Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Writing Classroom

It doesn't matter if a student looks as sour as a lemon. You get lemonade by squeezing them--Antti Allén

All writers are students, right? We study craft while reading novels, we learn from our critique partners, we gather information at conferences (yes, even in the bar talking to other writers...). We are constantly learning more tips and techniques to help us tell OUR story. 

So why does the idea of formal education scare the heck out of me?

I'm heading off to my first residency at Seton Hill in a couple weeks, and I am seriously worrying over it. The program sounds awesome: MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. Yeah, that means SF, Fantasy, Horror, Romance, YA--all the good stuff. No stuffy literature classes (though I did enjoy some of those in undergrad). Camping out with a bunch of like-minded writers for a week in June and a week in July (and reading and writing for online classes in between)--sounds fun, huh?

Still, I am nervous. I've taken online writing classes and learned a lot. Fast-drafting, Deep POV, How not to kill your characters... Heck, I've taught fiction writing classes for fifteen years at a local college. Why am I so nervous?

I think writers are generally, by nature, cowards. Ha. We like to think we are brave and bold and strong, but let's face it--anything to do with hanging our babies out on a clothesline for all to see...well, that is scary!

Do I think writers should take classes? Absolutely! Even when you don't learn a lot of new stuff, you get to be around other creative jellyfish. That's a great thing. You feed off each other. You leave the classroom, invigorated and ready to tackle that story. Right?

What has been the most helpful class you've taken? Or has individual interaction served the same purpose as a formal class? Do you think writers should take classes? Can you take TOO MANY classes? Would that stifle creativity?

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master--Ernest Hemingway



  1. What a wonderful post. I think, no matter where you are in your life, you can always learn. I love learning new things and since I started writing a few years ago, I've already taken a whole whack of on-line workshops. I love getting the different perspectives on the various topics and meeting other people who actually understand what I'm trying to do, have the same struggles or confusion or fears that I do.

    I do find however, I tend to take too many at one time, and when I'm also trying to write - that can be a problem. Though not necessarily a bad one - sometimes I get to use the class to work out any problem I may be having!

  2. I totally understand taking too many at one time! lol. I've done that several times and always wished I had more time to focus. Still, there are soooo many available these days. Score one for the Internet!

  3. Most helpful class....Angela Knights online character/plotting class. It was fabulous, got lots of greet feedback, and met my bestie CP in the world. I've taken a few other classes, but found my time very short and I wished the were more spread out. Some that I've taken are so rushed. I wish the authors/teachers would just slow down a little. I have a life I'm trying to fit in around all this writin.

    Great post, Kerry, thanks for sharing :-)

  4. Great post, Kerry! There's definitely always more to learn. One of my fave things about the arts is that we never stop learning. Someone once said, "All knowledge is good." I think the fear is natural. The arts are terribly subjective, and critics and fans are fickle. We live in a state of perpetual insecurity because there's always a chance we'll learn something that points out all our past blunders and reminds us that every imperfection is published for the world to see. The positive side of that coin is confirmation - yes, even the experts say I'm an excellent writer. One of the best things about education is no matter where you fall according to the rubric, knowledge can take you to the next level.


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