When I’m giving creative writing workshops, I’m constantly beset by the feeling that there’s some detail I’m missing out on. I believe I’ve thought of everything, but there’s always one detail that escapes me. This usually relates to the logistics of running a class. It’s easy to come up with grand visions that will guide a class towards flourishing creativity. In reality, you need those nuts and bolts to be in place so that the class is relaxing and enjoyable for everyone.
Here are a few of the nuts and bolts, gathered as a result of my own hard-won experience. A lot of what I’m going to write in this post will seem glaringly obvious to sane people with brains. But this post isn’t for you. A lot of people who give creative writing workshops, or arts workshops of any kind, are dreamy types who struggle with the practicalities.
This is a big one. Without a good venue, your class won’t have a good atmosphere. And if you can’t get into the venue, you’re in big trouble. When you’re choosing a venue, you need to ask about more than the price. You need to view the venue in advance to be sure it has facilities to suit your needs and that it’s warm and comfortable.
It’s essential to talk to the venue staff to find out how you’ll get in – will you be able to get a key or will someone open up for you. Make sure you’ve an emergency contact in case there are any problems. Also, make sure there are no hidden costs, like public liability insurance.
2. Directions and Parking
If people don’t know where a venue is or where to park, it’ll put them off coming. If your students are tech savvy, supply them with a Google Map reference. Or write out directions and give them out over email and phone. If you’ve a crap sense of direction, get someone else to describe the location, write out their description and distribute it. Find out if people can park at the actual building and if it’s free.
3. Contact Details
Getting accurate contact details ensures a good flow of communication. You can tell people if there are changes to the class arrangements and they can let you know if they’re coming or not. Make sure you ask people for their phone number when they book. Even though it may come up on our mobile, it may not if they have a private number or they may use a different number. Give out your own contact details on the night and keep a record of their contacts with you at all times, in case of emergencies.
If bookings go well, you’ll be handling bucketloads of money – well, a decent amount anyway. Make sure you bring an envelope with you to store it in and count your notes, so the bank is satisfied that the lodgement amount you indicated on your lodgement slip is the same as the amount of money.
If it’s a one-day workshop in particular e prepared with a stash of coins and notes so you can give people change. If you’re taking rent for a venue out of the payments, wait until you’re at home to do it, when you’re able to calculate calmly.
Best advice of all. Sometimes things will just go wrong, in spite of your planning. If they do, roll with it. It’s not the end of the world and people are far more understanding than you expect.
What’s your top tip for managing the practicalities of running a workshop, of any kind.