The Writers' Greenhouse

12-session evening courses on different aspects of novel-planning and writing, run by Megan Kerr. Serious tuition through fun activities and games. Plus follow-on course to continue supporting writers into their writing careers. And now Summer Workshops and writing days throughout August, exploring different aspects of writing and providing a space (and the coffee!) to get some real writing done.

On-going, Wolvercote


February 21, 2011

They say everyone has a novel in them. There's just one problem... getting it redrafted, edited, perfected and published. In fact getting the damn thing plotted and written would be a good start. But most people have to face down a variety of demons in their writing, often because they suddenly realise they don't know where it's all going.

It's easy to think you have the plot all figured out, but if it isn't there in enough detail to tell you where each scene is going, what the plot sub-layers are, how everything will come together and when, what each character's point of view is, and all the myriad other fiddly bits you'll need to know, then it isn't really a plot yet, just the idea for one. At this point you might need help in knowing how to focus on each area in turn - what questions to use to cross-examine your ideas.

Megan Kerr uses practices from TEFL training, including meticulous planning, pacy lessons and clear objectives. There are several underlying tenets to her teaching: first off, an expectation of rigour, which makes everything simultaneously harder and easier - harder in the short-term but easier in the writing. You can't plot and write well both at the same time, so the key is in the groundwork. Second is the wonderfully basic assumption that writing novels is perfectly normal.

Much of the class-time we work in groups. The results are frequently hilarious, and the combination of collaboration and speed really prevent anyone being precious about writing. Working as a group also means most of the tasks feel like games, even the ones that don't involve dice. Homework assignments are manageably short so you can fit them into your week.

Many activities help you to visualise ideas and thought processes: how to lay out plots, how to check your tension is in the right places, using forms and questions to see where current holes are and how to plug them. And in all this a slight obsession with felt tip pens is seen as an advantage, not a handicap - here are displacement activities which will positively help.

The processes build up, so this week one of our quick tasks was something that took more like an hour a couple of weeks ago. Each week I feel simultaneously pleased that we're getting a stage further, more skills in the arsenal, and sad that it means we're closer to the end. In that respect it's like a very good book.

Of course in class the exercises are idealised, and transferring those ideas to your own half-thought-out novel can be harder. Think army medic, learning First Aid in a nice, clean operating theatre, but actually performing it on a makeshift bed in a sandy cave in the middle of battle.

For the one-day workshops you are expected to have some work in progress [NB This is no longer the case, and the one-day workshops function much more like short versions of the long courses, looking at one particular aspect of writing - Ed. 2017]. For the 12-week Story Elements course you just need a will to write - most of the practice assignments will use the (frequently extraordinary) ideas cooked up in class. If you have other things you're dying to work on all to the good, but it's not vital.

As you can probably tell, I would really, really recommend Megan's novel-writing tuition. I've always loved frenetic games of Balderdash and Consequences, and the zany haste of the Improvised Musical on Radio4, and so I find Megan's games and the group-orientated nature of the classes great fun. To be doing that sort of thing and learning too, feeling your own writing steadily coming under your control, that is heady stuff.

I attended two of Megan's one-day summer-writing workshops and absolutely loved them. I desperately wanted to attend them all, frankly, because I knew just from one phone conversation that she is a rare gem of a teacher: the kind of person who imparts inspiration, wisdom, expertise and hard-headed advice in equal diplomatic measure. She brings out the very best in each student on the course, and we all benefited from the interactions with each other, the games and the brain-busting exercises that Megan had devised.

What a buzz in the room! So much creative energy! I think every one of us left with the impetus and resolve to write more and write better, and Megan's courses certainly delivered the tools for this in spades. I speak as a publishing professional - having been involved in fiction editorial for more than twenty years - and also as a published author. It was so humbling and fantastic and brilliant to discover how much more there is to the world I've inhabited for so long.

If I lived in Oxford, I'd be a regular student, and will certainly be keeping an eye out for more of Megan's weekend workshops. Her passion and vitality translate into the most innovative and informed writing programmes I've ever seen, and her generous spirit will leave you completely inspired to achieve whatever you drives you - whether it's just having fun with like-minded people, or completing the next bestseller.

I joined the Imaginary Worlds course because I wanted to think more creatively, get writing and meet some new people who love sci fi and fantasy - this course fulfilled all three but so much more! Having thought I would never be able to write a novel, I came away with 4 great new storylines; I met some amazing new friends and the weekly get-togethers in Megan's house quickly became the highlight of my week.

Megan's sessions are well structured, timed to perfection and full of laughter. She runs masses of exercises to break down any mental barriers you might have about writing and to get you to put pen to paper. They suit total novices like me and people with a novel in progress who need an injection of enthusiasm and rigour to get things done. I think the most valuable thing I have learnt is that I have the power to write, to stop shooting myself down before I even start, the process of moving from first to final draft and most important of all - the need to create regular periods of time when you commit to writing.

Expand Your Repertoire - Genuinely Inspirational!

I came to the Expand Your Repertoire one-day workshop having not written anything for 5 years. I left with a booklet full of ideas, renewed confidence in my writing, and some good friends to boot.

Megan is an excellent teacher, and every second of the full-day course was used to brainstorm, plan, introduce new ideas and angles, and then play around with them in our own writing.

I've been on a number of courses in London and Oxford, and this was certainly the best value-for-money of them all. So much so that, once I've finished this review, I'm going to carry on writing ;-)

I would heartily recommend Megan's courses to anyone considering creative writing; the mixture of people range from people who are new to the discipline, to people who have published several novels. Everyone got a lot out of the day. I can't wait for the next one.

Imaginary Worlds - Brilliant!!!

I'd been dithering about finding a writing course for a couple of years, fearing I wouldn't be able to come up with a good story, or that it would be a struggle working out a good plot, or simply that I haven't got it in me to write fiction anyway. I'm pretty good at emails, but I hadn't actually done any kind of creative writing since Primary School.

Megan got me writing ... stuff that I'd never imagined I could do ... in a way that I've never written before. Never in a million years would I have believed I could produce a scene featuring two teenage boys who got up to no good, set 30,000 years ago, creating a language based on Czech, inventing plant names, ceremonies, social structures, and locations. For me as a beginner writer, it was great not to focus on storyline and plot, but instead Megan got us tuning in to our imagination, pulling out anything that seemed like an 'idea' no matter how fantastical or daft it might seem at first. There was much shared discussion, and equally as much individual writing in small bite-sized chunks, inspired scribbling in coloured pens on neat little work sheets. We made collages with magazine pictures and special glue, we looked at cleverly focussed excerpts from books in which writers had effectively done what we were about to do. We had scrummy biscuits in the break.

Megan is a brilliantly focussed teacher with a hearty sense of humour. I'd arrive at the class tired after a full day at work, and very soon be buzzing with ideas and feeling inspired to just try something small, and see where it wanted to go. I actually couldn't wait to do my homework (most unusual) and found myself getting up early on a Sunday morning (even more unusual) just to try out an idea for 10 minutes without judging it ... and realised that I was now writing from a completely different part of my brain! You bet I've signed up for Story Elements now!

Imaginary Worlds

What an incredible teacher Megan is! After attending the summer sessions, I caught the Writers Greenhouse bug and wanted to spend more and more time creating in this greenhouse, no, hot house of magical ideas. Each lesson is so well organised yet fluid and flexible. I have picked up so many tools and ideas from the activities and exercises. Megan is so supportive no matter where you are on your writing journey. The personal feedback from our submissions was so invaluable. I really didn't want the course to end and can't wait for the next one and the summer workshops.


March 15, 2017

I loved, loved, loved Megan Kerr's 'Story Elements' writing course. I took the course in Fall 2016, and it was inspiring, fun, and incredibly organized and well-paced. I have taken other writing classes before, but Megan's was simply the best course of its kind I've experienced.

Megan creates a fun, inspirational environment while at the same time packing in an incredible amount of practical and useful information on the nuts and bolts of writing itself and the elements and structure of creating effective stories. Megan opened my eyes to the ways to build stories and access my own creativity through multiple different exercises. There is simply no dead space in the course-- each moment is focused and yet fun, and each section of activity is well-timed so that you are participating and learning the entire time.

The small group structure is effective and Megan sets a wonderful tone for participation and sharing that just works perfectly. Megan has planned out each lesson to the minute and prepares incredibly well, so you come away each week with very concrete knowledge and elements to practice through "homework." I found myself looking forward to the class each week and still miss it now that it's over.

If you are looking for a class to spark your own creativity, teach you practical steps of how to work creatively to get stories done, and inspire you to recognize good writing and create your own stories, look no further. I highly recommend Megan and her courses in The Writer's Greenhouse.

I've now been to three Writer's Greenhouse workshops and each turned out to be a really fun day, filled with playful, thought provoking and inspiring activities.

I'd not been on any writing workshops before, but after these I will definitely look to doing more in the future. As well as meeting new people from a whole mixture of backgrounds, each session left me with interesting ideas and new ways of working to take away.

I would say the summer of writing workshops are great whether you already write or are just thinking about beginning and want some fun exercises to give you food for thought or a gentle push.

On top of all this I've discovered some great new books and new writers through the extracts Megan uses - I'm looking forward to doing lots more reading and writing!

I found this course via Google after hunting high and low for a local writing course that didn't focus on the academic side of writing, and I can't recommend Megan enough. The atmosphere is friendly and you have so much fun; the hours just pass you by and I couldn't wait 'til the next class.

I wanted to meet a like minded group of writers to share my writing with and to receive assignments that would keep me motivated and on track. I got all of that and so much more. The activities in class are all time based so you can't overthink them which I found really useful. All the tasks completed went into the 'Plot Bank', which was a folder of concepts we had built up over the 12 week course, which got divided out in the last class. The homework assignments were very motivating: sometimes they were carrying on from tasks that we had done in class, and sometimes you could continue with your own piece if you were working on a novel outside of class.

The feedback on assignments I found really useful, and Megan would always give me good tips of what could be improved or what I needed to focus on more. With me, it was dialogue - she gave me a very good tip of colouring in the dialogue so I could focus on what each character was doing and feeling at the time, which I have begun to use moving forward, as well as so much more.

I loved every minute of the course and would highly recommend Megan if you want to take up writing, or like me you had something in progress but wanted to add extra layers and gain new ways of searching for inspiration.

After completing the 12 week course, the group have agreed to meet up every month and discuss what they have done to keep us all motivated, and I am storming through my own novel keeping in mind everything Megan has taught me. I will also be taking the popular follow on course once places are available. If you love writing but are stuck for ideas, you need to do this course. I can now say as a result I am more confident about talking through my ideas with people and find myself making writing time so I can progress with my own novel.

I recently completed this week course and I can highly recommend it. Megan is a great teacher and I was always disappointed when it was time to go home! This is the first writing course I've done and I'm really glad I chose it out of all the groups that are available. Megan provides a huge amount of course materials for you to work on during the sessions, and then sends you home with a handy little booklet recapping what you learnt that session, plus ideas for how to apply those points to your own novel. By the end, you have 12 booklets to remind you of everything you’ve done, along with a selection of the worksheets you’ve completed with the group so you can use the same ideas at home when working on your own writing.

Usually I am very private about my writing and don't share my work, but doing this course helped me to realise the benefits of sharing ideas with other writers. Even though you don’t directly discuss your personal work, it's great for building up your confidence in talking about your writing in general, and really opens your eyes to how beneficial it is to discuss things with others. It was a really supportive group and a thoroughly enjoyable 12 weeks. Tea, biscuits and colourful felt-tip pens provided :)

I can't recommend this course enough. Megan is a great teacher and the structure of the 12 weeks really gets into the important part of writing a novel - storytelling. This isn't a course on prescriptive grammar or a set of rigid rules to follow for developing a work - it's a series of exercises, experiments, games, and discussions which explore the full length and breadth of what goes into a novel. By the end of the course we had, as a group, an enormous pile of ideas, plots, characters, and concepts (which we could take home with us!). If you want to write but aren't quite sure where to start, or how to get ideas, this course is for you. If you're already writing and aren't quite sure where to go next, this is also for you. If you've got that one idea you've been playing with for years but never quite got around to writing down - well, I'm 10,000 words into mine.

I signed up for Megan's Novel Writing course having not done anything like this before. I had no idea what to expect and quite honestly on the first lesson almost drove away again through blind panic! I am glad I didn't, because this course has taken me from being a shy, nervous writer behind closed doors to a happier, more confident writer who has actually started submitting things!

Megan carefully planned a well structured week by week course around all the elements of building a novel, and although it's quite fast paced and expectations of you are quite high, you end up absorbing much more than you thought you would and by the end you realise just how much you gain from a mere 12 weeks. This isn't a course on how to write prose or find your voice, it is for people who need a bit of help with the elements of novel building, techniques, what goes where and how to structure the full package of a novel.

The environment is incredibly supportive, relaxed and informal yet the pace and exercises keep it feeling professional and constructive. Megan provides an enormous wealth of materials and activities which are effective because they are structured and fun and she makes it clear what the outcome should be for each one. Megan has a huge bank of knowledge in all things writing and by working with her and the group of students together it makes for an inspiring and brilliantly fun experience.

I would recommend this course for anyone wanting to develop their story building knowledge and to get inspired to write again. I wouldn't recommend it if you think you already have a vast knowledge of plot layering, characterisation etc and just want to write.

I have attended several writing workshops over the years and this one-day workshop was by far the most enjoyable and useful. It was supportive without being prescriptive.

The well-prepared activities balance collaborative, imaginative fun with practical approaches for developing believable characters and solid plots. These activities, with visual and physical elements, help to make the process less abstract and more manageable.

Megan's classroom experience is evident in her supportive, inclusive manner and high expectations. I was absorbed by the activities and only later did I realise quite how much ground we had covered and how many new ideas and strategies I was taking home with me.

On the one-day course, writers are asked to share their current writing projects for group discussion and developmental activities. For me, these exceptionally helpful for unlocking characters and plot from their synopsis and in bringing a fresh and optimistic perspective to the whole project.

I found it to be an inspiring, informative and professionally organised workshop that was also enormous fun. I recommend it heartily to fiction writer who is looking for constructive organisational tips and creative stimulation.
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