Having a whole week to immerse fully in your artistic work is a luxury many artists crave. In 2019, Cathy Carlton Hews received a scholarship to attend Chris Wells’ Storytelling Your Life workshop, which was exclusively designed for Omega Arts Week.
Before the workshop she considered Wells, known for his warm, insightful, step-by-step guidance, as her mentor and creative hero. She had been traveling back and forth between New York and Los Angeles for many years as an actor, taking his workshops for creative support along the way and turning small writing pieces into longer more substantive pieces through his workshops.
But then she was called back to her hometown to take care of her dad, who had an advanced case of Alzheimer’s.
“I was going a little insane, so I started to write,” Hews said. “It first started as a blog and then the pieces got longer and longer."
She worked on a lot of the book directly with Wells, so when he mentioned he would be at Omega, she applied for a scholarship and got in.
“I was so excited about a whole week to work on my writing,” she said. “It was a godsend for me. I had that luxury and time to just think about this book, which I had never had in my life. I was always working and acting, and then caretaking.”
By the time she got to the workshop at Omega, her dad had passed but she was still wrapping up many parts of his life. She enjoyed the time to focus only on her writing.
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Hews said the week included a combination of inspiring conversations, writing prompts, and assignments, along with being surrounded by a lot of like-minded, supportive people.
“I learned so much at Omega, because my mind quieted a little bit,” she said. “I could concentrate and think straight. You listen to other people who are doing the same thing that you are and I was so enchanted by other people’s work. It’s so inspiring.”
She came into the week with a clear goal: to finish her book. One of her aha’s was noticing how much her writing changed with a little more time and space to work.
“You think you are writing about one thing, but then something else comes in the back door really,” Hews said. “When you have unstructured time to focus on the writing, something else can come in to inform the rest of the piece and it takes a funny, interesting turn that I never would have thought of. You have the time to explore other areas. It was such a gift!”
Finishing a book can be hard, but by the end of the week someone asked her “Are you done?”
“Yes, I’ve said all I needed to say,” she told them.
In February 2020, Hews joined Wells for a book signing and reading of her self-published book titled, A Bag Full of Kittens Headed to The Lake. She also hosted a reading/signing in her little hometown in Massachusetts.
“The level of support in my small college town was amazing,” she said. “It was packed! It really enforced to me, ‘Yes, you are a writer and you can write.’”
She has another event to read and sign her book scheduled in Los Angeles later this year.
“I walked away from Omega, knowing I had wrote a book, and that is really life-changing,” she said. “I found my voice up there.”