Sunday, December 4, 2016

A review of Brian Henry’s introductory class: Welcome to Creative Writing, by Hina Zia

Here’s something I have often found to be true: people who enjoy reading a good tale, also like telling their own stories. At least I do! And while some lucky ones are born story-tellers, others like myself, need help. That’s where Brian Henry’s courses and workshops come in.

When I signed up for Welcome to Creative Writing, I was excited, but also nervous and apprehensive. An introvert by nature, I found walking into a room full of strangers daunting. Brian soon put me at ease with his gentle demeanour. His opening advice was simple yet potent, “Silence your inner critic!”

But just as I thought I was easing into this class, he requested casually that would we please share our work every week in small groups. At this I almost made a beeline for the exit! I thought writers wrote away happily in their hovels and publishers took care of the rest. How could I share my scribbles with “critics” I barely knew?

Surprisingly, though, when we broke up into pairs before the end of the first session, I was grateful for a listening ear and delighted by my companion’s encouragement. It helped that we were both equally apologetic about the pieces we had so quickly composed. And over the course of the next few weeks, the “critics” I’d feared so much all turned out to be friends offering a listening ear.

Every week we walked away with renewed fervor and enthusiasm. Brian gave great nuggets of advice on openings, endings, dialogue, fiction, non-fiction as well as the technicalities of penning a well formatted piece. He began every session by asking us to share any interesting news relating to writing, answered any questions we had, and concluded it by giving us different writing exercises. 

He never put any performance pressure, but it felt like we didn’t want to disappoint him, so everyone rolled up their sleeves and did their best.

The show-and tell segment – when one participant would read a piece to the whole group – was my favorite part of the day, though for a month, was quite certain, I’d never work up the nerve to read to the whole group.

Through these “show and tell” pieces, though, we came to know each other better and I got to hear so many wonderful pieces of writing. And I did eventually work up the courage to read one of my pieces to the whole group, and it was such a positive experience that I did it again.

Brian also took out time each week to chat with people individually, reviewing their work and giving some great pointers to make it better. If anyone missed anything, the handouts arrived each work by email, along with the homework.  

Do I recommend this Course? Highly. If, like myself, you have ever toyed with the idea of writing for pleasure, for catharsis, to make some money, or merely as a hobby, do sign up. Not only will you learn some great tips, you will get to know yourself a little bit better. Brian is a great coach and a knowledgeable guide. He will take you on a creative journey, and along the way you’ll  also learn about the mysterious workings of the publishing world. Because who hasn’t struggled trying to get their work published?

As with all good things, the Course concluded too soon. However, Brian has an exciting line-up for winter, and I can’t wait to get my feet wet again! Join me at one of the other sessions, or check out the workshops. Your creative alter-ego will be glad you did!

Brian's next introductory creative writing course starts in January 2017. See details here. For details of all six classes starting in the new year, see here. If those courses have already started, see all upcoming weekly classes and Saturday workshops here

Hina Zia believes in the power of the written word and its ability to challenge perceptions and break down barriers. She is fond of a quote from Thomas King: “I get stopped every time I try to cross that border but stories go wherever they please.” She hopes her words will reach a wide audience some day. Currently she lives in Oakville with her children. Having moved a few times herself, she’s particularly interested in the immigrant experience and it’s effect on the psyche of people. When she’s not actively parenting, she’s happiest reading or dabbling with words herself.

See Brian’s complete current schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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