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Exploring Ann Arbor Writers Workshops

Writers Workshops in Ann Arbor

[If you want to cut straight to the list, click here]

Okay, I surrender. After years of avoiding anything resembling an education about writing, I’ve decided to hunker down and subject myself to some workshops, training, and the scrutiny of others. It is noteworthy that I am doing this after having had dozens of articles and three books published, and after writing thousands of web articles. So why am I doing it now? I want to answer a simple question, which is: will attending writer’s workshops improve my skills and marketability? Or are other things more important to successful writing pursuits? I’ll share my plans and some information about writing workshops in Ann Arbor further on, but first a little background for perspective…

I’ve always felt a little ostracized as a writer. It’s entirely my fault of course, and probably not due to the reasons you might suspect. We’re all familiar with the stereotype of the misanthropic genius toiling in agonized isolation to complete their latest work of literary genius. That’s not me. I’m actually almost hypersocial, even by “normal” people’s standards, let alone those of your stereotypical reserved writer type. I also don’t really consider myself a writer, something my snobbier literary friends agree with all too gleefully. The former was brought into sharp focus for me years ago when I was lucky enough to be sent on several press tours, ostensibly as a photojournalist. Which was also kind of amusing; I’m a pretty mediocre photographer.

While on these press tours, I first developed my biases about what writers were like, and learned a lot about what matters most if you want to be successful in some way as a writer. Part of being on press tours involves getting carted around in minivans all day. I immediately noticed my square-peggedness on these little excursions. Whenever the guide from the PR firm would try to stimulate some dialog, all the journalists would stare out the windows, maybe mutter a few words, or remain silent in their half-lidded, hungover state. Me? I’d be rambling on like an idiot, with such vigor that at the end of one of the tours the PR firm asked me if I’d be interested in a job. No joke.

On these press tours, I made friends with a lot of these writers, and most of them expressed a mild jealousy. How, they wondered, did some upstart like me, with no degree and little experience of any kind in journalism get the gig? They all had at least a decade in the trade, and had worked hard to get where they were. And that’s my first tip to someone who wants to be a success in any way as a writer. TALK TO PEOPLE. And do it a LOT. Don’t be the next John Kennedy Toole. Being posthumously admired is cool, but being admired is even cooler if you’re ALIVE.

For me, even if I don’t learn a darn thing about writing, I’ve decided that exploring some writing workshops right here in Ann Arbor is bound to benefit me in SOME way! Below is a roundup of the workshops in the area. I’ll be sharing my experiences in upcoming posts.

Writer’s Workshops in Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor Writers Workshop

This group has a maximum membership of eight active members, but is always accepting applications. Although the group’s website operates on a University of Michigan server, it appears to be led by book coach, editor, and publicist Jeannie Ballew, owner of EditProse.


Unfortunately, as cool as the story behind 826 is, the organization focuses primarily on workshops for students ages 6 to 18, and helping teachers inspire their students to write. As of this writing, they were also between workshop seasons, but you should be able to find the latest info HERE.

Ann Arbor Book Festival Writer’s Conference

Part of the Ann Arbor Book Festival’s annual fair, this conference is a full-day workshop series where attendees can hone their skills in sessions led by a noted group of writers and instructors from Michigan and beyond. As of this writing, there were no specifics about the 2015 festival available, but you can learn more about the 2015 plans HERE.

Emerging Writers Workshop

Do a Google search for that term, and you’ll find plenty of event listings, but no apparent central website. It appears the workshops were originally organized by Dan Wickett. Their site is here, but not often updated. You’ll have better luck either checking the local library’s events page, or doing a web search.


Meetup seems to be a hearty source of leads for local workshops. Visit the collected Ann Arbor area listings HERE, or check out the selected groups below:

Write On Ann Arbor!

This group currently has 91 members, and has met ten times. Their stated framework involves: exchanging ideas and sharing creativity, discussing members’ projects, encouraging each other, sharing goals, and holding each other accountable.

AABF Meetup

As of this writing, this group has 22 members, and appears to meet only in June, for the Ann Arbor Book Festival, mentioned above. It’s organized by the Ann Arbor Book Festival itself.

Southeast Michigan Media Lab

This group has 113 “labbers” and appears to be as much a blogger recruiting tool for Digital First Media as it is a workshop. In their words: “The idea behind the lab is to bring the audience in the newsroom”.