My Experience at a Lighthouse Workshop: A First-Person Perspective

By Estefania Lemus

It was an ordinary Thursday, on a relatively stuffy day, when I was walking along the sidewalk towards Lighthouse for my first workshop. I had been interviewed by the department of English at the University of Colorado Boulder months earlier as to why I wanted to intern at Lighthouse. At the end of the interview, my interviewer said Lighthouse seemed like the perfect fit, and I could benefit from them because they allowed interns to take classes. Fast forward to the end of June, and I’m headed toward Steven Dunn’s Intro to Novel class.

I’ve been writing in composition and spiral notebooks for years. When I was offered a spot in Steven Dunn’s class, I thought, could the opportunity be more perfect? After discovering my love of literature, my passion for writing didn’t take long to develop. My problem was, I could never finish the stories that were in my head. I was hoping the class would not only help refine my skill as a writer but inspire me to complete my work.

The first class was intimidating. A community of writers that have been writing far longer than I have, and have experienced life more broadly, surrounded me. As a 21-year old student, it felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there. I knew I had a lot to gain from these writers, so I smothered the intimidation and took the class head-on. Everyone in the class had the same problem I did. Many were looking to find ways to stay dedicated to their work. We opened up the discussion with our favorite books, preferred genres, and then got into talking about what exactly we wanted to take away from the course. Steven let us decide what we wanted to focus on, and really let us voice what we wanted to learn. It was nice to be given a choice, because we didn’t feel like we were wasting our time.

Steven Dunn and my classmates did not disappoint. The first couple of weeks we talked about the fundamentals of writing. Steven revisited the basics of structure, point-of-view, and tenses, but he had us look at these aspects of writing through a cinematic lens. We talked about lighting in film, and how the details we incorporate into our work function as dark or light, to enhance the mood and tone of setting, narrators, and characters. Steven explained how to effectively zoom in and pan out of the scenes (action, dialogue between characters, etc.) in our writing to move our readers along with the story. In breaking down the foundations of good writing, Steven was able to show the significance of the details that get packed into the mechanics, and demonstrate how we can manipulate them to enhance our work.

Apart from this, we also workshopped our writing. I found this portion of the class incredibly helpful. I specialize in writing YA fantasy/fiction. In a room of writers that don’t generally look at that genre, I was hesitant to share my work. However, the insight I received from everyone was invaluable. Steven was able to provide feedback that helped bring a sophistication to my genre, that I’ve been working to incorporate. My classmates discussed the storyline in a way that showed me what they were seeing as readers, which helped give me clarification in portions of the story I needed to change. I also found myself writing using the cinematic lens Steven had showed us. I was actively structuring my sentences and paragraphs to depict scenes like a camera would in a film. Using motion was especially useful for me. In imagining a camera starting on the ground and moving up, I was able to refine the speed of my action for the reader.

My experience at the Lighthouse workshop was fantastic. I met a freelance writer who gave me and another woman great tips about how to start our work as writers. We talked about films like Harry Potter and The Boss Baby to see how lighting, character, and direction worked to make stories that benefit all groups of people. I have new tricks up my sleeve to enhance my writing, and connections to my classmates that I’m sure will benefit me as a member of the writing community. I’m also still working on my story, which I’m hoping will be a novel someday; maybe a series (here’s hoping).

I would say I've been newly inspired, and I have Steven and my classmates to thank for that.  

Estefania Lemus is a fall intern at Lighthouse.