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Writing Workshops Los Angeles

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Writing Workshops Los Angeles

Writing Workshops LA

A private writing school for the brave, enthusiastic, and talented.

Writing Workshops Los Angeles offers courses and one-on-one instruction to those interested in honing their fiction, nonfiction, and poetry writing skills. Workshops are held in the home of the course instructor or, occasionally, in the home of one of the students. At Writing Workshops Los Angeles, we value aesthetic daring, and we strive to read student manuscripts with both the highest standards and an open mind.


Writing Workshops in Greece: Thessaloniki & Thasos

Dates: June 11 through July 9, 2018

Writing Workshops in Greece will host a seventh year of workshops in Thessaloniki and the island of Thasos. Workshops include poetry with Aimee Nezhukumatathil; nonfiction with Christopher Bakken; and fiction with Natalie Bakopoulos. Once again, Joanna Eleftheriou will offer afternoon sessions exploring Greek language, music, and culture. We offer several options for workshop participation, with standard durations of either two weeks or one month (customizable options are available).

Tentative Itinerary

  • June 11: Arrive in Thessaloniki; organizational meeting
  • June 12: Walking tours of central Thessaloniki, Jewish Museum, Byzantine Museum, Welcome Dinner in Thessaloniki
  • June 13: Travel by bus to Keramoti and by boat to Thasos; Welcome dinner in Thasos
  • June 15-July 6: Monday-Thursday schedule: Workshop 10am-1pm, Greek language and culture class, 6-8pm; 8pm Readings by faculty and visiting writers. Friday-Sunday schedule: Free days
  • June 26: Two-week participants return to Thessaloniki
  • June 27: Two-week participants End of Program
  • July 7: Farewell dinner in Thasos
  • July 8: Travel by boat to Keramoti, and by bus to Thessaloniki
  • July 9: End of Program; earliest departure

British Academy

The British Academy is inviting proposals from UK-based scholars in the humanities and social sciences to develop one or more training and research workshops in the Global South aimed at furthering scholarly interaction between researchers in the UK and in the Global South and promoting the uptake of research emanating from the Global South in academic journals.

These Writing Workshops aim to cultivate professional networks and mentorship and provide access for early career researchers in the Global South to the academic requirements of journals, including international journals, equipping them with the necessary knowledge to publish in these journals. It is expected that journal editors and UK-based scholars will work intensively to support workshop participants from the Global South to produce papers in preparation for publication.

The primary intended deliverable of these workshops is to encourage and support early career researchers in the Global South to develop scholarly publications for high impact journals in the fields of the humanities and social sciences. The workshops should also include at least one session providing advice on the drafting of grant applications.

The lead applicant must be based at a UK university or eligible research institute, and be of postdoctoral or above status (or have equivalent research experience). The lead applicant must either be in a permanent position at the institution or have a fixed-term position for the duration of the award. Each application must have at least one co-applicant from an institution in the Global South.

All proposals must be ODA-eligible: only research that has a primary objective which is directly and primarily relevant to the problems of developing countries may be counted as ODA. ODA eligibility is an essential criterion – projects will only be deemed eligible for funding if they can demonstrate that they satisfy ODA eligibility criteria.

Workshops must take place between March to December 2018.

Awards are set at a maximum of £20,000. Funding must be used in the direct delivery of the workshops, and can cover travel and related expenses, subsistence costs, clerical assistance and consumables, networking, meeting and/or conference costs.

Applications must be submitted via email to internationalpolicy@britac.ac.uk. The application form is available for download at the top of this page.

Supporting statements from the UK host institution’s Head of Department must be attached separately on headed paper.

Application deadline: Wednesday 14th February 2018, 5pm UK time.


Adult Writing Workshops are held each spring and are

designed for adults of all levels of writing experience.

Master Class: Cultivating Children’s Creativity

  • Thursday, April 5, 2018
  • 6:00 PM 9:00 PM 18:00 21:00
  • Thurber Center (map)
  • Google CalendarICS

Creativity is the skill of the future, yet our children have limited opportunities to think creatively and practice the creative process. This workshop will help adults (parents, grandparents, teachers, caregivers) who work with children learn how to encourage children’s creative development. We will explore the brain science of creativity, the creative process, creative art and writing activities, and suggestions for responding to children’s creativity. Then we will make and bind journals to teach us a way to provide our children with unlimited possibilities for their creative writing and art.

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Adult Writing Workshop: Ready, Set, Query: Finding a Literary Agent

  • Monday, April 9, 2018
  • 6:00 PM 8:00 PM 18:00 20:00
  • Thurber Center (map)
  • Google CalendarICS

So you finished your manuscript—now what? If you want to pursue a path toward traditional publishing, you’ll want a literary agent to represent you. This workshop will explore what an agent does, why it’s good to have one, and (most importantly) how to go about finding the right agent for you. We’ll go over what makes a great query letter and how to write one, developing a synopsis for your work, industry etiquette, and what to do if you get “the call” from an agent who is interested in your work. Bring a 1-2 paragraph description of your manuscript and get ready to dive into the crazy journey that happens after you type THE END.

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Adult Writing Workshop: Crafting the Personal Essay

  • Monday, April 16, 2018
  • 6:00 PM 8:00 PM 18:00 20:00
  • Thurber Center (map)
  • Google CalendarICS

We all have perceptions about the experiences in our lives. But how do we transform them onto the page? The personal essay is a powerful way to explore these ideas more deeply. In this workshop, we’ll learn techniques for writing the personal essay and we’ll experiment with several forms to help you begin that first draft.

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Adult Writing Workshop: So You Want to Be a Travel Writer?

  • Monday, April 23, 2018
  • 6:00 PM 8:00 PM 18:00 20:00
  • Thurber Center (map)
  • Google CalendarICS

If you love to write and also love to travel, writing travel stories for newspapers, magazines, or online sites may be a way to pick up some extra cash while combining your two passions. Learn how to find potential markets and how to entice editors with story ideas. We will discuss techniques for writing a query letter that will get noticed, as well as tips about crafting the piece once you’ve landed the assignment. Come to class with a good travel story idea and we’ll spend time drafting a short query letter to an editor in hopes that you’ll land the assignment.

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Adult Writing Workshop: Introduction to Writing Satire

  • Monday, April 30, 2018
  • 6:00 PM 8:00 PM 18:00 20:00
  • Thurber Center (map)
  • Google CalendarICS

Satire is often called “the comedy of outrage.” In this lively workshop, learn to channel injustices large and small into satirical comedy pieces that make people laugh and think. Participants will learn the building blocks of comedic satire as well as helpful exercises and tools to turn a clever idea into a great, publishable piece. The workshop includes some writing time, so please bring a notebook and pen or a laptop.

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Adult Writing Workshop: Revise Like a Rockstar: Editing Strategies for Prose

  • Monday, May 7, 2018
  • 6:00 PM 8:00 PM 18:00 20:00
  • Thurber Center (map)
  • Google CalendarICS

Many writers dread the act of revision, particularly after they have just completed a draft. Sometimes the mere idea of editing a draft can be daunting, but strong editing is one of the sharpest tools in a writer’s toolbox. In this workshop, we will use a sample draft and practice several revision methods. At the end of this workshop you’ll have strategies to take back to your own work.

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Master Class: Write a Story Start to Finish

  • Saturday, May 12, 2018
  • 9:00 AM 12:00 PM 09:00 12:00
  • Thurber Center (map)
  • Google CalendarICS

In this three-hour master class, we’re each going to write a short story from beginning to end. Sound ambitious? You’re damn right, but it’s doable. We’ll start by breaking down the narrative elements of a story, take a look at structure, do a quick sketch of scenes, then get to work. Bring your writing implements of choice (paper and pen, computer, tablet, etc), the belief that you can do this, and the biggest coffee you can carry.

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Adult Writing Workshop: Get Writing! Mechanics, Techniques, and Inspiration

  • Monday, May 14, 2018
  • 6:00 PM 8:00 PM 18:00 20:00
  • Thurber Center (map)
  • Google CalendarICS

Join Melissa L. Weber for the writer’s trifecta: The Best Grammar Refresher (Or, “I can’t remember indirect objects, but this sentence just doesn’t sound right”), a review of literary techniques (remember alliteration?), and motivational tips (find the time and the energy to put words on paper—or fingers to keyboard). Plus, she will provide an annotated “best reading about writing and creativity” book list.

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Adult Writing Workshop: Getting and STAYING Motivated to Write

  • Monday, May 21, 2018
  • 6:00 PM 8:00 PM 18:00 20:00
  • Thurber Center (map)
  • Google CalendarICS

You have a novel floating around in your head, but for reasons that you can’t explain, you haven’t started typing. Or, you started work on novel, but progress stopped. Edgar-nominated author Robin Yocum will lead a class on helping you get over the impediments that keep you from writing your first novel. Robin will teach you his method for not only starting a novel, but also for maintaining the momentum. This will include discussion on goal-setting, creating a beginning and ending, and the tricks that will keep you working to completion.

Writing Workshops: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

“No child could possibly be happy about her father moving out!”

The above was said to me at a writing workshop, in a discussion about my then unpublished novel (it eventually became The Murderer’s Daughters.) The ‘child’ in question lived with a selfish, sarcastic, angry mother and an oft-drunk “mooning around” father. In the questioned scene this 10-year-old protagonist voices guilty relief at finding a less troubling atmosphere after her father moved out. A workshop member, adamant in his belief that no child would ever feel relief at her father leaving the house, expressed insistence bordering on disbelief (that I would write such an emotion)! bordering on disdain (that I would be able to dredge up such an emotion)!

Precious minutes slipped away as the group debated this point. The workshop operated under the “in-the-box” silenced writer rule (which most of the time I agree with) so I could only listen as time ticked by and the debate raged.

Should this point have been up for grabs? (And should anyone wag their finger when giving critique?) This is problem I’ve found in writing workshops. Let’s call it the ‘scrim’ factor. Aside from the craft of the work, the plotting, the plausibility, believable motives, and the ability of the writer to engender suspension-of-disbelief, when (if ever) is a character’s ‘belief system’ up for judgment — especially if the judgment is made based on the belief system of a fellow workshop member?

That’s only my opinion, but one I hold dear. A writer’s workshop is not there to tell you:

1. Your character would be better served as a secretary than as a doctor. They can say you didn’t write a believable doctor. They can say they didn’t believe someone with an IQ of seventy could become a doctor. Then, it’s up to you to make the reader believe.

When stuck in the ‘scrim’ factor, your fellow-workshop members try to revise your manuscript to live within parameters in which they are comfortable.

2. Your character wouldn’t: give up a child, become president, cook roast chicken. The workshop is there to let you know if they believed your character (the vegan) would suddenly roast the chicken, not if they would ever roast.

Beware workshops that become arbiters of morality and comfort levels, rather than sharp-eyed watchers of motive, plotting, and plodding prose. One wants a workshop that scrawls MEGO (my eyes glaze over) on the page, not one that says, “women don’t usually change the oil in the car.”

If they do mention the oil, your writerly job is to discern whether your workshop buddy meant that women don’t change oil, or they didn’t believe your particular woman character would change oil.

In one workshop the leader (making this problem more egregious for me — a neophyte) went on a rant about the non-political nature of my character. Why wasn’t she out making the world a better place, rather than worrying about having sex with her neighbor?

Did she mean I wasn’t writing the book she wanted to read?

I’ve been in workshops where men have been lectured about how disrespectful their characters were to women. I probably even got heated up enough to agree and join in — Yeah! He was awful! We forgot the author was building a character, not our new boyfriend.

The thing is this: to write well, you have to first write terribly — allowing those crappy first drafts to get out. You need this awful draft — otherwise what would you have to revise and, eventually, make wonderful? The danger in writer’s workshops is writing for the others, writing for the workshop, rather than writing for your eventual audience:

Today, writers want to impress other writers. — Paulo Coelho

I believe in writer’s workshops and groups. Without the best of them, I’d have a weaker novel. But without the worst of them, I’d have built that better novel faster.

Use workshops wisely, taking the best and leaving the rest. Take off blinders and examine your motives and those of members. Purity of member’s motives can never be guaranteed. Some are angels leading to Pulitzers — some are devils sent to torture us. Use guidelines:

1. Are you coming with the secret belief that you will be the one “perfect nothing-needs-changing” writer? They will be astonished by my piece! Not going to happen my friend. Not to you. Not to me. Not even to Marilyn Robinson should she wander in from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop (OK, maybe her.)

If what you seek is pure approbation and amazement at your genius, send your story to your family.

2. Beware of hardening yourself to protect your ego. Even the smartest critique stings. It is common to hate, really hate, someone who points out that five backflashes in a row might leave the reader confused. I make a deal with myself when I’m ‘up’ in my writer’s group. I am allowed to think everyone is stupid for 10 minutes. Then I have to consider their ideas. I don’t have to buy them, but I must rent them.

3. Beware of drinking the Kool-aid of love. Or the river of hate. My first time ever at a writer’s group was at a local adult education venue. “Brilliant!” the teacher told me. (It wasn’t.) A few years later, at another venue, I was told how much my character sucked — that she defined worthless. (She wasn’t.)

Teachers and groups often have cultures that overshadow reason. Listen hard to what members say about other’s books — especially books about which you feel strongly one way or another. If the general consensus (there are always outliers) makes sense for those books, take what they say about your book (good and bad) seriously.

4. Critique benefits from compassion. At an education conference, an expert (whose opinion I value) said a version of the following: “Why do we get mad at students for not knowing the answers? Isn’t that why we’re there? To teach them?” Those who sneer at your work are not helping. Don’t fall under the sway of a writer-bully.

5. Yes, Virginia, there is jealousy in groups, and it can be poisonous. Sometimes it comes from the leader, sometimes it comes from members, and sometimes it comes from our own gnarled little hearts. Accept it, don’t act on it, and move on. Carol Burnett, when talking about the parts she didn’t get, said it well: “It wasn’t my turn.”

6. Don’t let the group write your book. Look around the room. Does one choose Gillian Flynn as their favorite writer, another Ian Rankin, and a third Virginia Woolf? Will they all perhaps, subconsciously, push your romantic comedy towards the twisted, or encourage your historical fiction to become a ghost story? Listen for majority opinions (if everyone found those back flashes unintelligible, perhaps they are. If the person who only likes terse experimental fiction work harps on it, consider the source.)

Your book needs your passion — not the reduction of a committee.

7. Be cautious of the five-page-a-week workshops. It has been my experience that a group which looks at a large chunk of one (or two) writer’s work in one night benefits more than those that read a few pages of all. Reasons? Reading weekly installments of five pages a week leaves the group more likely to want to be in on writing the next scene — thus making writing by committee more likely.

8. If you are ‘advanced’ consider an ‘entire book’ writer’s group. My current (and perfect) group will do the entire book. We meet less often (sometimes once a month, sometimes less often) and read more. Our goals are getting a read on the entire arc of the novel and it’s been invaluable.

9. Fresh work might not be the best for critique groups. I believe you should let your work cool down a bit before sending it to anyone’s eyes. Going through at least one revision is helpful — this allows you to hear yourself before the committee voice rushes in.

10. Don’t drink. That’s a rule I use for myself. I believe alcohol engenders stupidity in all things. Wine is for partying, relaxing, or watching television. Not for helping each other reach full writing potential.

(PS: This discussion continues at Grub Street’s Muse & The Marketplace conference this weekend, at the workshop Manuscript & Workshop Critique: Managing & Using Criticism & Complaints.)

Writers Conferences, Colonies, and Workshops


Writers workshops, conferences, and colonies range in size and scope, from campuses overflowing with writers, agents, publishers, and publicists to retreats with only a few writers in residence. When considering all of the options available to writers, start by identifying your goals. Do you want to network with artists of various disciplines or do you want to be in the company of writers only? Do you want to learn about the business of writing? Do you want critiques in a workshop or a one-to-one setting? Do you want to travel to a particular region in the United States? To another country? Chances are, whatever your desires, there’s a conference or a retreat for you.

Once you know what you would like to accomplish, it’s time to research venues. Our Conferences & Residencies database includes details—such as dates, location, cost, participating authors—for over three hundred writing retreats across the country and beyond. Plus, every issue of Poets & Writers Magazine includes information about upcoming application deadlines for conferences, residencies, workshops, and colonies, and every year the March/April issue features a special section on writers retreats.

The Benefits of Attending a Writers Conference or Colony

One of the main benefits of attending a writers conference or colony is the opportunity to meet editors, agents, publishers, and other writers. Widening your circle of connections in the literary world can help you solidify your own presence in that world, learn the ins and outs of the publishing industry, and understand how to get your work published.

In addition, most conferences and colonies give writers a chance to sharpen their skills. At a conference, you might attend sessions that illuminate techniques for different aspects of the craft or have the chance to meet and discuss writing with established authors. At a colony, you’ll have time to hone your practice, probably writing for a concentrated period of time and doing little else; you might also have an opportunity to read your work to other writers, get feedback from them, and learn about what they are working on. At some colonies, you might also have the opportunity to interact with composers and visual artists.

Writing Workshops and Writing Groups

Writing workshops provide writers with an opportunity to receive critical feedback from peers and from an instructor. They also give writers a chance to learn what other writers are working on. Many universities and community colleges offer writing workshops that do not require enrollment in a degree program. Some well-known workshops operate annually for a concentrated period of time, a week or two, in order to provide intensive instruction and dialogue about work in progress.

Writing groups differ from writing workshops in that they tend to be smaller, more intimate, and more casual. They often consist of a handful of friends and acquaintances who meet regularly in someone’s living room or at a café to discuss general issues relating to writing and publishing, to help each other out with contacts and ideas, and to read and critique each other’s work. If you would like to organize a writing group yourself, the Directory of Poets & Writers can help you find other writers in your area.

Online Writing Workshops

Online writing workshops offer professional writing instruction over the Internet. Like real-world workshops, online workshops generally last for a period of time (usually about six to fourteen weeks) and are developed and taught by experienced writers. Some writers might find online workshops convenient because they often do not consist of scheduled class times—participants usually “log on” at times that are convenient for them, often from their own homes.

Writer’s Digest offers online workshops; universities, community colleges, and virtual colleges often offer them as well. (UCLA Extension offers several through their Writers’ Program.) Also, some literary magazines, such as Zoetrope: All-Story (through Gotham Writers’ Workshop’s online courses) and Catapult have online workshops associated with them. 24PearlStreet (hosted by the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown), LitReactor, Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, and the Writers Studio also offer online classes.

Other Resources

Beltway Poetry Quarterly’s Artist Residency Programs lists Artist in Residence programs hosted by an institution such as a college, national park, or museum, and you can search by type, region, or format. Writers’ Conferences & Centers, a division of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), offers an online listing of conferences, centers, festivals, residencies, and retreats, which include member programs that participate in their Kurt Brown Prizes.

Writing workshops

– Fee (workshop participant)

Workshops are available for both poetry and short stories. I run group workshops three times a year, and individual workshops via email all year round.

The workshops span a two week period.

– At the beginning of the two weeks, I email you a pdf containing a discussion and a set of tasks.

– You have one week to complete the tasks and email your work to me.

– I then email everyone’s work to the group (6-8 people per poetry workshop, 4-5 people per short story workshop) ​

– You have a week to read everyone’s work.

– We then have a Skype session (text only), where I give feedback, everyone can chip in with their thoughts, I make suggestions for improvement and any further reading I think you may benefit from. If you are not free to take part in the Skype session, or would rather not take part, I can email my feedback to you instead.

– The sign up fee also allows you to send your edited work to me one more time for further feedback, after the Skype session, if you wish to do so.

Short Story Workshops: £40

Poetry and Fairy Tale: In this workshop we will look at how we can use fairy tale and folklore in poetry. This might be to give voice to a character we know, or to knit old tales with personal stories. Once you have read through the workshop, complete with discussion and examples, you will be asked to complete two tasks, one of which is to write your own poem inspired by fairy tale. I will give detailed feedback on your work during the Skype session, where there will be time for a writing Q&A, too. You may email your edited work to me one more time for further feedback, after the Skype session, if you wish to do so.

Assignment sent to you on: Sunday 4th March 2018

Your work due back to me by: Sunday 11th March 2018

Group Skype chat (text only): Sunday 18th Match 2018 6-8pm

(If you cannot attend the Skype chat due to time difference, or would rather not attend, I can email feedback to you instead.)

Assignment sent to you on: Sunday 11th March 2018

Your work due back to me by: Sunday 18th March 2018

Group Skype chat (text only): Sunday 25th March 2018 6-8pm

(If you cannot attend the Skype chat due to time difference, or would rather not attend, I can email feedback to you instead.)

Set Your Pace: In this workshop we will look at the best way to tell a short story – how to structure it, whether it should be in first, second or third person, and how to communicate with the reader depending on the sort of story you’re trying to tell. Once you have read through the workshop, complete with discussion and examples, you will be asked to write your own short story. I will give detailed feedback on your work during the Skype session, where there will be time for a writing Q&A, too. You may email your edited work to me one more time for further feedback, after the Skype session, if you wish to do so.

Assignment sent to you on: Wednesday 14th February 2018

Your work due back to me by: Wednesday 21st February 2018

Group Skype chat (text only): Wednesday 28th February 2018 7-9pm GMT

(If you cannot attend the Skype chat due to time difference, or would rather not attend, I can email feedback to you instead.)

Assignment sent to you on: Sunday 18th February 2018

Your work due back to me by: Sunday 25th February 2018

Group Skype chat (text only): Sunday 4th March 2018 6-8pm GMT

(If you cannot attend the Skype chat due to time difference, or would rather not attend, I can email feedback to you instead.)

  1. At the beginning of the two weeks, I will email you the workshop with tasks attached.
  2. You will have one week to complete the tasks and send them to me.
  3. I will then send you feedback within one week.
  4. The payment also allows you to edit your work one more time for further feedback. There is no time limit on sending this to me.

You can pick from the workshops listed below.

In this workshop we examine gaps in poems and the power of pauses. We look at how poets have used blank spaces to show something the narrator has forgotten, or to illustrate a form of censorship. Once you have read through the workshop, complete with discussion and examples, you will be asked to write your own poem using gaps. I will give detailed feedback on your work.

A workshop where we look at prose poetry, what it is and how to write it. There are two tasks: one where you will look critically at a poem presented both as a free verse poem (ie with line breaks) and as a prose poem (without line breaks), to see how this changes its tone, and a second task where you will be asked to write your own prose poem based on the workshop you have read. I will give detailed feedback on your work.

This workshop looks at instances where poets have created personas or ‘other selves’ to force themselves to write outside of their comfort zones. Once you have read through the workshop, complete with examples and discussion, you will be asked to create a character yourself, and then write about them. This should be helpful both to those who are looking to step outside of their usual writing styles, and those who are new to poetry and would like a structured way to create a writing voice. I will give detailed feedback on your work.

A workshop where we examine how to structure free verse poetry, how to best shape poems to suit their subject matter, how to create double meanings with line breaks, and other techniques.​ Once you have read through the workshop, complete with discussion and examples, you will be asked to write your own poem, using skills talked about in the workshop itself. I will give detailed feedback on your work.

In this workshop we will look at how we can use fairy tale and folklore in poetry. This might be to give voice to a character we know, or to knit old tales with personal stories. Once you have read through the workshop, complete with discussion and examples, you will be asked to complete two tasks, one of which is to write your own poem inspired by fairy tale. I will give detailed feedback on your work.

A workshop where we look at how certain fairy tales have been changed and altered over time, why fairy tale retellings resonate with us, and how we can create our own. There will be two exercises to complete: one where you will be asked to outline three tales (after reading over examples), and a second task where you will take one of those outlines and write a 1500 word story. I will give detailed feedback on your work.

A workshop where we use art and photographs as inspiration for stories. We’ll be looking at instances where writers have used a piece of art as a plot point, researched its history or used a painting as a jumping off point for a narrative or setting for a story. Once you have read through the workshop, complete with discussion and examples, you will be asked to write your own story (approx 1500 words). I will give detailed feedback on your work.

In this workshop we will look at the best way to tell a short story – how to structure it, whether it should be in first, second or third person, and how to communicate with the reader depending on the sort of story you’re trying to tell. Once you have read through the workshop, complete with discussion and examples, you will be asked to write your own short story. I will give detailed feedback on your work.

If you have any payment issues, or if you are based in the UK and wish to pay by direct bank transfer instead, please just drop me an email.

Writing workshops

*Invite students to explore their imaginations.

*Teach students that they have stories to tell and an audience that wants to listen.

*Show students that writing can be playful, and that they don’t always have to follow “rules” or be concerned with an outcome or grade.

  • T&W programs benefit students’ social and emotional growth because young authors are encouraged to express their thoughts and feelings in writing. Because every student is different, our writers can often reach a child who hasn’t been engaged during the normal school day. Many teachers see their students in a new light after a T&W program because of what they have learned from a student’s writing, or how they witnessed the student’s behavior in a more creative environment.
  • Literary art develops students’ ability to see multiple perspectives. Whether students are reading and analyzing a mentor text, writing a poem or historical narrative, or listening to their peers read original work, they are engaging in empathetic and imaginative processes that support their social and emotional development.
  • The elements of good writing cross genres. By giving students the chance to write imaginatively, T&W programs motivate children who may be reluctant writers in other contexts. Through their creative writing assignments, students build writing skills that are transferable to other work in school, as well as the work place.

Creative writing workshops: what you need to know

Writing workshops have been at the heart of creative writing courses since the dawn of time itself – and are a major feature of our online writing courses and our London writing courses. For the benefit of the uninitiated, this is where writers get comment on extracts from their novels-in-progress (or indeed on short stories or poems) from a group of peers and a tutor or group leader. The workshop can be nerve-wracking, energising, terrifying, glorious – or all of these at once. It should also be useful – and it’s up to you to make sure you get the best out of it.

The writing workshop has two main aims. First, there’s the obvious one…

· To help you to write better: This happens through receiving constructive feedback from the group – line by line and word by word. The better workshops will also address the bigger picture: issues of plot, characterisation, narrative point of view, genre expectations, reader sympathies and much more can be discussed. The writer can learn what their strengths and weaknesses are from this group of close readers, and figure out how to play to those strengths.

But there’s another aim – and this second one is why the workshop has become such a seminal component of creative writing courses across the world.

· To help you to read better: Good writers should also be great readers. The process of delivering feedback can be as useful as receiving it. In scrutinising other people’s work, you develop your ‘inner editor’; you’ll challenge your preconceptions, sharpen your critical faculties and begin to spot issues with your peers’ writing, which will in turn make you reflect on weak-spots in your own.

Not all workshops are the same. And frankly, some are not very good at all.

Here are some key features to look out for:

· The group should be big enough to offer a variety of voices, but small enough that everyone can be heard. (At Curtis Brown Creative our three- and six-month courses have a maximum of 15 people).

· Ideally the group should have been selected or assembled on the basis of proven writing ability. The quality of critical discussion is naturally higher when everyone in the room writes really well. (Note – this doesn’t mean everyone has to be working on literary fiction, though! At CBC, we also love great commercial and genre writing).

· The material to be discussed in the workshop should be distributed in advance so that everyone can read it ahead of time – and ideally feedback should be provided by group members in writing (with contributors giving close annotations and a written critique) and in class discussion. I’ve never understood how course directors can think it’s a good idea to have people reading their work out aloud instead, and asking the group to respond verbally in the moment to what they’ve just heard (which is the way many workshops operate). Doing it this way wastes valuable class-time, makes it hard for writers who aren’t great performers, and doesn’t allow the opportunity for a really close and reflective read.

· If the group has a tutor, make sure he or she is experienced and with a good reputation. They should ensure that all students are given fair and equal amounts of time for their workshops. They should be authoritative – able to hold the room and encourage dynamic discussion, drawing out quieter members of the group while keeping the louder voices in check. A tutor should offer their own comment on the work – but not too soon in the discussion. In my experience, once the tutor has spoken, everyone tends to fall into line, and that’s not actually what should happen in a good workshop. A great tutor or workshop leader will be able to ensure the right balance of praise and critique, kind of like an orchestral conductor.

How to get the best out of the writing workshop:

· Format your work correctly: Make your pages look clean and professional – use an unfussy font (eg Times New Roman 12 point), indent your paragraphs, and set out your dialogue correctly. Use 1.5 or double spacing between your lines, check your spelling, punctuation and grammar, number your pages and make sure your name is on them. Doing this makes a big difference to the experience of reading your work.

· Keep to the schedule!: Hand in on time, or the workshop won’t happen!

· Questions and context: At CBC, we encourage students to add a short (but it must be short) note to their workshop submissions, to tell readers how far through the novel the extract appears and explain any necessary context so the group can understand what’s happening in the scene. And writers can put questions to the group to ensure they get feedback on points they’re concerned about.

· Keep to word limits: If you’re given a maximum word count, don’t exceed it! It’s infuriating when people start to hand in more than they’re supposed to. Before you know it, the extracts are all creeping longer and longer, and the group members who are toeing the line start seething with resentment.

· Be brave: It’s tempting to hand in your best party-piece, but you’ll get the most use out of the workshop if you give in something you’re struggling with, and where you could do with some feedback.

· Read the work on time and read it closely: it might seem like a chore to spend so much time on other people’s work when you want to be getting on with your own, but remember that the workshop depends on positive, generous contributions. And turn up on time to the workshop too!

· Start your feedback with the positive: Make sure that in both your written and verbal comments, you begin by focusing on what’s working. What does the writer do well? Say it, even if it seems obvious to you. It may not be obvious to him/her and it can make so much difference to how the writer feels about their workshop and their writing.

· Offer rigorous, constructive feedback: You need to do your best to really grapple with the work you’re reading and offer something tangible to the writer. It’s just as unhelpful to be told, simply, ‘I loved your work – it’s brilliant’ as to be told ‘This isn’t my kind of thing.’ Explain each point you’re making fully, and with close reference to the text. Think about the kind of feedback you would find useful, and remember your turn will be coming soon enough.

· Engage with the work on the writer’s own terms: If it’s a police procedural, don’t criticise it for not being literary fiction. If it’s a piece of gritty social realism, don’t suggest it could be more glamorous. See what I mean? And above all, don’t write ‘This isn’t my kind of thing’. Your challenge is to deal effectively with what’s before you, and to be as helpful as possible. If the writer has asked you some questions, answer them.

· Too loud or too quiet: When it comes to verbal discussion, it’s very likely that there’ll be a couple of people in the group who seem to value the sound of their own important pronouncements above all else – don’t be one of them. Conversely, there’s likely to be one or two people who don’t talk at all: It can be intimidating to speak out in a writing workshop, and you may be worried that your comments are unsophisticated or just plain wrong. But force yourself to overcome your nerves and speak out. Chances are your thoughts will be as useful as other people’s – and your fellow workshopees are more likely to be annoyed by a lack of contribution than by a daft remark.

· Sit back and listen: When people start talking about your work, it’s hard to just say nothing. You’ll probably feel like you want to answer each point and defend your writing. After all, they’re wrong! All of them! (Aren’t they?). My advice is, don’t. Just listen. It’s not very clever to take up your workshop time by talking all through it. If there’s anything you need to pick up on and ask for further clarification, do it – but keep that to a minimum.

· Don’t panic!: If you feel you’ve had a rough ride in the workshop, bear in mind that you’re likely to be reacting in a hyper-sensitive way. It’s all different when it’s your own work being discussed – that’s just how it is. Other people’s workshop sessions might have seemed fine to you, but perhaps they’ve come out of it feeling the same way you do. It could be a good idea to put your written feedback and any notes you made in the workshop away till you’re ready to think editorially about what you’ve produced, and keep moving forward with your project in the meantime. Or, if the workshop has made you want to rethink and do some rewriting straight away, do at least give yourself a chance to settle your thoughts first. You’ll need to figure out which of the suggestions really chimes with you, and then work out your own writerly solutions. Inevitably some of the group will turn out to be more helpful readers for you than others.

Writing workshops aren’t for everyone. If you feel that you want to keep your work to yourself until it’s finished and ready, then nobody should try to compel you to do anything else. But for the rest of us, if you join the right workshop and handle the process well, you can hone your writing and find your tribe. And sometimes, at its best, a writing workshop can feel – well – just a little bit magical.

For an in-depth course as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission) with a great tutor and participation from our literary agents, apply for:

For a dedicated online course for those writing for young adults or children as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission), with a top children’s author, apply for:

We are also offering three low-cost ‘foundation’ online courses, featuring tuition from CBC director Anna Davis:

Starting to Write Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 15 January).

Write to the End of Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 22 January).

Edit & Pitch Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 29 January).

Community Writing Center

We offer a range of writing workshops here at the Community Writing Center where you can explore a variety of writing topics in theme-based classes. Past workshops include Letters to the Editor, Poetry, Memoir, Editing Tips, College Application Essays, Journaling and Creative Writing. Workshops are created in response to community requests and are taught by our talented Writing Assistants. If there’s a workshop you’d like us to offer in the future, please let us know by emailing us at cwc@slcc.edu.

Most workshops take place at the Community Writing Center. We try to keep the cost of workshops as low as possible, and are able to offer some for free through partnerships and grant funding. Fees can be waived for financial hardship. Otherwise, donations are always welcome. Due to limited space, it is necessary to register in advance if you plan to attend a workshop. Registration will close one hour prior to the scheduled event. Registrants who choose not to attend may call to cancel up to one week prior to the workshop; after this time payments are non-refundable.

Spring 2018 Workshops

Screenwriting Workshop for Teens

The first step to writing a screenplay is developing a compelling cinematic idea. Join the CWC and SLCPL to explore the world of visual storytelling. Topics covered will include character development, screenplay format, and story structure. This workshop is for teens ages 14-18.

Cost: Free. Registration is required.

Grant Writing basics

Fridays, Feb. 2, 9, 16, 23 & March 2, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Do you need funding for your project or nonprofit program but don’t know where to start? Government and private funding organizations often have money to give and only require that you make a persuasive case. Join the SLCC Community Writing Center for an interactive workshop on the basics of grant writing.

Cost: $100. Registration is required.

Writing For Change: Social Media

Social media (like Facebook and Twitter, to name a couple) are now one of the most common means to spread ideas and information in our world. While social media offers great tools for exchanging ideas and opinions, it can also create conflict and problems. In this workshop, you will learn how to best structure your social media posts to engage and persuade in a positive and productive way.

Cost: Free. No registration required.

Location: Day-Riverside Library, 1575 W 1000 N, Salt Lake City

Writing For Change: Letter Writing

Does change in democracy require civic dialogue? If so, where is it and who gets to talk? Or write? Join the CWC during this legislative session to learn techniques of writing for change through letters to editors and public officials. Come with a concern and stay to write a letter with the help of CWC writing coaches.

Cost: Free. No registration required.

Location: City Library, 4th Floor Conference Room, 210 E 400 S, Salt Lake City

Scholarship & College Applications for Teens

A great personal essay can be what gets you that scholarship or gets you into your best college. Join us while we workshop personal essays. You will learn insider tricks and get tips and feedback on your own essay.

Cost: Free. Registration is required.

Time to Revise

Bring in any finished piece of writing you have and get some group feedback from writers like you!

Cost: $10. Registration is required.

Children’s books – Class Full, Registration Closed

Wednesday, Mar. 14 & 21, 6-8 p.m.

Craft tales for the children in your life and learn techniques for engaging young readers. We’ll explore a range of genres for young readers from magazine articles to picture books.

Cost: $20. Registration is required.

Visual Poetry Series for Teens

Explore the intersections of visual art and poetry in a series of workshops at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. Attend one or all of the workshops. These workshops are for teens, 13-18.

Cost: Free.  No registration required.

Self Portrait Poems

Saturday, Mar. 3, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Stencil Poems

Comic Strip Poems

Poetry Posters

National Poetry Writing Month Series

April is National Poetry Month! Join the CWC for a workshop series celebrating poetry in all its glory! We’ll explore various genres of poetry, learn to compose poems, and practice revising and sharing our work. We also encourage you to submit to our 30 Poems in 30 Days contest – winners will have a chapbook of their original work published by the CWC.

Cost: $40. Registration is required.

Resumes & cover Letters

Whether this is your first time writing a resume or you already have one that needs tweaking, this workshop can help. And what’s a resume without a cover letter that’ll make you stand out? Come learn the purpose, structure and tools to craft a well-organized resume and cover letter.

Cost: Free. Registration is required.

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