Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Supporting the Writing Life: Part 2

As a reader commented on my last post: "Hearing how someone else is crafting a piece, what thoughts they had when they introduced this or that, helps us all gain perspective." I couldn't agree more. Writing groups vary, from the formal workshop structure of a creative writing program, to informal arrangements where participants read their work aloud or problem-solve the process of their writing. Writer's associations are often arranged regionally or thematically by genre.

Still on winter break from the pressures of my MFA program, I attended a great gathering Friday at the Pens & Pints Writing Bonanza with Petals and Bones. Squeezing into a booth at a whiskey bar with a dozen others and eating a bowl of mac-n-cheese while sipping my Irish coffee (what was I thinking--caffeine insomnia anyone?), I reveled in the camaraderie and humor that often go missing from the high stakes at school. The silly prompts delivered on their promise of prose that was "comedic, sassy and lively." As I'm a bit gun-shy on writing quickly (oh, imperfection!) and impromptu reading, the practice of writing for five minutes without stopping and then having to yell over the din of the bar loosened up our nerves and brought the fun back to the craft.

What writing group format do you prefer? What writer's associations have you found helpful?

By taking a one-time class or a full course--whether through a college or university, an extended education program, a conference retreat or a bookstore--you'll accelerate your writing. Classes range from full-length programs where students and instructors give written and verbal feedback on work (often without comment from the writer), to brief workshops where a presenter lectures on a topic and offers writing exercises. Online or in-person, writers also develop new writing concepts and the vocabulary for it, such as a lede (or lead) in a journalistic piece.

I've taken a personal essay class and a fiction-writing class through my local university's extended ed program. They lasted four weeks each, with in-class exercises and outside writing assignments. The instructors were published and prolific writers, though some participants hadn't written much before. (It was my first, and only shot at fiction thus far.) Little did I know at the time that the grades I got would later count toward acceptance to grad school. Before entering my MFA program, I also took an eight-week travel writing course with Don George at Book Passage. The essay I began there later won an award and I used a revision of it as my writing sample for graduate school applications. I'm still trying to get that story published!

What writing classes have you taken and what did you learn from them?

1 comment:

Sabrina said...

If you write children's literature - you should definitely consider taking one of the Highlights Foundation Founders Workshops. They run a wide variety of 3-7 day writing retreat workshops with well established writers, illustrators, editors and agents. You will come away a better writer! The location and accomodations are perfect, the fellow writers endearing and the food is fabulous!
They also run a week long summer writing conference at Chatauqua - which is on my list to do in the next year or two!

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