Local Writing Classes and Another Local Writers’ Group

Northampton Community College has two new non-credit writing courses starting in March. They seem a little pricey for what you get (especially as compared to other courses I’ve taken there), but here’s the info in case anyone is interested:

Writing Your Life Story (WRITE111): After years of living, you have many memories. Some are faded, and some seem so different from who you are today they might as well have happened to someone else. There are many benefits to turning them into a written story: develop your writing skills, feel more connected to your past, share your past with family or friends, and reflect back on your life for stories worth writing. This class will guide you through the simple steps and techniques that will help you gather the material, write it in scenes, and then organize it so it can be read by others. ‘How to’ book is included.
Location: Fowler Family Center, South Side Bethlehem, Room 412
Date: Tuesdays, March 4 – 25, 2014
Time: 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Fee: $99.00
Instructor: Jerry Waxler, MS, is a speaker, teacher, therapist and writer and has written the book: “Learn to Write Your Memoir in 4 Weeks”

Writing Your First Novel Part I (WRITE103): For people who always thought they could write a novel if only they knew where to begin. In easy steps and simple exercises, we will explore plot, characters and dialogue. Includes subject selection, research, pacing, discipline, agents, contracts, and routes to publication. Our focus will be on the fiction novel.
Location: Main Campus, Alumni Hall, Room 127
Date: Tuesdays, Mar 11 – Apr 15, 2014
Time: 6:30 – 9:30 PM
Fee: $89.00
Instructor: Kathleen Coddington is a retired school librarian who has written 4 novels.

I noticed in the second instructor’s bio that she is a member of the Pocono-Lehigh Romance Writers. I had never heard of that group, but it turns out they are the local chapter of the Romance Writers of America. They meet at the Palmer Branch of the Easton Library, same as the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group. Even if you don’t write romance, you may want to check them out. Their schedule for 2014 lists many topics that are universal to all genres, such as Protagonist/Antagonist (April) and Editing Software (October). Besides, you just might get assigned to the Romance or Romantic Comedy genre in the next NYC Midnight contest!



If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland

I recently finished reading a small book I picked up at the Bethlehem Public Library’s Book Sale: one of those unexpected titles I never would have pursued, but it somehow found me.

There were some charming parts, and I especially liked when the Author shared some of her students’ writing with commentary to help illustrate some of her points or suggestions. She was a big advocate for writing freely and regularly without being too critical of yourself as you go along. She talked about just telling stories the way that you would tell them to a friend, rather than trying to be too literary.

There were also some strange parts. For example, when she was discussing Spirit in writing, I got pretty lost in some of her reasoning, but overall, I’m glad that I read the book.

There was one passage that I found particularly interesting, and I thought I’d share it here with you (or at least a few snippets of it). The reason it struck me, I think, is because I’ve often felt like this–that I tend to struggle sometimes with being believably removed from my characters:

. . . if you are writing stories,  you must never be an advocate of your characters. Never be saying (in so many words), ‘See what a fascinating heroine this is, how adorable: how fine and brave the hero!’ . . . the trouble is the more you try to say your heroine is wonderful, the more your readers will look at her dubiously. They know you are lying in a way, that you really don’t see her clearly in your imagination as an actual and living person, but you are trying to put her over on them; you are a propagandist for her.

In ‘The Possessed’ Dostoevsky describes a famous writer, one of the characters of the novel. Dostoevsky says:

He described the wreck of some steamer on the English coast, of which he had been the witness, and how he had seen the drowning people saved and the dead bodies brought ashore. All this rather long and verbose article was written solely with the object of self-display. One seemed to read between the lines: ‘Concentrate yourselves on me. Behold what I was like at those moments. What are the sea, the storm, the rocks, the splinters of wrecked ships to you? I have described all that sufficiently to you with my mighty pen . . . Look rather at ME, see how I was unable to bear the sight and turned away from it. Here I stood with my back to it, here I was horrified and could not bring myself to look; I blinked my eyes–isn’t that interesting?’

I have so often been troubled by my own stories, especially those I wanted to be particularly pure Art, earnest and uncompromising. All the characters in them (except the villain) would seem to be ME and it might read like this:

‘I love you,’ said Brenda Ueland to Brenda Ueland.
‘I love you too,’ Brenda answered shyly, with a sincere look in her fine, strong face.

February Events

I know of at least three writing events in February (NOTE: the 3rd one has been moved to March):

1. The NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge (7th-15th)
There’s still time to get in on the competition; the deadline is this Friday, the 6th. If you decide to enter, be sure to take advantage of the $5 off deal for tweeting or posting to Facebook. You must do that *before* you register. John, Vicki, Nicole, and I are signed up!

2. The Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group monthly Writer’s Cafe (13th – postponed due to snow; new date Feb. 20th)
Meets on the 2nd Thursday of the month, now at the Palmer branch of the Easton library. Vicki, Holly, and I have been known to make an appearance. The first half hour is typically a presentation about the writing craft. This month’s topic is “Social Media for Authors.” That will be followed by a read-and-critique time, where you can share a work-in-progress of up to 500 words and get feedback from the group. They will be hosting their annual conference, The Write Stuff, in March.

3. A Writing Workshop at the Northampton library – NEW DATE: March 8th
Information from the NAPL website: If you dream of making a living as a writer or photographer, turn that dream into a reality with a two-hour hands-on workshop on February 15th March 8th, at 1:00 PM at the library. The workshop will be presented by Johanna Billings, editor of the Northampton Press, Whitehall-Coplay Press and Catasauqua Press.  In addition to 15 years in the newspaper industry, presenter Ms. Billings spent 10 years earning a living as a freelance writer. Her presentation will cover how to increase your earnings, generating salable ideas, pitching those ideas to newspapers, magazines and book publishers, selling an idea to more than one market, securing assignments editors want, and need, to give out, how to best communicate with editors, format submissions and generally make editors’ jobs easier. This program is free and open to the public. Registration is preferred but not required; call or stop in to sign up!

GroupWrite I

One of the planned activities at the Writer’s Salon was to write some stories as a group. Each of us took the time to jot down an opening sentence/paragraph, but we ran out of time to pass them around. I thought it might be fun to try it here. I’ll start a story in the comments on this post, and then anyone can add to it with another comment below. Feel free to write a sentence or a paragraph – whatever strikes your fancy. You can comment as many times as you like during the process. We’ll just bounce it around until it comes to a conclusion.