You likely know that the writing workshops James and I do are held in the Amherst Writers Method (AWA). This is what we use to keep our workshops safe, creative and productive.
May is the month when Amherst Writers reaches out to writers everywhere by holding Write Around the World (WAW). Workshop leaders volunteer their time to lead AWA Method workshops on a donation basis because, as well as being a fundraiser, we want to make it accessible so people who have never experienced the method get a chance to try it out.
I will be donating my time to lead 3 WAW workshops and James will be leading one about poetry with Kate Marshall Flaherty on these dates:
- May 3 – A WAW workshop on Resiliency and Connection with Sue and Dr. Meadow Jones, an expert on the redress of trauma through art’s based practices – afternoon, EDT.
- May 10 – A Writers’ Sanctuary with Sue – donated to WAW. – Late afternoon EDT.
- May 25 – Your Poetry Toolkit Part Two – with Kate and James – morning EDT.
- May 31 – A WAW workshop called Time Travel – using powerful memoir prompts. I’m leading this with Stephanie Curry. – evening, EDT.
And if that schedule doesn’t work to write with us, or ours are full by the time you try to register, there are lots of other marvelous opportunities.
For us at AWA this is a chance to raise awareness of AWA’s method and its uses, to bring people together in our writing communities of care and comfort, to offer them a therapeutic experience of creativity, and help people claim their voice as writers. And the monetary stakes can be very low. Suggested donations are $20, $10 or even just $5 for those who are experiencing financial distress.
I would love you to come and write with me during one of my sessions. If that’s not possible because of timing, or if you want more time and space for your writing than just my session, I invite you to give yourself the gift of a writing workshop with another AWA leader. You can see them all, and sign up HERE.
Please also share the link with others you know who write. Think about the relief and joy you felt when you found the safe space that an AWA Method workshop provides. This is an opportunity to offer that gift to others.
I hope to see you in one of my Write Around the World sessions.
Looking forward to writing with you!
What’s in this Post:
- An Update from the Pyjama Writing Front (sessions continue through May – free, as always)
- Write Around the World Workshops – throughout May(on a modest-donation basis)
- Sue is interviewed by Word on the Hills – Northumberland 89.7 FM – airs May 2
- Autumn Sanctuaries posted – Writing with Sue, Poetry with James
- Full year workshops for full length manuscripts this fall
Write Around the World
May is the month when Amherst Writers reaches out to writers everywhere by holding Write Around the World (WAW). This is their yearly fundraiser—Workshop leaders volunteer their time to lead AWA Method workshops. The sessions are offered on a donation basis because we want to make it accessible so people who have never experienced the method get a chance to try it out.
I will be donating my time to lead 3 WAW workshops and James will be leading one about poetry with Kate Marshall Flaherty.
Spirit of the Hills – Word on the Hills – Sue’s interview
I was delighted when Word on the Hills, hosted by Gwynn Scheltema and Chris Cameron, asked to interview me a few weeks ago. The show is airing on Sunday May 2, at 1:00 pm on 89.7 FM, streamed at northumberland897.ca. If you can’t listen to it at that time, it will be archived by May 4, 2021 at wordonthehills.com.
Registration is open for our Autumn Workshops:
Dates and registration are up HERE for our Sanctuaries. This fall, while vaccination in Canada is still uncertain, sanctuaries will all still happen online. James is offering some Poetry-focussed Sanctuaries again at last now called “Write and Learn Poetry”.
- A Novel Approach to Fiction with James
- A Novel Approach to Memoir with Sue, and
- 10 months/10 submissions with Sue.
In January of 2022 we’ll also be doing an online version of our 8 week intensive “Navigating the Publishing Marketplace with Confidence”.
Looking forward to mentoring your words and your pages!
Report from the Pyjama Front
“Though we live in a world that dreams
of ending that always seems about to give in,
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.”
~ Brendan Kennelly
(from his poem “Begin”)
In the Aesop’s fable about the hare and the tortoise, I always felt sorry for the hare. That silken runner had everything necessary to win that race. The fable says that he was so sure that he had a winning head start on the tortoise that he thought he’d lie down and take a nap.
If the fable took place today, he’d have stopped to check his emails, or gone onto Facebook, and gotten fatally distracted.
When it comes to my writing I’ve always been a binger, never managing to fit it in steadily. I would hare away on a writing retreat and produce 70 pages in 12 days. And then nothing for months, as I returned to my paying work, my livelihood, my overcommitted life.
Thanks to Pyjama Writing, I have much more admiration for the tortoise. The steady accretion of pages on my big projects, one hour at a time, four steady hours a week, feels like a miracle. The putting first of my own artistic practice—at least for those four hours—is a revelation.
In the last month, as pressure with work has geared up, I have also used those dedicated hours to produce other writing that I would have delayed starting on. It’s not just my artistic projects that fill me with anxiety—any kind of commitment around writing that will be read and evaluated by others can trip the procrastination switch. So recently I’ve also allowed myself to use the pyjama writing time to force myself to sit still and put words on the page. Messy first draft words, clay that can be shaped into something more elegant.
In fact I’m doing it right now with this blog post. The version of it you are reading (now for you, in the future for me), is nothing like the messy version I am typing right now. At least I’m hoping it isn’t/won’t be. 🙂
And many people who have come to Pyjama Writing over the last few months (and who are still coming) are also startled to find out how these hours of communal silence can add up to a significant word count. You can read their TESTIMONIALS here.
So this is a reminder and an invitation. I continued Pyjama Writing through April and will continue at least until the end of May. (That’s as far as I can see right now).
Except for May 10 (a Hakomi training event – the last one of the season and I’m getting very close to certification!) and May 31, when I will be leading an evening session for AWA’s Write Around the World on memoir with Stephanie Curry (which you’re invited to!) Click here to read when I am leading these sessions.
As Brendan Kennelly’s poem invites us, begin again. If you were coming before and have dropped away and if your dedication to your writing has suffered because of it, feel free to come back when and if it suits you. If you haven’t tried it yet, feel free to drop into a session and see if the quiet, dedicated companionship of other writers helps you keep your butt in the chair and your fingers on your pen or the keyboard.
As always, the sessions continue to be offered at no cost. All you have to do is register. (Although, if you want to make a donation to Amherst Writers social justice programs, all donations of any size are gratefully received. This year, in addition to building their program of writing workshops for Veterans and their families, they are offering scholarships to BIPOC and other individuals to make sure the AWA method reaches the populations whose unheard voices need to be in the world.)
You can see all the dates for the upcoming Pyjama Sessions till the end of May at this link.
Looking forward to writing with you soon in the way of the tortoise – slow and steady builds the manuscript!
TOTAL COST: $1,995 + HST
1. Via E-transfer to: email@example.com (please include HST)
2. Cheque made payable to Piquant Productions. (please include HST)
3. Visa or Paypal: (HST is added at checkout)
Deposit for A Novel Approach 10 Months – 10 Submissions: $500 + HST
Second Payment for A Novel Approach 10 Months – 10 Submissions: $1,495 + HST
Entire amount for A Novel Approach 10 Months – 10 Submissions: $1,995 + HST.
I’m delighted you’ve made the decision to nurture your creative self by coming to Writers’ Sanctuary.
General Notes to make the day as supportive to the creative process as possible:
What to bring: You will be doing writing on the spot, so please bring whatever writers’ tools you like best to work with: journal and pen, or laptop.
Cell phones: please turn off your cell phone if you can. If you need to leave it on because of child care issues or whatever other complicated situation is happening, please have it on vibrate and if you need to answer it, either go outside or into my office with the door closed to have your conversation. As much as possible, resist the urge to check texts and email. This is your day away from all that!
Clothing: This house has big picture windows looking over the pond and a fireplace as well. Temperatures can fluctuate quite a bit in the main writing space. I recommend you bring layers, from a tank top underneath to something quite warm on top, so that you can shed or cover up and always be comfortable. Also, the house is not airconditioned, so if you’re coming from May to September, it’s good to have options for comfort.
Food: Please let me know if you have dietary issues early in the week before Sanctuary begins so I can be sure to take your needs into account when planning the menu.
Who you will be writing with: There is a community of writers who call themselves Sanctuary Lifers – they’ve been coming for a long time and they say they intend to keep coming. Hooray! Most Sanctuaries have a mix of novice or emerging writers and established Sanctuarians. The long-timers do a wonderful job of anchoring the practice, and always welcome new and emerging voices. It’s an honour and a privilege to witness new or shy writers beginning to discover and believe in their voices on the page.
What you will be writing: As the facilitator, I offer various prompts intended to prime the writing pump. However, this is YOUR writing time. You are always free to ignore my prompt and write whatever you want to be working on. All writers are welcome here – Sanctuarians write everything from life essay and journal entries to long and short fiction, poetry, or scripts and plays. This creates a rich mix of genres that often ends up encouraging writers to experiment with unfamiliar forms and voices. There is no way to do this wrong – you’ll probably hear me say this several times over the course of a day.
On the following pages you will find some notes to orient you so that you know what to expect.
Rhythm of the Day (times are approximate)
Arrival and Parking
Maps and other information about how to get here can be found at this link:
My cell phone number (in case you get lost) is 905-985-8389 and, should I not answer for some reason, you could also call James at 416-435-7372.
Please try and park, if possible, so that no one is blocked in. Sometimes people have to leave before the day is over.
Participants arrive a little before 10:00 so that we’re ready to settle into our seats and begin on time. There is always coffee and tea available and usually some light snacks – fruit, cheese, muffins – in case you were rushing and didn’t get breakfast.
We start with a check-in – generally introducing ourselves to each other and saying a sentence or two about where we’re at with our writing.
Grounding Meditation (5 minutes or so)
Then we do a brief grounding meditation – a couple of minutes of focussing on the breath, on physical presence – to slow our brains down and enter that light trance state from where (in my experience) the best writing comes.
Brain Dump (15 minutes or so)
Next we spend about 15 minutes doing Proprioceptive Writing* (instructions below).
This is the “brain dump” portion of the day. It’s a chance to set down things that are taking up a lot of mental real estate, or to write about what you want to explore or accomplish for the day. You may do the formal Proprioceptive practice, or you are welcome to simply journal. You won’t be asked to share this writing. (And sharing is ALWAYS optional anyway – read more about this under the AWA Guidelines).
Prompted Writing and Reading (10:30 to 1:00)
Most Sanctuaries there will be two sessions of writing and (optional) reading. From about 10:30 – 1:00 I will guide participants (and myself too!) in writing to prompts and then (optional) sharing.
I lead workshops in the AWA Method
developed by Pat Schneider 30 years ago, a method with a long history of supporting writers in discovering and exercising their voices and expanding their abilities with craft in writing.
A larger explanation of the AWA method can be read below, but two of the key principles are:
- A high level of confidentiality is maintained to protect writers and their writing.
- For first draft writing only what is strong and working in the piece with receive feedback. Questions, suggestions and constructive critique are reserved for later, edited work.
All this boils down to a simple statement: the safety of your psyche and your work is paramount in an AWA workshop. I will be writing along with you, but my primary work is to keep the space safe and productive so you can relax, trust the process and the group, and work on your writing.
Lunch – (approximately 1:00 to 2:00)
Lots of writers say they come to Sanctuary more for the food than for the writing. They’re joking, but I do try hard to make sure that you’re nurtured in body and soul during the day, so I try to ensure that the food is healthy and delicious. If you have special needs regarding your food PLEASE let me know a few days ahead of time – I’ll do my best to incorporate your needs into the menu.
Silent Focused Time (2:00 to 4:00 pm)
At 2:00 pm we enter our 2 hours of silent focus. You may want to expand on something you started in the morning, or you may have brought something to edit. Or you may want to use that time to create new material for a project you’re already engaged with – a novel, new poems for your collection, etc.
If you and another writer want to talk, you’re welcome to outside and chat – either going for a walk, or at least far enough away from the house that you won’t disturb the concentration of the others.
This day is meant to be nurturing time for you. Sometimes what we need for creativity is just a break – or a nap – so feel free to support yourself in whatever way is best for you. There are various soft horizontal surfaces with pillows and blankets for a nap, and Uplands is located on almost 500 acres of land on a dirt road, so there’s the opportunity to get out and enjoy nature as well. When the weather is warm, you are welcome to sit outside and write too.
Final Sharing and Wrap-Up (4:00 to 5:00 pm)
At about 5 minutes to 4:00 I call writers back together. For the last hour each writer has a few minutes to share and receive feedback (if desired) on what they’ve been working on. If you want feedback on a more polished piece or have a specific question about whether or not something is working, this is the chance to get that. Or you may choose to read another piece that you produced in the morning but haven’t had a chance to share yet. Or you may be tired and simply want to listen and comment.
Sometimes people’s schedules mean that they can’t stay till the end of the day – the group is often smaller by 4:00 than it is in the morning. If you need to leave early, that’s fine. We all have busy lives – that’s why there’s a need for Sanctuary!
THE FIVE ESSENTIAL AFFIRMATIONS
- Everyone has a strong, unique voice.
- Everyone is born with creative genius.
- Writing as an art form belongs to all people, regardless of economic class or education level.
- The teaching of craft can be done without damage to a writer’s original voice or artistic self-esteem.
- A writer is someone who writes.
THE FIVE ESSENTIAL PRACTICES
- In the workshop we maintain a non-hierarchical spirit regarding how we treat the writing (e.g. the facilitator is not the “expert” & no one’s writing is treated differently than anyone else’s).
- Confidentiality about what is written in the workshop is maintained at all times, and the privacy of the writer is protected.We maintain confidentiality in four different ways
- We treat all writing as story or as fiction – feedback is offered to the writing not to the life of the person writing. We refer to the “I” voice in the piece as the speaker, the narrator, the character, etc.
- At all times, writers are free to refrain from reading their work aloud.
- The work is only open for feedback at the moment it is offered. Once the discussion has moved on to another piece of writing, no one refers back to it again. This means that no one will question or address the writer about their piece afterwards in any way, particularly any way that breaches the contract that all work offered here is fiction.
- And finally, we don’t talk about any work we’ve heard here to anyone outside of the workshop space.
- Absolutely no criticism, suggestion, or question is directed toward the writer in response to first-draft, just-written work. A thorough critique is offered only when the writer asks for it, and only when he or she has distributed work in manuscript form. When work has been offered in manuscript form, critiques are balanced; there is as much affirmation as suggestion for change.
- The teaching of craft is taken seriously, and is conducted through exercises that invite experimentation and growth.
- The leader writes along with the participants, and reads that work aloud as well. This practice is absolutely necessary, for only in this way is there equality of risk-taking and mutuality of trust.
Practice of Feedback for On-the-Spot Writing
- We are free to write what we want — exercises are offered as a prompt or a jumping off point, not as something to restrict the writing.
- We are invited to read. Anyone at any time is free to pass up their turn to read. (Some sensitivity is needed around this – sometimes writers pass because they are intimidated by the voices they have heard and think they won’t “measure up”. In that case we may offer a gentle nudge – but never force anyone– to share.)
- We honour the writer and the writing by listening carefully.
- Everything shared in this room stays in this room. Confidentiality is key to creating a safe space for each writer.
- We treat everything as fiction. In responding, we refer to the narrator/speaker/ main character, not to “the author”, as the voice of the piece.
At this stage, when the writing is unpolished and the author still vulnerable, we do not make suggestions about what might make the piece stronger.
We respond by giving back to the writer, in words as close as we can to the way the author wrote them, “what stayed with us” or “what was strong in that piece for us”. Sometimes what stays with us will be an emotion or a bodily sensation. That can be offered back as well.
- We concentrate on the writing being offered, not on our own similar experiences.
- We remember that, while writing is often therapeutic, this is not a therapy group. If the writer begins to cry, as sometimes happens, we do not rush to comfort them – we trust that they are moving through their process as they need to. We breathe and wait until they are able to finish the reading.
- We remember that, while other writers may express in their writing sentiments with which we disagree, this is not a discussion group for content. We focus on the craft of the writing.
is done at the beginning of Sanctuary as both “brain dump” (to unload whatever may be weighing on your mind or calling for your attention, whether you’re aware of it or not) and as exploration.
YOU WILL NOT BE ASKED TO READ YOUR PROPRIOCEPTIVE WORK ALOUD!
This is your place to write anything, say anything. (On the other hand if something comes up that you do want to read aloud, you are welcome to do so when it comes time to share your work.)
Practices for Proprioceptive Writing:
Write what you hear in your mind. If you want, you can start with the sentence stem: “this is where I am right now…”
Listen to what you write as you write it
Pay attention to each word, each phrase as you write and watch for
“where the energy is”.
Be ready to ask the proprioceptive question: What do I mean by _________?
For instance, suppose you were writing about how your sister in law supports you – and as you’re watching yourself write you feel that little frisson of energy when you hit the word “support”. You would write “What do I mean by support?” and then you would answer that question as you continued to write.
The blank is whatever you “hear” during your session. This is about getting out what you hear and not judging the content. This is personal writing. Explore whatever is inside, then you will be able to expand it creatively afterward should you choose to do so.
When the Proprioceptive part of the morning is finished, I will ask 4 quick concluding questions before we move on to the next section of the day.
Facilitated by Sue Reynolds
Place: OSHAWA – Trent University in Oshawa, Room 105
Times: 7:00 – 9:00 pm.
Dates: Monday nights, January 30 – March 27 (please note – there is no class on Feb. 20)
Registration: $220 (WCDR members 10% discount – $198.00)
This 8 week course shows participants how to find the germs of story in personal experience (their own or those of their family and friends) and transform them into short fiction.
Through the study of existing short stories and learning writer’s craft techniques, authors will experiment with their own tales.
Homework can be submitted privately for individual feedback each week.
By the end of the course writers will produce one or two polished stories and, if they choose, “put a stamp on it” – i.e., identify a contest or journal they think is an ideal market for their story and send the piece off.
January 30 — Defining and Exploring the Idea of Short Story
February 6th — Going where there’s a knot
February 13th — the Locus of the Story
PLEASE NOTE – no class on February 20th
February 27th — There comes a moment – Transformation… or not
March 6th — Tied up in a bow or untied shoelaces?
March 13th — Objective Correlative – supportive metaphor and imagery
March 20th — Editing and Refining
March 27th — Put a Stamp on it
Susan Lynn Reynolds is a writer, teacher and psychotherapist. She teaches writing through workshops in the community, in college continuing education programs, and in social services settings. She writes and has won awards for her YA novel, short stories, poems and non-fiction.
She has been leading writing groups since 1998 and has been certified to lead workshops in the Amherst Writers method since 2002. She is licensed to work with groups doing expressive writing for wellness as well.
She has been leading writing workshops for female inmates at Central East Correctional Centre for 12 years, a program for which she received the June Callwood Award for Outstanding Volunteerism.
|Registration for Non Members
$220.00 + HST
|Registration for Writers’ Community Members
I’ve had a cancellation for Writers’ Sanctuary on December 17th. It’s been booked solid for months.
If you’re interested in attending please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please go to this link to pay: Payment Page
Whether you’re writing fiction, creative non-fiction, or poetry, you hear the maxim “show don’t tell” over and over again. But what exactly does that mean? And are you doing it?
Join Inkslingers for a full day workshop into this most essential skill.
The day will cover “showing” rather than “telling” in several different forms:
as well as identifying those opportunities in your writing when telling is actually more appropriate than showing.
Workshop participants will be working with samples from their own work to see where they are already using this skill and to find out where they employ it more powerfully. This hands on, interactive workshop will make sure each participant fully integrates this essential element of the craft of writing.
Location: BARRIE Ontario Travel Information Centre – Meeting Room
21 Mapleview Dr E
Barrie, ON L4N 9A9
(Hwy 400 at Mapleview Dr (formerly Molson Park Dr), SE corner of intersection * accessible from 400 northbound and southbound * accessible from Costco parking lot)
Time: 10:00 to 4:00
Cost: $95 + HST
($75 + HST for WCDR, WCSC, WCYR, WEN, WHEN, PWAC members)
Please click on the dates for which you are paying. The cart will appear in the sidebar to the right – Click on the yellow and blue Paypal button to go to the PayPal portal and complete your payment.
(Please note: if the date you are requesting is WAIT LIST ONLY, you are not required to pay a registration fee unless your WAIT LIST ONLY spot becomes available and you’re able to attend. If a spot does not become available, but you have paid already, a full refund will be issued or transferred to another date if you wish.)
Payment for Writers’ Sanctuaries with Sue Reynolds for AUTUMN 2017
September 17 (Sunday)
September 18 (Monday)
September 30 (Saturday)
October 21 (Saturday)
October 23 (Monday )
October 29 (Sunday)
November 19 (Sunday)
November 20 (Monday)
November 25 (Saturday)
December 3rd (Sunday)
If you are notified about your waitlisted spot becoming available, you may pay for it here, below:
If you have hit the wrong button and wish to take a date out of your cart, just hit the small green up arrow in the shopping cart and that item will be removed from your cart.
If Sue receives your cancellation notice up to five days in advance of the retreat, (for instance, if the retreat is on a Saturday, she must hear from you by midnight on the previous Sunday) you may choose to apply your deposit to a future retreat or receive a refund (minus a $20 administration fee).
If you cancel with less than five days notice, (in the example above, for instance, it would be anytime Monday or later) and your spot cannot be filled from a waiting list, no refund will be made. However, you are permitted to sell or gift your spot for that date to another person. If you do this, please email or call Sue right away to provide the contact information of your replacement. Since Sue provides lunch, it is important that she know of any dietary restrictions etc.
NOTE: *If a Sanctuary is cancelled for any reason, such as severe winter weather creates dangerous driving conditions, Sue will call all registered participants as soon as she has made the decision to cancel. In this situation, participants may request a full refund or transfer their payment to a future retreat date.
If I receive your cancellation notice up to five days in advance of the retreat, (for instance, if the retreat is on a Saturday, I must hear from you by midnight on the previous Sunday) you may choose to apply your deposit to a future retreat or receive a refund (minus a $20 administration fee).
If you cancel with less than five days notice, (in the example above, for instance, it would be anytime Monday or later) and your spot cannot be filled from a waiting list, no refund will be made. However, you are permitted to sell or gift your spot for that date to another person. If you do this, please email or call me right away to provide the contact information of your replacement. Since I provide lunch, it is important that I know of any dietary restrictions etc.
NOTE: *If a Poetry Sanctuary is cancelled for any reason, such as severe winter weather creates dangerous driving conditions, I will call all registered participants as soon as I have made the decision to cancel. In this situation, participants may request a full refund or transfer their payment to a future retreat date.
by Theresa Dekker
In 2011 I was looking for an affordable getaway where I could concentrate on my writing when I received a notice describing the Inkslingers weeklong writing retreat at Loretto Maryholme in Roches Point, Ontario. Only an hour’s drive from home, set on an idyllic country property, it offered me a sanctuary from distractions and excuses.
I arrived on a beautiful July Sunday afternoon and after unpacking in my private room took a walk to explore the grounds. From the various flower gardens to the unimpeded view of Lake Simcoe and then through a silent walk of the labyrinth I felt myself letting go of all the day-to-day clamour that had occupied my thoughts.
The group gathered for a delicious meal – the first of many prepared by Chef Deb Rankine – where we had a chance to meet fellow writers and talk about how the week would flow. Our hosts and facilitators, Sue Reynolds and James Dewar, set a comfortable relaxed tone from the first night. I headed off to bed ready to experience silent mornings. Continue reading