A 10 Week Course by Francesca Lia Block
I just finished Healing Through Writing, a ten-week writing group hosted by Francesca Lia Block. Francesca has been my favorite writer since I was twelve and read I Was A Teenage Fairy, “a postmodern fairy tale, a teen model’s friendship with a fairy helps her overcome abuse,” (amazon.com) and the last book I finished was House of Hearts, her newest book with themes of mythology, death, and rebirth taken place at the Salton Sea. I always appreciated her work because she writes about taboo, abnormal, and traumatic topics accompanied (or disguised) by magical realism. Her language, details, and symbols will take you to another world, engulf you in its essence and bring you back into your existence more light-hearted. I always wanted to be a writer, and after reading Francesca’s books, I knew why; I had never felt more understood.
I recommend this course. I finished my BA at Full Sail University in creative writing but struggled to publish. Since I graduated, I have taken a writing class at a community college. In this course, I read and analyzed plenty. I even started a new story, but I wanted more. I had yet to accomplish what I wanted. I came to Francesca with questions about getting a Master’s. If you read my blog post on my BA experience, you know I am overwhelmed with student loans and think college can be risky. She told me about her writing group. I’d known about it but needed the money for it. We worked out a payment plan, and I was ecstatic to dive in.
We met on Sundays on Zoom and submitted ten pages a week, along with the answers to the questions she provided. She used the twelve questions from her book The Thorn Necklace and other questions for deeper thinking. These questions weren’t just about writing but about you, the writer. I am a brick wall regarding trauma, but even these questions helped me open up and reflect. As a writer, I learned that we are pushed to express our deepest desires, write about our childhood, admit our flaws, and appreciate our gifts. After all, without these things, good characters wouldn’t exist.
So, of course, I struggled. I struggled to open up, struggled to write ten pages, and struggled to give back good critiques, but I got better at these things. I continued writing a story idea I had when I took my first in-person class by Francesca Lia Block in 2016. The story I worked on was a high fantasy that could quickly go wrong since I was an inexperienced writer. I got so caught up in world-building that I lost concrete details that helped the reader relate or the characters come to life. She asked me to write a non-fiction piece for submission in week three. (I will post it on my blog in the upcoming weeks). It was called Somebody’s Giant, about a death in front of our home in downtown Oceanside. This piece was a great release for me, and it was nice to hear the feedback from my peers. Even though writing non-fiction doesn’t come naturally to me, getting support from my group was healing.
We met every Sunday evening and worked in a group of four. These writers were very talented. For the price of the class and the amount of writing, the kind of people this class attracts are die-hards. Reading their stories changed me. Giving them feedback, getting their feedback, was more than someone close to me could offer. We are all striving for a common goal, all being vulnerable, and all there to support one another in the process. There was little time to chat, but Francesca allowed us as long as we needed to give each other our reports, talk about our work, and get her feedback. We had group exercises and even sat in a brief ceremony for the full moon. Reading their stories changed me more than I can say for my community college class because I was a part of their story. They took in my advice and comments, and it reflected in the upcoming submissions. They trusted me with their secrets, and the sisterhood bond was healing for me.
In the tenth week, I didn’t submit my work. I’m not perfect, and I got stuck six pages into my chapter and was overwhelmed with work, illness, and stress. I didn’t move forward. Instead, I focused on my reviews and gave my group the best analysis I could for that week. I would recommend two hours a day put aside for this class, Monday through Friday, with a break on Saturday and a meeting on Sunday. I’m not saying it takes that long to write ten pages but you have to map out your chapter/ or short story, you have to answer the questions, review your classmates stories, take notes and execute the notes from the prior week and write your story. If I could do this class again, I would take the questions more seriously and put aside more time to focus.
I wrote 66 pages, 21952 words for my story Discordia, gained notes on an existing short story and a ten-page non-fiction called Somebody’s Giant. I received four notes (including Francesca’s professional notation) on each chapter. I learned how to become a better writer, how to plan and analyze my process, and I was pushed to write by taking this course. Because she allowed me a payment plan, I was able to manage the class fee, and I would 100% retake this class.
If you are a reader, I recommend you pick up Francesca’s fiction books. If you want to become a writer, I recommend A Thorn Necklace. If you are a writer, take the course. There is nothing to lose and so much to gain. I am so proud of what I have accomplished in just ten weeks.
Thank you for reading my blog! I am happy to be back.
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