No Trembling–from Judy Goldman, instructor

I could look up the date.  But trust me, it was a long time ago.  I was a trembling student, with eleven other trembling students, in Sir Stephen Spender’s poetry workshop at the Duke Writers’ Conference.

Every morning we’d gather around a long table in a sweltering classroom on Duke University’s West Campus and wait for our instructor to arrive.  He would lumber in, out of breath and perspiring, wearing a black suit and black wide-brimmed hat, papers falling from his arms.  Each day he would critique two students’ poetry.  Each day two students would be devastated.  One left for home before he could even get to her work.

Even though he was rough on us, impatient, demanding, implacable, I felt as though I was getting a glimpse of what poetry was all about.  Every night I went back to my hot little room and wrote poem after poem on my Olivetti manual.  I made myself stop – sometimes, as light was rising in the window — so that I could sleep enough to be able to wake in the morning and find my way to the workshop.  And that workshop was – surprisingly – an important turning point for me.  I was buoyant, I was churning toward the next step in my writing, I felt I could see everywhere!

Now I’m teaching at Table Rock Writers Workshop, an offshoot of the Duke Writers’ Workshop.  The tone of this workshop is quite different from the one I just described.  No one trembles here.  No one leaves in a huff mid-week.  In fact, we leave at the end of our time together wishing for just one more day.  Our aim is this:  We want to meet you where you are, gently tug you along in achieving the writing goals you’ve set for yourself.  We want to convince you that yes, you can do it.  We’ll share what we know.  We’ll teach craft.  We’ll do everything we can to move you from where you were at the beginning of the workshop to where we believe you can be.

Please come!  We’ll care deeply about your writing.  We’ll be available to you during class, mealtimes, walking about, at happy hour each evening.  We’ll help you find the same magic I found years ago in my cramped little dorm room.  We believe you’ll find your magic here, bending over your laptop in your comfy room, Table Rock Mountain out your open window, the promise of a cool breeze.


9 thoughts on “No Trembling–from Judy Goldman, instructor

  1. Go… go… go… It’s a beautiful experience absent of competition and, well, trembling. So many others will be there feeling the same feelings, asking the same questions of themselves, sharing the same need for the writing life.

  2. Lovely to think about an Olivetti manual. Do you still have it? If so, please bring it to the Workshop! We can create a Duke Writers Museum…Maybe Darnell has some chewed-up pencils.

    Thanks for sharing this, Judy. You are right. There’s no trembling — except sometimes from laughter when you are saying the entire alphabet backwards…

  3. What’s an Olivetti Manual…is that like an old computer or something?

    I asked my Dad and said “How do you know about Olivetti Manual? There was as a war on and we all thought we were going to die! Just don’t mention Olivetti Manual around your mother!”

    I’m going to google Olivetti Manual.

  4. Judy,
    I can so hear your voice in your writing! And that is exactly what the Table Rock Workshop was for me — finding my voice, embracing the diversity of voices who teach there, and being fed by the voices of those creating music at the same time we were there — The Solatido’s! I hope to join you again this year. It is a soul feeding experience — one that, yes, helps you find your voice as you can hear it so strongly in everyone else around you. Thank you for keeping this workshop going. That’s what this workshop was for me as well. A message to never quit, never give up, find a way to make what you hope and dream for somehow come to fruition. Of course you would keep it going! I was so inspired I’m now in Graduate school at Goddard College and I’m still hoping to come back again and be fed, instructed and inspired.

  5. Judy I was at Tablerock for the first time last year but you were not teaching last year. Since I am from OR east coast is a long trip for me. Do you ever give workshops in the west coast areas on memoir? Ps read you memoir on the plane home about your sister and really enjoyed the book! Margie

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