|Yes, they look cute now... but just wait.|
In this case the chickens are writing classes. Every January, my inbox fills up with promos from the dozen or so writers' groups I belong to for a breathtaking array of classes. As I believe that even a good writer can always get better, I sign up. And sign up. And sign up.
At $10-$20 each, the online ones are a bargain, and even the bad ones generally produce at least one usable tip. Unfortunately, my aspirations always outpace the hours available in my day. Especially in those months when I discover that I've signed up for six classes at the same time (what was I thinking?), I invariably end up archiving the materials for at least half of them. The result: I have stacks of class materials I've never even opened.
This year, the normal deluge of online classes was supplemented by a tantalizing array of traditional classes, the kind where you travel somewhere, stay in a hotel for a weekend, and sit in a classroom for 24 hours over two days, packing your brain with as much as it can hold (and then some).
Signing up for these classes took a good deal more thought than the online ones ever had. The fees were steep (relatively, though a bargain for what you get), the travel costs daunting, and each outing required an investment of from one to three days of vacation time.
But how could I say no to a chance to spend two days with Donald Maass, agent extraordinaire and author of "Writing the Breakout Novel," my writer's bible? Or to learning the secrets of writing screenplays (and how to apply them to novel writing) from David S. Freeman in his first-ever offering of "Beyond Structure" in my native Southeast? And, of course, how could I miss my annual Hermit Week at Isle of Palms, living in a multi-million-dollar oceanfront mansion and writing for six glorious days with a dozen other novelists just as besotted with words as I am?
I couldn't, and so I signed up for all three. Oh joy! Oh raptures unconfined! (Yes, I admit it. We writers have an odd idea of what's fun.)
And then out of the blue came an opportunity to attend the Romance Writers of America's national convention in New York City as the representative for my chapter, Lowcountry Romance Writers (based in Charleston, S.C.). I've never attended, and the chapter offered to pay a sizable chunk of my expenses because none of the chapter's other officers could attend. Four days of seminars with the industry's top editors and agents? I'm so there!
And then I looked at my calendar. And my bank account. And my rapidly dwindling supply of vacation days. I can't archive these classes. I can't even lurk in them. I have to actually attend and participate to get value for the investment I'm making. I have to be in Pennsylvania for three days in March, in Atlanta for three days in early June, in New York for five days in late June, and in South Carolina for seven days in November. And again I find myself asking: What was I thinking?
Even so, I'm excited by the prospect of all I'll learn. These opportunities are a blessing. I'm especially blessed to be able to take advantage of them in this economy, when so many people don't have that luxury. And so I not only plan to soak up every last drop of knowledge offered, but also to do my very best to stretch beyond my comfort zone and go where the instructors can lead me.
I already know my top New Year's resolution for 2012, though. Read my lips: No new classes.
That doesn't mean I won't be learning, of course. After all, I still have all those archived classes just waiting to be discovered.
What is your experience with writing classes? Teach them or take them, love them or loathe them, please share your best and worst experiences, or pass along the best (or worst) tip you've learned.
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