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Online spotlight: The Writers Studio

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Literature and storytelling are elements of entertainment that are as old as mankind. Although some people are fortunate enough to possess naturally strong writing skills, many more people strive to become better writers and they often seek advice from professionals on how to hone the craft. “The Writers Studio” is one such organization that can help aspiring writers strengthen their skills of self-expression. According to the official website:

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“The Writers Studio welcomes beginning and experienced fiction writers and poets to ongoing writing workshops designed to help them discover and nurture their own voices. Hailed by The New York Times as "the most personal of the programs," The Writers Studio is founded on the belief that when the desire to write is strong enough, anyone can learn the craft necessary for full creative expression. For the past 27 years The Writers Studio has developed a unique approach to teaching writing by encouraging students "to try on voices" and attempt a variety of different narrative techniques as a way of discovering their own material and personal voices. Students take a single 10-week workshop, or continue through a series of increasingly challenging classes designed to help them reach their full potential.”

The Writers Studio was founded in 1987 by the Pulitzer Prize winning poet and educator named Philip Schultz. The organization holds face-to-face classes in New York City, Tucson, San Francisco and Amsterdam. However, in 2001, the organization went global via their online classes which can cater to people who live even thousands of miles away from the physical classes. Classes can be held in groups or via one-on-one models in tutorials (for online students the one-on-one tutorials are held through Skype).

The Writers Studio teaches literary fiction writing and poetry. Scores of students have praised the organization as the reason for their success. In fact, some former Writers Studio students have gone on to win awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize, Pushcart Prize, and National Book Award nominations, and many have published poetry books, novels, and memoirs.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Philip Schultz‘s wife and business partner, Monica, about the Writers Studio:

Q: Why did Philip decide to start The Writers Studio?

Philip Schultz was one of the founders of the MFA program in Creative Writing at NYU. As a writer of poetry and fiction, he experimented with different ways of overcoming his own writing challenges, and having achieved some success, he thought it would be interesting to work with other young writers to see if his techniques would help them. He started teaching creative writing workshops in his living room in the West Village, using a technique-based approach to help writers. It seemed to help those students, and that became the basis for The Writers Studio. We broke down the different stages of a writer's development in to exercises, and that is the basis for our curriculum. We now have five levels of workshops. Some students stay for one ten-week session, and others progress from one level to the next doing different types of exercises and getting more rigorous levels of critique at each level. The school's mission is this:
“The Writers Studio is founded on the belief that when the desire to write is strong enough, anyone can learn the technique necessary for full creative expression.”

Q: What goals does The Writers Studio hope to achieve over the next ten years?

The Writers Studio has grown organically over the past 27 years, and our goal for the next 10 years is that this process will continue. We started with workshops in NYC in Greenwich Village, and added one online workshop in 2001. It took about a year to develop the classroom, but we opened the first class in September of 2001 with six students. We now offer ten online workshops four times per year.

A few years later, Eleanor Kedney, one of our NYC teachers, moved to Tucson, Arizona. All of our teachers have been students in our school and are trained for two years to teach The Writers Studio method. Eleanor was sad to stop teaching in NYC, so we tried opening a branch in Tucson. She has done a great job creating a vibrant writing community there, training new teachers, adapting the curriculum to the smaller population, and hosting readings. Another NYC Writers Studio Writer, Mark Peterson, then moved to San Francisco and Mark opened a branch there and Eleanor became the Director of Branches. Then another of our teachers, Nancy Matsunaga moved to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, so we opened a branch there. Each branch cultivates its community, but uses our method and exercises to teach. We now have an international group of writers who give readings at the different locations, and work together to help their students reach their potential.

Over the next 10 years, we would like to expand our commitment to working with Middle and High School students. In 2009, we started The Writers Studio Kids Write (KW), a non-profit branch that offers creative writing workshops in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brookyn free of charge to high school students. We then adapted our program to work students who have learning disabilities, with great success. In response to many requests from educators, we are now offering a teacher-training program so teachers in schools that teach students with learning disabilities can use our method to help these young writers express themselves.

Q: What new programs would you most like to implement if you had the funds to do so?

We would devote more resources to working with high school and middle school students who might not have access to writing enrichment classes, especially those with learning disabilities. The work that comes out of the KW classes is powerful and raw, and I know that the ability to tell their stories and express their feelings helps young people navigate the rapids of adolescence. Another feature of our program is that it requires students to read short excerpts from classic and contemporary literature, and then learn the techniques used to make that work successful. Weekly writing exercises are based on those readings and lessons. Kids with learning disabilities get the added bonus of starting to enjoy reading during our workshops, and of course we delight in that fact.

Q: Was there ever any one particular organizational event or award or happening that most touched or honored The Writers Studio? If so, what was it?

The Writers Studio is most honored and touched when our students and teachers publish, win awards, and find fulfillment from their writing. One former student, Jennifer Egan, who credits us with teaching her to connect emotionally in her writing, won a Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 2011 for "Welcome to the Goon Squad." Four current or recent students have won Pushcart Prizes, our teacher Lesley Dormen, earned a six-figure advance for a book of linked stories entitled, "The Best Place to Be," Kim Reed credits The Writers Studio with helping her tell her story in a documentary she made, "Prodigal Sons," for which she won seven film festival awards and appeared on Oprah. We have pages and pages of student publications and awards here: http://www.writerstudio.com/pages/page_lc.php?page=success
In addition, we get scores of emails from students who thank us for helping them write, and who benefit from the personal attention they get from their teachers. Writing helps people make sense of their lives and the world around them. You can read some student feedback here: http://www.writerstudio.com/pages/page_lc.php?page=feedback_students.

For more information, contact The Writers Studio at:
Website: www.writerstudio.com
Phone: 1-212-255-7075
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Writers-Studio/134641415337

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