Two weeks ago, I co-facilitated a residential writing weekend with Catherine Dunne at the fabulous Brewery Lane Theatre in Carrick on Suir, organised by the tireless Margaret O’Brien who also runs The Story House, based on the Arvon model of residential writing courses, with Nollaig Brennan (see our interview, below November 22nd).
The group that came together for the three days of the Brewery Lane Writers’ Weekend was open to the adventure, receptive to ideas and willing to take risks. These are essential elements of any good workshop – what you get is in direct proportion to what you bring. What you bring is up to you.
For anyone who wonders what a writing workshop is: there’s no great mystery. A workshop is a space where writers come together to focus on their craft. They are usually – as the name suggests – practical, grounded and effective. I’ve taken part in more than I can count, either as a participant or as a facilitator and yes, I’m still learning. Aren’t we all?
Every workshop is different. Their effectiveness depends largely on the dynamic that develops among the group – facilitators as well as students. During our time together we reflect, discuss and argue about the more mysterious aspects of what we do but, as the name suggests, our focus is practical. We learn primarily through reading and through developing and practising a vocabulary that articulates basic principles, so that we can go back to our desks refreshed and motivated and put those principles into practice. One of the joys of a good workshop, hard to quantify, is the exhilaration of discovering that such a language exists, that we can speak it, that there are other people who are willing and eager to speak it with us. It’s like discovering that we have a tribe; it’s a kind of homecoming.
This summer, Catherine and I will work together again – in collaboration with the Istituto Italiano di Cultura on Fitzwilliam Square in Dublin and Italish.eu – when we co-facilitate a week of creative writing workshops in English: “Found in Translation”. The idea of this course is to give participants the time and space to explore the possibilities of writing in English, when English is not their first language. This may sound head-wreckingly difficult but in fact, as both Catherine and I have written in different contexts, all writing is, in effect, an act of translation. For some of us, working in a foreign language might even prove key to accessing material or a style that we haven’t worked with before.
The course was suggested by Massimiliano Roveri and Federica Sgaggio, who are the administrators. We don’t know what new ideas might come out of this collaboration, but we’re excited by its possibilities and open to whatever it offers. The course will run from July 31st – August 4th. With a limited number of participants, it aims to give writers an opportunity to work with language in a creative way and to develop technical skills at the same time. There will be a mix of workshops and writing time, with one evening event where participants will meet an Irish audience and talk about aspects of Italian culture.
Read this post in Italian here