As a child-free, 20-something yuppie in 2005 (living in Virginia Beach, Virginia) I began taking community writing classes in poetry and fiction at what would become The Muse Writing Center in Norfolk, Virginia. I fell in love with what I call the “eight-by-eight format” which brings together up to eight writers for eight weeks to critique and workshop each others’ writing.
I found that working with such a dedicated group led to greater inspiration, greater objectivity approaching my own writing and a level of advancement in my skills simply unattainable through any other means. I found that no matter who made up the group, by the end of eight week’s we’d bonded over much more than just our literary work. Classes sometimes stretched late into the evening, and spontaneous after-parties often found us in our eighth or ninth hour together, bonding over 11 p.m. dessert. Ah! To be young and free again!
In 2006, my husband and I moved to the Rogue Valley and quickly became devoted to making a life in Southern Oregon. I loved the small-town feel, the bountiful local resources and the creative and artisan communities all working busily in their crafts with towering foothills as a backdrop. I missed my Muse writing classes, and after making a few acquaintances in the local writing community, decided to try to put something similar together, not too long after we’d arrived.
I found a local writer with an MFA degree willing to teach the classes and worked out how much I would need to charge each writer in order to pay her fairly, rent a space and have a bit left over to organize a public reading after the eight weeks were up. I advertised my classes through the local writer channels and met with loud cries that my price was exorbitant (it was less than what I’d paid for each Muse writing class I’d taken), that they couldn’t imagine why they would pay for eight weeks of critique when they could meet with their established critique group for free on an ongoing basis, etc., etc., etc. Deflated, I gave the idea up for several years.
Fast forward to 2012. Pregnant with my second son, and roughly three years of mommy-hood under my belt, I felt absolutely famished for some decent writing workshopping and critique. Still abashed from my first attempt, I decided to offer a free poetry eight-by-eight which would meet weekly at one of our local bookstores. At first, my description of the class scared absolutely everyone away. I was eager to receive high-level critique on my writing and initially stated that I wanted to accept only fellow writers who had experience providing literary critique in a structured classroom or workshop format. No one responded. When I toned down the wording and suggested anyone might sign up, prior experience or not, I attracted three classmates to join me.
Within a session or two, I realized the eight weeks would become about teaching my classmates to provide critique, as none of them had much experience in workshopping others’ writing. I also found I really enjoyed the process of helping them find firmer footing giving and receiving constructive criticism. The experiences I took from that class differed from what I had hoped, but gave me important insight nonetheless.
Now, with one of my boys finally school age and an intrepid and independent three-year-old as my youngest, I hear the call to form writing classes as loudly as ever, and this time, I have the knowledge, experience and local partnerships I need to bring it all to fruition!
Crafted Creative may never grow into anything as grand as The Muse, but the size of our organization won’t matter to our participants. I want to share the excitement, the community-building, the expanded creativity that comes out of taking part in writing/critique classes. I want to share the magic that these experiences seeded inside of me. If you’d like a taste of what I’m talking about, join me!