The Online Workshop

I think that writers, especiallypoets, can benefit from attending a workshop. The camaraderie of being with other poets and potentially learning from a respected author in the field can be a worthwhile and valuable experience. Workshops provide a nurturing environment that helps poets grow and improve. As a concept, I think they’re wonderful. Spending a weekend or several weeks surrounded by fellow writers while working on poetry sounds like a dream come true. However, there is one small issue. I may have already established this here on The Poetry Coopbefore but it bears repeating: I am an introvert. I am not great in person. I am OK over the phone. I am excellent over the internet. Between that and my day job, it means that I don’t actually attend any writers’ workshops.

However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been through them online. There are plenty of well-run and respected online workshops that you can take and get a similar experience over the internet. If you are looking for one, here are a few things to keep your focus on:

  1. Use a reputable site. I prefer workshops attached to universities or even community colleges to be a good option. Some even offer course credit! Find out if the person running the course has real credentials. Treat it like they are interviewing for a job and check their references. If they say they’ve won an award, took it up. If they’ve published books, get your hands on one and read it. See if their style is something you like or that follows the topic of the course. Of course, unless you are video chatting with your instructors, it might be hard to be sure that you are speaking to the correct person. Only you know how skeptical you are. If you aren’t sure, check with the school or company running the workshop. See if you can verify who the leader of the course is. If it sounds too good to be true, it just might be. And protect your work, too, so that you will have recourse if someone in the group plagiarizes you.
  2. Be sure you understand what you are getting into. Some online workshops are just video from the actual workshop that was done in person. You may or may not have someone available to read and critique your work. That’s not to say you won’t get anything out of them, but it might not be what you want. Know if it is an at-your-own-pace course or if you need to be online at a certain time of day every day/week etc. Pick something that works with your schedule. Know what happens if you have to drop out.
  3. Have a reliable internet connection. Verify that your technology meets the required specs for the class. You may need a certain program or processing speed, or meet other eligibility requirements. Make sure that you know them before you sign up. If you are going to be away from your computer during a class and think you can use your phone, make sure that you are correct.

A workshop can provide a poet with a community of support and priceless guidance to hone their craft. If it is something you are interested in, give it a try!