By ANN ELISE TAYLOR
Aspiring writers interested in improving their craft are being offered the opportunity to share their work within a constructive setting.
The spring session of the Quarry Heights Writers’ Workshop, which will start April 11 and end during the first week of June, has openings available for those looking to share sections of their novels, short stories or essays with a group of writers.
The workshop, which will consist of eight people, meets at the home of Keija Parssinen, the group’s instructor. The cost of the eight-week workshop is $225.
Parssinen, who moved to the Columbia area in 2009 after finishing her master’s in fine arts at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, started Quarry Heights in hopes of meeting new people and creating the sense of camaraderie that she has previously experienced in writing workshops.
“I think it’s beneficial to have a community of writers,” she said. “Writing is a very solitary pursuit. There comes a point when you can no longer look at your piece of writing with fresh eyes. You have gone over it a million times, and you’ve made all of the changes you feel are appropriate, and yet you have this sense that it’s still not the best that it can be.”
This is where a workshop can help, Parssinen said. At Quarry Heights, each writer in the group has the chance to present his or her work twice within the workshop’s duration to receive critiques from Parssinen and the rest of the class.
“My goal not to stand there with a red pen and crush people’s life dreams,” she said. “It is really just to create a safe environment for people to explore their talents and do what they want to do.”
Parssinen says that she tries to critique each piece of writing for what it is.
“I don’t try to change what the writer is trying to do,” she said. “I just try to enhance what they’ve already done.”
The winter workshop, which started at the end of January and will run through March 14, hosts a wide variety of Columbia residents, Parssinen said. Men and women of various ages and skill levels attend the class.
“It’s a group of writers who are pretty serious about their writing,” Parssinen said. “They want to carve out time for themselves, despite their busy lives, to write and get their pages out there, which is tough to do when you’re a working person.”
Ann Breidenbach, who is participating in the winter workshop, said she has appreciated being given the chance connect with other writers.
“She (Parssinen) has created a place where we can all come together and crawl out of our caves, share our writing and get the benefit of each other’s skills and expertise,” she said. “I expect the friendships will continue beyond the eight-week session.”
Parssinen said that she has enjoyed conducting the workshop.
“It’s a real pleasure to be around this group of creative, interesting, talented, unique people and see the way that they all respect one another and one another’s dreams of writing,” she said.
Parssinen, whose book, “Against the Kings of Salt,” will be published in January 2012 by Harper Perennial, advised those interested in participating in the upcoming section of Quarry Heights Writers’ Workshop to visit the group’s website for information on joining.