21 05

Rolling Up My Sleeves: Tuesday, May 21, 2024 pm

By Tatton Strassheim from Patrick Henry College

Tuesday’s first writing workshop began at 9 am. Now it was 10 pm, and I was still in class, staring at text on my laptop screen. Battery low. All I wanted was sleep.

After thirteen hours of workshops, the last thing I wanted to think about was journalism. Once class ended, I still had to write two short pieces before morning: a profile of my roommate and a short tv stand-up script. I hadn’t even started those. Actually, I wanted coffee.

In the last activity of the day, we sat in a group inside Dordt’s theater arts building. Six students including myself under the direction of Lynn Vincent, WORLD Magazine’s executive editor—it’s called an “editing pod.” Students took turns criticizing pieces they’d written earlier that week, moderated by Vincent.

I assumed I’d have little to say, given the distinct lack of caffeine in my body. But my peers’ storytelling grabbed whatever attention I had left to give and wouldn’t let go. Take David Mazula’s story, for instance. He sat inside syrup vendor Dan Potter’s tent at Orange City’s annual tulip festival for hours to get an interview. The story had everything: an electric opening scene, snappy quotes, surprising facts, and crystal-clear prose. It took everyone a few minutes to find flaws in the piece.

Vincent had one rule: we couldn’t apologize for criticism. It’s not an insult, it’s an earnest attempt to help a fellow writer see his story better. When I shared my piece, my peers were honest, insightful, and encouraging. Artistic risks were noticed and appreciated.

Our pod was the last to go home that night. After hours spent enjoying my peers’ stories, it was time to roll up my sleeves and get back to work. It was going to be a long night. My laptop was out of battery. But the stories I’d been assigned were my responsibility, and I wanted to tell them.

When I returned to my dorm room nearly fifteen hours after leaving it, I felt energized. But I made coffee anyway.