poetry and prose about place

places for writers … writing workshops – part one

with 4 comments


St. Thomas University workshop ‘Understanding Our Stories’, facilitated by Deborah Carr, 2015


For a writer, spring is often a time for attending writing workshops. Last month I attended part three of a workshop about writing life stories. In the next couple of months, I plan to attend short courses as part of the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick’s WordSpring weekend, and a workshop about nature writing ( ).


Partly because my current fiction project ‘Crossing at a Walk’ is about a writers’ retreat, I have been thinking about the spaces where writing workshops are held. I have attended workshops at hotels with comfortable meeting rooms and lovely gardens. I have also been at workshops in huge community auditoriums and cosy private homes. One year my writing group went to a retreat at the Abbey in Rogersville in eastern New Brunswick and experienced simple dormitory surroundings in a very spiritual setting.


Some of the rooms have been so noisy or full of echoes thinking is impossible. Some spaces are quiet, meditative.  Auditoriums can be freezing cold. Workshops in summer can be stifling and hot. I remember one July week at the University of New Brunswick during the Maritime Writers’ Workshop … every writer in the poetry workshop had an electric fan. Our instructor shook her head and said, ‘Those poets, they want to carry their own space with them!’


I think the most variable aspect of space in the writers’ workshop is the ‘chair’. Some are comfortable, built to allow both body and mind to relax.  At one workshop the designer chairs were so flimsy, I spent the entire time worrying I would fall to the floor!


Although I have attended many workshops on writing, in many different spaces, I continue to benefit from these experiences and to learn more about the craft of writing.


  1. Every workshop facilitator or leader offers a unique perspective on approaches to writing. It is rare for me to leave a workshop without some new technique or method for improving my writing.
  2. Writing workshops cover a variety of themes. I am a writer of poetry and fiction, but I have received some of my most valuable training from workshops about writing screenplays and non – fiction.
  3. Learnings can be so simple, obvious even. For example, it seems I have to be reminded, over and over, to try techniques such as writing from the perspective of various characters.
  4. Workshops create an opportunity to meet other writers. Meeting old and new friends and renewing past acquaintances is a constant source of inspiration for me.
  5. The workshops I attend contribute to my own history of being a writer and demonstrate my interest in the writing community and in improving my skills as a writer. Even retired, I continue to build my resumé since publication and grant applications are an important part of my writing life.


Hot or cold, noisy or quiet, on chairs designed to break backs or to summon comfort, the workshop space itself can be a source of experience and inspiration. A lot of those chairs, cold spaces and pinging echoes have found their ways into my writing. For some reason, the places I encounter on the drive home from a workshop also make it into my poems.


Have you attended any writing workshops and has the workshop space influenced your writing for better or worse?


Copyright  2015 Jane Tims

4 Responses

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  1. I have never attended a writing workshop, but have thought about it from time to time. The nature writing workshop you linked to sounds wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person


    May 18, 2015 at 8:28 am

    • Deborah Carr is a great teacher and has a way of inspiring me to think outside my own ‘box’. Wish you were near enough to go too. Jane


      jane tims

      May 18, 2015 at 5:44 pm

  2. This has made me stop to think, to remember the workshops I’ve attended. Physical comfort is important to my ability to take in and to retain information, I’ve discovered. If I am sweating miserably or shivering with cold hands and feet, if the venue is too crowded, there isn’t much that I will take away with me except something I can read later from my notes. A space doesn’t have to be perfect but if it is totally miserable physically, I might as well just leave, I always stayed because I didn’t want to be rude, but I now know I’m better off to get up and out and look after what I need outside of the workshop.

    Liked by 1 person

    Carol Steel

    May 13, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    • Hi. You may be right. Changing spaces can work in many circumstances! Another idea is to carry some requirements for your comfortable space with you … A cushion, water, snack, hand cream, etc. Looking forward to my next workshops! Jane


      jane tims

      May 13, 2015 at 8:25 pm

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