I first sat down to write a book when I was seventeen. I wrote about a river and how there was a stick in the river, impeding the smooth run of water. That’s as far as I got.
More than anything, I wanted to keep writing, but I couldn’t find the flow. I couldn’t find myself on the page.
I majored in creative writing in college and then dropped out of school to become a writer, and I went back to college because I hadn’t been able to write anything longer than a few pages.
I went to graduate school and got an M.F.A. in creative writing, but I didn’t finish with any work of note because I talked about writing a lot more than I wrote and got really good at moving commas around and calling it a day.
I took many writing workshop the next twenty years and spent thousands of dollars trying to figure out how to get a complete story on paper. I was told again and again I was good at dialogue, but that my writing stayed on the surface.
I didn’t know how not to be on the surface as a writer. It was how I lived.
I was afraid that when all was said and done, I didn’t have a real story to tell. This was confusing to me because I felt I was full of stories. I felt pregnant with them, bloated.
This is not a comfortable way to live.
I got a writing partner, and we started working on screenplays. One, Phantom Halo, was made into a full-length feature film that won N.Y.T. Critics’ Pick. I heard sentences I had written said by actors on the big screen in film festivals in New York and Austin. That was thrilling. But I still hadn’t done the thing: I still hadn’t written a book.
And then something happened. My mother died. She died before she finished the book she had waited over sixty-five years to start writing. She died before it got published. She died before it was on the cover of The New York Times Book Review and in the pages of The New Yorker. She missed the wild praise. She missed her own party.
I did not want that to happen to me.
My mother was gone and I was not living the life I wanted to live. I broke down and then broke open.
I had travelled Path A, and I had travelled Path B. I wanted Path C; I didn’t know what that was—but I knew there had to be another way to live because my life did not feel right. So I decided to chase my dream of writing a book about adoption even though I didn’t have any guarantees I would come out the other end safely.
In a miraculous series of events, the author of The Help gave me her New York apartment for two and a half months, and with the two weeks I had at the Noepe Literary Center on Martha’s Vineyard, I had a total of 93 days to start and finish a book.
I packed up all my stuff in California and moved out of my apartment. I quit my job. I told everyone I knew I was leaving to write a book and that I wasn’t coming back until I was finished. I called the trip Write or Die. I was terrified. I honestly thought I might die. I was also alive. I was finally going to see what I was made of.
I didn’t die. I only threw up once, and when I was done, I got up off the bathroom floor and went back to work.
It was the best 93 days of my life. Write or Die taught me to listen to myself. It taught me how to write.
You Don’t Look Adopted is 177 pages and is available in paperback and Kindle version on Amazon.
I started teaching Write or Die workshops because I saw that in three hours I could teach pretty much everything I’d learned about writing. I wanted to teach the class I needed back when I was seventeen.
Write or Die is about finding your voice and getting it down on paper. It’s about discovering who you are and what is important to your deepest self. It’s about going back to when you were a kid and writing was play, a way of expressing yourself, not something that was right or wrong, not something that was graded.
Mostly it’s about freedom and love.
Best of all, it’s $150. What cost me tens of thousands of dollars, you’ll get for less than two Benjamins.
Life is sweet. Let’s write about it.
You can contact me at email@example.com for more information. Class sizes are small. You work hard, and I feed you snacks. It's all so good. We can also work via Skype or FaceTime and do the class just you and I, wherever you are in the world.
Here are what a few students had to say after they took the class and ate the snacks:
No matter how much you love to write or how great your story there are times you may need guidance, motivation or someone to stand over you with a timer.
Before I joined Write or Die, I had a million disjointed journal entries that I was painstakingly trying to piece together. Anne helped me to find order from chaos, structure where none existed and inspiration when I'd lost it. I have a story I desperately want to tell. Anne has been my mentor, cheerleader and coach in helping to tell it. If you are serious about writing you owe it to yourself to take this workshop. It can change your life.
In my first Write or Die class I read aloud, in a trembling voice, my story of a thinly veiled suicide attempt. I'd never discussed this, hell I'd never even acknowledged it, yet here I was with three people I'd never met reading the words I'd written to express my pain. This is the power of Anne Heffron's classes: she has the ability to open our souls and convince us it's okay to put our truths on paper.
As I navigate the path of a particularly difficult and painful divorce, Anne has taught me to use writing as a method to vent my anger and pain. Writing has become my therapy; writing has become my escape; writing has replaced some very destructive behaviors in my life.
For me it was truly write or die. Anne taught me to write. I'm glad she did.
Write or Die--what a truly frightening title for a workshop but what an awesome, and successful, concept. There is not firing squad making sure that you put pen to paper. There are writing "partners" that you come to love and respect and who encourage you to flex your flaccid writing muscles.
I have always wanted to devote more time to writing and now I am. Thank you, Anne, And thank you to my wonderful, generous, sensitive and understanding writing partners. I can't wait until our next session--and will continue writing until then!
While I've always had the desire to write, I've never felt there was much importance in what I had to write about. Anne has tapped into the reserves behind the desire and offered candid validation creating a real sense of potential and excitement. I've begun to write!
So much more than I expected! Anne has a wonderful ability of encouraging and somehow getting me to write and tell her stories that I hadn't realized I was holding onto so tightly. She is a gifted teacher and I feel like she has unlocked my heart and helped me to express my deepest feelings!
Write or Die will bring your mind, heart and pen together in a supportive environment. You will leave with new insight into yourself. Anne and the environment she establishes will feel like a safety net--a safety net that supports radical honesty.
I came to Anne Heffron looking for a coach. I got a coach and a teammate and the consummate cheerleader. Yes, we talk X's and O's. But Anne taught me why and how the world needed to hear my story. Thank you Anne, for being profane and profound. Your candor and vulnerability open the way for others. I hear you. You hear me. I'm grateful for you!