Do you enjoy writing? Do you consider yourself a writer? Chances are when you ask someone these two questions you’ll get very different answers. It’s a distinction I, along with many English majors and recreational writers, have to think about early on after graduating from college, when the consistent and supportive community of fellow English majors and professors is suddenly gone from everyday life. It’s this sense of community, support, and motivation towards a common goal of developing one’s writing, that the Boulder Writing Studio on Pearl Street’s West End seeks to recreate and foster amongst Boulder writers.
Founded in 2010, the Boulder Writing Studio hosts a variety of writing classes and workshops, from fiction to poetry to novel-writing to nonfiction to creative nonfiction to screenwriting and more. With programs for adults as well as creative writing camps for teens and youth, the Boulder Writing Studio teaches, encourages, and promotes writing as a creative outlet in all its forms.
Robert Gatewood, an acclaimed novelist and screenwriter himself, is the Executive Director of Boulder Writing Studio and also teaches both fiction and screenwriting workshops. Having previously taught fiction, screenwriting, and non-fiction at the University of Colorado, Gatewood helms a team of instructors and writers who are themselves highly distinguished and accomplished, to preside over the many workshops and seminars that the studio offers year-round.
One of the most unique classes that the Boulder Writing Studio puts on is the Year of the Novel (YON) class. During this yearlong workshop, participants are tasked with the goal of completing an entire novel within a one-year timeframe. Through bi-weekly group meetings and monthly private meetings with Gatewood, participants get specific craft-based lessons on dialogue, chapters, point of view, beginnings, and more, but also read each other’s work, meet with published authors, and participate in larger discussions about writing, the process of getting an agent, and getting a work published amongst others. Meant to be both instructional and based in mentorship, the class is lively, the participants are deeply involved and invested, and the discussions range from large themes to the minutiae of sentences, with Gatewood facilitating and guiding discussions to keep them pointed, purposeful, and beneficial to the group. This blend of editorial and communal learning gives writers a safe and comfortable space outside of their busy everyday lives to talk about their writing and gain inspiration and support.
The current Year of the Novel class, which began in August 2015, is the second cycle of YON and has attracted a varied group of participating writers, many of whom are from right here in Boulder. These participating writers have a wide range of careers, ages, genre and subject matter of their novels, and motivations for participating in the program.
“I think of YON as a business investment,” says Alicia Benjamin, a participating YON writer and Owner & Marketing Content Strategist at the RIZE Agency. Benjamin notes that the class is almost like an accelerated Master’s in Fine Arts (MFA) program that is actually more focused and practical than an institutional MFA, as writers are able to focus completely on their own work and the literature and lessons that relate to it.
Other participating writers, such as Laura Goodman, a student of both the first cycle of YON and its current iteration, are interested moreso in the creative process of writing the novel and the act of writing as an exercise in expression, whether the final product gets published or not.
No matter the motivation behind the participation in the YON class, the guidance and community built within the workshops is vital to the continued inspiration to keep on writing throughout the year to get to the finished product of a full novel even when, as is often the case, it seems like a monumental task. The relationship and rapport that students build with Gatewood during private monthly meetings likewise serves as a motivator, as Gatewood is a consistent voice asking pointed questions, teasing out writers’ ideas and their true goals with their work, and urging the writers to continue exploring and being creative as they work to produce pages. Goodman finds that both the deadlines imposed by Gatewood and the sense of community fostered between fellow students in the workshops are very conducive to pointed and purposeful writing.
Benjamin likewise finds that monthly meetings with Robert are instrumental to the ability of the writers to hone their craft while making steady and sure progress. “I think of my novel as a puzzle,” says Benjamin, “and the mentor, Robert, is there to help in putting those pieces together.”
Adjusting the focus and perspective of the class from the larger group to the private meetings and back again offers writers the unique opportunity to look at their work through many different lenses and to gather opinions, suggestions, and notes, that are just as varied and unique as the writers giving them. Writers often meet for happy hours outside of the studio to continue to get comfortable with each other and learn about each other and each other’s writing. This has led to a tight knit group of writers who have banded together to push each other, help each other, and support each other, as they each work to create an entire novel.
The current YON cycle is at approximately its halfway point. The bi-weekly workshop group meetings have shifted away from the pointed craft lessons of the beginning of the course and have moved more toward readings, critiques, and the urging of the production of pages in the writers’ novels. Deadlines have become more strict and the submission of chapters has taken the place of brainstorming sessions. The focus is now on more vigorously putting pen to paper and fingers to keyboards to get closer and closer to that complete first draft and. To the current YON writers, I say good luck and happy writing!
Whether you’re interested in writing, getting back into the habit of writing, or are an established writer already, visit the Boulder Writing Studio website to learn about all of the various workshops, classes, events, and sessions that they offer.