That’s right, I guided my first English-speaking Creative Writing Workshop. The first of many to follow, hopefully.
Here is a bit of background information.
One day I was walking around at Schiedam and saw a place that didn’t look like any of the other cafes or shops surrounding it. It was in a very impressive building, with huge windows, made of old bricks and interesting decoration inside. I wanted to go inside, but it was clear it was closed. There was a website though, drawn on the glass door with white marker. So I visited the website and with my poor Dutch and the help of Google translate I found out that this place, called MET, is a cafe operated by a collective of young people, coming from different backgrounds, wishing to make Schiedam a culturally interesting place and give the talented youth of Schiedam the chance to showcase their work and vision.
Since I discovered MET, we have visited it quite a few times. Some times just to enjoy the great coffee and home-made baked goods, prepared by the volunteers. And other times to watch a concert or admire an exhibition.
The MET people love to move furniture around, creating different spaces almost every week and that constant change and openness of the space inspired me to do something in there. What would that something be, I had no idea yet. I just knew that I wanted to gather people there and embark altogether on a creative endeavor.
I gave it a bit more thought and the idea of a creative writing workshop was born. That was around December, when the first issue of Lou was out and the creative juices were flowing. So I made a draft of the workshop content and focal points and took it to MET, to discuss if they would like to host it. And they did!
Now, 3 months later, the workshop is completed, the presentation of the workshop products is done and I am extremely proud of what the participants achieved.
How was the workshop structured?
The workshop consisted of 4 sessions on Sunday mornings. The first two weeks were dedicated to helping the participants figure out what they wanted to write about, who would be their readers, what kind of story plot they were after, what kind of characters would best suit their story, what kind of language they would like to use. There was also a lot of brain storming regarding each individual story. And that is why I feel it is important to work with small groups, when it comes to creative writing (or drawing or story telling or music making…). This way the tutor/guide has enough time to pay attention to the challenges each participant faces.
The next two weeks the participants had already written the biggest part of their stories, so I could give specific feedback and enhance the strong points of each story and change the weaker parts. At this point we also decided that it would be great if the participants also made their own illustrations. Two of them drew their own pictures, another one asked a talented friend to do it for her and I did the illustrations for the fourth one.
How did you end up with finished books?
As I had already gone through the research process of the “how-to” design and print an aesthetically pleasing book locally without spending a fortune, I was able to guide the group to do the same for their creations. A book is so much more than a tangible object. Of course, it engages so many more senses than a pdf, but it is more than that. It takes us back to our own childhood, where mobile devices were just not there (and personally, the non-hip hippie that I am, I am glad).
I find that there are many valuable lessons involved, when you take your creation and turn it into an object that can be shared and even sold. In order to complete this process, you do not only need creativity, but also planing, communication and financial skills. You need to contact the printer, to give them specific instructions, to evaluate the cost-quality balance they offer you, to decide how many copies to print and what their retail price will be. Of course, I am still relatively new to all that myself, but after successfully printing and selling two little books of my own, I was glad to share the knowledge.
What about the day of the presentation?
That was my favorite part. And I was super-nervous about it, because I hate (until now, at least) organizing events, no matter how small. And I hate organizing events (until now) exactly because I am a naturally nervous person. Fine, maybe I am a control freak too. Anyway, that’s not the point.
So, despite my stress and fears, the day of the presentation was wonderful.I will start with the food.
We have agreed to bake cakes and muffins and cupcakes and have them available for purchase, to support MET a tiny bit, as they gave a us a roof for our workshop for free.
There was also an amazing cake which I believe was pistachio, ’cause it was green, but I had stuffed my face with cupcakes and Paul so I didn’t get to try it. And home-made lemonade two! I don’t know why I don’t have a pic of those and this makes me sad, but I will get over it.
We had also turned some illustrations from the books into coloring pages and it was great to see that young and old alike had fun with them.
And then of course there were the readings 🙂 R, F, S and me read our little books cover to cover. My most prolific student, A, wrote a 50-pages novel, so she just read the first chapter.
All four books are beautiful yet so different from each other. It was very inspirational for me to see the creative drive that led each of the participants to write what they wrote. Two of the participants were parents and decided to write childrens’ books. Another participant used her own childhood fears (like the fear of potty training) to get inspired and write a book to help toddlers get over their most common fears. And the fourth participant was a teenager with a deep love for writing and literature, who decided to write a story that her younger brother could enjoy, a story about the coming of age.
I am really looking forward to guiding the next creative workshop, this time in a new city, as the non-hip hippies are moving within the next couple of months. Again. 🙂