mayakanwal2013The Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review now offers a wide range of workshops! From How to Write a Killer Essay to Magic Realism workshops, not to mention the Intelligent Eroticism in Literary Fiction, Flash Creative Nonfiction and Flash Fiction workshops, we’ve got some amazing opportunities for you to workout those writing muscles and build up your skills. Take a look at our workshop schedule (which includes a great one-on-one personalized and intimate workshop with an Eckleburg editor), and read the interview below about what you can expect during the workshop experience from a past workshop participant herself.


Question: Briefly, what is your background in writing?

Maya Kanwal: Although my formal academic background is in mathematics, I’ve done a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde between my day job and midnight writing sprints for a decade. Two years ago I took the leap into full time writing and am now deep into a literary short fiction collection. I’ve also completed a contemporary young adult novel.


Q: What were you looking for in an online workshop and what made you want to take the How to Write a Killer Essay workshop?

MK: Three things. One, I craved interaction with the active literary community adding so significantly to the body of thoughtful current literature, and I find little opportunity for that where I happen to live. Two, fiction comes naturally to me, but my terror around writing nonfiction rivaled only my terror at the thought of writing poetry, but I knew that this was mostly because I didn’t yet have an instinct for what made nonfiction tick, which I hoped a strong workshop might be able to give me. Three, I knew this workshop would have to be with a group whose voice and attitude resonated with me personally, and I get such a kick out of Eckleburg that I knew I had found the one when this workshop was announced.


Q: Have you taken other online workshops before? If so, how did the How to Write a Killer Essay workshop differ?

MK: I’ve taken distance workshops before, but none in the highly interactive group format of this workshop. The opportunity to discuss our individual analyses of the assigned readings, mutually critique new work in a supportive and smart environment and share insights with the other students provided the kind of intense learning opportunity that I had previously thought one could only get from a classroom setting.


Q: What did you think about your interactions with the other workshop participants and the instructor?

MK: Our instructor’s enthusiasm about the subject matter, responsive interaction and prompt feedback on all conversation threads and submitted exercises was invigorating. The students picked up on this spirit and emulated this approach with each other as well. Also, the online discussion forum was technically well designed so that we were able to hold conversations at various levels from commentary on broad topics down to individual observations.


Q: What were some of your favorite aspects of the workshop?

MK: The ability to discuss the assigned readings with the other students in such an interactive format made for a much deeper, more multi-faceted learning experience than I had expected. And the instructor’s high-energy engagement with our creative work as well as her supportive attitude gave me the confidence to experiment much more boldly with my writing than I would have dared to on my own.


Q: What are some of the main things you got out of or learned from the workshop?

MK: The variety of readings we covered, from Gertrude Stein to contemporary experimental essays, surprised me with the breadth of forms we managed to analyze, as well as the depth of learning we managed in such a compact workshop. The writing prompts based on what we were reading were a fantastic opportunity to flex our creative muscles in ways I would not have tried on my own.


Q: Has this workshop experience changed any of your views or approaches to writing?

MK: Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this workshop for me was to realize that it was okay for me to push the limits of my voice and writing forms, to feel free to experiment with language in service of what I want to say, rather than letting standard forms limit my expression.


Q: What are your writing goals and did the workshop help you obtain or get closer to obtaining any of them?

MK: This workshop allowed me to address some of my writing fears, which is very important to me in my evolution as a writer given the themes I find myself addressing in my work. I am now more willing to tap reflectively into my experiences and express my thoughts in more constructive forms.


Q: Do you plan on taking any other Eckleburg workshops in the future?

MK: Yes, definitely whenever I see an opportunity to hone in on an area of writing that I’ve been flirting with but tentative about. In fact, I’m already rubbing my hands together over the Magic Realism workshop in December 2013.


Q: Is there anything you would like the readers to know about your workshop experience?

MK: I’d say it’s a well-balanced mixture of a formal academic writing program, the ease and community of online social network interactions and the joy of a truly engaged writing critique group.


Spots are still available for the Flash Creative Nonfiction workshop that starts Monday, November 4th. And you can still enroll in the Intelligent Eroticism in Literary Fiction and the Flash Fiction workshops in December. If you’re interested in a personalized one-on-one workshop to work on a project or manuscript, information about that service is here.


Maya Kanwal’s fiction appears in Squawk Back journal and Quarterly West. She has completed a contemporary YA novel set in Pakistan and is working on a literary short story collection inspired by her roots in the Indus Valley.