“The blank page gives the right to dream.”
In my decade as a freelance writer, I have taken numerous courses in writing, both fiction and non-fiction, to re-energize and polish the craft. Bar none, Roxanne’s classes were the most insightful and inspiring of any writing workshops that I have attended. So beneficial, that I have made the commute from Ajax to attend five of her workshops over the past few years.
What makes Roxanne’s teaching unique is her sensitivity, honesty and exceptional eye for detail. Her passion for excellence and her enthusiasm and humour create lively discussions and instill remarkable writing from her students. Personally, she pushed my writing skills beyond what I thought was possible and opened up my mind to a whole new world of writers and writing. Along with benefiting myself, I was always amazed and inspired by the hidden talent of fledgling writers in her classes who were new to the excitement of writing.
Diana L. Cawfield, Freelance writer
THE CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP
In the Beginning…
My independently run creative writing workshops evolved out of a popular series of Continuing Education courses I taught at the University of Toronto, and were launched in 2004.
The Basic Structure and Spirit of the Workshop
Throughout the year I offer a general creative writing workshop which explores various components of narrative prose – exposition, dialogue, voice, point-of-view, style, etc., through weekly, assigned writing prompts. The prompts are designed to spark the imagination and hone various elements of the craft; and are short enough to write in minimal time (around an hour) and discuss in their entirety in class.
Typically, there’s a mixture of fiction and creative nonfiction assignments in each session, and students of varying levels of experience. Each workshop series is tailored to the particular interests, needs and levels of experience of participants in the group.
The workshop in general is conceived as a supportive, illuminating, entertaining and provocative environment in which to develop narrative skills and ideas.
Well, all that sounds so clinical, and while accurate, lacks luster and pizzazz.
Same Thing, More Pizzazz
I scour the entire writing galaxy to find the most exciting and illuminating prompts, which I give out on a weekly basis. These prompts are like a little warm fire, lit under your derriere, to get you writing. My commentary and the class discussion of your completed prompts will elevate, expand and refine your writing capabilities, and hopefully fill your head with new, useful ideas about how to write, and what to write. Each prompt also teaches something very concrete about the craft of writing.
As for the spirit of the thing, any creative writing class I teach would have to be a lot like any class I wanted to attend–an experience to look forward to; an occasion to get fired up, laugh, and learn something substantial. Entertaining, but serious; respectful, but honest.
Some Typical Material Covered
- How to get started writing–where to find ideas, how to use material from your life, overcoming the fear of the blank page, techniques and tricks for launching stories and memoirs, writing prompts from the instructor
- What makes for great writing? The seven magic ingredients of great writing (this part comes after you sign up) Examples of great writing, contemporary and classic, are read and discussed.
- “Authenticating Details” How the choice of the perfect details brings the page to life in the reader’s mind, and can transform mediocre writing into potent and memorable prose. But what are the perfect details?
- Cliches: Why You Should Avoid Them (“Like the Plague”)
- Two big choices every writer faces: P.O.V. and tense
- Discussion of fiction vs. nonfiction–stories or memoirs, what really distinguishes the two, and which would best suit your aims and abilities as a writer.
Beyond the General Workshop
Now and again, I offer a writing workshop with a more specific focus, such as one devoted exclusively to fiction, creative nonfiction, or one on character development.
For my repeat students I offer all new prompts, and the opportunity to bring their own work into class. I also offer smaller creative writing classes in my home, maximum six students, throughout the year.
Roxanne Snider’s workshops are fresh and energetic. Her no-nonsense approach is layered with charm, strong opinions and good will. Her keen attention to students’ writing yields specific, helpful advice as well as heartfelt praise. Her experience has netted her a razor sharp instinct for good writing and her ebullient personality brings a surprising sense of joy to her classes.
Dr. Win Mellor-Hay
Now that it’s the end of another wonderful creative writing workshop, I want to thank you once again for stirring up the creative juices that many of us have, but are unable to lay bare. It takes a certain talent, technique, whatever to uncover that potential and instill the motivation that many of us need.
I’ve been so lucky to get in on several of your workshops. I was always excited on my way to your class and always came home with a smile on my face. Your constructive criticism has only helped elevate my writing skills.
I think I’ve listened and learned, and as you have impressed on us: be bold, put stories on the table that hold the attention of the reader, keep it original and interesting, paint a vivid scene and depict sensibilities with drama or humour.
ABOUT ROXANNE SNIDER
Who is Roxanne Snider?
Roxanne Snider (a.k.a. Me, but you cannot narrate these things in 1rst person with any authority) is a writer, editor, and teacher with published articles on books, music, travel, health, architecture and social policy. She has taught literature, music, and creative writing at the University of Toronto’s Continuing Education, in various Toronto bookstores, at The Holocaust Education Centre, and in private creative writing workshops. Along with writing, editing and teaching, she has also produced cultural programming for the CBC, hosted a classical music radio show, and taught piano. She has a B.A. in Music and Literature and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Bennington College. Her writing teachers have included Barbara Gowdy, Amy Hempel, and Sven Birkerts.
Some Not-so-Random Thoughts on How I Teach
Just about everyone who takes a creative writing course has some story or memoir or voice or nebulous blur of a narrative inside of them that wants to come out. From the head to the page is not always that easy–precious vapours sometimes escape in translation.
So, I can help with that. Also, help you:
- write more naturally, concisely and freely
- find the kind of material, dredged up from within, coined from the world, or merely imagined, that keeps you, the writer, and readers, energized and engaged
- find or invent the narrative forms that make writing what you want to write possible
- develop a more objective eye on your own writing, so that you can make improvement in later edits
From over 15 years of teaching creative writing, I know that people write for all kinds of reasons–to tell a story, to settle a score, to amuse or express themselves, and perhaps most commonly of all, as a form of self-discovery. How often have I seen students grappling with some life experience on the page in a very real effort to comes to terms with it, to understand it or themselves. This is a big part of why I like teaching writing, and something I encourage–going somewhere emotionally challenging and real and writing from that place. And not because there will be therapeutic benefits (though there usually are) but because it leads to heightened awareness, dynamic writing, and a lively, charged workshop experience.
Another cornerstone of my teaching is the notion of learning through reading. I can teach you a few things; Chekhov, Lorrie Moore and Jeffrey Eugenides can teach you a lot more. I also like to introduce students to a bumper crop of great writers that aren’t well-known in this country. You’ll leave my workshop newly-aware of dozens of exciting writers, past and present, from various genres.
It’s my hope that what I offer in my creative writing class has a long shelf life–that ideas and inspiration might continue to stoke the writing urge for years to come, and help students sustain the act and love of writing throughout their lives.
Chekhov: greatest short story writer of all time, and an absolute mensch.
My Inspiration and Model
A few years back I did an MFA in Creative Writing at Bennington College in the U.S. The quality of the program was beyond anything I can briefly describe, but suffice it to say my mind and imagination were blasted wide open and filled with the most exciting, illuminating and inspiring ideas about writing and literature and even loftier stuff, such as the transformative powers of writing on the human consciousness and soul.
When I began teaching at the University of Toronto, I realized I wanted to create some kind of modest replication of that experience: a radically scaled-down outpost of a top-notch American graduate program, for more casual continuing education students. Take my workshop, and you’ll hear much of what I heard there, at bargain basement rates.
I can’t speak of inspiration and models without also mentioning my extraordinary teachers: Barbara Gowdy, Amy Hempel, Maria Flook, and Sven Birkerts.
My illustrious Bennington teachers, Hempel, Birkerts and Flook
This was an absolutely excellent workshop. I’d never taken one before and was quite tentative at first and unsure of what to expect. Roxanne created an excellent, welcoming environment that gave me the confidence to share my work and learn tremendously from her as well as the other participants.
Furthermore, she doesn’t sugar coat her critiques – she teaches you what to do better and shows you what your work could be with some extra attention. I definitely feel much more confident about my skills and I could see the progression in everyone else’s work as well. Great workshop and highly recommended for any skill set!
I have taken many creative writing classes over the years,but have learned more about writing from Roxanne’s classes than any of the others.
Roxanne truly knows her stuff. She gets down to the nuts and bolts of things by making you write, write, write; and then helps you work through that writing. Through the assignments and her guidance, I have slowly but confidently learned what works in my writing, and what can be improved upon and why. Thanks so much for everything Roxanne!
I have taken several workshops taught by Roxanne Snider over the last few years and have both enjoyed and benefited from them. Whether she is teaching literature, creative non-fiction, or fiction, she is always extremely well prepared, very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. She has such a large range of knowledge in literature and writing that her classes are always interesting. As a teacher myself, now retired, I know the difficulty of motivating students, maintaining attention and interest of the whole class, and encouraging students to give a 100 per cent effort in order to produce their best work. Roxanne does all this and more.
Over and over again, I have heard other students say that Roxanne is the best teacher they have ever had. I agree with them and it’s why we return to her classes session after session. I have taken many Continuing Education courses, but Roxanne is the only teacher who can draw me back to take whatever course she is offering. She is a demanding writing teacher with an uncanny ability to assess both the strong and the weaker merits of our writing and show us how to improve without discouraging us.
A terrific teacher, Roxanne challenges and inspires her students in equal measure. She is passionate about great writing and knows how to coax the writer out of anyone who is willing to work.
Rita Silvan, Writer/Editor
If you want succinct and accessible guidelines on what makes for good writing, as well as clear, specific and constructive feedback on your own writing, take Roxanne’s workshops. I took an Introductory U of T workshop just after taking Roxanne’s and was struck by how little feedback I got from the instructor at U of T. Of course it’s valuable to hear other students’ impressions of your work, but when I’m paying for a class by an experienced writer, I want that expert’s input most. Roxanne identified the strengths in my writing, but more importantly she pinpointed the weaknesses and areas for improvement in every piece I wrote. My work improved immensely over the eight week course.
This class has been a great help. It’s kickstarted my work, while providing the reassurance that maybe I can do this after all. I owe most of the credit to you, Roxanne. Thanks!
Roxanne has an uncanny ability to motivate and inspire each of her students, regardless of their level of talent or experience. Her critique of student’s pieces is always extremely sound, and her literary knowledge is obviously extensive, though it is a rare thing to find a person whose powers of articulation are on par with their overall wisdom. Her feedback is consistently thoughtful and constructive; and her unique, conversational approach to teaching is never lacking in enthusiasm and humour.
I left each class with a renewed confidence in my skill, and a deeper faith in my own imagination. My attention to the technical elements of flow, point-of-view, and word choice has also vastly improved. It has been a pleasure to listen to everyone’s work aloud, and then be treated to the benefit of Roxanne’s editorial experience. I joined Roxanne’s fiction workshop on a whim, having always been interested in writing but never having really tried to write. I can’t remember the last time I received so great a return on an investment.
I have taken a number of courses through the years, but the time Roxanne puts into reading and critiquing the writing exceeds any other class I have been a part of. Not to mention the excellent teaching.
Roxanne helped me to understand the ways in which I was sabotaging the clarity of my stories by overwriting, and using too many descriptive phrases. I learned the true meaning of making every word count. After this, I realized that the way I edit had changed dramatically. I spend more time making the story flow, and hearing how it sounds from the perspective of other readers. Now, I have the tools to write with more efficiency, and make the words pop off the page! I’m grateful and hope to take more of Roxanne’s workshops in the future, to continue the learning process.
For the past four years Roxanne Snider has been my creative writing instructor. I can only speak about the quality of her teaching in the highest terms as she consistently provided input with a fresh approach, unwavering enthusiasm and a limitless wealth of information and knowledge.
It is a pleasure to refer, from time to time, to my creative writing notes that are based on her excellent classes. They continue to provide me still, with inspiration, a multitude of reading lists that will keep me occupied for the rest of my life and basic how-to information for successful writing.
Mary Ann McKenzie, Piano teacher
I thoroughly enjoyed Roxanne Snider’s creative writing workshop. The prompts she gave us were great and helped me better understand and explore different components of narrative prose. The best part of the workshop was her critique of my and the other participants’ writing. Roxanne’s comments were always to the point and made complete sense. They helped me realize what works, what doesn’t and what I need to change to make it sound right. Roxanne’s teaching style is highly entertaining and energizing. I was looking forward to each class!
Claudia Blume, Communications Manager
April 2018 Creative Writing Workshop
A great way to start writing, jump start your stalled writing, or push your writing to a new level.
Join a new, smaller, more intimate session (max. eight students) of an ongoing creative writing workshop, which evolved out of a University of Toronto Creative Writing course.
Through a series of writing prompts, we’ll explore various components of narrative prose – exposition, dialogue, point-of-view, style, etc. Each week participants write a short, assigned piece which we’ll read and discuss in class. These exercises are designed to spark the imagination and hone the craft of writing, and are suitable to writers of fiction and memoir, beginning writers or those further along.
The workshop in general is conceived as a supportive, illuminating, entertaining and provocative environment in which to develop narrative skills and ideas. Our discussion of writing also includes examples from great classic and contemporary writers.
Times and Dates: Tuesdays, 7:30-9:30 pm, April 17 to June 5
Location: The instructor’s home, Bathurst and Bloor
Contact: [email protected]
One Character, Eight Prompts:
A Workshop in Character Development
Creating interesting, complex, believable and engaging characters is the key to writing great fiction. This workshop is aimed exclusively at that challenge.
At the beginning of the workshop, students create one character and stay with them for eight prompts. Over the course of the workshop, a story–or multiple stories– will naturally emerge. In the end you may have a complete short story or a good start on a novel; but at a minimum you will have discovered a lot of things about character development. Past the mid-point in this workshop you can start using a secondary character as well–one of your own devising or you can borrow another student’s primary character.
In past sessions of this workshop, by the 3rd or 4th class, the room was completely animated by a cast of real characters we all took interest in. It was kind of like a good binge TV show. We all came to each subsequent class eager to hear more and know what happened next to these various characters.
Times and Dates: Sundays, 2-4 pm, January 7 to February 25
Location: The instructor’s home, Bathurst and Bloor
Contact: [email protected]
Please note: This workshop is now full.
Consider giving the gift of Roxanne’s Writing Workshop…
Perhaps you know someone–a spouse, partner, friend, relative–who has always wanted to take a creative writing course but doesn’t dare treat themselves?
Enroll someone other than yourself in one of my workshops, and I’ll give you a gift certificate you can give to them.
Please email me for more information
Private Coaching & Tutorials
I am also available for private coaching and tutorials.
Please contact me for rates.
If you have come here in the gap between workshops that are already underway and new workshops that have yet to be posted, drop me a line and let me know if you are interested. Likewise, if you see a workshop that interests you, but are unavailable on that day/evening, please contact me. Extra workshops are often planned based on demand.
I write in order to attain that feeling of tension relieved and function achieved which a cow enjoys on giving milk.
I’m now taking my fourth creative writing workshop with Roxanne, and I’m surprised at how much I keep learning in her classes, and how much I enjoy them. It’s not just about my own writing, but also a fascinating community of others coming to the table and bringing their own characters with them.
I came to Roxanne’s creative writing workshop wanting to do more writing but not knowing where to start, and her workshop gave me just the inspiration I was looking for. The writing prompts were well thought out so that there was a clear progression of adding fundamental skills to our writers’ toolbox. The writing assignments were also fun to complete and made for lively discussion during class. Roxanne gave my work a critical and astute eye, and provided feedback that continues to be helpful to me today. Roxanne also has a wealth of literary knowledge and her recommended reading lists were a fantastic resource.
Leah Schnurr, Journalist
CONTACT ROXANNE SNIDER
If you would like to register for a workshop, be added to a mailing list, or have any further questions, please fill out the form below or send Roxanne an email at: