Last fall I began a small group writing class of only six people, meeting weekly for six weeks. The format and style of this class were unlike any previously offered, with the added bonus of convening in my home classroom. I just wrapped up the second series of six-week classes, and I wanted to share with you more about this newer teaching platform that I offer.
In the past, I’ve taught larger classes, for nine weeks at a time. I’ve also done many, many workshops and speaking presentations to big groups. There is something about being in a small group, though, that makes for a much different class experience. I’ll let some of my class members share their thoughts.
“Being with the same six writers for the six-week class helped,” said Cheryl Floyd, “because we were able to get to know each other better, learn to recognize our writing styles and see growth between submissions.”
“With only 6 people you really get to know the writing voice of each person. I was more invested in what the others wrote because I was closer to each person in the group,” said Becky McGregor.
Beverly Bailey agreed. “I felt we bonded in our small group which meant there was a high level of trust, encouragement, and commentary we shared. I loved our talks about writing skills and what we liked or didn’t like about the book we read.”
Indeed, this intimate dynamic impacted the writing work brought into class, and the depth of our discussions, with members sharing some really honest and authentic parts of their history.
Not only was the class size smaller, but the length of the class was as well. “Because the time was short, I focused more on the writing lessons, trying to put what I learned into my writing,” reflected Becky. “The course was condensed and moved at a rapid pace, which I loved.”
The format of the class each week included discussion based on chapter readings from a selected memoir, followed by some teaching on material or techniques discovered in the book.
Most recently the class read The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr. This book brought about some intense and thought-provoking conversations: the importance of being truthful with readers when telling our story; consider that what we choose to include in a story is as important as what we choose not to include, and how those choices shape our narrative; identifying and writing in one’s own unique voice; how to connect with readers by organizing a life story around an inner enemy or psychic struggle, and using carnal, or sensory, writing so readers experience the story. This list barely discloses the depth of Karr’s wisdom in this book, which the class really enjoyed and learned a lot from. Without a doubt, it informed my own writing.
In addition to reading a memoir together, I provided class assignments that members prepared over the course of the next week and posted in our class’s exclusive online forum. There, members read one another’s assignments and provided comments and encouragement.
Each week, two of the six members submitted an additional story of their choosing for an in-depth review by me and the class. Each piece got written feedback and an in-class discussion on what was done well and what could be improved. Based on those two pieces each week, I taught about common errors in spelling, grammar, or style.
Lastly, as I know all too well how solitary writing can be, I encouraged connection of our members by pairing up writing buddies for the six weeks. Buddies connected at some point each week, either by phone or in person, and shared about their writing work and gained accountability.
When asked what she liked most about the six-week class, Cheryl said, “I liked the way we posted and responded to each other’s writings. I felt like we were able to be honest and authentic with each other.”
Cheryl remarked that the class has impacted her writing already: “I reached deeper and allowed myself to write and share pieces that had a lot of emotions behind them. It’s important to stay tuned into my own voice and continue writing those stories that need to be told.”
Beverly shared that the class dynamics were especially powerful to her in this session. “For the first time in all the years I’ve been in Patricia’s classes, I felt free to be who I wanted to be in my writing. Maybe it was finding my voice a little better or maybe it was being with writers whose encouragement nudged me out of my comfort zone.”
Beverly’s main takeaways from the class? “The bond between us and experimenting with Mary Karr’s writing techniques.”
“The friendships that developed and grew between the women attending was strong and I think lasting. I felt free to be me, write the stories I wanted to write, and I felt safe to put the stories out in front of these women,” said Becky. “Patricia did a great job of keeping us on task, on focus, and picked a great book to use in teaching us.”
After our last class this summer, we celebrated our hard work and enjoyed one another’s company with yet more laughs over dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Friends, let us never underestimate the power of connecting deeply with others as part of our writing process. We need each other, and we help one another to become better writers.
If you are interested in joining me for a future six-week class offering, please email me: Patricia@WritingYourLife.org