Robin Black was at Lighthouse Writers’ Workshop here in Denver yesterday. I hadn’t seen her in awhile, not since her novel Life Drawing and her book of essays on writing Crash Course came out. And here she was on a rainy day out west. Here she was brightening up our day and invigorating our work.
I don’t remember the title of the course but it was close to two hours of Robin’s sharp, insightful take on the use of words. She talked about rhythm and led a writing exercise that gave us an example of the power it can add to our writing. She talked about verbs – thought you knew all about verbs, didn’t you? – and we learned something new about that part of speech. She talked about the flow of the sentence leads the reader to the flow of action in the paragraph – “the structure of a sentence mirrors what’s going on.” She said to us, “Be daring, experiment, find your unique voice, find your distinction.”
Most of all, she encouraged about 40 of us in our own writing. This woman whose life is words – well, along with her husband, three nearly adult offspring and a black dog named Watson – helped us understand how she uses words, how she shapes her stories with the language, how she takes the same words we might choose and arranges them so they become the lives of her characters, the stuff of her writing life.
“A story is finished when you can point to any word and know why it’s there.” With Robin, I hope the story is never finished. Her warmth, her angst, her knowledge, her creativity – she shares it all and her audience – that would always include me – is the one who benefits.