Writing Workshops

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There’s a new source of funding for author visits to English-language Quebec schools: ArtistsInspire. The program administers federal funding for minority language education. Through ArtistsInspire, schools receive full funding to invite authors, artists, or other culture creators to engage their students in the arts. All English-language schools in Quebec are entitled to $1500 per year (through 2023). There’s no competition for limited funds. Just apply.

I’m proud to be listed among the ArtistsInspire authors. For schools considering inviting me, here are some of my most successful Writing Workshop topics. (And be sure to check out my Author Presentations, too.) 

Presentations work well with several classes at once, but Writing Workshops are best for single classes (about 25 students). Individual workshops can be 1-2 hours long. I use a variety of exercises to explore each theme, depending on the participants’ age and the time available. Each workshop includes at least one mini-lesson on the theme, plus writing time and workshopping (sharing and super-kind feedback).

If you have a keen group of students, consider multiple workshops with the same class on

  • pre-writing (character, setting, and plot development);
  • writing (crafting scenes through dialogue, description, and action); and
  • rewriting (revising, critiquing, and polishing)

to guide students through the entire process of developing a short story or memoir.

Whether you want one “Story Starter” workshop in your library, or several days of workshops to get all the students in your school writing creatively, contact me to ask about availability. And be sure to check out other potential sources of funding.

“Five Ways to Start a Story” 

Conquer the blank page! This workshop leads participants through exercises to launch stories with a character, a setting, an object description, a word prompt, and a fill-in-the-blanks instant plot. Some exercises are done alone, in pairs, or aloud as a class, as time permits.

No participant will ever be able to say, “But I have no ideas!” again.

This workshop is suited to all ages and all levels of experience and ability.

“Knowing and Showing Character” 

This two-part workshop helps participants develop strong fictional characters who reveal themselves by how they think, speak, and act. Preliminary exercises include character profiles, interviews, first- and third-person freewrites, and even a little theatre. Once students have a character in hand, they’ll learn to show that character to readers through monologue, dialogue, description, and action.

Because you can’t attach a character profile as an addendum to your story.

This workshop can be adapted for all ages, even the youngest writers.

Plot Happens

“Character-Driven Plots” 

Create your characters, then set them free to wreak havoc or save the day. This workshop leads participants through exercises to build a character or two, really get to know them, then combine them in group stories based on a selection of established premises. How it all turns out is up to the characters. Character is destiny, after all.

Participants will learn the cause-and-effect relationship of characters and plots, and how to tinker with both to create more exciting, believable, and emotionally resonant stories. (Or they’ll just crack themselves up with the team plotting exercise.)

This workshop works best with grades 7-8, though I haven’t figured out why, but it’s adaptable to any age.

“Writing to Build a Mood” 

This workshop teaches participants to write for effect. Choose a mood or genre for your story (e.g., funny/comedy, serious/drama, scary/horror, exciting/adventure), and let that guide your choices in character, setting, plot, and language.

Through exercises on story development, scene creation, and line-by-line revision, participants will learn to lead readers to just the right emotional impact.

This workshop can be adapted to every age and experience level. 

“From Freewrite to Flash Fiction ” 

There are diamonds in your rough drafts. Starting with a blank page and a prompt, participants will draft a few freewrites, then scour them for a nugget of genius to transform into a short short story. Through exercises to unleash creativity, sharpen sensibility, and just get to work, participants will learn that all you really need to write is a pen and few minutes of focus. 

This workshop is perfect for those afraid to begin or those who think they need a year on a desert island to write their story.  It’s also suited to the impatient, silly, or daring. Pretty much everyone can benefit from this one, and writers who’ll share their work (with me, with all, or with a partner) will get the most from it.


Make your writing shine. We tend to think of drafting as “writing” and revision as something else — but it’s through revision that the real craft of writing is learned. This workshop leads participants through story-level, scene-level, and line-level revisions, with exercises to enhance sensibility and evaluation skills, hone scene-crafting techniques, and declutter language to reveal a story’s essence.

This workshop was developed for an SCBWI Canada East Conference in 2018, but I’ve adapted it to younger audiences with the addition of writing exercises and group work. Still, it has a lot of talk to illustrate its points, and it’s best for more experienced or serious writers (high school students, creative writing classes, or adult writing groups) who have already drafted at least one story.

Any of these writing workshops can be modified, combined, or tossed out the window and replaced by something totally new. I’ve led workshops on many other themes, including:

  • Writing comedy
  • Crafting a scene
  • Turning a memory into a story
  • Getting ideas from your fears
  • Building the best setting
  • Journalling for memoir and fiction
  • Creating a dystopian hero

And I’m always up for something new.

If you want multiple visits to the same classes, I can lead your students through the entire process of writing a short story. This can be done in 3-5 visits per class., with 2-3 drafting workshops (on character and setting; plotting and scene construction; and mood-building and sentence construction), and 1-2 revision workshops (with one-on-one feedback from me and peer review from classmates) and ideally a final day of presentations about being a professional writer.

Please note that a workshop series works best if

(a) there is some time between workshops, from two days to two weeks, to allow the students to develop their ideas and compose their drafts (but we can squish it into a week if you’re willing); and

(b) students are writing the story as part of their class work, with a deadline to hand it in and receive credit for it. (Writing a story is hard work, and some students may tire unless the work is credited by the teacher.)

That said, for teachers with a creative writing or short story unit to build on, a series of writing workshops can be extremely rewarding. Teachers have told me it’s the highlight of the year.

Contact me to inquire about the possibilities.

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