When I was a little girl probably five or six during WWII there were black-outs for certain businesses. Since my family raced greyhounds and the sporting events were held outside at night, the tracks were closed down so as not to present a brightly lit target. It must have been difficult for my parents having their only source of income cut off, but we went to Kansas to my mother’s family’s farm to wait it out. Some of that time we spent in nearby Joplin, Missouri and since it was the school year, I was sent to a one-room schoolhouse. I could not have been happier. It was one room with a wooden floor warped enough so that if you dropped a pencil you might have to rush to catch it. One teacher. And a handful of students of all ages. I was happy because everyone helped each other. Maybe a girl who was ten would guide my hand to help me make letters on that pulpy lined paper, or an eight year old would share his book with me during the out loud reading time.
Perhaps that’s why I find that mixing the genres and abilities at the my workshop table is creative. People benefit from the variety of interests, styles and voices. It broadens perspective, makes a larger landscape for imagination. Fiction borrows from non-fiction and non-fiction informs fiction. An agreed set of skills and practiced critiquing are fundamental across the board. It raises the bar for the less experienced while also reminding the more experienced of basics they may have let go. And I have a level floor if a pencil gets dropped.