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Writing Without a Parachute: The Art of Freefall

Writing Without a Parachute: The Art of Freefall

Book rating: 05 Paperback

By (author) Barbara Turner-Vesselago

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  • Publisher: Vala Publishing Cooperative Ltd
  • Format: Paperback | 192 pages
  • Dimensions: 156mm x 234mm x 13mm | 300g
  • Publication date: 21 January 2013
  • Publication City/Country: Bristol
  • ISBN 10: 1908363045
  • ISBN 13: 9781908363046
  • Sales rank: 27,231

Product description

Writing Without a Parachute: The Art of Freefall shows both beginning and experienced writers how to get the thinking mind to step aside, so that writing becomes truly creative - a vulnerable and open-hearted engagement with the moment. Here for the first time, writing teacher Barbara Turner-Vesselago shares in print the method by which, for almost 30 years, she has helped hundreds of writers to publish fiction, memoir, non-fiction and poetry worldwide. By means of five simple precepts, she leads the writer step by step into real trust in writing through the art of Freefall: invoking the courage to fall without a parachute into the words as they come. This book can be used for inspiration, as a reference, or as a sustained, twelve-month course in writing. It will help all writers to connect with their deepest intention in writing, and to write with greater authority and grace.

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Author information

Barbara Turner-Vesselago has published 2 non-fiction books in Canada, Skelton at Sixty and Freefall: Writing Without a Parachute. Her novel manuscript, No News But Kindness, was a finalist for the Chapters/Robertson Davies Book Prize (Canada), and winner of the Short Story Radio First Chapter Competition (UK). She has a doctorate from the University of Cambridge and has taught at universities in the UK, US, Canada and Nigeria. She now lives in Hamilton, Ontario with her husband, Michael Vesselago, and teaches FreefallWriting Workshops worldwide.

Customer reviews

By Nicola-Jane le Breton 07 Nov 2013 5

What I love about the Freefall approach is that it is highly intuitive and supports the student to chart their own journey into the wilds of writing – whether alone at their desk, with a writing partner, or guided by an experienced teacher.

Barbara breaks writing down into the simplest of precepts – just five – and asks us to trust our innate creativity and ourselves as she throws us into the deep waters of the unwritten. Working through her book, we begin gently with just an hour a day of ‘writing what comes up for us. There are no goals, no grand plan, no carefully structured plot with appropriately spaced crises, climax and so on. This is true free fall – without the parachute of techniques, topics, structures and step-by-step procedures offered by most writing teachers.

It can be scary – even terrifying – writing without the safety of a structure; but in my experience (as a teacher and a Freefall participant at Barbara’s workshops), the writing that emerges from the process is so much richer, deeper and more original than in any other teaching process I’ve experienced. We write the books (or stories) we were meant to write – instead of the books and stories we thought we should write or we hoped we would write. Barbara’s gift, as an author and teacher, is to take you straight to the heart of what makes you tick as a writer; and her book like her workshops guides you to ‘follow the energy’ (or the fear) and to find your own authentic voice for telling the story you must tell.

In Freefall Writing, you begin by writing what comes up, and at first the stories might be disjointed, but gradually themes, characters and a unique writing voice emerge of their own accord. It’s like being carried along by a fast flowing river, without knowing what landscape the river will take you through; there is only the absolute certainty that eventually you’ll find your way to the sea.

Writing Without a Parachute: The Art of Freefall is uniquely placed in the bamboozling market of how-to-books available for the would-be writer. In my experience as a writing teacher, most of these books offer either a collection of one-off exercises or a more involved and prolonged process for developing and writing a novel or memoir, or something somewhere between the two. A third category of books are those that deal more generally with ‘the writing life’ – such as Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird or Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life. Barbara Turner-Vesselago’s book crosses all three categories.

The beauty of Writing Without a Parachute is that it is founded on Barbara’s extensive experience and deep psychological insight as a teacher of writing over several decades – as one who has been midwife at the labour and birth of many a creative project, including a series of successful publications and competition wins by dozens of her students.

I’ve attended many writing workshops and read many different writing books over the years. In most of these I have found nuggets of gold that have helped me, inspired me or opened a doorway to new writing territory. But in all my seeking, I have only found one other comparable writing/creativity teacher who has sustained my journey over several years – with her depth of insight and her vast experience – and that is Julia Cameron. I have worked my way through the three books of The Complete Artist's Way: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice with my women’s group, and more recently commenced Cameron’s Vein of Gold.

I believe Barbara Turner-Vesselago’s offerings to the writing world are on a par to Julia Cameron’s offerings to the world of artists (of all types). Her book has the potential of being used as a self-guided course for individuals, pairs or groups of writers to work through, confident that they are charting their own maps and finding their own creative destinations. It’s not about writing the book you think the world wants. It’s about writing the book you were born to write. That is the difference.

The following women all read the first Freefall Writing subscription series, upon which Writing Without a Parachute is based, from start to finish and completed many of the exercises during a Freefall Writing course I taught in 2010. Their written comments on the series are copied below.

“What an awesome experience. I am amazed at how well this course unravelled in pace with my own unfolding as a writer. It seemed that the chapters knew exactly what information I needed to know next… My writing and my ability to drop down into writing story has developed and improved far more than I had ever imagined possible… It hard to quantify what I have gained from doing this course. I have learnt that I can write despite all my protests that I cant.”
– Jane M.

“I found the series very beneficial for my writing. It had the desired effect of keeping me writing and inspired and on track, which is the result I had been after. Each chapter supported the evolution of my writing in a very practical and concise way, which enriched my experience. I will definitely be referring back to it in future. I can go even deeper with it easily….I have been forming a trust with myself and my writing rhythm. The effect has been therapeutic without being therapy. I have been able to touch and view parts of my life in a way that has been profound for my inner and outer growth.”
– Deborah M.

“I enjoyed reading [the series] and found it easy to understand, helpful, and interesting. The exercises at the end of each chapter were useful for inspiration, and helpful learning tools…I feel that my fledgling writer’s wings have gained strength and I now have the confidence to soar off the cliff into the unknown of my writing.”
– Sally H.

“I found it useful with helpful suggestions. It’s a great resource to have even after the class is finished, I can return to it and re-read it a few times over. I’m looking forward to reading it again and getting to write some other of her ideas/suggestions…I [found] it very helpful in terms of writing tips and ideas for topics.”
– Mahsa A.

I found the whole [series] interesting, motivating, useful…[It] was excellent in providing food for thought and writing exercises.
– Jeanette C.

By Joe Vigliano 03 Jul 2013 5

One of the best--if not THE best--books on writing I've ever read. Maybe I was just ready for what she has to teach, but I'm on fire. Actually doing the exercises in a writing book! :-) Her five precepts cover the key components of good writing and she gives thorough explanations and examples. This book is ideal no matter where you are on your writing path. As a bonus, her approach to writing parallels a solid spiritual approach to life as well. Highly recommended.

By Kelly Watt 01 Jul 2013 5

In Writing Without a Parachute, internationally renowned writing teacher, Barbara Turner-Vesselago offers simple and brilliant methods for finding the writer's true voice. I've taken numerous workshops with Barbara and found her book to be a brilliant companion to her classes. In these pages she offers a solution to every writing conundrum!
-Kelly Watt, author of Camino Meditations

By Leslie Mezei 14 May 2013 5

I took Barbara's "Free Fall" writing course 20 years ago, and found it very helpful. Her new book "Writing Without a Parachute" has so many practical practice suggestions, that it could be as valuable as a live course. I also found it terrific to develop the eyes with which I am to look at the material I have developed with Free Flow, and to see what parts are "showing", rather than "telling", by acting as an immediate witness to the events and feelings of the character(my old self, in the case of my memoir.) It also helps me decide which parts need to be "opened up", by adding more sensuous detail and dialogue.

Review quote

"I'm always telling anyone who wants to write: Do Freefall!" Helena McEwen, author of The Big House and Invisible River (Bloomsbury) "Useful for beginners, superb for writers in the middle of their training and an absolute lifesaver for pros who have lost their nerve." Mimi Thebo, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, Bath Spa University "Here is a book that charts new territory, inviting the writer to fall with confidence into the ether of the creative self in order to write with skill and authenticity." Louise Green, Editor, Lapidus Journal

Table of contents

Introduction Chapter One: Finding the Way Chapter Two: How to Support Yourself as a Writer Chapter Three: The Five Precepts Chapter Four: Let One Thing Lead to Another Chapter Five: Dropping In, with Sensuous Detail Chapter Six: Finding Where the Energy Is Chapter Seven: Life, Writing, and the Ten Year Rule Chapter Eight: The Dragons at the Gate Chapter Nine: A Writer's Discipline Chapter Ten: A Poet's Way of Mind Chapter Eleven: Letting Go; Sinking In Chapter Twelve: Dialogue Chapter Thirteen: Opening Out Chapter Fourteen: Freefalling with Intention