Monday, April 21, 2014

Wordcraft -- Treasures for writers, avoiding the trolls

Questions I’ve heard lately from writers: how can I get my work published? how do I find an agent? where can I find somebody to read my work? Even, most provocatively, Dallas Morning News online editor Robert Wilonsky’s question from last Monday: whether it’s even possible to teach creative writing.

To offer help, I’ve put together a list of resources which should help point the way to the treasures of creative writing while avoiding the trolls.

First, before you apply for that master’s program in creative writing, consider dipping a toe into the writing waters by checking out free to moderately-priced, non-degreed classes, such as:

-- Dallas Public Library creative writing classes. Free, every Friday from 2 - 4 p.m. at the Central Branch, 1515 Young Street. In the third floor conference room A, or ask at the information desk. Classes are geared for beginning writers, and explore themes, topics and techniques to help aspiring writers improve their creative writing skills.

-- Dallas Writer’s Garret Literary Center, 10809 Garland Road, Dallas. Free creative writing exercises the first Saturday of every month, noon to 1 p.m., at the Nasher Sculpture Center and Crow Collection of Asian Art. The Writer’s Garret also offers moderately-priced one-day, weekend, and three week to six week long courses, often without prerequisites. See for classes starting this month. The Writer’s Garret also sponsors critique groups (free for first-timers, $3 thereafter).

-- Dallas County Community Colleges. Several colleges in the DCCC system offer creative writing as part of their continuing education programs. For class schedules, costs and perpetuates, see

-- SMU Creative Writing Program, typically $450 for five class sessions, one per week. For details, see

Maybe you’re already immersed in writing, and you want to refine your skills, connect with other writers. Then consider attending conferences, such as:

-- DFW Writer’s Conference, Hurst Conference Center, 1601 Campus Dr., Hurst, Texas. The conference is May 3-4, $390, which includes lots of face time with both pro and aspiring writers, and a chance to pitch your manuscript to an agent. Add, or take as a stand-alone, pre-conference workshops with author Les Edgerton ($75) or agent/author Donald Maass ($100). I can speak for the value of Maass’s class. He’s amazing and this is a bargain price. For details, see

-- Writers’ League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference, June 27 – 29, Hyatt Regency Austin, 208 Barton Springs Road, Austin, Texas. Cost: $459, with agent pitches for an additional charge. For details, see

-- ArmadilloCon, July 25-27, Omni Southpark, 4140 Governors Row, Austin, Texas. I‘ve got a soft spot for this fantasy/sci-fi convention. It’s cheap ($35 for the conference plus $70 for its writers workshop) and Austin-weird. I sold my first story as well as my most recent one based on feedback from the workshop. No agents, but plenty of other writers to talk to. Stories are due June 15 to secure a place in the workshop. See

Or, maybe you need a support group (and who doesn’t?) to lean on, listen to your writing, give you tips, share your gripes. In addition to some options listed above, consider these:

-- Writers Guild of Texas, meetings on third Mondays, 7-8:30 p.m., Richardson Public Library, 900 Civic Dr., Richardson, Texas. Visitors welcome. Tonight’s meeting features Susannah Charleson, bestselling author of Scent of the Missing and The Possibility Dogs. See for programs and lists of additional critique groups.

-- Mystery Writers of America, Dallas chapter, meets first Saturdays, 9:30 -11:30 a.m., Texas Land & Cattle, 812 South Central Expressway, Richardson, Texas. Fee is $5 per meeting, cash only (correct change greatly appreciated). Even non-mystery writers can  love MWA’s programs, which recently featured Dallas Morning News book reviewer Joy Tipping and Southern vampire series author Charlaine Harris. For information, see

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