The Writers' Greenhouse

Courses and workshops: Frequently asked questions

Are the courses and workshops suitable for beginners?

Yes: if you've done lots of writing before, great, and if you haven't, that's fine too. All the courses and workshops are multi-level and use process-teaching: in practice, this means you try out different techniques and experiment with them in class, to explore each topic.

Do I need to be working on a novel / story already?

No, but you can be.
In Imaginary Worlds, you can work on an existing world / story if you have one, but you'll also have opportunity to create two new worlds / stories in class.
In Story Elements, throughout the course, we create and work on collaborative stories together. These go into the Plot Bank, which is shared out at the end of the class. You don't work directly on your own stories in the course, but each week's booklet gives you tips on applying what you've learnt to any stories of your own that you're working on.
In Starting Points, we explore multiple writing forms, so you'll be trying out new pieces in the different forms. This course is designed for beginners and equally open to writers who'd like to explore fresh avenues and forms
In all the courses, you can of course submit parts of your existing novel or stories for feedback, if you want.

Can I pay in instalments?

Yes. For each course, you pay a deposit (£35–£40) and can then pay the rest in instalments. Usually, that's equal monthly instalments, but if you prefer to pay weekly or need to shift the payment dates to match your salary date, that's fine. For the workshops, you pay 50% upfront and then the rest either on the day or closer to the time, as suits you.

Do you give feedback on our writing?

In the courses, yes. Each course includes feedback on 2-3 pieces of writing up to 2000 words each (2 pieces for the 8-week courses, 3 pieces for the 12-week Story Elements course). This can be your own independent writing or a piece of writing emerging from that class. The one-day workshops don't include writing feedback.

Getting feedback can be a nerve-wracking prospect for some, but don't worry – I promise it's not. I'm not marking your work; I tell you what's good and make suggestions for how to improve it or develop it further.

How much homework do we need to do?

For Imaginary Worlds, there's no homework. I give suggestions of how to explore each topic further, and ideas for what to write, but it's totally up to you what you do.

For Story Elements, the homework takes about 20-30 minutes a week, and is always consolidating / based on something we did in class – for example, writing up the back-cover blurb for a story we've invented, or the character arc that you've already been mapped out in class. This goes into the Plot Bank and is very useful for when we return to that story later on in the course.

For Starting Points, you have small assignments some weeks but not every week, often as preparation for the next week's class, which again should take 20-30 minutes.

The exception is the pieces of prose writing that I give you feedback on: obviously that takes longer than 20-30 minutes and it's up to you how much you submit, but it's a good opportunity to get feedback on your writing.

What if I have to miss a class?

At the end of each class, I give out a booklet summarising what we've covered in that class, so you'll still get that. If you miss a class, I usually suggest you come five or ten minutes early to the next class, so I can talk you through what we did. I'll also keep any handouts aside for you.

Does it matter if I'm dyslexic?

No. Dyslexia will not prevent you from doing the courses and workshops, and it certainly doesn't stop you from writing well. Hans Christian Andersen, Agatha Christie, WB Yeats, Lewis Carroll, Ernest Hemingway, Roald Dahl, and Mark Twain were all dyslexic. You do the writing; let someone else worry about spelling and punctuation. (A proofreader or a friend can fix your spelling and punctuation, if you need them to.)

If dyslexia affects your reading: I can email you any extracts or reading passages that we'll read in class, in advance. That way you can read them at your own pace and use the class-time to refresh your memory. (This offer is open to everyone!) I colour-code all the materials, so everything is printed on coloured paper, which some people with dyslexia find easier to read. I also use a clear, sans-serif font on all body-text.

Are the courses accessible for people with physical disabilities?

  • Mobility: I run the courses from home and there are a few steps to get into the house (4 steps from the driveway, 1 to get into the house, 1 into the conservatory, and 1 in the bathroom). If you use a wheelchair, this may be a problem. I can arrange a ramp for the outside steps, but there isn't enough room to put a ramp at the front door or in the bathroom. If you know how I can get useable ramps into more confined spaces, I'd be grateful for the advice and happy to arrange that.
  • Chronic fatigue / illness: If you have fatigue or are ill, let me know, so we can make arrangements to make the classes easier for you — eg I can send you the readings in advance so there's less to process in the evening, make sure not to move you around when we're mix-and-matching groups, organise a chair with appropriate support, etc.
  • For any other arrangements you need or questions you might have, just email me and let me know.
  • Any other questions? Ask me!

    Email if there's anything else you'd like to know.

    Conservatory in daylight with tables set up Premise circles Felt-tips, grapes, sharpies, scissors, and sequins The conservatory at night with fairylights Collage of colourful decor for the magical realism workshop Three hands reaching in to brainstorm on one sheet Grapes and handouts on a table Tables, plants and paintings - the workshop space for summer workshops Handouts on pale yellow paper rolled and tucked into jars, with instructions tied on with string Writing on coloured post-it strips Collage of differently coloured handouts in jars and lying on the table Conservatory by night with fairylights, from a different angle Felt-tips, handouts, and several Tom Phillips style exercises in progress Conservatory in daylight with tables set up Premise circles Felt-tips, grapes, sharpies, scissors, and sequins

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