Writing Workshops

Each semester, Free Minds offers an eight-week-long writing workshop. These are free of charge and open to participants from the community.

Facilitated by a local writer and Free Minds Program Specialist, our spring creative writing workshop will center around the theme of Creating a Writer’s Identity: Celebrating the Joy of You.

Dates: Tuesdays from March 21 – May 9, 2023
Time: 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Place: TBD 

Participation in the workshop is free of charge, but space is limited. Participants should be prepared to attend the majority of workshop sessions.

To register or learn more, contact Liz Seelig at (512) 610-7961 or email liz.seelig@foundcom.org.

Writing Workshop Goals: 

  1. Help workshop participants improve their skill and comfort with writing.
  1. Create a supportive community environment which fosters development in critical thinking and communication.
  1. Introduce workshop participants to foundational humanities texts and higher education opportunities.

If you are interested in receiving updates from Free Minds, including workshop and course opportunities, sign up for our e-newsletter here.

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Want to get a sense of the kind of exercises we do in a typical workshop? Check out the Write Now page to get started. You can also check out Workshop FAQ page here.

Write Now

Want to get a little taste of what we do in our Writing Workshops? They are built on a foundation of timed writing known as “free writing” exercises. You don’t have to wait until you’re enrolled in a workshop to start writing creatively. You can start right now!

Goldberg’s Advice for Timed Writing 

In her book Writing Down the Bones, (now a staple of the Free Minds curriculum) Natalie Goldberg offers the following advice for the practice of free writing:

Keep your hand moving. (Don’t pause to reread the line you have just written. That’s stalling and trying to get control of what you’re saying.)

  1. Don’t cross out. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it.)
  1. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar. (Don’t worry about staying within the margins and lines on the page.)
  1. Lose control.
  1. Don’t think. Don’t get logical.


We often use prompts in the writing workshops, because we believe it is easier to begin writing with a few boundaries. We think this helps people not to become overwhelmed by the infinity of possible writing topics that exist in our minds and in our world. Below are some strategies we have used that have worked well in past workshops.

Set your timer for 15 to 20 minutes, and try writing about one of these things.

  • My favorite possession…
  • You can’t tell by looking…
  • In my pocket…
  • On the street where I live…
  • Write about someone you know well doing something very ordinary.
  • “Choose a color—for instance, pink—and take a fifteen-minute walk. On your walk notice wherever there is pink. Come back to your notebook and write for fifteen minutes.” (From Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, p. 22.)
  • Write in a different place–for example a laundromat, and pay attention to your surroundings. Try writing at a bus stop, café, or in a museum. Write what is going on around you.
  • Think of a person—could be someone you know, a famous person, or a fictional character from a book, movie, or TV show. Write that person’s name at the top of your paper and begin, “I feel like…”
  • Write five minutes on each of the following: 1.) For many years I wanted… 2.) Now I want… 3.) In the future, I imagine myself…
  • Pretend you’re submitting an entry to a 55-fiction contest. The rule of this contest is that you must tell a complete story (beginning, middle, and end) in 55 words or fewer. Take as much time as you need to work on this.
  • Deliberately overhear a conversation in a public place; try to record the words and the body language. Then write, describing the scene and using the dialogue you collected.
  • Pick a line from a song or poem at random. Write about that.

Workshop FAQs

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, participants generate new writing, primarily through a series of free writes and strategies to fill the blank page. (To learn more about free writing, check out the Write Now page.)

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 other’s 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, and 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 Liz.Seelig@foundcom.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 workshop participants.

Upcoming Workshops

Stay tuned for details about our upcoming workshops.


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