One of the best things you can do for yourself as a writer is to join a writing group or workshop. The people you meet can offer fresh perspectives on your writing and help you evolve in your genre and beyond. Not only is it great to have another set of eyes look over your work, but going to a workshop every week helps you stick to a regular writing schedule. That discipline, coupled with the skills you pick up, are a great way to bring your writing to the next level.
I had no formal writing instruction from high school through retirement, but after I retired I began to take classes at the VMFA Studio School. In addition to all sorts of arts classes– drawing and painting, photography, pottery, printmaking– they offer creative writing courses. Coming up soon are two such courses: one in memoir writing, and another in blog writing.
Besides the classes at the VMFA, I’ve had classes and/or workshops at the University of Richmond and, of course, Nimrod Hall Summer arts programs. Registration for Nimrod is already open for week-long or weekend workshops, if you’re interested.
I’ve also had friends who’ve taken classes at VCU. They are difficult to get into for non-degree students, but it doesn’t hurt to try. While the types of courses vary from semester to semester, here is a list of upcoming courses they will be offering.
A writing friend took a seminar with Agile Writers which she said was excellent. You can take their mini-tutorials online, or become a member for more benefits. Still others have taken classes at the Visual Arts Center. They currently have a couple of open classes: Writing from Your Senses and Writing the Memoir. Sometimes you can find classes or workshops at local libraries. I once taught a 6-week class at the Tuckahoe Branch of Henrico County Library. Such opportunities are catch-as-catch-can, but be aware!
There are also workshops set up for you to make contacts within the writing community and to help you get feedback on your writing. One such event is Writers Wednesdays through the James River Writers, where on the second Wednesday of every month writers in Richmond have a casual meet-and-greet at Ardent Craft Ales. Similarly, Writers Farmhouse invites authors to the Midlothian Urban Farmhouse Market & Cafe to write, read, and motivate.
These are all in the local Richmond area, but opportunities abound. Many schools with MFA programs offer non-degree classes in the summers. For example, I know that Hollins College has an annual offering. Poets & Writers magazine gives a national listing annually as well.
If you start taking writing instruction, you are likely to fall in love with your teacher. By all means, continue to take classes with her/him. But also branch out. I’ve taken classes with Douglas Jones, Susan Hankla, Sherri Reynolds, Cathy Hankla, Charlotte Morgan, and others. Valley Haggard is also a local writer who offers classes. James River Writers has a list of classes, workshops, and writing groups for you to get more info about these opportunities.
Each teacher offers something; they all have their strengths. Some light a creative spark. Some provide structure to get started and/or finish a specific project. Some sharpen specific writing skills. Some offer assignments and deadlines that make you keep BIC (Butt in Chair) and actually put words on paper. All should offer encouragement and support!