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How to Run Creative Writing Workshops

From a one-day author event to a month-long residency, here’s how to run creative writing workshops and offer a variety of writing experiences to students.

Creative Writing Workshops For Students

For many students, college is a time for discovery and exploration. It’s a period when they can experiment with courses and university life, and perhaps even find their calling. For aspiring writers especially, who might not have had the opportunity to be encouraged by experienced writers or to talk about writing with professional writers, a creative writing workshop can be an invaluable opportunity to develop their skills and be inspired by various literature courses.

Whether you’re an English or a creative writing teacher, you can set up some one-off or recurring workshops for your students to attend. These can be anything from a one-day author event to a month-long residency where the students live and work on their creative writing, or an intermediate option where they spend a term in a writers’ residence. You can choose to focus on specific genres such as poetry or fiction, or even allow students to explore other topics such as non-fiction, or academic writing. You can run creative writing workshops in a variety of ways, so long as you ensure that all aspects of creative writing are covered and that students have the opportunity to develop their skills. Here are some ideas to help you:

1. One-day Author Event

One of the simplest ways to run a creative writing workshop is to schedule a one-day author event. For many students, this will be their first experience of attending a literary festival or an event hosted by a university. Many will be looking forward to this event, as well as spending some time with authors they admire. For you, this is an opportunity to promote your work, meet new writers, and develop relationships with students and other creative writers. You can choose a date in late October or early November, when the schools are transitioning into winter vacation, but it’s not too early to start thinking about next year’s event.

2. Residency

A residency is when a group of students live and work in close proximity to a professional writer. During the residency, the students work on their creative writing and get feedback from the writer or writers. A number of universities offer a residency program, which might be a good option for you. During the residency, you can set up competitions, readings and discussions, and help the students to develop their skills. You might choose to host a literature festival during the last week of the residency, to cap it off on a high note.

3. Intermediate Option

An intermediate option, which I would recommend, is where students spend a term in a writers’ residence. During this time, you can help them to develop their skills, set up discussions and workshops, and show them the ropes. When they return to campus in the second half of the term, the students will already be carrying out their responsibilities as writers, lecturers, and organizers, and will have lots of experience to share with their colleagues.

4. Short-term Respite

If you’re doing this on a tight budget, you can look into establishing a short-term respite for students. This could be a room in your house that you rent out to a sympathetic university or community organization. The room will need to have everything students need for a creative writing workshop, including a desk, chair, and access to Internet. You can equip the room with all the necessary amenities, such as a kitchenette, so that students can cook their lunch, and even allow them to use your phone to make calls. You might want to consider the intermediate option for this, as it allows you to spend some time with the students and get to know them better.

Whether you choose a one-day author event or an intermediate option, the most important thing to consider is the value that you place on the experience. For some students, this might be their only opportunity to listen to spoken word artists or read the works of their favorite authors. When considering the value, don’t just look at the cost of the individual activities; include any potential savings that you might make, due to the experience that the students gain.

To help students develop their skills and gain invaluable experience, many universities, literary festivals, and community organizations offer writing workshops, residencies, and other creative writing opportunities. If your institution doesn’t offer these opportunities, consider starting a creative writing club or group. By doing this, you allow students to explore different genres and develop their skills.