In summer 1974, Watergate heated up and was about to boil over. At 16, I headed to my first writer’s workshop with equal amounts of trepidation and optimism. In my suitcase, I had a pair of blue Adidas tennis shoes and black leather slip-ons with three-inch wedge heels. Since freshman year, I worked on my high school newspaper. My small group of nerd friends in high school shared my love of writing.
The 2016 presidential election heated up and was about to boil over. At 58, I headed to my second writer’s workshop with equal amounts of trepidation and optimism. In my suitcase, I had a pair of white New Balance walking shoes and black leather Walking Comfort slip-ons with rubber soles. After a career in health sales and marketing, I started writing again in 2009. My small group of nerd friends on the Internet shared my love of writing.
My parents drove me to the dormitory where I stayed for two weeks. I had no idea what to expect. Within minutes, I met new friends from all over the country, including my roommate, Michelle from Dayton, Ohio.
I drove my black SUV from my home to the writer’s workshop in Dayton, Ohio, a five-hour drive. I had no idea what to expect. Within minutes, I met new friends from all over the country. I had a room with a king-sized bed.
At the first meal in Studebaker Hall, I dropped my cafeteria tray and scattered my breakfast all over the floor. That did not come out right.
During the first meal, the wine steward asked our table if we wanted red or white wine. All chose red but me. The steward came back the second time with another bottle of red. I shouted, “Hey, I am the white girl.” That did not come out right.
The classes and my teachers were amazing. Many wrote and designed for newspapers and magazines, or taught those who did. We published a paper during the two weeks. I interviewed and wrote about T.K. Ryan, writer and cartoonist of “Tumbleweeds.” His studio was about two miles from the workshop; I walked across the Ball State University campus in those blasted wedge shoes, regretting every step. Before I met Ryan, I met his assistant, a college student assisting Ryan. His name was Jim Davis, and he also wanted to be a cartoonist. Wonder what ever happened to him?
The classes and my teachers were amazing. Roy Blount Jr. was our keynoter on the first night. The next morning opened with Alan Zweibel, whom Lorne Michaels plucked from an NYC improv club as an original “Saturday Night Live” writer. Zweibel got Lorne’s attention with this joke, eventually the first “Weekend Update” quip Chevy Chase told.
The Post Office announced today — [ looks around, lost ] Just a second, I lost my place. [ shuffles his papers ] Oh! The Post Office announced today that it was going to issue a stamp commemorating prostitution in the United States. It is a 10-cent stamp, but if you want to lick it, it is a quarter.
A host of other A-list writers presented and networked all weekend. If you wanted to talk to “Dear Amy,” you said hello to Amy Dickinson. Kathy Kinney, Mimi of “The Drew Carey Show” fame, keynoted with her writing partner Cindy Ratzlaff. She and Cindy were so much more than the one-dimensional Mimi. Their message, “There is no infinite amount of joy and happiness and success.”
The longer I stayed at the workshop, the more I enjoyed my new friends. I was Dorothy Gale when she transformed from drab, sepia Kansas to the technicolor glory of Oz. I felt so affirmed; I knew writing is my passion.
The longer I stayed at the workshop, the more I enjoyed my new friends. Like Elphaba in “Wicked, I am “Popular” just like Elphaba; I felt so affirmed: I knew writing is my passion.
At the end of two weeks, my mother picked me up. I chose Ball State as my university and thirteen months later started J-school. I graduated with a bachelor’s and a master’s in journalism and had incredible experiences and an excellent career.
At the end of the weekend, I drove out of Ohio and crossed the Ohio River both at Cincinnati and Louisville before arriving home to my supportive husband and paper-strewn office, where I will write until I no longer have breath.
— Amy McVay Abbott
Amy McVay Abbott is an Indiana author of four books, including A Piece of Her Mind and The Luxury of Daydreams. She likes to hear from readers at her blog.