If there’s something you’re wondering about that we haven’t answered here, do get in touch!
- How can I be added to the Big Smoke newsletter? Sign up for our newsletter here to be kept up to date with upcoming courses, workshops, events and special deals.
- How do I buy a Big Smoke gift certificate? Gift certificates are available here.
- Does Big Smoke offer a discount for students or the unemployed? In 2009, when Big Smoke opened, we had the following to say about this: Our recession/unemployment discount is already folded into our price for our courses. We offer a high quality of teaching and student support at Big Smoke, while at the same time keeping our operational costs low in order to keep our courses prices reasonable for our students. Our prices have been set deliberately to accommodate the current economic climate; unfortunately any further discount would render us non-operational. We have maintained these prices into 2020 and hope to be able to continue to do so. Please contact us with any queries relating to this matter.
- Does Big Smoke offer courses for children or teenagers? Yes, although most of our courses are designed for adults. Courses specifically for young people, when offered, will be labelled as such (e.g. ‘Creative Writing – workshop for teens’.)
- Does Big Smoke offer courses outside of Dublin? Yes! Aside from our online courses, we also travel to schools, arts centres, literary festivals and other venues to deliver tailored writing workshops. **on hold during 2020**
- Can I take a course if English is not my first language? It is certainly possible to take a beginners’ course if English is not your first language – this is the case for a number of our students. You should, however, have a comfortable level of English in order to get the most out of this course, meaning that you should be comfortable reading stories and poems in English. If you are familiar with the Common European Framework for the referencing of language competency, you would probably need a C1 level in order to fully benefit from a class.
- Are your classes wheelchair-accessible? Unfortunately, like many buildings in Dublin city centre, the building we work from is an old Georgian building and cannot be accessed via wheelchair. There are also no classrooms or bathrooms on the ground floor. Do note that we often provide workshops for/in association with other venues and would be happy to liaise with individuals or organisations on this matter.
Course and workshop queries (face-to-face) **live-video-chat for autumn/winter 2020**
- How can I be sure if a course is right for me? The first thing we suggest is reading the course descriptions carefully. Please feel free to get in touch with a member of the Big Smoke team, or come along to one of our open days to discuss your options. As a general rule of thumb, our classes are open to all adults interested in creative writing; where there are prerequisites (e.g having taken a class before, having a project in mind to work on) these will be noted in the course description. Unfortunately, it is not possible to allow participants to ‘try out’ a course to see if they like it.
- I’m a complete beginner – I’ve never written anything creative! Are these courses suitable for me? Yes, absolutely! If it’s a ‘beginners’ or ‘introduction’ class, we really mean it – you’re not expected to turn up with a portfolio of work under your arm, though sometimes some students will have written bits and pieces before starting the class. Part of what a general beginners course (e.g. Beginning To Write or Introduction to Creative Writing) will do is take you through steps such as identifying the material you want to write about as well as looking at various literary/poetic techniques and tools. It’s a space for trying out a lot of new things and seeing what works for you. If it’s a specialist beginners course – Beginning To Write Fiction, Beginning To Write Poetry, Introduction to Children’s & YA Fiction, etc – all that is required is that you’ve a clear idea that the form covered is one you want to focus on for a number of weeks.
- I have a little bit of experience writing – are these courses suitable for me? Beginners’/Introduction classes also suit individuals who haven’t written anything in a while – perhaps not since school – or people who took a class years ago and are looking to get back into creative writing in a supportive and low-pressure ‘beginners’ environment. It may also suit people who write, but not creatively, as part of their jobs, e.g. journalists, lawyers, those working in PR, etc.
- I’ve taken a couple of classes and/or been writing for a couple of years. Is a beginners/introduction course suitable for me? You may get something out of a general beginners/introduction course even at this level, particularly if you’ve never taken a formal class before and want to familiarise yourself with the basics, but we’d suggest looking at our Intermediate, Advanced, or Specialist creative writing workshops which are more likely to suit your needs.
- How much time will I have to commit to a course? This depends on the course – a class/workshop session is usually 2 hours a week (weekday evenings or Saturday mornings/afternoons). Apart from this you will also be expected to devote a bit of time outside of the course hours to a) reading any material the course facilitator has provided and/or b) working on writing exercises. As the course goes on, you may also be reading your peers’ work and completing other exercises your facilitator has suggested.
- How much writing will I be expected to do during a course? Again, this depends on the course. With a beginners’ or introductory class, there will be some writing within class time, with the option of reading work out to the group and receiving feedback. There will also be writing exercises or suggestions to work on outside of class time. With an intermediate or advanced workshop, it’s expected that you’re working on writing outside of class and have material ready to share with the group.
- Will I have to read my work out loud? This is something beginners’ participants often worry about. At this level, reading your work is not compulsory, but strongly recommended, as it’s a way of getting feedback from others in the group and it’s often a good experience simply to hear how a piece sounds when read aloud. For other workshops, you may be asked to circulate your work via email in advance of a class – e.g. at intermediate and advanced level, this is a vital part of the workshop experience.
- Will I get feedback on my work? The short answer: yes. The longer answer: the level of feedback you can expect depends on the length and level of the course. In a short beginners’ course (e.g. a 1-day workshop or a 4-week course), the emphasis is on getting work down on the page and covering key concepts, so you may only get a chance to share a couple of writing exercises within class. In a longer or specialist course, there will be workshops in which you can expect to get feedback on your work from both the facilitator and your peers in the group, as well as the opportunity to read out certain exercises within class. Your facilitator will discuss how they will run workshops when the course begins. If you are looking for feedback on a large amount of work (e.g. part of a novel) we would suggest our critique services instead of a class.
- What should I bring with me on the first day? Pen and paper is all you need for the first day. Your facilitator will let you know what, if anything, to bring along for later classes.
Course and workshop queries (online classes)
- How do the online courses work? Our online courses are forum-based and asychronous, meaning you can log into the online classroom at any time of the day or night that suits you – there are no live chats; the courses are designed to suit people who want to be able to access the material on their own schedules. A new module is available each week, and includes assignment/s to submit directly to your tutor for feedback. Depending on the course, there may also be group discussions to participate in or material uploaded by fellow participants to comment on.
- How much time will I have to commit to a course? We suggest dedicating a minimum of two sessions of 1-2 hours per week for our beginners/introductory courses.
- Will I get feedback on my work? Yes – a tutor will respond to each assignment you submit. Depending on the course, you may also choose to or (in an intermediate or advanced workshop) be scheduled to share work with the group for discussion.