Workshops

What is a teacher? I’ll tell you: it isn’t someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows.

Paulo Coelho, The Witch of Portobello

I have been teaching writing skills and running creativity and personal growth workshops for many years and in many different contexts: at universities, with community groups, writer’s centres, health centres, women’s centres and with people suffering from depression. I love teaching writing and inspiring others to access their creativity, and would be happy to run a workshop for you.

The workshops listed below range from two hours to a few days, while some can be adjusted to run over a period of weeks or months. All are easily adapted for the needs of different audiences and for length requirements. If you have a space, I am happy to run a residential workshop for you. Any of my shorter workshops can be adapted to suit a longer format by deepening the material and emphasising group interaction and writing time.

Writing the Numinous: mapping the journey to self  (one day or a series of workshops)

Throughout history, story has been used to teach and to heal, and in an esotoric view of the world these two terms are interchangeable. Herman Hesse, Lindsay Clarke, Paolo Coehlo, Ursula le Guin, Elizabeth Gilbert and Dante are just a few of the many writers who have chosen a range of different forms and genres to document the journey towards self-development and in the process attempted to express the inexpressible.

Storytelling is a sacred skill. The process is one of alchemy, taking the raw material and transmuting it into gold, finding the essence of meaning, exploring truth through metaphor and using words to build bridges between worlds, that will paradoxically enable us to escape the very limitations of words. Through discussion, readings and writing exercises this workshop will explore the function of allegory and symbolism in metaphysical writing, and look closely at the inner dimensions of the overarching metaphor of many stories – the classical quest or journey.

Writing the Universal: recreating myths and fairy tales  (one day or a series of workshops)

Understanding the function and structure of myth and fairy story helps us to develop a deeper knowledge of ourselves and our relationship to the wider world. It also teaches us how to write powerful, vibrant stories that carry universal themes and engage the reader emotionally.  These ancient stories provide intriguing possibilities for retelling, allowing us to retain the important themes while transplanting the story into a different time and/or place.

Through discussion, readings and writing exercises this workshop or series of workshops asks you to take a myth or fairy tale that resonates with you, identify its themes and rewrite it. In the process you will use symbolism to express the deeper themes within the story, experiment with point of view, consider the function of setting and develop characters through identifying their archetypal functions and exploring the internal and external conflicts that drive their actions and reactions.

Writing the ‘Self’: exploring life’s transitions (one day)

The overarching frame of our lives is birth and death but that’s too broad a canvas so through story we create smaller frames that make sense of our transitions and turning points, helping us to see the cause and effect at play in our lives and to uncover our purpose. In so doing we reach out and connect our small stories with the big stories, the mythic heroic journeys, and we begin to understand that when we face up to a fear, we are just like the hero who overcomes a dragon.

Incorporating a blend of readings, discussions and writing exercises, this workshop is designed to enable you to identify transitional points in your life, understand their purpose and express them through the genre of creative non-fiction such as the memoir or personal essay. During the workshop a series of exercises will help you to discover the themes that you identify with, while further discussions and exercises will enable you to see and understand the major archetypes at play in your life, both in the people around you and in your own psyche.

Journal Writing: reflecting on the personal and universal (half day or one day)

In many ways writers are like magpies. We forage amongst our own experiences and the experiences of others, stealing gems that one day might link to other gems in some unexpected way. The journal is our nest, it’s where we hoard our treasures ready for the right moment. However, there is much more to journal writing than this. It’s a self-reflective space that helps us to make sense of our lives and connect our experiences to a wider world.

This workshop is designed to help participants discover the value of journal writing. Through a mixture of discussion, readings and writing exercises we will explore ways in which to enrich our journals by making connections between our experiences, observations, ideas and reading. In this way our journals become a valuable tool for developing self-knowledge as well as a repository of ideas.

Writing for Change: telling stories responsibly (half day or one day)

Why do we write? Is it because we want to be writers or because we have something urgent we want to say? Do we simply have a desire to entertain or do we believe it is possible to change the world? Can we do all these things? And should we? If we accept that as writers we inevitably play a part in shaping the world, then it follows that we must also have a responsibility to shape it well. To create something truly new we must first understand, the limitations of the old and how it works to blinker our vision and hold us in place: globally, culturally, socially and individually. In short, we must become self-aware.

This workshop involves asking questions of ourselves and seeking answers. What are our values and how do we consciously or unconsciously infuse them into our stories? What are the big themes that move us and how might we best utilise them in our writing? Through a blend of discussions, readings and writing exercises we will also look at three methods for weaving thematic material into a narrative: within the structure of the plot (the Heroic journey), explicit in the content and implicit within the content.

 

Credible Characters (one day or series of workhops)

Whether we are writing a screen or stage play, a novel, memoir or short story, characterisation is an important element that infuses much of the narrative and drives the plot. But how do we create credible three-dimensional characters that drive our plots and emotionally engage our readers?

This series of short workshops (or extended workshop) is designed to explore a range of technical tools for creating nuanced credible characters. Through a combination of discussions, readings and linked writing exercises, students will develop their own character/s.  In the process they will explore the role of description and dialogue, the archetypal function/s of characters, how a character’s desires and fears drive the plot, the role of conflict in story development, and how a character might change and develop through the course of a stor

Shorter Character Workshops (each 2hrs)

It’s all in the detail – Describing our characters

Telling Talk – How dialogue reveals personality

Action versus Reaction – Motivating our characters

Character and Conflict – Inner, inter and outer

Character Arc – From character to story

Symbols for Writers (2-3hrs)

In a sense symbols and metaphors inhabit the world of poetry. They are the language of the heart rather than the head. However, this doesn’t limit them to poetic forms. As story tellers we can enrich and add greater depth to our work by consciously exploring their use. Through discussion, readings and writing exercises we identify the symbols in our stories and work on consciously developing their effectiveness.

Writing Life (half day, one day, longer course or residential)
What is memoir? How does it differ from other forms of biographical writing? What are the ethics of writing memoir? And how do you do it well? Writing memoir involves delving into the past, making meaning from it and bringing it to life for the reader. It is a rewarding and often healing process, but the emotional roller coaster of reliving the past results in many people becoming lost along the way. This workshop is designed to give you the technical skills and the confidence to begin a memoir.

Inner journeys/Outer journeys (2-3hrs)
Whether we are working in fiction or memoir, the inner development of our characters will parallel their outer journey. In this workshop we look at methods of developing plot, character motivation and story structure in order to create satisfying layered stories.

Story Structure – The Heroic Journey (one day or longer course or residential)

Understanding the function and structure of myth helps us to write powerful, vibrant stories that engage the reader emotionally. Through discussion, readings and writing exercises we look at Joseph Campbell’s theory of the stages of story and see how they translate to modern storytelling and in particular, to our own stories whether fiction or memoir.

Description – Bringing a story to life (2-3hrs)

Description is one of the fundamental elements in storytelling and  has multiple functions. We use it to provide information, slow the pace, build tensions, provide texture, break up monotony and establish mood, ambience and theme. But most importantly, description is a powerful tool that when used well, enhances and deepens our writing, helping us to create a convincing setting that transports the reader into the world of the story, enabling them to suspend disbelief until the end. All these elements are explored through discussions, readings and writing exercises.

Openings – Famous first words (2-3hrs)

Openings need to be intriguing, they need to seduce us, startle us, make our spirits lift with anticipation or make us sigh with the beauty of their description. In short, they need to draw us into the story, in whatever way they can. Through discussion, readings and writing exercises we learn how to write a compelling opening.

Editing – reflecting and rewriting (half day or full day)
If you wish to develop your own work, this course will enable you to redraft your manuscript before submitting it to an agent or publisher. This will greatly enhance your chances of being considered for publication. If you wish to learn how to edit the work of others, this course will provide an introduction. Structural, content, and basic copyediting are covered, with exercises designed to identify and address the most common problems. Students also learn to prepare manuscripts for submission, write publisher proposals, consider the market and decide on the appropriate direction to take a manuscript.