Category Archives: Writing groups

Only Child on preparing a memoir writing course

Only Child with some of the books for her Crafting a Memoir Writing Course

I decided to expand my mini-workshop on Crafting a Personal Memoir. I’ve been teaching this one (and still am) for a year at branches of the Toronto Public Library. Many participants wanted something more and longer, so I’m doing it on my own, through my East End Writers’ Group (a writing critique group which also runs workshops) as an experiment. So for those who have signed up – I guess you are “guinea pigs.” So am I.

I’m running it from my home. I’ve done this before for day-long workshops and used my large rec room for the location. However, with six sessions, two in the evenings and in October, there is the temperature of the rec room to consider. True, I have a radiator and a heater down there and have used them before. And the lighting is fine. But I’m playing it by ear. We will probably be at my kitchen table for the two evening sessions but I’m hoping to put the two double sessions on two Saturdays in the rec room. For the Saturday sessions I ask participants to bring a lunch (they can put it in my fridge, use my micro wave) or they can go up the street to the local chicken take-out or Pizza Pizza. Heck for the last Saturday, I might be generous and order in a pizza (if we all eat pizza and it will have to be gluten-free thanks to my allergy).

The advantages: cheaper to run so I don’t have to bump up the fee. I’m also offering a fee reduction for those who sign up by Sept. 28 and so far it is working.

And I didn’t put all sessions on three consecutive Saturdays because I figured who would be able to make all three? Turns out I might be the only one who can’t because of a high school reunion on the middle Saturday. A few participants have to miss evening sessions or part of evening sessions so they get their session outline and handouts ahead of time. And in the last session we do a review as well as having extra writing time, so some catch-up can be done then.

I’ve had to do the prep work for the actual course – in between all my editing work (I’m a freelance book editor) plus all the house stuff (see my previous posts). Here’s how I did it.

I expanded the content from the mini-library workshops – basically what I taught there made up parts of Session One and Two. Then I did a brief summary of what I wanted to cover in each session, considering lecture, discussion, exercises, writing time and handouts – an outline and extra-related material. Most are available electronically but all will be in hard copy. From the outline I expanded what to cover. And I use published memoirs as well as my memoir You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons which is now in the “pitch to literary agents” stage (more on that in future blogs). We can all learn from what others have already done as well as our own mistakes/wrong turns (one of mine deals with family flak, another blog posting from last year).

So, I’m looking forward to doing this. And anyone in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area, who is interested can post a comment and I’ll send you the course outline – it is less than a page but here’s the shorter blurb I post online.

The East End Writers’ Group presents…

Like Your Family Before You – Crafting a Personal Memoir – the course.

Always wanted to write your story – how you overcame an addiction, growing up in a large (or small) family, your mom and dad’s life story, a unique travel experience, sailing solo around the word? Whatever your life experience, if you want to write a memoir about it, writing instructor and Canadian Authors Association Toronto branch Writer in Residence  Sharon Crawford will show you how. This six-session course is expanded from Sharon’s introductory Crafting a Personal Memoir workshop taught at several Toronto Public Library branches and will include: getting started on your memoir; doing research and how to use it in your memoir; writing a killer beginning to hook your readers; writing your story so it reads like fiction but remains your truth (characters and dialogue, point of view, creating scenes and character); naming names and dealing with family flak. Each session will consist of instruction, discussions, and some hands-on writing including exercises connected to each session’s topic as well as in-class time to work on your memoir. Some critique of participants’ memoir excerpts will be given. E-mail contact with course-related questions is welcome between sessions.

It starts this Saturday, Oct. 1, with evening sessions Tuesday, Oct. 4, Wednesday, Oct. 19 and then the final two sessions, Saturday Oct. 22.

Who knows? Maybe next year I’ll expand to Webinars.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under East End Writers' Group, Memoir writing, Memoir writing course, Only child, Only child memoir, Research memoir writing, Sharon Crawford, Writing courses Toronto, Writing groups, Writing workshops

Only child sees helping others come full circle

East End Writers' Group 10th anniversary readers. Teresa Petrie photo.

They (whoever “they” are) say that if you get off your rear end and help another person it will all come back to you. I saw that happen last Wednesday evening when my writers’ critique group, the East End Writers’ Group, celebrated its 10th anniversary. Group members came out of their personal writing zone to help me put it all together by brainstorming what the heck we were going to do, designing the PR flyer and distributing it, suggesting a pub to go to afterwards, bringing refreshments to the celebration, helping me set up at the venue, introducing me to read (after I introduced the other readers),  and driving me and all my stuff to and from the celebration (One member even showed up at my house without asking to take me, but I already had someone on her way). We caught up with her in the library-venue parking lot and the three of us marched in with all our stuff to find another person already there who had set up the chairs.

But the highlight for me was seeing and hearing some of the group reading their creations on the library auditorium stage. Some were new writers, recently published, some since they joined the group and benefited from the constructive criticism. Readings included a travel piece, an inward look at visiting India, a humorous but positive look at the neighbours, a novella excerpt, an essay on life expectations, an historical  novel excerpt, an op/ed piece on looking out for your children, and perhaps the most unique – an interview with a novelist’s main character about his situation. Some readings brought tears, some anger, and some laughter. Afterwards, eight of us walked or drove to a nearby pub and stuffed ourselves with food, drink, writing wisdom and stories. One writer even mentioned that the first story he wrote for his now published collection of short stories came from a freefall writing exercise at one of the monthly gatherings at my house. The incentive: a small straw witch which I had held up for everyone to write about for 10 minutes. It might be significant that this witch dangles front and centre in my Halloween decorations on my veranda railing.

The whole experience  has made me think that sometimes by doing something that you need you actually are helping others. I started this writers’ critique group because when I moved back to Toronto I couldn’t find one near me. Over the past 10 years I’ve learned as much as I’ve given – not just about writing, but about helping others. You don’t have to do something big like organize a walkathon or charity gala – just the little things can help. And choosing something your are interested in can motivate you.

I am also realizing that for me the helping could have started with my late Mom. One of her sisters had seven kids and her first husband died when the youngest was a baby. Until this aunt remarried, Mom regularly mailed them clothes that no longer fit me (and I suspect some new ones she bought). And this family of cousins and an aunt also received plenty of neighbourly help on their farm.

Does it all go back to family environment? Something you pick up as you go along in life? I think it’s a little of both. What do you think?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

1 Comment

Filed under Consideration, Family, Gratitude, Karma, Life learning, Literary Readings, Only child, Uncategorized, Writing critique groups, Writing groups

Networking at writers’ groups

Canadian Authors Association Toronto members gathering

Despite the online connections for writers, sometimes the face-to-face can be better. Or why would writers still join writers critique groups and professional organizations? True, most of them have online communities but they also meet in person. As a writer who belongs to perhaps too many writing organizations (Canadian Authors Association, Professional Writers Association of Canada, Crime Writers of Canada and my own writing critique group, East End Writers’ Group), I think I have somewhat of an insight on this.

When I meet and talk with other writers at a Canadian Authors Association meeting, not only can I put a face to a name, but I feel a closer connection. The person is flesh and blood with all the individual quirks – a toothy smile, a shy disposition, and yes, even someone who bombards you with writing questions. And here is the core – the personal exchange of writing information – style, writing methods, marketing, etc. – and the opportunity to connect on a deeper level than online. I’ve connected with publishers and agents  this way (yes, I know there’s Twitter, but you are limited to number of characters and the agent or publisher can’t see your passion and neither of you can get a deep impression of each other). In person, you get a chance to really talk to the agent or publisher about your book. It doesn’t guarantee the agent will take you on or the publisher will sign a book contract on the spot. But it provides you with that connection you can use in your query letter. I talked to an agent at a couple of writing workshops (one with the CAA and one with my EEWG) – the result was a fast-track to get my query and days afterwards, my memoir in for scrutiny. Although she read it sooner than unsolicited manuscripts, she did reject it but not as bad – she said my voice was really good and original but the memoir was too long. She suggested dividing it into two books, which I’m now doing.

The bottom line is – besides the personal connection, you get quicker response and if not a contract, some useful information instead of the form rejection letter.

It’s not just connecting with agents or publishers at these gatherings, but other writers can be helpful, too. If they already have an agent and/or a book or books published, they can give you advice based on their experience. For example, one published novelist I know fired his agent when his second book was published. The questions here could be: did he dislike what his agent was doing or not doing? Did he think now that he had a publisher he didn’t need an agent? And a well-published author might be willing to read all or part of your manuscript for criticism and possibly pass a good word along to their agent. You never know, especially if you just sit in front of your laptop and don’t get out there beyond your local coffee shop.

Next week I’ll write about how an in-person writing critique group can help writers.

Cheers.

Sharon

onlychildwrites

Leave a comment

Filed under Memoir writing, Networking, Only child, Writing groups