Meet the 2016 Workshop Dreamers

It’s always risky. Opening your home (your kitchen! your bathrooms! your closets!) to strangers. Saying “Come in” and “Take off your shoes” and “Tell me your life story”. But it’s always, always worth it.

I could talk for hours about all the things we discussed + places we went + discoveries we made + food we ate. But the best part (the big ol’ helping of whipped cream) is the people we shared it with.

These. Girls.

They are storytellers, dreamers, and doers. They know how to welcome and be welcomed in return. It was one of the highlights of my summer to get to spend a weekend with them, singing in the car and passing around popcorn on our upstairs couches. And it was beautiful to hear them, on the last day, talk about each other.

“I know you to be” is a big deal for me, and for all of my co-theater and story makers at school. “I know you to be” is affirming. It’s truthful. It’s full of the best kinds of things–joy and honesty and soul-building life. There is nothing casual or soft-around-the-edges about saying “I know you to be”. And so that’s why it’s so big for me to record these words here. To capture these girls’ beings. To remember them for who they are and how they see the world. It’s one of the greatest forms of storytelling we can share with one another.

Emily

Emily is sweet tea–the cool, icy, sugary kind. When she talks, her voice is soft but articulate, her words tinged with a glow of Southern, old-fashioned nostalgia. Mary described her perfectly when she commented on Emily’s “quiet but beautiful self-assurance” and the way she will “apologize over little things and not wish anyone to really go out of their way for her”. That’s Emily to a T. She takes care of herself and others. She’s quiet, but watchful. She knows how to “make-do and mend”. I’ve been reading her work for years, and I remember a scene she wrote once that was just brimming with twilight fireflies. Emily is a twilight firefly kind of sweetheart. A Georgia peach. Everything about her is gentle and nostalgic in all the best kind of ways. She’s the kind of girl the term “old soul” was coined for.

(Check out her blog here!)

Justice

Justice was our wild hippie child for the weekend. Named after “a John Cougar Mellencamp song!”, she bursts with light and color. Too much light to be contained. Light pouring out of her fingertips and the roots of her hair and every fraction of her smile. Olivia commented on Justice’s captivating words–on the way words flowed from her like music. And I can’t think of a more appropriate way to describe her or her work. She’s captivating. Words sound sweeter when they come from her mouth. She’s mostly quiet–thinking, watching, dreaming. But when she talks everyone stops to listen as she waves about her hands and tells a story from her head to her toes. There’s magic in Justice’s heart and in her words. And there’s still some leftover stardust lingering around our house that must have fallen out of her pockets as she left.

 

Mary

Strong. Stately. Determined. Mary makes me consider the word “thoughtful” and what it really means. This was her second Dream Factory Workshop, and I’m amazed at how much she’s changed and yet stayed the same. Mary is a person who puts thought into things. Who considers her words before she shares them. Who considers deeply the things that matter to her, but still laughs at the world she faces. Emily described the way people have a natural tendency to lean forward when Mary speaks, and the way she’s “forever looking for the beauty in things, and when she finds it, tells you so.” Perhaps one of the physically strongest females I’ve ever met, Mary knows what it means to be clothed in strength and dignity. Her head is always held high, but she is continually the first to go last.  Her exuberance is contagious. Her resolution is unnerving.

(“Like” her photography page here!)

Olivia

The “smile-er” of the group, Olivia lent an un-matched enthusiasm to every activity we engaged in together. Rachel described her as loving and sweet, noting that she “always wanted to help somebody with a task”. Olivia was gifted with helping hands. I can’t count the amount of times she asked me if I needed help with dishes or cleanup or meal preparation. I’ve never met someone so eager to be a part of the “dirty work”. When Rachel assigned her the adjective “observant”, everything clicked into place. Olivia is always observing the next opportunity to serve. To laugh. To share. To bond. She notes every little detail of the day and records them for her own memory. It’s just who she is.

Rachel

Justice described Rachel as “the last heat storm of the summer. The perfect definition of what August should be: intense and exciting. Breathless and unforgettable.” How could a tiny body hold so much life and energy? How could a young mind conjure up so many jokes and sarcastic remarks and unaffected compliments? Rachel was the dash of cayenne pepper in our sweet group of dreamers. The kick of life we needed. The burst of sun and color and bouncy brown curls. The voice I could hear laughing in the backseat of the minivan. The biggest heart in the smallest vessel, overbrimming with solid goodness.

-Rachel

Dream Factory Workshop 2016 Recap

Breaking stories like bread.

This past fall, I listened to a brief lecture by amazing Chicago theater-maker Nate Allen. I wrote for pages and pages in my journal on my reactions to his thoughts on catharsis, humanity, and the essence of storytelling. It was from him that I first considered the sacrament of story. The idea that story is something we break and share together. It’s something worth being in communion over.

This past weekend, with the flurry of activity in my home that accompanies every Dream Factory Workshop, I reconsidered the concept of viewing stories as a type of sacrament. As a person of deep and meaningful faith, I know sacraments to be holy. Considered. Ritualistic. When a church comes together to witness the sacrament of baptism, or communion, we are newly bonded in a shared expression of our unity, with Christ and with each other. There is nothing light, or casual, or commonplace about it. We know what it is like to regard something as holy, and set apart.

The best stories aren’t told on a platform, or in a best-selling novel, or on a podcast. The best stories are shared in living rooms, in cramped car rides, in sleeping bags late at night. They’re broken with grace over the dining room table and spilled into overfilling glasses. There’s something gritty and honest about breaking stories face to face, hand to hand.

The sacrament of story drives home the significance of humanity. The fact that every life, every moment matters. One big theme this weekend that I’ve been sharing with the girls is the idea that our weight matters. The pebbles of our everyday moments and experiences are piled on top of each other in big, giant heaps of mattering. Viewing those stories as sacrament means viewing them as important. It’s unapologetic. It’s holy. It’s declaring to the world that these crumbs of my life have meaning and yet I trust you with them.

Perhaps this is what Christ meant when He called us to a life of hospitality. Hosting each other’s lives, each other’s moments, each other’s stories. Always making room at our table for one another. Breaking stories, like bread, to nourish and feed us. Here, let me hold the crumbs of your life too. Let’s eat at the same table. Let’s share this world together.

The Dream Factory Workshop works because it isn’t a writing workshop, although we all did plenty of writing. It’s not a photography workshop, although we experienced dozens upon dozens of beautiful moments to photograph. It’s a workshop about living. About telling and listening. About being hospitable and being human and what those two mean together.

It’s something I fail at all the time, both this past weekend and in every aspect of my life. But it’s also something to strive and fail for. And I think that’s something we learned together this week.

*

The colorful assortment of iPhone photos to follow in no way capture the beauty of this weekend, but they will hopefully give you a small glimpse into some of the everyday adventures we embarked on together. Know that there were way too many giggles, inside jokes, Reese’s Cups, wide eyes, and Taylor Swift songs to ever fit in a single bog post. But our voices were heard and our hearts were made stronger and I think, in the end, that’s what makes these days worth it.

 -Rachel

P.S. Some of these photos were taken by Emily or Rachel. Thanks, girls, for sharing with me!

P.P.S. There’s already been questions asked about the next Dream Factory Workshop. I don’t have any plans yet, but if I do plan another I’ll be looking at late 2017 or 2018 in Chicago. Any interest?

Dream Factory Workshop – Summer 2016

Oops, I did it again. Or I’m going to do it again, at least. Today, I’m beyond excited to announce the details for the next Dream Factory Workshop, hosted once again at my house this August 5-7.

You saw the pictures and read the stories from my first workshop in October 2014 and I’m praying that this next group of young women create bonds that are as raw and deep as the souls that met in the fall.

What I’m offering is simple. Three days living heartbeat to heartbeat with like-minded dreamers, creators, and life-squeezers. We’ll ball up in sleeping bags on late nights with cheeks that strain from smiling and notebooks full of our pounding thoughts. We’ll gather around the table for home-cooked meals and pile in the car to go exploring. Our cameras won’t stay in their cases and our words won’t be bottled up inside. Together we’ll learn to see and think and create in new and amazing ways.

This is a workshop for storytellers. It’s not for the weak of heart or the fearful. It’s for the shy girls who journal by flashlight late at night and the center-of-attention girls who can’t stop talking. It’s for the thinkers and the feelers and those who are a little of both. It’s for those who like eyes that burn from beauty and hearts that throb with passion. It’s a weekend for deep connections and awkward getting-to-know-you’s and tearful goodbyes. For sharing. For growing. For pouring out.

This time around, I have some different surprises in store for this next batch of dreamers…

This summer, we’ll drive to the beach and order ice cream cones and sit in the sand with our sunhats while we swap stories from our childhood. We’ll tear pages out of magazines and make collages with pictures and words and thoughts that are important to us. We’ll wander through an art museum and take notes on what we feel and how we ache and laugh and make faces in amusement over the confusing pieces of modern art. If the weather is nice, we’ll pack a picnic dinner and watch the sunset over the city skyline. We’ll make strawberry shortcake and lick whipped cream off our fingertips and eat cake together. And every evening we’ll gather together and talk and share and learn how to better tell these stories.

And I really think you should join us.

Come and write. Come and see. Come and laugh and rest and explore. You have a voice, so let’s learn to use it. Come share in my life and let me share in yours. Let’s live and tell these stories together.

DATES: August 5-7, 2016 (guests can arrive on Thursday afternoon, if necessary, but food will not be provided until Friday)

WHERE: My home, in central Virginia

FOR: Creative young women, ages 15-25 (writers, photographers, + girls who just want to develop their creative talents)

COST: Three full days – $400 (Price includes lodging, three meals a day, activities + other fun stuff—you are responsible for your own travel expenses and souvenirs)

YOU NEED: A brain. A laptop. A notebook. A camera (doesn’t have to be an SLR).

To sign up, send me a brief email at rachelcokerwrites(at)hotmail(dot)com to receive an application. A $400 deposit will be due at the time of your application, which will be non-refundable after July 1st. Please don’t apply unless you know that you are physically and financially able to make it that weekend. I wouldn’t want to turn someone else down only to have you bow out because of finances or inability to get here. Thanks!

REVIEWS FROM PAST WORKSHOP ATTENDEES:

“It was retreat. A getaway, where I was able to commune and spend time with other girls like me. A place where I wasn’t the only one snapping pictures of everything visible. A time where I could share my writing, and grow in my skill. A place where I could learn from others, and be built up by their encouragement. The fellowship was beautiful. The writing brought tears. The activities were flawless. The friendships made were unforgettable. The inside jokes still remain funny. The food was amazing. And the overall experience was one I wouldn’t give up for the world.” – Abbey

“The Dream Factory Workshop was exactly what it said: a dream. Through lectures, sharing time, adventurous outings, and brand new best friends, I’ve been able to learn not only about HOW to tell stories, but I’ve also had the opportunities to actually TELL the stories.” – Samantha

“Since your workshop I have such a different perspective. I see things and want to take their picture. I see someone laugh and I think of beauty and how I would want to capture that. I have found stories in other people. I’m looking for them. It’s really amazing.” – Abby

UPDATE: Dream Factory Workshop Date CHANGED

Hey guys! A lot of you probably remember my post back in January announcing a Spring 2015 Dream Factory Workshop. I’m bringing it up because I just recently CHANGED the dates to that workshop. There were several girls who wanted to come but couldn’t get out of school/work/etc. in May, so to accommodate their requests, I moved the workshop back one month.

THE NEW DATES FOR THE WORKSHOP ARE JUNE 19-21, 2015.

It will still be fun. We will still have adventures. We’ll still run around town in sundresses and cut off shorts. We’ll still bake. We’ll still eat good food and tell good stories and take good pictures and meet good people.

All of the girl previously signed up will be able to make it in June, but if you had passed on a May workshop just because it didn’t fit into your schedule, please think about joining us this summer! I still have two available slots right now and I’d love to have you in my home. Registration is still $400 for three days of storytelling and adventuring, and you can request more information by emailing me at rachelcokerwrites(at)hotmail(dot)com.

I hope to see you there! You can read more about The Dream Factory Workshop here! (Just keep in mind that the date has been changed and that we will be doing seasonal June activities)

-Rachel

DREAM FACTORY WORKSHOP – Spring 2015

Update:

The dates for this workshop were changed to June 19-21st, 2015. You can read the blog post with all the changes here.

*

Oops, I did it again. Or I’m going to do it again, at least. Today, I’m beyond excited to announce the details for the next Dream Factory Workshop, hosted once again at my house this May 1st-3rd.

You saw the pictures and read the stories from my last workshop in October and I’m praying that this next group of young women create bonds that are as raw and deep as the souls that met in the fall.

What I’m offering is simple. Three days living heartbeat to heartbeat with like-minded dreamers, creators, and life-squeezers. We’ll ball up in sleeping bags on late nights with cheeks that strain from smiling and notebooks full of our pounding thoughts. We’ll gather around the table for home-cooked meals and pile in the car to go exploring. Our cameras won’t stay in their cases and our words won’t be bottled up inside. Together we’ll learn to see and think and create in new and amazing ways.

This is a workshop for storytellers. It’s not for the weak of heart or the fearful. It’s for the shy girls who journal by flashlight late at night and the center-of-attention girls who can’t stop talking. It’s for the thinkers and the feelers and those who are a little of both. It’s for those who like eyes that burn from beauty and hearts that throb with passion. It’s a weekend for deep connections and awkward getting-to-know-you’s and tearful goodbyes. For sharing. For growing. For pouring out.

With a new year and new season, I have some different surprises in store for this next batch of dreamers…

This spring, we’ll ride the ferry over the river and spend an afternoon picking ripe strawberries on a muddy farm in the country. We’ll take pictures in the filmy green light of spring and see each other through the eyes of a lens. We’ll wander through an art museum and take notes on what we feel and how we ache and laugh and make faces in amusement over the confusing pieces of modern art. If the weather is nice, we’ll pack picnic dinners and watch the sunset over the city skyline. We’ll make strawberry shortcake and lick whipped cream off our fingertips and eat cake together. And every evening we’ll gather together and talk and share and learn how to better tell these stories.

And I really think you should join us.

Come and write. Come and see. Come and laugh and rest and explore. You have a voice, so let’s learn to use it. Come share in my life and let me share in yours. Let’s live and tell these stories together.

DATES: May 1-3rd, 2015 (Guests can arrive a day early if necessary)

WHERE: My home, in central Virginia

FOR: Creative young women, ages 15-25 (writers, photographers, + girls who just want to develop their creative talents)

COST: Three full days – $400 (Price includes lodging, three meals a day, activities + other fun stuff—you are responsible for your own travel expenses and souvenirs)

YOU NEED: A brain. A laptop. A notebook. A camera (doesn’t have to be an SLR).

To sign up, send me a brief email at rachelcokerwrites(at)hotmail(dot)com to receive an application. And please don’t apply unless you know that you are physically and financially able to make it that weekend. I wouldn’t want to turn someone else down only to have you bow out because of finances or inability to get here. Thanks!

Reviews from past workshop attendees:

“It was retreat. A getaway, where I was able to commune and spend time with other girls like me. A place where I wasn’t the only one snapping pictures of everything visible. A time where I could share my writing, and grow in my skill. A place where I could learn from others, and be built up by their encouragement. The fellowship was beautiful. The writing brought tears. The activities were flawless. The friendships made were unforgettable. The inside jokes still remain funny. The food was amazing. And the overall experience was one I wouldn’t give up for the world.” – Abbey

“The Dream Factory Workshop was exactly what it said: a dream. Through lectures, sharing time, adventurous outings, and brand new best friends, I’ve been able to learn not only about HOW to tell stories, but I’ve also had the opportunities to actually TELL the stories.” – Samantha

“Since your workshop I have such a different perspective. I see things and want to take their picture. I see someone laugh and I think of beauty and how i would want to capture that. I have found stories in other people. I’m looking for them. It’s really amazing.” – Abby

{final photo by Samantha Smith Photography}

Meet the Girls From the Workshop

After the six girls who shared my home for the weekend had left, I sent out an email asking a few follow up questions from the workshop. How did they hear about it? What was their favorite meal? What did they want “more” of? And, most importantly, what was the best part of those three days?

The answers I got back were varied. Some loved the pasta, others liked the waffles. A few were long time blog readers and others had stumbled across my site after finding my book at their local library. They loved the adventures, the food, and the things they learned. But the answer that surprised me the most, that absolutely every girl gave, was that their hands-down favorite part of the workshop was being surrounded by like-minded young women for a long, wonderful weekend.

I remember being in high school and feeling like I was the only one of my kind I’d ever meet. I had few if any writer friends. I didn’t play sports or act in theater or study calculus like all my friends. I took pictures all the time and wrote constantly, and always felt alone doing it. It was a side of me that everyone knew about, but that rarely came up in conversations. I remember feeling like the oddball out a lot of the time, and telling myself that I’d just have to live with not having many shared interests with the people around me.

TURNS OUT, THAT’S HOW A LOT OF THESE GIRLS FELT TOO. They came from small towns or suburbs or rural farms or military bases, and they also often felt alone. It’s hard to find someone to gush over books and share ideas for stories and take photos with. Oftentimes, you’re off on your own living in your separate little world while your friends worry about work and college and sports.

Maybe that’s why this weekend was so special. Because, for the first time in many of their lives, these girls found a family of people just like them. Young women with hungry hearts and powerful voices. They never. stopped. talking. Their voices clashed and interwove and dissolved into each other. In car rides. Around the kitchen table. At twelve thirty in the morning on air mattresses in the spare room above my garage.

IT WAS THE SWEETEST TANGLE OF SOUND.

Each day I gave the girls a new writing assignment and we would gather in the evenings cross-legged in my living room to share and listen with each other. And on Saturday night, I had them all write their names on slips of torn notebook paper and drop it in a basket. Then they went around and each pulled out the name of another girl they had spent the weekend living with. Keeping the secret to themselves, they woke up early Sunday morning and scribbled in their notebooks or clicked away on their laptops. Writing. Telling the story of a life that intersected theirs so briefly, but so deeply. They’d only spent three days with these other young women, but it was amazing what they noticed and learned. Things that even I didn’t pick up on.

Sunday afternoon before leaving for the airport, we gathered together one last time over chili and cornbread and shared our stories with each other. I can’t describe it without the overly cliched words that come with something sentimental. Tears. Hugs. Blurry eyes and dimpled cheeks. The odd blending of smiles and gasps and wet drops from sleepy eyes that comes with a heartfelt goodbye after a cup runneth over kind of weekend.

I thought I’d introduce these storytellers to you, in their own words. See them the way we learned to see them. MY PHOTOS. THEIR WORDS.

*

ABBEY // as told by Mary

Rachel told us to be able to describe someone in three words. That made me bite my lip with nervousness. What if I didn’t pick the right three?! To my delight three words,  quickly popped into my head about Abbey; and I know that even if they weren’t “perfect”, these three words are my chosen description of her.

Abbey  is

1) resilient,

2) a sunshine, and

3) hopeful

As I was listening to Abbey on the way to Carter Mountain, I thought, “Woah! This girl has been through more external hardships than I (concerning houses and bedrooms – or lack thereof). And she hasn’t let it make her bitter. No, I can see what has happened in her life has made her a better person.” She and her family have stuck together, trusted the Lord, and seen God provide in some really amazing ways! Whatever trials come along… she doesn’t let them keep her down. She always bounces back. She is a beautiful female human slinky. I can’t wait to tell her story to my children.

It’s moving to see and honestly rare these days to see someone, especially at the age of 14, NOT complaining even over the “BIG” stuff. She merely related her life through words. Abbey is mature and caring; her actions speak louder than words. She lives and says “let God”. She may be the youngest of our group, but we can all learn from her.

SAMANTHA // as told by Abbey

Samantha is beautiful, inside and out.

When I think of her, the first thing that comes to my mind, is her hair. The beautiful way her curls fall against her soft skin and compliment her eyes.

The next thing that comes to mind, is how quiet she is. She has such a calm and sweet spirit that I absolutely admire. She sees the world through the lens of her camera. She finds beauty in the great things as well as the small.

Samantha is an easy person to be around. Someone whose inner and outer beauty, everyone admires. Someone whose giggle makes you happy. Someone whose smile is contagious.

Someone who makes you hurt when you don’t get to be around them.

ZIPPORAH // as told by Sydney

I’ve always had an obsession with names–I love when they are unique and meaningful. A girl I met only a few short days ago possesses a name similar to many of the names I create for my characters, but I soon learned that there was something much more special about this girl than her name. Her smile and freckles brighten anyone’s day. She loves God and the beautiful details in his creation. She goes great lengths to snap a picture of the most infinitesimal detail, the things few others take time to notice; the dew on a a mountain apple, the pasty orange of an autumn pumpkin. People like Zipporah are the people we need most in the world, the ones who slowly bring back what matters most.

ABBY // as told by Samantha

Dear Abby,

The one thing that I first noticed about you was your extreme enthusiasm. A light in your eye as you talked about your stories, rushing over to someone to give a word of encouragement, and providing a listening ear when someone needed it seems to be your specialties. But what I couldn’t stop thinking about was how you see the world. You see the stories behind people, and you take special time to let people know that you care.

You see the weathered hands, and the dirty nails and you know they’ve had to work during their life. You see soft ringlets and smooth skin and think of life. You see watery eyes and shaking shoulders and you know when to speak and when to listen because you know that person has had a difficult time. I honestly can’t even describe and put into words how amazing it is to listen to you and see the world through your eyes. All I can say is words that you’ve said all week: “And I love that.” It has been such a crazy and inspiring weekend, and I’ve loved getting to know you.

SYDNEY // as told by Zipporah

Sydney is a young woman brimming with laughter, observant and lovely. All week long I have been around her, marveling at the way the sunlight streaks her flaxen hair with light, watching her describe hilarious incidents, shaking in uncontrollable giggles until my sides are just about to split apart. I’ve come to smile at her pink curlers, at her love for guinea pigs and soft bread.

This girls is beautiful. Her hands are elegant; the type that I could photograph all day. Blue, blue eyes, especially when she glances shyly up at the camera. Yet it’s not just what she looks like that makes me know that God created her a masterpiece.

It’s listening to her describe story ideas and struggles. It’s watching her stand on a wall in the middle of a Scotch fog, smiling sleepily at a tangle of eager girls. Or listening to her announce that she’s just memorized her new zip-code, seeing the bravery of moving half-way across the country.

Sydney is the only Sydney of her type. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for that.

So if you ever run across a girl with rippling, blonde hair who catches her face in her hands when she’s telling stories, tell her that you’re already glad to meet her. Because there is no way you could ever regret saying that.

She’s worth knowing.

MARY // as told by Abby

When I first met Mary; it was a smile that met me. I think I shall always think of soft piano music and early morning walks in polka-dot pajamas when I hear the name Mary. The girl who laughs with her heart and smiles from deep within her soul.

Her dark hair is often flipped over her shoulder or pulled back with a hair tie out of the way. It brought me such pleasure to see it floating in the wind as she lagged behind us noticing a flower not the size of a half dollar. It’s the little things Mary notices that I just walk past.

I will exit that front door today and I’ll probably look back frantically asking where is Mary? It will make me laugh, smile, and weep a little too. I will miss the woman with a heart for God and for life. As she faces the world may she always remember even on the hardest of paths to stop and smell the flowers.

*

I’M GRATEFUL FOR THESE STORYTELLERS. Seeing the friendships that formed this past weekend was such a testimony to God’s divine arrangement of hearts and bodies and voices. So glad I could meet them and I pray these relationships continue to grow as the days and years go by.

-Rachel

Dream Factory Workshop Recap

IT SEEMED LIKE A CRAZY IDEA. Invite six strangers from five different states into my home for three days. Ask them to sleep in crowded quarters on airmattresses, sleeping bags, and couches. Pile them into our family’s minivan and drive them around the state. Cook chili and pasta and curry rice for the masses and feed them three square meals a day (plus snacks!). Share things from my heart about storytelling and writing and photography and ask them to share their hearts with each other too.

I figured half of us would go crazy. Including my mom and dad.

BUT WHAT HAPPENED WAS AMAZING. 

A few days ago, I didn’t know these people. I picked them up at the airport with their names written in blue Sharpie on blank sheets of construction paper or opened the door to find them standing on my porch with their parents. Bright eager faces and lumpy sleeping bags. But by Saturday night, we didn’t eat as strangers. We shared butter knifes and spilled salt and crunched croutons and rolled eyes as friends. Talented women with lusty voices who have realized their stories deserve to be told. And that goes so much further than blog posts and short stories and photo galleries.

WE ARE ADVENTURERS. We have stories in our bones and voices that get stuck in our throats when out of use for too long. This week, we’ve learned to see and notice and listen to each other. In long car rides, overly cramped sleeping spaces, kitchen tables brimming with apple peels—we’ve created new stories together.

The stories we’ll tell from this week will become more elaborate and rose tinged in time. We’ll get excited telling friends from home about the girls we met with their curly hair and sleepy morning eyes. We’ll forget the stressful moments and the exhausted ones. The thrills will stick with us. Snaking up a mountain wrapped in a white sheet of clouds and blinking at the headlights coming through the haze. Sitting on a picnic blanket in the misty Scotch fog with water droplets in our hair and plates of pasta salad. Rows of naked apples lined up on a table, bumpy with curves and ridges, and seven heads bent over them with all the intensity of a firing squad, shooting photos. Making memories.

We’ve stood on tiptoe in bookstores and sat on three hundred year old doorsteps. We’ve eaten an abundance of grilled cheese and pasta and waffles, and yet still worked to the point of hunger every day. In the evenings, we’ve sat cross legged in rocking chairs and wicker couches, quiet and listening to the words and the stories and the hearts of others.

AND IT’S BEEN A NEVER ENDING JOY.

My goal for this workshop was never to become bored with lectures, dos and don’ts, and rigorous assignments. It was just to notice. To enjoy. To become overfilled with life again, and pushed out of our boxes with a crippling need to create and remember.

The title for the Dream Factory Workshop came from a Ray Bradbury quote I found a few months prior to the idea hatching in my mind. “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”

That’s what we did this week. We were puddles, as Abby put it. Stuffed to the point of overflowing. So full of moments and notes and stories that we’re forced to shove it back out again.

WE TELL STORIES BECAUSE WE ARE FULL OF THEM. Because we are eye stuffers and heart fillers and life livers. And these stories will endure because we’ve captured them. Carved them out in ink. Scooped them into pixels. Let them hang in the air with words and pauses and meaning.

I hope you all continue noticing the stories that last beyond these three days. I hope you tell them. To me. To each other. To the world. And I hope you see the world for the harshly bright, achingly real and fantastic beauty it is. It’s so much better told from your lips than manufactured by others. And these are the stories that will last.

-Rachel

NOTE: Right now, I’m praying about the possibility of hosting another Dream Factory Workshop at my home this spring. I’ll make announcements when I’m ready, but talk to your parents if you’re interested in joining in on the next one!