Whether it’s creating an illusion of busyness, humanising author idols as they fumble with Zoom settings, or having somewhere to showcase your artfully tendrilled Devil’s Ivy, often the benefits of online writing workshops go beyond craft. Sometimes, they are a vital source of procrastination. Human, feline, and virtual human-feline connection. A forum with like-minded wannabes in which to lament the price and accessibility of ‘real’ degrees.
Whatever your motives and wherever you’re at on your journey, we’re guessing you’ve got a backlist of niggling-to-all-consuming doubts that are yet to be covered by the traditional ‘plot’ and ‘character’ themed workshops. Many of you would benefit from individual mentoring, not to mention a faster computer and more hours in the week. Perhaps, you just need a hug. We can’t give you those things. But this new suite of online courses, webinars, and share sessions is guaranteed to assuage your deepest, most unspoken writerly anxieties – from the grammatical to the existential – while also giving rise to new ones!
The Writing Workshop Workshop. Know your needs. Nail that time difference. Choose what’s best for you AND your craft. (5-part introductory series)
- Asynchronous vs synchronous. What does this mean, and can I afford the latter?
- Reading for pre-reading. Identify likely rabbit holes, wormholes, potential multiverses, then calculate the jump.
- Honest to goodness. Do you really need another hybrid-flash/prose-poetry generative session, or do you just have a crush on the facilitator?
- Who’s teaching it anyway? Estimate ‘award-winning author’ credibility. (CW: some maths involved)
- ‘meta’, ‘liminality’, and ‘popcorn as a verb’. Brace yourself for the Gen Z literati.
How to join the beginning bit to the end bit. Because a story is more than just the awesome scene you thought of in the yoghurt aisle + the burnt toast epiphany. It possibly needs a middle. (Webinar)
Delusions of grandeur: An exercise in humility. How to lower your expectations and deal with rejection, while mustering enough belief in yourself to pull off this stunt. (Ongoing, Sunday mornings, 7am)
Is my fiction truly shite? Forget ‘moments of heat’, can anyone tell what’s happening? (30-minute Zoom workshop, 15 people max)
Post-pitch, pre-response: Do I risk my time and just write the damn thing? Get the most out of those two hours per week. (12 hrs, self-paced)
Grammar and punctuation 1.01 (3 sessions, asynchronous)
- Writer versus editor. Who’s right about the comma, and is it worth it?
- Alternatives to em dashes.
- Faux pas or faux pas? The italicisation debate.
How to cut the self-indulgent crap. (3 sessions, blended)
- Abolishing angst. (Self-paced)
- Exorcising the ego. (One-to-one with private tutor)
- Am I oversharing? (Group session)
Finance for writers. (8-part series, payment plans available on request)
- ‘Lance Bombardier’ or ‘Wing Commander’? Choosing your (gendered) title on the ABN website.
- Short-term investment: Defend your right to the double espresso.
- Medium-term investment: On finding an affordable (cheap) writing master/freelance editor/Gandalf figure in your life, when deep down, you know that in order for the industry to survive, the time, expertise, and patience (so much patience!) of its professionals must be duly (even generously!) remunerated.
- What to do about the mediocre, mostly empty website you’ve been paying for that nobody visits. Seriously, what to do about it?
- Gambling Basics of Competitions & Grants: Sort the rigged from the red herrings, and hold on to your hope.
- Long-term investment I: Why real books are a justified expense.
- Long-term investment II: Why family, housing, and timely dental care are (potentially even more) important (than books).
- Long-term investment III: In which we discuss the true value of ‘experience’, and when you can stop accumulating it.
Pre-thinking CNF and memoir. Is your piece likely to get you trolled? Cancelled? Require a disproportionate amount of research? Trigger a breakdown? Is it really just an excuse to call old friends? Take up a new hobby? Indulge a fleeting interest in cephalopods/psychedelics/cottagecore kink? Does your essay mostly consist of personal framing that no one is interested in except your parents and/or that random colleague you should never have mentioned your writing to, all of whom will inevitably be uncomfortable with your candour, or take some irrelevant detail as a personal affront, in which case, are you going to be able to hack/handle/diffuse their outrage/disappointment? How long will the piece take to draft? Is someone faster, better qualified, and better connected than you likely to have already published on the same topic before your ‘research’ is even close to finished? Have they already? Are any of these legitimate reasons to write/not write about your topic? Importantly, are you just avoiding another project? (See also: Writing Monogamy) (Full day workshop + overnight reflection period)
Since when is a plastic glass not a cup? Engage the lazy reader, while remaining respectfully obtuse in your poetry. (1 hour, Google Teams)
I DO YOU, YOU DO ME. On reading writer friends. For ‘emerging’ wordsmiths, it’s perfectly natural (and often fun) to experiment with peers (or whoever is game, really). However, not everybody develops at the same pace, has the same tastes, or even becomes literarily active at the same age. Consequently, the pressure to not just share one’s own work, but to be a generous reader of others’, can be a source of unnecessary anxiety. Apart from being hugely time consuming, it can also lead to burnout and/or increased risk of STIs (syntactically transmitted insecurities). Seeing each other’s raw, naked, early drafts will change the nature of your relationship forever. So before starting a writing group, finding a ‘buddy’, or DM-ing that librarian your manuscript, here are some of the conversations you might want to be having. (5-part series, Google Hangouts)
- First steps. Calibrating reader interest, role (active, passive, etc.), and availability (in the absence of an established flagging system).
- Is my Beta an Alpha? Managing disparity in the feedback exchange.
- The Right to Refuse. Abstinence, consent, and the perils of paying it forward.
- Make it hurt, please! Asking your sensitivity reader to be less sensitive (with you).
- T minus 5 or G&T? When Pomodoro Technique turns Bloody Mary. Time management, drinks budgeting, and establishing boundaries in your ‘meetings’.
Writing Monogamy. Struggling to commit to a single piece? A single genre? A single page? This webinar series is designed to curb temptation and promote a respectful, committed relationship with your WIP. (5 parts)
- Recognising the One.
- How to stop fantasising about Other Projects.
- Honesty and concessions.
- Making time for each other.
- Keeping it spicy in Act Three.
Writing Relationships. Tips for managing the expectations, interest, disinterest, and irl demands of family and friends. (Support group, Wednesday evenings, platform TBD)
- Excusing unavailability. Because writing isn’t the only bit that requires creativity.
- Thickening the veil. Disguising real characters and (auto)biographical moments.
- Family planning. On deciding whether to have kids when you are too financially unstable/gay/burnt-out to adopt/gestate/be further sleep-deprived, and suspect that paid parental leave and the prospect of having someone to wipe your broke arse if you ever do make it to old age are not the most wholesome reasons for bringing another carbon-producing consumer into this blighted world, and that you probably wouldn’t get much (or any) writing done in the vicinity of a bawling critter anyway. (Prior consultation with medical professional recommended)
- Polyamory: why you don’t have time for it.
- Keeping Face. What to do when your family reads your work (Group A). What to do when your family doesn’t read your work (Group B).
- Denying Denial. Fuck what they say, at this tell-all, writer only event.
- Creative Companions. Which breed is best for you?
The Scheherazade Charade: Image counselling. How (not) to present as a more enigmatic storyteller. (Individual sessions, à la carte)
- Look on the bright side, because you can. Why it’s ok for writers to have 20/20 vision.
- “It’s a long story”, “Let me just write it down for you”, “No, I’m not the Cabin Cookbook author from Ohio”. Make peace with your poorly chosen pen name.
- Putting Out the Pipe Dream. How to quit smoking (virtually). Because your yet-to-be-podcasted voice will be better off without it.
- It’s not what you ink. Asynchronous slide show, followed by chaired discussion on why tattoos are irrelevant to your craft.
Twitter Detox: Reclaim Freedom. (SYNCHRONOUS & strictly supervised)
- How to: Not engage.
- How to: Not take other people’s non-engagement with your exquisitely crafted 280-character microfiction personally.
- How to: Take artsy book cover & coffee photos in less than twenty minutes (you can’t).
- Two-cent nonsense, or ‘poem potential’? Save yourself time, embarrassment, and salvage your best ideas from the muck, using a simple, pre-tweet checklist.
- Je suis stalker. Admit it.
- #followfridays, #writerslift, #amwriting. On recognising counter-productive hashtags.
- DELETING THE APP. Flash workshop, followed by morning tea/resistance training.
Grammar and punctuation 1.02: Breaking the rules. (3 sessions)
- Helen Garner titled an essay “i”, so u can B i 2.
- Because enjambment
- Is my sentence a sentence? (And does it need to be???)
Handling Bitterness. Presented by nobody’s favourite mid-career authors, these webinars are designed to equip the emotionally vulnerable emerging writer with mood-managing strategies for a range of typically upsetting scenarios. (For optimal results, this series should be complemented with “Delusions of grandeur: An exercise in humility”, and an increased dose of the participant’s chosen sleep aid.)
- Recognition & Acceptance (1). Many ‘successful’ writers (who’ve published multiple books) still have day jobs, and this is very sad & telling about the industry.
- Recognition & Acceptance (2). As well as being infinitely smarter and harder working, many of these same writers/superhumans are also full-time carers, have far more serious/stressful other careers and far less time/support/opportunities (privilege) than you. Which you need to just deal with – quietly.
- Recognition & Acceptance (3). On the flip side, there are those who have published only one or maybe no books, yet are somehow writing professors and/or competition judges, and have probably benefited from a series of (un/deserved?) grants and residencies which may/may not partially explain their Extreme Talent, or lack of it. You will never know.
- Courtesy in the workplace. It is not your employers/colleagues/students’ fault that they are keeping you from Bigger Things.
- What to do when: you find out your writing idol is younger than you.
- What to do when: someone in your writing group wins a competition, a grant, an agent.
- What to do when: siblings with smartly chosen (bullshit) jobs get another pay rise.
- Money for jam. Tips for making the most of your spite.
Beyond Babel: On coexisting with Infinity. You used to love reading, until you started writing. Which made you love reading even more… until the habit became pathological. A debilitating source of anxiety and despair at the sheer volume & skill & interconnectedness of the literary world that is, frankly, quite stressful and intimidating. Now, you jump to the acknowledgements page first, scouring for clues, references, further torment. If the book is any good (which it usually is, because you are VERY selective), it will end up dog-eared and asterisked with an impossible number of quotable quotes to revisit and remember (which you can’t, so you’ve started using a spreadsheet, crossing yet another line). How is this author so clever? So eloquent? Even cleverer and more eloquent than the last? Then, when you think you’re done with the book, you stumble across a review, analysing second, third, onion layers of meaning you hadn’t noticed – all parallels with other works you did not know of – written by another writer whose book you now have to read too. It is endless! The journals keep publishing podcasts and poetry, the newspapers, reviews, and everyone on Twitter reads two novels a week, not even counting the essays. The essays! With their hyperlinks! How are you ever supposed to work on your own material, when your tabs and dog ears are competing for attention in this race that NOBODY CAN WIN?!!
If this sounds like you, our support group might be the solution. Run by a committed team of independent booksellers, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of speed-reading, coping strategies for bibliomania, shutdown procedures for the overloaded browser, and viable TBR management systems that are not Goodreads. (Saturdays, 11am – lunch)
TOAST: The Art of Survival. Keep your family and neighbours safe with these simple, subsistence recipes for times of peak in-the-zone-ness. (Mon-Fri, 8-9pm)
All times GMT + hours of your choice
Jean Velasco is a writer, EFL teacher, and translator from Naarm/Melbourne. Her work has appeared in Kill Your Darlings, Overland, Going Down Swinging, Rabbit Poetry, and in the Black Inc. anthology, Growing Up Queer in Australia. She lives in Madrid, and can be found online @jean_sprout.