Honey & Alma Mater hosts workshop for aspiring writers
On a snowy Thursday night, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m., aspiring authors from all across Tacoma came to share their work at Honey Coffee and Kitchen in Alma Mater’s third monthly writer’s workshop. Founded in December of 2018, the group is part of the organization’s larger mission to serve as an “incubator for artists,” as their website states.
“Alma Mater is all about artists,” local writer and workshop participant Alex Napelenok said. “They just want to be a hub for artists. … They had tackled music, they had tackled art, they had done the art galleries and exhibitions, but they haven’t been doing anything for writers really and this was their first step in that direction.”
And what a grand step it was! Six total came to the gathering, and for many it was their first time attending the burgeoning group. Carrie Sorossay, for example, had just recently found the group through Facebook.
“I’m a transplant from L.A,” Sorossay said, “and I’ve been looking for a writing workshop so I can stay focused on the novel I’m trying to finish.”
Napelenok, a freelance writer who was leading the discussion for the night, is also working on a novel, in addition to some short stories that he has previously workshopped with the group. When asked to describe his work, he said, “It’s like speculative fiction. It’s definitely science fiction but it’s more about the people than the technology. Then some of my writing is just literary fiction about family and life. But I’m just very much a beginner.”
While some participants were just starting to discover their own literary voice, others were seasoned and published writers. One member, Paul Barach, had published a memoir in 2014 entitled “Fighting Monks and Burning Mountains,” about his 750-mile hike through a Buddhist Pilgrimage in Japan.
But regardless of age or experience, all of Thursday’s participants provided valuable insights and stellar advice for the work being discussed, resulting in a fun, friendly atmosphere that was fruitful for creative discussion.
Work is due online on the third Thursday of every month to the group’s shared Google drive. At the meeting, participants are expected to come prepared with copies and comments for the designated writers. This month it was the work of 22-year-old Americorps volunteer Abi Banover and 29-year-old school teacher Rob Hurst, that was scheduled for discussion.
First, the group discussed what the pieces (one poem from Banover and one short story from Hurst) were literally about. From there, people share what they liked or didn’t like about the piece and why, what’s not yet working in the piece and suggestions for revision. During the critique, the writer is encouraged not to speak until the end, so as to solicit the most immediate and unbiased feedback from workshop participants.
The end result was an engaging discussion about the work that Hurst and Banover generously provided. For Hurst, it was rewarding to hear others slowly piece together his short story.
“Literally everyone slowly teased out almost everything I was trying to say,” he said. “But it took time so it was interesting for me to hear what people’s first reactions were.”
When it came to Banover’s poem, however, the author was surprised to hear that people took away a far different tone than she had initially expected. “I really enjoyed hearing this and that your takes were so much more benign than my motivation behind the writing of it,” she said.
The overall experience for writers and readers alike was a productive evening of creative collaboration. Around the table, one could feel the buzz of inspiration as a group of writers spoke, and see the beginnings of great literary community that will surely continue to grow.