Writers’ Weekend, Brewery Lane Theatre: creative writing course in Carrick-on-Suir
Every year, during the first weekend following Easter, Margaret O’Brien of The Story House hosts an intensive Writers’ Weekend in the quirky and convivial surroundings of Brewery Lane Theatre, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary.
Creative writing course: our approach
This year, I had the great pleasure of co-tutoring the 2017 Writers’ Weekend with my friend and fellow author, Lia Mills. Billed as Ireland’s ‘most intimate’ weekend for aspiring writers, it more than lived up to its promise.
With a maximum of 12 participants, the weekend provided plenty of opportunities to focus on writing during the morning workshops. Individual creative work took place in the afternoons, and social activities drew us all together in the evenings.
The weekend’s sessions were hard work: but then, writing is hard work. The fact that it is sometimes accompanied by a great sense of joy and achievement does not alter the reality that every poem, every essay, every novel is written one word at a time: every one of which has to be rewritten on several occasions. It has to be the right word, in the right order, so that it can earn its keep.
At Brewery Lane last weekend, we discussed many aspects of the process and the craft of writing. Participants engaged wholeheartedly in the workshops, and our one-to-one tutorials in the Tudor Artisan Hub in the afternoons added a valuable dimension to the experience for all of us.
The Hub is a lovely space, and Linda Fahy is more than welcoming. The crafts and the artwork on display are reason enough on their own to make a return visit to Carrick-on-Suir.
When we started the first morning’s teaching session, we discovered right away that our participants were enthusiastic, sensitive and willing to leave themselves open to the surprises that often accompany the creative process. Here are some of their comments about the weekend’s workshops:
‘Excellent, practical, pleased with exercises…’
‘Insightful, well-paced, encouraging. Honest…’
‘I learned so much. Workshops were well-thought out, planned and delivered…’
‘Very practical. The nature and use of scenes was a revelation…’
‘Superb! Excellent! I loved the pacing and the manner of sharing the delivery of information between you…’
On Sunday, when the workshops ended, we held a reading where each participant shared some of their writing with the rest of the group. This takes courage. It also engenders it: standing up for the first time to read your work aloud is an important part of the writing process – and the first time is the hardest.
Lia Mills on the creative writing course
A workshop is where writers come together to focus on the craft of writing.
The quality of that focus will depend largely on the dynamic that develops among the group – facilitators as well as students.
During our time together we reflect, discuss and argue about the more mysterious aspects of what we do but, as the name suggests, this is a largely practical exercise.
We learn primarily through reading and through developing and practising a vocabulary that articulates basic principles, so that we can go back to our desks refreshed and motivated and put those principles into practice.
One of the joys of a good workshop, hard to quantify, is the exhilaration of discovering that such a language exists, that we can speak it, that there are other people who are willing and eager to speak it with us. It’s like discovering that we have a tribe; it’s a kind of homecoming.
We were lucky, during this Brewery Lane Writers Weekend.
The group that came together for these three days was open to the adventure, receptive to ideas and willing to take risks. These are essential elements of any good workshop – what you get is in direct proportion to what you bring. What you bring is entirely up to you.
The next one: a creative writing course with an Italian twist
Lia and I will work together again this summer, in just a few months’ time. We have devised a Creative Writing course specifically to meet the needs of aspiring writers from Italy.
There were other opportunities to read in public: specifically on the Friday night, where an Open Mic evening was held.
The room where we held the workshops during the day had been magically transformed into something akin to a jazz club: small, intimate tables, low lighting, and a full house, eager to read aloud or to listen to the words of others.
Ann and Angelina, two of the volunteer management committee of Brewery Lane Theatre, are to be complimented on looking after such a lovely community space – and on providing a wonderful lunch each day.
People are still talking about Heather’s fresh-from-the-oven cake!
There are conflicting opinions on the value of ‘teaching’ creative writing. Some maintain that it cannot be done: that writing is produced by talent alone. That we cannot possibly teach someone to write: that creative workshops promise something that they cannot deliver.
I believe that writers have a particular way of looking at the world: they have an imaginative spark that may well be innate. But it is often precisely those individuals who are drawn to learn more about the creative process and the nature of the craft of writing.
It is these hungry, motivated individuals who benefit most by attending appropriately-structured workshops facilitated by writers who have a wealth of experience – both creative and practical.
And writers who are also willing to share with others their knowledge of what is, essentially, the mysterious process of creating a story that lives on the page.