Melissa Fu Writing Workshops

Writing Circles 2016 Update

  Writing Circles logo

I have some news for Spilling the Ink:  Starting in January, I will be teaching physics full time in a local school. This means that the Writing Circles workshops will be on hiatus. I hope to offer a workshop in the Cambridge area during the summer months. Details to come.

In the meantime, I will be hosting a Spilling the Ink event on 26 January with What Now, What Next from 8.00 – 9.00 pm GMT (3 – 4 pm EST, 1 – 2 pm MST).  It will be an online workshop entitled Emerging Visions – the Iterative Nature of Creativity.  We'll engage in activities to help us consider how creative endeavours come in iterations.  There will be chances to write, draw, and dream.  It will be free, but spaces are limited, so sign up soon.  Registration and more information here.

I shall miss leading Writing Circles, but this teaching opportunity feels like the right choice for now.  If you’re looking for an online writing course/community in the new year, I have some recommendations.  I wholeheartedly endorse each of the programmes described below. I hope my descriptions can give you a sense of what makes each special and that you can find something that suits. Perhaps you can ask Father Christmas to give you a gift certificate for a writing course…

  • If you’re interested in journaling, I recommend one of Beverley Nolan’s creative journaling offerings.  Beverley is a wonderfully wise poet, sensitive to the interplay of words, meaning and movement.  She is a professional yoga teacher with nearly 30 years experience and a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist & Educator.  I have enjoyed working with Beverley in my Writing Circles and would encourage anyone curious about exploring creative ways to layer images, words, and colours to try out one of her online journaling workshops.  If you’d like a ‘taster’, register for Beverley’s free Solstice Reflections – 7 days of journaling prompts starting on 18 December.  During January and February, Beverley’s courses, Compass Points 2016 and Watchword 2016, are designed to give a shape to your year.
  • The next course I want to tell you about is Sue Ann Gleason’s Luscious Legacy Project. The Luscious Legacy Project is a wonderful opportunity to craft a tribute to family and tradition.  Each participant’s Luscious Legacy Project takes a different form (mine was primarily stories) and can include stories, letters, photos, art work and recipes combined in unique ways.  What they all have in common are a spirit of taking memories we hold dear and capturing them to share. Sue Ann is a gifted teacher: she taught elementary school for many years and more recently has shared her talents outside the classroom as a culinary nutritionist, nourishment counselor and marketing strategist. If you want to know what it’s like to be in one of Sue Ann’s online communities, imagine yourself in the hands of your favourite elementary school teacher who knows there is nothing small or insignificant about taking the first brave steps towards making meaning. Sue Ann’s warmth, encouragement and support make you feel heard and understood. The next round runs from 24 January – 6 March.  If you’d like a chance to have a sneak preview of a morning with Sue Ann, get in touch with me soon.  You might be able to come as my guest to an online gathering on 5 December.
  • Wild WritingLaurie Wagner’s Online Wild Writing courses bring you to the wild west of the blank page and the lawless territory of your pen, your notebook, and the stories that must somehow be told.  Where some people are famous for being ‘horse whisperers,’ I would say that Laurie is a ‘story whisperer’.  Laurie can tame stories without breaking their spirits. She creates a truly sacred space in small online video groups. The Wild Writing community is not there to critique or craft or shape your words, but to witness them and offer a tremendous power of presence.  Wild Spring starts the first week in January and there are online groups available Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
  • Firefly Creative Writing – I love Firefly Creative Writing! The ethos, the enthusiasm, the funky website, the huge-hearted tone they take towards writers and writing! I love all of it!  Last year, I took their online course, Coming Home to Writing, and loved loved loved it! I had to get up at midnight UK time to do the course in real time, but it was worth every minute.  Chris Fraser, the founder of the company, is warm and real and funny and gets the ink flowing out of everyone.  The community she created in Coming Home to Writing was vibrant and exhilarating.  She uses a combination of video streaming and Facebook groups that give a wonderful immediacy to the group. Recommend!  If you’d like a free taste, try out one of their video writing prompts. And if you’re lucky enough to be in Toronto – go sign up for one of the in-person workshops and tell me all about it!!  The next Coming Home to Writing runs from 14 January – 3 March.

So even though I won’t be running Writing Circles during the first part of 2016, there are many opportunities to spill the ink and keep your pen moving.  I’ll check back with you in the spring to see how you’ve gotten on.

Wishing you happy holidays and all the best for 2016!

Melissa

Not Just for Writers

20150611_103704 Who will come?

When I first started my Writing Circles, this was one of the biggest questions in my mind. Who would want to participate in a writing community where we would be sharing fledgling words, witnessing each others’ growth, and learning together as we went along?

As I put adverts in local village magazines and stuck posters up on notice boards and telephone poles, I felt like I was calling out, “Welcome!  Please join me, whoever you are, wherever you are!  You know who you are, even if I don’t.”

Slowly and surely, names and registrations started trickling in.  Who were these people? A scientist, a nurse, a yoga teacher...

Read more at my guest blog post over at What Now, What Next! You'll also find information about a chance to join me in an online taster session of Spilling the Ink on 22 Sept.

And while you're there, take a look around. What Now, What Next is a collaborative network of women 40+ who are leveraging their experience to launch & grow new ventures. There are conversations and community about topics ranging from careers to family to creativity and much more. If you are a woman entrepreneur, you can promote your brand, business & expertise with a FREE web page in a growing community. 

One year later

It was a year ago today that I opened the doors and called out for writers to come together in my first Writing Circles.  Although I had been imagining how it might work since the previous April and although I had spent a lot of time planning the format and layout, when I finally put up my signs and made the website live, I didn’t know who (if anyone) would come, how it would feel to bring together people from different walks of life to write, and if it would be a one-off experiment or something that I could sustain. Originally I thought I would run two circles: one in Cambridge and one in Harlton (a village just down the road from mine).  The Cambridge one didn’t quite attract enough interest to run. But slowly and surely, the Harlton one filled: an acquaintance from my village, an artist with an incredibly beautiful website with haunting imagery and delicate haikus, someone who had written a children’s novel, a somatics and yoga teacher, people with whom I had crossed paths in our other roles, people who saw my signs in their villages.

I believe that just the right combination of writers came forward to form that first group.  The whole experience was one of exhilaration and terror. Each week I stretched and pushed myself to create something that would support our writing and thinking.  Each week they came back (they came back!) and whole-heartedly tried out my ideas, taking us in directions further and deeper than I had expected, bringing their own voices and perspectives. I loved it! And when the first round came to a close, several of them decided to carry on with a second six-week course.  It was a privilege and a challenge to continue, and I learned so very much.  In my experience of teaching, there has always been something special about the first group I’ve taught in a new setting – whether the 6th graders at the Salk School of Science in Manhattan from my student teaching days, or the 9th graders from the inner city of Columbus, Ohio, or the adults at Bellevue Community College in Washington – and this group was no different. There is something about going through a process together for the first time that marks the experience with a certain vibrancy.

After the initial Writing Circles concluded in the autumn, I knew that I had found something that I wanted to continue. With a bit more polish and focus, I conducted two more Writing Circles this spring and summer in Harston (another village down another road from mine), bringing together both new and familiar faces. As with the first group, I think the people who come forward each time are just the right combination to make us all grow. I count myself lucky to meet people whom I would have otherwise never met, to witness stories and poetry evolve from shadowy ideas to actual words on the page, and to spend my time and attention building unlikely communities.

I still get nervous before each session; preparing and imagining how it will go, whilst knowing that the unexpected is inevitable and something will come up that will take us in a different, but essential, direction.  For me, this is what teaching has become: I strive to have a solid structure to hold the space, yet I want to leave doors and windows open so that inspiration might fly in and take us away.

And after each session, as I pack up my supplies, turn off the lights, and lock the door, I leave with a buoyancy and gratitude that, once again, we have come together to write, listen, and be a little more present with all the richness of our shared and individual experiences.  This is work I love.

Registration for the Autumn 2015 Writing Circles will open soon.  See more details here and sign up for early notification and a discount code here.

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Curating a sense of time and space. ALSO - Early bird registration ends tomorrow (9 Jan)

DSC07497cbb I spent some time today going through writing from the autumn Writing Circles. We are compiling an anthology with contributions from each writer. As I thought about each piece, I tried putting it in the larger context of the collected body of work we’ll soon share. Would the poetry balance well with the stories and the personal essays? Would the voices of different writers standing next to one another create a harmony richer than the solo strains of the pieces alone? How might I best present this work?

More than just collecting a writing sample from everyone, I felt I was trying to curate a sense of our time together.  I wrote each participant a short email with suggestions or questions about their work, looking for one more way to connect before we all move on with a new year and new writing groups. My hope is that the combination of all those voices and styles will reflect the depth and breadth of the space we created in our Writing Circles last autumn.

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The anthology will be ready in about a week!   I’m so looking forward to sharing it here. Please come back and see what we wrote.

A few updates:

  • The next Writing Circle, Spilling the Ink, starts on 6 Feb at Harston Village Hall. Note: this is one week later than originally planned.  
  • We will meet for 7 weeks on Friday mornings from 10.00 – 12.00, from 6 Feb – 27 Mar, except 20 Feb.
  • The course is filling, but a few spaces remain. Tomorrow (9 Jan) is the last day to register at the discounted rate of £87.50. After tomorrow, the fee is £105. However, if you register with a friend/writing buddy, I’ll discount both your fees by £15 (fee will be £90 for each).
  • The Melbourne programme, on Thursday mornings, has been postponed.
  • After the Harston programme, the next Writing Circle will be in June or September 2015.  This is the last one until summer - why not sign up and make 2015 the year you started to write?

Want to join us and let your creative cats out of the bag this winter? Register here.


And before I sign off, some words from one of the participants:

For anyone considering joining a writing circle…

Melissa creates a warm, encouraging and non-judgemental space to explore any genre of writing of interest to you. Every week Melissa leads the group to explore different aspects and approaches to writing using a series of prompts and resources. There were eight of us in the initial group, each of us with a different agenda, from articles, poetry and fiction to historical research and teaching. I came to the group with an interest in haiku and left wanting to combine my artwork with my interest in folklore and fairy tale.

Melissa spreads her hand woven cloth at a table that she lays with love and consideration, pulls out a chair for you take your place, creates a space for you to discover what you really want to say and takes great delight in accompanying you on the journey…    

- Nicole Hague-Andrews

Getting Ready

The year is just 4 days old.  A newborn, really.  Bald with a little bit of soft fuzz.  Eyes full of wonder at the offerings of the morning.  I like January; I like the chance to reset, pull out an empty notebook.  The relief of a blank page after the fullness of December merrymaking is as welcome as the lengthening days. This morning I began planning out the sessions for my next Writing Circle - Spilling the Ink.  When I book rooms, start putting up posters and open registration for these programmes, I never know who I'll reach and if enough people will come forward to write together.  Last fall I had two successful circles meeting for several weeks.  It was such a dream and I loved the challenge, the participants, the process, and the result. I felt incredibly lucky to work with these writers and I'm looking forward to sharing their anthology with you later this month. Part of me is still pinching myself that this all happened.

This isn't to say that every workshop I offered last autumn filled completely and easily. Although two programmes filled, I had offered five.  The other three didn't quite have enough people to take flight. I figure these are decent odds for starting a new venture.  It takes time to grow roots. Just as not every rough draft becomes a finished piece, not every offering will be taken up. The silver lining was that since I had just one group of writers at a time, I could tend the programme deeply.

Because I want to keep my groups small, the margin between 'not enough to run' and 'all spots are filled' is slim. A minimum of four participants gives us enough breadth to create community, a maximum of eight participants ensures that everyone is heard.  So it was with a whoop and a holler that I reached enough people this week to confirm that the Harston Writing Circle will definitely run on Friday mornings, 10.00 - 12.00, starting on 6 February.  We'll meet for 7 sessions at Harston Village Hall.*

As I mentioned above, I've started planning.  Full steam ahead, no holds barred, we're going to write!!

Planning for Spilling the Ink

Along with tracing out some new ideas, I enjoyed going back over my notes from the autumn, looking at photos, reflecting on what worked, making changes for this time around.  The planning piece is one of my favourite parts of creating these circles. (Truthfully, I like every single part - it's just the waiting on tenterhooks to get enough participants that keeps me in a bit of limbo).  Here's a little photo essay showcasing some of what we did last fall:

Writing from art

Creating our personal universe decks.

Listening

Teas, coffees, and snacks keep us going.

Sharing a space for weaving words into story.

If you're considering joining us, sign up soon!  For more details about Spilling the Ink, read here. Registrations received and paid for by 9 January get a early-bird rate of £87.50 for the programme. After that, the fee is £105 for the seven sessions.  Register or ask for more information here.

If you're on the fence, feel free to get in touch and ask any questions. Or look around the website to get a fuller picture of what we do.  You might find some of these links helpful:

*The Thursday morning Melbourn Writing Circle is looking less likely at this point.  I'll make a decision on that one in about a week.  If you're interested in that one, please contact me soon.