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Workshop Blues?

The Guideposts editor-in-chief explains the writer’s workshop.

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I’ve had a very lonely week around here but I’ll get to that in a minute. First, tell me the truth: Have you ever dreamed of writing your own inspirational story and getting it published in GUIDEPOSTS? I know the answer is yes because people tell me all the time that they have a great GUIDEPOSTS story. Which is true. I think everyone has a GUIDEPOSTS story somewhere in his or her life. 

On that theory we run a writers workshop contest every other year where we pick 15 people out of thousands of readers who enter to come for a week to a funky old mansion on the Long Island Sound in Rye, New York, and teach them everything we know about good inspirational storytelling and writing for GUIDEPOSTS.

Those that take to the process become part of our workshopper network, our eyes and ears around the country. If it weren’t for workshoppers tracking down stories for us month after month, we’d have a hard time publishing the magazine. And through the years we’ve even discovered a few notable writers: Sue Monk Kidd was a workshopper as was Marion Bond West and Jamie Buckingham.

So why am I lonely? This is the workshop week and most of the editors are up at Wainwright House in Rye, teaching the workshop—Rick, Amy, Colleen, Jim and others. I’m here in the office holding down the fort, so it’s been very quiet (generally I like company when I’m holding down forts) and I’ve been thinking about my own experience as a workshopper way back when.

Every editor who comes to GUIDEPOSTS is required to attend the workshop in order to be fully schooled in our approach to inspirational stories. It was my first week on the job, actually, a remarkably immersive week of learning before I even settled into my office, and I found myself both incredibly excited and at the same time wondering what I’d gotten myself into. But the intense amount of attention that was focused on the process of writing was amazing. 

As were the teachers and speakers—Van Varner, John and Elizabeth Sherrill, Dick Schneider, Marjorie Holmes, Mary Ann O’Roark, Marion Bond West, Sue Monk Kidd—even Norman and Ruth Peale, who joined us for dinner one night. Before my time there was Arthur Gordon, Len LeSourd, and Catherine Marshall, going all the way back to 1967 (I was barely in middle school then) and the first workshop.

It’s not just that the workshop teaches people how to be good writers; it hands down storytelling traditions that have been at the heart of GUIDEPOSTS since its very beginning nearly 63 years ago. It is our legacy, and so many blessed and gifted people have contributed to it. Every two years the workshop helps propagate that legacy. 

By the way, John and Tib Sherrill are still the stars of the week. Or should I say co-stars, since every writer who comes is a star. 

I started out saying everyone has a GUIDEPOSTS story. That includes you. Why wait another two years till the next workshop to tell it to us? You can submit a story today. Hey, I could use a little company this week.    

Edward Grinnan is Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of GUIDEPOSTS Publications.

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