Category Archives: Workshops

WordPlay: Teaching ESL writing through play, movement, & joyful experimentation

Next Friday, April 10th, I’m teaching a workshop (playshop, really) for teachers of English as a Second Language. Very excited about this chance to bring the sense of joy and play I feel about language and writing to teachers. Here’s the blurb. There’s a link below to sign up. AND, if you’re far, far away (or the date doesn’t work for you), there may be an opportunity to take the class virtually. Stay tuned for more details.

When we learn language as children, we approach it with a sense of play and open curiosity, experimenting with sound and form; learning is a byproduct of our joy and sense of play. Learning English as a Second Language can offer the same opportunities to find joy and playfulness along the journey.

There are so many ways to make writing fun and interesting in the ESL classroom…but are you fresh out of ideas?  Come enjoy an afternoon of exploring GREAT writing ideas for your students of all levels with writer and teacher Heather Marshall.  We’ll explore wordplay, including rhythm and rhyme and alliteration; we’ll experiment with the order and length of sentences, tenses and point of view; we’ll embody our verbs to help build vocabulary.

As always, English for Life trainings are a combination of up-to-date, practical strategies and tools for teaching, and time to connect with other teachers in our community.  Following the training, I hope you’ll plan to join us at Red Bowl to catch up and enjoy sushi happy hour.


Four Weeks of Fiction, part two: Sentences and Setting

We opened the second session of the four-week fiction workshop with a discussion of Andrea IMG_4167Barrett’s  Theories of Rain,  from her collection, Servants of the Map. The story not only provides a variety of settings–large and small, from cottage to woods, to the William Bartram’s garden–but also offers excellent examples of how setting can be a character itself and can reveal elements of other characters that might otherwise remain hidden.

To move from this story to an exploration of sentences and setting, we read paragraphs from Annie Proulx (People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water, from the collection, Close Range), Murray Bail (Eucalyptus), and Michael Ondaatje (In the Skin of a Lion).

Working with the characters we created in the previous session, we listed several settings the character might inhabit or wish to inhabit–large (bigger than a house), small (smaller than a room), comfortable, out of his or her element, a bucket list place–and then began to pladark sun on water muddy mountainy with setting and sentence length.


Our characters snuck into one of these places, exploring them over the course of around 150 words, all in short (five- to seven-word sentences). We noted how these short sentences heighten the drama and anticipation in these moments.

Our characters then meandered into another place in a sentence that took up a half page or more. Here, participants noted how they were able to really drop down into the place and observe more fully.

Later in tR0012460he session, another character entered the setting–one who felt differently than our initial character.


What are some of your favorite settings from works you’ve read? Why do those appeal to you as a reader? Do you have favorite places you like to write about? What makes those appealing to you as a writer?

We’re taking a week off next week. When we return, each participant will bring a completed draft with which we’ll play, exploring a variety of ways in which writers can choose to allow a story to unfold.

Four Weeks of Fiction

My Four Weeks of Fiction class started last night with a diverse group of participants, each working on different projects in genres from fantasy to tales of immigrants. Thanks to Emrys, the organization that offers The Writing Room, the umbrella for lots of classes and workshops that help get writers started, keep them writing and find their best voices on the page.

Each week in this fiction workshop, we’ll play with language a little to get warmed up and then look at a craft element to help us develop our stories. Last night, we used one of the exercises from Ursula LeGuin’s book, Steering the Craft, to open up some language play with alliteration, onomatopoeia, repetition and rhythm. We then jumped right in to character. The opening of Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist offered inspiration and an excellent example of a compelling physical description.

Dale Ray Phillips and M. L. Steadman helped us get our characters moving into work they know well. The protagonist in What Men Love For,  from My People’s Waltz gave us a boy setting to a favorite chore.

The Light Between Oceans offered a glimpse into the work of a lighthouse keeper.

Each of these is an excellent example of how much the details of daily tasks can reveal about character.

For homework, we’re reading Andrea Barrett’s Theories of Rain,  from her collection, Servants of the Map.

Next week, we’ll look at setting, and at the use of setting as character.

Mindful Flow Writing

Middle of the week–mid-flow–seems like the right time to write the first post about Mindful Flow Writing.

This spring, I’ll be offering a series of Mindful Flow Writing workshops, so I’m starting to post here about what Mindful Flow Writing is, offering insights into my own practice as well as ideas for yours, for use whether you are interested in journal prompts, creative nonfiction, fiction or poetry.

To help me define Mindful Flow Writing, I turned to my trusty Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press, Fifth Edition), which offers the following:

Mindful/adjective:  “taking heed or care; being conscious or aware” (Vol. 2, p.1782 )

river for flowFlow/noun: “any continuous movement resembling the flow of a river” (Vol. 1, p. 989)

Writing/noun: “the action, process or practice of writing” (Vol. 2., p. 3683)

Simply put, these, combined offer the opportunity to put pen to paper and to bring our full awareness to the moment on the page and flow along at whatever pace seems right in that moment. Easy to say. Harder to do. Having a practice of mindfulness in daily life helps. Teaching and taking mindful flow yoga classes has also helped me to develop these skills, and to recognize that it’s all a practice, and that some days the flow seems smoother than others. Neither of those is a requirement, though. Start wherever you are.

Today, when you sit down to write, notice whether you allow the flow to happen. If something blocks it, what is it? No judgement here, just open curiosity. Whatever it is, just notice it, then let it go. Move the pen again. Keep going.

Setting Intention for the New Year: a writing and meditation workshop

Start the Way You Intend to Finish: Writing Your Intention with Heather Marshall

Setting an intention offers a path or practice — a lens that colors each moment. Unlike setting a goal, intention is not oriented towards a specific, future outcome; rather intentions are set based on what matters most. They are an opportunity to align worldly actions with inner values, moment by moment.

Start the Way You Intend to Finish is a meditation and writing workshop for setting intention to guide your life offers participants tools for setting intentions that allow them to rest in each moment, being less reactive and more aligned with their core values. Participants will explore what matters most to them, what thwarts their best intentions and how to re-engage intention on a daily basis.

time: 5-7pm

location: Augusta Road Studio of Greenville Yoga (

Gratitude: A Writing and Meditation Workshop

“Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for  what one has—as opposed to, say, a consumer-oriented emphasis  on what one wants or needs—and is currently receiving a great deal of attention  as a facet ofpositive psychology. Gratitude is what gets poured into the glass to make it half full. Studies show that gratitude not only can be deliberately cultivated but can increase levels of well-being and happiness among those who  do cultivate it.  In addition, grateful thinking—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy.” (Psychology Today.

Gratitude: A Writing and Meditation Workshop uses meditation, gentle yoga poses and writing to guide participants to a deeper sense of gratitude in their daily lives. Participants will also learn tools for an ongoing gratitude practice that opens pathways to deeper appreciation for who and where they are in each moment.

Where: North Main Yoga, 10 W. Stone Avenue, Greenville, SC 29609

When: Friday, November 29th, 2-4pm

Cost: $20 suggested donation

For more information on other classes and workshops at North Main Yoga, visit


A Walk Within: Fall Into Inspiration at Boxwood Manor

No matter where you are on your photography or writing journey, historic Boxwood Manor in Pendleton, South Carolina, will offer inspiration. Spend Saturday, October 26 roaming the grounds and exploring the interior of this renovated farm under the guidance of photographer Polly Gaillard and author Heather Marshall. Whether you are a beginner writer or photographer, someone seeking to re-invigorate a hobby or take a professional practice to the next level, this day-long retreat will offer you fresh tools and ideas on how nature, tradition, photography and writing can intersect and inspire.

Date: Saturday, October 26, 2013

Time: 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Place: Boxwood Manor, Pendleton, SC

Cost: $125 (a catered lunch at Boxwood Manor is included)
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