Video workshops launched within weeks of the pandemic outbreak Contributed by Jesse Cohoon
As the world adapts to new ways of living during a global pandemic, the Toronto Writers Collective (TWC) has shifted its approach in how the arts-based charity delivers creative writing workshops.
All TWC workshops were put on hiatus at over 30 locations throughout the GTA, Ottawa, Montreal and Sudbury after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 a pandemic in mid-March.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the TWC had delivered in-person writing workshops ranging from groups of 4 to 20 writers.
“The irony was not lost on us as an organization,” TWC’s Doug Grundman, Co-Executive Director explains. “Our origin story is rooted in meeting the needs of the vulnerable and intellectually isolated.
When this new age of self-isolation, social distancing and lockdown emerged, we were forced to ask, ‘How can we continue to show that all stories and all voices have value?’”
Despite a steep learning curve affecting all levels of the TWC, video technology, promoted by social media, was quickly adopted as the most effective way to gather participants for workshops that adhered to quarantine regulations.
Today there are 16 regularly scheduled workshops available Monday to Friday using Zoom.
Every week a simple “first come, first served” online sign-up system is sent out to TWC’s database of over 600 writers, supporters and community partners.
While the delivery of the workshops has pivoted from onsite and in-person to interactive video conferencing, TWC remains unchanged in its dedication to empowering vulnerable communities by giving them a voice through transformational writing.
The two-hour creative writing workshops continue and are open to anyone over 19 years of age. The interactive video workshops, moderated by TWC facilitators, usually attract between 8 to 15 participants per session.
“No matter, online or in person, it is magnificent to share perspectives, more important now in this time of loneliness.” Susan Turk Mozer, Founder of the TWC, commented. “Transforming lives through writing doesn’t change. It is a constant, even in the time of Covid-19.”
Since the pandemic the TWC has also grown its social media presence, attracting new workshop participants from across Ontario as well as people wishing to train as volunteer workshop facilitators.
The Toronto Writers Collective (TWC) celebrated National Volunteer Week this April by hosting a virtual writing workshop for all new and experienced facilitators. Since 2012 the TWC has trained more than 180 volunteer facilitators to moderate the not-for-profit organization’s free creative writing workshops now available online because of the pandemic.