I always wanted to be a teacher. I always wanted to be a poet. In reality, I ended up in the Marine Corps – which led to a career in aviation. Hmm, not very poetic!
However, my dreams to be a teacher and a poet never subsided and I now make money, yes, real money creating and teaching poetry workshops at local libraries. This is a robust market and fairly easy to penetrate!
Most libraries have discretionary funds available to them via the Friends of the Library group associated with their particular branch. This is a nationwide network of non-profit groups that raise money to help local libraries. Groups conduct book sales and bake sales and often operate small gift shops at the library to raise money. Funds are used to pay for additional library equipment, employee appreciation luncheons, special events – and yes, even poetry workshops!
The best way to find the money is to contact the local library manager or event manager with a poetry workshop proposal. These people are able to review and endorse your idea and forward your proposal to the Friends Group to seek funding for your workshop. Response time is generally within a month because the groups tend to meet on a monthly basis.
In my experience, a two-hour poetry workshop typically pays $50 to $200 per event. Note, these are for workshops you teach at YOUR local libraries. If you would require funding for travel and expenses to other libraries, you would need to ask for more money.
A poetry workshop proposal should be neat and succinct. One page is sufficient. Something that provides only the salient details: title of the workshop, summary (one or two sentences), purpose (one sentence), participants (for example, suitable for adults versus children), duration (recommend 90 minutes to two hours), materials (mention if participants need to bring their own pens and paper or if you will provide), set-up (for example, indicate if you need a podium, conference table and chairs), cost (flat rate works best), class size and a brief literary bio about yourself. This one page format makes it easy to email and review.
Send workshop proposals to several libraries at once. Develop points of contact and try to email them every time you have a new workshop idea. Sometimes libraries have special themes during certain times of year, and you might want to correlate your workshop idea with their theme. For example, a holiday poetry workshop might work for the October/November timeframe.
Deliver the workshop you promise. Bring props, visual aids, handouts. (Sometimes this is my favorite part of the project!) Engage the participants. My workshops are typically one-third teaching time, one-third writing time, and one-third time for people to share their work. Note! Use the opportunity to gather names for a mailing list for future workshops.
Poetry workshops are a definite way to earn some real money, but also provide a continuing platform to stay in touch with local poets, both new and emerging. They also provide a meaningful way to bring public awareness to the poetry community. Sometimes libraries will even display the work created at these workshops.
So, yes, I have a career in aviation, and yet, I have created and continue to teach poetry workshops that pay! Some of my workshops include Poetry Noir Workshop (creating poetry inspired by film noir styles), Sad Clowns Poetry Workshop (exploring irony and imagery in poetry), Pirate Poetry Workshop (focusing on imagery, vocabulary and style) and Caliente! The Poetry of Love! (incorporating passion in poetry).
What will your poetry workshop be about?
Anastasia Clark is the author of several poetry books, including a chapbook, Confetti Stampede (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Her work has appeared in Ascent Aspirations, FLARE: The Flagler Review, Red River Review and Subtletea among others. She served as Broward County, Florida Poet-in-Residence for six years. She leads workshops and serves as a judge for poetry contests.