When you work or are engaged in the arts, the best thing you can probably hope for is constructive criticism of your work. Yes, everyone loves to hate a critic, but solid, informed opinions can tell you an awful lot more about your own work then any amount of friends’ rave reviews. Most artists or musicians, when they get a bad review, have a tendency to feel misunderstood, but the good ones will suck it up and see what there is to learn from it (this assumes, of course, that the critic is up to the job, but in my experience, if they are writing for a reputable source, then there will be a grain of truth to what they have to say).
One writer pops into the Irish Times office for a chat after receiving a particularly scathing review
Good criticism and a steady helping hand are not easy to come by, and this is especially true for writers, which is why workshops and group sessions are a good option for those looking to improve their writing. Greg Baxter, no stranger to criticism himself from both sides of the literary fence, is organising a particularly interesting course simply called Prose through his Some Blind Alleys online entity.
Baxter will be leading the 10-week course from February 21st, with one two-hour class per week on Nassau Street in Dublin. Those wishing to apply must submit 1,500 words of fiction and non-fiction (combined), so expect the class to know the shape of things. The idea, says Baxter, is to “find a way, through literature, to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. We are going to try to connect words to the sensation of being alive today. We are not going to write fiction or nonfiction. We’re going to write prose, and we’re going to discuss perceived and possibly real differences between fiction and autobiography.”
Participants will begin a large piece that will take shape as the course develops, and the reading commitment will be heavy.
“This course suits people who are already committed to writing and thinking about writing, and who are prepared to read a lot, and discuss the reading enthusiastically in class,” says Baxter. “It won’t suit people who need deadlines, or who wonder why what they write isn’t getting published.” No journalist need apply then (heh heh).
Baxter is setting the bar high with this one – among the writers on his ambitious reading list are Thomas Bernhard
, Muriel Spark
, Tolstoy, Kafka,
Bruno Schulz, Wittgenstein,
Czeslaw Milosz. If you reckon you are up to the challenge, get your pitches in to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 7th.