Late summer 2006, a friend and mentor got in touch and told me about a local organization that needed someone to run a couple of writing workshops at a middle school in NE Portland. I went for what I thought was an interview, but it turned out they'd already decided I was the right fit, and wanted to know when I could start. I'd done a few writing workshops before then, but those were scattered one-offs. This, on the other hand, was the making of something that promised to continue well into the future.
The following is intended to clarify my approach and goals when working with writers in individual and group environments. For parents interested in connecting for writing workshops, I encourage you to read the following, then follow up with me through email to continue the conversation. You can reach me at info(at)davejarecki(dot)com.
The overall goals of my writing workshops, whether working with young writers or adults, are as follows:
1) Create a comfortable, inviting and inclusive atmosphere where participants feel welcomed and encouraged to engage with their own creativity and to share their creativity with others, free of self-judgement.
2) To impart valuable tools and lessons that will support each participant’s growth as a writer, no matter where he or she is in their own growth. (In this way, even within a group dynamic, I take the time to connect with participants individually to be sure they are continuing along their own path and pace.)
3) To encourage consistent, constructive writing habits so participants begin to build a daily writing practice into their lives.
4) To increase and enhance each participant’s literary vocabulary, building their strengths as writers, editors and reviewers. Much of this work comes in the form of constructive critique. To introduce the concept of constructive critique, we generally begin with pieces of literature written by someone not in the workshop. From there, we often critique pieces of my writing. Then we get into critiquing the work of writers in the workshop. This is a safe and supportive way to build toward critique, especially with young writers for who the concepts of workshopping, review and revision are still relatively new.
In the past I have worked with groups as large as 20, and as small as 2 (in addition to 1-on-1 sessions). In setting up a small, parent-driven workshop that occurs at one parent’s home, an idea number would be anywhere between 2 and 6, though if space permits, we could have as many as 8. The smaller the group, the more individualized attention each writer will receive.
For a group of 4 or less, individual sessions will last approximately 90-minutes to 2-hours. For 5-8 students, individual sessions last between two and two and a half hours.
Group workshops such as the annual Summer Writing Camp or Writing from the Wilds take place during what most people refer to as mid-to-late summer, or as one parent once called that time of year, "the dead zone." I like running workshops this time of year because by then, kids are bored, their brains have begun to get mushy, and families need a break from each other. Meanwhile, workshops that take during the school year almost always fall on Saturdays or Sundays, late morning or early afternoon. I don't want to overwhelm the young ones (or their taxi drivers) with one more thing to get to on the school day.
Where private group workshops (or one-on-one) are concerned, it comes down to figuring out what's best for everyone: you, me, and the young writer. I prefer to set parameters regarding how many meetings in order to help us clearly identify and work toward goals within a set amount of time. Once we hit our benchmark concerning the number of sessions, we can always revisit our original plan and figure out a new way forward.
As for tuition: my goal is to create these opportunities without creating hardship. The summer writing workshops have fairly fixed tuition, whereas the private one-on-one or group workshops can happen on a sliding scale payment, which I'm happy to discuss at any time if you're interested in creating something.