Fall 2015/Winter 2016 Program Schedule:
Whether you’re a brand new writer or have been writing for years, we have courses and workshops to meet your needs. There are weekly courses for the writer who requires structure, support and that needed push, or one day and weekend workshops for those who are unable to commit to a longer course.
Please note, unless otherwise specified, all non-member rates include a one-year membership to AWCS. If you’re a non-member registering for multiple courses, please select the Member Option on the registration page and purchase a membership along with your courses.
Behind the Curtain with Rosemary Nixon
Behind the Curtain: Technicolour Tips to Enrich Your Fiction (2 Seats Available)
Step backstage with Rosemary Nixon for 5 exciting mornings discovering behind-the-scenes secrets of how a good writer might achieve power in Structure, Character, Dialogue, Suspense, Pacing etc etc. We’ll discover ways to create gorgeous sentences that morph into indelible characters and a can’t-put-it-down plot, propelling a story from a competent representation of life experience into a piece of art that is experience itself.
Learn more about Rosemary Nixon
8 Week Courses
Mapping A Novel (Waitlist)
You have a great idea. Maybe you’ve dreamed up some dynamite settings and scenes. But how do you turn all the bits and pieces into a novel? You know you need an engaging plot to keep the reader glued to the page. You know your characters have to grow and change. You know your story has to reach an emotionally satisfying conclusion. But you can’t figure out how to get there from here and you’re spending a lot of time spinning your wheels. What you need is a roadmap.
In this class we’ll design a working model for your novel. We’ll discuss the basics, like the value of a three-act structure and why the incidents that make up a plot need to be linked by cause and effect. But we’ll also consider the underlying questions of goal, theme, character motivations and consequences as they relate to the particular story you want to tell. By the end of this extended workshop, you should have an integrated plan to follow as you write.
This class involves brainstorming and discussion.
Poetry – The Long and Short of It (9 Seats Available)
This introductory class will address a broad overview of poetry including structure and free verse and the use of figurative language. We will read, analyze, and discuss various works of local and foreign poets. The emphasis will be on creative self-expression. Beginning with the free fall method, we’ll create a number and variety of poems, gently critique each other’s work, and practice re-writing and speaking them out loud. Bring your favorite line from a song to the first class – and a notebook to keep your work in.
No experience necessary.
Creative Writing Level I
In this eight-week course, you will learn about the free fall method of writing and how it can be a useful tool for all writing. Learn how to create images a reader will remember. Then, using the short story as a model, you will be introduced to the basics of character, plot, dialogue and setting through discussion, free fall writing, practical writing exercises and mutual feedback.
No experience necessary.
Do Fish Need Bicycles?
Do you have leftover issues from growing up in the sixties and seventies, do you feel that the eighties did little to progress women’s rights, or have you realized, as a young person, that regardless of how far we’ve come, equal rights, equal pay and equality under the law are really not how life rolls? Are there attitudes, at home, in the workplace, and in public spaces that prevent you from being who you want to be? And do these attitudes mildly concern you or do they make you mad as hell?
Come and spend 8 weeks writing about your experiences, frustrations, triumphs and hopes for the future as a woman of the 21st century. We will write for enjoyment, communication, therapy and maybe even publication as our rants, essays, letters and blogs evolve. Most of all though, we will keep it light-hearted, humourous, and friendly as we write about who we are where we want to be.
Some writing experience is an asset but not necessary. We will cover the basics as we write, read, listen and share.
Ellen Kelly is a long-time member and instructor for AWCS. She has been short-listed more than once for the Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Prize. Check out her blog Random/Abstract
Stranger Than Fiction: The Personal Essay
Do you have true stories to tell? Experiences you would like to share? Skeletons in your closet that you want to write about? Passionate feelings about a subject that you would like to explore? This eight-week course gives participants the opportunity to find deeper meaning in their writing by experimenting with various personal essay formats and through discussion of characterization, scene, narration, theme, voice, truth, and markets/publication. Specific interests of the class participants will be addressed and participants will be encouraged to write both briefly in class and more extensively at home. Sharing is encouraged.
10 Week Courses
Writing Young Adult Fiction
Learn to write or improve your Young Adult (YA) fiction. Explore what goes into it from word count to language. Investigate YA plotting, teen language, characters, dark matter, sex, and humour. Compare self-publishing and traditional publishing, then make a publishing package. Work on your own project or create something new in this class all about the growing market of YA fiction.
Prerequisite: Short Story Level II or equivalent, recommended.
Next Recommended Course: A Novel Approach – The First Three Chapters
Creative Nonfiction (5 Seats Available)
This ten week course gives participants the opportunity to develop their own true stories creatively. Characterization, scene, narration, theme, voice, truth, story/plot development and publication/markets will be discussed as they apply to CNF. Specific interests of class participants will be addressed and students will be expected to write, both briefly in class and more extensively at home. Sharing is encouraged.
Prerequisite: Creative Writing Level I or II, or equivalent.
Writing Speculative Fiction (8 Seats Available)
Speculative fiction is a broad category that includes any element that is not currently part of our real world, including Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and their subgenres. Many writers of one form also write in one or more of the others, and all are growing in importance and popularity. This course will examine the elements that define these genres: which conventions are expected by readers of a genre, and which clichés to avoid. We will also examine writing techniques that underpin successful commercial fiction, what editors are looking for in terms of writing quality and professionalism, and what steps a starting author should take when approaching a magazine for publication. Come to this course prepared to workshop your own short stories or novel openings, to improve your craft with the goal of publication.
Two-time Prix Aurora Award finalist and winner of The Galaxy Project, juried by Robert Silverberg, David Drake and Barry Malzberg, Susan Forest is a writer of science fiction, fantasy and horror, and a fiction editor for Edge Press. You can find her stories in Analog, Asimov’s, OnSpec, Blood and Water, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Tesseracts, AE Science Fiction Review, and The Urban Green Man, or in her collection, Immunity to Strange Tales (Five Rivers Press). www.speculative-fiction.ca.
Short Fiction | Writing from the Shadows (6 Seats Available)
Steeped in the traditions of pulp fiction and hardboiled legends like Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammet, spend 10 weeks with Axel Howerton taking an intensive look at the tropes, traditions and templates that define and enrich the hardboiled and noir mysteries of yesterday and today. This course is great for those who love to write short stories and want to try something a little different, or for those who already write noir or hardboiled and want to hone their skills.
Previous Short Story courses recommended.
Axel Howerton is an Arthur Ellis Award-finalist, Noir at the Bar organizer, crime and mystery author, editor and publisher, and Crime Writers of Canada board member. For more information check out Got How?
Adapting Your Work for the Stage (9 Seats Available)
Do you have a poem, short story, novel, novella or any creative scribbles that you envision as a stage play? Do you go to the theatre and think to yourself, “I could do that!” or “I wish I could do that!”? Take your existing work and shine a spotlight on it. Curtain up! Greasepaint! Success!
The Artist’s Way (Daytime) (7 Seats Available)
For all writers and artists. As a group we will work through Julia Cameron’s’ book The Artist Way. We will engage in exercises and activities that spur the imagination and capture new ideas while unblocking obstacles on the path to inspiration and creativity.
No experience necessary.
Next Recommended Course: Creative Writing Level I
Introduction to Freelance Writing
Do you want to write for magazines, newspapers or the internet but don’t know how to get started? Learn the basics of how to find fresh ideas, publish in multiple markets, incorporate research and write informative, inspiring and entertaining articles that assignment editors will love. You will do practice exercises to build on your new skills, and learn how to craft query letters that will get the attention of busy editors. Throughout the course students will develop well-targeted ideas, refine their queries and get ready to start writing for editors.
After completing the first draft what do I do with my play? Join professional playwright, Caroline Russell-King, as she teaches you how to get your play from first draft to FINAL draft. Come and find out about dramaturgy and roundtable workshops. Have your words read by real live professional actors. Learn about submission tips, life in rehearsal, theatre etiquette and more. For more information on Caroline go to www.carolinerussellking.com
A Novel Approach
A Novel Approach: The First Three Chapters
Start as you mean to go on with this 10-week course designed to lay a solid foundation for your book-length manuscript. Instruction will focus on characterization, voice, plot, setting, conflict etc. as they specifically apply to those critical first pages. While this course includes no formal workshopping, students can expect to share their work as it relates to a variety of writing exercises. By the end of the course, students will have generated strong and focused beginning to their manuscript and be well poised to continue on their own, or in a more advanced novel class.
A Novel Approach: The Muddy Middles
Are you working on a novel-length manuscript and have a considerable amount already written but finding the process a little overwhelming? Learn the steps involved in writing a novel, such as choosing point of view, setting up a structure, planning out the plot and characterization. Learn and discuss the foundations involved in writing quality novel-length fiction. Students will submit portions of their novel and receive critical feedback from the instructor and other students.
A Novel Approach: The End
Writing the Seasons (8 Seats Available)
Our life patterns journey around in cycles and spirals. We will use the
season’s summer, fall, winter, and spring as inspiration for
self-reflection, to free our inner rhythms, to glean personal insights, to
open up our creativity, claim our unique wisdom and unlock the muse. This
will develop our courage as writers and help us become a more alert and
vital human beings.
Creative vs. Analytical Work in the Writing Process (9 Seats Available)
Writing well requires a combination of creative and analytical tools, but it’s sometimes hard to know what to use when. While every writer has to figure out their own mind, it helps to understand the various skills and to learn what other writers do. We’ll talk and write, learning about creative work (playing with ideas, writing the words) and analytical work (planning, editing), and discuss how to strengthen weak areas.
Delving Into Your Tickle Trunk – Tools to Help You Write a Memoir (7 Seats Available)
Join Anne Gafiuk as she guides you through the process of how to begin writing a memoir. Using her experiences as a freelance writer and author, she will share her personal practices (organization, resources, links, examples, formats), discussing how to approach the project, keeping the forward momentum going, as well as possible successes and challenges.
The two-day workshop will be a mix of lecture/discussion/Q&A time, with a few writing exercises.
Please bring writing utensils and three to five items that speak about you.
Journaling for Writers: Sneaking in the Back Door to Creativity & Inspiration
If you read Sharon’s article in the June 13/15 Calgary Herald you know that keeping a journal has changed dramatically, from a mere event recording device, to an amazing tool that can help inspire creative thought/expression. Discover the power of journaling for writers with this hands-on one-day course that leads you through the back door of journal writing to new forms of creativity and inspiration. You will enter your own writing laboratory where you will learn 7 or 8 practical techniques you can use in as little as 15 minutes a day to experiment, invent, control, change, destroy, guide and construct writing projects and even shoot writer’s block without getting arrested.
Backstory Secrets (5 Seats Available)
Backstory is tricky to interweave into your story effectively. Often, our mistake is to introduce it too soon, or all at once in one large infodump. When and how can it be feathered in effectively? Think of your backstory as a series of secrets your protagonist does not want to reveal. How can you make your audience hungry for backstory and deliver it at just the right moment? Bring a pages or an idea you are working on (your plot line of story events and plot line of backstory events), and use the tips from this one-day workshop to analyze your piece for optimal revelation of scandalous secrets!
Noir – Writing on the Dark Side (2 Seats Available)
As writers we aim to misbehave, and the noir genre in particular encourages us to explore the shadiest corners of humanity – and to do it with style. Whether you’re burning to tell a hardboiled tale of bad people in bad places doing bad things, or simply interested in taking your writing to a grittier place, this workshop is a great starting point. Together we’ll discuss the elements of noir, and it’s many sub-genres. Then prepare for morally ambiguous fun with exercises focusing on character, setting, and voice to create the beginnings of a story where the light serves only to create more shadows.
Dialogue and Transitions (9 Seats Available)
Are you struggling to write good dialogue? Are your scenes choppy, leaving your reader confused about point of view and passage of time?
In this three hour workshop you will learn the basics of how to write natural sounding dialogue that can advance the plot, give insight to the characters and create tension in your stories. You will also learn how to make your writing flow from one scene to another with graceful transitions. Feel free to bring a work-in-progress.
Crafting Magical Worlds (7 Seats Available)
Write Your Personal Fairy Tale (9 Seats Available)
An autobiography class with a twist. Maybe it’s not so easy to write your life. Maybe you think your life is/was boring and you have nothing to say. Here’s a chance to spice up your story by using the fairytale format. Introduce your heros, your fairies, your angels, your demons and incorporate other magical elements. Did your prince charming turn out to be a dud? Did you discover your special power with the help of your fairy godmother? Your children and grandchildren will love these stories about you. There’s still time to live happily ever after – make it happen.
What’s the Point?
Blending discussion with examples and exercises, this workshop addresses why you want to write; what you want to say through your writing; and how to structure individual scenes to get your point across.
Raising the Dead (6 Seats Available)
Harvest your own family tree for intriguing characters and amazing plots! Write family lore, historical fiction or your own surprising life (even if you’re still alive). Write for young adults, children or adults. Beginning and seasoned writers are welcome. Guaranteed amazement!
Showing vs. Telling (9 Seats Available)
The first “rule” of fiction writing all authors learn is to “show” story events scenically through action, as opposed to “telling” the story. But how is that accomplished? What are the craft techniques that lead to page-turning stories that immerse the reader so he forgets the book in his hands, and lives the story in imagination? And…when is “telling” the tool of choice? This two-day intensive workshop will explore techniques such as time dilation, for interweaving dialogue, internal monologue, description, action and emotion into well-structured, purposeful scenes.
Fractured Fairy Tales and Wounded Heros (9 Seats Available)
A weekend personal narrative course exploring how the truth of our stories is well-approached through the template of fairy tales, where metaphor and extended metaphor offer up the rich imagery readers treasure. We will look at why our favourite stories include those with characters who were left in the forest with a pocketful of breadcrumbs, and will untangle the elements that make these stories unforgettable. Old versions predating the familiar Disney depictions thrust readers into trauma and violence, and now centuries later, popular alternative fairy tale retellings reflect our modern worldviews – there are helpless girls waiting for rescue or princes slaying dragons! We will compare these versions and their value to readers.
Reflections and writing exercises will help us put into image-laden words the moments in our own life that left us speechless. We will learn to write about the dark and personally transformative times by engaging fractured fairy tales and fairy tale fiction – turning traditional stories on their heads to reveal scars worn as art that make heads turn.
Bring your most favourite and least favourite classic fairy tale to our first class!
This workshop will explore strategies for writing that intensive love scene, that sizzling mix that is just perfect for your story. We will examine your characters to find out what they like, and what they fantasize about. Come prepared with a character you’d like to explore, and/or flesh out a character in this fun workshop!
The Writer’s Voice (5 Seats Available)
Have you ever wondered why we like particular writers? There’s something about the way they write that keeps us engaged for the duration. Could be turns of phrase, the pace at which a story moves along, quirks and ticks. In this workshop, we will do lots of fun writing exercises to help your own voice emerge onto the page. Learn the tune and rhythm of your voice and what makes it unique from everyone else’s and how to turn your raw voice into your story voice.
Very Short Poems
We will play with literary devices and short poem formats to create several miniscule works of great magnitude. Say what you want to say succinctly – both humorously and seriously. Come with ideas for content and your favorite line from a song.
To Write Monologues or Not to Write…
Learn how to master the art of writing dramatic and comedic monologue. Whether your dream is to perform, do stand up, audition or round out your playwriting skills this class is for you. Find out how dramatic monologues and soliloquies differ from prose and story telling. Learn about the tricks and secrets of the trade. This class is also for those interested in writing one person shows.
Magical Realism (9 Seats Available)
Magical Realism is a genre where the fantastic is treated as ordinary and the ordinary as fantastic. It’s where reality is described in vivid detail and employs elements of folk tales, fables, and myths without being any of these. It explores and conveys the truth of the world by showing it through the eyes of characters who experience reality differently than the reader does. Join us to learn more about this unique genre where time spirals and miracles can happen.
The 10 Minute Play
Come and dip your toes in the playwriting pool by joining Caroline Russell-King for the day as we create 10-minute plays. Ten-minute plays are the new rage at theatre festivals and readings and there are lots of opportunities to submit your creation! Any genre, anything you’d like to write about in just 10 pages for the stage. Have fun learning about playwriting with this mini-manageable art form.
Reality Is Optional Creative Kids’ Programming (RIOCKP) is a multi-group program for youth to connect with each other through writing, art and improv. We strive to foster creativity, community, and youth leadership in an accepting environment. See RIOCKP website for more details.
Our three main groups include:
1. Reality Is Optional (RIO) kids’ writing club: writing, games, improv, and guests.
2. Pen and Panel Cartooning Club: A constant current of fun and education, art and writing, web comics, cartoons and anime. See Pen & Panel website for details.
3. Free Fall Writing: Free writing time with friends and the option for critique. Work on your own stuff or from a prompt.
RIOCKP Member Only Programs
- Random Movie Night
- Dungeons and Dragons Club
- Workshops and Special Events
- RIO Poetry Slam Team
- Special Projects
- AWCS Youth Membership (mandatory): $40
- RIOCKP Membership: $60
- Drop-in Fee (main groups only): $5
Non-Member Rate includes youth membership.
Manuscript Review Service
Prose Submissions – less than 3500 words
Prose Submissions – 3501 – 10000 words
Prose Submissions – 10001 – 50000 words
Prose Submissions – 50001 – 80000 words
Poetry Submissions – Up to 10 pages (poems)
Poetry Submissions – 11-25 pages (poems)
Poetry Submissions – 26-50 pages (poems)
Unless otherwise noted, all events are at the
Alexandra Writers’ Centre, 922 Ninth Avenue SE.