My brother asked me the other day if I was putting what I’d learned from taking two writing classes to good use. In fact, I am currently working on editing a fiction piece for submission to a huge story contest and I’m using some of the techniques I re-learned in these free online Fiction Writing classes to make my copy shine even brighter.
Suffice it to say that I read a lot. Once my pain meds kick in to help alleviate the arthritic stiffness in my hands, I tend to write a lot…and I’m capable of telling a good story, like most die hard creatives. I’m also not opposed to spending money to make money on tools to help me reach my publishing goals, but, I’m also not opposed to taking advantage of free online classes either. Both fiction writing classes were free and offered by prestigious universities. (to be clear; these classes also encourage you to apply to their fee based classes after your course completion.)
Recently, I read a quote from an esteemed story teacher/author and lecturer on his blog, that said “You get what you pay for. And that usually applies to ‘free’ on-line writing groups too. Alas.”
If this sentiment is insinuating that ‘free’ classes and on-line writing groups are, essentially, a waste of time? I beg to differ. Classes, both online and off that I’ve paid my hard earned money for in the past, doesn’t even come close to the rewarding experience and valuable writing gems I garnered from these free online university classes…in other words, these classes surpassed my expectations by adding to the value of my storytelling skills!
If you are considering taking a class or joining a writer’s group in your area of interest or expertise, in either an online fee based or free platform, go ahead and do that. Your future professional writing career will thank you.
In the words of author and prolific writing friend, Audrey Chin, after reading an edited version of one revised class story, “The difference between your version 1 and version 2 of Bailey’s is the best demonstration of how much we can get out of feedback and a supportive writing community.”
What are your thoughts on free versus paid online writing classes? Just curious 🙂
“His son’s been gone for a mighty long time, going on ten or twelve years thereabouts”
Gail’s grandmother paused to remove stray strands of grey hair from her forehead. She had always worn her hair in a tight knot at the nape of her neck , which oftentimes came loose these days from restless nights and little more than twenty-five bushings of the 100 strokes called for. She hardly let anyone help with her hair. Said it was hers and hers alone and it, meaning her hair, said it was doing just fine.
It was obvious to Gail that her grandma’s crowning glory wasn’t of the slightest concern, as she was hellbent on opening the clasp to her well-worn pocketbook and murmuring in frustration.The younger woman bit back a small giggle as her eyes followed the wrinkled crease between her grandmother’s eyebrows widen on her forehead.
“Now, John’s a man of his word who always said he’ll never stop serving folks at his establishment.” She looked at Gail through thick lenses. “He should have a couple of cans of that sweet pineapple I like, sitting right there on the shelf for you to grab hold to.”
The girl had an inclination to grab the purse, gently of course, but thought better of it. This disease demanded patience. Still, she wondered how long this particular feat was going to take her grandma who insisted on doing things for herself and would stubbornly refuse any help from her family. Finally the clasp gave way and opened to wads of aged papers spilling out from various compartments of the antiquated handbag. Unfazed, the woman busily searched every area of her prized possession, failing to notice that Gail’s mom had come to join them in the kitchen. Time seemed to stand still until they heard-
Gail’s laughter was one of relief and merriment. “You struck gold, grandma, she said, in response to the woman’s excited reaction. I’m proud to know you haven’t lost the gift of perseverance. Grandma eyes twinkled as she blinked in recognizable flashes of her granddaughter. Her bony fingers held the yellowed slither of paper toward Gail with a flourished twist of the wrist.
“Now, daughter, you should be able to follow the road to his place. It’s quite a ways inland, but the landmarks your daddy circled in red should be able to lead you there and back… well before midday.’’
They exchanged disappointing glances. The doctors had warned them early into her grandma’s diagnosis about the memory loss, but the reality took some getting used to. One minute your loved one knows you and within a blink of an eye, you can become a distant memory, covered in foggy brainwaves of a mind that never quite finds clarity. What they’d just witnessed in the kitchen wasn’t uncommon. Gail’s’ grandmother was reliving another time and place. Those early days when she was middle-aged and still feeling young and girlish.
Her grandmother loved family gatherings, especially during the holidays when she rose in the wee hours while everyone was still sleeping, to prepare the turkey with all its trimmings. Her delicious pineapple upside down cake called for the best quality pineapple and making it was the highlight of her grandmother’s Christmas.
But, this day and time was quite different and there would be no cans of pineapple lining the shelves of a long ago memory. John & Son’s storefront grocer was long ago demolished, the land used as part of a huge community shopping mall in their small town. At 88, Gail’s grandma was living with dementia and had to be placed in a home for geriatrics, six months after her dad’s death two years ago. This would be her first Christmas at home since her son passed.
The pineapple upside down cake was no longer a family tradition in the house since her dad was killed in an automobile accident caused by a drunk driver. Her father’s ailing mother would never know that her son wouldn’t be right there at the head of the table with the rest of the family, enjoying her special pineapple treat.
Gail and her mother couldn’t bear to tell the old woman that there would be no pineapple cake in their house because she and her mother had decided to bury that special memory along with him. Gail’s mom placed a finger to her lips, “Wait here.” She creep up the stairs leading to their bedrooms, returning with a piece of paper in her hands.
“Here’s the address to your Aunt Margie’s new house. I’ve already called ahead. Your dad loved pineapple upside down cake and your grandmother always made it as a special gift for him on Christmas. Your grandmother and aunt Margie spoiled your daddy to no end.”
It finally dawned on Gail why her aunt always had leftover pineapple cake on hand whenever they visited after the Christmas holidays. Gail was giving her mom an extra loving daughter hug and fighting off happy tears, when they heard a joyful voice coming from the kitchen.
“Hurry along now dear.” Be careful where you step daughter. the roads can be treacherous at this time of year!”
“Don’t worry,” Gail responded, with a twinkle. “I have a list and a map. What could possibly go wrong?”
I hope you enjoyed reading my short Christmas tale. I’m editing some of my short story rejections and will post a few of them from time to time. Feel free to share your insights or some of your own shorts.
Hello everyone. Thank you for stopping by on this first day of March. I know what you’re thinking-“TGIF!.” Clara54’s guest today is professional writer, author and editor, Joe Bunting. Please join me in welcoming him to the writers forum.
1. Congratulations on your blog The Write Practice being selected as one of the 10 best writing blogs of 2012! What did that feel like?
Thanks Clara. It felt like relief, actually. We won last year, too, and I was so nervous that we wouldn’t this year. Expectations make life so much harder. When you get what you’re expecting, you’re not satisfied. When you don’t, you’re angry and disappointed. It’s better to have low expectations.
2. I’m a subscriber to The Write Practice because it’s a great resource for those of us who love the Story and maybe want to write that great Novel someday. You have said that writing short stories is the best way to began this endeavor. Why is that?
I think the most important thing for a writer to do is start sharing his or her work as soon as possible. To be successful, you need to start making friends and building an audience sooner rather than later. Plus, I think, most of us writers have an innate urge to share our work. It’s scary but it’s thrilling, too, and it motivates us to work harder on the next story.
The problem with novels for the new writer is that they just take so long. They make it so much harder to get your work in front of an audience (even if that audience is just your mom). Stories allow you to audition, bringing a little bit of your best work to the world to see if they want more. Stories are little experiments. Novels are huge projects.
And the reality is that your first “finished” pieces will probably be very bad. I’d rather fail at a dozen short stories than a novel I’ve put three years of my soul into.
3. Can you talk a bit about Story Cartel? I joined the site as an Amazon reviewer and love that I get free books out of it! Is this the only stipulation for joining?
Yep! All of our books are completely free in exchange for your review. We wanted to create a really great resource for readers, almost like a speed dating site for readers and writers to connect. I’ve spent a long time talking just to writers, and I wanted to start connecting with readers. It’s been really fun so far.
4. What makes a great writer?
Sheesh, what a question, Clara! Proust was a great writer but that doesn’t mean I want to read him. I love Dickens but I know so many people who hate him. And a teenager who’s just finished Twilight might say Stephenie Meyer is a great writer, and while I’ve earned the ire of many a writer for sticking up for her, saying she’s “great” might be stretching the language a bit.
Still. I guess I’ll take a shot at it. To be a great writer, I think you have to create interesting characters whom you know completely, to tell a great story, to combine politics, history, religion, and setting without overwhelming that story, and write perfect prose with your own unique flare.
5. How do you handle criticism?
I grieve. Then I get back to writing.
6. You’ve recently introduced HANDS to the reading audience. I’ve read great reviews about this one. Share a few nuggets with us and how we can get a copy for ourselves?
Hands is essentially a story about music, how it connects us to ourselves and to others, even across obstacles like race, age, and death. The story is about Jim, a dying jazz musician who is losing the use of his hands, and a visit he has with one of his former music students, his favorite student, really. During the visit, Jim finds that he can no longer connect—he’s too old and too out of touch—except through the music.
If that sounds interesting, you can get a free preview of the story here:
When Rhea lost their child in stillbirth, her husband Gerald held her in his arms and promised he’d always be there for her. She had little reason to doubt him. So, why is he on the phone whispering to his old high school flame? Were the rumors true, did this girl come back to town to steal her husband? Should she continue to love and trust him, or believe the hype?
The author has rated this short story PG-13 – Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.
Two upcoming contests sent in my email over the weekend by Evette Collins of Hurston Hughes Writers are from The Good Housekeeping Magazine and The Real Simple Story Magazine. I tried last year with the Real Simple Story, but, didn’t quite get there….Have no fear, I’m up for the challenge this year. Only, I’m going for The Good Houskeeping one:) Thanks Evette for paying it forward!
Also, over at Terri S. Nelson’s,, The Reflection From Women Series website, she’s busy gearing up for the launch of the second book in her series, “Reflections from Women on Life’s Defining Moments” due out around August 26th. That cover is gorgeous!
I will be reviewing this latest book in the Reflection from Women Series for my readers at clara54 and if there’s anyone interested in submitting a story to Terri’s next book series, “Reflections from Women in Midlife” visit http://www.reflectionsfromwomen.com. I was one of the lucky contributors in 2010’s “Reflections From Women On Life’s Turning Points” and was very, very thrilled to have made the cut from hundreds of submissions!
Along those same “story” lines? Keep in mind that I’m still accepting your authentic woman stories at my motivational site for women http://authentic-woman.net! and I will be launching my own story via my 1st ebook there! “A Life Toward Authenticity-My Authentic Woman Story” is nearing its 2nd revision and hope to be available for download by month’s end- stay tuned!
GOOD HOUSEKEEPING SHORT STORY CONTEST http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/win/fiction-contest?click=main_sr — NO ENTRY FEE Limit to 3,500 words. Story should reflect an aspect of women’s lives today. Open to US residents 21 years and older. Deadline September 1, 2011. Only one entry per person. Grant winner receives $3,000 and possible publication in May 2012 issue. Two runners-up will receive $750 and possible online publication.
An essay contest from Real Simple magazine; the topic is “When Did You First Understand the Meaning of Love?” The prize is $3,000 and a trip for two to New York to meet the editors. The deadline is Sept. 15, 2011.
Morning All! There’s a bit of a chill in the Illinois air this morning as I’m sitting in my computer room reading from my to- do list. First, I have to finish a geat novel for a clara54 review from Tayari Jones. In Silver Sparrow, we get to know about 2 sisters with different mothers, but, same father. Only one girl knows about the other. At five, Dana Lynn is only too happy to draw a picture of herself & her mother, along with her father & his other family for her teacher…
Dana Lynn is happy that her teacher likes her drawing; so happy, that she takes it out to show her mother and father. At 5 years of age, Dana Lynn will learn from her father that she is” the secret.” Tayari Jones story is set in the 1980s Atlanta and centers around a middle class African American family. I’m loving the way the author weaves this web of fiction! I won’t give more away, but, the review of Silver Sparrow is on the horizon!
Recently found out that more of my poetry was featured on their May/June Femme Vip website here: http://www.femmevip.com under Purple Lounge Section.
Taking an online writers’ Village “Master Class” for competition short story writing . There’s also a short story competition with a deadline of June 30th. Guidelines can be obtained by writing email@example.com Good luck!
Okay, that’s a short recap of what’s to come & what’s happened since my last post. Today I’m literally winding down from a weekend of nurse duties and attempting to cross off a few more things on this Monday’s to-do list before I can curl up with a good book!
Sometimes the big barriers in life aren’t abject poverty, dreaded disease or death. Sometimes it’s the subtle ones set upon us by time and place. The ones that can’t be seen and can’t be acknowledged because we don’t know they are there. They creep up silently on padded feet and, if we sense them at all, we choose not to turn and face them. The decade of the 50s was a time when barriers like these faced those with dark skin, those who lived in closed religious communities, and those who were female.
I was told, “No typing test, no interview.” I took the test and was offered a job in the ranks of those who could do 70-in-a-minute. I had to insist upon the interview I had been promised. I was only twenty and had no real skills in assertiveness. I am amazed I had the wherewithal to insist on anything.
The essentials of this anecdote lie in the fact that I was putout for the wrong reasons. My irritation was a reflection of hubris. However, that pride was probably what goaded me into speaking up so I guess pride is not always a bad thing to have.
It never occurred to me that this typing requirement was one that applied only to women, much less that I should be angry for the sake of my entire gender. Prejudice is sometimes like traveling on well-worn treads; you have no idea you’re in danger. It also feeds on the ignorance of its victims. They benignly accept their lot because they know no better.
Something similar was at work when I married and had children. I happily took a new direction to accommodate my husband’s career and the life the winds of the times presented to me. I left my writing with hardly a backward look. Back then — in the days before women had been made aware — the possibilities were not an open book to be denied or accepted. I just did what was expected by the entire culture.
Things are so much better now. I don’t think women younger than their mid-fifties have any idea of how ignorant most women were to their own possibilities. That there was a time when we didn’t even know we had choices is not fiction.
I had always wanted to sit in a forest or an office or a newsroom with a pencil in my hand. I dreamed writing, lived writing and loved writing. I wanted to write the next Gone With The Wind only set in Utah instead of the South. (I figured enough had been written about the South and hardly anyone knew anything about the unique culture I was raised in.) That was my plan but it was soon gone with the wind.
It was the 1950s and women in that time, and especially in that place, had a notion of who they should be, could be and, mostly, they got it from those around them because many of them couldn’t see the difference from society’s expectations and their own.
“You can’t be a nurse,” my mother said. “Your ankles aren’t sturdy enough.” I also was told I couldn’t be a doctor because that wasn’t a woman’s vocation.
“Be a teacher because you can be home the same hours as your children, but learn to type because every woman should be able to make a living somehow if their husband dies.”
Writing was not a consideration. It didn’t fit any of the requirements. So when I gave it up, it didn’t feel like I was giving up much.
When I began to put myself through college, I took the sound advice and studied education so I’d have a profession. I made 75 cents an hour (this was, after all, the 50s!) working as a staff writer at the Salt Lake Tribune. That I was making a living writing didn’t occur to me. I met a handsome young man and we were married. His career took precedence; that was simply how it was done back then. Then there were two children, carefully planned, because that was how it should be done. By the 70s we both yearned for careers with autonomy. We wanted spend time with our children and be in command of our own lives.
My dream was a victim of the status quo. It never occurred to me to just strike out in my own direction when my husband and children needed me. The pain was there. I just didn’t recognize it so I could hardly address it and fix it.
My husband and I built a business. We raised a lawyer and a mathematician, grew in joy with a grandson, lived through floods and moves, enjoyed travel. For forty years I didn’t write and, during that time, there were changes. Women had more choices but more than that they had become more aware. The equipment, gears and pulleys were in place for a different view on life. In midlife I became aware that there was an empty hole where my children had been but also that the hole was more vast than the space vacated by them. I knew I not only would be able to write, I would need to write.
Then I read that, if those who live until they are fifty in these times may very likely see their hundredth year. That meant that I might have another entire lifetime before me — plenty of time to do whatever I wanted. In fact, it’s my belief that women in their 50s might have more time for their second life because they won’t have to spend the first twenty years preparing for adulthood.
One day I sat down and began to write the “Great Utah Novel.” I thought it would be a lot easier than it was. I had majored in English Lit. Writing a novel should be pretty much second nature.
It wasn’t long before I realized that writing a novel wasn’t as easy as writing the news stories I had written as a young woman. There were certain skills I didn’t have. It was a discouraging time. I might not have to learn speech and motor skills and the ABCs but there sure was a lot I didn’t know about creative writing.
Somewhere after writing about 400 pages (easily a year’s work), I knew something major was wrong.
I took classes at UCLA in writing. I attended writers’ conferences. I read up on marketing. I updated computer skills that had been honed in the days of the Apple II. And all the while I wrote and revised and listened and revised again. This Is the Place finally emerged.
It is about a young woman, Skylar Eccles, who is a half-breed. In Utah where she was born and raised, that meant that she was one-half Mormon and one-half any other religion. Skylar considers marrying a Mormon man in spite of her own internal longing for a career. By confronting her own history — several generations of women who entered into mixed marriages — and by experiencing a series of devastating events, she comes to see she must make her own way in the world, follow her own true north.
Much of what I wrote about is my own story. If my novel were a tapestry, the warp would be real but the woof would be the stuff of imagination—real fiction.
I think I bring a unique vision to my work. Utah has a beauty and wonder of its own. The Mormons are a mystery to many. I think I tell a story about Utah in the 50s that could only be told by someone who lived in that time and place and who was a part of the two cultures—the Mormon and the non-Mormon—that make it a whole.
I am proud that I did write this book. I’m glad that I waited until I was sixty. I believe that forty years brought insight to the story in terms of the obstacles that women faced in those days and a gentler perspective of the culture in Utah.
I also really like being proof that a new life can start late—or that it is never too late to revive a dream.
When I say, I’m keeping it short & sweet…trust me, ok? Anyhoo, for those of you still expressing via ths short story? Try sending a gem out to Warren Adler’s 6th Annual Short Story Contest. The contest runs from Oct-January so there’s plenty of time to get your masterpiece out to the masses. One of the highlights of winning will be publication on Kindle and Amazon.
Local Chicago Author, Theresa Banks recently debuted on blogtalkradio.com & for which I failed to announce earlier (sorry Theresa) but, you still can catch her radio chat at www.blogtalkradio.com/ellacec..
For you Chicago readers, pick up a copy of The Independent Bulletin Newspaper today to read my review of HOPSCOTCH: On Bloodstained Sidewalks, a book by local Author, Kenneth Marshall. I’m proud that the review has gotten much praise & attention for this gripping tale of life in Urban Communities…Will post review here soon.
Finally, my friend Molly has been holding out! Not only does she have a publisher for her first book, she recently sent me a slice of musical work compilation focusing on AIDS Awareness! It’s an awesome piece and I’ve been given permission to post it for you guys very soon.
What I tell ya? Short and sweet…Brevity has its place!
Ok, so Clara54 is actually posting a bit earlier than usual:) It’s because I’ve got that “loving feeling” for you guys and for this whole creative vibe that’s going on, online and off. I mean I’m in a place where my spirit soars and I need to share some Good news! Good news!
First off, my poem SYLVIA was accepted in Poetry Rivals 2010 competition & scheduled for publication November 30th 2010. I’ve known about it for a while and thought what a perfect time to share the great news with my loyal readers! As you know from reading clara54, I spent the last weeks working on writing short stories of Fiction. At present, I’ve recycled one story from years ago. Fashioned another that I opted to send via snail mail for submission to Zoetrope-All Story Contest. This contest has a submission deadline for October 1st and a small fee. I also submitted an online essay to SimpleLife for their contest that states “I Never Thought I’d Become” and of course, I had plenty of ammunition to complete that one!
Sylvia Browder, founder of National Association Women On The Rise has welcomed me into the fold of Women Entrepreneurs where I will be contributing to their expert page on Women Issues. Ms. Browder has also kindly retweeted my last post on facebook and other venues associated with NAWR, which have caused an onslaught of readers for clara54!
I returned to work today after spending some time off and I was literally welcomed back with open arms by co-workers and patients! This outpouring of love from the staff and my beautiful patients, made me humble and think that maybe I should take a respite more often:) As one nurse put it “Wow, seems like everybody’s coming up & giving you hugs” …Ok, so there’s always going to be “haters” in the group:) Moving on…
Today, I got the best news from opening my emails. The editors over at The Printed Blog Network reviewed both my blogs and liked what they read so much that they have asked me to join their network! Joshua karp, the founder also let me know that that this is the first Print publication as well as a paying publication. I wasted no time accepting this one.It’s a good thing when editors invite you to join their team and I’m feeling good because my blogs got some love from The Printed Blog Network. You can check these guys out (and very soon yours truly) at www.theprintedblog.com on twitter at www.twitter.com/theprintedblog and http://www. facebook.com/theprintedblog .
Well, that’s my good news for today & clara54 is just going to bask in ‘That Loving Feeling” for a bit longer because not one day is like the next!
How about it? Come on, share the good news and feel the love!
I’m loving this early midwest morning. A bit of a cloudy overcast coupled with the aftermath of an early morning rain…The simplicity of nature. Anyhow, good morning readers! In the spirit of Literacy and knowledge, I’m enthused about a new Fall beginning. While the children are back in school to get their learning on, adults have no excuse for not picking up some of this extra mind fill for themselves. Recently, I’ve been taking a few email courses. This route of educating myself and adding to my writing portfolio is the best way for me to go because I’m still in the workforce. Those days I do come home all beat up & trampled upon, I’m not looking to do any assigned homework.
E-classes/courses are gaining more momentum with the savvy writer, whether they’re teaching a class ,or taking one. Susan Jonhston wrote on her blog, The Urban Muse recently that she is taking a class with author Steph Auteri called “Five Weeks To Freelance Awesome.” Susan says she is confident in this author’s ability to carry the class and warns that it all starts with the instructor, because not everyone is who they say they are on their blogs and so forth . I’m confident in the e-classes I have signed on for as well and I’m enjoying & learning some new information from everyone of them. Well, the Copywriting class 101 is a lot of information to digest, but when it comes to copywriting, you gotta set the pace for learning about a fast paced industry.
Srinivas Rao teaches from his personal development blog. His courses are timely, informative and filled with his personal journeys to achieving his writing dreams. His course also includes guest posts from other writers. This course from Srinivas I sort of happened into, but once I read all of the inspiring posts for writers, and bloggers, I decided to stay with it. Srinivas is generous with his time, asking for feedback from participants and sending information of importance to aid your personal development.
My all time favorite e-class at the moment is “Think Like an Entrepreneur: Transforming Your Career and Taking Charge of Your Life”. The course is based upon the author’s book of the same title. I’ve just completed part 4 of Deborah Bailey’s e-class. I love the motivational approach and lessons she offer for writers on their journey to becoming solopreneurs! An actual coach who teaches many entrepreneur classes, Deborah shows you the strategy from start to finish on how to accomplish and grow your business. Deborah can be reached at http://www.dbailycoach.com for info on her classes and her book of the same name.
Ok, in the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you: There’s another e-class I’m curious about. It’s called ” Social Media Simplified for Small Business Owners and Solopreneurs” by Chrisitne Gallagher. Whew, got that off my chest:)
Writers, don’t forget the short fiction contests! Zoetrope: All-story is open for business. Visit www.all-story.com/contests.cgi and Writers Digest 6th Annual short story contests in Romance, Horror, Thriller/Suspense and Mystery/Crime Fiction. Are you entering any contests?