Keith Snyder
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Novels in Progress

The Green River Writers just emailed next year's instructors and asked that we put a little link up at our websites. Because this is a google strategy, here it is as they asked me to post it:

Learn about the writing conference at which [Your Name Here] will be teaching this March.

Here's my personal plug for it:

The thing I like about the Green River Writers Novels-In-Progress Workshop is that we start with a novel in progress, not a novel in theory. I receive the first few chapters in advance of the workshop. I read them a few times each and write critiques, which I give the writers on the first day of the workshop.

The rest of the week is spent on a combination of group critique/discussion sessions, individual meetings with instructors, and lecture/exercise "breakout sessions" on specific skills and subjects. I think my most successful hands-on workshop is the one on character voice (and those of you who have been through it, please don't give away the twist).

Regular readers of this blog (as well as the irregular ones, of which there are many) will know I'm conflicted about the teaching of writing. I'm not convinced it can be taught; I think it's something you can only learn by doing, and until you've done something, there's nothing to discuss. I also think there's a huge steaming pile of crap out there masquerading as writing instruction—most of it taught quite sincerely by writer/teachers who believe what they're saying. I don't want to contribute to that pile.

So to help potential students decide whether I have something to offer, here are my goals as an instructor:

I want your writing—not just your understanding of writing, but the actual pages you bring to the workshop—to be better when you leave than when you arrived.

I want your understanding of writing to be more concrete than when you arrived. I do not deal in abstractions; when I talk to you about voice, plot, character, or setting, I mean specific things. If you're unclear on their meanings when you arrive, I want you to be clear on them when you leave.

I will come to your story without preconceptions and try to respond to the story you are trying to write, not the story I would write. Often, the story you are trying to write isn't the story that actually appears on the page. In those cases, I'll try to understand what you're really trying to do and help you invent ways to do it.

I will not give you easy answers. There are none. We all come to our personal answers through our personal work. What I will give you is my focused attention, my experience, and my wish to earn what you're paying me.

I will not be your guru. I will not psychoanalyze you or frame your story problems as personality shortcomings. The job of an instructor is to expand your skill set and make your writing more effective, not make you stay up all night and have a mystical "through the fire" bonding experience. This kind of workshop can be a spiritual experience, but that's your business, not mine. My business is the sharing of what knowledge I have. Show me you're there to work and I'll show you the same.

Teaching a weeklong writing workshop the way I think it needs to be taught means I put my own writing aside for at least two weeks. I take this art and its attendant crafts seriously. If you're paying to come to something like this, my assumption is that you do, too.

March 12–19
Spalding University
Louisville, Kentucky

That link again:

Writing conference, March 2006, Louisville, Kentucky.

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