2021: Celebrating The Writers' Greenhouse 10 YEAR anniversary!
The Writers' Greenhouse
2021: Celebrating The Writers' Greenhouse 10 YEAR anniversary!
Summer of Writing: Saturday workshops

Summer of Writing: possible workshops

University Parks avenue Hollyhocks at Freud Coffee and writing in pub gardens Swan on the Cherwell University Parks pond Shadow of a fountain pen Perch bench Poetry at the Perch Salad packed lunch with a little jar of dressing Sunlit sheltered pub garden Writing equipment by the riverside The Perch boat University Parks pond table Michaelmas daisies Writing on a drizzly day Perch meadow gate Swan on the Thames University Park daisies University Parks avenue Hollyhocks at Freud Coffee and writing in pub gardens Swan on the Cherwell University Parks pond Shadow of a fountain pen Perch bench Poetry at the Perch Salad packed lunch with a little jar of dressing Sunlit sheltered pub garden Writing equipment by the riverside The Perch boat University Parks pond table Michaelmas daisies Writing on a drizzly day Perch meadow gate Swan on the Thames University Park daisies University Parks avenue Hollyhocks at Freud Coffee and writing in pub gardens Swan on the Cherwell University Parks pond Shadow of a fountain pen Perch bench Poetry at the Perch Salad packed lunch with a little jar of dressing Sunlit sheltered pub garden Writing equipment by the riverside The Perch boat University Parks pond table Michaelmas daisies Writing on a drizzly day Perch meadow gate Swan on the Thames University Park daisies University Parks avenue Hollyhocks at Freud Coffee and writing in pub gardens Swan on the Cherwell University Parks pond Shadow of a fountain pen Perch bench Poetry at the Perch Salad packed lunch with a little jar of dressing Sunlit sheltered pub garden Writing equipment by the riverside The Perch boat University Parks pond table Michaelmas daisies Writing on a drizzly day Perch meadow gate Swan on the Thames University Park daisies University Parks avenue Hollyhocks at Freud Coffee and writing in pub gardens Swan on the Cherwell University Parks pond Shadow of a fountain pen Perch bench Poetry at the Perch Salad packed lunch with a little jar of dressing Sunlit sheltered pub garden Writing equipment by the riverside The Perch boat University Parks pond table Michaelmas daisies Writing on a drizzly day Perch meadow gate Swan on the Thames University Park daisies University Parks avenue Hollyhocks at Freud Coffee and writing in pub gardens Swan on the Cherwell University Parks pond Shadow of a fountain pen Perch bench Poetry at the Perch Salad packed lunch with a little jar of dressing Sunlit sheltered pub garden Writing equipment by the riverside University Parks avenue Hollyhocks at Freud Coffee and writing in pub gardens Swan on the Cherwell University Parks pond Shadow of a fountain pen Perch bench Poetry at the Perch Salad packed lunch with a little jar of dressing Sunlit sheltered pub garden Writing equipment by the riverside University Parks avenue Hollyhocks at Freud Coffee and writing in pub gardens Swan on the Cherwell University Parks pond Shadow of a fountain pen Perch bench Poetry at the Perch Salad packed lunch with a little jar of dressing Sunlit sheltered pub garden Writing equipment by the riverside University Parks avenue Hollyhocks at Freud Coffee and writing in pub gardens Swan on the Cherwell University Parks pond Shadow of a fountain pen Perch bench Poetry at the Perch Salad packed lunch with a little jar of dressing Sunlit sheltered pub garden Writing equipment by the riverside University Parks avenue Hollyhocks at Freud Coffee and writing in pub gardens Swan on the Cherwell University Parks pond Shadow of a fountain pen Perch bench Poetry at the Perch Salad packed lunch with a little jar of dressing Sunlit sheltered pub garden Writing equipment by the riverside University Parks avenue Hollyhocks at Freud Coffee and writing in pub gardens Swan on the Cherwell University Parks pond Shadow of a fountain pen Perch bench Poetry at the Perch Salad packed lunch with a little jar of dressing Sunlit sheltered pub garden Writing equipment by the riverside University Parks avenue Hollyhocks at Freud Coffee and writing in pub gardens Swan on the Cherwell University Parks pond Shadow of a fountain pen Perch bench Poetry at the Perch Salad packed lunch with a little jar of dressing Sunlit sheltered pub garden Writing equipment by the riverside The Perch boat University Parks pond table Michaelmas daisies Writing on a drizzly day Perch meadow gate Swan on the Thames University Park daisies University Parks avenue Hollyhocks at Freud Coffee and writing in pub gardens Swan on the Cherwell University Parks pond Shadow of a fountain pen Perch bench Poetry at the Perch Salad packed lunch with a little jar of dressing Sunlit sheltered pub garden Writing equipment by the riverside The Perch boat University Parks pond table Michaelmas daisies Writing on a drizzly day Perch meadow gate Swan on the Thames University Park daisies

This is the long list of 16 possible workshop topics, in detail — your votes decide which 5 of these workshop topics will run this summer. Click here to vote or read on down for more info on each topic. Each topic will be split across a weekend, into two stand-alone half-day workshops.

A Sense of Place

Discover the importance of a sense of place, explore description in novels, choose engaging locations, and write active description

The feeling of a novel's place is one of the things that with us most strongly, and most novels are actually about 50% description, if you count it all up, but writing description is something many people struggle with. Unlike other kinds of writing (dialogue, action, exposition) it's something we rarely do in the rest of life, so we don't develop the skill. But if you want your story to come to life in the reader's mind, description is what does that.

Beyond first draft

Once your first draft is done, what do you do? Practical tips on how to redraft, refine, and edit your story or novel

Knowing the future stages of drafting makes writing your first draft much easier - you can relax into it, not worry about it, tell yourself "I'll fix it later", and you know you will. Taking a short story through the complete process can also shed a lot of light on your novel's process. We'll start by exploring the different stages of writing, to get a good overview, then look at the principles and possible approaches for evaluating your draft, redrafting parts of scenes, and cutting it down. We'll then look at how to edit your own work: ways to do it and specific things to look for, so your work is polished and ready to send out.

This will also be useful if you're currently writing a novel and starting to feel inhibited or struggling a bit – a solid understanding of what happens after your first draft can really disinhibit the first-draft process. Taking a short story through the full process is an excellent practice, and returns you to your novel with renewed insight and freedom. (Note: You don't need a complete first draft to take part in the workshop. You can use part of a draft, or the materials that I provide.)

Characters unlike you

Explore a range of ways to write characters unlike yourself and vary a story's cast, while you develop new characters to take home with you

It's an easy mistake to make all your characters too similar, especially the positive characters. When you're creating a "villain", you can gleefully invent all sorts of unusual traits. When you're writing a positive character, you can often end up making them just "normal" - ie not characterised, undifferentiated, or a cast of clones of yourself. This workshop uses a variety of approaches to help you invent characters who are most definitely NOT like you - and more than that, to sympathise with and understand them. You'll invent or develop multiple new characters in the workshop, and also gain insight into some of your own traits, to make sure those aren't replicated across all your future characters.

Dialogue

Everything from developing your characters’ voices and natural speech to layout and seamless attribution

Dialogue plays a central role in making a story come alive: it creates immediacy and intimacy, roots the story in real time, and builds strong characterisation, as well as carrying the story forward. This workshop covers multiple aspects of writing dialogue: striking the balance between actual versus "natural" speech; developing characters' voices; balancing both of those with writing snappy or powerful lines; its purpose in the story; common errors to avoid; ways of attributing speech; and the descriptions and actions that go around it. It also covers practical approaches for how to go about the actual writing, and the nuts and bolts of layout and punctuation. You'll leave with several pieces of writing exploring characters' voices (using new characters or ones from your work in progress), new dialogue, useful strategies for the writing process, and a clear grasp of the practicalities.

Expand your repertoire

Writing with fresh angles, new voices, unusual points of view, experimental structures and different styles

In writing, it's easy to rest on what we're already good at and what we've done before, and define ourselves as "that kind" of writer. But this can mean we pull back from ideas or scenes that take us beyond that, which limits our stories. To expand our repertoires, we need a safe space of freedom to experiment with new approaches. In this workshop, we explore fresh angles in four main areas: new voices, unusual points of view, experimental structures, and different styles. We'll look at examples of published work, from literary fiction to genre novels, to see how it can be used and to inspire you. You'll also try out the different approaches with creative activities, using either your own work in progress or ideas created in the class. You'll leave with multiple short pieces of new writing, new ideas for stories or for your existing story, and a widened range of possibilites to draw on.

Hone your style

Explore what makes quality prose, from Angela Carter’s richness to Margaret Atwood’s restraint, and hone your own style

Quality prose comes in dozens of different flavours, but shares a surprising number of strengths across the sweep of styles. In this workshop, you’ll explore what you value in good prose and hone your own style. We’ll cover spotting clichés and collocations, using imagery, selecting telling details, improving word choice, and pruning unnecessary words.

Ghostly & Gothic (NEW)

Explore the haunted tropes and high drama of the Gothic genres and ways to put your own unique spin on them

Ghost stories and Gothic tales have a long literary tradition, sweeping together fine writing, high drama, and an abandoned castle’s worth of tropes. For its roots, think Dracula, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, A Christmas Carol, and The Turn of the Screw (adapted to film as The Others), rather than slash-gore and jump-shocks – this is a place of slow-rising tension and unravelling mystery. As a writer, it’s an exciting (haunted) playground of toying with tropes and putting your own spin on them, teasing back-and-forth with reader expectations, and playing with dramatic events.

In this workshop, we’ll look at the range of ghostly/Gothic tropes, how we can use and reinvent them to create ideas, and ways to develop the rich hinterland that lies behind your story’s events. We’ll explore techniques for building that slow-rising tension as the mystery deepend and starts to emerge. We’ll also look at how to create emotion in the reader, atmosphere, and that crucial creepy sense of place.

Hone your style

Explore what makes quality prose, from Angela Carter’s richness to Margaret Atwood’s restraint, and hone your own style

Quality prose comes in dozens of different flavours, but shares a surprising number of strengths across the sweep of styles. In this workshop, you’ll explore what you value in good prose and hone your own style. We’ll cover spotting clichés and collocations, using imagery, selecting telling details, improving word choice, and pruning unnecessary words.

Magical realism

Explore magical realism’s features, whip up reams of ideas, and start writing your own magical realist pieces

Like fairytales for grown-ups, anything's possible in magical realism. From its Latin American roots to its wider use, magical realism is a uniquely rich, fantastical, and free genre to play in. This workshop introduces the background and principal features of magical realism, through eight novels. We'll then generate masses of ideas, with an extensive, varied (and colourful) menu of activities, and explore settings. In the afternoon, you'll draw on your ideas with a menu of writing activities and start turning one or more of them into more developed magical-realist stories. You'll leave with heaps of ideas, several pieces of writing, 8 new activities for generating multiple ideas, and 6 new activities for whisking ideas into stories - and, of course, a new genre to play with, whether you write within the genre or use its sense of freedom to expand your other writing.

Orientating the reader

Move your characters and the reader easily in time & place, and deal deftly with exposition and back story

Orientating the reader is one of those invisible skills - if it's done well in a story, you'd never notice it. When it's done badly, you're suddenly flipping backwards in the book looking for a character thinking "Who the hell is this, again...?" Or flicking pages back and forth, trying to work out whether you've jumped in time or are still in the same place. Or counting the lines of dialogue to work out on earth is speaking.

This workshop looks at a range of ways to orientate the reader: reminding them who characters are, reminding them of the core tension of each story strand when you're weaving multiple threads together, moving your characters in time and place so the reader knows when / where they are without long journey descriptions, dealing with flashbacks elegantly, and exposition for back story and the details of your novel's world.

Page-turners

How to keep the reader reading – whether you’re writing literary fiction or a pot-boiler thriller

What keeps the reader hungrily turning each page? Whether we’re writing quiet literary fiction or pot-boiler thrillers, we want to keep the reader reading – and the principles of how to do that work across genres. In this workshop, you’ll look at how to create and sustain high tension, from tricks of the trade and techniques to gripping the reader at a deeper level.

Poetry Shapes (NEW)

Discover fresh directions and poetry skills through a range of poetic forms

Playing with different poetry forms is a brilliant way to develop your poetry writing – and if you’re new to poetry, an excellent starting point. It expands your sense of what’s possible (and allowed!), while the different forms develop different skills: musicality, varying rhythms, being concise, going with the flow, strengthening the meaning or keeping it more open, and so on. Most of us have met the sonnet, limerick, haiku, and maybe villanelle, but there are many more exciting forms to play with.

In this workshop, you’ll discover a range of poetry forms and what each one offers you as a writer. You’ll try out new forms and discuss your experiences of them with your classmates. Through the different forms, you’ll also discover new directions you can grow your skills as a poet.

NOTE: You won’t be required to read your poems out loud. Meddling with Poetry students, this course doesn’t repeat content from the Meddling with Poetry classes. It uses some of the forms from your Poem-a-Day booklets (not the class forms) and other new forms.

The Art of the Short Story (NEW)

Explore strategies and technques for creating powerful short stories of any genre

Short stories are a fantastic playspace for writers: a chance to experiment, try out new genres, test-drive a different creative process. But how do you create characters, emotional impact, and a strong plot in a few thousand words? This workship will explore strategies and technques for creating powerful short stories of any genre, how to do more with less, and how the art of short stories can enhance all your writer.

The Creative Well

Playful challenging activities based on top research to create new ideas and explore the creative process

Creativity can feel magical and maddening: sometimes it all just sometimes it's like getting blood from a stone, and who knows why, or what to do about it? And what do you do when your creative well runs dry? Using creative activities and writing prompts, we'll explore some of the key aspects of the creative process: the different kinds of thinking we need; process versus product driven approaches; increasing your reservoirs of inspiration; the importance of play; and how to escape your brain's habits and reach for more original ideas. All the activities draw on solid research from neurology, psychology, and adult play: creativity is magic, and this is our spell book. Throughout the day, you'll be generating ideas, playing with different approaches, and writing multiple short pieces, with the opportunity to extend one or more of these at the end. You'll leave with a variety of newly developed story ideas to explore and a deeper understanding of how to support and enjoy your creativity.

Tropes and Archteypes (NEW)

Using tropes and archetypes effectively, avoiding cliché, and the fun of subversion

Tropes and archetypes come from our shared human experience, and from our shared story experience; they can give a story spine-tingling impact – or fall flat. In this workshop, we’ll explore when tropes and archetypes resonate and thrill, when they become eye-rolling cliché, when they’re handy shortcuts in your toolbox, and how to use them effectively. We’ll also look at how changing fashions and awareness affects how we see tropes, and how to play with and subvert them.

Unravelling Secrets (NEW)

How to balance suspense, secrets, and clues in thrillers, mysteries, and crime fiction

Thrillers, mysteries, and crime fiction each have their distinct features and share a common thread: a plot structured around unravelling secrets. So how do you write a story when what’s happened is a secret? This workshop will cover how to organise a story around an unravelling secret, dropping clues versus keeping the reader guessing, creating convincing red herrings, how to make it matter and keep the tension taut, managing backstory, and how to bring it all together in a satisfying ending.

Writing in scenes

Explore how to balance the different ingredients of a scene and ways of approaching the “big scenes” in your story

Scenes are the building blocks of storytelling, where the story comes alive in “real-time” action. This workshop will explore how to stay focused on writing in scenes, integrating action, description, and dialogue, while keeping the story flow and avoiding filler-material. We’ll also look at how to approach the “big” scenes: action scenes, high drama, turning points, and intense emotion.

* Vote for workshops *

When?

Saturday and Sunday afternoons in August & early September, 1:30pm – 4pm:
7 Aug, 8 Aug, 14 Aug, 15 Aug, 21 Aug, 22 Aug, 28 Aug, 29 Aug, 4 Sept, and 5 Sept.

Where?

Online with Zoom. (I'll run a couple training sessions on how to use Zoom, for those who'd like that)

Fees

I’ve again reduced the usual fees to 80% on average, to accommodate furlough pay.

The half-day workshops start at £30 each; the more you book, the less you pay per workshop.

1 workshop £30 each
2 workshops £26 each
3+ workshops £22.50 each
All 10 workshops £225

Contact me

Email me with any questions.

 

Writing equipment by the riverside Shadow of a fountain pen University Parks pond Poetry at the Perch University Parks avenue Hollyhocks at Freud Coffee and writing in pub gardens Perch bench Swan on the Cherwell University Parks pond table The Perch boat Michaelmas daisies Writing with wine University Parks willow Swan on the Thames Writing on a drizzly day Perch meadow gate Sunlit sheltered pub garden University Park daisies

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