Coaching

Writing Coach

I work with you one-on-one either by email OR face-to-face via Skype to help you achieve your personal writing goals and improve as a writer. Each 60-90 minute session or email exchange will cover:

  • commentary on 5 poems or 10 pages of fiction/creative non-fiction
  • discussion of supplemental reading chosen for your interests and needs
  • tailored generative writing and revision exercises
  • suggestions on where to send work

Workshops

Interested in something structured more like a traditional class or workshop? I offer short (1 day) and long (4-8 week) versions of the following courses:

  • Breaking Ground: Shaking Things Up
  • Imagery, Description, and Absence
  • The Heart of the Poem: Revising with Clarity
  • Translation and Failure

Contact

For more information or to ask for a quote, please contact me at here or email me directly at neil.aitken@gmail.com

Creative Writing Coach

When you hire me as a writing coach, you can count on me to focus on you and the goals of your writing, rather than seek to impose my own voice and agenda. I bring a wealth of workshop and teaching experience to the table, as well as a keen eye for detail, a trained ear, and a deep intuition for image and language. I believe in being honest and clear. If something isn’t working, I’ll tell you. But I’ll also help you find the way to make it work again—or in some cases, identify what is really at its heart that needs to be said.

NOTE: If you’re interested in working with me, please contact me for more information about my current rates. Have a question? I’d be happy to discuss things over email, phone, or Skype.

 

Testimonials

Neil’s skilled, objective poetic eye has helped me work through quite a few poem revisions and rewrites as I work on my next full-length poetry manuscript. And his constructive feedback as well as his kind correspondence have stuck in my mind as I write new poems for this same body of work. His book-reading recommendations, which he takes great time and thought to compile, also have been instrumental in helping me remember that risk taking in writing can be embraced. I’m more at home when I take some writing risks but haven’t felt too comfortable with this in quite some time, until recently working with Neil. Furthermore, his input has been clear and sensible—poetically, intellectually, and emotionally—giving me the opportunity to come to my own decisions on the content and conveyance of my poems. He has helped me feel like a writer again, especially at a point in my life when writing and publishing have been challenging.

—Theresa Senato Edwards, author of Painting Czeslawa Kwoka and Voices Through Skin

Neil was like a breath of fresh air, someone who got what I was doing, sometimes even before I realized what I was about. Neil enjoyed complicated material and wasn’t afraid of the exploration that could in the end arrive at unexpected places. I believe he went with his gut and recognized our obsessions. What made Neil so special was his ability to pick up on the imagery, tone and narrative of a poem quicker than anyone I knew. He was able to make a whole project of a single poem and I was grateful for that. He was open with his rich background and his insights gave him the ability to work with people at all levels. His dedication to everyone’s writing helped us learn from each other.

—Barbara Maloutas, author of The Whole Marie and In a Combination of Practices

“I worked with Neil at a time in which I was stuck with a particular short story. I had done at least ten revisions and had workshopped it at least five times. What I wanted from Neil was not only a fresh pair of eyes, but also a poet’s precision with language. Neil offered more than I could have hoped for and I am indebted to his edits. He also identified key themes in my writing that few could see, myself included. He was kind, attentive, thorough, and most importantly, very patient with his edits, encouraging me always to dig deeper with each character. I recommend him without any hesitation.”

—Zahir Janmohamed, Adjunct Teaching Fellow, The Attic, co-host, Racist Sandwich

Neil is simply phenomenal. His extremely diverse background and experiences allow him to be very well-versed in a large variety of different subjects, much more than can even be imagined for one person. He’s like the ocean: always more layers, more depths that haven’t been previously seen (and all this at your disposal for your own creative journey!). I’ve used him for both creative nonfiction and screenwriting – two very different genres and I have to say each time I have felt understood, nurtured, guided and renewed with purpose.

—Elaine Wang, poet, memoirist, screenwriter

I’ve had the privilege of working with Neil since February (2017). I brought some raw material and a willingness to be critiqued and taught. Neil has guided me in composition and craft, but most especially in revision, helping me not to be afraid of pruning and rearranging to bring the heart of what I’m trying to express to the sleeves of my poems. He is a widely read and deeply interested scholar who has sent me racing down paths of poets and their ideas that could help me grow. He’s personable and kind. My writing often exposes deeply painful and sometimes shameful experiences—he takes this in stride, but does not hold back from our purpose—shaping good poetry that could be meaningful to others. Since working with him I have had several poems published, and many personal rejections showing me my growth as a poet. Neil was absolutely instrumental in this.

—Ethan Cole, poet

Neil is a wonderful writing coach. He has the incredible ability to see where a student needs to go with their work and then helpfully nudges them in the right direction. His feedback is thoughtful and direct, and he finds exercises and readings which directly apply to their strengths and weaknesses. My writing has improved in both clarity and strength since I started working with Neil.

—Tiffany Babb, poet, artist

Neil is an exceptionally talented and thoughtful teacher whose assigned exercises and readings are perfectly tailored to my needs. He facilitates and enables me to grow as a writer through careful listening, and is knowledgeable in breadth and depth of all things literary.

—Jenn S, poet, fiction writer, essayist

I don’t have any formal training in the art of poetry… so my decision to take the workshop was not for the poetry, but for the topic of sorrow and joy and my hope to connect with these emotions on a deeper level. And I did! Neil has a great gift of making poetry accessible to someone like me who may not consider herself a trained poet but has a need to express ideas creatively and poetically from time to time. What I believe makes Neil a great teacher is that he does not have a compulsive need to ‘teach’ and lecture, but rather allows and trusts his students to reach into themselves for their unique truths… I left feeling like Neil was part teacher, part psychotherapist, part magician”

—Workshop participant feedback, Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival