How did the Free Minds writing workshops get started?
Free Minds began offering writing workshops in Fall 2011 after a volunteer with experience leading and studying community writing groups suggested it. We have modeled the curriculum for our workshops on the best practices of a well-established organization called Write Around Portland, which offers 10 different writing workshops per year, serving roughly 500 people.
These workshops align well with our mission, allowing us to offer educational experiences to those who would not otherwise have opportunities to explore their intellectual potential. By offering short-term, lower commitment opportunities to community members, we can extend the reach of Free Minds to those who are unable to commit to the two semester Free Minds class.
What happens in a typical workshop?
Each workshop is led by a volunteer facilitator who is both a guide and a participant in the workshop. The facilitator is not so much a traditional teacher or writing expert; instead the facilitator’s primary role is to lead discussions and writing exercises, and to model effective feedback.
During the two hours of the writing workshop is that participants generate new writing, primarily through a series of free writes. (To learn more about free writing, check out our Write Now page.) Traditionally participants begin each workshop by choosing between two writing prompts and responding to that prompt.
Because a key goal of our workshops is community building, writers are given the opportunity to share their work on a voluntary basis and to receive guided feedback from the group. Through the process of sharing and hearing each others’ work, participants move from responding with “I liked it,” to more specific feedback about what is effective in one another’s writing and why.
When and where do the workshops happen?
Since the workshops began in Fall 2011, we have typically held one session per academic semester: one in Fall, one in Spring, and one in Summer. During the eight weeks of the workshop, the group meets once a week for two hours in the evening.
In the past, we have held writing workshops at Foundation Communities sites, such as the Sierra Vista Apartments in South Austin, the Trails at Vintage Creek in North Austin, as well as at the Community Engagement Center on East 11th Street.
We are continually looking for ways to expand the reach of these workshops. If you are a member of an organization that is interested in hosting a Free Minds Writing Workshop, call or email the Free Minds office.
Who is eligible for the workshops?
Free Minds Writing Workshops are open to all adults who want to improve their writing and who are able to commit to attending workshop sessions once a week for eight weeks.
How do I sign up?
Call our office at 512-610-7961 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in signing up for the next workshop or if you would like more information. You do not need any special experience or expertise to participate, and our workshops have served advanced and beginning writers alike. We cap each workshop at fifteen participants and folks are signed up on a first come, first served basis. Please ensure that you’re able to attend the majority of workshop sessions before registering in order to respect the time of Free Minds volunteers and fellow workshop participants.
Registration has passed for our fall 2015 workshop. Stay tuned for details about our spring 2016 workshop.
I am interested in facilitating a Free Minds Writing Workshop. How do I get started?
In the past, workshops have been led by Free Minds volunteers and staff members. We ask that volunteers who wish to lead a future workshop begin by participating in one of our workshops. Contact us if you are interested in this opportunity.