Writing Workshop Topics


If you are looking for information about the Saskatchewan Writers Guild Rural Writers Group program, please go here.

The following topics are ones I offer for the SWG program, or for other interested groups.

Hearing Voices
Whether you’re writing in first, second or third person, the narrator’s perspective must be authentic, consistent and serve the story well. This workshop will explore the role of the voice in effective writing by helping participants to: hear and describe voices in various texts; identify inconsistent voices; and learn to move between voices. Drawing on her background as a singer and actor, Brenda Baker will share techniques she uses to find interesting voices and get them down on the page. She’ll offer practical ideas for maintaining consistency of voice and for evaluating the appropriate tone of voice for the story that needs to be told. She will also pass on what she has learned from other writers regarding “the proximity of the camera” and how its placement affects voice.

Fiction from Fact
An experienced writer often begins her story with a factual nugget (or perhaps several) that she cannot stop thinking about. Such ideas are said to “resonate” and the discerning author learns when such ideas are worth the devotion of months or years of writing time. Using examples from her own work, and the writing of others, Brenda Baker will discuss in depth what it means to be a discerning writer, and how stories may resonate differently for different audiences. Through written exercises participants will learn more about how resonant historical facts and personal experiences can feed the imagination and inspire more interesting, emotional stories that are rich in meaning. Participants will deepen their understanding of how we sometimes get at the truth by telling lies.

Writing for Children and Young Adults
Brenda Baker has two YA novels in the works and has written stories and songs for young children. This writing has been every bit as demanding as writing for adults. She will share what she has learned about voice, characters who are compelling to a young audience, keeping a young reader’s attention and the importance of remaining true to the internal logic of the song, short story or novel. She will also cover some basic information about childhood development and how it impacts the content of children’s literature.

Re-VISION-ing: re-writing as an extreme sport
Hauling along her big box of archival story and novel drafts, Brenda Baker will share a variety of re-VISION-ing and editing experiences from writing The Maleness of God and Camp Outlook. She will give concrete examples illustrating the importance of extreme structural changes and character rewrites to successful stories. She’ll also speak in detail about being open to altering your original vision in order to uncover an even better vision for the piece. In the less extreme vein she’ll guide participants through exercises that will show the impact of the “order of the telling” on a story, whether it be the order of phrases within a sentence, the order of sentences or the order of paragraphs and chapters.

He said/She said: the basics of writing meaningful dialogue
This workshop is packed with writing exercises and tips to help participating writers make better use of dialogue in their short stories and novels. Great dialogue can do many things for a story, including helping to develop character, creating mood, moving the story along, and occasionally adding humour. On the other hand, badly written dialogue can drag a story down and irritate the reader. Brenda Baker will present examples of dialogue gone bad and dialogue that sparkles, “performing” portions of text to illustrate the differences.

The Basics of Lyric Writing
Brenda Baker has taught many workshops in lyric writing to all ages. Using a variety of exercises, participants will come to a better understanding of the natural rhythm of the English language and how critical that understanding is when composing, analyzing and revising lyrics. Participants will look at storytelling through song, the importance of structure, rhythm and rhyme, finding an effective “hook,” appropriate use of metaphor, humour and creating emotional punch. The session won’t include writing melodies, and all lyrics will be written to familiar tunes. Those who have already composed lyrics or original songs are welcome to submit them in advance on tape and/or paper for feedback.

The Creative Process: coping with your inner-frustrated-artist
An inspirational session aimed at those who are frustrated by their inability to reach their artistic goals. Drawing on her personal experience Brenda Baker will address a variety of issues that block the inner-artist, including fear, lack of confidence, lack of time, lack of resources and the inability to celebrate success. She will talk about her “systems” for keeping her creative soul alive, despite the demands of home, community and work. Brenda has offered this workshop several times in Saskatoon and it has consistently received rave reviews. Using worksheets provided by Brenda, some advance “thinking work” will be required from participants.

How to Give an Effective Reading
For some, reading their work aloud for an audience is a wonderful, fulfilling experience for which they have “the knack.” For others, it’s a torturous, nerve-wracking event that must be endured in order to sell books. Still others sense they are doing “okay” but lack the feedback they require to give a great reading. This workshop is designed for those in the latter two categories. In the first half Brenda Baker will cover elements of an effective reading and practical ideas for improving presentation skills. During the second half participants will read briefly from their writing, receive constructive feedback and have the opportunity to practice the suggested changes for the benefit of themselves and the group.