were those perfect thoughts? Evaporated.

I’m beginning to accept the fact that I will not be able to put into quantifiable words the entirety of what MWW13 meant to me try as I might.

I’ve been back at my day job and a more normal routine for these weeks. And still not cannot find the words of my heart.

So these will have to do.

From here on, parts of the weekend may very well just be woven into my other stories as the experience works its way into the fibers of everyday life.

My time with everyone – faculty, participants, interns, committee – was extraordinary, and I’m still carrying several very important conversations and moments around with me like smooth beach stones in a pocket, reminders of a wonderful experience and an important time.

Jama Fan Page cvrOne of those smooth stones: the surprise of Jama’s Fan Club. What I do for MWW comes from a place of love and appreciation and a giving-back. I never expected that participants/friends would create something so special for me from their own place of love and appreciation and giving back.

My only words:  Thank you.

Then another smooth stone: the coup of my planning committee, presenting me with the Dorothy Hamilton Award. They kept the surprise for months! At the end of the banquet, Holly Miller said, “We had one more item on the agenda, but I need the help of my co-conspirators–the Blue Denim Gang.” The MWW committee all came forward and Holly reminded the audience that they had been introduced to MWW co-founder Dorothy Hamilton, posthumously, the night before.

MWW Jama award foto - with inscription“Dorothy,” Holly continued, “like our banquet speaker Hank Phillippi Ryan, was a master at multi-tasking. She had a day job but also wrote bestselling novels and ALSO found time to help wannabe writers. A few years ago the MWW committee established the Dorothy Hamilton Award to honor an individual who, like Dorothy, was a multi-tasker–someone who was a successful writer but also made time to help other authors, and someone highly committed to Midwest Writers Workshop. We don’t give the award every year, only when we have someone who meets all the criteria. This anniversary year the committee decided it was the perfect time to honor someone who is uniquely qualified. She writes books, articles, newsletters, blogs and serves as our intrepid leader. Jama, this one is for you…”

That said, Kelsey handed me the bronze award and the whole room stood up and applauded! And I was left again. With. No. Words.

I didn’t expect what happened. A coup, indeed. A Happy Day Moment.

An honor also from my committee’s own place of love and appreciation and giving back.

Again, all the meaningful words I have come down to two:

Thank you.

photo by: { k2 }

200 Days…until Midwest Writers Workshop 40th

After three days of extreme awesomeness, I thought it would be easy to write a post reflecting on the incredible experience Midwest Writers Workshop 2012 was for me and encouraging writers to keep our 40th workshop on their radar. {That’s July 25-27, 2013!} But I found myself overwhelmed by the all of the feelings and thoughts that came rushing to my head. Honestly, those days last July were like a party with so many old and new friends.

Jama & Kelsey mww12I’ve never had too much trouble meeting people and making friends, and I’ve been labeled as a friendly sort of gal. And being director of Midwest Writers for the past 10+ years has been extraordinary for meeting and making a wealth of friends. It’s like I get richer and richer. All because of the people.

Deep down we all crave for that sense of community. This is what MWW does best.  If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to meet people who are like you, who “get” what you’re trying to do with this writing life, then come to MWW.  Decide to give this connecting-with-a-writing-community-workshop-thing a try. After all, the latest buzz word is “intentional” and why not plan to get more intentional with your writing in 2013?

Attending MWW13 may be the right first step out of this sometimes secluded life of writing and into a community that’s chock full of resources, support and encouragement.

I could go on and on about what Midwest Writers has done for writers during the past 40 years. I should know. I’ve been involved as a participant, (a success story!), presenter, committee member, and director for 36 of those years, attending my first one as a college student.  MWW is part of who I am.

Highlights of MWW12…

No. 1 I was struck by how eager we all were to share our experiences as writers, whether good or bad.

No. 2 I loved that we had teenagers and octogenarians, that no one felt left out, that everyone was so welcoming and supportive.

No. 3 It was heartwarming that even though most of started as strangers, it was a very personal experience.  We talked, we laughed, and we gave high fives or hugs following agent pitches and craft sessions and writing contests announcements … and then encouraged and talked some more.

No. 4 I eavesdropped on clusters of writers explaining projects and blogs and twittering and books and ideas; words rippled through every nook and corner like warm summer breezes.

No. 5 What a difference social media can make! I think part of the success of MWW12 was the addition of social media tutoring and instant feedback via Twitter. Brilliant idea!

In all, MWW12 was one of the most positive workshops we’ve had. Simply inspired.  It was community.

MWW logo with 40th symbolAnd now we’re gearing up for three more days of extreme awesomeness: July 25-27, 2013!

Let me tell you, coming to Midwest Writers Workshop is well worth it. I want to thank the MWW team for always putting together a fantastic conference and cannot wait until this summer when we celebrate our 40th!