Workshops: Serving the Gift

For a reasonable fee, I offer Poetry and Creative Non-Fiction Workshops, for groups of 8 – 20 participants, focused on Process, Performance, or Process-Editing-Performance. A single process or performance workshop may run from 30 – 90 minutes; I also present workshops in series, spread over a few days or weeks, that lead through process, via peer editing, to performance.

All workshops begin with a circle of introduction, in which each participant shares and is acknowledged for the prior knowledge they bring and their specific goals for the workshop. This principle of starting from strengths is drawn from 6 years experience in using Creative Writing to build literacy for adult learners, and 20+ years as an instructor for Youthwrite.

Process workshops focus on writing as an act of attention. Through guided individual and group exercises, we hone our power of paying precise, active attention to the world around us. These exercises include movement meditations (walking or moving as one is able), closing eyes to enhance other senses, and partnered guiding.

We also examine our common language, collecting words that the group tends to favour, then seeking to expand our pool of available words, phrases and ways of creating writing that describes, connects and engages the audience in fresh ways.

Process workshops thus also include an introduction to peer editing, through sharing, examining, and expanding our toolkit. Most importantly, though, process workshops emphasize the value of considering a writer as a conduit to connect and engage others to what matters in the world.

Performance Workshops focus on the sense that, as is also true for writing,  to perform is to serve the Gift. The Gift is the writing, and we are as blessed to be serving it as the audience is to partake. With that in mind, we set about using our tools – voice, physicality,breath and energy – to celebrate the writing and give it the best presentation possible.

Students are encouraged to bring their own work to share; we often trade pieces, because it is often easier to generously approach someone else’s work and find the best in it; witnessing another serving the gift of your writing back to you lets that same generosity reveal your own strengths as a writer in a new light.

We will also occasionally work from outside texts, in order to illustrate performance techniques without reference to the students’ tender new work. Finally, the process of preparing for performance introduces the editorial value of listening to work out loud, which often reveals rough spots that may not be evident in a silent read.

Process-Editing-Performance workshops move, over a longer period of time, through both processes above, with additional time given to the process of peer editing work from page to stage back to the page.

Throughout all workshops, I bear in mind the wise words of the late, great Walter Kaasa, who admonished poets, every time we step before an audience, we must prepare ourselves to embody, humbly and joyously, the thought, ‘Here I am, you Lucky People.’ We are here, after all, to serve the Gift.

About Fees: Fees are negotiable, but bear in mind policies and standards of organisations including The Writers Union of Canada   and  Canadian Actors Equity.

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