Monday, April 16, 2012

writing classes

A few months ago, I found a great writing class at my local community college and signed up right away.

Narration: Writing the Young Voice
We will focus on Young Adult Literature and Coming-of-Age Adult Fiction to explore how fiction writers, like Margo Rabb and David Mitchell, use diction and tone to craft believable teen narrators. We will engage in writing exercises where you will be asked NOT to act your age! There will be an opportunity for students to receive feedback on a short piece (500 words).

Sounds pretty awesome, right? It was supposed to start on Thursday. Well, I got a call today. It's been canceled. Not enough people signed up. I'm so disappointed! I was really looking forward to it. I'm hoping to find another writing class to take, maybe this summer.

However, my last attempt at a writing class was not quite what I expected.

Last fall, I took a class called Writing Children's Books.
This beginner-level course will assist you in exploring the field of children’s literature. Emphasis will be placed on the children’s book market and getting published.

Not too bad, right? Each week we focused on a different kind of children's book: from picture books to YA (the reason I was there, obviously). The class consisted of five people, including me. Two much older than me, one probably around my age, and one lady who only showed up like twice and didn't speak much English.

I don't feel like I learned a whole lot in the class that I didn't already know from reading blogs and researching online. However, the class was good in that it forced me to write. We did free writing during class, which at first I thought was a big waste of time. Why are using up class time to write, when I could just do it at home? Because knowing me, I wouldn't do it at home.

I did not mesh well with the people in my class. We had very different writing styles and goals. From the beginning, they knew I was interested in YA and wanted to write a YA novel. Yet when we finally got the YA class, all they talked about was how stupid YA books were and "Why would anyone want to read those books? No wonder teens don't want to read."

Well... they kinda had a point. Our teacher brought in examples of books for each week's theme. For YA she brought in Monster by Walter Dean Myers and Chinese Cinderella. And we talked about Twilight. That was it. When I mentioned authors like Sarah Dessen, John Green and Susane Colasanti, my teacher acted like she had never heard of any of them. I tried to explain that my YA novel is contemporary, and does not include vampires, but by that point, they didn't care.

We talked about how more adults are reading YA now, but that we aren't really sure why. Then the old lady says, "I know why. It's because they are dumb." Now, she knew I read YA and want to write a YA book. I talked about it every single week. I couldn't believe she would say that! So I said to her, "Well I read YA and I'm not dumb." She didn't say anything. Then I said something about how I like to read all kinds of books and I also read adult books and she said "Well that's good" or something like that. UGH!

Later on, we had to do a writing exercise where we described something we experienced when we were younger. First we wrote it in first person and then we wrote the same thing in third person. She wrote both in first person (the second time it was written from a different character's point of view, but still first person). I wanted to say "Now who is dumb?!" But I didn't. I did, however, point out that she wrote in first person both times, but she didn't get it.

However, she redeemed herself at the end of the class when she told me that I was the one from our class who was most likely to actually get a book published. So all was forgiven.

I think the best thing I got out of the class was sharing my writing for the first time. I read the first page of my WIP (the one I'm still working on) and got a lot of good feedback from everyone, including our teacher. They also liked the stuff that I wrote during our free writing time. Overall, I am glad I took the class, but I wish I could find something better, and something more focused on YA.

Well, since I don't have class for the next 4 weeks, my Thursday nights are now free. I am planning on going to trivia night, Zumba, and an information meeting about possibly becoming a sign language interpreter. And try to find time to do some writing.


  1. I swear...I never get tired of hearing about this weird class you took. I'm bummed the other one was cancelled, though. Boo. :-(

  2. Too bad about the classes.

    I don't know why people put down YA so much...and then rush out to see the movies based on the books. Idiots.

    Have you checked to see if your library hosts a writing group?

    Someone in one of my writing groups is also a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I know they meet in Schaumburg and might have a group near you, too. Could be a good place to start:

    1. That is so true! Good point.

      I don't have a library card, but hoping to get one soon!

      I really need to get involved with SCBWI. Thanks for the reminder!