Toronto Writers Collective (TWC) Volunteer Facilitator Description
Volunteer facilitators lead all of our workshops and are the core of our organization. We provide free 10-week writing workshop sessions in shelters, community centres and social service agencies across the city. These partner organizations serve a diverse clientele, including the homeless and underhoused, the LGBTQ community, women at risk, Indigenous communities, immigrant communities, and people with mental or brain health challenges. Mental health issues, poverty and addiction run through all sectors.
Workshops are based on respect, writing and community. We organize public readings where participants share their writing with each other and with the wider community, and we also have plans to publish anthologies of our participants’ writing.
Our Workshops and Program
Facilitators provide workshop prompts (poems, quotes, exercises) to inspire creativity. We encourage participants to read their work but they are not required to. Feedback is positive and supportive. Facilitators write and share their stories along with the participants. There is no hierarchy in our workshops. In order to create a safe writing space, confidentiality is maintained and all writing generated in the workshop is assumed to be fiction.
The success of our writing workshops and our readings is made possible by a talented corps of trained volunteers and their dedication to building community through writing.
Training sessions are offered several times a year and run from a Friday evening through Saturday and Sunday. These experiential training sessions allow volunteers to gain a deep and practical understanding of TWC’s philosophy and values. Volunteers learn tools and strategies for successful facilitation, including how to create and sustain a safe community in which to write and share; how to manage group dynamics; and how to adapt the workshop to meet the needs of individuals and groups. Model workshop sessions offer the volunteers a supportive environment in which to practise their new facilitation skills.
Prior to training, our volunteers are required to read Writing Alone and with Others by Pat Schneider, founder of the Amherst Writers & Artists method, on which the TWC training is based.The book is available at major bookstores and through Pat Schneider’s website.
After training, volunteers will be assigned to an organization where they will hold their own workshop. Each workshop will be co-led by two volunteers; facilitators are partnered up for flexibility and support. We have morning, afternoon, evening and weekend workshop slots available in 2017.
Once trained, facilitators must commit to volunteering for a minimum of one 10-week session—this means one 90-minute workshop per week for 10 weeks. After this minimum commitment, we encourage facilitators to continue to participate in other 10-week workshop sessions throughout the year.
We provide ongoing support and supervision to ensure that the workshop experience is positive and successful for all of our writers, facilitators and agency partners.
TWC Facilitators Training Feedback
I have attended many writing workshops over the years and also developed and delivered training programs myself. The Toronto Writer’s Collective Facilitators training workshop was by far the best one I have ever attended.
The material, the exercises, the calibre of instructors and all aspects of the training workshop were excellent. The entire set up of the program supported full integrative learning. Having completed the program I feel very well prepared to facilitate the sessions. The manual and the simulation exercises make me feel confident that I will be able to navigate through any of the challenges or issues that might arise during the workshops.
It was a real privilege and gift to be able to participate and learn with the group. All the instructors’ flawlessly delivered the training material. Their passion and their ability to engage the group and to share their own writing and experience with the program really made the material come alive.
Through out the workshop the positive energy and synergy in writing alone but in a group and sharing with other writers transformed how I look at writing. The power of writing was palpable throughout the session. Over the course of the two and a half day training not only did I learn everything I need to successfully facilitate future sessions on my own but I feel that I myself was able to grow as a writer. It truly was an amazing experience. In addition there was a deep sense of appreciation for all of the participants that was very touching and affirming – this helped to model the environment that will carry forward in the TWC sessions.
I am excited to be part of this amazing organization and am looking forward to contributing to TWC for many years to come.