Friday, January 22, 2010

You Don’t Have to Flounder Alone

In Wednesday’s post, I mensioned that I just started a new writing class. I received several comments left by other asspiring writers claiming that they were jealous. This shocked me. If you want to take a writing class, what’s stopping you? There is no reason for anyone to be jealous of me.

My surrpize lead me to think it might not be a horrible idea to let other writers know what opportunities are out there. I live in Portland, Oregon and can really only speak to the opportunities for aspiring writers here. Since it rains something like 364 days a year in Portland, lots of Portlanders spend their time indoors reading. Where you have lots of readers, it’s easy to find lots of writers. So there may be more opportunities here then there are in other place. But my guess is, if you looked hard enough you could even find writing groups in bright sunny cities like Miami.

The first thing I did when I started taking my writing seriously was join Willamette Writers, a Portland based network of writers. For just $36 a year, I get a helpful newsletter and the opportunity to attend insightful monthly meatings where successful writers talk about the ins and outs of the profession. Plus I get to claim I belong to the same club as Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Cain, and Phillip Margolin. This makes me feel like a total bad ass – even though I’m not one. The Willamette Writers also holds a conference each summer that cost more than $36, but is attended by lots of agents and editors so I’m not complaining.

I also belong to a writing critique group that meets once a month. We swap chapters and give each other useful feedback and all that good stuff. I met all the members of my critique group through Willamette Writers and have beniffited a great deal from being a part of that group.

Beyond Willamette Writers, there are a lot of other places where people hoping to improve their writing craft can take classes. I have found that I really like The Attic Writers Workshop, this hole in the wall attic space in east Portland where experienced writers pass on their wisdom to writers earlier in their journeys. The class I just started is a story structure class at the Attic taught by the always hellarious author/playwrite Marc Acito. Out of the thirteen students in my class, two already have agents, three are facing a blank first page of their first novel, and the rest of us live somewhere in between.

This is the third class I’ve taken at the Attic. I’ve never taken any writing classes anywhere else. But I’ve made my way onto enough writer list serves that I get emails about other classes from time to time. I know that several of the local indie bookstores offer workshops for writers lead by local authors. These can be one day events or several week courses. There are also several author lectures at local libraries. These tend to be geared more toward the reader, but are sometimes focused on writing.

Beyond the basic machanics of writing, the main thing I’ve learned by taking classes and attending events lead by big name best sellers is that writers are all just people. The act of writing is very solitary, and most people that make a full time career of writing get lonely. So they like hanging out with other writers and talking to other people. If you start staulking Dan Brown you might be awarded a restraining order. But attending networking type events with reputable professional writers is a great opportunity for you to learn, and them to change out of their PJ’s.

Joke of the Day
A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.
She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.
"Oh my," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now."
A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.
"Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"
"Oh no, it's not," replied St. Peter. "Here, your work gets published."

1 comment:

Jonathon Arntson said...

Hey, sweet post! Great way to turn the tables and tell us to get our own asses in gear, I like it.