ARMCHAIR BOOK CLUB: Workshop helps aspiring authors

Heather Allen explores a creative writing workshop in Penticton, and how to keep on task as a writer.

Have you ever dreamed of being a published author, having a public reading and a book launch? Students at the Okanagan College campus in Penticton will get that chance. Starting in January, the Penticton campus will be offering a creative writing workshop in fiction.

In addition to learning more about the craft of writing fiction, students will benefit from author guest lectures. At the end of the semester, student work will be compiled into an anthology, complete with a book launch and reading.

“When people talk to me about their writing, the complaint I hear most often is that they can’t find time to write,” said Frances Greenslade, who will be teaching the course. “The workshop imposes deadlines and forces writers to work past their excuses and their inner editors.”

This is the first time in many years that the course will run in Penticton, although it’s already offered in Kelowna. “One of the great things that happens in courses like this, ideally, is the students leave having met a group of like-minded individuals with whom they can continue to meet and talk about writing long after the semester is over,” said Sean Johnston, the course instructor in Kelowna.

Students in Penticton and Kelowna will also benefit from being taught by published authors. Frances Greenslade’s book Shelter, published in 2011, was nominated for the BC Book Prize Ethel Wilson award for fiction. She has a new book in the works called Sing a Worried Song, which is set to be launched in 2015.

Sean Johnston is a prolific writer, having published fiction, short fiction and poetry. His latest works include The Ditch was Lit like This, a book of poetry published in 2011,  Listen All you Bullets, a novel published in 2014, and a book of short stories, We Don’t Listen to Them,  launched this November at a reading in Kelowna.

Aspiring writers could learn much from Johnston’s We Don’t Listen to Them. Provocative and sometimes deliberately opaque, the stories are a display of imagination and intellectual agility. From story to story, you’ll find shifts in narrative techniques, time jumps, and on one occasion, a narrator so keen to intrude on his own story that more than half the tale is written in the form of foot notes.

“Students in the short story course gain an ability to see things from a point of view other than their own,” says Johnston. “Fiction strengthens empathy in readers, and I think it does the same, and probably to a greater degree, in writers of fiction.”

Students taking the course in Penticton, and wanting to obtain university credit must have two prerequisite courses: English 116 and 126. However, those who have similar previous writing experience are welcome to audit the course. For more information please contact fgreenslade@okanagan.bc.ca