After attending our 2nd. EACWP Teachers Training Course in Normandy (July, 16-21), our colleague Daniéle Pètrés (Aleph-Écriture) reviewed the three main pedagogical sessions from our three different EACWP invited teachers. Originally published in L’Inventoire, these chronicles are a first hand testimony, which depicts and highlights the fundamentals of our full pedagogical journey. Reijo Virtanen’s “Voices of my own?” workshop is the first delivery of this Teachers’ Training series
From July, 16 to July, 21 the second edition of the Teachers Training Course was held by the EACWP (European Association of Creative Writing Programmes). Each of these days was devoted to one different auteurs workshop within the creative writing field: “Voices of my own?”, “Being creative with story and plot”, “Enduring territories for migratory readers”.
Divided into two parts, the day began with a masterclass on a theme related to writing, led by a teacher from a school or a university from one of the countries represented. The afternoon was dedicated to creating subgroup for the Creative Laboratories.
To inaugurate this “Teachers Training Course”, Reijo Virtanen spoke us about the notion of “Voice”, a prior approach to the question of style.
A graduate of the University of Oulu after being a journalist and critic, he has been Head of the creative writing department at the Orivesi College of Arts in Finland since 2000. He completed his training by studying art at the University of Jyväskylä in 2004. He has published short stories, mood tickets, essays and co-wrote satirical comedies. In Finland, he even became a comic book character!
Voices of my own?
Teachers in “creative writing” generally insist that a writer needs to develop his or her own voice. Some use this term as a metaphor for style. Most invoke the existence of the “voice” as a magic incantation, as if without the inner voice the writer was nothing, as if it constituted in itself a magic word encompassing the creative talent and personality of a writer . And if it was not so simple?
The masterclass of Reijo Virtanen, thus, focuses on the question of “voice” in the writing workshop.
Is it necessary to look for and find one’s voice as an author? This notion of a personal and subjective voice does not belong to the past of modernism. May we write today using all sorts of voices? In this case, how to teach others the possibility of “double voice” or “multiple voice”?
The presentation of Reijo Virtanen will, therefore, aim to approach, at first, what can be a voice.
What is a voice?
Reijo suggests to the group to list definitions of what could be a voice. The group agrees on words such as “style”, “theme”, “language”, “emotion”, “obsession”, “language”, and then the voices of the characters (everyone agreed on this), each referring to the novel.
Then Reijo progresses on the idea that style is technical while voice relates to the social and cultural context of the characters. A voice is what comes out of a subject’s mouth.
“The voice is a metaphor that refers to all the talking subjects of fiction, that is to say, the narrator and the characters. The author does not have a “voice” in his text.
Then, he proposes to the group an exercise: imagine a narrator (a person or thing) who describes you as a real person.
We have 10 minutes to write, and each participant reads his/her text. Then, a discussion on the point of view follows, allowing each person to modify his approach to the character.
Read the points of view
Reijo projects a text in large format that we are approaching, in order to understand the multiple voices of the text, which we understand are very identifiable, depending on the level of language (dialogues, characteristic words of a community, of an age, slang, etc.)
For Reijo Virtanen “writing from many voices is as natural as the different voices you can hear orally”. It’s in dialogues that the characters appear, we just have to highlight the skills that we as authors have set aside, even ignored. ”
To wonder about the voice is actually to question the style. Reijo Virtanen states that “style is not a linguistic phenomenon, but rather a social phenomenon. It emerges from culture and society.”
This idea of a subjective and personal voice appears with modernism (the beginning of the 20 thcentury). While modernism has questioned the dialogue, insisting on the voice of the author, is it still possible today to be interested in writing in a mix of different voices of characters in a text? Can one still ask the question of a writing encompassing several voices?
Reijo Virtanen pleads for a “carnivalesque” literature. For him, irony and parody in writing play the role of a carnival mask. This image, as a metaphor for the ironic text, evokes a literature that challenges the social order. In support of this thesis, he quotes Rabelais, in particular, enable by multiple voices within the narrative to create a form of cosmogony.
It is from this questioning on the construction of a text with multiple voices that will take place the workshop of the afternoon, which will allow to create new writing exercises to apply in the context of the teaching of creative writing.
Creation workshop: the afternoon: first the reflection, then, the creation!
The masterclass gives rise to a workshop of 3 different groups (each including 6 people). Everyone must imagine a workshop to convey to future participants, both a reflection and a practice of what can be “the voice”.
After a period of adjustment of the group, its members must find a consensus to determine the public of this future workshop, its duration, and what will be the device.
Once this is done, the group develops from a brainstorming an entire writing exercise. After that, the 3 groups will get together and discuss the different outcomes of the Creative Laboratories regarding the formar and the practices of the different workshops each group has created.
L’Inventoire will publish in September, elements of these exercises!
Francoise Khoury and Danièle Pétrès
Françoise Khoury is a writer and a trainer in writing. She runs a training course “Write, photograph” for Aleph-writing.
L’Inventoire is an online magazine for anybody passionate about literature edited by Aleph-Écriture. It offers interviews with authors, suggestions to get you writing, educational lectures and literature columns.
An initiative from training centre Aleph-Écriture and supported by the European Association of Creative Writing Programmes (EACWP), L’Inventoire is open to writers, readers, teachers of creative writing and literature and librarians. L’Inventoire is a hothouse for literature, reflexivity and collaboration.