In 2016, I set up WriteClub with the intention of creating a space for writers and non-writers to come and enjoy the process of putting pen to paper and setting words free. I began by running monthly workshops designed to celebrate the act of writing for its own sake – or as Henry Miller puts it, where writing could be ‘its own reward’.
And I started off with one rule: What Happens in WriteClub Stays in WriteClub.
During my own various excursions over the years into writing workshops, retreats and the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa, I have discovered that, for many people, writing can seem like a weird kind of arcane wizardry. Some people never write a thing because they’re terrified of ‘getting it wrong’ – fearful of putting commas where they don’t belong, or of using spelling that is more inventive than standard.
WriteClub says to hell with all of that. Instead I offer a safe and supportive environment where creative freedom reigns. And WriteClub’s first rule, more than anything, allows that to happen. In WriteClub sessions you can write in straight lines or spirals. Write from lived experience or your imagination or blend them all into brand new, wild and unexpected expressions of fantasy or truth. You’re invited to write inwards, forwards, fearwards. To write big words and small words and swear words. To write any words, in fact, that allow you to feel free.
That’s not to say that WriteClub doesn’t care about craft. On the contrary, WriteClub’s Work in Progress and Story Structure 101 courses are all about getting words into shape. These sessions focus on narrative structure and voice, offer guidelines for constructive feedback, and make space for you to find the accountability and motivation you need to see your projects through to completion.
Since the start of lockdown, I’ve offered weekly Write Together workshops – themed sessions where people have gathered in the WriteClub Zoom Room from all around the globe to write and share their words. I’ve offered various prompts to stimulate creativity – from guided meditations, to explorations of physical space (‘press yourself against a wall for a minute’), to drawing, to music, poetry and film. Towards the end of each 90-minute session, participants are invited to speak their new words aloud. The results have been invariably astonishing, beautiful and moving.
As a community, WriteClub has been busier than ever during recent months. By popular demand I’ve run four extra series of Work in Progress, run full day online retreats and hosted several online open mic House Parties. I’ve also offered a 21-day Get Your Words Out! course of early morning group coaching calls for writers. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive with reports of people feeling focused and productive. More importantly, I’ve had numerous emails thanking WriteClub for providing a sense of connection in the midst of isolation and for helping people stay sane during this time of crisis and change. One regular WriteClub attendee commented: “Lockdown without WriteClub? Nightmare!”
Of course, the first rule of WriteClub only applies to the stories and experiences that are shared by others during workshops. I know all too well the role that confidentiality plays in creating a space where we can be open and honest. However, when it comes to words that you produce yourself during WriteClub sessions, I actively encourage transformation and publication. I regularly share opportunities where you can submit your work and I offer one-to-one mentoring on synopsis and cover letter writing.
Since March, various members of the WriteClub community have successfully sent their work out into the world – we’ve had poems featured on BBC Upload, longlistings in the Jericho Writers Friday Night Live competition and two book launches for children’s novels that Jay Giebus and Susie Nott-Bower developed on WriteClub’s Work in Progress courses.
Starting in October WriteClub has a new Tuesday night Work in Progress course – which is already filling up fast. There’ll also be a new Get Your Words Out! series starting on October 20th, offering daily accountability, inspiration and motivation for anyone wanting to develop a creative practice. Write Together sessions will resume again, plus there’ll be a print anthology of writing produced during lockdown coming soon. In the near future WriteClub will offer a membership scheme and, of course, there’ll be more WriteClub House Parties.
Come and join us, find out exactly what happens in WriteClub and set your own words free!
To find out more about WriteClub’s workshops visit: www.writeclub.org.uk. And if you’d like to support WriteClub’s mission to continue offering reduced cost workshops to low income participants, please consider buying us a virtual coffee via the WriteClub Ko-Fi page.
Alison Powell has run creativity workshops at universities, schools and festivals around the world. She is an award-winning writer with work published in various anthologies and magazines, and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa. She is also a Master Practitioner of NLP and coaching, skills that enable her to create supportive and encouraging spaces where people report feeling safe.
Alison believes that everyone has the right to express themselves through writing and runs sessions that support new and experienced writers to find and hone their voices. Her passion for poetry and story along with her enthusiasm for helping people find the best in themselves are reflected in her lively and open presentation style. She will do her very best to ensure that you find the support you need to make your writing work.