WWD Profiled in September 2019 Poets & Writers Magazine!

Michael Bourne interviewed our Executive Director, Blake Kimzey, about Writing Workshops Dallas for his piece in the September 2019 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine! It has been a joy to have so many talented writers find a home teaching at Writing Workshops Dallas AND to have so many wonderful emerging writers trust us with their work. We're honored to see WWD profiled in this magazine (with a shout out to our summer workshop in France, Writing Workshops Paris)! The issue is on newsstands now!

On Being a Lifetime Writer by Amber Royer

In addition to working with adult writers and being an author in my own right, I teach teen writing camps and classes.  These groups are special to me because I often see bits of myself in various young writers.  I remember being that cocky, self-assured writer who thought that she knew everything and was alive and electrified with the sheer power of WORDS.  I also remember feeling overwhelmed, writing my way out of dark moments and using poetry to try and make sense of the world.  And yes, I remember wanting so badly to communicate with people, to let them know I was ready to be an adult.

There are as many reasons writers of any age take up pen or keyboard as there are writers.  A love of reading, which may spark fan fiction because the characters are so ALIVE in the fan writer’s imagination.  The burning desire to tell stories, because characters keep whispering that they want to live and breathe and act.  A need to be remembered by generations in the future, that the writer himself lived and that life meant something.  A personal cause the writer wants to highlight and bring awareness to.  Even just the desire to entertain others.

But once you start writing, something changes.  Often, you find that the pieces you create help you psychologically, whether you ever show it to anyone else or not.  It becomes a positive coping mechanism.  This works for fiction as well as nonfiction writing.

Shakespeare said, “Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er fraught heart and bids it break.”

Fiction allows us to feel these feelings – grief and otherwise – in a safe environment.  It isn’t US going through the aftermath of some kind of trauma, or navigating a first love, or trying to figure out where we fit in the world.  It’s someone else.  Some guy who’s going through something maybe a little bit similar.  Or some gal who’s our complete opposite – allowing us to escape our problems in a psychologically specific way.

I wrote my first novel in high school.  It was horrible.  I knew I wanted to tell a mystery, but I didn’t have much of a clue myself how to do it.  So there were a bunch of characters bumbling around acting and talking pretty much like my actual friends.

But then one of my favorite teachers died.  I had been a journalism student since freshman year, and she was the advisor, and she had helped me get a perspective on both writing and life.  The concept of death terrified me at the time, and I was just a student.  I didn’t go to the funeral.  I’ve always regretted that.  I had NO IDEA how to cope.  I wrote a bunch of poems about death and dying.  And then a year or two later, I wrote a short story that won the contest at the Golden Triangle Writer’s Guild conference, and was subsequently published in Byline magazine.  There was power to it, and truth, looking at the horror of cancer from the sidelines, in the POV of a character who feels powerless to help anyone.

It took me a good decade to recognize WHY that story was so powerful, when many of my other fictions failed to connect with readers.  But it was because it was honest.  It was me, processing uncomfortable emotions on the page.  We talk a lot about catharsis in the re reader – but it happens in the writer too.

This makes writing a lifetime sport.  It can become a daily practice, as natural as breathing, or something sporadic, when ideas hit and need to be followed up on.  Either way, writing reduces stress, keeps the brain active, helps with vocabulary building and teaches empathy.

In writing my Chocoverse books, which are over-the-top space opera, I found that comedy had to be balanced with some deeper real meaning.  These characters had to be going through uncomfortable emotional moments, dealing with authentic interpersonal relationships and psychologically realistic interpersonal conflicts.  That understanding comes from a lifetime of studying craft.

I’m always excited to help new writers take their first steps on their own journey.

How to Stop Procrastination

Writers are notorious procrastinators. One will look for any excuse not to write, but when you step into a bookstore you realize that your favorite writers finished their work. Sure, they may have procrastinated along the way, but at some point they got down to brass tacks and got to THE END.

The dream of publication is an intoxicant that keeps many writers in the chair. So how do the pros overcome the desire to clean the house, to return overdue library books, to do the grocery shopping and file their taxes early, all in an effort to avoid writing? Well, an article in the Harvard Business Review has a few ideas on how to beat procrastination (link to full article at the end):

It’s all about rebalancing the cost-benefit analysis: make the benefits of action feel bigger, and the costs of action feel smaller. The reward for doing a pestering task needs to feel larger than the immediate pain of tackling it. - Caroline Webb

In her article, Caroline Webb suggested you can overcome procrastination by doing the following, and if you’re following along at home want to know if these techniques work, the simple answer is yes. Give them a try:

  • Visualize how great it will be to get it done.

  • Pre-commit, publicly.

  • Confront the downside of inaction.

  • Identify the first step.

  • Tie the first step to a treat.

  • Remove the hidden blockage.

Patiently ask yourself a few “why” questions—“why does it feel tough to do this?” and “why’s that?”—and the blockage can surface quite quickly. Often, the issue is that a perfectly noble competing commitment is undermining your motivation. - Caroline Webb

You can read Caroline’s full article here. And if you’re thinking about finally putting an end to your procrastinating ways, joining a community of writers is a great next step. Check out our classes (In-Person & Online) in Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Screenwriting via the button below.

Character Questionnaire with Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust Character Questionnaire

French author Marcel Proust invented this questionnaire to get closer to his characters. If you want to discover who your characters are try to answer all or some of the questions below. Consider it an interview between you and your character(s):

  • What do you consider your greatest achievement?

  • What is your idea of perfect happiness?

  • What is your current state of mind?

  • What is your favorite occupation?

  • What is your most treasured possession?

  • What or who is the greatest love of your life?

  • What is your favorite journey?

  • What is your most marked characteristic?

  • When and where were you the happiest?

  • What is it that you most dislike?

  • What is your greatest fear?

  • What is your greatest extravagance?

  • Which living person do you most despise?

  • What is your greatest regret?

  • Which talent would you most like to have?

  • Where would you like to live?

  • What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

  • What is the quality you most like in a man?

  • What is the quality you most like in a woman?

  • What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

  • What is the trait you most deplore in others?

  • What do you most value in your friends?

  • Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

  • Whose are your heroes in real life?

  • Which living person do you most admire?

  • What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

  • On what occasions do you lie?

  • Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

  • What are your favorite names?

  • How would you like to die?

  • If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

  • What is your motto?

You can bring your characters to life with deadlines and warm readers in one of our 8-week writing workshops (In-Person or Online).