Spring 2022 Words by Winter Writing Workshops!

One-day Workshops: Could your creative spirit use a recharge? Come join me on my (virtual) porch for an exhilarating, fun, intensive workshop! All my three-hour workshops are taught via Zoom and designed for writers of any and all experience. No preparation or skills required. Workshop offerings are regularly updated (check out the brand-new The Intuitive Leap class), and I’d also be happy to design one specifically for your writing group. Each workshop requires a minimum of five participants and is capped at ten.

Building a Story five-week workshop: This spring I’m offering another session of my ongoing Building a Story workshop on Tuesday evenings: March 22, 29, April 5, 12, 19, from 6-9 CST. Building a Story is strictly limited to eight participants, with detailed weekly individual feedback from me. This five-session class has filled almost immediately each time it’s been offered in the past, so if you’re interested I encourage you to register soon. Scroll down for details. Building a Story fee: $400 (no discounts).

One-day workshop fee: $75. Note that I also offer a pay-as-you’re-able option to participants under financial duress (I’ve been there myself), from $10-$75, no questions asked.

Registration and payment: To register for either the five-week Building a Story class or an individual workshop, email me or simply send payment and note which class you’re registering for. Registration is tentative until payment is received. You may send payment via Venmo to Alison-McGhee-1, via Paypal to alison_mcghee@hotmail.com, or by personal check. Please email me with any questions.

SPRING 2022 SCHEDULE AT A GLANCE (scroll down for detailed descriptions of each workshop)

Building a Story, an Ongoing Workshop: Tuesday evenings, March 22, 29, April 5, 12, and 19, 6-9 CST (be sure to check time zone)
The Transformation of Trauma: Friday, February 25, 1-4 pm CST (Note: this class is free)
Creative Writing Kickstart: Saturday, February 26, 1-4 pm CST
Writing from the Body: Friday, March 18, 1-4 pm CST
*The Gift of Words: Friday, March 25, 1-4 pm CST(new class!)
Memoir in Moments: Writing Your Life: Wednesday, March 30, 6-9 pm CST
*The Intuitive Leap: Thursday, April 7, 6-9 pm CST (new class!)
The Freedom of Form: Friday, April 8, 1-4 pm CST

Building a Story: An Ongoing Workshop
Tuesday evenings: March 22, 29, April 5, 12, and 19, 6-9 CST (be sure to check time zone)

This five-week class is designed for fiction, memoir, creative nonfiction, and poetry writers. (It’s not designed for picture book writers, but what the heck, you might like it anyway.) Each week will focus on a different, essential craft of good storytelling, from character development to dialogue to narrative arc to the creative process itself. We’ll examine both published work and class submissions. Participants are welcome (but never required!) to share their work with the class as a whole. Everyone will receive weekly detailed feedback from me. Bonus: I’ll send out a weekly writing prompt every Friday for the month following class.

Fee: $400 (no discounts for this class).

One-day Workshops (three hours each)

The Transformation of Trauma
Friday, February 25, 1-4 pm CST (be sure to note time zone)

Are you haunted by the memory of trauma? Maybe someone assaulted you, or abused you over a long period of time. Maybe as a child, or adult, you struggled through domestic violence or emotional manipulation. If your life feels compromised by these memories, and you’re looking for ways to work through them, welcome to this workshop. Note that I am not a trained therapist and this class is not therapy. I designed it as both a human being and lifelong artist whose own experience shows that the making of art, in all its many and varied forms, can be a profound way to absorb and translate past experiences that were unfair, unwanted, and cruel. In our time together, we’ll do some brief writings, read and discuss a few short readings, and find ways to unlock your own power. Note: this class is always free. To register, just email me.

Creative Writing Kickstart
           
Saturday, February 26, 1-4 pm CST(note time zone)

Have you always wanted to write but aren’t sure how to begin? Or, are you a writer in need of an energy boost and a fresh start? This three-hour intensive Kickstart workshop will recharge your writing energy and help you develop a regular writing practice. We’ll do several brief writings and talk about various aspects of craft and process –maybe language, maybe flow, maybe dialogue, maybe tense and point of view, maybe some other things– in terms of what makes great writing great. The class is designed for writers of all abilities, experience levels and genres – so I forbid you to worry if you’ve never written before! Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you every Friday for one month after class. 

The Art of Writing Picture Books
        
Tuesday, March 15, 6-9 pm CST (note time zone)

Do you love picture books? Have you ever wanted to write one? Are you curious how to go about it? Welcome to my one-day picture book writing workshop! In our intensive, fun class, we’ll deconstruct some classic picture books, talk about ideas for new ones, and go through all the nuts and bolts, such as how long can a picture book be? What’s the relationship between writer and artist? How do you write a picture book that children will love and adults won’t mind reading ten thousand times in a row? We’ll come up with ideas, draft a basic outline for one or more picture books, read aloud some favorite passages, and provide instant feedback on anything you come up with. 

Writing from the Body
        
Friday, March 18, 1-4 pm CST (note time zone)

Our bodies hold within them everything that has ever happened to us. We may not consciously recall events from long ago, or even recently, but our bodies do. Ask your body to recall a moment of great joy, of great sorrow, of exhilaration or trauma, and physical memory will come washing back over you. Writing from your body, instead of your mind, is an intuitive and potent means of connecting both with yourself and readers. Brief in-class writings and discussion of short published works (provided) will focus on the power of physical memory as entry into powerful writing. Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you every Friday for one month after class. 

The Gift of Words
Friday, March 25, 1-4 pm CST (note time zone

Think of the people you love in your life. Picture them in your mind. Recall conversations you’ve had with them, times you’ve watched them in motion. The sound of their voice, their laughter, tears, songs. The way they touch their pets, their children, their flowers. The way they touch you. Everything about those nearest and dearest to you is specific and particular and unique to them, and so is the way you love them. In this three-hour workshop, we’ll draw on memory, the senses, and deep observation to create three gifts of words. (Hallmark is great, but you’re greater.)

Memoir in Moments: Writing Your Life
        
Wednesday, March 30, 6-9 pm CST (note time zone)

Maybe you’re at a new stage of life, looking back. Maybe you’re thinking about your family, or your children, and all the stories they might not know about you. Maybe you’re looking back on your childhood, the things you wondered about back then, the conversations you had, the places you went, how all of them were pieces of a much larger life puzzle. Think about that T-shirt you wore all the time in seventh grade. Think about your favorite dessert when you were five years old. Your favorite song as a senior in high school. The secret you’ve never told anyone. The dream that came true, and the one that didn’t. The unexpected turns your life has taken, and how they placed pattern to everything that came after. We’ll focus on memoir moments in this class, brief, specific writing prompts that shine up from the page and give readers a perhaps unexpected window into who you are. Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you every Friday for one month after class.

The Intuitive Leap
        
Thursday, April 7, 6-9 pm CST (note time zone)

Let’s play! Forget your conscious self and see what your subconscious has to offer you instead. It’s stunning how the being who lives deep within you can twist and turn and open up your words. This class is based on my own experience with the artist I refer to as my underground writer, who is always working on behalf of me and my writing. Sometimes I give her assignments, such as “Please come up with a picture book that’s pure joy, about the love between a father and his baby,” and then let her go to town, which is exactly how I came up with my forthcoming book Baby Be. Through a series of short prompts and discussion, we’ll learn how to let go and let your subconscious show you the way. This is a brand-new workshop and I’d love to see you in it. Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you every Friday for one month after class.

The Freedom of Form
        
Friday, April 8, 1-4 pm CST (note time zone)

When you’re stuck in a piece of writing, feeling lifeless, what do you do? Grind through, hoping desperately that a window will open? Give up? Take a break? Declare yourself a failure and slink off to drown your sorrows? I’ve taken a shot at all these methods, and none of them work as well for me as re-framing the work itself. I give myself seemingly arbitrary rules to work within, e.g., Write this scene as a series of text messages, or, Write this novel as a series of one-hundred-word passages. The freedom of assigned form is real, people, and it’s why novels usually have chapters, and picture books are usually under 500 words. It’s why enduring forms of poetry like haiku and sonnets and sestinas are still alive and thriving. In this workshop, which is designed for writers in all genres, we will play with form as a way to open up your writing, your mind and your heart to the freedom and creativity inherent in all art. Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you every Friday for one month following the end of class.

Comments from past participants

New and experienced writers alike who are lucky enough to take an Alison McGhee class will find their writing explored and uplifted, examined and celebrated, but always, always improved, in her skilled and gentle hands. (Tara G.)

Alison’s writing programs have been a revelation. I’ve taken writing programs in the past that made me swear I would never write another word, but Alison has a knack for bringing out the very best in the writers who study with her, even when “the best” is something they never knew they were capable of. Her teaching is fiercely intelligent, fiercely gentle, empathetic, deeply informed, and never patronizing or condescending. Take a leap of faith and try one of her classes. You’ll never look back.  (Janet M.)

Alison’s teaching has this amazing after-effect, an echo, a vibration, that comes from her voice, her sympathy, her encouragement of good words. (Tim N.)

Alison brings to her role as teacher an impressive combination of skills – passion, knowledge and depth of experience in the craft of writing, expert facilitation skills that creates a safe space for participants, and a seamless ability to keep the group moving. But what sets Alison apart is her unique ability to support people in their frailty as they explore sometimes difficult material in their lives or the lives of their characters. Alison’s immense humanity never makes a writer feel like they are going somewhere entirely alone. There’s always the feeling that she’ll catch you if you fall, and guide you back to the work at hand – the gift of storytelling.  (Tessa V.)

The only thing better than reading Alison’s blog posts or listening to her podcast is spending time with her in the writing workshops. She quickly helped me generate material which later became a short series of poems. Sharpen your #2s and get to writing. (William B.)

Prompts that prompt you to stretch your thinking, tips that you can use beyond the class, and discussions that lead to insights make Alison’s workshops worth every minute you spend with her. (Pauline C.)

I’ve taken several of Alison McGhee’s workshops and have loved every one of them. Alison is not only a wonderful writer, she is a terrific teacher. Alison has a true gift of connection and of helping her students tap into the deepest, juiciest parts of themselves and their fictional characters and share those parts on the page. Take any–and all–of Alison’s offerings! (Diane G.)

Alison is so very kind and responsive.  Her prompts are the most inventive I have ever seen. She gently guides you into new territory and eases you into taking writing risks without you realizing it. Take one of her workshops and reap the benefits. (Keyan K.)

Poem of the Week, by Brian Trimboli

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

One of my dearest friends is brilliant, wild and fearless in body and mind. Whatever she does, she does with all her heart. If something entrances her she will follow it as far as she can: flamenco dancing, acupuncture, poetry, figure skating, music, rowing, the list is endless.

She doesn’t live by the rules most of us live by. I could fill the walls of my house with photos of her and those walls would come alive with her energy.

When I picture her in my mind she’s always laughing, bright eyes full of fun, but I have seen her in despair and exhaustion and pain. I don’t know exactly why this gorgeous poem, so full of pain and longing, brings her to mind, but it does. My friend was young once too. She’s never stopped dreamimg.

Things My Son Should Know After I’ve Died, by Brian Trimboli

I was young once. I dug holes
near a canal and almost drowned.
I filled notebooks with words
as carefully as a hunter loads his shotgun.
I had a father also, and I came second to an addiction.
I spent a summer swallowing seeds
and nothing ever grew in my stomach.
Every woman I kissed,
I kissed as if I loved her.
My left and right hands were rival.
After I hit puberty, I was kicked out of my parents’ house
at least twice a year. No matter when you receive this
there was music playing now.
Your grandfather isn’t
my father. I chose to do something with my life
that I knew I could fail at.
I spent my whole life walking
and hid such colorful wings.

For more information about Brian Trimboli, please click here.
alisonmcghee.com

Poem of the Week, by James Richardson

My new poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

 

IMG_3857Most of the furniture in our house is wood, found curbside like the tiny wooden table that caught my eye yesterday a few blocks from home. Polished burled top, slender wooden dowels, sturdy legs, it looked handmade. My backpack was stuffed full of heavy groceries but I picked the table up anyway and carried it home like a baby. 

Box beam ceilings, cherry cabinets, oak floors, maple radiator covers. My house is over a century old, so the wood it’s made from must be far older than that, but it feels alive to me. After we moved in I wrote to the former owner, a cabinetmaker who had made all the kitchen cabinets, all the fitted radiator covers, a man who loves wood as much as me but, unlike me, knows everything about it. 

Can you tell me about the wood in the house? was my question, and his long, long reply detailed the specifics of each room. Sorry, he signed off. I‘m sure this is way more than you ever wanted to know. I guess you can tell how much I love wood. 

I thought about that man when I turned the tiny table over and saw the initials of the person who made it, burned into the wood.

 

Essay on Wood, by James Richardson

At dawn when rowboats drum on the dock
and every door in the breathing house bumps softly
as if someone were leaving quietly, I wonder
if something in us is made of wood,
maybe not quite the heart, knocking softly,
or maybe not made of it, but made for its call.

Of all the elements, it is happiest in our houses.
It will sit with us, eat with us, lie down
and hold our books, themselves a rustling woods,
bearing our floors and roofs without weariness,
for unlike us it does not resent its faithfulness
or question why, for what, how long?

Its branchings have slowed the invisible feelings of light
into vortices smooth for our hands,
so that every fine-grained handle and page and beam
is a wood-word, a standing wave:
years that never pass, vastness never empty,
speed so great it cannot be told from peace.    

 

 

For more information on James Richardson, please click here.

alisonmcghee.com

Words by Winter: my new podcast

Poem of the Week, by Langston Hughes

My new poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

IMG_0695From my porch, which is all windows, people walk by in pairs or threes or solo. Some of them stop by my poetry hut and take a poem. Some keep their heads down and never look up. Some are slow and wandery, holding hands and scuffing their feet. Others stare straight ahead and laugh while they chatter to the person on the other end of their earbuds.

I picture them all at home before they headed out into the day, brushing their teeth, turning sideways, appraising themselves. Maybe they smiled into the mirror. Maybe they didn’t. What was in their minds and on their hearts? It feels to me that there are deep wells inside each of us that can’t ever be reached, of unanswered questions and secret happinesses, of loneliness. This tiny poem sings itself through me every day.

 

 

Hope, by Langston Hughes

Sometimes when I’m lonely,
don’t know why,
keep thinkin’ I won’t be lonely
by and by.

 

 

For more information about Langston Hughes, please click here.

 

My website

New podcast and online summer workshops!

Hello friends,

Wow, what a year. Is that even possible to say, since we’re only halfway through? All the everything happening around us and to us, the swirl of life in 2020. It feels as if we’re at a breaking point, a breaking point that’s necessary, scary, exhilarating, exhausting.

Some days I’m filled with fear, some days with fury, and every day a kind of wonder and hope for the future world we can make together. A world we can all breathe in. With that better, kinder world in mind, I’ve created a new podcast and moved all my one-day workshops to Zoom, on a pay-what-you’re able basis. I’d love to see you in one!

 

Welcome to my new podcast, Words by Winter

Words by Winter: Conversations, reflections, and poems about the passages of life. Because it’s rough out there, and we have to help each other through. Each brief episode includes a story or conversation or letter from a listener, along with a poem. Words by Winter can be found anywhere you listen to your podcasts.

Click here for Words by Winter on Apple Podcasts.

Click here for Words by Winter on Google Podcasts.

Click here for Words by Winter on Spotify.

I’d love to hear from you about what you’re going through, what uncertainties or troubles you’re dealing with, maybe in the silence of your own mind and heart. Let me know, and I’ll go in search of a poem to help you through, one that might help all of us through, in the way that poems have been helping me ever since I was a little girl.

Sometimes life feels too hard, too intense, just too much, and if that’s where you are right now, reach out. Whoever you are, whatever age, whatever place in life, you can drop me a line or send a voice memo to wordsbywinterpodcast@gmail.com. 

Note: Music-free episodes are available upon request to listeners with hearing difficulties.

Introducing the Summer Session Workshops! 
 

9C805922-3A4B-4E42-8B12-B14912EDB00ECome join me on my (virtual) porch this summer! All my three-hour workshops are now taught via Zoom and designed for writers of any and all experience. No preparation required. Each workshop is intensive, exhilarating, and fun. Consider them a recharge of your creative spirit. I regularly update my class offerings (and I’d also be happy to design one specifically for your group, whatever that group is). 

NOTE: I welcome everyone and respect everyone’s individual financial circumstances. Sometimes, when under great duress, it’s even more important to feed your creative soul.

Therefore, all my classes are pay-as-you’re-able (truly, no questions asked), from free to a maximum of $75. Payment can be made via Venmo to Alison-McGhee-1, or via my Paypal account, which is alison_mcghee@hotmail.com. Personal checks are also fine.

All workshops are strictly limited to ten participants. To register for one or more, please email me.  

 

Creative Writing Kickstart!

Date and Time: Tuesday, August 4, 10-1 pm, CST

Have you always wanted to write but aren’t sure how to begin? Or, are you a writer in need of an energy boost and a fresh start? This three-hour intensive Kickstart workshop will recharge your writing energy and help you develop a regular writing practice. We’ll do several brief writings and talk about various aspects of craft and process –maybe language, maybe flow, maybe dialogue, maybe tense and point of view, maybe some other things– in terms of what makes great writing great. 

The class is designed for writers of all abilities, experience levels and genres – so I forbid you to worry if you’ve never written before! Whether you’re a longtime writer in need of a boost or someone who’s always had an interest in writing but never known how to sit down and get started, the class is designed for you. 

Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class. 

 

The Art of Writing Picture Books

Date and Time: Saturday, August 8, 10-1 pm CST

Do you love picture books? Have you ever wanted to write one? Are you curious how to go about it? Welcome to my one-day picture book writing workshop! In our intensive, fun class, we’ll deconstruct some classic picture books, talk about ideas for new ones, and go through all the nuts and bolts, such as how long can a picture book be? What’s the relationship between writer and artist? How do you write a picture book that children will love and adults won’t mind reading ten thousand times in a row?

We’ll come up with ideas, draft a basic outline for one or more picture books, read aloud some favorite passages, and provide instant feedback on anything you come up with. This class is designed for people of any writing ability or experience – all are welcome. Guaranteed to be illuminating, exhilarating and fun.

 

The Freedom of Form

Date and Time: Friday, August 14, 10-1 pm CST

When you’re stuck in a piece of writing, feeling lifeless, what do you do? Grind through, hoping desperately that a window will open? Give up? Take a break? Declare yourself a failure and slink off to drown your sorrows? I’ve taken a shot at all these methods, and none of them work as well for me as re-framing the work itself. I give myself seemingly arbitrary rules to work within, e.g., Write this scene as a series of text messages, or, Write this novel as a series of one-hundred-word passages. 
 
The freedom of assigned form is real, people, and it’s why novels usually have chapters, and picture books are usually under 500 words. It’s why enduring forms of poetry like haiku and sonnets and sestinas are still alive and thriving. In this workshop, which is designed for writers in all genres, we will play with form as a way to open up your writing, your mind and your heart to the freedom and creativity inherent in all art. This class is designed for people of any writing ability or experience – all are welcome. Guaranteed to be illuminating, exhilarating and fun. Enrollment is limited. 
 
Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class.
 

 

Memoir in Moments: Writing Your Life

Date and Time: Tuesday, August 18, 5-8 pm CST

Maybe you’re at a new stage of life, looking back. Maybe you’re thinking about your family, or your children, and all the stories they might not know about you. Maybe you’re looking back on your childhood, the things you wondered about back then, the conversations you had, the places you went, how all of them were pieces of a much larger life puzzle. Think about that T-shirt you wore all the time in seventh grade. Think about your favorite dessert when you were five years old. Your favorite song as a senior in high school. The secret you’ve never told anyone. The dream that came true, and the one that didn’t. The unexpected turns your life has taken, and how they placed pattern to everything that came after. 
 
This class is for anyone interested in writing out some of their own life stories. We’ll focus on memoir moments in this class, brief, specific writing prompts that shine up from the page and give readers a perhaps unexpected window into who you are. This class is designed for people of any writing ability or experience – all are welcome. Guaranteed to be illuminating, exhilarating and fun. Enrollment is limited. 
 
Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class.
 

 

A Novel Idea: Ways to Coax that Book Into Reality 

Date and Time: Saturday, August 23, 10-1 CST

Is there a book within you that wants to be written? Stories that want to be told? Do ideas and an urge to write them out come to you at work, while walking the dog, cooking dinner, folding laundry, and in dreams? Are you frustrated because you don’t know how to begin, or how to keep going once you’ve begun? Welcome to this workshop, drawn from my own experience as a novelist, in which every single book presents its own specific building-block challenges. 

Through a series of in-class prompts, discussion of creative process –both general and specific to you– and intuitive and practical analysis, we’ll come up with an individual book-writing practice plan for each participant. Note: This class will be helpful for anyone who wants to write a book, regardless of genre or subject matter. 

Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class.

Poem of the Week, by Hayden Saunier

IMG_8643When my kids were little and nothing else worked I used to resort to the dreaded counting threat. I’m going to count to ten. One. Two. Three. Why this worked I don’t really know, but I never had to count past three. Until the day my son just kept sitting at the table, his bright blue eyes fixed on mine.

One. Two. Three. My voice got louder and slower: FOUR. F I V E. His younger sisters, panicked, urged him to get going, but he didn’t move.      S  I  X.     S   E   V   E   N.   

Oh shit, I thought, the jig’s up. I started to laugh. He did too. We both knew that something was over –some irredeemable bit of childhood–but something new had begun. The ordinary miracle of growing up, that small shift in the universe.

 

Hard Facts (Especially), by Hayden Saunier

Most everything we’re taught
is wrong.

Especially fixed rules
about small engine

repair in adverse
marine conditions,

walking on ice,
and anything

to do with people.
Especially our own

strange selves.
And so the door

to the ordinary miracle
swings open.

 

For more information about poet Hayden Saunier, please check out her website.

Words by Winter: my poetry podcast,

My website