Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a writers' workshop--something I have never done before. The Kingston Arts Council planned this first-time event, called "Working With Words". It featured talks on writing by Diane Schoemperlen (whose best-known novel is probably Our Lady of the Lost and Found) and Helen Humphreys (who has written many books including The Lost Garden--a beautiful book--and most recently the best-selling The Frozen Thames). Each of the two authors presented lots of her own experiences and advice on writing: everything from abstract ideas like the importance of "loving words" to practical tips about what effect is created by first-person or third-person point of view. It was very interesting and completely down to earth--no pretense or la-di-da "famous author" stuff at all.
The event also provided the opportunity (for a measly $5 above the already-cheap $10 cost of the lecture) to have a one-on-one session with one of the authors to discuss your work. I signed up for this ahead of time and sent in 5 pages of a story I've been working on, and then yesterday I had 15 minutes with Helen Humphreys, getting her feedback and suggestions. At 33 cents a minute it was time and money well spent! She gave me advice on reducing the amount of dialogue, making my story move along faster, and dividing the story into thirds (1/3 introduction, 1/3 action, 1/3 resolution). Then she said, "But your characters and dialogue are good--I'd read this." Which was great to hear, considering my story is kind of weird. It was very practical, useful advice from someone who knows what she's talking about.
Lori also attended the workshop and to my surprise, so did Jonathan's Educational Assistant, Pam, who turns out to be a budding writer as well. We are planning to start a writers' group; 3 people make a group, don't they?