I’m currently developing a new workshop: Writing for Children and Young Adults. It’s got me thinking about the writing workshops I’ve attended over the years – and there have been many! Some good. Some not so good. Some brilliant. After attending so many, I’m gaining an insight into what works and what doesn’t.
I’ve realised that being able to write doesn’t mean you can teach. The skills are very different. Writers are often introverts, hiding behind their computers, but that’s not much use if you want to help others!
Running workshops has also given me a heightened appreciation for school teachers. You have to be a cross between an entertainer, motivational speaker, life coach and professor. Fortunately writing tutors have a willing audience (unlike many school teachers!). Even so, by the end of an all-day gig I am utterly drained … but happy. Workshops are the ideal way to escape the isolation of writing and meet like-minded people.
As a workshop participant, I like to receive practical information. I’m not a fan of waffle, meanderings and padding. Must be the lawyer in me! Tell me something I don’t know, then tell me what to do with the information.
A good balance between information and activities is also important. Listening to too much tutor-talk can be boring – participants need to participate. I like it when tutors provide guidance for a writing exercise, then encourage participants to share their responses with the group. And I mean encourage! Not bully or shame, which unfortunately happens sometimes. In my workshops, I never press anyone to share if they don’t want to. If they do, I provide constructive feedback. Many participants who start the day feeling uncertain about their writing leave with new confidence – and that makes it all worthwhile!
What doesn’t work
I must admit I don’t want to hear too much about the tutor. Just enough to set the stage and inspire the group by showing that writing success is possible. It’s not meant to be all about them!
Structure is important and I find a lack of direction frustrating. Workshops that wander and jump around too much indicate a lack of preparation. Creating slideshow presentations, planning activities and creating tip sheets takes a lot of time, but you can’t run a good workshop without preparation.
The best I’ve seen
Some workshops I’ve attended have been brilliant and I’m not saying that lightly. I’ve left them feeling enlightened and motivated. I’m only going to mention the most recent, as I don’t know if some of the older ones are still running. I’d highly recommend any writing workshop run by Kate Forsyth http://www.kateforsyth.com.au/ and Brian Falkner http://www.brianfalkner.com/ Both of these successful authors are approachable, informative, and extremely giving.
Care to share?
Have you attended a writing workshop that you would like to recommend to others? Please share in the comments section!