Frequently Asked Questions

What is a writers’ workshop?

The workshop is the heart and soul of any good creative writing course. It is a focused and directed form of peer review in which writers share work with each other and then comment on it. There’s usually a tutor/teacher involved, who also reads and comments. When there’s no tutor, we usually call it a “writers’ circle” and not a “workshop.”

Workshops can be transformational for both the text and the writer. The reason for this is that we writers don’t often have a perfectly clear picture of what we’ve created. We need a group of readers to comment on it honestly and intelligently in order to understand how it’s perceived by others. Once we’ve gathered a set of comments, we can take them under advisement and embark on the process of editing our work in new drafts. This is, in most cases, the best way to improve a text. That’s why workshopping a text is the best way to prepare it to be sent off to magazines, publishers, and graduate schools. The workshop process can be deeply satisfying, engaging, and intense.

There’s a definite method to good workshopping, and the method we use in our workshops here has proven to be effective. The proof is evident in the way it has helped so many writers.

How are these courses different from or similar to the ones previously offered at MAU?

The genre workshop courses, such as the Fiction WS course, are similar in structure to the  workshops you may have done in Creative Writing 2 and the CW Project Course. However, there’s no grading, no points awarded, and there are no required exercises or readings. There’s also no required textbook. These are workshops and nothing but workshops. They’re for writers ready to work on their stories, chapters, or poems.

The Intro to Creative Writing course is very similar to CW1 as it used to be offered at MAU, except without grades or points. It is a general, introductory course for anyone interested in starting their journey into creative writing. It explores three genres: literary nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. It covers the basic craft skills of each genre and creative writing generally. It also introduces the new writer to what a workshop is and how to thrive in one. Compared to CW1 at MAU, there is no breadth reading requirement, and the exercise load is much lighter. It, too, is centered around the workshops but also focuses on craft skills instruction and exercises. There is a required textbook, Janet Burroway’s Imaginative Writing.

How was the pricing of the courses set?

The courses were priced to be comparable to private evening courses you might take, such as those offered at Folkuniversitetet in Sweden. Except the courses here are almost a full college term in length for about the same cost, so these are, in fact, less expensive as well as being much more involved and intense than evening courses you might find elsewhere.

Which course should you take?

If you’ve taken CW1 or any other courses at MAU, you should take the genre workshop courses. If you’ve taken an introduction to CW course at another university, you should take the genre WS courses. If you have never studied creative writing before, you should take Intro to CW. If you’ve never taken a CW course but you feel you’re an experienced enough writer for one of the genre WS courses, you should register, then submit a writing sample to epistle@shipwrights.org

Can you repeat the workshop courses? Does it make sense to take the genre WS courses if you’ve previously taken other WS courses, such as CW2 at MAU?

Yes, absolutely. There’s no reason not repeat workshop courses. You bring new texts to each course. There are different WS peers in each course. So, it’s different every time, and it’s all about the texts. 

When will you write the texts for each workshop?

The genre WS courses here feature 3 WS cycles. Each of these cycles is preceded by a week in which you can write the text(s). Of course, a week is not very long to write a good short story or 4 poems. For this reason, you may want to arrive at the start of the course with a short story, novel chapter, or a few poems already started. 

Each WS unit is also 4 weeks in length, with a revision cycle following the initial submission cycle. So, you would get started on the text(s) for Workshops 2 and 3 during the previous revision cycle. And, again, you have an “open” week before each WS to finish things up before submitting. 

Why isn’t a literary nonfiction workshop course being offered?

Literary nonfiction workshops will be offered with sufficient demand. Please email if you’re interested. LNF writers may also join the Fiction Workshop course.

Who will be in your workshop group?

You will be carefully grouped with writers who are similar to you in level and interest. However, this always depends on how many writers register for a course and what those specific writers are like as individuals. But I’ve had many years of experience grouping writers and will do my very best to get you into the best possible group for you.

More FAQs will be coming. Feel free to suggest any that occur to you.