Two free writing courses

There are loads of wonderful writing classes around, but if you’re strapped for cash, I’ve found two free multi-week writing courses from universities.

How Writers Write Fiction from the University of Iowa started yesterday, so sign up quickly. It’s a 6-week course, running through Nov. 21, with video lessons, online discussion and writing assignments. It’s part of the university’s International Writing Program and taught be IWP director and U of I Professor of English Christopher Merrill and author and Wittenberg University Professor of Creative Writing R. Clifton Spargo, as well as a bunch of contributing authors.

Among the topics the course covers are opening lines, setting, world building, storytelling and revision.

Starting Oct. 27 is a Start Writing Fiction course from The Open University in England. This course is scheduled for 8 weeks with three hours per week of course work. The course is taught by noevlist and short story writer Derek Neale, and also includes videos from other established writers.

Topics covered include the rituals of writing and the importance of keeping a journal, developing ideas, reflecting on writing and editing, research techniques and ways to turn events into a plot. Participants review and comment on the work of fellow writers and receive peer feedback on their own work.

Learning new techniques and tools for fiction writing and creating characters is always good. And for free? Well, who can pass it up?

If you sign up for these, say hi and come back here to let me know what you think.

Creating Brilliant Places to Write: The Writing Barn

The Writing Barn

The Writing Barn

There are many wonderful things about being a writer in the Austin, Texas, community, and one of the best is The Writing Barn. I admit I’m biased. The Barn was created by my brilliant friend and author Bethany Hegedus (Between Us Baxters). But no one can leave The Writing Barn without being just a little thrilled to know that a place like this exists and feeling that desire to want to come back.

Developing a great space to write and create is a skill, and I wanted to talk to Bethany about this dream space and what she’s doing to help writers everywhere.

Okay, Bethany, you know how much I love what you’ve done with this place. And to think that it’s a former horse stable! But it’s much more than a pretty space. What was your mission when you created The Writing Barn?

Our mission at The Writing Barn is summed up in our tag line: Retreat. Create. Celebrate. We offer writers, and others, a place to get away, clear their heads, read, write, and relax with private or group retreats. We offer classes and workshops to aid writers in the process and creation of their projects. And, we celebrate the journey along the way with visiting authors and illustrators autographing the “party porch.”  We also are available for book launch parties, book-themed baby showers, and even small weddings.

You have a lot of wonderful events there, including one I attended with your wonderful agent Alexandra Penfold. Tell us what you’ve got in the pipeline.

Author Lisa McMann signs the party porch at The Writing Barn

Author Lisa McMann signs the party porch at The Writing Barn

Oh, there is a ton going on at The Writing Barn this fall. Award-winning Latino author Francisco X. Stork (Marcelo and the Real World) is leading our last Advanced Writer Weekend Workshop for the 2013 season. The Advanced Writer Weekend events are a combination of lecture and workshop and the weekend is kicked off with a Cocktails & Conversation get together on the porch. Stork will be lecturing on “Thoughts, Gestures, and Dialogue” and we will discuss how to use reflection, imagination, and authorial technique to create and deepen our character’s complexities. The application deadline for the Nov. 8-10 workshop is Sept. 12. It’s a real treat to have Stork teach with us and I can’t wait to get many ah-ha moments for my own writing. You can apply here.

On Sept. 14, we have Triple Threat: Voice & Character with three amazing S&S authors: Newbery Honor author Kathi Appelt, Susan Fletcher, and Uma Krishnaswami. Our triple threat team will be co-presenting and writing exercises will be sprinkled throughout the workshop. Plus, included with the registration fee, each attendee will receive a hardcover copy of each author’s latest book: True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Appelt, Falcon Glass by Fletcher, and The Problem With Being Slightly Heroic by Krishnaswami. For more information see here and to register, email info@thewritingbarn.com.

Author Maggie Stiefvater at The Writing Barn

Author Maggie Stiefvater at The Writing Barn

The weekend of Sept. 21 and 22 is going to be a busy one. On Sept. 21, Michael B. Druxman, a veteran Hollywood screenwriter, will be teaching The Art of Storytelling, which will focus on screenwriting but has techniques for all writers to apply to their work. Then, in the afternoon, Michael Noll will present his Read to Write Workshop, where attendees examine scenes from novels and short stories and apply author techniques to their own works-in-progress. On Sept. 22, Dean Lofton, offers her popular Write Your Life as a Woman class. Attendees unplug, write by hand, and enter an inspirational and no-judgment zone.

For teens, in October, Yale grad and young-adult author Sara Kocek (Promise Me Something) leads College Essay Bootcamp, and I will be teaching Perfecting the Picture Book, one of our weekly class offerings, and agent Alexandra Penfold with Upstart Crow will be our agent guest, via Skype.

Told you it’s going to be a busy fall! But there is something for everyone. Writers in Texas, writers traveling to Texas. Austin is known as the Paris of Y,A and we’re thrilled to offer a diversity of programming. We hope to see many of your blog readers join us for these fantastic events.

How do you choose the people you bring to The Writing Barn to do workshops?

Sara Zarr fields questions at The Writing Barn

Sara Zarr fields questions at The Writing Barn

As a writer myself, I start with thinking about who I’d love to learn craft from. Then I approach The Writing Barn Brain Trust—writing friends from all over the country, mentors of mine, including Cynthia Leitich Smith and Kathi Appelt, and others—and generate a list of superb authors who not only write well but are tremendous teachers. Then I send out the invites. I was thrilled this launch season when Sara Zarr answered with a big ole’ YES before she even finished reading the invite email. She’d heard of The Writing Barn, had seen pictures of us online and was dying to come. Her sold-out event this April really took the work we do to a whole new level.

Locally, we have been and will be available for writers and others to rent and host their own classes and workshops.  NLP Austin is hosting a weekend workshop in late September and we’ve had interest from The Daring Way, facilitators who’ve trained with Dr. Brené Brown, author of the best-selling Daring Greatly and new O magazine contributor. It’s exciting to get inquiries and see what groups and types of events are interested in our space.

What do you hope people will take away from their time at The Writing Barn?

The Texas Book Festival party at The Writng Barn

The Texas Book Festival party at The Writng Barn

When writers come for retreat, I hope they leave feeling they spent their time well at the page, and they were able to do so without the distractions of daily life. I hope they leave renewed and fall in love again with the work.

With our classes and workshops, I hope writers leave armed with new tools for their toolboxes and plenty of ah-ha moments that they would not have had if they didn’t place themselves in a creative and safe learning environment.

And, with our parties, boy—I hope they’ve had a grand ole’ time, chatting under the trees, meeting new people, and if it’s a book launch, with a brand new autographed copy of someone’s dream tucked in their arms.

What are your future plans for The Writing Barn?

Lots! An expanded Advanced Writer Weekend Workshop series, some whole-novel retreats, perhaps some offerings for illustrators and in 2014, we will host a launch event for my new picture book, Grandfather Gandhi, co-written with Arun Gandhi and illustrated by Evan Turk. 2014 is going to be hopping!

Thanks, Bethany! Looks like I’m going to be spending a lot of time at The Writing Barn next year.

Check out Bethany talking about the Barn in this interview: