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Saigon Writers Club

For the past two years, I have officially been “a writer.” That’s what I can honestly answer when people ask me ‘So, what do you do?’  There are a lot of people who do some writing or have written and published a few things, but to say ‘I am a writer.’ with conviction is different.  I was a journalist for many years and know several people who have had full careers as journalists.  Few to none of them ever called themselves “writers” because being a journalist is somehow not the same thing. To be “a writer,” it seems you have to be named John Grisham, Stephen King, or JK Rowling and if you’re not then somehow you can’t call yourself a writer.

I think that’s bullshit.

Though I can call myself a writer at this time because I am working on a book full time, the idea that being “a writer” should be reserved for a select few has always bothered me.  To be clear, not everyone who writes can actually write well (even if they call themselves writers) and many who have to write for their job have a hard time reaching mediocrity. I’ve been a teacher for too long and have read too many sentences that were horribly constructed, passive voice laden, verb choice challenged, and had way-too-goddamn-many-adjectives to ever believe anything else.  Writing is tough. But that doesn’t mean a person who is willing to listen, work hard, practice, share, experiment, and practice some more and more can’t be a writer. They can, especially when they have wanted to do so for years and have a good story inside of them that needs telling.  I believed this was possible so I started up the Saigon Writers Club to test this idea out and to teach the first class earlier this year (2021). 

Guess what?  I was right.  Anyone can be a writer if they put the work in.

I managed to convince eight people who live in Ho Chi Minh City (four Vietnamese, two Americans, a Brit, and a Korean) to sign up for the inaugural creative writing class with the very specific goal of completing their own short story.  Over eight weeks and 10 sessions, we covered all the mechanics of fiction writing such as character development, setting, narrative, dialogue, plot, and so on.  Some students already had a story idea burning inside of them.  Others were totally winging it.  Each week, they shared ideas, characters, word choices, and short and long sentences and in the end told some compelling stories.  Writers write, and that’s what they did.

The stories from this inaugural class have been published in the Saigon Writers Club Inaugural Short Story Anthology Rainy Season 2021 Edition.  From 1960s Vietnam to 1970s England to the contemporary and challenging lives and loves of the modern world, the stories in the inaugural anthology accomplish what good fiction is supposed to do.  Spark the imagination.  Paint a picture. Narrate a compelling voice for the soul.  Make you think.  Make you cry.  Make you remember.  And make you believe.

Check out Sam’s short story here: 

It was an honor to work with this inaugural group of writers.  Now, I am ready to do this again.  Please click on this link for the Saigon Writers Club second creative writing class syllabus which will begin on January 8, 2022.

Check out the course syllabus for the our next class here: 

 

What to expect from the class?

The primary goal of the class time is to introduce and discuss the various tools needed to develop, write, edit, and complete a short story.  The course objective is to have this short story completed by approximately March 15, 2022 (i.e. two weeks after the final class).  This will give everyone about 10 weeks to get their short story done. After all, writers write. By joining this club and signing up for this course, you will be a writer with a deadline.

The lecture topics in the accompanying draft syllabus are the key issues involved with writing fiction though other topics might be added and the order of the lectures might be changed. The classroom activities will be used to practice techniques and methods that can later be used for your own short story. The discussion section will be a combination of discussing and showing the progress of your own short story, discussion of key themes in fiction writing, and discussion of the works of professional writers.  Several short stories will be assigned as homework and several more will be provided for students to read on their own.

There will be homework assignments. These will be designed to keep the progress going on completion of your own short story.  At a minimum, the weekly assignments will include:

  • Read one short story every few days with reader instructions

  • Write at least 500 words every day

  • Submit a section of your short story by the assigned deadline (one section per week)

There will be two private sessions for each student.  Each will be approximately 30 minutes in length. The first session will be to discuss and plan the development of your short story.  This will include a detailed discussion of the characters, setting, plot, use of dialogue, voice, and other issues involved with fiction writing. The second session will be scheduled when there is at least 2,500 words of your short story written in first draft form.  This session will include detailed discussions on all aspects of the writing process, word choice, editing, voice, etc…

Just like with the inaugural class, there is a very clear and tangible goal for this second creative writing class and for the Saigon Writers Club overall.  It is this:  Write a short story with your own characters, plot, setting, voice, dialogues, etc…  This short story will then be published with all the other stories into the second anthology of the Saigon Writers Club.  This time it will be the Dry Season 2022 Edition.  

Writers write, and this is an opportunity to write and publish.

Class Components and Activities (to include)

  • Lectures on specific topics of creative writing and producing a short story

  • Workshop activities in class

  • I Love Words exercises

  • Talking through an issue, scenario, plot, character, voice, setting, etc…

  • Group sharing and support

  • Peer Review

  • Reading and discussing short stories written by the masters

  • Individual in-person sessions for plot/character issues and reviewing final edits

  • One-to-one editorial and consulting support on the final draft of the short story

 

Lecture Topics (to include)

  • History of the short story

  • Fiction/Non-fiction

  • Brainstorming story ideas

  • Short Story Structure

  • Plot development

  • Character development

  • Voice and narrative

  • Setting

  • Point of View

  • Dialogue creation

  • Leads and Hooks

  • Mood and Tone

  • Word Choice and Sentence Structure

  • Crisis and Climax

  • Ending and dénouement

  • The editing process

  • Peer review process and accepting critiques

  • The publishing process

 

Workshop Activities (to include)

  • Brainstorming story ideas

  • Character development

  • Testing points of view

  • Setting the mood

  • Describing the setting

  • Writing dialogue – two or more people

  • Mapping and creating outlines – setting up the arc of your short story

  • Testing and shaping voices

  • Lead sentences and word choice practice (I Love Words exercises)

  • Showing and not telling

  • Discussion session of short stories by professional writers (several short stories will be assigned for reading and in-class discussion)

Discussion Activities (to include)

  • Discuss the merits and weaknesses of the week’s assigned short story

  • Sharing your own ideas, plots, conflicts, climax, and all the other aspects of your short story

  • Provide honest and open advice to your classmates about their short story

  • Ask good questions that help you better refine your short story idea

  • Be willing to share, without any embarrassment, and talk about your short story

 

Writing fiction can be an incredible journey of discovery.  As the founder and instructor for the Saigon Writers Club, I can guarantee you one thing – It will not be easy, but I am willing to bet that it will be very rewarding.

Send any questions to me directly at sam@yespi.net

Thanks for visiting this webpage

Sam Korsmoe

Founder of the Saigon Writers Club