Where You Get More than You Pay for

Free writing classes in the DMV.


Perhaps you’re an avid reader who itches to pick up the pen and take your imagination out for a little spin. Or you’re a writer in a rut who needs a change of subject or genre. There are plenty of reasons new or established writers might want to take advantage of a mini writing lesson now and then.

For those who can’t commit to (or afford) a paid, multi-week writing course, here are a few options for free writing classes in the DC area. The following courses accommodate beginners as well as experienced writers. You can jump in once or attend regularly, and best yet: They are judgment-free creativity zones.

  1. National Gallery Writing Salon: The National Gallery offers a series of single-session workshops that encourage writers of all experience levels to interact with art in a new way. Facilitators lead attendees through a series of exercises based on one or more works of art in the collection, through a lens such as point of view, the rhythm of color, identity, flash fiction, or historical fiction. The artwork utilized ranges from neoclassical sculpture, to Washington Color School, to modern and contemporary works in the recently reopened East Wing. Sessions are two-and-a-half-hours long, and materials (folding seats, pens, paper, clipboards) are included.  
  2. Split this Rock offers free poetry workshops twice a month in the Dupont Circle area. The sessions are on the first and third Wednesday of every month from 6:30-8:30 p.m., and are led by a rotating roster of talented local poets. Recent sessions have been helmed by Antoinette Tidjani Alou, Reuben Jackson, Ruth Irupé Sanabria, and Danielle Badra. This program is open to all ages, and RSVPs are not required.  
  3. Charles Houston Community Writers in Alexandria offers free monthly adult writing classes, as well as free classes for children and teens. They also organize author visits; recent guests have included Monica Bhide, Mark Levinson, Kevin Kosar, Marine Corps General (retired) Richard Neal, and Alexandria mayor (and author) Allison Silberberg.
  4. DC Public Libraries: In addition to a special NaNoWriMo write-in for the month of November, the library system offers free writing workshops. Recent sessions have been held at the Georgetown branch with writer Ingrid Anders. To check for future events at your branch, click the link above, choose the “Monthly” tab, and choose “Adults/Writing” under “Event Type.”
  5. Monkeys with Typewriters: This Alexandria-based group offers friendly, low-key accountability sessions where writers get together, spend time working on their individual projects, and then report to the group on their progress. While these aren’t structured courses, per se, the facilitators normally spend part of the time working with prompts and writing sprints to get stuck creatives back on track. Most of the attendees are writers, but people working on all kinds of creative projects (illustrators, coders, designers, etc.) are welcome to join in.

Once you’ve written that new poem, or started that book you’ve always been wanting to write, there will be plenty of opportunities to stay on track. See my previous column on how to find a writing group to hone your creative work. And feel free to use the comments section below to share any free classes I’ve left out!

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