Thursday, August 20, 2015

Get Writing Feedback by Taking Classes

I’ve released a new book on the craft of writing, called You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. To celebrate the release, I’m sharing a excerpt from the chapter on Critiques. So far I've shared the intro to the chapter and advice on getting feedback from family and friends; discussed some basics about critique groups; shared challenges to watch out for in a critique group, and listed specific character types to watch out for in your critique group. Here's a new option – taking classes to improve your writing.

Taking Classes

Do a little searching, and chances are you’ll find many options for writing classes to suit every need. Often community colleges offer classes. So do some senior centers or community centers. Writing organizations often have meetings that may include short workshops. They may also sponsor classes or conferences. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is an international organization with regional branches around the world. See if they have meetings in your area.

You might find paid classes, free meetings, or social events through other local groups, such as Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, or Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. While these groups don’t focus on writing for children, you could learn valuable writing techniques. There are also local or regional groups, such as SouthWest Writers, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas, has picture book classes and other writing events, some paid and some free.

An online webinar
If you can’t find a local class at a convenient time and place, you still have options. Several organizations and individuals offer classes online or through the mail. Two well-known organizations focusing on writing for kids are The Institute of Children’s Literature and Children’s Book Insider.

You’ll find a lot of variety in costs, course material, and how much feedback is provided. Shop around to find the class that works best for you. Do you want to learn the business side of publishing or focus on craft techniques? Do you want lectures with no homework? Do you want specific feedback from an expert teacher on your own work? Make sure that is included.

As an example, Gotham Writers Workshop offers a ten-week children’s book writing class for $400 (as of this writing). This fee covers lectures, writing exercises, and two opportunities for critiques. The Picture Book Academy offers a five-week course focused on picture books for $379. It includes access to a critique group and help through conference calls; a personal critique with a teacher is an extra $100. The Online Writing Workshops by author Anastasia Suen cost $299 and involves 12 lessons, with several critiques. She has workshops that focus on children’s novels, picture book biographies, nonfiction picture books, and rhyming picture books.

These are only a few of the many options. They are listed as examples or what’s available; I’m not offering a personal recommendation. Many experienced authors give workshops in person or online, so check out local events or browse online offerings. You can sign up for my mailing list to learn about any upcoming webinars:

Retreats build connections
You’ll also find some wonderful writing retreats available, some for a weekend and some for a week or more. Many are put on by SCBWI, in lovely locations around the world. The Highlights Foundation has regular retreats in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, on a variety of subjects related to writing for children. They are highly praised for the content, the setting, and the food. While the retreats are expensive, Highlights gives many scholarships.

Some retreats may have a particular focus. For example, Picture Book Boot Camp in western Massachusetts, run by authors Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, is a master class for picture book authors. Other retreats cover all genres or simply allow writers time to work on their own projects.

One bonus to taking a class or attending a retreat is that you may meet other writers, who could become your critique partners after the class ends. This is easier with a live class, but even an online class may offer a chance for students to chat and connect.

Have you tried any classes in writing for children? What works well for you – a live class, online tutorial, etc.?

You can get this whole essay, and a lot more – including a chapter on Advanced Critique Questions – in You Can Write for Children: A Guide to Writing Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. In this book, you will learn:

How to explore the wide variety of age ranges, genres, and styles in writing stories, articles and books for young people.
How to find ideas.
How to develop an idea into a story, article, or book.
The basics of character development, plot, setting, and theme.
How to use point of view, dialogue, and thoughts.
How to edit your work and get critiques.
Where to learn more on various subjects.

Order for Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback.

Sign up for Chris’s Workshop Newsletter for classes and critique offers.

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