Two months before my retirement date on May 1, 2012, Sara, a colleague of mine, suggested I take a course at the Loft, a local literary center for writers. The Loft believes that “literary technique can be taught and learned, and excellence can be inspired”. As a blooming novelist, I admitted to myself that I had no idea what I was doing. With Sara’s encouragement, I signed up for the course “How to Write a Novel”. The series of four classes were to be held each Monday in July.
From May until the beginning of class I worked on getting my retirement benefits implemented and organized. I also thought it was a good idea to begin writing before the course started. I sat at my computer and pounded out the first chapter of my book. When I came up for air my first thought was “Wow, that was fun!” Then I saw how much I had written. Two pages. The realization set in that I would definitely need help.
The Loft is located in downtown Minneapolis in the three-story Open Book building on Washington Avenue near Mall of America Field where the Minnesota Vikings play. From the outside, the building appears to be a renovated warehouse. As I walked through the front door full of anticipation and apprehension, a warm, welcoming room greeted me. The flooring was polished wood that conveyed a sense of warmth but also history. The walls were bare brick. The ceiling was two-stories high and toward the back of the room my eye was drawn to the winding staircase leading to the second floor. To my immediate right was a coffee shop and sitting area. I could imagine aspiring authors discussing issues they faced or simply quietly composing over a cup of Joe. To my immediate left were magazine racks filled with local non-mainstream newspapers and magazines, and then an illuminated case containing books published, I assumed, by Loft authors. As I walked further into this wide-open area, I noticed a nook to the left that had tables and chairs. Here writers could engage in discussion or composition. I was immediately struck with a sense of humility for those who had gone before me.
I eventually worked my way to the third floor where my class was being held. The room was square and contained long tables organized in a rectangle with the chairs facing toward the open center. Several of my fellow classmates were already there. We greeted each other with shy smiles and took a seat in a spot I deemed most comfortable. The instructor, Kate Ledger, arrived and introduced herself. Kate is a published author. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (the Penguin Group) of New York published her novel Remedies. It is a wonderfully crafted story and a great read. I would encourage you to pick it up. In fact Elin Hilderbrand, the New York Times best selling author of Barefoot, wrote, “Remedies is an immediately gripping, expertly woven tale of pain and healing. Ledger is a brilliant writer; the book is dazzling, but more important, it is moving”.
Kate asked each of us to introduce ourselves by giving some background information and what brought us to take her class. As each of my sixteen classmates spoke, I was immediately intimidated. A majority of them were already in the throes of writing. Some had actually completed their first draft and were looking for affirmation. One was an English major who got pulled away from composition to make a living in a different field and wanted to get back to writing. A few others had previously published articles or short stories and wanted to move toward the longer format of a novel. Then there was me. After completing my introduction, I sat back and thought to myself, “What am I doing here?”