A lot of people feel this. At The Opening, our firm philosophy is that hierarchy and distinction not only lead to people feeling frightened or competitive, it also leads to poor quality in writing. In our classes, you might find someone working on a PhD thesis, another person just processing the loss of their mother using writing, a businessperson working on a murder mystery novel, a therapist writing a professional paper, or an experimental poet. We believe strongly that this diversity is a benefit to everybody in the room. We strive to provide a “risk-positive environment.” So making distinctions between who is a “real writer” and who is not, doesn’t help. If you can form the twenty-six letters of the alphabet, as far as we are concerned, you are a writer.
You have to start a book to complete it. You are welcome at The Opening. In any given group, twenty-five to fifty percent of the people are in this situation. That’s fine. The title “Book Completion Group” is just a handy catch-all term. Maybe you just want to explore whether it really is “a book.” One student used our Book Completion Group to write a professional paper only fifteen pages long, but it was very important to her and very difficult to write. She told me it was great to have the support of the Book Completion Group. Another student uses the time as an open-ended “writing studio” where she can just write whatever comes to mind during a difficult period in her life. This shows that it is better to try and explore than to remain in the bubble of hesitation.
In our classes, a sense of community is formed. As a student in one of our Book Completion groups, you will have a team of other students who know your work for 12 weeks, people who support what you do. If other people were regularly dropping in and out, some of the sense of community and connection would inevitably be lost. So we encourage you to make sure that you want to take the class before you register. Also, there is a limited availability of spaces in all of our classes (minimum five people, maximum seven).
Nevertheless, we want to be sure that this class is a good fit for you. So we provide a lot of information about the classes on the website, and we are available to talk to you by telephone to answer any questions you might have. In this phone conversation, ask your most thorny question about your writing or about the class itself. This will give you a sense of how we might help you with your writing.
In the case of family medical emergency, of course a full refund will be offered. Furthermore, if after attending three full-class sessions, you find that the class is really not a fit for you, we’ll be more than happy to offer you a FULL refund after conversation with the instructor.
I get asked this question often. However, I find in 18 years of teaching that the question is really one of two quite opposite questions. The first one is: “Will you honestly tell me which parts of my writing are really bad?” And the other question is, “I’ve been injured a lot in the past by random and cruel criticism, so will I face this same problem again?”
Our special approach to feedback (which is based on “Appreciative Inquiry”) will help improve the quality of the writing, the confidence and the motivation of both types of writers. For a detailed explanation of this method, please see our article about Appreciation in the Writing Process LINK. However, to answer briefly, in our classes we calibrate the feedback on your piece to where you are in the writing process. If you’ve just started drafting something, the last thing you need is to have a number of different people behaving like auto mechanics, each with their own monkey wrench, trying to “improve” your piece with their own random critiques before you even know where the piece is going.
But you do want to know how your piece affected the thoughts, feelings, and imaginations of other people. Our “Phenomenological Feedback” method gives you precise detailed information about how a the individuals gathered in that room respond internally to your piece. But it doesn’t interrupt your process of exploration and discovery, and it sends you home excited to do more writing.
If you are, however, nearing the end of your writing process for a particular piece, ready to finish it or submit it somewhere, of course you want to know where people might have experienced “problems.” But in this case, too, you don’t need random potshots, with everyone rewriting your piece for you. Again, you want precise, specific feedback, but you need to hear what conclusions and implications people came to when reading those “problem” passages, not just that they were “bad writing”.
This approach needs to be experienced to be fully understood, but rest assured, I have seen that it is far more effective than the traditional “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it” approach usually associated with “critique.”
Please see our detailed descriptions of each class, but in general, our freewriting-based classes (Day-long classes and Teleclasses) and Book Completion Groups have some similarities and some differences. Both types give you the opportunity to read your work to other people (if you want to) and get immediate feedback that is precise and supportive. Both formats give you a big chunk of in-class writing time and motivation to write outside of class.
Book Completion Groups give you one-on-one coaching with the instructor that is individualized to whatever you are particularly struggling with. They also give you two+ hours of in-class writing time that is self-directed. (Individualized writing exercises are available to those who want/need them.) Everyone is working on their own project and may be at different places in their projects development.
Freewriting-based groups (which are helpful at ALL stages of the writing process) are designed to help you break out of your old habits of using language and help you explore the wilderness of your own consciousness. This will produce powerful writing and liberate your mind from societally-imposed restrictions. We do this with specially-designed freewriting techniques (“experiments”) that everyone does simultaneously, and you choose your own topic. We spend a lot more time getting feedback, also in a highly innovative method that continues to expand your sense of possibilities. Overall, the feeling is more rollicking and playful than Book Completion Groups.
If you don’t have Paypal, the paypal site allows you to use a credit card instead. If you don’t want to use a credit card, you may register by check and postal mail, but you still must register in advance. Please send your registration deposit to:
P.O. Box 881
Santa Cruz, CA 95061.
Please send an email when that check is in the mail to be sure that your place is held. Please see the policies on the payment plan.
We are happy to offer a payment plan for our twelve-week classes as a courtesy to those students who don’t have the cash flow to pay the course fee in advance. This works on the honor system. But you must complete a two step process. First you must pre-register by paying the $260 deposit LINK. Then to the first class you must bring two post-dated checks for $260 each (cashable within 90 days of the course start date). If you do not, your place will be forfeited and given to the next person on the waiting list. The deposit is non-refundable.
In this modern world, with many conflicting schedules, it is normal for someone to miss a class here or there. This just seems unavoidable. The course is structured so that if you do miss a class session, you won’t be lost when you come back. However, we are unable to pro-rate each individual student’s course fees based on missed classes.
Due to limited availability of spaces in all of our classes, I ask that everyone who signs up is sure that they want to take the class before they register. For this reason, I provide a lot of information about the classes on the website and we are able to talk to you by telephone to answer any questions you might have. It also gives you a sense of how I will work with you and help you with your writing. In the case of family medical emergency, of course a full refund will be offered. For Book Completion Groups, if after attending three full-class sessions, you find that the class is really not a fit for you, we’ll be more than happy to offer you a FULL refund after conversation with the instructor. Otherwise, the course fee is not refundable.
I’ve found that giving you the tools to discover where your writing is strong, where your natural skills and talents are, and how to access them, serves you much better than me, or anyone, fixing an individual piece for you. I like to think of it as an ecological approach, where we in the group help set up the conditions, both in the room during class, but also in your life, and in your own mind, to produce good writing naturally. During the consultations of the Book Completion Group, you will have a chance to read out loud, or have me read a short passage from your work, and get detailed, useful feedback. Otherwise, given that I am running four to six groups concurrently at any one time, I am not able to take home a long manuscript and give editorial feedback. What we provide at The Opening is something that I believe will help you for years to come: the muscles and sensibility to improve your own writing on your own. You will also meet other writers who might be willing to trade manuscripts with you. There are times when all writers need a professional editor. In those cases I will refer you to others.
The term “writing prompt” usually refers to a particular topic to write on provided by a writing teacher. For example, “Now we will all write about a childhood home” or “Write your feelings about grief.” While such methods can be useful for people who can’t think of what to write about, that’s not our primary approach. In our freewriting based groups (Daylongs and Tele-classes) we give you a technique or approach to see your topic in a different way, or to write words in a manner you never have before, or to access a different realm of your own consciousness, so that you can stumble upon a new insight or voice that comes from beyond your rational, left-brain world. That is to say, you choose your own topic (part of a project you are working on, something that happened to you today, a chapter in your book, an issue you have to decide in your life), and I provide you with a series of techniques to get beyond your old habits and write in a totally new way. Of course, if you are just feeling blank about what you want to write about, we have tons of topics for you to choose from.
Get Your Writing Juices Flowing
and Have a Blast Doing It
Courses That Open Your Mind, Connect You With Others
and Help You Finish Your Project