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A Week in Lothlorien: Winter Workshop 2016


Compiled by Staff

One Year Adventure Novel students often talk about the Summer Workshop as their “Rivendell” (from The Lord of the Rings)—a place of peace and restoration where the arts are in their rightful place. The Winter Workshop, then, is like Lothlorien, a quieter and more intimate haven of the elves, as a student pointed out this year.

Today we share some reflections by students who attended the 2016 Winter Workshop.

If you are interesting in learning more about this event, please visit our Winter Workshop page for details about past workshops.


MacKenzie Branch

MacKenzieBranchHeadshotWhen I got home from the Winter Workshop and people asked me how it was, I kept saying it
was more like being at a church retreat than a writing retreat
. The sessions were pumped full of the beauty of God and His truth. I was unsure at first about the medieval theme – it seemed cool, but I didn’t know how it would be connected to our lives as writers today.

However, the connections that Mr. S., Professor Wilson, and Tineke revealed were beautiful and inspiring. They drew on the lives of the medieval bards – also known as court fools – and showed us how these fools went through rigorous training to carry the histories and tales of their people from generation to generation. Not only were the fools storytellers, but they were also truth-tellers, often faced with the difficult task of communicating truth to those who were not so keen on hearing it. We then examined our calling as writers to present God’s truth to the world – a world that may not be too excited to receive it.

Aside from the spiritual encouragement, I got a lot out of the technique sessions. One especially helpful thing was the technique Mr. S. presented of using the main character’s identifying trait and ideal to carry both the plot and character arcs. That, in conjunction with the brainstorming sessions he held this year, really helped me understand how to process a plot and character arc and create continuity that makes sense and is satisfying at the end. Now if only I could pick one idea to try it out on!

Braden Russell

Two days into the 2016 Winter Workshop, I was feeling an odd sense of disappointment. BradenHeadshotI wasn’t sure why–the lectures were fantastic, and I was having a good time with people I loved. And yet there was this vague, back-of-my-mind sensation that I was missing something.

The next day, Rachel Garner spoke to the group, and encouraged us to be open with each other about tough life stuff. To not be afraid of walking up to someone and saying “hey, I have no idea what I’m doing with my life, how about you?” And then I realized what my problem was.

2015 was a really hard year for me. I was tired. At some point during the year, I’d misplaced my joy, and I was having a difficult time remembering where I had left it. Subconsciously, I think I was expecting the workshop to be the magical event that would fix me and tie a little bow on top. I was waiting for the deep spiritual experience of past workshops, and it hadn’t come yet.

Several conversations later, I discovered that 2015 had put many of my friends in the same place–confused, frustrated, maybe a little scared. None of us had any fix-all tips or stunning insight. Just quiet camaraderie, and it helped.

From there, I stopped trying to turn the workshop into a band-aid for my life and just enjoyed it. The phenomenal lectures. The laughter. The cafeteria food. Snowy, sock-soaking walks with friends. And that was where the healing happened. My problems weren’t fixed. But I drove home with a quieter spirit and renewed sense of perspective.

And that’s what the Winter Workshop was for me: a bear hug, a kick in the rear, and a much-needed reminder of the treasure of unconditional friendship.

Christina Abel

The 2016 Winter Workshop was different than any of the other workshops I’ve attended.ChristinaAbelHeadshot This event is special, because it’s smaller, which makes it easier to talk to everyone and get to know them better. OYAN students organize events like the New Year’s Eve party to spend even more time together. I’m so happy that I got to meet some amazing OYANers this year and keep in contact with them even outside of the workshop.

Critique group was probably my favorite part of WW this year. Our group was amazing and gave really in-depth feedback that will be extremely helpful. We also had a lot of fun reading each others stories and starting civil wars with our different opinions.

The sessions were amazing. My favorite one was when Mr. S talked about a new way to outline. A different perspective on that has been really helpful.

This year’s Winter Workshop was one of the best OYAN workshops I’ve attended. I’m so thankful to the entire OYAN staff for making it possible for all of us to get together to learn and have fun.

Kelly Darnell

“Prepare for the joy God is about to bring into your life.”KellyDarnellHeadshot

I can’t remember who said this, but it was during the fireside room discussion time on Saturday night. And even though I learned so many things at the Winter Workshop, this one sentence really implanted itself into my heart more than anything else. The more I thought, the more I realized that I haven’t been living my life in preparation for joy – I’ve been preparing for trials.

But how might my perspective change if I were to start looking forward to the joy instead of dreading the inevitable pain? I know that God has some amazing things in store for my future, and for the first time I feel genuinely excited about that future. Like Christ, who endured the cross “for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2), I want to live my life preparing for the joy that has been set before me. Because even when that joy is tainted by heartache, there is still beauty.

I left Winter Workshop 2016 truly believing that I can focus on the joy. The joy of writing, the joy of friendship, and the joy that I haven’t even imagined yet. Even now, after a few weeks of “real life,” I have been finding more joy in my life than I thought was possible. This year’s Winter Workshop will always hold a special place in my heart, and I hope that the ripple effect of the joy I found there will last a lifetime.

Justin Ferguson

Confession: I can be a little faithless even when I should really know better.JustinFergusonHeadshot

This workshop was unexpected for me. I went into the week homesick after visiting friends and family in Canada over the weekend – too short a time. I also wasn’t sure what to expect, because almost none of my non-local friends were coming. My expectations were confused – I was excited, and knew I would have a good time; but I was also prepared to be a little disappointed by unfamiliarity.

Instead, I was startled by how at-home I felt among so many strangers. I was forced to meet people – and was somehow surprised to discover that I didn’t already know everyone worth knowing. I made new friends that I probably wouldn’t have if there’d been more familiar faces from the start.

The sessions surprised me with their impact. I loved having Mark Wilson back, and I always benefit from his sessions; but his lecture “In the Beauty of Holiness” in particular helped me better grasp something I’ve been processing for a while: the relationship between truth and aesthetic beauty in the Christian’s art. Mr. S.’s “Quest of One Trait” gave me a new way to think about character arcs. Tineke’s discussion of the medieval bard was fascinating and enhanced my perspective on modern-day storytellers. Matthias Bryson gave my favourite session, on Eastern storytelling and what we can learn from the philosophies that inform their art.

And then Mr. S. ended the week with a reflection on the role of the Fool in medieval court. Like the Fool, our job as storytellers is to stand in a place of weakness, posing no threat, but providing subversive entertainment to affect the hearts and minds of our audience. I left this workshop once more convinced that, yes, this is what I was made to do, and this is why I keep coming back: because I am faithless, and I need the constant reminder of what I’ve been put here for.

Chinyere Okafor

This was my first WW, and to say I was excited would be an understatement. ChinyereOkaforHeadshotBut even though I was so ready to learn about writing, to critique and be critiqued, I was blown away by the friendship and community. Yes, I learned so much. Yes, I loved every session and took so many notes. Yes, the feedback I got for my story was exactly what I needed. But I didn’t expect to find friendships like I did.

I saw laughter and joy. I saw pain and vulnerability, but love that surrounded it. We stood around the countdown clock on New Year’s Eve and cheered when midnight came. We donned fools caps and danced, because we are fools, every one of us. Musicians brought their talent and instruments; we danced and sang along. We fell back through time for a medieval feast. My roommates and I stayed up till one, talking of How to Train Your Dragon, future dreams, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and our own stories. We played ridiculous games, laughing and eating marshmallows and sharing things we’re not brave enough to tell anyone else. There is freedom in friendship, and beauty in this community. But the one thing I love most is that these people see something in me I cannot yet see. They see my potential, and what I could be and what I am becoming. And they’re teaching me, slowly, to see it too.

This Post Has One Comment
  1. Wow. This is really insightful for me. I have never attended an OYAN event, but from what I read in this article I may just have to take a trip. :}
    Thank you for the reflective comments from the students who attended. 🙂 It’s encouraging.

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