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Writer’s Workshops The Good, Bad,& the Ugly

Updated on August 14, 2012

Much like the Client Eastwood flick, your about to get the good, the bad, and the ugly side of what could possibly happen in a writers workshop. If you are an avid reader of writer’s magazines you’ve probably stumbled upon an article or two advising you to seek the companionship of other writers in the writer’s group format. Perhaps you are fresh faced up and coming writer wanting a little guidance on your work it would seem that a writer workshop free or not would be the perfect place to turn. An insecure newbie is often almost desperate to come out of the confined of their own mind and step into the spotlight for better or worst to see their work as real. Feedback is essential in growth which makes even the best of the best coming right out of the starting gate even better. The most popular concepts behind writing workshops are the idea of exposure backed up by being able to engage ones self in a public setting. Within the month of July Dania beach Paul DeMaio library held a creating writing workshop which was hosted by the formerly famed author and Jamaican poet Christine Craig.

Christine Craig is a noted Jamaican author most recognized for such writings as “Mint Tea”, “All Things Bright,” “Quadril for Tigers” as well as many more works. Though each writer’s workshop is a completely different in general this particular workshop was to last four weeks long which featured an hour and a half dedicated to creative writing in technique form every Saturday in the month of July.

The Good: While there are many up sides to attending a writer’s workshop there are still more than a few selectively positive reasons that outshine the rest. While being in attendance you are able to meet many new people who may have very different literary visions from yours yet after engaging them in conversation you will find they have very similar goals in mind. The highlights of the D.A creative writing workshop include the process if reading and experiencing other people works of writing followed up by the chance to get a deeper look behind each writer’s inspiration or purpose for the piece of their work which they have submitted each Saturday. A compare and contrast process that often works within a creative writing workshop allows each participant to learn what to expect when placing your writing into the spotlight for audience reaction. One of the more personal highlights of the four week long writer’s workshop would be being able to enjoy would be being able to take first reads to short stories of up and coming writer’s like “Pistachios”, “Baptism of the Holy Ghost”, one untitled piece on a Latin families paternal tragedy and “Wilma, You Bitch!” Each short story had a unique plot, a mind stimulating life concept, and was well written yet still flawed enough for a first time reader with some writing experience to still be able to make a profound impact on the works direction.

The Bad: Despite the fact that author Christine Craig is an alleged experience writer not all her experiences or knowledge always translated to understanding all the writing styles of the writers there or in guiding the inexperience writer to finding themselves through written expression. Craig is a talent that doesn’t transfer to nurturing growth. One who was in attendance had to have come on their own terms without the expectation that they wouldn’t be discouraged from writing. Craig gave out worksheet after worksheet usually one per week which consisted of dialogue, setting, plot, and characterization descriptions. Though each of these worksheets may have planted a seed in understanding the need to pay attention to detail it was still essentially up to the writer to do additional searching beyond the creative writing workshop.

However, unlike the ideal creative writing workshops that dreams are made of, our instructor didn’t write an on the spot short story fiction to guide by example, she didn’t bring examples of what freelance short stories that got published or made it to magazines looked like, and no she certainly didn’t bring in any work that could be shared as inspiration from her recent privately unreleased collection. Do as I say not as I do (which is read from the sidelines rather than participate with my personal writings) instructors who have the tedious task of teaching a shared skill can simply drain enthusiasm from what is suppose to be an encouraging experience.

Though I fully acknowledge that four weeks isn’t nearly enough time to cover everything that a new writer should know before attempting to take their work to the next level it sure is enough to time to scratch the surface if the instructor uses time management wisely in a group of only six to eight writer’s maximum in an hour and a half. Other key flaws that made this good experience go slightly awry would be the fact that their was no lists of suggested self-help reading that encourages growth (despite the fact the workshop was being held in the library) that really encouraged an independent journey. Editorial skills were also a key element missing from the workshop that seemed to be discouraged from the instructor.

However, this instructive author did try her best to please those pupils in attendance of the workshop despite the fact that had she put more effort into understanding all the individual people in the group she would have done a much better job. But of course with her having a very hectic everyday life schedule to get around to it is understandable that she didn’t have enough time to always get around to contemplating the needs of each writer in attendance.

& Ugly: As the workshop came to a close it was clear that one thing no one couldn’t accuse Christine Craig of not teaching the group of small writers is that criticism comes much easier from an outside perspective than a compliment. The ugly side of the writer’s workshop came when Christine Craig began to hack away at writing styles that didn’t conform to the social norms of her expectations on everyday literary content.

In fact Craig’s specialty was encouraging the group to start small, hold back on ideas that may fade artistically simply because talent my not be able to execute them properly and insisting that all editors must be great writers before their editorial journey was to begin. In her mind as the words came out her mouth the editor’s mind doesn’t exist unless there is a great writer lurking inside of it.

Perhaps though in spite of everything the ugliest truth of all would be the mere fact that after four weeks of dancing around to the tune of how talented the Ms. Christine Craig really is each writer is still walking away not really having gotten a chance to understand her as a writer or her creative process. We’ve spend four weeks of our lives with a person who was to help us set a constructive tone for our writing path yet we know nothing on her and how she is inspired. Although Ms.Craig gave much advice on finding ideas such as people watching, using old conversations with friends to guide a short story journey on writing and of course those single paged worksheets which she handed out week after week. She still didn’t seem to have the type of passion for the process that a young writer such as myself went in ready to feast off. On the other side of things if asked she’d probably call me out as being to sensitive when it came to the point of view of how passionate she should have been on the world of words and self expression.

The bottom line is after enduring this experience one should learn to when displaying ones writing to be armed with self confidence, do outside research, bring your undying passion( even where it may not be welcomed) and take the best of the constructive criticism you receive when it comes to things like characters or punctuation and forget the rest.

As for the workshop being free to the public. Economics taught me one very real thing on freebies and that their is no such thing as a free meal somebody has got to be paying for it even if it is not you.


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