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Writing Workshop | Reviews

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The Writing Workshop Notebook

Alan Ziegler

Souvenir Press 2010 paperback

£12

Alan Ziegler | The Writing Workshop Notebook

Amazon UK

Amazon US

 

 

'This book is aimed at people who are taking, or thinking of taking, a writing workshop, at workshop teachers, and even at those who prefer the solitary writing life but also seek some of the benefits of the workshop experience.'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'In part 2, Ziegler's tone is more practical, providing advice on how to run a workshop and how to get the best out of a workshop, as teacher or as participant, as critic or as recipient of comment.'

 

 

 

 

 

'This is an unconventional book about writing, inspirational as much as it is practical, and focusing on an aspect of the writing process that isn't much discussed. It would, I think, prove a valuable addition to the writing bookshelf if you are at all interested in the workshopping process and what it involves.'

 

For Alan Ziegler, the writers' workshop is a vital part of the creative process. It is, he believes, possible to teach writing, but as he says, the question is, 'can writing be learned?' It might depend on the learner, but he is certain that the writing workshop is a means of facilitating learning. This book is aimed at people who are taking, or thinking of taking, a writing workshop, at workshop teachers, and even at those who prefer the solitary writing life but also seek some of the benefits of the workshop experience.

This is not a conventional book about writing practice; those who seek simple, straightforward explanations about how to do X or Y may find it puzzling or indeed pointless. The key to this book is in its title, the word 'notebook'. In trying to explore the workshop experience Ziegler realised that he would have to first deal with what he calls 'the heart that sustains the workshop's brain: the act of creation'. Consequently, Part One of this book, entitled 'Notes on Creating', is a series of meditations on different aspects of the writing life. Ziegler invites the reader to work straight through or dip in and out as seems appropriate.

'Why bother?' asks the first note. Why indeed? Ziegler explores the impulses that drive us to write, and sometimes to not write. Not-writing is, in his view, just as important as writing, and a number of the creative notes look at what happens when a writer finds that the words simply aren't flowing as he or she would like. At other times the words just won't stop flowing, but the end result isn't always what the writer anticipated. No written word is ever wasted, suggests Ziegler; it's just that sometimes you don't realise what it was you were writing.

Interlude 1 follows up the ideas and meditations of Part 1 with what Ziegler calls 'no-risk, risk-taking exercises', ways for the writer to find inspiration or test ideas through simple yet ingenious and imaginative writing exercises. Interlude 2 focuses the writer's attention on the business of revision, preparing texts for a workshop. Again, the exercises are simple but powerful.

And finally, the workshop begins. In part 2, Ziegler's tone is more practical, providing advice on how to run a workshop and how to get the best out of a workshop, as teacher or as participant, as critic or as recipient of comment. Again, he takes a meditative approach – and, in part, any writers' workshop is as much a matter of thinking about texts as about writing them – but now the notes are much more focused on the task at hand. Ziegler covers the workshop from all angles, including the etiquette of workshopping a piece, working as part of a group and being respectful of but honest about one another's work. He also discusses the most effective ways of delivering and receiving feedback and criticism, and how to utilise that input in improving one's work. In the end, as he notes, what it is most important to take away from a workshop is the momentum to keep on writing.

This is an unconventional book about writing, inspirational as much as it is practical, and focusing on an aspect of the writing process that isn't much discussed. It would, I think, prove a valuable addition to the writing bookshelf if you are at all interested in the workshopping process and what it involves.

Publisher's website Reviewed by Maureen Kincaid SpellerMaureen Kincaid Speller a reviewer, writer, editor and former librarian, is our book reviewer and also works for WritersServices as a freelance editor.

© Maureen Kincaid Speller 2010

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List price: £12.00
Publisher: Souvenir Press Ltd
2008-09-07
Paperback
Sales rank: 1,738,157