Workshops

“Not unlike the fictional character in the Broadway musical, The Music Man, Bob Wolf has also traveled from town to town, encouraging people to express themselves, writing their chapter of the American story.”
— CBS Sunday Morning

The Workshop Method
For the past dozen years Free River Press executive director Robert Wolf has been roaming the American landscape, organizing writing workshops in cities and rural hamlets, in farmhouse dining rooms, church basements, schools, libraries, and colleges. Begun in 1989 with a workshop for the homeless in Nashville, Tennessee, Free River Press has since worked with people from all walks of life. Its goal is to amass a body of writing that someday will resemble a collective autobiography of America.

Designed by Robert Wolf, the writing workshop is geared for people of all ages, and while the practiced writer will find it useful, the workshop was designed with the amateur in mind. The workshop can accommodate up to twenty participants, and experience in numerous communities has shown that fifteen to twenty writers can generate enough stories in three days to form a small book.

Each workshop begins with the group reading aloud several published stories and discussing what made them effective. Afterwards everyone tells a story about his life or community. Participants are urged to ask questions about each story to help the writer know what needs fleshing out. When everyone's story is discussed, writing begins.

To preserve each person's voice, participants are asked to write their stories as closely as possible to the way they told them, and not to worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar. The important thing is to write the first draft as quickly as possible. Syntax and spelling are dealt with later.

When first drafts are completed, each story is read aloud. Everyone says what they would like to know more about, including things the writer may have told but omitted from the writing. The process presupposes that we share an intuitive wisdom about storytelling.

People within the group find themselves bonding, and people who thought they could not write find themselves writing with facility.

"Thank you for an inspiring, energizing, and intellectually stimulating three day workshop. For myself, someone who loves fruits and vegetables, it was like having access to all my favorites over a three day period. I felt nurtured and stimulated, and the exercises you assigned really helped to move and shape my writing at a time when I'm ready to write on a more consistent basis . . ."

-Regina Arnold, Ph.D., Associate Academic Dean, Sarah Lawrence College

"This project could've gone awry in so many ways (as experiments often do). Your flexibility and steady hand kept us on track. It was wonderful, also, to watch a master at work at his craft. I'm in awe, actually, so much impressed with the experience and skill it takes to do a good job at running a workshop of this kind. You've made many friends here, so we hope that you'll consider us a home-away-from-home whenever you're in the neighborhood and in need of a bed or at least a watering hole."

- Georgette Frazier Organizer, Marshfield Wisconsin Writing Workshop

Read work produced at urban writers workshops.

FOR INFORMATION ON SCHEDULING A WRITING WORKSHOP FOR YOUR COMMUNITY GROUP OR NONPROFIT, EMAIL info@freeriverpress.org.