Final essay from a participant in “Pen in Hand, Ink on Page”

“Why I Took This Course & What I Will Take From This Course”               

from a participant in the Winter writing course at Blue Heron Books

Let me begin by saying that this writing course has been most enjoyable even though I more or less ended up in this course by default.   I had originally enrolled in a “Learn To Draw” course.  My perception of that course outline was that it was suitable for a rank beginner like myself, who had not had any formal art instruction.   Basic, rudimentary drawing instructions were what I expected—a “How To” course.

Unfortunately, that course was cancelled due to a lack of enrollment so I decided to take a stab at the other drawing course. My expectations and the reality of that course were polar opposites—it was not for beginners!   I’ve read somewhere that drawing anatomy is the most difficult challenge for an artist.  The very first drawing the class had to attempt was that of the FACE of the person standing next to us!  To make matters worse, we were drawing BLIND!  A piece of landscape fabric was placed over each easel so we could not see what we were creating.

The instructor clearly sensed my feelings of fear and awkwardness.  To her credit, she did her best to make me relax and try to think outside the box.  Suffice it to say that the two hours of that class passed by painfully slow.   After each drawing, we examined each other’s work, which I found to quite embarrassing.

A few days later, I asked to transfer to another course.  The “finish what you started” part of my brain was trying to convince me to give it another go.  But the “this is not fun” part won out.  Since I have always enjoyed writing, I thought I should give the Pen In Hand, Ink On Page course a try.  It would be useful to brush up on grammar, sentence structure and when to use a semi colon, etc.   Just one point worried me – I was not sure if we would be required to read a book each week and compose an essay on it.  If a book captures my interest, no problem!  It’s when I struggle to get through a book, for whatever reason, that I would find writing the essay very challenging.  Another appealing fact was that this writing course was offered during the day, a time which I preferred versus evening.  So I signed up!

Although the course was not what I expected, I was actually relieved that it was not – no plowing through required reading.    I was surprised to learn on the first day that the other ladies in this course were actually working on either memoirs or a novel.   Wow!  This was way out of my league.  Fortunately, the instructor (Sue) made it crystal clear from day one that there was no right or wrong way to go about the in class prompts or the essay assignments.  Each time the thought entered my head, “I don’t know what to write”, I would remember Sue saying, “Just let your pen move.  Let your thoughts flow.  Get out of your own way”.   Furthermore, each time a doubt entered my head such as, “My writing will sound so faulty compared to the others”, I was pleasantly reassured by the positive feedback offered by the others and by Sue.  To be honest, a negative thought usually popped into my mind each time we were given an in class writing prompt.  So, here was another benefit to taking this course – it boosted my self-esteem!  That is one thing I will take away from this course and that is something you can’t buy in a pill.

A very fond memory I will take from this course and shall miss, is the time spent listening to the others read their work.  Some of the ladies have a delightful talent in storytelling.  Their intonations can be mesmerizing.  Their writing is often humorous but, in contrast, sometimes very sorrowful.  I have experienced tension and a range of emotions while listening to the readings.  The classes have also given me topics on which to reflect.

Over the past several years, any course I have taken has been something I need, for example, “Intro to Computers” or have an interest in, such as “Nutrition – How to Buy Locally”.  Another reason is for mental stimulation.  Pen In Hand, Ink On Page is a catchy phrase and was both interesting and stimulating.  I am most glad that I took the course.

I will also take away more confidence with regard to undertaking a task.   “Don’t doubt yourself.  Just get at it!”

Review by Tobin

Tobin Elliott attended a talk I gave in December to the Writers’ Community of Simcoe County and blogged about it. You can read what he said here: Go To That Dark Place

Thanks for the shout out Tobin!


General Comments:

Sue’s teaching style creates a sense of safety for new and experienced writers alike and her process has helped me open up my writing and find, explore,  and craft the stories that are most important to me.  Sue nurtures the creative and writing process and has an ability to create a space for others to write in that is both safe and completely accessible.  I could not recommend a workshop with Sue more highly – if you have the chance, go.
— Nora Landry, published author

As a novice writer, the support, encouragement and technical advise I have received from Sue has been invaluable. Mere weeks after meeting her, and attending a ‘Santuary Sunday’, my first short story was accepted for publication. Thanks Sue!

Sharon Overend

Regarding Sanctuary Sundays:

I have attended many of Sue Reynold’s Sanctuary Sunday Writing retreats. She is a creative, articulate and affirming facilitator, who guides writers through imaginative and inspiring exercises that stimulate on-the-spot writing. Her prompts are unique and stimulate profound and often surprising pieces of work. She is very knowledgeable about the writer’s craft, other mentors’ books and resources, and shares her expertise and extensive library willingly. She has the unique gift of being able to hear participant’s writing and pick out the interesting images, phrases and connections, and holds them to the light.

My writing has improved considerably as a result of the safe and supportive haven she provides, in which writers can take risks, try new genres and stretch their imagination. My writing also has improved as a consequence of hearing other writers share their work, which stimulates group energy and further creative exploration.

I would heartily recommend Sue’s guidance and expertise to any serious writer, who wants to receive inspiration, direction, and affirmation and be challenged to grow in new ways as a writer or poet. She is a talented writing guide, mentor and facilitator.
— Katie Marshall Flaherty, poet and author of Salt, Tilted Equilibrium, Hobbledehoy and String of Mysteries

Regarding “Advanced Creative Writing”:

I hestitantly enrolled in a second Durham College writing course, Advanced Creative Writing, not entirely sure that it would be that much different from the first course I took. Added to that trepidition was the high quality of the first course. What swayed my decision was the teachers listed, Sue Reynolds and James Dewar, whom I had briefly met in the last class of the previous course. That in of itself speaks volumes of the impressions they made on me.
I was not disappointed, in fact it far exceeded my expectations. Both James and Sue are not only experienced writers but extremely easy to talk to, and more than a pleasure to listen to. Engaging and funny, they encouraged us students to just go with the moment and to shut off our inner critics.
From that course and their teaching I learned not to shy from a “shitty first draft”, that every writer has their own voice and style whether they know it or not and that description is a delicious ingredient as unique as the writer using it. I learned to try new approaches and most importantly to just write. That and as much as I may resist the “Ting Technique”, it does work.
To any budding writers looking for a course to futher their skills, I highly recommend any course taught by Sue Reynolds. Her courses aren’t as much a class as they are a journey of discovery shared by both the teacher and the student, and I’m richer for having taken it.
— Dale Long, published author

 Taking a Creative Writing course from Susan Lynn Reynolds was like discovering that resplendent, but elusive, oasis in a desert filled with instructor claims that only profess to share their knowledge of the writing craft. Instead, Sue has a remarkable insight into the foundations of writing and effortlessly communicates her thoughts, often using visual techniques. Class assignments were thoughtfully prepared, designed to make her students find and push their inventive buttons. Personally, I found Sue’s use of examples of good writing, followed by class discussions, a powerful way to learn about the nuances of creative writing styles and I’ve benefited from these strategically in my writing. Taking the initiative to improve one’s writing through learning from others is always an intellectual and financial investment; but the Creative Writing course I took from Sue had profound returns.
— Ian D. Manson   

It was a learning pleasure to have attended the all day memoir writing seminar held at Uxbridge Library on Oct 18th,2008. Being a novice memoir writer [I picked up my pen to start a few months earlier], I did not know what to expect except that as I drove from Toronto to Uxbridge I thought to myself will this long drive be worth my time. As things turned out I would drive a much longer distance to participate in one of your classes. I was pleased with the written information handed out  that day and I use many of the suggestions as I continue writing my memoirs. I purchased a number of the books on your suggested reading list and have not found one of them disappointing. In some of the exercises practiced  that day I learned more from them then at previous writing classes. I recommended you as a teacher to all my friends who ask me about writing memoirs. I hope there are future classes that you will be teaching in the spring that I can join. Thank you for a great informative day.
— Seymour Eliesen, Toronto, On.

I was a student of the Advanced Creative Writing coarse that Sue Reynolds and James Dewar presented at Durham College, Uxbridge campus, during the fall of 2008. The course presented many of the facets of writing and she was able to motivate all the students to write in the presented styles.
I was most impressed by the quality of the lectures and the methods of presenting them.
— John Angrove

Susan’s reputation as an excellent writer and instructor preceded her in my case. After registering for an Advanced  Creative Writing course that she (insert James here as well if you desire) was leading at Durham College, I happily discovered the rumour to be true.  Sue had the knowledge and ability to stimulate this fledgling writer in developing a voice as well as skills. Her approach is friendly, energetic and challenging.  I heartily recommend her tutelage to anyone desiring to improve their writing craft ability. I proudly consider her a valued mentor.
— Dave Jones
“The roof exploded, peppered the air and shadowed the white light like the backside of stars…”

Sue provided an open and organic environment not only to learn from her own considerable experience but from the ‘give and take’ spirit she fostered throughout the whole workshop. What I mean to say is we were given the permission to write badly, which is where all honest writing starts.
— Greg Dodd

Regarding “Writing with a Slow Hand: Erotic Writing Parts one and two”:

I discovered Sue at Piquant Productions quite by accident while checking my WCDR e-mails. There was a link to her website, so I thought I’d look into it. It was a long winter, and she was offering a very unique writing experience, that would take me outside my writing “box”, and take me out of the winter doldrums. I decided to give it a try, with a strong promise to myself not to share my personal writing with the group.

Immediately, Sue and James provided a comfortable and open atmosphere, allowing us to share a little part of our own lives, while sharing a little of their own.

While the other members were sharing their first writing, I immediately noticed that Sue provided a warm, supportive atmosphere in which the encouragement of each person’s creativity allowed their writing juices to flow easily. When it was time to share, Sue gently nudged me to share, noting that it was necessary for growth in writing. I was shaking, because I was incredibly nervous. Slowly, and through many opportunities to write, I eventually found my inhibitions and self limiting internal dialogue are quickly whisked away from my imagination. I eventually looked forward to reading aloud, as I gained more personal power and confidence with each piece of writing.

After that experience, I eagerly awaited signing up to Part II!

Sue provides personal feedback, and an optimistic approach to one’s personal experience. I would sign up to another one of her courses in a heartbeat. Her gentle, confident and caring manner provides a very rich and positive experience. She is a real treasure to beginning writers.
— Christine Dimitris

I met Sue at a meet and greet for one of my writing classes. My mentor introduced me to her and that’s when my journey in the erotic/romance world began. With kind caring nature, and interesting new ways of teaching I am a proud follower and student. In each of Sue’s classes/workshops, I have learned beyond what I had hoped for. I developed a knack for writing racy, learned the ins and outs of sonnets, overall how to write in a more advanced format. When Sue teaches, it’s like she is having a direct conversation with you, she answers questions promptly and is always asking students if there is a view or angle that may be different.

I highly recommend taking a course with Sue. Not only will you come out a better writer but you will come away with characters and ideas that were hidden beneath your surface, just waiting for someone to bring them up to the surface for you. The writing stuff is very important for budding authors and literary geniuses but the best thing if you are lucky, is you will come away with a great friend and mentor. I know I did.
— Sarah Gall

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In the summer of 2013 I was invited to do a TEDtalk on “Shining the light on our Changing Communities”. I talked about the therapeutic writing program I do with incarcerated women. You can view the talk here.

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