Where is your edge as a writer, and as a thinker? What is the one thing it scares you to write about? Where do your personal experiences intersect with important social issues and timely political questions? This workshop is for writers who want to create socially and politically engaged work that appeals to a wider audience, producing a more inclusive conversation about divisive subjects. Participants will be guided through a series of writing prompts and walk-through exercises to help them develop a template for their writing and, if they choose, an outline for a specific piece.

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Time: eight Mondays, 18:00 to 20:00

Duration: 5 October - 30 November, 2020

Location: Online via Zoom—, ,

Description

*No meeting on October 12 (Thanksgiving)*

All levels are welcome. 

Limited to 12 participants.

Where is your edge as a writer, and as a thinker? What is the one thing it scares you to write about? Where do your personal experiences intersect with important social issues and timely political questions?  

Journalism has the potential to stimulate public conversations about controversial social and political topics. But—as we see more and more in social media—politically motivated writing can also be divisive, “preaching to the converted,” and demonizing other parts of society. Does political writing have to “go to war” with the opposition? What do we do if we want to avoid polarizing our readers?

This workshop is for writers who want to create socially and politically engaged work that appeals to a wider audience, producing a more inclusive conversation about divisive subjects. Participants will be guided through a series of writing prompts and walk-through exercises to help them develop a template for their writing and, if they choose, an outline for a specific piece. Whether you’re writing about #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, Indigenous resurgence, veganism, eco-economics, or gender-fluid sex, we’ll develop an approach that enables you to speak to a larger, more diverse audience. 

To begin, we’ll discuss topics and conversations we want to bring into the public realm. Then we will explore how elements of cultural journalism, creative non-fiction, personal essay, and memoir can be used to create relatable stories that affect readers emotionally and engage them in a personal way. Participants will be asked to read articles that we will discuss in depth, highlighting the pros and cons of “objective” versus “personal” approaches. Next we’ll address how participants can interview various sources and bring in different voices to create multiple perspectives on their controversial topic. This will enable writers to invite readers with diverse opinions and experiences to engage in the conversation. We’ll focus on how opposing viewpoints can be addressed without turning those who hold them into moral or political “enemies.” Finally, we’ll get into the heart of our approach: how participants can bring their own personal experiences into the work and give readers a human avenue into a complex topic. By providing a relatable human perspective, elements of the personal essay can transform a political diatribe into potentially transformative testimony.

A series of writing prompts and a peer editing workshop are designed to give each participant an opportunity to develop a new piece over the course of the workshop or to work on a project already in development.


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Workshop leader

Joseph Rosen has published on controversial topics in The Walrus, The Globe & Mail, Maisonneuve Magazine, The Montreal Gazette, & elsewhere. "Among the Hasidim" explores the multicultural dilemmas of living on a street with orthodox Hasidic Jews. "The Israel Taboo" addresses why it is so difficult to talk about Israel in Canada. He has written about The Death of the Montreal Bagel and the masculinity of men crying at the World Cup. The Enemy Next Door describes a year spent talking to Canadian Trump supporters. Joseph has been twice nominated for Best Essay by the National Magazine Awards, and has been asked to discuss the controversial topics of his articles on radio, podcasts, television, and a variety of public panels.

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