Posts Tagged online workshops

The One Story Workshops

IMG_1762Shortly after the WFWA workshop ended, I started the first of three One Story workshops. The first, Write a Short Story with Hannah Tinti presented a method to write a complete short story in a few days. It was fun, although I think it might have worked better if you had characters or a situation in mind before you started. I did end up with a complete but short piece, although I’m not sure how much I really like it.

For me, the platform the class used  was a bit overwhelming. I have no idea how many people were taking this class. People  posted the new bits of their story and others commented, but this seemed to be a jumble, with so many storylines and so many people, it was hard to keep track whose character was in which story. Eventually I more or less randomly chose a few participants to focus on. If others were kind enough to  comment on my submissions, I returned the favor. This soon narrowed the number of people I was following to a more reasonable number, although it was still a jumble with no real flow that I could determine.

I did figure out a few other “tricks.” To get your submission to appear near the top of the list, it was good to comment on everyone’s comment, even if only to thank them. Eventually I also figure out there was a way to mark all the comments you had read so you could see what was new. And of course, the best way to get others to comment was to comment on their submissions.

The next class was Become Your Own Best Editor where the participants read an initial submission, subsequent editorial comments and the changes the author made to the piece up through the final printed version. There were probably fewer participants in this class and in this case it wasn’t quite as necessary to keep the continuity with who said what where. My personal take-away was I really don’t want to be an editor because I was bored rereading the same story over and over. Hannah Tinti and the other editor involved  both made insightful comments that apply to most any story rewrite. This workshop has been offered using a different story published in One Story  with a different editor so could be taken a second time.

From Character to Story:A Craft Intensive with Editor Patrick Ryan also offered some useful tips. By this time I was familiar with a number of the other participants and it was easy to look for them and read their comments.

The next offering from One Story starts on March 11, My Evil Twin is an Editor, or What the Soaps Taught Me About Writing.

These classes have varied in their helpfulness, but are good for connecting with other writers. Probably which class you’d find most insightful would depend on where you are in your writing career. It should be noted that many known names and people with much success enroll in these courses as well as people who have not written much.

I’m not wild about the platform and the number of participants, but if chaos doesn’t bother you or you don’t want to interact, these may work equally well for you. For some people the amount of work/number of lessons in a short period of time can be difficult, too.

 

 

 

 

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A Short Series on Various On-line Workshops

IMG_1759Since I stopped regularly blogging at the end of 2014, I’ve taken numerous online writing courses/workshops from a number of sources. Possibly my thoughts on some of the classes would be of interest or use to other writers. I will present each class in chronological order and follow up with a post on which I found most helpful and why.

Early in 2015 I did a workshop with Donald Maass through the Womens’ Fiction Writers Association. Improvements were made in the platform used for this workshop last year so it was a little easier to keep track of what you’d read by whom. Mr. Maass did manage to comment on most people’s assignments, too. Each year has a slightly different focus, so it is worth retaking each year.This is the information directly from the WFWA website:

Some manuscripts sparkle and gleam. What not only catches the eyes of agents and editors but holds them in thrall all the way through? What signals “commercial” to industry types? How can you give your project that radiance without compromising its integrity?

Topics will include:

High concept elements that don’t feel cheap.
Why readers really fall in love with protagonists.
Story worlds we don’t want to leave.
Entertaining versus illuminating.
Voices we hear versus voices we ignore.
This is a hands-on workshop with five writing assignments spread over two weeks. Presented by New York literary agent and teacher Donald Maass, author of Writing the Breakout Novel, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, The Fire in Fiction and Writing 21st Century Fiction.

Registration open from February 15 through March 10.

This year’s workshop runs from March 14-March 26. The cost is a reasonable $45 but you do have to first belong to the association. Dues for that are $48.

Here is the link to join: http://womensfictionwriters.org/about.php

 

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Writing Classes on the Web

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I just completed my first online class through Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. I’ve taken online classes of various sorts before, two through Mid-American Review, another one or two through a large nationally known commercial writing school. This recent class was by far the most inexpensive and possibly the shortest in duration. The class, Heroes, Henchmen, and Sidekicks, presented by Angie Hodapp, was an expansion of a workshop she’d presented at the Colorado Gold conference in September. The class was just what I needed to spark my attempts at revising the mess of a novel I’d written a few years ago during NaNoWriMo.

At first I hadn’t been sure I wanted to spend time on an online course. The last one I’d taken had cost me something like six weeks take home pay and in the end I came away with little other than some praise from the leader. He called my novel “heartbreaking,” which I considered a good thing, but the rest of the class had been a waste of time, and, unfortunately, money. When I realized how little this RMFW class cost, though, I decided I might as well give it a go. It helped that another member of my writing group had also signed up.

As I say, overall I’m happy with the information presented and the spur it gave to my revision, but some other, more procedural or technical, aspects of the course just didn’t work for me. Every other course I’ve taken had a reasonably easy way to follow discussions, even if some of them took a bit of getting adjusted. This class utilized the yahoo platform, probably due to the availability and, I’m assuming, low (free) cost. I spend much of the first day or two trying to figure out the platform, and after some instruction by the leader and other class members, I could make some sense of the board. Still, it was very difficult to follow discussions, probably because other participates also didn’t know how to utilize the system, and because the workshop had something like 49 participants! Unwieldy on any platform, I suspect.

Elsewhere on this blog I’ve mentioned for me, a successful writing event, whether an online course, a workshop, or a retreat, is if I come away with a new writing friend, or contact. With the unwieldy number of participates in the course, it is understandable why this didn’t happen. It is hard to make connections when you can’t find the person you were originally talking to! Prior to sharing any writing, one of the other class members who lives in my immediate geographic area asked if I participated in a writing group. I told her the rudimentary details of WURDZ, gave her my email address, and heard nothing.

Another reason I did not forge a new friendship is that almost every other person seemed to be writing in a genre that I wasn’t. The predominate genre seemed to be fantasy, with historical fiction or YA the second most common category, and usually YA fantasy. Even though I may not have read every single introduction–hard to keep track when they appeared all over the place and days after the class started–I didn’t see a single  “women’s fiction” writer. One other person said she wrote mainstream fiction, but after reading her first assignment, I suggested she might be writing more of a thriller, and since it usually seems easier to sell something if you can file it under a specific genre, maybe she should consider that.

Angie had mentioned doing a longer version of this course, and I think that would be helpful as cramming in six lessons in two weeks when you have to go to work, read material for your writing group, do your own writing, as well as live you usual life, is a bit much. Even though I more or less stopped writing down the lessons, I read over each and thought how I would use the information in my revisions.

For the time being, I’m toying with the idea of taking the next online class offered by RMFW–Editing and Revision for Fiction Writers.  With decreased expectations of finding a like-minded writing companion, I might be freer to learn and enjoy. Possibly I’ll have a heads up on the class platform as well.

I’d be interested in hearing of online schools or classes you’ve participated in and what you felt you got out of them. Were they useful? Did you make writing friends? Please leave a comment, and check out the RMFW classes, too. One may be just right for you.

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Facebook, Friends, and Writing

For me, one sign of a good workshop or conference is making a new friend. Pre-Internet I meet a woman at the first conference I attended, the Southwest Writers’ Workshop. We reconnected at the yearly conference. Between times we exchanged manuscripts. By the time email became the main mode of communication, we’d lost touch. She divorced and I don’t have enough information to find her again.
In 2008 I participated in an online writing workshop. The teacher suggested we join Facebook. So I did.At first my only friends were the other members of the group, as well as a friend’s daughter who felt sorry for me when I told her every time I opened the site it announced, “You have no new friends.” Probably those of us in the workshop were too busy critiquing and discussing on the workshop site. Side conversations were via email. When the workshop ended, a few of us kept in loose touch through Facebook. I met two of the workshop members at AWP in Denver. One of them, M.E. Parker is the founder of a well-received photography and writing journal, Camera Obscura. Even five years later I sometimes exchange critiques with another member.
I met at least four of my Facebook friends at a conference/retreat held at a dude ranch outside of Tucson. I’ve met up with two of them at other conferences and occasionally interact with them on Facebook. At this Springs’s Pike’s Peak Writers Conference I met a woman who became the newest member of our writing group. During the recent RMFW Conference I added three writers to my list of friends.
My most recent foray to a retreat yielded twitter contacts, no new friends. This small retreat was held in a lovely mansion hotel on Long Island. Meals were included and were served off a menu; not your usual banquet chicken! About eight years ago I attended another small workshop and thought I had not come away with any new contacts but last month I did reconnect with another participant at RMFW. Possibly somewhere down the line I will be in contact with some of the other writers from the Writing and Yoga Retreat. This event is sure to grow and include more participants in years to come.

The Glen Cove Mansion, home of the Writing and Yoga Retreat

The Glen Cove Mansion, home of the Writing and Yoga Retreat

The lack of a compatriot at this last retreat might have been, in part, due to the small size of this retreat. This was the initial foray of the two leaders into putting on a retreat. The likelihood of making friends might depend on a critical number of participants. The Tucson workshop had been small, too. There were 12-16 of us. I garnered four friends from that group. This last retreat had a mere five women, plus the two leaders. Three of the women were close in age and bonded easily. One of the other participants was related to one of the leaders, and both leaders were already friends. This left me as the outlier with no natural partner and although I am following or being followed by four of the six others, I feel each is a tenuous connection at best.
Not long ago I ran across an article, Whether Facebook Makes You Lonely Depends on How You Use It. I posted this on my wall and asked my friends which way they felt. Those who commented said happier. My response would be mixed. Probably the largest proportion of my contacts consists of high school classmates, whom I “collected” for a recent reunion. The rest are workmates, neighbors, a few people from college, my “real life” friends, and sundry others. Some posted often in the past but have either gotten bored and moved on or now interact with a select group that doesn’t include me. Many never comment or post status updates. A large number post only lost cats, recipes, photos of dogs, and quotes of others. Some are lurkers. A few routinely send holiday and birthday greetings and then sink back into the sand of anonymity. Possibly I shouldn’t expect more; this may be who they are in their everyday lives. Maybe this lack of interaction is related to differences in personality type, but I find the lack of response and interaction frustrating. Often it makes me unhappy and I wonder why I bother checking in.
But when it comes to my writing connections, I find Facebook both useful and entertaining. Many friends post interesting articles related to writers, writing, and publishing. Recently one acquaintance reviewed a book she found in a used bookstore that sounds right up my alley. I plan to look for it. I’ve asked for book recommendations and help with problems related to the mechanics of writing, computer glitches, and story concerns. I belong to at least one page that lists calls for submissions. My writing group created a private group to conduct our business. We’re currently doing our October short story writing month and sharing prompts.
Because of its usefulness to me as a writer, I’ll remain a dutiful user of Facebook until something better comes along. Google+? If you know of something, let me know, but until then, I hope to continue to expand my circle of writer-friends.

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