frequently asked questions
What is a writing prompt?
A writing prompt is a topic or suggestion offered up to the group for a set amount of time. Each prompt is designed to kick-start your creativity and get you in the flow. It could be a visual prompt like a picture or object. It could be a poem, a quote, or even a single word. It's always rewarding to see what literary paths members in the group take. Of course, no one is required to write to the prompts. We always respect that a writer may go in a different direction during the timed writing period. Here are some links to prompts:
Will we write with pen and paper or with laptops?
This is absolutely your choice. Typically, with the AWA format, we like to use pen and paper. (We don't care what your handwriting looks like; you just have to be able to read it yourself). In fact, "researchers concluded that we think significantly differently — and more creatively — when writing by hand than we do when using a computer." So while we encourage you to arrive with pen and paper, laptops are always welcome.
What is the format of these workshops?
This workshop, based on the AWA method, follows a proven process that affirms writers by building confidence, creating an atmosphere of experimentation and unbridled play, while protecting confidentiality. Here's how workshops typically work:
• In each sprint, the workshop leader will offer up a prompt — or suggested topic — for the group to write about. These are only suggestions, since some members may be inspired to write about another topic or may be working on a story or poem that they want to write about in group. These sprints last from a few minutes to half an hour or more.
We treat everything as fiction. This gives the writer the freedom to write without restraint.
Once the timed writing session is up, we ask participants to read their work. It's purely voluntary, but we find that the more people engage, the richer experience it is for us all as we learn from each other.
Once a writer reads their story, we discuss what was good about the story and what stayed with us. We refrain from negative feedback, focusing on the writer's strengths; this is especially important since all of these sprints are all first drafts and are just coming to fruition. As noted before, you are not required to give feedback, however it is mutually beneficial to participate fully in the group. We all would like to know what impact our stories have on others and what is working.
Does this workshop provide constructive criticism that helps me hone my craft?
Everything we do in these workshops is constructive. And everything we do helps you hone your craft. But we are not about "constructive criticism." At least not in general workshops —we provide manuscript reviews in separate sessions. The reason for this is that each of our writing prompts is designed to release creativity, develop craft and foster our writing voice. A first draft — be it two paragraphs or 20 pages — is a very delicate creature. That's why we approach our feedback in these regular workshops from a position of strength. Here are some things to think about while listening to others read:
• What stayed with you? What had great impact?
• What was strong? Did a word or phrase surprise/delight you?
• What is working?
• Was the dialogue natural and impactful? Original?
• What did you notice about the tempo or pace? Rhythm? Imagery?
Answers to these questions help the writers to focus on the strength of their words. It actually takes more skill and knowledge of craft to note what's working than pointing out what's wrong. Our writers learn from each other, and this style of feedback is a pivotal part of our progress.
What makes this writing workshop different from others?
For seasoned writers and novices alike, these workshops are designed to help you refine your craft and storytelling abilities with exclusive AWA-style workshop methods in place. The practice of writing with others to stimulating and thought-provoking prompts brings out the creative juices. Our process instigates fresh thinking from new directions. And participating in constructive peer feedback, without the unhelpful "shoulda, woulda, coulda" criticisms (that often occur in other groups ) helps writers feel productive and never deflated. It's a safe and nurturing space with a strong sense of community where your storytelling abilities flourish.
May I bring already-written pieces to share in these workshops?
These workshops focus on in-the-moment writing based on prompts at hand. Already-written pieces would be more appropriate in a manuscript review session with a group or one-on-one with the workshop leader. We ask that you write from memory or imagination in the time allotted. It helps to build your writing craft to participate in these writing sprints. The act of writing with others is a very powerful tool.
I haven't published anything before — or even written anything just for fun. Is there a place for me?
Yes. Welcome! There is a place for everyone in this workshop. You're a writer if you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Everyone has a story to tell. We don't care if you aren't the best speller or if your grammar isn't pristine. The point is to tell your story, developing your craft, and writing in your authentic voice. You will not be judged on anything except what phrases stood out, what impact it had on us and what was strong about it
As Kurt Vonnegut wrote: “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. [...] All they do is show you've been to college.” As it happens, I occasionally use a semi-colon. But I don't care if you use a period, a colon, or no punctuation at all.
I've been writing for years. Is this AWA-style workshop right for me?
Absolutely. This is a stimulating environment where you can hone your craft. Trained workshop leaders have learned how to get the most out of each session with prompts that help elevate your writing. Having a mix of people both diverse in experience and background fosters a creative atmosphere.
What are your pivot workshops about?
These pivot workshops use the AWA method to help people from all walks of life switch gears — be it career, retirement, branding and more. By deploying very precise writing prompts tailored to each workshop topic, Johanna helps attendees hone in on key identifiers and actions. The proprietary writing exercises themselves are a cathartic and creative problem-solving process that lead to immediate insights and direct actions. By the end of the pivot workshop, all attendees will have a precisely tailored road map for moving forward. Not to mention some very inspiring storytelling by each participant.
How do I pay for these workshops?
You have a number of options. You can choose the PayPal option and pay with any credit card — you don't need your own PayPal account. Or you can choose the manual pay and send payment via Chase QuickPay® with Zelle®. You also can pay by check, but it must clear before the workshop/session.
Does your workshop account for social distancing?
Definitely. Of course, the online workshops make it very easy to participate while also creating a close sense of community with fellow writers. We open up the virtual room in advance of each session so that members have time to socialize.
And in any in-person session, we make sure that social distancing rules are in place, that masks are used, and that hand sanitizer and tissues are always available.
I don't see a workshop that fits my schedule. Can you help?
If you prefer workshops or retreats that are on a different day or at a different time, please contact me about setting up new sessions. The workshops can also be tailored to groups, interests, and locations. For example, if you have a group of friends who would like to be part of a private workshop, that's one option. Or if you'd like it to be later in the day, that's also an option, if we can fill the roster.
What is your refund policy?
Each workshop has a limited number of people to ensure that everyone gets time to write, present their work, give feedback and truly develop their craft. Because of that, it's important that people commit to attending. Whether it's an 8-week workshop or a one-day retreat, it's important that we get a solid head count before starting. There will be no refunds after two weeks prior to the workshops, unless you find someone to take your place. If you meet those requirements, a full refund will be issued, less a $10 processing fee. No partial refunds will be issued.
Where can I submit my writing for publication?
Here's a starter list of potential submission sites:
Submittable: A website for multiple literary submissions
The Narrative Prize: For new and emerging writers
And, of course, the granddaddy of them all: Writer's Digest
Please feel free to nominate new ones.
Any more questions? Contact me.