Outline of Writing Workshop (based on July 17, 2014, workshop in Enugu, Nigeria, and adapted for future events)
Specifics: Original workshop was held with 35 sisters from a variety of small congregations who were completing preparation for their final vows. I led the workshop in a retreat center run by the Nigerian Conference of Women Religious in Enugu, Nigeria.
Why a writing workshop?
When we presented the idea of the Global Sisters Report website to the tertianship class, the sisters were enthusiastic. However, they balked at the suggestion that they could write their own articles. They said they didn't know how to write or what to write about. I decided to hold a writing workshop to explain what kind of articles GSR wants and to build up their confidence as writers.
- Who here is a writer? (no one raised their hand)
- Answer: we are all writers. All of us have words inside of us, and writing is about capturing those words on paper. When you pray, you have words inside of you and you open up to let Jesus hear them. Writing is the same idea.
- Why is writing important?
- It gave us the Bible. It allows us to spread messages, to remember and share our stories.
- If you meet a sister from India, you can talk about the Bible because you've both read the same document. GSR also wants to create ways for you to talk to sisters from India by creating a place where you can share your stories, challenges and lessons with one another.
2. Story example
- Luke 5:1-11 – Jesus instructs Simon to put out his net
- What makes this a good story?
- Dialogue, action, description, etc.
3. Golden rules of writing
- WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW
- You are an expert in your work – share your knowledge and expertise!
- DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS
- Be specific, don't be general.
- Use the five senses – What did it smell like? Sound like? What time of day was it? What where they wearing?
- When you tell me details, it activates my imagination so I can see what you're talking about.
- Dialogue – It makes me feel like I am part of the conversation.
4. Writing exercise
15-minute free-write exercise. Choose from one of the four options:
- Tell me about a challenge you overcame as a sister.
- Tell me something you learned from your work as a sister.
- Tell me about a theological discussion that inspired you.
- Tell me about the most joyful experience you've had as a sister.
Some of the sisters shared their writing with the class. We had to stop before everyone had read because it was getting too late. About half of the sisters who read aloud gave me their writing the next day. I took a portrait of everyone who gave me their writing.
If you’d like to run a writing workshop for your congregation, copy and adapt this lesson plan here or email Melanie (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.