“Begin in media res, in the middle of the action. Begin in dialogue that allows your readers to feel the tension. Don’t worry about background or set up right now—just let yourself go into the scene.” With that, a rough dozen or so writers spend the next thirty minutes in quiet except for the tapping of keys and scratching of pen on paper.
Every Wednesday morning from 9:30 to 10:30 at Charlotte Lit, author Megan Rich offers advice and inspiration, along with a guided prompt to kick writers into gear. She leads “Pen to Paper” a free, open workshop for writers at all levels of experience. It’s a varied group—some are published writers working on memoir, YA, or novels; some not ready, yet, to claim the title “writer”—all benefiting from Rich’s gentle encouragement.
Rich is working on her third book, a novel. Her other works include a YA novel and a travel memoir. When she says ‘an editor will tell you to find your character’s greatest fear and write that scene’ or ‘an agent will want you to describe your project in an elevator pitch,’ she knows of which she speaks.
Each hour-long session begins with brief introductions before Rich discusses the writing prompt. She offers the exercise and then adds specific examples of how it might take shape. Maybe it’s finding inspiration in nature or how to build authentic tension in a scene, fodder for the next thirty to forty minutes of dedicated writing time that form the core of each class. At the end of this time, Rich calls the group back together and asks if anyone would like to share. “Is there any word or phrase that gave you a rush of excitement as you wrote it?,” she’ll ask.
Rich is keen to help burgeoning authors recognize the initial spark of joy and possibility in their words before self-criticism and deflation set in. Sharing is always optional, but for the writers who do, Rich will commend a moment from their work, noting a particularly arresting detail or an excellent beginning line.
Held in Charlotte Lit’s airy new Studio Two, Pen to Paper is a low pressure way to start or re-start a writing practice. Members are welcome to stay after class to write in the comfortable space. Visitors may try out the studio for free in the hour following class. Writing can be a lonely business but it doesn’t have to be done alone. It’s heartening to write alongside others who are trying their hand at creation, especially under the guidance of a supportive, experienced instructor like Megan Rich.
Megan Rich has written two books, a YA novel and a, and is working on her third —a literary-fiction novel inspired by The Great Gatsby. As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, she completed a thesis of original poetry for which she received the Virginia Voss Memorial Award for Writing. She was recently awarded first place in the Confucius Institute’s North Carolina Essay Prize for an excerpt from her travel memoir. Megan is a current member of the Lighthouse Writers Workshop Book Project program, located in Denver, Colorado. She has taught English and Creative Writing for twelve years serving diverse students in traditional and non-traditional settings. You can find more information about her at her profile.