Facilitating Friday 500

Editor's Note: This is the eighth in a series of essays and podcasts in which readers and writers from all corners of the Lighthouse Writers Workshop community express why they believe in our mission to elevate the literary arts. Please support these important programs on Colorado Gives Day, December 10, when every gift is boosted by a $1.5 million incentive fund. Save time by scheduling your gift today; just select “Colorado Gives Day” under frequency and your donation will be processed on the 10th and boosted by the incentive fund.

I became involved with Lighthouse Writers Workshop when I attended a Hard Times Writing Workshop at the Denver Central Library. It was there I became aware of community writing workshops. Previously, I taught creative writing workshops in an academic environment in higher education. The community workshops seemed more down to earth and the people attending had a wonderful humility about their own work and life in general. It was a true “community.” There was not a spirit of competitiveness but rather a spirit of encouragement and support. The people there had broad life experiences, which made their writing very appealing.

I fell in love with the atmosphere in Hard Times and realized I would very much like to have the opportunity to facilitate a community workshop. After a couple of years, I worked up the courage to ask Dan Manzanares, Lighthouse’s community programs coordinator, if I could facilitate something at the Lighthouse. I was pleasantly surprised when he offered me the opportunity to facilitate Friday 500, which meets for two hours on Fridays at the wonderfully charming old mansion on the corner of Colfax and Race. I discovered that by the end, the Friday 500 participants brought the same joy I had experienced at Hard Times. 

Friday 500 is a special time where people write individually for an hour in the house then come together to exchange ideas about writing. The house is filled with comfortable chairs and tables and is a perfect place to sit and contemplate and engage in the creative act. It is simply a wonderful atmosphere and a terrific event. Dan has done a wonderful job directing and guiding the program. I highly recommend it for any writer at any level from beginner to advanced. It is a very successful endeavor, and it was an honor to participate.

Dan helped me outline my ideas for Friday 500 ahead of time. He gave me some wonderful pointers. When the day arrived, I found the attendees were inquisitive, curious, and highly intelligent. They responded to the questions I had come up with regarding anaphora (repetition in a piece of writing) brilliantly. The two pieces I had chosen as models were Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” and Ursula LeGuin’s “Initiation Song from the Finders Lodge.” I didn’t have to do much, as the writers themselves were filled with ideas and excitement for the art. We had used the two pieces of writing as prompts. The prompt was to write a list of blessings or a list of commands, or if they preferred to do something else of their own choosing. The writers were also invited to include repetition in their own work. 

The experience helped me find my confidence again. I have struggled for years and lost my confidence as an instructor due to my disability, which includes post-traumatic stress. Before the event I was extremely anxious. How could I possibly match the success of the facilitators I had seen at Hard Times? There was an unexpected large attendance and I was anxious. I needed extra copies of the material which was provided promptly. So as the writers enthusiastically answered questions and offered their own ideas, I was thrilled. It helped me find my voice and believe in myself.

Sheryl Luna earned a PhD in contemporary literature from the University of North Texas and an MFA from University of Texas, El Paso. Her first collection, Pity the Drowned Horses, received the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize and was published by the University of Notre Dame Press. It was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Colorado Book Award. Her second collection, Seven, was published by 3: A Taos Press in 2013. Luna was awarded fellowships from the Corporation of Yaddo, the Anderson Center, the Ragdale Foundation, and CantoMundo. She received the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation Award from Sandra Cisneros in 2008. Her poems have appeared in Georgia Review, Poetry Northwest, Feminist Studies and elsewhere.

Read the other entries in the Colorado Gives Day 2019 series:
"Finding My Place" by Jennifer Wortman
"Like a Form of Release" by David Mejia
“Monumental Fun” by Susan Blosten
"Confessions of a Night Writer" by Twanna LaTrice Hill
"To Build Impossible Worlds" by Connor Rodenbeck
“A Mission of Compassion” by Michael Sindler
“It Takes a Village” by Tiffany Quay Tyson