poetry and prose about place

writing a novel – results of a weekend workshop

with 8 comments

This weekend, I participated in a weekend writing workshop organised by the University of New Brunswick’s College of Extended Learning as part of the Maritime Writers’ Workshop.  I worked with 11 other writers, the workshop coordinator, and the group leader.  We read one another’s work, making suggestions for revisions and generally learning about editing both prose and poetry.  As I looked around our work table, there were water glasses, pens and pencils, i-pads and laptops, piles of paper, and notebooks for writing.  I loved the beautiful journals some of the writers were using to record their thoughts.

beautiful notebooks

beautiful notebooks

Our leader was Joan Clark.  Joan has published several novels and she read to us from her published work.  I especially appreciated her reading from some of her work-in-progress.  Her book The Victory of Geraldine Gull (1988) was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award and the Books in Canada First Novel Award.  She has also written Swimming Towards the Light (1990) and Latitudes of Melt (2000), among others.

For my own work, I had some very encouraging comments.  I think I most appreciated a comment from Roger Moore, a well-known poet and educator in Fredericton.  He told me about the work of Wolfgang Kayser – his writing puts novels in three types:  ‘action’, ‘character’ and ‘place’.   Roger thinks the focus of my novel is ‘place’.  He also said the creation of place was central to my story and, in the excerpt he read, I was doing this well.  Since I consider all my work to be about place (hence the focus of my Blog), I was very happy about his comment.

writing about place

writing about place

Another writer told me that the story I was telling in my book seemed an allegory for the shifting loyalties of community.  Since I set out to write a book where the community is like a character in its complexity, I was very encouraged by this observation.

glimpses into the character of a community

glimpses into the character of a community

Another well-know New Brunswick writer pointed out to me that while I write excellent, detailed descriptions of the out-of-doors, I tend to neglect other  descriptions …. I appreciate that I need to provide some balance by providing more detailed descriptions of inside spaces and action.

Another knowledgeable writer at the workshop talked to me about the decision-making process toward a church’s deconsecration.  These are details I will have to get right since I want to build credibility with my readers.

A couple of editorial comments stood out for me.  I wish there was a ‘checker’ in the computer for locating words that are repeated in proximity to one another (for example, when I use the phrase ‘across the field’ in two adjacent lines).  Also, in some cases, I should use shorter sentences to increase tension.


Overall, the weekend was hard work, but also a lot of fun.  I now have material to use toward the fourth draft of my novel.  Also, looking at the work of other writers shows me what to look for when editing my own writing.


Over the next couple of days, I’ll make some new revisions.  Afterwards, I’ll put my manuscript away for three weeks.  Then, on March 4, I’ll take a fresh look at my draft and see where I think the story-line and writing need more work.


I would recommend a similar workshop for anyone in the midst of writing a novel, especially if you want to see your own work from other points of view.

Have you ever attended a writers’ workshop and what was your experience?


Copyright  Jane Tims  2013

Written by jane tims

February 11, 2013 at 7:14 am

8 Responses

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  1. Hi Jane,
    Just to let you know that I paid the workshop entry fee THREE times… and they still wouldn’t let me in!
    Look into it for me, would you?
    Bet you missed me being there.
    C’mon! Tell the truth, now.



    February 12, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    • Hi Neil. They said there were seven people on the waiting list and they are going to do another workshop in April. So you may get there yet. Jane


      jane tims

      February 13, 2013 at 2:44 pm

  2. Sounds like a wonderful week-end and that you got lots of useful suggestions. I also like your comment that you plan to put the manuscript away for three weeks. That’s a really good idea–and something that I probably should try to do.



    February 11, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    • Hi Sheryl. Stephen King suggests putting the manuscript away … it will give me a break to do other things and let me view it from a new perspective when I read it again. Jane


      jane tims

      February 12, 2013 at 2:26 pm

  3. Hi Jane. Excellent piece.. Do have one question. Was it Roger Moore or Robert Moore? I have a poetry book from Robert Moore who is a professor at UNB. My son Lee studied under him and gave me the book as a Christmas gift one year.



    February 11, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    • Hi. Roger Moore was the one at the workshop. Roger is a Professor Emeritus at Saint Thomas University. That’s interesting that there are two poets in New Brunswick with almost the same name. Jane


      jane tims

      February 11, 2013 at 5:47 pm

  4. Sounds like a very successful weekend. I also enjoy beautiful notebooks.


    Northern Narratives

    February 11, 2013 at 11:58 am

    • Hi. From the work presented during the weekend, there were also some beautiful pieces of writing put into those notebooks!! Jane


      jane tims

      February 11, 2013 at 12:17 pm

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