Customized Writing Services
Specialized Writing Courses & Services
I'm pleased to offer a broad range of specialized writing courses and mentoring services. These courses and services are offered at all levels, from beginner to advanced. You can even design your own course.
Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss your needs.
Simple Numbers: Using Numbers to Tell Your Stories and Paint Your Pictures [S1]
We all know that writers use words to tell their stories. Are you aware that many (perhaps most) also use numbers? Imagine trying to write about a baseball game, an election, or the economy without using numbers. Even everyday subjects such as cooking, school report cards, and descriptions of people's height and weight require numbers or something like numbers.
Many people are intimidated by numbers. And not without reason. A fair number of writers, regrettably, use numbers to deceive or baffle their readers. This seems to be particularly true in the natural and social sciences. You've probably heard the one about "Lies, damned lies, and statistics." There's a lot of truth in that old chestnut.
We'll start by addressing the "math anxiety" issue up front. I'll show you ways to break complex numbers down so that you no longer find them intimidating. Next, we'll look at a simple quantitative "bullshit indicator" that will get you through most situations involving numbers and statistics.
After that, we'll look at ways for you to use writing to tell your own stories better. We'll start by looking at writers such as Swift and Lewis Carroll who have used numbers to telling effect in their work. This discussion will lead into a consideration of issues such as the following:
Those wishing to write more effectively with numbers must be prepared to do some simple arithmetic themselves; however, nothing beyond fifth- or sixth-grade arithmetic is required.
I am also prepared to offer this workshop to businesses, NGOs, and non-profit agencies. Please phone or e-mail me for information about writing with numbers in a business or non-profit setting, or to discuss rates.
This service is particularly suited to business writers, graduate students, journalists, social scientists, policy analysts, and other writers who use numbers in their daily work.
Hourly rates for private and small-group sessions. Workshops (up to 10 participants): $300 per half-day, or $550 per full day, plus all expenses. Somewhat higher rates for groups larger than 10. All workshop participants receive a free post-workshop evaluation of a brief piece of writing in which they have used numbers.
Freeing Your Inner Writer: A Fun Writing Workshop for Folks Who Are Stressed Out [S2]
Fed up with the endless bullshit at work or school? Family or relationship problems have you tied up in knots? Why not try something totally different-like spending the entire afternoon or even the entire day writing?
The aim of this workshop isn't to teach people something, in the normal sense; it's to spend the day working on a series of increasingly challenging, but definitely enjoyable writing projects that will engage you and get your mind off everyday problems. No evaluation is provided, but at the end of the day we'll share our work (out loud) and have a good laugh, or maybe a good cry. Possibly even both. Then if people are so inclined, we'll go share a mug of ale or a glass of wine together at a local pub.
This workshop is equally suited to new writers and those with previous writing experience who have been away from writing for a while. It is also suited to actors, dancers, and other artists. I am prepared to offer the workshop to businesses, NGOs, and non-profit agencies. Please phone or e-mail me for information about the Fun Writing Workshop in a business or non-profit setting, or to discuss rates.
$300 for half-day workshop or $550 for the full day, plus all expenses. Somewhat higher rates if there are more than ten participants. A minimum of six participants is required for the workshop to go forward.
Lampoon Writing [S3]
The lampoon is a venerable literary form that has begun to make a modest comeback in recent years. In our work together, whether we do individual coaching or a workshop, we'll start with a brief discussion of the concept, then look at a few good examples. (My background in 18th century English literature, in which I did my Ph.D., has provided me with a veritable treasure trove to draw upon). Most of the time will be spent working on our own pieces, which will be read out loud, no doubt to thunderous applause, at the end of the session.
Note: I do not do ghost-writing in this area.
Those interested should sign up right away. If Stephen Harper is re-elected, this service will almost certainly be seriously over-subscribed.
Hourly rates for individual coaching. Workshops: $300 per half-day or $550 per full day, plus all expenses. Somewhat higher rates for groups larger than ten. Free post-workshop evaluation of one brief piece any time within one year of the workshop. A minimum of six participants is required for the workshop to go forward.
Pseudo-Scientific Writing: Understanding It and Creating It [S4]
This course will appeal to experienced writers who would like another weapon in their arsenal. It may also appeal to average citizens tired of the claptrap, half-truths, and outright nonsense, frequently masquerading as natural or social science, that appear all too often in the media and in academic journals.
During our time together, we'll consider issues such as the following:
Much of the time will be spent evaluating examples of pseudo-scientific writing, and creating original work in this fascinating genre. We'll share our productions at the end of the day, perhaps over a glass of wine or a mug of good ale.
Those who have taken or are considering taking the "Simple Numbers" workshop, or who have done individual work with me in that area, will likely be interested in this workshop as well.
Workshop rates are $400 per half-day, or $750 per full day, plus all expenses. The higher rate is necessary because this is an advanced-level "Special Topics" workshop requiring extra preparation on my part. Rates slightly higher for groups larger than ten. A minimum of six participants is required for the workshop to go forward. All workshop participants receive a free post-workshop evaluation of a brief piece of writing related to the workshop topic.
While this service is probably best suited to a workshop, I am also prepared to offer individual coaching. Hourly rates apply.
The Joys of Grammar [S5]
The 'joys' of grammar? Surely you jest! Any fool knows that grammar is about as joyful as a tax audit or root canal work. The mere mention of the word is enough to make any sane person reach for the Tylenol bottle. . .
All of this said, the fact remains that a knowledge of grammar is an invaluable resource for any writer, especially any poet. This workshop is all about how you can use your knowledge of grammar to improve your own writing and to deepen your understanding of other people's work. And, yes, it can be a lot of fun seeing how grammatical analysis can heighten your creative and critical powers.
We'll start with a brief roundtable discussion of what everyone hopes to get out of the workshop. Then we'll look at a few poems with an eye to seeing how a knowledge of grammar can deepen our understanding of those poems. Next, we'll try the same thing with a piece of prose. The rest of the time will be spent looking at participants' own work from a grammatical perspective. All participants will receive a brief bibliography, to guide them in future explorations in this area.
This workshop is intended for experienced writers; it will be of particular value to poets. An understanding of English grammar is essential. Knowledge of one or more foreign languages, while not required, would be helpful. Please note that this is not a workshop in which grammar will be taught, in the normal sense.
$300 per half-day workshop (up to ten participants), or $550 for a full day, plus all expenses. Slightly higher rates charged if there are more than ten participants. Six is the minimum number required for the workshop to go forward.
This service is also available on an individual basis. Hourly rates apply, with a minimum fee of $100. Those wishing individual mentoring in this area should be prepared to bring one or more pieces of writing they feel would benefit from a grammar-based approach.
Contemporary Language Issues [S6]
The English language is evolving in some ways that I find fascinating, others that I find horrific. Almost all of the evolution is interesting, however.
Is 'hopefully,' used at the beginning of a sentence, a bad or a good thing? What about contemporary teen expressions such as 'whatever' and "not so much"? And what place (if any) do the specific languages of business and technology have in general writing? These are just a few of the issues we'll cover in this six-week class, which will meet one evening a week.
Discussions will centre on one issue each week (e.g., whether 'hopefully' is a good or a bad thing). Participants will take turns leading those discussions. Once it is clear that the course is going forward, I'll be happy to accept suggestions for discussion topics from prospective participants.
$900 for a six-week class meeting weekly for 1 ½ hours, plus all expenses. Slightly higher fee charged if there are more than ten participants. Minimum of six participants required for the course to go forward.
This course is recommended for experienced writers, journalists, political pundits, and anyone else with an interest in the contemporary evolution of the English language.
Note: As this is a "Special Topics" course that will require significant initial research on my part, I must charge a somewhat higher fee than I normally would for a class, to take into account the extra course development time.
Design Your Own Writing Course [S7]
Have an idea for a writing course or workshop that you'd like me to offer? Send me a one-page outline, with a brief description of the intended audience, and I'll be happy to consider it.
For your course or workshop to become a reality, two things have to happen. First, I have to like the idea. Second, it must appeal to enough people that you and at least five others are prepared to put down your money and take the course.
Yes. . .it's really that simple.
No fee for initial reading of your first three ideas, or for initial reading of any course idea once you have had a proposal accepted and the course has actually been offered. Course and workshop rates: Normally $300 per half-day (up to 10 participants), or $550 per full day, or $1000 for two days, plus all expenses. Rates somewhat higher if there are more than ten participants. Initial course development fee, payable the first time the course is offered: same as the course or workshop rate for that course. In other words, the fee for a custom-designed workshop or course being offered the first time is double that of the usual workshop or course: $600 per half-day, $1100 per full day, or $2000 for two days, plus all expenses.
All course and workshop participants receive one free post-workshop follow-up evaluation related to their course. In addition, all course and workshop participants in a course being offered for the first time receive a 10% discount on any other course or workshop they take for the next two years. Course proposers whose courses actually run receive a free project proposal evaluation and a 25% discount on any other course or workshop they take for the next two years, as well as on my workshop. The same 25% discount on my workshop is available to those willing to host a custom-designed course or workshop in their homes; thus a course proposer who is also willing to host the course can take the course at half-price, in addition to receiving worthwhile savings on other workshops down the road.
Write & Ride [S8]
Many people find they do their best writing when traveling, away from the daily routine and distractions such as the telephone or overly chatty colleagues. Trains, which allow travelers more personal space and more freedom than most other modes of transportation, can be particularly well-suited to work on longer projects.
If you give me enough notice-and contribute toward my fare-I can help you turn your next train trip into a veritable writing retreat. I'm prepared to offer pretty much my full range of individual mentoring services, as noted in the pages above, on a "write & ride" basis.
Given the logistical challenges inherent in this approach, I would appreciate two weeks' notice. I'm prepared to consider requests made with less notice, but please note that a) good seats can be hard to get close to the day of travel; b) tickets are always more expensive then.
To be negotiated.
Writing in Self-Defense: A Practical Course for Everyday Citizens [S9]
Feeling as if some business has taken advantage of you, or some local, provincial, or federal politician is trying to pull the wool over your eyes? Know some group that needs an advocate but hasn't been able to find one (other than you)? Tired of seeing the same old drivel in the newspapers and on radio and TV go unanswered?
This course is designed for you. Not in any sense a creative writing course, it aims to give people practice in the kind of writing most citizens need to do from time to time simply to assert their rights and to keep from being cheated.
Free evaluation of any practical writing sample, related to the issues discussed in this course, that you submit within one year of the workshop.
You may also come away from this course finding that you actually enjoy writing, and would like to do more of it. If so, you're in luck, because all those who have taken this course will receive a 10% discount on any of my other courses and workshops taken within a two-year period of the workshop.
Though this service will normally be offered as a group workshop, I'm also prepared to provide individual mentoring, upon request. Hourly rates apply.
Writing with Partners [S10]
The aim of this workshop and mentoring service is to give writers a better sense of audience. Bring a partner, write to an absent partner, or think up an imaginary one-it doesn't make any difference. In the process, we'll also get a handle on some of the differences between written communication and oral, or spoken communication. This service is offered either as a course or on an individual mentoring basis.
Individual mentoring: hourly rates apply. For a half-day course (minimum of six participants required): $300 plus all expenses. For a full-day course: $550 plus all expenses. Somewhat higher rates charged if there are more than ten participants. Rates to be negotiated if the workshop lasts longer than one day.