Where is your edge as a writer, and as a thinker? Our personal experiences often provide a window onto important social issues and timely political questions. But it can be challenging to write about controversial topics in an era of political polarization.

Time: 10:00 to 16:00

Duration: 9 November, 2019

Location: Atwater Library and Computer Centre—1200 Atwater Avenue, Westmount, Quebec

Description

All levels are welcome. Limited to 12 participants.

Where is your edge as a writer, and as a thinker? Our personal experiences often provide a window onto important social issues and timely political questions. But it can be challenging to write about controversial topics in an era of political polarization.  

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. Writing—whether journalism, fiction, or nonfiction—has the potential to stimulate important public conversations. But, as we see more and more in social media, politically motivated writing can also be divisive by preaching to the converted and demonizing segments of society. So what do we do if we want to write about controversial topics without polarizing our readers?

Participants will be guided through a series of writing prompts and walk-thru exercises to help them develop a template for their writing and, if they choose, create an outline for a specific piece. Whether you’re writing about #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, modern masculinity, 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.

We’ll start by discussing the topical conversations we want our writing to prompt in the public realm. Participants will be asked to bring in and discuss an article, essay or story that engages a controversial topic. We will discuss what works in the articles, highlighting the pros and cons of “objective” versus “personal” approaches. Then we will explore how you can use elements of cultural journalism, creative nonfiction, personal essay, and memoir to create relatable stories that affect readers emotionally and engage them in a personal way.

Next we’ll address how participants can interview various sources and bring in different voices to create multiple perspectives on their topic. This will enable writers to invite readers with diverse opinions and experiences to engage the conversation. We’ll focus on how opposing viewpoints can be addressed without turning 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.

If you already have an idea of what you’d like to write about or a piece in development, email me at joseph.rosen@gmail.com to let me know in advance.

Workshop leader

A white man wearing glasses
Joseph Rosen has published on controversial topics in The Walrus, Maisonneuve, n+1 magazine, The Montreal Gazette, & elsewhere. He has written about masculinity and men crying at the World CupThe Enemy Next Door describes a year spent talking to Canadian Trump supporters. “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 been twice nominated for Best Essay by the National Magazine Awards. Joseph has been asked to discuss the controversial topics of his articles on radio and television, and to host a variety of public panels.

Register

Please note that workshop registration is on a “first come, first served” basis.

Payment is required to confirm your place in the workshop. 

Payments are to be made online via credit card or PayPal. Click on the link below to add the workshop to your shopping cart, then proceed to payment. QWF Members must be logged in to receive their discount. If you are not already a QWF member, you will have the option of purchasing a Membership, in which case you will receive the discounted workshop rate.

If you are unable to pay online, you can temporarily reserve a place by registering online. Your payment must be made to the QWF office by cheque or cash within 7 days of registration or it will automatically be cancelled.

If the workshop is full, you will have the option of joining the waiting list. If a space becomes available, all those on the waiting list will be notified at once by email. The available spot will be assigned on a first come, first served basis.

Please familiarize yourself with the rest of our workshop policies.

Member

General $80 + $2.12 Fee
Student $50 + $1.44 Fee
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Non-Member

$100 + $2.57 Fee
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