Non-Degree / Dates: 31 July - 5 August 2023

Margie Orford will conduct a writing workshop in the summer of 2023. This will give the participants the tools needed for writing narrative non-fiction, reportage, memoir, and fiction. The workshop will take you through the steps needed to conceptualise and outline a project, create characters with depth and integrity, write convincing dialogue, create setting – both time and place.

The programme will allow for plenty of time for your own writing, for useful ways of assessing your own material and learning from the work of other participants. In addition, you will have guided reading and hands-on teaching so that at the end of the course you will have the outline of a way forward, plenty of material written, and a writer’s toolkit as a guide and companion for  your writing project.

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All writing – creative or narrative non-fiction, memoir, essays, travel writing, fiction – has storytelling at its heart. There are two keys to that heart. The first key is finding the story. The second key is finding your writing voice, so that you can write your story in the way it can be best told.

Writing is both an art and a craft. It is both inspiration and perspiration. In this workshop we will explore both, with a particular focus on how inspiration emerges from the practical craft of writing.

We will explore which story you wish to tell and in which form. We will examine different ideas of truth and truth-telling. We will look at the best ways to structure narrative and the practical ways of crafting a clear and vivid narrative voice. We will discuss how to tell the time of the past and the present.

There will be informal presentations at the beginning of each session. We will read some texts about writing – novels, non-fiction, short stories, and memoir – and look at how these stories are made, crafted, put together, so that you can use these for your writing practice.

Why this course?

  • Enhance creative thought – it will prove useful in any area of expertise, whether humanities, natural sciences or economy.

  • Experience working in a group – share your writing in progress, learn to receive and provide feedback.

Teacher(s)

Margie Orford’s most recent novel is The Eye of the Beholder (Canongate, 2022) and is busy with a sequel . She has published non-fiction and memoir in Granta Magazine and Aeon. Her memoir, Undefended, will be published in 2024. She is the author of the literary crime fiction series the Clare Hart novels, which have been translated into more than 10 languages. She is an award-winning journalist who writes for newspapers in the United Kingdom and South Africa. She is an honorary fellow of St Hugh’s College, Oxford, the president emerita of PEN South Africa, and she has a PhD in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. She lives in London.

Programme

The course is six days long. The sessions will run from 10 am until 2 pm, with a short break in the middle. Each day will begin with a guided writing session – so that your own writing comes first and so that the blank page becomes our friend rather than something that makes us hesitant and afraid.

The teacher will present different readings, insights from other writers and from my own experience – both successes and failures – as a writer. We will discuss this as a group. After that there will be guided writing exercises so that you can put into practice what we have discussed. You will have the opportunity to experiment, to work on your own story, and to try new things.

There will be the opportunity to read your work after each session but at the last part of the class will give you the opportunity to receive and give feedback on each other’s work. So, bring your notebook, pens, and paper, as well as a sense of adventure, a willingness to play, the capacity to work very hard and love it.

DAY ONE: STORY

 ‘The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.’ 

Anaïs Nin

  •  Finding stories – making stories – the basic tools.
  • beginning an outline of the story you wish to write. Where to begin. Where to travel.
  • Where to end and how to end.
  • Practice – free-writing, playing with language,

DAY TWO: FORM

 ‘Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling workhorse, the blythe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and this is the law.   

Louis Sullivan, Bauhaus principle

  •  Finding the right shape for your work. Working with different forms and making your own to suit what it is that you want to say.
  • Exploring structures that would work – linear storytelling, telling it backwards, telling it slant etc.
  • This session focuses on the writing of others – the writers we love and those we don’t. We will look at what makes a narrative work – how tension is created, how stories are paced.
  • Practice: how to work with different drafts – from your first draft right through to writing that you can give to others to read

 DAY THREE: VOICE

 ‘Perhaps all writing is motivated, deep down, by a desire to make the risky trip to the Underworld, and to bring something or someone back from the dead’. 

Margaret Atwood

  •  Voice and point of view are how we tell a story – it is the guiding structure of any story.
  • Finding what you want to say, finding how what you want to say, finding your own ‘voice’.
  • Finding the voices that will tell your story – to answer the question of who is telling the story and what their relation is to it?
  • Narrators – reliable and unreliable.
  • Practice: This will focus on third person and first person narratives – what can you do with these voices – and which will tell your story best?

 DAY FOUR: TIME & PLACE

  ‘Lewis Carroll has the reversing watch that can turn back time, and make history repeat itself, twice or more, each time differently. [The writer’s] Magical devices which give power to characters inside the story reflect the power of narrative to go over the same ground again, and change what happens: a writer can handle time in contradiction of physics.’ 

Marina Warner. 

  • Writing is a form of metamorphosis and storytelling has a transformative magic. Creating time and its passing – and how it changes us, others, the world, our imaginary characters is key to creating the writing world.
  • Practically one chooses the tense – past, present and future – in which we will tell our story. Each tense has gifts; each has challenges and limitations. We will explore these.
  • Questions we will address – what is time, how is it felt, how to create the sense of time, the time of the body, the time of history, the intimate time of love, breaks in time, trauma – and the very powerful narrative drama of describing events that change us – where there is a clear ‘before’ and an ‘after’.
  • Creating and recreating worlds.
  • Place, setting, context, detail – these are key to making a world.
  • Descriptive writing, movement through a place or space, and how a character relates to or lives within that place is the architecture of a story.
  • This session will focus on very concrete descriptions of places you know, and places you have never visited.
  • We will work with images and do some sketching – with words and with pens – to practice a way of seeing that will bring your story to life.

 DAY FIVE: LANGUAGE & STYLE

‘The sound of the language is where it all begins. The test of a sentence is, does it sound right? The basic elements of language are physical: the noise words make, the sounds, the silences that make the rhythms marking their relationships. Both the meaning and the beauty of the writing depend on these sounds and rhythms.

Ursula K Le Guin

  • Language, beauty, pain, love, loss, hope, the senses – are the material of life and the raw material of story.
  • Writers, unlike other artists, make the material out of which we craft our work – painters have paint ready-made, potters use clay taken from the earth.
  • We make our material from the way we put words together. We recreate sight, sound, taste, touch out of these magical, intangible things.
  • the senses and the words that make sense of them.
  • The building blocks are words, sentences, grammar, punctuation – ordinary things that make something extraordinary.
  • Dialogue, conversation, connection, silences – how people interact with each and themselves.
  • The elements of convincing dialogue and how to bring your characters alive.
  • Creating silences, filling in the gaps, bringing the past to life
  • Imagining into the place of characters you think know very well – and creating characters you do not know (or do not like)
  • Using camera angles as a way of thinking about how characters relate to each other.
  • Setting up tension and intimacy – the talking cure for problems of pace and plot in stories

DAY SIX: WRITING THE FUTURE

  • Outlining your project, writing a proposal for a book or a project, forming writers’ groups
  • The publishing process – and next steps
  • The foundational tools needed for writing prose – fiction (novels and short stories), narrative non-fiction, reportage, memoir, and biography.
  • Writing, reading of selected work in progress and
  • A literary reading and CELEBRATION

Participants

This summer course is suitable for all people who are interested in creative writing. During the course you will be expected to attend workshops and seminars, submit your work for peer review and create a portfolio of your own writing. The expected English language proficiency is C1 or equivalent (advanced proficiency).
The course is limited to 18-20 participants.

Credit points

Upon full participation and the completion of the course, the students will be awarded 3 ECTS points.

Course fee

Early-Bird Course Fee (until 31 March 2023)400€
Regular Course Fee (after 31 March 2023)450€

Accommodation and meals are not included in the price.

Covid-19 Restrictions

NB! When travelling to Estonia, the requirements established in Estonia must be followed. Read about them from kriis.ee website.

Please note that restrictions may change depending on the decision made by the Estonian Government. We highly recommend taking out insurance coverage.

If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’

Toni Morrison

Margie Orford

"The highlight was truly opening up my creative side and meeting great people."

Tatiana Ivanova, Estonia
Creative Writing in English #tss2019

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