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425Latinidad 3/13: 10th Anniversary - Writing Classes

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  • Marcela Landres
    Mar 12, 2013
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      Latinidad 3/13: 10th Anniversary – Writing Classes

      1. Saludos
      2. Q&A: Liz Gonzalez
      3. Resources: Unpublished/Self-Published Novel Prize
      1. Saludos

      In continuation of my celebration of Latinidad's tenth anniversary, I am
      culling the best advice and advisors from back issues to help you get
      published. Previously, I've discussed managing money and time. This
      month's focus is honing your craft.

      Writing guides are no substitute for writing classes. Neither are one-day,
      one-weekend, or one-week long workshops. The ideal environment in
      which to hone your craft is a formal writing class that takes place over
      the course of an eight to twelve week semester. I highly recommend the
      online courses offered by UCLA Extension Writers' Program. To learn
      more, read this month's Q&A with Liz Gonzalez, Instructor, UCLA Extension.

      Helping Latinos get published,
      Marcela Landres

      To read past issues of Latinidad®, visit
      2. Q&A

      Liz Gonzalez teaches creative writing courses online through the UCLA
      Extension Writers' Program. She teaches "Essential Beginnings: An
      Introductory Creative Writing Workshop" and "Writer as Witness to Life."
      For more information about Liz, please visit http://www.lizgonzalez.com/
      For more information about the UCLA Extension Writers' Program, please
      visit http://www2.uclaextension.edu/writers/

      Q: When is a writer ready for classes (e.g. when they have an idea, or have
      written some pages, or have a complete manuscript, etc.)?

      A: Since there are a wide range of courses available to any level of writer, I
      think that a person is ready for classes when he or she feels comfortable
      to share his or her work with others and wants to improve his or her craft
      in a class environment. For example, one of the courses I teach through
      the Writers' Program is "Essential Beginnings: An Introductory Creative
      Writing Workshop." My students in this class vary. Some have been writing
      in the closet or have wanted to try their hand at writing, some want a
      brush up on the basics, and some fall somewhere between. All want to ease
      into creative writing and are ready to work with a group.

      Q: What are the advantages of online classes vs. brick-and-mortar classes?

      A: As one who has taken and taught on-land and online courses, one big
      advantage of the online courses is convenience. Students can check in
      anytime of the day or night, in their pajamas or frumpies, after the children
      have gone to bed, during a break at work, or before starting the day. I also
      like having time to reread the lectures and work in the workshop and digest
      them before responding. For a beginner, I think the anonymity is a safe way
      to get started. I also like that I get to work with people from around the
      country and world. I have students stationed in the Middle East, and traveling
      or living in Asia, Europe, and South Africa. The diversity of voices and
      perspectives from around the world make the classes and work more
      engaging than in a local classroom, even one in a city as diverse as Los

      Q: Which attributes and/or credentials should writers seek in a teacher?

      A: This is a difficult question to answer. Students could take a course with
      their favorite writer and find that the writer isn't an engaged teacher. Word
      of mouth isn't always available. And having a degree or a great deal of
      publications doesn't necessarily make a good instructor. I suggest that
      writers read the instructor's bio to see if there is a pull. One can always
      get a feel for an instructor during the first week, reading the posts,
      lectures, and assignments, and if the class doesn't seem right for the
      student, s/he can drop in time to get a refund.

      Q: Could you offer three tips on how writers can make the most of their
      experience in class?

      A: * Be open. If you come in with a specific set of expectations, beyond
      what the course promises, you might miss what that person has to teach you.
      * Print the lectures and handouts. Read them closely, and reread them.
      * Make time in your schedule for the class and meet deadlines.

      Q: On the other hand, what are the top three mistakes writers should
      absolutely avoid?

      A: My response to this question applies most to new writers.
      * Dismissing the value of rewriting. I am a big advocate of "rewriting is
      * Not taking the time to hone one's craft before sending work out for
      publication. Many writers, including myself, regret having "shoddy"
      work published. You can never take it back!
      * Not reading. Somewhere someone said, "Beware of the writer who has
      written more than he or she has read." It's too true.

      Q: How has your own writing influenced your teaching? And how has
      your teaching influenced your writing?

      A: In addition to "Essential Beginnings," I also teach a course I designed,
      "Writer as Witness to Life," which addresses what I learned on my own
      about "writing creatively about events and experiences that are personal
      and important without getting too self-absorbed, sentimental, preachy, or
      narrow." All the lessons I use for both classes are craft lessons I wish had
      been taught to me when I started writing. They also give beginning writers
      a stronger foundation in the craft basics.

      Teaching creative writing keeps my craft chops sharp. It's a constant
      reminder to practice a writing process and develop layer by layer. My
      students' creative approaches to the writing assignments teach me too.
      As poet and activist Raul Salinas would tell his workshop groups, I come to
      learn as well.

      3. Resources

      "I read How Editors Think in one sitting and was engaged from beginning to
      end. It is well written, highly informative, and humorous—I found myself
      laughing out-loud in a few spots! Thanks for sharing the secrets of the trade."
      —Mayra Lazara Dole, author of Down to the Bone

      Inspired by my experience as a former Simon & Schuster editor, How Editors
      Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You reveals what it really takes to get
      published. For more information, visit:
      Deadline: March 31
      The Literary Blockbuster Challenge sponsored by Inkubate offers $5000
      for an unpublished or self-published novel that combines elements of
      literary and mainstream fiction. For more information, visit
      Application Deadline: April 8
      Class Dates: June 10-July 19
      The Odyssey Writing Workshop combines advanced lectures, exercises,
      extensive writing, and in-depth feedback on student manuscripts in the
      genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. For more information, visit
      Deadline: April 15
      The Editors' Prize Contest offers $1000 and publication in Spoon River
      Poetry Review for a poem. For more information, visit http://www.srpr.org/
      Dates: April 26-28
      Features workshops with poets Lorna Dee Cervantes, Joe Ahearn, and
      Tony Hoagland, among others. For more information, visit
      Registration Deadline: April 29
      Dates: May 3-5
      Features craft classes, panel discussions, and meetings with agents and
      editors. Participants include Justin Torres, Emma Straub, and Helena
      Maria Viramontes. For more information, visit
      Deadline: April 30
      The Henry Hazlitt Contest for Business Fiction offers a prize of $500
      and a $2000 advance for publication by Fiscal Press for a novel on the
      theme of business or entrepreneurship. For more information, visit
      Deadline: April 30
      The E.M. Koeppel Short Fiction Award offers $1,100 and publication on
      the Writecorner Press web site for a short story. For more information,
      visit http://www.writecorner.com/
      Deadline: May 1
      Zone 3 Press offers $1000 and publication for a work of creative nonfiction.
      For more information, visit http://www.apsu.edu/zone3/contests
      Deadline: May 1
      The Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize sponsored by the Committee on Honors
      and Awards of the Modern Language Association offers a cash award for
      an outstanding book published in English or Spanish in the field of Latin
      American and Spanish literatures and cultures. For more information, visit
      $50,000 LITERARY PRIZE
      Deadline: May 1
      St. Francis College sponsors the biannual $50,000 Literary Prize to a
      mid-career author who has recently published their third to fifth work
      of fiction. Self-published books and English translations will be considered.
      For more information, visit http://www.sfc.edu/page.cfm?p=4045
      Please forward Latinidad® widely.
      For more resources, visit http://www.marcelalandres.com/resources.html
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      Visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/marcelalandres/

      "In order to even begin to learn how to play his instrument, it takes the
      guitarist weeks to build calluses on his fingertips; it takes the saxophonist
      months to strengthen his lip so that he might play his instrument for only
      a five-minute stretch; it can take the pianist years to develop dual hand
      and multiple finger coordination. Why do writers assume they can just
      `write' with no training whatsoever—and then expect, on their first
      attempt, to be published internationally? What makes them think they're
      so much inherently greater, need so much less training than any other artists?"
      --Noah Lukeman

      Latinidad® © 2003 by Marcela Landres

      Marcela Landres
      Author of the e-book "How Editors Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You"