Why pay for a creative writing workshop when you could go to a book club or writing group for the price of a bottle of Lidl’s Chenin Blanc and a packet of  crisps? I am biased, of course, but experience tells me that book clubs spend ten minutes on the volume up for discussion then two hours munching Twiglets and, if the women (they usually are) are single, debating ways to bag a man or, if they have offspring, bragging about Rosie’s proficiency on the viola and why Oscar really bit the other kid.  Writing groups are no better. They are invariably mutual admiration societies in which everyone agrees on how much they liked everyone else’s descriptions and no one dares tell the slightly deranged woman in the knitted hat that her characters are totally incredible.  Occasionally a difficult customer, either the aforementioned hat-woman or a belligerent man with a florid complexion, disrupts the literary love-in with a bit of vitriolic criticism or some embarrassing neo-porn – “Personally, I don’t hold with censorship…”  All in all, you learn very little, get irrelevant comments  -“Wasn’t that doctor story a bit like that other one they put on telly- I forget who wrote it – except that was set in Cyrus and he was a plumber?”- or personally-motivated critiques – “Frankly, I hated every word …(subtext: because last week you wouldn’t go five miles out of your way to drop me home in Sydenham).”

      That’s all fine if you just want to read stuff, drink something, have a chat and never bother rewriting. However, if you really want to hone your skills, get robust feedback and eventually write something that might get published or broadcast, then you need some real academic rigour, objective criticism and advice from people who know the word industry.  That’s why Chalk the Sun offer a multi-disciplinary team of tutors, all working in different media, structured courses, written feedback and challenging tasks. We actually encourage writers to write, rewrite and rewrite again because that’s how you end up with a piece of work of which you can be proud.  It’s totally pointless having a structural genius like our Jonathan Wolfman read your work if all you want is meaningless platitudes; you need to know where you are going wrong, what’s missing, what needs re-jigging and how to re-jig it.

    We promise never to thank our students for sharing with the group; we don’t ask them to write about what they dreamed last night and we never sit there nodding as they read then say ‘Mmn, nice description.” We do drink wine and eat crisps though.

 Ardella Jones

 Look out for our 2013 courses coming soon…