Frequently Asked Questions: Evening/Daytime Courses
1. What happens during a typical session?
This will depend on the tutor.
However, in the workshops in which you do submit your own creative work, a submission timetable will be drawn up during the first meeting and guidelines for submitting and critiquing work established. Each week between 3 and 5 pieces of work are handed in. The following week everyone gets their say. Each class differs, owing to the vagaries of the tutor and the particular interests of the participants. Workshops usually run for two hours, although this may end up being slightly shorter or longer depending on how much work has been handed in and how much everyone has to say.
Some courses focus on creative writing exercises aimed at getting participants inspired and generating new work. Other sessions will look at and analyse different aspects of the craft. You may be handed out readings to discuss or be asked to work with a partner. However, tutors respect participants’ preferences and you won’t be made to do anything you are uncomfortable with such as spontaneously share your work within the group. Please read course descriptions carefully and if in doubt, email us with your questions.
2. How important is the critiquing element?
Some classes do not involve workshopping, but for those that do critiquing is important. Along with gaining a readership for your writing, these classes aim to develop editorial skills. Therefore, it’s essential you take the critiquing element of the course seriously. ‘All first drafts are shit,’ as Hemingway famously said. Being a generous critic – generous with your time, generous in terms of using your own creative energy to envisage what someone is trying to do in their work and how it can be improved – will hone your editing abilities and make you a better writer in the long run.
3. Who is responsible for printing my work?
If handing in work, you are responsible for printing the required number of copies of your work and bringing them to class to give out. Occasionally, participants have emailed their work out to the group, but then you have to rely on the others to print your work themselves. In our experience, this doesn’t always happen and while you’ll still get the broader feedback, you can miss out on some of the detail, in which we all know the devil resides.
4. Do we get given writing exercises?
In some classes yes, in some no. Refer to the course descriptions.
5. How do I pay?
Course fees are payable in advance to the tutor.
6. Is there a word limit for submissions?
Yes, so participants don’t get overwhelmed with reading. Each tutor will set the limit they feel is appropriate. Even so, you need to consider whether you have the time to take part. You’ll be submitting work and critiquing others. It can prove quite a commitment. If you already have a really heavy workload, you should think about whether you’ll realistically be able to participate.
7. I am an experienced writer and I don’t want to be in a class of beginners/I am a beginner and don’t want to be in a class of experienced writers…
At The Reader, we do our very best to make up the best class lists possible which is why we ask you for information about your writing background when you sign up. However, we’ve discovered it is impossible to predict how a class will turn out. Sometimes in beginners you find your best readers, and experienced writers can offer a wealth of perspective on your work. The groups are never less than supportive and encouraging, whilst maintaining the honesty to make the whole thing worthwhile. In short, we do our best to balance the groups so they contain a range of people with varying writing backgrounds, you probably won’t feel in your comfort zone the whole time. But then what would be the point of that?
8. English is not my first language. Will I be able to participate in a course?
In the past, writers from Germany, Holland, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Finland, Poland, Romania, Israel and Armenia have all taken part and usually it works out brilliantly. But sometimes it hasn’t. Have you written in English before, academically, for example? Do you read books in English for pleasure? If so, then you are definitely ready. If not, think carefully. Sometimes not being a native speaker can add a fresh, striking quality to prose. But you need to know the rules before you break them. If you’re confident that your English is up to it, then you’re welcome.
9. I won’t be able to make some of the sessions. Do I have to pay the full course fee?
Afraid so – although we can time to organise submission timetables so that you are present the weeks your writing is being workshopped. On occasion, it’s been known for participants with smartphones to record sessions for those absent and then Dropbox them.
10. What happens if I miss a submission deadline?
You are roasted slowly over an open fire, although sometimes this can be avoided if you hand bake a delicious cake and bring it to class on your knees.
11. I don’t feel comfortable critiquing others’ work, although I am happy for mine to be critiqued. Can I still participate?
Not in a class that involves workshopping as that wouldn’t be fair, but some of our classes, such as Clare Wigfall’s, do not require you to critique.
12. Is it okay to come along and say, ‘Ooh I really liked it’ a number of times because I spent the whole weekend in Berghain and didn’t read any of the submissions?
See the answer to question 6.
13. Can I get advice on approaching agents, literary journals, theatres, etc.?
Absolutely. The Reader knows you don’t need a writing group to produce good writing, but a group can help you focus, will give you feedback and make sure you finish and polish your work. We want you to wait until you’re ready, but then we want you to get your stories, poems, scripts, novels and essays out there, get them read, and published and have prizes given them…while we bask in the reflected glory.