Since 2007, I’ve been running creative writing classes—the Cowshed Classes—here in the shed outside Bowral where I write.
The cowshed classes run on the classic writing workshop model: a small group (six to ten) share work over three months, and under my guidance, learn from each other, from what each other learns, and from the wisdom that usually arises out of such an endeavour conducted in trust in a safe and inspiring place.
The cowshed classes cater for aspiring and practising poets, memoirists, essayists, and storytellers (short and long fiction and nonfiction)—especially those with a manuscript in mind or underway.
If you look in “Gallery”, you’ll find some pictures taken at one recent session. They give you an idea of the setting, the mood and the mode.
Classes run over three months. We meet every other Saturday. In between, participants rework workshopped copy and make new work. In the days before each session, everyone shares new writing, by email, with me and their fellow shedders.
The idea is to help writers advance their skills and—for those writers already a little down the path—to further a manuscript in the making. I have some things (plenty of things) to say about the disciplines of beauty, the making of a line, the arc of a narrative, the integrity of one’s voice, the uses of cliche and so on, but most of what I share arises out of our shared consideration of each other’s writing and writing journey. Along with my fellow cowshedders, I offer generous and specific critical responses to participants’ work. But the larger part of my job is to create an atmosphere in which cowshedders feel safe about taking artistic risks, about deepening into themselves, their voices and stories, and learning and applying new skills.
Work made or redeemed in the cowshed has been published in literary journals and two or three books, worked and reworked in the shed, have found their way into print. Poets have found themselves and their forms here. Short-story writers have found their self belief. Memoirists have remembered their mojo.
I run two cowshed classes each year—one in autumn; the other in srping. Watch my website for dates.
(As well as the longhaul cowshed classes, I run weekend intensives in the shed a couple of times a year—one for creative writing of all kinds; another for poetry; now and then one in nature writing or essay. Check out Cowshed Shortcourses for details, and watch my site for dates.)
And you might come for the shed and the writing tuition, but you will probably end up staying for the food. The cowshed classes are already famous for Maree’s catering, which embodies on the table what we try to practise on the paper: the disciplines of beauty.
So, come to the shed for the gentle exacting discipline; come to get to the end of a manuscript and make it the best thing it can be; come for the charm of the shed and the paddocks down the back and the hens in the garden outside; come for the food. You won’t be the same when you leave.
Some comments from cowshedders.
“I found the Cowshed Course a truly rewarding experience. Not only is the location inspiring, but the support and feedback from the other aspiring writers on the course, and the excellent and always constructive criticism from Mark, couldn’t help but make me a better writer by the end of it. If you love writing, and want to be a better writer, this is the course for you. And the food...well, let me say its worth more than the cost of the course on its own--fresh local ingredients cooked to perfection by Maree, a master cook and most affable host. Its two thumbs up from me.”
(Jeff Jelaco, June 2008)
“I began the cowshed experience with trepidation and ended it with new friends, new skills and a deeper appreciation of the complexity and beauty of language. The days in the cowshed had a magical quality; you left each day feeling uplifted, touched in a way that is hard to define but which left a lingering feeling of wellbeing. Mark ‘s teaching style in the shed is a subtle blend of his wisdom, technical knowledge and his life experience, creating an environment where people feel safe to share their stories over time. it seemed to me that every person came away at the end of the shed experience feeling more confident in their skills and more confident in themselves.” (Trish Carroll, June 2008)
You can read some comments from cowshedders in"Testimonials" (under “Teaching").