New York Times Best-selling Writer Jamie Ford Coaches Next Crop of Storytellers of the Mixed Race and Multiracial Experience
Where: Mixed Remixed Festival Yuki Family Board Room at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, CA
When: Saturday, June 11, 9:30am–11:30am
What: interactive workshop to discuss manuscript excerpts from five writers
Who: moderator Jamie Ford
This was a special fiction manuscript workshop with Jamie Ford. Participation was limited to pre-selected writers who had registered and submitted their respective work-in-progress (a maximum of 25 pages) in advance of the festival.
Writing with Jamie Ford
Writers, like everyone else, have heroes. I’m tired of affiliating myself with the word “emerging,” so I declare myself a hatch-ling. Arguably, writers in the incubation or hatching stage put more weight on (famously) hatched authors. Our chick eyes widen at the sight of appreciated chickens and roosters.
Anyway, fowl metaphors aside, I’m going to out myself and state that Jamie Ford is one of my novelist heroes. It was a real thrill to be participating in a small workshop that he led—and this thrill was heightened by the fact that the Mixed Remixed Festival was the reason for its existence. I’m not the only one with such feelings. For workshop participant Romalyn Tilghman, it was “an extraordinary opportunity for feedback and conversation with an important, published author and [to hear] emerging voices.”
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure (or torture, depending on workshop circumstances) of experiencing a writing workshop, know that outcomes and discussions can be unpredictable. It’s easy to imagine. 1) Insert a recognized writer or professor and fledgling writers in the same room. 2) Discuss in-progress work. The moderator needs to make the sharers comfortable, but also challenge them. Praise but critique. Encourage experimentation but advise regarding practicalities. From the beginning, the room’s sweating with at least mild tension or nervousness.
In case you were wondering who my workshop colleagues were—and where you can find their writing, allow me to virtually introduce you to fellow Mixed Remixed Festival blogger Clare Ramsaran, writer Katrina Goldsaito, writer Shannon Luders-Manuel (who unfortunately couldn’t join us), and of course aforementioned writer Romalyn Tilghman.
I may disappoint some of you by revealing that during the workshop there were no raised voices, thrown papers, or tears. The session went smoothly. We began with short introductions, and then made the most of workshop time. Each writer commented on a particular writer’s manuscript excerpt, Jamie offered his thoughts, and then the author explained and/or asked questions.
That sounds stiffly academic, but the atmosphere was a relaxed, productive one. Personally, my favorite parts were when Jamie sprinkled manuscript commentary with general writing advice. Thus, without further ado, Jamie’s thoughts on the art of writing.
Jamie Ford Quotes on Writing
I took a moment to write for myself.
I think there’s a Venn diagram of what we write and what people want to read. [Shame on me: I couldn’t write the gold fast enough. But I can paraphrase: Jamie noted that we can aim to meet readers somewhere in the middle of the diagram. (What’s this, intersectionality? Sounds rather mixed remixed…yes, I give you permission to cringe at the adroit-less pun.)]
I encourage self-awareness as a writer.
Find a way to be happy [on the spectrum of critical acclaim and commercial success].
I encourage people to be genre-blind. [I.e., challenge yourself to write outside and in between genres. Write first, and worry about marketing later.]
The work requires its own deadlines sometimes.
Write what you want to write.
What you put on the page—that’s you.
[Don’t be] slave to a trend.
You can be a prisoner of your success. [So, to return to his first quote, write for yourself.]
Final Thoughts from a Hatch-ling
Try to discover who you are, and who you think you want to be. As a mixed-race person or not. As a writer or not. We live in flux, and in the flux. Accept change. Create change. Work with change. When we learn to house ourselves in our own skin, we learn to mind what we want to mind, instead of what we “should” mind.–Joy Stoffers, Festival Blogger-in-Chief
This is one story in a series about the programs held at the Mixed Remixed Festival 2016. Please read through them all by searching our blog with “2016 Festival Re-Cap.”