The New England Writing Workshop – Cape Ann, Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Writing Workshop offers expert small-group and individual guidance amid the austere beauty of the coast north of Boston. Writers come for either 4 days / 3 nights, in January, February, May, September, or 8 days / 8 nights, in June, July, August. (Master Class & workshop in Travel Essays also available.) Summer accommodations are rooms in a rambling turn-of-the-century hotel, nestled in a small village beside Ipswich Bay. Classes last from eight-thirty to noon, in Anthony’s book-lined living room a few minutes’ walk from your beachside hotel… or outside, in the intimate shade of a summer garden.
Writers will enjoy one-on-one tutelage as well as group classes (limited to 5) to explore the skills necessary for both fiction and memoir: dialogue, point of view, plot vs. story, length, description, flashback, exposition, character development, and relations with agents / editors.
People come to writing at different stages of their lives, and bring different levels of experience to the process of self-discovery. Part of what makes writing a challenge is being able to judge when you’ve found something, or when you have not gone deep enough; when a scene succeeds, or when it doesn’t; being able to see what’s wrong, then repair it.
The paramount aim is to help participants assess their own work accurately. Though it’s fashionable to say that creative writing cannot be taught, it certainly can be learned, and the vision behind it encouraged, strengthened, and refined.
Although most workshops rely mainly on a kind of group therapy, writing is at heart a craft of words chosen in solitude. To improve a manuscript, a writer must learn to grapple with each sentence, paragraph, and page. A month prior to the workshop, participants should submit a story or chapter which Anthony will edit, and discuss in a private conference on the first day. One of the week’s goals is to polish this manuscript, and submit a successful rewrite to him for another edit. The last day will consist of private conferences to discuss it.
During the week participants may want to offer the rewrite-in-progress for group discussion. This is optional. Or participants may offer an entirely different manuscript, if they prefer.
Though all this sounds directed at more experienced writers, the workshop welcomes and heartily encourages those who are just getting started—or who dream of getting started. A fine teacher can not only save you years by helping you begin in the most fruitful way, he can also make possible what always felt out of reach or even impossible.
There are specific approaches and exercises to melt the frozen sea within us (as one writer put it, facing the blank page), and no participant should feel out of his or her depth here. Indeed, part of the problem every writer faces is deciding what to write about at any given moment, which can make beginners of us all.
If you don’t yet have a manuscript to send Anthony before the workshop, he can provide you a healthy list of one-paragraph “assignment” ideas to choose from and try—no matter what the results may be—so the two of you have something to talk about in your initial conference.
An ability crucial to all first-rate writing is the craft of rewriting. One class, for example, will analyze a few drafts of the same scene by a professional writer. Thus, students can hone the self-editing process through impersonal observation, and develop their own clear-eyed skills.
Besides the general workshop described above, two other concentrations are offered:
Master Class (limited to 6)
A week’s Master Class for those involved in a longer work (novel, memoir, short-story collection, non-fiction book) who are under way but need structural counsel along with hands-on editing. Writers should submit a sample chapter and outline, which Anthony will edit for discussion in an initial private conference. Group classes are geared to refining the skills demanded by individual needs and concerns. At week’s end each writer will submit a revised (or new) chapter & outline for a final private conference.
Travel Writing (limited to 9)
A week for those who want to write personal Travel Essays, 500-5,000 words in length. Writers should submit one long essay or two short ones, which Anthony will edit for discussion in an initial private conference. Group classes are aimed at skills demanded by fine travel writing, among them dialogue, description, character portraits, and explaining history succinctly. Emphasis is placed on an ability to balance the editorial and structural needs of a story with the roles that improvisation and happenstance inevitably play. Also covered: writing a saleable proposal, relations with magazine editors, traveling with a photographer. Assignments include a couple of brief articles on specific topics and locales on or near Cape Ann. At week’s end, each writer will submit a revision of his or her original travel essay, followed by another private editing conference.
Find out more about the New England Writing Workshops.