Workshops scare me.

I attended my first painting workshop twenty years ago. Three times I came that close to stopping the car, turning around, and going home. What if everyone has a friend except me? (Bear in mind that my 7th grade days were far behind me.) What if I’m the only one who can’t draw a stick figure? (If I stick figures had been listed as a goal, I never would have signed up.)

And of course, after a week at the (sadly now defunct) UofM Split Rock Arts Program, I came home so jazzed about my neophyte skills that I promptly spent $500 in art supplies. (I always have been an over-achiever

Jump ahead twenty years. Did that painting workshop assuage my apprehensions about attending  a writer’s workshop offered by the Grand Marais Art Colony? Of course not! But an additional twenty years of living and a couple of health scares have taught me to ignore that nagging voice that tried to convince me to stay home.

So ignore it I did, and I’m glad that I did.

Have you ever felt as if you were standing on the periphery of something you wanted to do? Jump off the high board, sing a solo in the church choir, enter a cake in your state fair’s baking contest? Only to quit before you started because fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of being afraid stopped you?

To me, that fear of failure has been a pane of glass that stands between me and my goals. The scene on the other side of that metaphorical window is clear and enticing. But breaking glass is scary; one could get hurt.

I am excited (and relieved!) to report that Jill Swenson (Swenson Book Development) removed the pane of glass that has stood for years between me and my goal of producing a book-length memoir, and nobody got hurt!

It’s been three days since I left Grand Marais and I still can’t figure out how she did it. Certainly her vast knowledge of the writing process and her years of teaching and coaching writers figure into her talents. But there’s so much more than that. Nurturing, smart, able to use humor to break tension…gosh; I make her sound like Superman. And except for the gender and attire, to my way of thinking, she is.

After all, she was able to break my glass barrier with a single workshop.

You can also find Jill on Facebook and at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis where she’ll be conducting a one-day workshop on Saturday, July 18. More info at


Author: Judy Westergard

Retired English teacher, self-taught painter, inveterate reader and still lovin' my Kindle!

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