500 Words

Each workshop should feature a theme, Joyce declared at the beginning of Workshop 2, but Solo bristled no, keep organic with the works in progress showing the way, lighting a path of discussion. Yeah, Matilda said, I just want some response, anything, comment, you know? Writing is wandering alone in a wilderness, Joyce labored on, somewhat aphoristically, and the writing workshop is bumping into others in that backwoods. All lost, Virginia quipped, or I thought it was a quip, but I was the only one to crack a one off barking smile, and Virginia gave me a puzzled look as if to say we are not in this together, but that was just my read, which could have been off by a mile of woodland. We were, for Workshop 2, to have come up with 500 words describing our project, and another 500 words of our project, typed onto a single sheet of paper, which we passed to our left, reading and commenting in written notes, in the margins, on those passed to us, and passing them on, until our page circled back around home, and we read silently the comments written for us, scribbled in margins, side top and bottom and overflowing to the backside of the page, some, that is, others I noted had fewer notes. We then took a break, allowing us to count to ten, as it were, Solo said, before reacting. The comments could be signed or not, but I signed all of mine, no worries, trying to be helpful, focussing on how the writing made me feel. Oh, feelings, Joyce scoffed. We were breaking up now, talking in pairs or across the table. Yes, Anais came to my defence, sentience, taste and touch and smell. Nonsense, Joyce snuffed, we can’t taste words. These you might be able to, Djuna said, holding up the ink drawing that accompanied her and Hilda’s submission. Sam was the first to put his page down and move toward break, followed by Penelope. Others checked their phone for whatever, news from the sitter, texts from the other, posts from friends on the outside, out of the wilderness area. I went out to the sidewalk and breathed deeply of a fall breeze kicking up a mushroom thickness into the air, thinking of heading over to the pub for a quick beer before the second half of Workshop 2, but Anais stopped me, saying she had counted my words and noted there were exactly 250 each of both analysis and project. Had I counted them? Did I know that I’d come in right on but half the assignment money? 250 words was about the max I could fit onto one page of my pocket notebook, and that’s writing crimped. Besides, it’s only one workshop behind us and here we are supposed to fork out 1,000 words? Did you count your words, Anais asked again. Sure, why not? We watched a bus stop then went back inside. I did feel like I was probably a few words short.

“Workshop #2” is episode 78 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.