Meredith Suter-Wadley gives an overview of the Zurich Writers Workshop, held in May at the Volkshaus in Zurich. Meredith attended the fiction workshop run by Anne Korkeakivi.
The weekend kicked off with a Friday evening reading at Orell Füssli’s English Book Store in Zurich. Anne Korkeakivi read from her novel An Unexpected Guest, and Chantal Panozzo, the non-fiction instructor, read from her collection of essays, Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known.
If Anne Korkeakivi were an opening to a novel, you would be lured by words and images both charismatic and thought-provoking into a story about the power and purpose of a beginning.
This year’s instructor of the Workshop’s fiction section, Korkeakivi led participants on a careful walk into the “interactivity between different sections of a manuscript,” with an emphasis on the relationships between beginning and story, beginning and ending. Her subsequent explanation of the role of a work’s middle then fell into place.
A journalist-turned-novelist, Korkeakivi is the published author of An Unexpected Guest. Her non-fiction and short stories have appeared in highly-respected papers, periodicals and journals.
She delivered a prepared lecture, yet throughout the one-and-a-half day course, which took place all of a Saturday and half of a Sunday, she fielded questions and readily explored points raised by participants. This blend of sharing and discussing her topic allowed her to adjust her presentation to the needs of the participants without losing track of her agenda. Although Korkeakivi chose to lecture, she did squeeze in a writing exercise in the eleventh hour on the last day. (The formatting of the workshops are left up to the instructors; past workshops have been more ‘hands on’.)
For her exercise, Korkeakivi gave her students a writing prompt from which each was to create a story that included a beginning, middle and end. For the fifteen minutes allowed, the class scratched away at paper or fingered away on laptops. Following the exercise, those who chose to read what they had produced. Korkeakivi then fired back quick analyses of structure. Most of the participants participated in the exercise, and it appeared that most enjoyed the chance to practice something concrete.
Included in the fiction workshop was the opportunity to submit up to ten pages of writing ahead of time, and then to sit with Korkeakivi tête-à-tête for fifteen minutes. During the tête-à-tête, Korkeakivi not only discussed a submission’s strengths and weaknesses; she returned a hard copy with comments and edits, along with a one-page story analysis. Professional feedback on a work-in-progress is invaluable.
This year’s fiction workshop was made up of men and women from Switzerland and other European countries, Africa, and the Americas. Some of the participants were native English speakers, but not all. The level of writing experience and the interests in writing styles—form and genre—were as diverse as the passports. Korkeakivi’s lecture served as a refresher course for the more experienced, while to the less experienced her course delivered ideas and terminology.
Sunday’s program included a panel discussion on the “latest news and trends in the traditional and independent publishing worlds.” The workshop instructors were joined by Richard Harvell, novelist and commissioning editor at Bergli Books, and JJ Marsh, novelist, language trainer, columnist for Words with Jam and a founding member of Triskele Books, to share their experiences in the world of publishing and to field questions from the audience.
Now in its fifth year, Zurich Writers Workshop is run by two Zurich-area American writers, Kelly Jarosz and Chantal Panozzo.
Whether you are an aspiring writer feeling anxious or bewildered about how to start a novel, a short story, or an article, whether you are an experienced and published author, or whether you are simply seeking to connect with fellow writers, there is something to be gained by participating.