Wednesday 29 February 2012

Writing Workshops That Work For Me

I came to this creative writing business/madness quite late in the day. I never really had the confidence to put pen to paper, fingertip to keyboard until I hit thirty and had a proper good old think about want I wanted to achieve with the rest of my days. I had that image of me as a bitter old granny spitting out regret about what I could have done if I'd had the gumption. I then I realised it didn't matter if I failed, I just didn't want to be the bitter old trout that never tried in the first place.

Anyway, I digress slightly. When I started exploring the old childhood writing dream, it occurred to me on more than one occasion that I would love to complete an MA in Creative Writing. It also occurred to me on just as many occasions that I neither had the money or the time to set aside to undertake such an enormous task. I was aware I needed help and guidance but not quite sure where else to look for it.

When searching online for creative writing courses, many struck me as being a bit on the pricey side. If I had the dosh, I would be more than happy to fork our the funds for a post-graduate qualification, but $600 for a six week online beginners course with minimal contact from anybody who had the slightest inkling about what they're harping on about? *muffled cough* RIP OFF!

So, more searching required then...

At the time I was living in sunny Brisbane, Australia. After wasting a lot of time on the internet, I stumbled across a magnificent organisation right on my doorstep (or a short bus ride away). The Queensland Writers Centre helps develop and connect writers across the state. It is also the publisher of The Australian Writers' Marketplace (similar to The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook), so is therefore rather fantastic and brilliant and vital. I attended a number of courses here - they were all excellent and informative, and very importantly, from my perspective, bloody good value for money (ie. much cheaper than rip-off central mentioned above). An example of the quality of advice on offer - I attended a young adult workshop run by YA queen, Melina Marchetta. There you go.

When moving back to the UK, I searched for a similar organisation in London and found Spread The Word.  They provide workshops, networking and mentoring for writers of all levels, schools and community groups. I attended my first workshop them last week, a day focusing on first novels, run by newly-published author, the excellent Katy Darby. It was a mine of useful information and thoroughly entertaining. And, rather amazingly, it only cost me £20. And even more amazingly, it offers subsidies to those on lower incomes or benefits.

It is so wonderful to find these places that aim to provide access to expert tuition to everybody. Maybe one day I'll undertake that MA. But it's reassuring to know that support and encouragement is there, even if I don't.

Does anyone else know of any similar groups or organisations? I know there are other fantastic Australian ones in different states, but I would be interested to find other UK-based ones. Let me know might be interesting to start up a database of good-value for money writing courses out there...

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