Mostly, we write alone. It’s a solitary process. But all writers, even the great ones, depend on some kind of feedback in order to develop their talents and skills. Published writers have editors, agents and other writers to advise them. Emerging writers often make use of writers’ workshops, manuscript evaluation or mentoring with established authors. By working with a professional writer, they can obtain an informed and detailed response to a specific project from someone who is an expert in all aspects of the craft. This can move the work forward dramatically and improve the attention a manuscript receives if/when it is sent to an agent or publisher.
When I began to teach fiction writing in the UK there was a still a lingering prejudice against doing so. Shakespeare and Dickens had never signed up for creative writing courses and so, the argument went, why do we need them now? Isn’t writing a matter of talent – you’ve either got it or you haven’t?
Many great writers have also never been anywhere near a creative writing course; however, all of us, whatever our natural facility, do one way or another, have to learn how to write (and we have to keep on learning, because every book is different). We learn to write by writing and rewriting and testing the results on our own ear, but also on readers – trusted friends, an agent, or editor – and then, eventually, on some kind of wider public. Of course, we learn as well from reading.
Workshops, courses and one on one mentoring relationships are all popular now. None of them are essential to becoming a writer, and they may indeed be anathema to someone who has an intensely private relationship with their work. But for many, participating in this kind of learning can be intensely stimulating and supportive. The writer still has to learn for him or herself, but the focus given by a workshop or manuscript consultation can save a writer time by bringing his or her attention to issues that might take much longer to identify when working in a vacuum. Naturally, teaching writing is a very sensitive business. It should attend not only to matters of craft and technique but also, just as much, to the process of writing itself.
The courses and workshops I offer are very much hands-on. I use writing exercises so that students learn by doing, rather than by being told what to do, and people generally go away from my workshops with new ideas as well as a deeper understanding of the writing craft.
“The course was fabulous. I didn’t really know how to approach writing my book, what key pieces I needed to think through. Now I am in a totally different place, and ready to sit down and start writing. I found all of the weekly exercises very useful, as well as the order in which the exercises were given. Each one oriented me to key pieces of writing my book. I really appreciated your direction each week on what kind of feedback to provide to my group members. Your input was very directed and specific, and I felt either confirmed my instincts or provided me with a very effective lens from which to view my book.” – Karen Clark, BC.
I have twenty years’ of experience teaching fiction writing in workshop and academic settings, along with experience as a publisher’s reader in the UK, and as a fiction editor in Canada, and an MA in Creative writing. Two recent novels, Alphabet and The Story of My Face, were listed for major literary awards. I’m happy to tailor workshops to suit particular needs or topic. Depending on my other commitments, I can also offer offer manuscript consultancy, or mentoring: honest, practical and sensitive feedback on fiction or creative non-fiction manuscripts and project ideas, along with more general advice about writing and the writing life.
“Kathy never fails to understand exactly what I’m trying to do with my writing. She manages to explain in a clear and informative way exactly why and how it isn’t working (and also when it is) which leaves me armed and motivated to continue after every feedback session. Kathy critiques in such an open and positive way that I feel I’m working with an ally on my novel as opposed to a less personal tutor. I love being able to talk about my characters with somebody who knows them as well as I do. Top this with great value for money; I can’t imagine how I could have a better mentoring relationship than this.” Jackie Buxton, UK.