Channel Your Inner Writer at Write On! Creative Writing Center in Frisco
Channel Your Inner Writer at Write On! Creative Writing Center in Frisco
Dawn Rice is in the business of teaching people to write. Write On! Creative Writing Center opened in March 2020 and learned quickly how to explore new formats, opportunities, and ways to serve the writing community for both kids and adults.
What originally started from her teaching experience in the classroom, then moved to camps and workshops in her home, is now an amazing center just off of Main Street and 5th Street in The Rail District of Frisco, Texas.
Writers at Write On! get the tools to feel confident about their writing process. From prompts to camps and workshops, anyone can unleash their imagination at Write On! Creative Writing Center.
SHOW NOTES:[00:16] Write On! Background
[02:56] How To Start Writing?
[07:36] Write On! Workshops and Services
[12:48] Dawn Rice’s First Writings
[14:25] Dawn Rice’s Education Experience
[18:42] More About Write On!
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Welcome to the Frisco Podcast. I’m your host, Scott Ellis. And today we are chatting with Dawn Rice from Write On! Creative Writing Center in Frisco. Dawn, welcome to the show.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
It’s good to have you here. I am thrilled to chat with you today because, as you know, writing is a big part of what we do at Lifestyle Frisco. We have some very creative writers that come up with some wonderful ideas and concepts in the things that they do and you guys are in the business of teaching people writing and creative writing. And, um, so I’m just kind of fascinated by you and your story. What made you start this business? And, uh, how’s it going so far? I know you guys opened up back in March. So, kind of give us the background.
Well, and as you said, back in March, we opened up and then everything went crazy right after we opened our doors. But, it gave opportunity for a lot of things that we wouldn’t have expected. And, um, and we’re going to chat about that a little later. But like, with zoom and, and, um, just being able to, um, you know, explore things and offer opportunities that maybe we might not have otherwise. But I’m a little background on Write On! is, um, as an educator, I, um, loved bringing writing to my students and, um, through some opportunities that I had, I was trained and, um, gained skills to make writing more exciting and fun for my, my students that I was teaching. And rather than have it just being, you know, one time per month that we would visit a writing piece, we made writing part of our day every day. And, um, so through that process, I was so excited that I could see the results of these, these students go from being reluctant, um, writers or struggling writers to being passionate writers and excited about it. And those who were already somewhat proficient, just growing in their skills. And so, um, when I moved here to Texas, Write On! was born in my home and I had writers come for camps and workshops. And again, just being able to share that experience and seeing the benefits of it in trans- you know, seeing how it translated into their school writings. And, um, it just was very exciting.
And I’m sure very satisfying to watch them grow as writers and get better at what they do.
Yes, yes. There’s nothing better than having a writer come to a workshop and being very apprehensive and really myself, not thinking, wow, not knowing where they’re going to be able to go that day. And then having a time where we call Author’s Chair and having the writer share and just being like, you know, shocked in a positive way to see the results. And I’m, that’s probably one of the most fulfilling things is just to see what writers come up with no matter what their skill level.
So, when somebody comes to you and I’m sure heard this before, and they say, well, I’m not a natural writer. I’m not a talented writer, uh, or they just haven’t really done much writing in the past: how do you get somebody started? Like how do you see them with the right ideas or the right motivation to sort of dive in and start putting words to paper? Because I will admit, there are times, you know, I do most of my writing online, but opening it up to write a post for Lifestyle Frisco, go for example, um, you know, that blank page can be kind of daunting – whether it’s a piece of paper or, you know, on your screen. So, how do you, how do you get them moving in the right direction?
No, I, that’s a great question. And, and really what we do is I think the approach is the best way I could put it. Um, if somebody comes in and tells me that they’re, you know, not a good writer or they’ve had negative experiences, or they don’t know where to start, really one of the, the phrases to live by is “the more you write, the better writer you become.” And that doesn’t mean you have to be writing essays to be a better writer. Um, you actually, any kind of writing. If you’re journal writing, if you’re writing to prompts, if you’re writing just fun stories or just letting your thoughts flow, you are writing and therefore becoming a better writer. So when writers come here to Write On! uh, we always start our workshops with a writing prompt, and they really aren’t connected necessarily to our lesson that we’re going to do that day; but, they are very easy to respond to prompts no matter what your writing skill level is. And so that’s really the start of it is just getting that comfort level, letting them transition from whatever positive or negative stuff that’s happening in their life, to the, the thought process of just writing. And from there, um, the lessons that we introduce, we always try and, um, make them so that they are, um, they can, no matter what the skill level, again, that the writers can actually produce a work that will allow them to feel successful and grow in their writing. So, it’s all part of the process to make sure that we’re not just having writers come in and say, “okay, you’re writing a short story today, good luck” and go find a spot. You know, we really give them those tools to make them feel confident. And, um, that then get started on the writing process.
And this is a good, that’s a great opportunity for me to plug your Twitter account. So, for anybody that, if you’re not following them, it’s @writeonfrisco. W R I T E. And you guys do some put some of those prompts up there, like you, you, I’ve seen you throw some things out there that are ideas for writing, and I’m like, that’s such a great idea. Um, and it kind of is the times inspired me to like, want to sit down and write a short story, or, you know, just where would I go with that even if I’m just sitting back and thinking about it. So, um, definitely wanna encourage anybody out there to go follow you guys on Twitter. Um, it’s a great place to connect with you, but then also to kind of see some of those prompts and some of those ideas that you guys are putting forward.
Yes, definitely. And like you said, just having, if you sat down just each day for five to ten minutes, looked at a prompt and responded to it, yours writing skills are going to just continually grow and grow and grow. And, um, again, no matter even what your skill level is.
Yeah, your comment earlier about the more you write, the better you get at it also reminded me of one of my favorite writing quotes. Um, and it might be a little cliche to quote Stephen King in this world, but, uh, one of the things he did, he did a book called On Writing. I’m sure you’ve heard of that. It’s a fantastic book. Um, and one of the things that, that seared into my brain when I read it was, he said, if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. How much do you find that reading, actively reading, also helps people with their creative writing?
Oh, they go hand in hand and you know, my, my education is in literacy skills and just, um, reading and writing of all forms, all support each other. So, I actually, the it’s, I don’t necessarily say it’s my phrase, but again, the more you read, the better reader you become, the more they write, the better writer you become. And the more there you read, the better writer you become. So, they literally go together and you come up with ideas and even just word use just by the type of, if you are really into say Stephen King’s writings, you are going to actually catch on to some of those writing, um, you know, phrases and things that he does in his writing that you’ll find in your own writing, or you’ll be able to, uh, work into your writing. So, um, just getting different, you know, different genres and, you know, ideas and stuff from different writers is amazing as well.
Yeah, I love it. So let’s talk, a little bit about the, the services you offer. I mean, we talked about writing itself, but what kinds of classes, what, you know, level of writers are you catering to? What are some of the options, especially, you know, unfortunately, right now, we’re in this COVID world where we’re doing a lot of stuff, virtual. So just kind of tell us what are the, you know, if I’m interested in getting better at writing, and I want to come to Write On! what are the, what are the choices that I have?
Excellent. So we have workshops that we offer weekly, and we have them structured somewhat in a semester format, but anybody can join at any time. It’s just kind of the, um, again, the format that we use to allow, if somebody started at the beginning of a semester, they would be able to have different workshops all throughout the whole time that they’re in at Write On! And those weekly workshops are for 2nd through 12th grade. And then we also have a workshop specifically for adults that we offer on Thursday nights. And, um, the other workshops that we have currently are, again, they’re for the 2nd through 12th grade, and we try and separate them into 2nd through 5th and then 6th through 12th. But, um, we also have specialty workshops on the weekend where we focus on say short story writing or poetry, or this weekend we actually have, um, one of our staff members is a published author and she’s doing a workshop kind of focused around the book that she wrote. So we really want to bring in more authors and illustrators to have that experience. Uh, and in addition to that, we also, when there’s an interest, we want to be able to add workshops in the future that will be able to support the wants and the skills to grow for, um, all types of writers. So, you asked specifically, um, you know, well, who do we cater to as far as writing levels? It is for all it is for those proficient writers who just want to have a place to write, have ideas to grow and, um, be able to just, you know, hone in more on their skills to the struggling or the reluctant writers that need to work on just writing and building their skills as well. And that’s, that’s evident at all levels, no matter if they’re in elementary school, high school or even adults. I have so many adults that I can’t spell, or I don’t know, grammar, it’s just that, that whole practice of writing. And again, that’s where we give the opportunity and nobody’s singled out or made to feel that, you know, their spelling is an issue. We want them to just write. And if they want to publish that piece, we want to have those opportunities, too, where they can take their pieces to publication and they can worry about their grammar and their spelling then, and we’ll, you know, focus on getting everything tuned up and submitted for publication.
And that is very refreshing to hear. One of the things that, um, has always been a part of my writing process because I was, I was strong in math, not necessarily English growing up, um, was one of the things that I learned from my own benefit. And when I started writing was I just sit down and just kind of spill it out onto the page. I don’t worry about the details. I don’t worry about the grammar. I just, I try to get what’s in my head out of my head and onto the page as much as possible. And then I can go back and look at, you know, restructuring things and editing things and changing the way things are phrased and, you know, thank goodness for spell check and grammar check that are, you know, more omnipresent now in some of the tools. But yeah, it’s, uh, it’s good to be able to just get your kind of thoughts out on paper, if you will, and, and then work them from there.
Yes, because that’s, there’s nothing worse than getting to a word that you can’t spell. It’s it becomes a roadblock. And then actually, you know, almost like a traffic accident where you can’t go any further because you’re so focused on spelling that word where if you just spelled it, however it flowed out of the pen and moved on, you would again, just let those ideas and thoughts come out of your head. So, that’s what really what we try to encourage. And sometimes that can be one of the biggest challenges is just to get writers, to have that competence, to be able to just let their ideas flow.
Are there anything, any individuals that you find, not, not specifically people, but sort of skill sets or backgrounds that take more naturally to writing than others? So, as we’re having, the reason I asked that is that we’re having that conversation. I would almost wager that those who are, who grew up extremely good at things like spelling and grammar might be more likely to get hung up on those things while trying to write than somebody who like myself was not as strong in those areas. And then maybe that’s not true, but it just sort of struck me as, uh, uh, you know, one possibility.
Right. You know, I would definitely say that that that might be a roadblock, you know, of sorts. Myself personally, when I was growing up, I loved to write, I loved to read, but I struggled with spelling. I struggled with reading and that’s actually really what drove my passion in the long run is because I felt that I was oftentimes restricted from those opportunities. Um, and so I want to have that again, to be able to share that or build that confidence in people and be able to just have them not get hung up. I think I could probably just go both ways without one.
Were there stories or things, and we’re just gonna, this is a personal question. Were there stories or things that you wrote when you were younger that you still have, or that you’re still very proud of or maybe even thought about expanding on as an adult?
Oh, I love that question. So it’s so funny. I kept so many things from when I was younger, like writings and stuff that I have, and they are not impressive. And I don’t know if I would necessarily want to, um, expand on them, but maybe some of them, I have a lot of poetry and we did like poetry workshops. I remember a lot of, and some of them, they just make me laugh. And, um, you know, at that time it was dot matrix, you know, the computer or the printer. And so that’s what I have these funny little cat pictures, all in the dot majors with my crazy poem on it. So, um, but they, they do definitely, um, it lets me see that I was not a great speller. It definitely asked me to see that I actually probably did freely write without too much concern because it’s all right there.
Very good. Yeah. I’m still, I, my father just sent me a folder of some stuff from my childhood that he’d held on to, and that were a couple of short stories that I wrote. In fact, I distinctly remember writing them because it was in the back of the car, on a road trip to Florida, from Indiana. And, uh, there was certainly some common themes in my writing and a lot of really bad spelling. And, uh, it was not, as you said, not the least bit impressive, but it was sort of funny to look back on those. So
Yeah, I think I have a state report from the State of Oklahoma. I lived in California and did my state report on Oklahoma. So, had to go back and read those
Dusted off, so to speak, um, going back into your background. So, you were an educator. Can you talk to us a little bit about your experience as an educator? What did you, did you teach just writing or did that kind of come along with other things that you were teaching and what, what levels were you teaching at and things like that?
So, I started in education as a 2nd grade teacher, and then I also taught 1st and 3rd mixed in and together at times. And, um, so that’s during the time that penmanship is, um, you know, very important and also, um, lots of reading skills are being acquired and the writing skills, all of that, we were heavy into, um, focusing on letter writing specifically. Um, and that really was what we focused on the whole year, every week we would do this letter writing. And so, um, as I mentioned, I went to, it was through the national writing project and I was part of a summer institute and it was there that, again, it was taking just very simple, fun writing lessons, bringing them to the students. And they were able to actually produce works that their skills grew in. And so, like I said, when I saw this and I was doing it as an adult and loving it and knowing that I could have my students do it, I brought it into the classroom and made it something daily that we had writing workshop that was being done as part of our, our daily routine.
And, um, so it, it definitely came from my experiences and being a teacher and seeing, um, that just there’s so much that the educators have to bring to the students. And it’s, you know, the math, the social studies science and language arts. Yes. And so they try and get the writing piece in there, but unfortunately it, a lot of times is just visited for a brief time and not really focused on or built on and developed. And, um, that’s where I feel that a lot of the students become reluctant and dislike writing because it, all of a sudden becomes, I only do this when I have an essay to write, or I only have to do this for an assignment and there’s no joy or enjoyment out of, you know, coming from writing. And, um, so again, that’s really where that, that drive and that passion came from was that I need, I want to bring this and make this exciting and see the, the results in the long run of, you know, just these writers growing and enjoying it. And of course, there’s still going to be those academic, you know, requirements and, and opportunities and all. But, there’s a world a difference when you go to a test after writing daily and building that toolbox and then having, you know, to need to write a short story and being able to go into that experience toolbox and saying, Oh, I could write about that time when we went on a trip to, you know, Missouri or wherever. And you now have that instead of trying to rack your brain for ideas in a short period of time when you’re, you know, stressed out. So, that’s really where it all came from.
When you say letter writing, are you talking about actual, like letters of the alphabet or writing letters to people?
Great question. So, writing letters to people. So 2nd grade, it, that was that’s really, the focus is the, you know, letter writing skills. So, sorry, not, not penmanship, but although, you know, cursive writing and stuff is really big, but that’s really focused on more in the kindergarten, first grade, so –
Yeah, that’s what I thought. But it was interesting at what made me think of that was the art of letter writing seems lost these days. It really feels like something that has just has just gotten lost, especially with modern technology. And so it’s interesting that, you know, even recently that’s still being taught.
Yes. Well, and it’s definitely an important skill, but at the same time, it, a lot of times things are touched on in that grade level and then they’re not revisited again. So I assure you, if I ask, you know, many, a high schooler, you’re probably even adults nowadays, can you address this envelope? Or how do you write a friendly letter? It may not be something they could do.
No, but I tell you, if you really want to light somebody’s day up, send them an actual handwritten letter, the thing shows up in the mailbox and people almost don’t know what to do with themselves.
Yes, yes. We actually have a squirrel, actually a few squirrels, but when we call Scribbles The Squirrel and we welcome people to write to Scribbles and Scribbles will write them back, so.
Very good. Very good. So, what else should we know about Write On! that maybe we haven’t talked about yet? What are the questions that we don’t know to ask, if you will?
One thing we talked about the workshops that we have, and those are currently all offered in-person and online. So we, um, you know, for the majority of our workshops and events, even we have online options as well as the in-person options. And of course we’re being cautious with, you know, um, are making sure we’re are, we’re having professional cleaning done that we’re wearing face masks that we have hand sanitizer, temperatures being all that we’re making sure we’re really trying to follow a good routine and keeping it as safe as possible for everybody that’s coming in here. And, um, so we do have the online options, uh, some other things about right on, we have an amazing website it’s writeonfrisco.com. Definitely has lots of great information on there. We are always available for questions, you know, it reasonable hours. Um, so we have phone number, which is (214) 915-2155. And we have an email it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. And as you mentioned, we do have Twitter, which has great, you know, just tips and, and tools for, you know, getting you writing. We also have Facebook, which is @WriteOnFrisco. And then we had Instagram too, um, which is also @writeonfrisco. And so trying to think if there’s anything else specific with, um, Write On!, we have a lot of things. Again, as I mentioned earlier on, if there’s something that somebody’s interested in, I really encourage them to reach out. It’s not that we haven’t thought of it. It’s not that we’re not considering it. It’s that we’re really trying to get our feet off, you know, feet wet or, you know, get everybody out there knowing we exist. And we don’t want to have too much and have nobody coming or few people coming. We would rather have less and then be able to grow in those and add more as time comes on. So, um, for example, we had someone reach out about grant writing and having a specialty workshop on grant writing. And, um, I have experience with grant writing. I’ve written several of them when I was an educator. And, so, that’s something that I really want to explore and put out there as a possibility for people to come and be able to gain skills in grant writing, so –
Grant writing is definitely an art in and of itself. Have you guys, just out of curiosity, have you, do you have any, uh, classes or courses that are specific to online writing?
Um, so as far as like online writing for, um, like media purposes?
Journalist, anything of that nature.
So again, at this time we don’t have a specific one scheduled, but it’s all stuff that I don’t even want to say it’s slated. It’s being considered. And really what it’s going to come down to is, um, getting the, you know, the writers, you know, registered and coming and expressing an interest in that. And then, yes, definitely. We want to, we have, we have a blog that, um, one of our staff members does for our website. And so just giving those skills and giving people tips and suggestions about how to go about that is, you know, definitely significant, especially cause it’s, you know, it’s growing more and more as time goes on with technology and all.
And especially now that you guys are able to offer, um, courses online through zoom, as well as in person. Are you finding that you’re attracting students from places beyond Frisco or is it mostly just local?
Um, that’s a great question. So over the summer, we actually had some writers. We had a writer from Canada. We had, um, a couple from the eastern states as well as California. And so yes, it’s, it’s some with the start of the school year. I think everybody kind of went back to that “Oh my goodness, we’re online again,” you know, all this coming at us. And so we haven’t seen a whole lot of it with the school year starting up, but definitely something that is an option. If somebody lives in Alaska or goodness, if they live in Europe or, you know, wherever they live, they can jump on and be part of one of our zoom workshops as long as time allows, you know, the time of day that it’s scheduled for. And, um, that’s, you know, so yes, to answer your question, we’ve had people from, from various places participate.
Good. Well, Dawn, thank you so much. I am absolutely thrilled to have you guys in Frisco. I love what you’re doing. I think it’s just, uh, it’s, it’s a beautiful business. Uh, you know, you’re, you’re connecting people with that passion and, and helping them develop the skills for creating that, that creative outlet through writing and, uh, something I hope we see more of.
Yeah, definitely. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. And thanks for having me again.
You bet. Thank you for joining us and thanks to all of you for tuning in to the Frisco Podcast. We will talk to you next time.