Posts Tagged writing group

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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Is Attention the Primary Reason You Write?

This morning on Weekend Sunday Edition, Rachel Martin interviewed Daniel Menaker, writer and past fiction editor of The New Yorker and Editor in Chief at Random House, about his new memoir, My Mistake. Although I have since read the transcript of the interview, I originally missed the middle of it and returned to hear him say, “Yeah, I think we write for attention.” My immediate thought was, “That’s odd. I don’t think my main motive for writing is attention.”

Maybe “real” writers do want attention, but I want the story to get attention, not me. Sure, I wouldn’t mind answering some questions about the story or the writing of the story, but that doesn’t mean I want to do it face to face. For me one of the allures of writing is that I can do it behind the scenes and not have to be front and center. Yes, writers who are gracious and entertaining and informative the way Mary Doria Russell was at the recent Readcon event in Greeley are a delight, but it’s hard for me to believe that most writers want to be on the hot seat, being questioned and photographed. Most of the writers I know want to write and publish. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard one of them talk about how they’re writing so they can go on tour or be featured on Oprah or interviewed on NPR. I don’t think one of us in any of the writing groups I’ve been part of have expressed a desire for fame. Publication, yes. The allure of money, occasionally, but most of us who have been in a group  long enough seem to give up on the big bucks and just aim and wish for publication.

My next thought was, maybe that’s what I’m doing wrong; I don’t want attention enough. Possibly that thought is related to another blog a writer-friend reposted the other day, The One Thing You Are Doing to Block Your Writing Success. In this blog the author talks about not calling yourself a writer and how that might be harmful to your career. In other posts on her blog she talks about Myers-Briggs type and relates that to writing and writers. I wonder if, in part, my response to her post and my not usually telling people I’m a writer is related to type? Or, in general, not liking attention being called to myself?

Of course, at some level I do desire attention, the attention of an agent, then an editor which will lead to the attention of readers. There is, also, the matter of the blog. Of course I want people to read my blog and comment and respond. I see that more as interaction than as attention-gathering, though. And yes, in the back of my mind I often have a specific person I want to read a particular work, but again, it’s mostly for the work that I desire attention, not me.

I’m wondering if others who write feel this way or if their primary motivation in writing so to gain attention to themselves?

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READCON: an Event for Readers and Writers. It Was All About the Book.

Teeshirt from Highplains Library Event, 11/2/13

Teeshirt from High Plains Library Event, 11/2/13

A recent article in SALON, Better Yet, Don’t Write that Novel, lamented that NaNoWriMo is a month-long event for writers and doesn’t celebrate readers. Laurie Miller lauds the efforts of some reading challenges as being more rewarding than the intent of NaNoWriMo. Although I mostly agree with what she has to say, I don’t see a problem with people spending (wasting) their time trying to write 50,000 words in a month. I’ve done it before. The results were less than desirable and I ended up with a mess that is difficult to edit into something readable. Many of the comments to this article mention programs that do promote reading such as One City One Book, National Reading Month, Canada Reads, etc. The recent READCON put on by the Highplains Library District in Weld County, CO had something for both readers and writers. Three of the members of my writing group attended together.

The morning featured a number of writing-related sessions. Later in the afternoon a talk on self-publishing and how to do it right was presented by Jessica France from indieBook Library. This hour was an overview of a longer session on the intricacies involved in putting your own book out there and making it successful.

The first event the three of us participated in was a Zine Workshop, introducing us  to a new concept. A volunteer from the Denver Zine Library gave us a very brief introduction to zines and allowed us to browse through a representative sample from the collection. Then we made our own. The majority of participants at this small workshop appeared to be high school-aged. Creating our own small booklet utilizing discarded library books and out-of-date issues of magazines was fun. Interestingly enough, the three of us, all writers, used mostly pictures and few of our own words to create ours.photo

Another event we did not attend involved creating bookmarks and a third was a contest to design the best library in Minecraft. A quiet space for those who where NaNoing was also available.

All of the planned events were free, but many were ticketed. A Steampunk tea–costumes encouraged–looked well attended and as if everyone was having a great time. Unfortunately, we hadn’t planned ahead and were only able to land one ticket. Our lunch also ran over, making us too late to attend. Instead, we toured the Bookmobile, something I hadn’t done since childhood. For at least one of my friends this was the first time she’d been in one. Each of us won a prize–a screen cleaner, a book, or a DVD, just for taking the quick tour. Each branch of the Library District had also created a display celebrating a genre of literature. Most of the displays included a small treat, an interactive feature, and a book list or two.

Sessions on establishing book clubs, a “whodunit” webinar, photo contest, reading recommendations, and more were presented for readers. The highlight of the event, though, were the talks by authors, including a local authors’ panel. This panel ran the gamut from a nationally known bestselling author to a self-published YA author. Two guests of honor were Craig Johnson, author of western mysteries, and the multifaceted Mary Doria Russell. This was what had interested me in READCON in the first place. I’d read The Sparrow when it came out as well as the follow-up book. After that I was vaguely aware that she’d written other things and had the idea she was writing historical fiction, but I’d never bothered to check out her other books. She was a delightful and funny speaker, as well as a gracious signer of books. I wished she was, if not in my writing group, at least my friend. Her talk about Doc Holiday convinced me to buy the book, Doc.

The last event we attended, and the other main reason we decided to make the trip to Greeley, was the book signing, which was accompanied by samples from two local breweries. I hadn’t expected the beer to be free. Since it was, we were able to purchase another book or two from more local authors. I enjoyed both the amber and chocolate porter samples from Wiley Brewing. IMG_0438 Books pictured: Doc by Mary Doria Russell. Murder at the Brown Palace by Dick Kreck, Antler Dust By Mark Stevens, Backwards by Todd Mitchell, Living with Your Kids is Murder by Mike Befeler.

 

I attended two writers’ conferences as well as a writers’ retreat this year and in many ways I enjoyed this event the most. Possibly it was because it was free. The shortness of it might have helped, or the fact I attended with two friends and met at least two new local writers. Possibly it was the lack of pressure; no agents to worry about impressing. As a non-overly gregarious introvert, I often watch as others butt into my attempt at conversation or negate my tentative beginnings. There was none of that here. It was all about the book. The lines to have books signed were either nonexistent or very short. Mary Doria Russell was completely approachable and gracious in responding to questions. (At an SCBW (not yet i) conference I once stood in a long long line to have a book signed only to have the author, who was chatting with a friend the whole time, look up when I got to her and say, “Oh, I’m not signing anymore.” I’d really admired her writing, but her less than friendly dismissal completely reversed my feelings. Possibly I should have blamed the organizers. They could have announced that after a certain time/number of people/some other marker the author would be done. I agree she had to eat lunch; the problem was the arbitrary and almost nasty way she decided to stop that bothered me.)

The High Plains Library District is to be commended for this fine program. Many of us will be looking forward to attending again next year. Oh, and the teeshirts were great. I loved the color on the front and the design on the back and that they were heavy and black.

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May is Short Story Month, but October is Short Story Writing Month

Last year two writer friends suggested a short story writing month during which we wrote daily to see how many drafts we could produce to work on throughout the year. The first month I generated a number of flash and one long story that I still need to complete and edit. The second challenge, which was the brainchild of an Internet writing friend, was less successful.

This year my writing group has the collective goal of writing four short pieces during October, starting today. This should provide material to workshop throughout the year.  All of us are also writing, rewriting, or editing longer works. Each of us is to take a turn with prompts.

To start, Brian posted a motivational piece on FB–An Invocation for Beginnings. I don’t think he’s shared this on his blog, (The Weird World of B.K. Winstead,) so I’m sharing it here. It has great advice about getting started, about critiquing, and creativity, with only a few odd statements and a sprinkling of four letter words. And an advertisement, unfortunately.  The Weird Worldhas lots of interesting posts on writing, too.

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