A writer I knew once said, "Workshop smurkshop. Who needs them. Workshops are a waste of time and money."
I use the past tense 'knew' meaning that I don't know him any more.
OK, pretty definite opinion there and when he told me this, I'd been to a few workshops myself. Some had been great, others not so flash, but I always got something of value from them. We had quite a heated argument and in the end, he grudgingly admitted that he'd only ever been to one writing workshop, one about poetry, taken by someone who was actually a visual artist, and there were only three other people there sitting in a cold, dingy space in a pottery studio surrounded by drying clay pots and figures that watched them critically from their corners for the entire workshop.
One of the absolute best workshops I have ever attended was facilitated by the delightful and simply wonderful Margaret Mahy. She didn't come dressed like in the photo here but floated in wearing one or her capes, I think.
The workshop was about writing for children, and I have never been talented in that area, but I wanted to be in her presence. So I was somewhat of an interloper, surrounded by other writers who were really good at children's fiction .. and here was I, totally lost but just thrilled to be in the same room with this incredibly talented woman that was our national treasure, Margaret Mahy.
I took along a copy of The Three Legged Cat - not only one of my favourite picture books of hers, but indeed one of my fave kids' books ever (right up there with The Velveteen Rabbit) - which she very graciously signed for me and although I didn't write anything that made any amount of sense to anyone in the workshop (although I did make Margaret laugh at one of my descriptions of a little boy's pyjamas) I came away enriched.
Of course with Margaret the workshop was full of flights of fancy, imaginative colour, flair, plenty of fun and laughter and you knew you were in the presence of someone who truly knew her stuff, loved children and knew what made them tick.
Even though I was not a writer for children, I came away inspired, motivated, keen to carry on with my own projects, and I made connections with two other writers that I enjoy to this day.
So while workshops are for learning, writing and experimenting, they are also about inspiration, ideas, connections, fun, humour, sharing, finding out that you can actually write about things you never thought you could, discovering talents you didn't know you had, and above all, coming away refreshed, invigorated, and ready to take on your writing with fresh energy and creativity.
So I hope you'll join me for my workshop on Saturday 19 October, The Building Blocks of Story. I can't guarantee I'll be dressed like Margaret Mahy in her colourful finery, but I can assure you that you'll have fun, you won't be surrounded by old pots, and you will do some great writing!
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