Tag Archives: workshop

Before You Ask…

I spied a comment recently lamenting the difficulty the writer had getting friends and family to read a manuscript, in part or whole. The comment was posted to a writers’ group and the discussion that followed, as happens, seemed a good topic for a post in this space.

First, I understand the writer’s desire for feedback and frustration at the lack thereof. Speaking as a writer myself, I’ve experienced this and, conversely, I’ve experienced writer-editors who’ve been more than generous with their time. One, my friend Gisele, also my editor on the job at the time, returned my manuscripts red inked with edit notes (something she did whether I asked for editorial feedback or not); another, Christine, a writer I’d met at a workshop, gave me some critique notes (after informing me that she only had time to read part of the manuscript) and a suggestion that I apply for the international fellowship to participate in the Breadloaf Writers Workshop. Both were extremely helpful. I made the edits, and I applied and was accepted to Breadloaf with an international fellowship; and I have three books to show for those relationships. While working on draft eleventybillion of the third one of these books, I would read excerpts  to my friend Alstyne (RIP) and though she was not herself a writer, her feedback purely as a reader – what she reacted to enthusiastically or less than enthusiastically, the questions she asked, the commentary she gave – was helpful to me not only in shaping that book but in keeping me going. The thing she gave me that was invaluable was her genuine curiousity about how the story would turn out and her belief not only in the story I was struggling to tell but in me as a writer. Yeah, I miss her.

That’s just a sampling of the times I reached out for and received feedback, and these are the books that came to be as a result – once you add on the editors that actually worked with me on prepping the books for publication.

There were many other times when I reached out to people and did not receive feedback.  Or the time I received only partial feedback  from a certain teenage reader in a very tight window but it was enough to help me figure out if the content, tone, and language of a certain teen/young adult novel would connect with a teenage reader.

Djeri with Musical Youth.jpg

Sometimes, as with the children’s books, I got creative about seeking feedback by sneaking them, blind, in to reading material being critiqued (kids, teen workshop) or testing them on children I would be reading to anyway (children’s reading club, schools).

The times when feedback was sought and the answer was either no or no follow through, I may have been disappointed at the time but I wasn’t mad. Honestly. Okay, maybe a little mad but I understood.

See, some of this overlapped with me getting requests to read this, write that from other people and sometimes saying yes even though I knew I didn’t have the time either because I genuinely wanted to, wanted to give back some of what had been given to me, or couldn’t figure out how to say no. So when I say I understood, I understood. The requests to pick my brain or read work became more plentiful after I became a published author i.e. a writer in the public domain. And the thing is each person thinks that they’re not asking much, but it adds up, you know, it takes time.

That’s one of the reasons I added editing and critiquing to my freelance services after a time – (initially with some guilt but) I was doing it anyway and with my time covered, and a commitment made to a client, there was a guarantee that I could get it done and in a timely manner.

The person who inspired this post also griped about the circle not leaving reviews that could help with promotion once a book had been published. I’ve experienced this as well. And it’s frustrating. But I remember, too, the times I’ve been asked to review books. It’s time consuming and a positive review is not guaranteed (at least not from me, nor do I expect them from others if they believe the work doesn’t merit it). I got one of my most scathing reviews from a Caribbean blogger I reached out to and bent over backwards to get the book to, and I have others here and there who took the book and never bothered to post anything. The former is one of the realities of being published, the latter I can’t do anything about except choose more carefully next time. Meanwhile I do try to pay it forward by posting reviews – hence my Blogger on Book series, which I have to admit is more fun than writing reviews for a paying publication (though not financially smart, right?) because I feel freer to review or not review (I never want reading to feel like a chore). That said, I will take those paying review gigs because baby’s gotta eat.

The responses to the original poster was pretty much as I expected though – people are busy, there’s no expectation that they’ll have the time, or interest, if they do, say thank you; if they don’t, accept it without malice. And if they still don’t follow through after saying yes, roll with that too and don’t keep them in your mind; sometimes people are well-intentioned but time is short (been there, both sides).

I suggested some other avenues that have been helpful to me in terms of feedback re  works in progress or, more usually, fresh drafts – and better, in some ways, if you wish to receive constructive critical feedback:

  • A writers’ group
  • Writing workshops (physical and/or online)
  • A writing mentor
  • Online writing platforms where you can post work for feedback (I’ll count here online writing memes and prompts)
  • A paid editor, critique
  • Submitting to writing contests and lit journals (short story, poem, longer work in progress)

I have benefited from all of these and I offer at least three (see my services here).

As for friends and fam, and writers you know, try to understand, before you ask that it’s a big ask. If they can do it, sure, but, if not, it’s important to remember that everybody’s busy living their life. Frustrating as it can be.

Friends and fam are not always the best critics in any case – though they can be good for encouragement.

Take what you can get and find other avenues.

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder, coordinator, and blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved.

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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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A & B Arts Round Up – April 10th 2018 —>

This page or series of pages is specific to arts and/or cultural events being held in Antigua and Barbuda.

May 20th 2018 – Call for papers – 13th Annual Conference and Distinguished Lecture (August 16th -17th 2018) – the University of the West Indies Open Campus Antigua and Barbuda, the Antigua and Barbuda Studies Association, and the Antigua and Barbuda Youth Enlightenment Academy. Details re Call for Papers: UWI-ABSA Conference 2018 Call for Papers

April 28th 2018 – Jhohadli Writing Project Creative Writing Series continues – must register at least one week in advance – can participate from anywhere – several payment options – April 2018

April 21st 2018 – 6:30 p.m. mock logoThe Wadadli Youth Pen Prize 2018 Challenge Awards Ceremony at the Best of Books, St. Mary’s Street.

April 16th – 18th 2018 –  3:00 – 5:00 p.m. – Teenagers’ Artistic Expressions In Writing and With Cell-phone Photographs – Instructor, Mali Adélàjà Olatunji Dip. photo, BSc, M.A. The_Art_of_Mali_Olatunji_-_Full_Size_RGB_m– at The Museum Of Antigua and Barbuda (Long and Market Streets, St. John’s, Antigua) – exploring the simplicity of photography with the use of a cell-phone to make pictures of any subjects or objects with the intention to produce images of artistic pictorial expressions; also articulating  intentions in words in the manner of photojournalism to provide a documentary or a visual account of specific subjects and events, literally re-presenting objective reality rather than the usual subjective discourses of everyday life.

April 14th & 15th 2018 – Antigua Opera Society’s first ever performance at Catherine’s Café and the National Sailing Academy. Read more at Antiguanice.com

April 14th 2018 –  the official launch of Brenda Lee Browne’s first novella, ‘London Rocks’, at Cedars Pottery, Buckley’s Main Road, 6pm – 8pm. There will be a reading,  Q&A and book signing – copies of  ‘Just Write Writers Journal’  will also be on sale. An art exhibition featuring original pieces by Browne will be on display. About the Book: New Book from Hansib – London Rocks[1789]
London Rocks

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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“I would recommend this workshop…”

March 2018 workshop

JWP #Onthehustle

 

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REMINDER

Promo Flyer corrected

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January 3, 2018 · 3:55 pm

Jhohadli Writing Project – You don’t have to be in Antigua to Participate

That’s right. For the first time, I’m opening up one of my creative writing workshops beyond who’s in the room.

In both cases – if you’re in Antigua or not – email me jhohadli at gmail dot com for registration details. Try to do so by January 5th as the plan is for the advance kits (which includes preliminary reading) to go out at least a week before the first session (January 13th 2018).

I can tell you that this workshop series will be ongoing with each series focusing on a different aspect of writing, through a combination of engagement with the writing of others, instruction, discussion, writing, and critiquing. The first series’ focus will be on setting.

So if this is an area you’d like to dive in to, explore, improve in – in either the writing or understanding of, contact me.

Promo Flyer corrected

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The Sonnet Explained

Hey guys, how have you been? I’m taking a poetry class this semester and it’s so much fun. I’m learning a lot about the history of various forms, reading so many great pieces I never would have found myself as well as experimenting with these new mediums. I thought I’d ‘briefly’ share what I’m learning […]

via Briefly: Sonnets — maggy liu

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