From Travel Writing to Screenwriting: Library Hosts Writers Workshop

Writing Experts Will Teach More Than 20 Free Workshops

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Free writers workshop offered at the University of Guelph.

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Travel writer Melody Wren was terrified the first time she tried zip-lining.

“I was thinking of every excuse I could to get out of it,” she says. “I was really afraid I might throw up or something.” But she did it, and she wrote an article about the trip sharing her fear and ultimate sense of accomplishment.

“One of the most important things in travel writing is to give your reader the chance to experience what you experience. How does it smell, sound, feel? That’s what you want to share,” says Wren.

Wren will be sharing this information and more in her session entitled “Dream of Being a Travel Writer?” at the U of G Library’s Writers Workshop on Feb. 19 and 20. Sessions are free and open to the public.

Wren’s travel-writing journeys have taken her to Kenya, through the Galapagos Islands and to many Caribbean islands, including Grenada, Antigua and St. Maarten.

“This session will be very hands-on,” says Wren. “We’ll start writing in the first two minutes.”

For writers who dream of seeing their words come to life onscreen, Craig Martin’s session called “Introduction to Screenwriting for Television Animation” offers some helpful information. Martin has an undergraduate degree in creative writing and screenwriting, plus a post-graduate diploma from the Canadian Film Centre, which accepts only eight students into each class. He always knew he wanted to write for television, but found his niche writing for children’s cartoons (Martin was head writer for Doozers, currently being shown on TVO).

“Canada produces 15 or more cartoon series for children each year, so there is work in this field – and it’s a lot of fun,” he says.

When it comes to cartoons, Martin says thinking visually is key because the on-screen action carries most of the story.  It’s also important to know the rules of children’s TV.

“There’s a long list of no-no’s, mostly common sense but some that might surprise you,” Martin says. “For example, you can’t have a character saying ‘what the heck.’”

MJ D’Elia’s session, “Pitch Camp”, covers yet another type of writing. D’Elia, who is head of learning and curriculum support at the library, also teaches a class on entrepreneurship. At the end of each course, his students compete to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges.

“I include that in my course because in reality, we are pitching all the time,” D’Elia says. “We are trying to convince people that our ideas are worth investing their time or money in. Good pitching is about communicating those ideas clearly.”

How can you improve your own pitching abilities? D’Elia says it’s important to understand your audience, including what they already know and what they are expecting to learn from you. He also says it’s important to communicate your “why.”

“If you don’t make it clear why the other person should care or should act, you are expecting them to connect the dots and often they won’t,” he says.

D’Elia adds: “Don’t worry about having elaborate Powerpoint presentations or supporting documents. A good pitch is you and an idea you are passionate about.”

More than 20 different sessions will be offered with practical tips and instructions for writers at all levels. Preregistration is required and sessions fill up quickly.

For more information, visit the Writers Workshop web page or email writers.workshop@uoguelph.ca.