Nest & Story's writing workshops in Toronto are based on the Amherst Writers and Artists method. Unlike most writing workshops, the writing is done together as a group instead of at home. And when you read that brand-shiny-new work aloud, the feedback you'll receive from both the facilitator and the other participants will be positive -- no criticism or questions allowed.
This tried, tested and true method was created by Pat Schneider, author of Writing Alone and With Others (Oxford University Press, 2003). It's designed to help you turn off the nagging editor in your head to help you access the depths of your creativity.
What?! What's a writing workshop without all the critiquing and red pen?
The reason we don't critique this work is because it's fresh. The writer -- that's you -- hasn't had a chance to polish it yet. At that moment, heavy-handed critiquing isn't needed. The most helpful feedback the facilitator and other participants can give is the answer to the question: What stays with you?
What if I don't want to read my stuff out loud?
Totally fine -- you never have to read anything if you don't want to. But we hope you will! Reading out loud not only helps you see strengths in your own work you may have missed, but it also helps the whole group become better listeners and writers.
So what do we write about?
You can write whatever your heart desires: a song, a poem, a grocery list. In each workshop, the facilitator will bring a number of prompts to get your pen moving. These could take the form of photographs, old postcards, random objects, lines from poetry, even audio tracks. These prompts are designed to spark your imagination, but you're welcome to ignore them completely. We're not grading you on obedience. (Actually, we're not grading you at all!)
I want to write about some tough topics. Is that okay?
Whatever you want to write about and share is completely up to you. One of the rules of AWA workshops is that we treat everything as fiction, even if you're using an "I" narrator. So no matter what you write, nobody's going to assume that it's autobiographical and they're not going to ask you about it later. This is part of what makes our workshops a safe space to help all of us go deeper in our writing.
So are these workshops just for famous novelists or what?
If the thought of scribbling away with a small group of like-minded people sounds like fun, then these workshops are for you. If you've written a bestselling novel -- great! If not, we still want to hang out with you. We promise.
We believe that:
- Everyone has a strong, unique voice.
- Everyone is born with creative genius.
- Writing as an art form belongs to all people, regardless of economic class or educational level.
- The teaching of craft can be done without damage to a writer's original voice or artistic self-esteem.
- A writer is someone who writes.
These are the five essential affirmations of the AWA method.
But the facilitator is totally a famous, bestselling, Nobel prize-winning author, right?
She wishes. In fact, she's just another scribbler bumbling through life like the rest of us. We're all on this journey together, and that means she writes along with the group and reads out loud, too.
Jaclyn Desforges is a writer, editor and writing workshop facilitator whose work has appeared in Today's Parent, Chatelaine, Homemakers, Fresh Juice, Mind Body Green and other publications. She studied Fine Arts Cultural Studies at York University with a focus on community arts practice, followed by Centennial College's post-graduate journalism program. In 2015, she completed the Amherst Writers & Artists Method leadership training program and began facilitating writing workshops through her business, Nest & Story. She also became a member of the Toronto Writers Collective and facilitated a weekly workshop at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre. In the fall of 2017, she'll begin her MFA in creative writing at the University of British Columbia. She lives in Toronto with her husband and toddler.