Experiencing Pamela Des Barres’ writing workshop

I’ve been a huge fan of Pamela Des Barres since high school, when I read her autobiography “I’m With the Band” and dreamed of living a life so interesting that one day I, too, could write a book about my adventures. For many years, I had to love her from afar, never dreaming of meeting her in the flesh, but in recent years, that dream started to seem more attainable, thanks in part to her great online presence. She maintains two regularly updated websites – one for her writing and appearances and one for her signature clothing line, Groupie Couture. She’s also active on Facebook, and has a blog feed on Goodreads. It was through her blog that I became aware of her recurring all-female writers workshops, two-night “writing parties” offered in cities such as New York and Chicago and Los Angeles. And last month, when I saw that she was coming to Nashville, it was too good (and too close) an opportunity to pass up. I registered and made travel plans, giddy with anticipation but still not knowing quite what to expect.

Modeling my “I’m With the Band” tee
from Groupie Couture

From the very moment I walked into the room on the first evening, I felt a sense of peace and welcoming camaraderie from the women who were already assembled. I was a bundle of nerves about meeting the famous Miss Pamela, but she hugged me like we were old friends who’d hung out many times before. After helping ourselves to refreshments (everyone contributes; I brought a bottle of wine and a couple bags of organic popcorn to share), the group gathered in a loose circle around the hostess’s spacious living room. Everyone introduced themselves, and Pamela explained the ground rules – no negativity, no self-editing, no qualifying what you’ve written when you share it with the group. She then gave us a prompt and we wrote for 10-15 minutes, then took turns reading what we’d written out loud (scary!).

After each reading, Pamela and sometimes the other participants would comment on some aspect of the text. The comments were all very positive, never critical, ensuring that the workshop felt like a warm, protected place where we could safely bare our souls. Sometimes Pamela would comment on a particular word choice or phrase that she liked, or sometimes she’d just share an overall feeling in response to the piece. Many of the readings stirred up deep emotions in the writer and/or the listeners, and it was lovely how the supportive environment made that completely OK.

We did three separate writing prompts and sharing sessions with a break in the middle. Some of what was shared was rough and guttural, some of it poetic and ethereal, and all of it authentic and heartfelt and thought-provoking. Then we had a homework assignment to do before the second class, which was held in the same format as the first, except that a different participant hosted and there were a couple of new “dolls” present that couldn’t attend the first class.

I came away from the workshop not only having fulfilled the dream of meeting one of my all-time idols, but also with a number of new Facebook friends – all inspiring women that I’m proud to know – and seven snippets of writing (three per evening, plus the homework) that have the potential to be expanded on or incorporated into longer pieces. I haven’t gotten around to doing so, but I hope my fellow attendees have, because I would absolutely love to read more of their work. And if you’re considering signing up for one of the upcoming workshops, I hope I’ve convinced you to do it! Maybe I’ll even see you there.

Me and the incomparable Miss P