Craft Matters

I’ve held two workshop series (four weeks each) since the start of the year and I’m now planning the third (to begin later this month).

April 2018

I recently wrote this reflection on the last series.

The purpose is to jump start writing, enhance understanding of craft, get projects started, move projects forward, expand awareness of creative writing, yours and others, and to just write. I’ve tried to keep the price reasonable with several payment options, focused themes so that it doesn’t feel rushed and scattered, and avenues to participation for people resident in Antigua and Barbuda and elsewhere.

I’m hoping to keep this going all year long as long as there is even one person who’s interested. It gives me the opportunity to engage with the written word and, hopefully, also give writers or writers in the making or anyone who’s just looking for a creative outlet, even students looking to improve their understanding of literature or ability to express themselves, the opportunity to improve confidence and competence with the written word. The focus is on the creative (fiction, specifically) and on craft, each series focusing on a particular aspect (setting 1, plot 1 in the first two series; the third, by request, likely focusing on character – which is my favourite in to a story as a writer; so I look forward to it). A workshop on character should prove useful for those trying to write compelling characters or understand how characterization works. My approach is a mix of presentation, interaction, creation of your own, and examination of the works of others.

As I write this, I’m reminded of a running debate on whether craft matters – this or that critic might question its quality but if people like it, isn’t that what really matters? For my part, I won’t deny that reader engagement matters but I prefer to engage the reader with good writing (it’s why I’ve taken writing courses and workshops over the years). But isn’t ‘good writing’ subjective? What is ‘good writing’ meant to do if not engage? Job done.

I’m not the final word on any of this, but as creatives we want to grow and move, right? In my opinion – while like or dislike for something is subjective (with a few exceptions because some things are just objectively bad and some things are good whether or not they’re personally to your or my taste as a reader, listener, or viewer), there are deliberate choices you can make as a writer, if you understand what you’re doing, that can elevate the quality of the work. Can an untrained writer write a great book out of the gate? Of course. Can a writer with all the letters behind his/her name signaling accomplishment write a trash book? I think so. But as with anything, with writing, with art, while there is that je ne sais quoi, there are what Stephen King refers to (in his book On Writing) as the “toolbox” of skills from which a competent writer can draw. I don’t necessarily think you have to have those letters behind your name to have it – lots of independent study, reading, and practice practice practice can help a determined writer hone his/her skills. I think of creating as talent + inspiration + life (both observing and participating in it) + sitting and putting in the work + craft, and I think craft matters. It matters to me as a reader; sloppy writing will turn me off and may make me quit a book – even though my instinct is to fight through, finish what I start.

When the judge’s report for this year’s Wadadli Pen indicated that one story had edged out another “because of the quality of writing”, having read both stories, I understood the point.

I’ve had people tell me – more than once as it happens – that they felt like throwing my book – more than one of my books (!) – across a room, but, so far, it was because they were so caught up in this or that plot or character point; not, knock on wood (though I have had my share of bad, mixed, and lukewarm reviews), because they thought the writing was trash.

I remember when I knew I wanted to be a writer having a very clear thought at one  point that I wanted to write the kind of books that could be studied in a school, college, or university but that people would choose to read even if it was not on their assigned reading list in an institution. I mean I’d be lucky to have either right? #greedy Clearly I wanted my books to not only be subjectively popular but objectively (in as much as such things can be assessed objectively) good. I write because it is my passion and because the characters draw me in and because it is how I process life (how I breathe). But I also have a drive to keep improving; it’s the reason I read (well, I also read because I love how a good book can pull you in and take you away) and study other writers, and take workshops when I can. It’s the reason why I try to teach what I know.

Contact me to participate in this workshop if you, too, believe craft matters.

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Wadadli Pen News

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