Dragnet Magazine, an online publicatation, will feature my short story “The Promise of Puppies” in its next issue. Fellow F&G writer, Nadia Ragbar will also have two fictions, “The Fair” and “Wolves Using the Patio Furniture” appear in the issue.
F&G Writers began as an idea over beers at Betty’s two years ago. Fellow students and I had just finished Short Stories II, a creative writing class taught by Emily Schultz, and thought it would be cool to start a writing group. After a few pints, I volunteered to organize. The next morning, I woke not only with a hangover but also with fear and dread. What did I know about starting a workshop?
Weeks later, two of the kids from school sent me emails. Was I still on board? Crap, they were serious. My comfort zone would need serious renovations. I had taken three classes with Emily who ran super fluid productive workshops; I used her as a model. I also talked to writer friends, and yes, there were discouraging tales of woe, but after sixteen workshops, F&G is still going strong.
Tips and Strategies for Organizing and Moderating a Workshop:
1. Personalities. This can be tricky because writers are a strange lot. Invite writers you’ve met in classes and friends whose work you’ve read. Diversity of life experience, style, voice, and the ability to give constructive feedback are all important factors. No hotheads or crybabies.
2. Commitment. Crucial for longevity. You want members who are focused on their writing despite other interests and day jobs. The group can’t be a drop-in.
3. Size. It matters. I thought eight was the magic number, but it took careful time management and lots of reading and critiquing. Two writers left in the first year and then six seemed perfect. We lost one more and five works fine although new blood is about to be injected.
4. Consistency. We meet on a Friday night, every six weeks for three hours. Do not deviate from your plan as juggling dates around individual schedules is a nightmare. We meet at my home. You want a place that is comfortable, quiet, and accessible.
5. The Work. Anything goes fiction. We write short stories, flash fiction, excerpts, beginnings, and the occasional genre piece. Encourage submissions that are under twelve pages. Give occasional prompts to challenge one another (e.g., write 2nd person POV, use the word murder on the first page, write an urban legend).
6. Format. Ask members to email their fiction one week prior to meeting. At the workshop each writer reads a passage before the group gives feedback. Encourage everyone to comment before the member explains and/or asks questions. Written feedback is optional. Give equal time to each story (varies with story length).
7. Chill. Writing is serious work but workshopping doesn’t have to be. As time passes and trust is built the group will become more laid back and open. We take each other’s work seriously, but there’s a lot of laughing and joking too.
8. Extra Curricular. Plan dinners out between workshops. This gives you a chance to talk shop (process, submissions, books, rejections and successes), and of course, to have fun. Add literary field trips to book launches and readings.
Running F&G is about process, much like writing. I didn’t know how it would work or if it would work before it began, but it has definitely been worth the effort.
My short fiction “Girl in Dryer” appears in Broken Pencil 54. The story revolves around Alice, a twelve-year-old who lives with unrelieved suspense. She gains temporary relief when she befriends a man and his pig.
This story, inspired by a dream, has four firsts:
|Wilbur and Alice|
First story to be accompanied by illustrations. Beautiful work by Lisa Vanin.
First story I workshopped with F&G Writers, my amazing writing group that will celebrate its two-year anniversary this May.
First time I was invited to participate in the editorial process, a back-and-forth dialogue with BP founder and fiction editor Hal Niedzviecki.
First time I have been paid for any piece of writing. Have to think of something special to do with it.
|Girl in Dryer|
F&G Writers is a Toronto-based writing group that was forged in May 2010. We workshop short fiction every six weeks. Members also get together for talk-shop dinners and literary field trips.
Susan Alexander lives in Toronto. In addition to her satirical newspaper, The Mammalian Daily , she is working on a book of short stories entitled Substitute Decisions. Check out her innovative short story site She Came to Play. Read “Cecilia” at Joyland.
Tavish McGregor lives and writes in Toronto.
Nadia Ragbar lives and writes in Toronto. Her non-fiction has been published in the Globe and Mail. Read her flash fiction, “RR 21” at The Glass Coin and “Wolves Using the Patio Furniture” and “The Fair” at Dragnet Magazine.
Rob Shaw is enrolled in the Creative Writing Optional Residency MFA program at the University of British Columbia. His work appears in The Dalhousie Review.
Brad Weber lives and writes in Toronto. His work has been published in The Dalhousie Review and The Toronto Quarterly.
I’ve been drawn to the good, the bad and the ugly of metaphors lately. I admit, I am jealous of those that can write amazing metaphors. In a writing excercise at school, I sat, staring into space for fifteen minutes, unable to come up with a single metaphor from scratch. So, if the odd decent one comes through my pen I am happy.
I read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. There were often three, four, sometimes five lengthy metaphors on one page. I thought, give me a break, does everything have to sound, look, smell, feel, or taste like something else? Can’t some things just be? I did finish the book.
There are metaphors that stand out, not because they are good, but because they sound like the writer was trying to be clever. A good metaphor is seamless. I read Danielle Egan’s short story “Strange Attractors”. I shook my head and stopped reading at this one. ‘You clear your throat and I picture fossils of tiny seahorses dislodged and swallowed.’
Good metaphors stay with you. Anu Jindal’s short “Saul and Millie are Sisters” has this gem. ‘She could hear voices from the kitchen, though they were muffled by the walls: the bugle call of her mother, the low bassoon of her father, and her grandmother’s french horn.’
I worry I will become a writer that has difficulty reading fiction as I am too busy picking away at the construction to enjoy the story.