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Each of us have stories to tell, new prospectives to elucidate, and insights and ideas to share. Deep within we desire to share these things as creatively and as engagingly as possible. Some may take up a paintbrush or charcoal stick and sketch or paint on canvas what they feel inside. Others may use clay or stone to fashion objects that challenge perspectives on the world. There are those who pick up a camera and catch on film their unique view of the world, while others choose words as the medium to express themselves to a larger audience. In short, we are all artists. The challenge for each of us is to release the artist within.

That is the purpose of the Silver Fern Writing Workshops. The workshop is designed to help you become the writer you already are inside. Many of us have had early negative experiences, such as disparaging comments from teachers, friends, or family members that cause us to doubt our ability to express ourselves in writing. Instead of focusing on our strengths, we feel inhibited by our supposed weaknesses.

The Silver Fern Writing Workshop provides a safe, nurturing environment for writers of all levels and genres, where participants are encouraged to creatively experiment with their writing, drawing on their array of life experiences as raw material to work with. Attention within the workshop is also focused on developing and sharpening the writing craft. At the beginning of each workshop session a short lesson is given on some aspect of craft, such as the use of dialogue, point of view, description, scene building and the like, accompanied by handout notes that participants can read and consider throughout the week.

So what exactly happens at a workshop session?

Following the short craft lesson that opens each workshop session, it's time to get to work writing. During the workshop we write twice from guided, timed exercises and prompts that are designed to trigger the imagination and build craft. After each writing exercise, participants are invited to share their work for the group's response. This is a stimulating process, where each writer receives valuable feedback from the other participants about the impact the written piece had on them.

As the workshop progresses, participants are given the opportunity to bring along a work-in-progress in manuscript form for a fuller response from the group. Individual conferences are also provided to each participant during the course of the workshop. The size of each workshop is limited to a maximum of 10 people to insure everyone's full attention.

The Silver Fern Writing Workshop uses the Amherst Writers & Artists method. This method is built upon the assumption is that you already are a writer, and the aim of the workshop is to free each other from any early, negative, inhibiting messages about our ability to write by focusing on each other's strengths rather than weaknesses. In this endeavor, the workshop is guided by the following principles:

(1) All written work is treated as fiction; that is, as a creation of the imagination. Even if what a writer has written is autobiographical, or has been drawn from his or her own life, group participants assume that it is a work of fiction, unless the writer asks the group to consider it otherwise. This frees participants to write about whatever they choose without fear.

(2) Since all work is considered to be fiction, when workshop participants respond to it, they do so by referring to "the narrator" or "the character" as the voice of the piece, not the person who wrote it. If a participant is talking about what the writer has done in terms of craft, he or she refers to the writer as "the writer."

(3) When responding to first draft work written in the workshop, participants' comments about it are limited to what is strong about the piece, what we liked, remembered, were moved by; in short, what works within the piece. We do not use this opportunity to comment on what the writing triggered in our own personal lives. When addressing first draft material we do not make suggestions about how it could be made stronger. The opportunity for a participant to receive this kind of feedback can come later if he or she chooses to revise a piece and submit it in manuscript form for the group to comment on.

(4) Everything read and discussed in a workshop is kept in strict confidence within the group, thus ensuring a safe environment within which to write.

If the Silver Fern Writing Workshop is what you have been looking for to spur your writing on and unlock the artist within, then click here to see when the next workshop is starting.

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