Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wordcraft -- New and classy writing classes

It’s been a month since Christmas and maybe you, like me, sometimes think, especially here in the northern hemisphere in the dead of winter -- we need a little Christmas right now! Consider giving the gift of a writing class to yourself.

In Dallas, I’m dreaming of a new class from the continuing education program at Southern Methodist University (SMU). A class for people who’ve completed a novel, even if one they’re still trying to peddle. It’s called Novel 2.0.

SMU’s Continuing and Professional Education (CAPE) creative writing program filled a need for me and others, who didn’t want another degree. We just wanted writing instruction, with a goal. The program took me to seminars in New York with editors and agents. But it was aimed at first-time novelists, not continuing writers.

“(And) as time went on, we began to realize that writing your first book and writing your second are different things,” CAPE director Suzanne Frank told the audience last weekend at Dallas’s Times Ten Cellars.

Enter Novel 2.0. The numbering system may confuse those who went through the SMU program a couple of years or more ago. It is not the novel track whose multiple classes could lead to a writer to New York.

The new eight-week class for writers with at least one completed novel will be taught by Ms. Frank, writer of several mystery and science fiction novels, and Daniel J. Hale, an Agatha Award-winning mystery novelist.

It will include, among other segments, one on what Ms. Frank called “prewriting -- all the stuff you ever do before you sit down and put anything on the page; an investment in your thinking.”

Followed by actual construction of the story. “But we’re going to do it backwards,” she said. “We’re going to start with the end and with the agent of antagonism.”

One of the earlier goals of the previous SMU program included writing the climatic scene. That done, however, most students in the classes I attended got stuck like old 33 rpm records at the beginning, endlessly rewriting the opening.

(Okay, some members of my current workshop will want to kill me for saying that.)

I’ll caution would-be students -- SMU courses are not the least expensive in town. If you’ve never taken a writing class or two before, you may want to start with some from schools in the Dallas County Community College District. A continuing education class
from DCCCD’s Richland College originally sparked my interest in writing fiction. Brookhaven College offers an even larger selection, both classroom and online. See for SMU’s programs, for Brookhaven, or for Richland.


Duotrope’s Digest added contests to its listings, reversing its longtime policy against fee-based markets. Not all contests are equal, but how better to compare them than through Duotrope? See, and consider subscribing to get latest updates delivered to your inbox.

I’m disappointed the Western short story contest run by Moonlight Mesa Associates isn’t on the list, but see for details. This year the Arizona publisher has added the requirement that stories must be set in Arizona.

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