What goes into running a writing course?

I’ve never been sure why people ask me to run writing courses, as I don’t have a teaching qualification. It began when I was telling someone about writing short stories for magazines. The then-chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association overheard and asked if I’d say it all again in front of an RNA meeting.

Love Writing final version-1 smallerThen I was asked to repeat it a couple of times at other events.

Then someone rang and asked whether I’d be prepared to run a residential course … it has snowballed from there, and I’ve run workshops and courses for libraries, writing groups, conferences, local education and universities, I’ve run residential courses in the UK, Italy and France, and if you look at my events page you’ll see that I have a few lined up. I’ve also written courses and taught them for the London School of Journalism, I’ve written a ‘how to’ book, Love Writing, and adapted it to be an online course for DigitalSea.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 21.29.43Yesterday, I ran a one-day workshop for Writing East Midlands in Nottingham, Writing Romantic Fiction, so I thought I’d use it as an example, to give you some idea of how these things evolve.

  • Aimee from Writing East Midlands contacts me via my website to ask if I’d be interested in running the course. We email back and forth about fees, expenses, the length of the course, the venue, participant numbers, and course content. We’ve worked together before and quickly reach agreement.
  • I add the details to my events page on my website and events sidebar on my blog.
  • I’m asked to fill out a two-page course information sheet, including course outline, strapline, my bio, and confirmation of the points we agreed via email. I send an author photo and jpegs of my book covers.
  • Aimee has an event page created on the Writing East Midlands website and Facebook page.
  • The event is included in WEM’s paper brochure for distribution. I appear on the front cover and feel a little swollen headed at the idea of landing on people’s doormats.
  • I mention the event from time to time on social media, talk to anyone who shows interest, and those responsible at WEM handle the major publicity push.
  • Aimee emails to let me know that a new contact, Clare, will be taking the course admin on from here.
  • Time goes by …
  • Suddenly it’s a week before the event. I try and remember who has taken over as my contact at WEM and fail. I check my diary – didn’t write it down there, either. I email Aimee, who copies in Clare, my new contact, (Of course it’s Clare! I knew that!) and all’s well. (This lack of organisation isn’t usual for me, but I thought I’d be honest.)
  • I chat to Clare. She gives me participant numbers (12) and answers my questions about the venue, arranges for me to have a flipchart, and says Aimee will meet me on the day to introduce me to the participants. She tells me who to invoice and I tell her what my expenses will amount to.
  • I spend an hour on Wednesday evening (2 days before the event) putting together cards and bookmarks for goodie bags for the participants.
  • On Thursday, the day before the event, I spend a good chunk of the day preparing material. I have written A LOT of workshops and handouts and I select the most appropriate and revise as needed, writing a course plan as I go. All’s well. I’m in control, I have time in hand. Until I begin to print the handouts … The printer suddenly becomes the spawn of Satan. It sucks up three sheets at a time and prints right across all three. I fan the paper madly and reload the tray, I try different paper, yet it proves impossible to get pristine copies. I fold and staple grimly, swearing continuously under my breath, and threaten to throw the printer onto the patio.
  • I break off to attend a charity literary lunch. I can no longer spare the time because of the Satanic printer, but I go anyway because friends are hosting it, I promised, I’ve bought tickets, it’s for charity and I’ve promised a raffle prize.
  • Prize … prize … I’d intended to create a little prize draw for anyone who signs up for my newsletter or street team at tomorrow’s workshop. I buy some chocolates at a garage en route. I’m late to pick my friend up but we get to the lunch, which is lovely. It overruns and I’m late home.
  • The printer’s mood hasn’t improved by being kept waiting. I print out newsletter and street team sign-up sheets, Satan is still in the printer. I moan and whine and shout at the printer, I staple and fold a few more sheets together. The printer twinkles its lights at me maliciously and makes a mess of the rest of the handouts.
  • Aimee emails to tell me she has a family issue and may not be able to meet me at the venue but the Waterstones events manager, Dan, will do so. I completely understand. As long as she doesn’t print herself over three sheets of paper, I can cope.
  • I collate my lumpy handouts and printouts of my forthcoming events, bookmarks and cards, and stick them in the goodie bags. The printer and I are not speaking.
  • I book my train ticket.
  • I go to iMaps to get directions from Nottingham train station to the venue. Print them. The printer, under my baleful glare, behaves impeccably.
  • I bag up my teaching materials, goodie bags, map and prize, ready for an early start on the morrow.

*Truthfully, I can’t tell you how the workshop went because I’m typing this just before bed the night before, as it has to be scheduled to post on Saturday morning. I won’t get home from Nottingham until about 7.30 on the evening of the workshop and will by then have to catch up on emails etc. Aimee has just emailed me an update (it’s 22.23) so she’s still working, too!

But I will enjoy the event, as I enjoy every workshop, enjoy meeting other writers and talking about writing, one of the loves of my life. I may get a new printer with the fee.

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15 thoughts on “What goes into running a writing course?

  1. Pingback: Writing Links Round Up 5/9-5/14 – B. Shaun Smith

  2. Just thought I’d pop in to say how useful I’ve found your “Love Writing…” book (the one next to your blog). I bought this soon after it was published and have dipped in on many occasions. Pity you don’t do workshops in Middlesex. Emma

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Emma, and thank you! I’m really glad that Love Writing’s useful. I had a lot of fun writing it and collecting the thoughts of other writers and industry professionals. You’re right that I don’t have any workshops booked for Middlesex. I generally react to what people invite me to do, rather than targeting areas myself but keep an eye on my events page [http://www.suemoorcroft.com/page_13.php?pgenme=calendar&nav_group=home] in case I am invited to your neck of the woods! 🙂

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  3. Great post, Sue, And I’m glad (but not at all surprised) to see from one of your comments that it went well. I’m running a residential course with Margaret Elphinstone in March, but as it is almost a month away I’m still calm about the preparation – well, I was until reading about your printer’s performance!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been out and ordered another printer today, as I have another one-day workshop on Thursday, this time with Nikki Moore, and I don’t think I can stand the stress of trying to print out the hand outs again!

      Good luck with your March course! I’m sure it will be a huge success.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My DH works in IT so I usually have back up services on hand. When you write you were about to throw your printer onto the patio it reminded of when he went to see a client who was having trouble with her computer. When he arrived he couldn’t see the computer. “Out there,” she said, pointing to the garden, “I took an axe to it.” And she really had!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. You have been very honest here, Sue! But I bet it all went well. Just be thankful you didn’t have to do battle with the dreaded Banda Machine, circa 1970s. The reek of that ink was diabolical {:-(

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    • I can only imagine, Penny. I have just returned from buying a new printer!

      The course went very well indeed. It was a great group – happy to interact, warm and responsive. The day just whizzed by.

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