A Workshop Pioneer

Robert Wolf began conducting non-traditional writing workshops in 1989. This was a time when writing workshops were geared for those with literary ambition.  Wolf had something more interesting in mind.  He wanted to create  an autobiography of America written by working people without literary aspirations.

The  autobiographical project began with a workshop for the homeless in Nashville and has since gone national.  Due to a flurry of national publicity in the early 1990s, first focusing on his writing workshop for the homeless (All Things Considered) and two years later for his Iowa farm writing workshop (Morning Edition and Associated Press), magazines and newspapers began featuring stories on this unusual project.

Wolf was getting people who never thought of themselves as writers having fun while penning their experiences. This was a first! Small towns began hiring him to create portraits of their towns through community workshops.

In 1997, CBS Sunday Morning did an appreciative portrait of the writers in rural northeast Iowa—farmers and small town residents—whose work had been collected into five small Free River Press volumes.

Due in large part to all this national publicity, other non-traditional writing workshops began sprouting up across the country.

The 1999 Oxford University Press anthology of Free River Press writings went into the collections at Balliol College (Oxford), Princeton, Stanford, Harvard, Yale and over 700 libraries world-wide.

Since then we’ve given many more people the delight of crafting their own stories.  A few even went on to write professionally.

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