I flew to Chicago recently and had a chance to visit with the writing mentor who encouraged me to write my recently published novel. Fifteen years ago when I began the novel, I had very little time to write. None, in fact. Fred Shafer made me believe that the hastily written drafts I brought to his workshop every two weeks might eventually amount to a book, rather than a series of disjointed scenes.
Fred teaches at Northwestern University, runs writing workshops from his home, and has helped many writers in Chicago turn their rough manuscripts into finished books. I surprised Fred at the Off Campus Writers in Winnetka. Off Campus Writers Workshop
Still going strong, the OCWW meets weekly. Self-published writers, journalists, genre writers, literary writers, and writer-wannabes all crowd the room when it’s Fred’s turn to critique manuscripts.
In 1992 I had just moved to Chicago and started looking around for other writers. A newbie, I tossed a half-baked story into the hopper at OCWW, and Fred, fortunately, was the moderator of that session. He invited me to join his private workshop, and that’s where I began to learn how to revise.
Some folks say writing can’t be taught. That might be true, but it’s also true that a mentor with a passion for literature can inspire his or her students. He can point them in the right direction. He can create an atmosphere where everyone in the room knows that writing matters. Had it not been for Fred, my novel, MONTPELIER TOMORROW, would not exist.