Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 29, 2013 - 9:38am

Hey everyone. I tried to do this in another thread but it was buried down so far I didn't think it was effective. Figured I'd break it out into its own topic. 

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Rob, and I'm the class director at LitReactor. I've been at the gig for a few months now, and being settled, I figure it's a good time to open a dialogue. We just launched a new landing page for the classes (here), which I hope answers questions people may have. But getting some input about the program would be incredibly helpful. 

For example:

  • What kinds of classes do you want to see? 
  • What would you hope to get out of a class? 
  • Do you have any questions about the program that isn't answered here? 
  • Have you taken a class, and you have a positive/negative experience you want to talk about? 
  • Have you ever gone to sign up for a class and something made you decide not to? 

I'm open to discussing anything, or answering questions. Have at it.

(And if there's something you want to ask or talk about off the record, feel free to PM me). 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. January 29, 2013 - 10:13am

I want cheaper classes.  I know this isn't very realistic, but money is the main reason I haven't taken more classes.  I know you have a few 99 dollar classes, but more of them would be a big draw for me.  2 weeks, very focused on one thing.

I'd be very open to a 1 week class for 50 bucks.  1 lecture, 1 assignment, LOTS of interaction in the forum.   

I want short classes by big name people (Lidia Y., Amy Hempel, Daniel Woodrell, Donald ray Pollock, Neil Gaiman are at the top of my list right now).  

I hope to get some things I've never thought of out of each class.  The one I took with Clevenger did that.  It really opened my eyes to a lot of dialogue techniques and reasons for dialogue that I had never thought of and I read every book differently now because of his class.  

I want the teacher to be involved in the message boards.  I want to pick their brain, throw out ideas, discuss different ways of doing exactly what they are teaching, etc.  I want interaction.  I want the teacher to be as enthusiastic as the most enthusiastic student.  

Having the chance to interact with the teacher is the most important thing for me - and I want the other students to be gabby and discuss the topics just as much.  There's no way to weed out the people who won't talk - as even in the Clevenger class, we had easily half the class silent, but that's what I want.  

In graded online classes, there's a minimum of posts per week necessary to pass the class.  I don't know if you would ever want to have a pass/fail class system, but it might be something to motivate people into taking part in the actual class.

And, because I'm poor, I'd like to be able to spend my workshop points on a class.  Maybe 500 points equals 50 bucks or something.  That would motivate me (and others) to workshop more for a discount.  But, that's just me being broke.  I know these classes are worth every penny.  I just don't have very many pennies.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters January 29, 2013 - 10:20am

Having the chance to interact with the teacher is the most important thing for me 

That.

Because if you do a traditional class you are with the teach and you get to talk and ask questions and you are given a couple hours a week to do this.  If I don't get that time I feel like it's a waste. 

NikKorpon's picture
NikKorpon from Baltimore is reading Book and books and books and January 29, 2013 - 10:29am

I've only taken one class (CClev, back at The Cult) but have wanted to take more, specifically the Faust, SGJ and Corbett ones. The only thing stopping me was the cost, which I assume is going to come up a lot in here, and it's probably a non-starter because the teachers need to be paid, too. I like that idea of translating workshop points into real money. I don't have any workshop points, but the idea is good. 

I think the range and variety of topics has been great, making sure every aspect and genre of writing is covered. Maybe a submission class? Or that might be a waste of time.

Instructor interaction is a big thing, as Avery said above. I learned a lot just from bullshitting with Craig on the boards or phone conference. Having a shorter, less expensive class (I think Pat's runs along these lines) might be good to grab some of the people who don't have much time or money.

Overall, though, I think the classes are great, even if I can't afford to participate.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 29, 2013 - 11:55am

@bryanhowie, I'll try to address your points in order: 

We've introduced classes that are shorter and less expensive, and we plan to do more of them. Most recently, Patrick Wensink taught a two-week class on plot and Suzy Vitello taught a 10-day intensive on dialogue. Both were very successful. Expect more of those soon. 

Short classes by big name people is definitely something we're thinking about. We're trying to figure out a format that works for everyone. (Unfortunately, when I asked Amy Hempel to teach for us she respectfully declined...) But, definitely on the radar. 

As for teacher interaction, that is built into the class, through discussion forums that are formatted just like these. From what I've seen, they host some lively discussions. And we try to work phone conferences into classes, so that students and teachers have a chance to talk in a more intimate environment. 

As for grading, that's a tough one... everyone interacts on different levels. Some people are super involved and some people aren't, and the latter is always surprising because those people paid to be in the class. But, you can lead a horse to water, etc. I've been giving some thought on ways to encourage people to interact more in the classes, though. 

As for workshop points... I'm not going to say yes but I'm not going to say no. I'll take it to the LitReactor overlords and we'll talk about it (though, workshop members do already get a discount on the price of the class). 

@averydoll, your point on discussion is fair and accurate. Again, teachers are available and interactive on the class forums, and the phone conferences. Do you have any suggestions on how to improve those things? 

@nikkorpon, I'm working on laser-focusing the classes on genre and writing craft, as you mentioned. We've got both urban fantasy and erotica up right now, which I'm pretty excited about (because, just because you're writing erotica doesn't mean it can't be well-written... and Averil is a damn good writer). 

What do you mean by a submission class? Focused on workshopping a single piece? 

NikKorpon's picture
NikKorpon from Baltimore is reading Book and books and books and January 29, 2013 - 12:07pm

Or focusing on the submission process or something. I don't know if it's enough to warrant a class but it was something I wish I'd learned more about in my grad program. I'm covering it in my noir fiction class, trying to head off some mistakes that I made when figuring out how to send stuff out, who to send it to, how to make sure it's ready, all that stuff.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 29, 2013 - 12:16pm

I thought about something like that: Bringing in the editor of a lit mag or online journal of some kind, and having people submit their work to him/her--and he/she critiques the submission, both for the pitch and the work itself. On the radar, definitely...

La Emme Nikita's picture
Class Facilitator
La Emme Nikita from Los Angeles is reading Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory January 29, 2013 - 12:57pm

Thanks for starting the conversation, Rob. 

I agree with everything Howie said, above, so I'll just tack on a few of my thoughts here, and mention my experiences with the classes. 

Like AD and Howie, instructor involvement and enthusiasm is a must. Otherwise, it's basically the workshop and forums, with lectures.

I've taken two classes through LR: Kat Howard's spec-fic class and Suzy Vitello's recent dialogue intensive. Suzy's class was half the cost (under $200 is the sweet spot for me), half the time, but I feel that I learned considerably more with her in 2 weeks than I did with Kat in 4.

Suzy's lectures (4 over 2 weeks) were packed with information and examples, excerpts and exercises. We had a discussion thread for each lecture where we could bounce ideas around and ask questions. There was a high level of participation from the other students (or the class was large enough it just felt that way), and Suzy was very involved, herself. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and she was encouraging and welcoming. She didn't do a full critique of every student's final assignment (it was a big class) but she did pop in and make comments, as did other students. I was challenged to try new things, and to think more about dialogue both when I write and when I read. I wasn't able to attend the phone conference, but the availability of an MP3 of the complete call was a great addition and I don't feel I missed out there at all. Suzy also posted her lectures in .doc so we could easily download them for reference, which was also a nice touch.

Kat's class was smaller and covered 4 weeks, but also had 4 lectures. There was a writing assignment due each week, and we were divided into peer review groups of 4 to critique each others' work. The lectures weren't as in-depth as Suzy's and felt a bit dry. Kat was good about recommending work by other writers, but I'd rather see a paragraph of someone's work as an example than be told to read something by them outside of class. Many of the students used existing work for the assignments, which didn't always fit the criteria or were difficult to understand out of context, making them hard to critique. Kat maintained a firm distance from the class, critiqued each assignment and answered questions, but didn't become involved in discussions. Her critiques weren't always very helpful, and sometimes seemed to be based more on personal preference. The class had a wide range of skill and participation levels, and I ended up in a group with only two active participants including myself. Many students had never critiqued before, and as one of the more "seasoned" participants I made a point of reading and LBL'ing everyone's work. In the end I didn't feel very challenged or enlightened, and if I'd known what the class was going to be like I wouldn't have signed up. More class participation definitely would have been nice, as would a more uniform level of skill, but I know these are difficult things to control; I think a more hands-on instructor would have been beneficial in stepping up everyone's game. 

 
Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 29, 2013 - 1:12pm

@La Emme Nikita, thanks for the input. I'm sorry to hear that you had a negative experience in Kat's class. Kat and Suzy both have their own style of teaching, and while I'm confident in Kat's ability, I will bring this to her attention.  

I mentioned this briefly above, but to expand on it: Just recently someone pointed out that in some of the peer review groups, not everyone reviews their peers. It's hard to incentivize that, or to get people involved if they decline to be.

At the same time, I don't like the idea of someone expecting to get something, and then not getting it because someone else dropped the ball. I do know Kara follows up with people who haven't reviewed, so it's not always as easy as a friendly nudge. It's definitely on my mind.

The question, of course, is how to drive participation. I'm not sure grading, as bryanhowie mentioned, is the right way to go. I'm hesitant to introduce any level of competition into the classes because we're trying to promote an environment that's doesn't pit writer against writer.

If anyone has any ideas for incentives, let me know. I'm open to discussion. 

As for people using previous work--maybe we can make it more clear, to encourage people to write new work instead of recycling (which is the point, though I'm not going to pretend like I've never recycled something). 

Did Kat's class include a phone conference?

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts January 29, 2013 - 1:28pm

I really liked the idea behind that Horror writing class that happened with the Shirley Jackson Award people. Having multiple instructors to each have a lecture seems like it can be a lot of fun and different than the other usual workshops, plus having all those great minds in one place to have discussions has a pretty unique learning aspect to it. Something like that would be cool to see again if possible.

I like the craft-specific classes and the genre classes. When like Howie I think of the big name people I'd like to learn from I prefer the classes like Christa Faust's or Yuknavitch's where they have workshops more based on the unique aspects of that instructor's writing, those have more of a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity feel. Really I just keep an eye out for writers I really dig, those are the ones I can justify paying for no matter what.

All my experiences have been terrific with the classes so far. One class I did end up not being able to participate because I moved/didn't have internet during the thing, but I still ended up with all the material afterward and don't see how problems like that could be avoided other than on my part being more practical with my decisions.

La Emme Nikita's picture
Class Facilitator
La Emme Nikita from Los Angeles is reading Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory January 29, 2013 - 2:08pm

Kat's class didn't have a phone conference, but having since taken Suzy's I think it would be a beneficial addition. I wouldn't say I had a negative experience with the class; I just felt I didn't learn as much as I expected. I didn't realise how great it could have been until I took Suzy's class and had something to compare it to.

 
Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts January 29, 2013 - 2:13pm

As for people using previous work--maybe we can make it more clear, to encourage people to write new work instead of recycling (which is the point, though I'm not going to pretend like I've never recycled something).

I think the novel-workshopping classes might be better if everyone went in at least with some previously written material to be prepared for the type of things discussed. Classes based around revision and submission I think also could be utilized best with previously written material, but those are exceptions. I think just a note in the class descriptions about the type of workload would clear all that up about people not writing new material for the excercises.

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 29, 2013 - 2:21pm

I've taken two classes here, Craig Clevenger's and Jon Gingerich. Craig's class was excellent. He was really, really generous with his time. I can't say enough good things about the way he presented the material, the assignments, his encouragement to use the forums and the time he took to answer everyone. That class was worth every cent.

I can honestly say the same for Jon's class.

These really come down to class participation. In Jon's class, I made the mistake of signing up when I was struggling with time. I went on vacation and from there it was tough for me to keep up with the workload and participate as much as I would have liked. That's on me.

In Craig's class I was pretty committed. I was able to read my peer group's work but not the entire class. I didn't get each story reviewed by my peers even though I made a point to review each story. Oh well. You can't do anything about that.

So, my experiences have been great. And like it's been mentioned, you can't make our classmates participate.

I'm encouraged by the cheaper products, since I may not be able to afford 400 dollar classes in the near future. I'd like to see a lot more of these classes/lectures across a broad range of subjects. As has been mentioned, a lecture in submitting to publication may be beneficial.

In addition to LitReactor, I take real life in the flesh classes and workshops in Boston. They have classes which basically range from 400 to 50. 400 is typically a 10 week workshop/lecture format, about 3 hours once per week. 100 is a 6 hour, one day seminar. 50 is a 3 hour, one night lecture. I've taken all three formats and found them all beneficial in their own right.

Rob, if you want to PM me, I can send you a link to the site where i take classes. It may be worth perusing just to see what kinds of classes they're offering, especially for the cheaper/shorter "one-off" classes.

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce January 29, 2013 - 2:21pm

@ Emma & Rob - I liked the information Kat presented, but I think a few things could have made the class more beneficial in hindsight (and apologies to Kara, I'm probably more verbal here than I was in my class review!):

 - if students were encouraged to present short stories, rather than excerpts from their manuscripts. I found it difficult (and to be frank, boring, in some students' cases), to provide meaningful feedback on excerpts that had very little context, or were very long.

- at least one LBL from Kat per class. I did have the expectation from the Horror class with Sarah, Paul, John & Brett that we would get LBLs for our short stories, but I do understand that is more difficult when you've got one teacher for a four week intensive, unlike the four teachers we had for the horror class.

- perhaps a minimum requirement suggestion for doing the class. It was aimed at intermediate level writers, but I found some very new writers in the class, who would have benefited from perhaps taking one of the litreactor short story or novel building block classes, before a genre class.

Suzy's Dialogue class was just fucking amazing. She has this energy that just translates so well online; I can't explain it. In two weeks, those lectures and discussions with her changed my writing. She has a way of explaining concepts that are presented in the Chuck essays that just resonated with me. I didn't do the tele-conference because I was in transit, but I wish I had so I could listen to everyone's lovely accents!

I also did Taylor's Grammar and Usage class at the same time as I did Suzy's class. It was a difficult class because of the subject matter. It's dry, but Taylor makes it as interesting as you can make grammar. Her lectures have been really useful, and I've been going back to them when I've been editing stories for Parable Press. Not only that, she's been really lovely and answered my questions when I've messaged her with specific grammar questions. 
 

 

La Emme Nikita's picture
Class Facilitator
La Emme Nikita from Los Angeles is reading Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory January 29, 2013 - 2:32pm

^Jess just communicated everything I wanted to say about those two classes in a much more succinct way. 

 
Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce January 29, 2013 - 2:43pm

^^ You lucked out with your group, too. Mine was pretty interactive and I got to read some pretty awesome manuscripts (the scientist vampire, for example!).

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 29, 2013 - 2:59pm

I'll do these in order...

@Renfield Irma Gurd, multiple instructors is fun but a little more difficult to pull off logistically. I'm certainly open to it but not actively pursuing it. Sorry to hear the move affected one of your classes. 

@La Emme Nikita, I'm glad you wouldn't call the experience "negative." Thanks for clarifying. 

@Renfield Irma Gurd, noted.

@OtisTheBulldog, Craig and Jon are hardcore. I'm glad you dug their classes. As for the cheaper classes, definitely. Though, a lot of people do value the longer classes (one bit of feedback we got from Patrick Wensink's 2-week course on plot: the students wished it had been a week or two longer). I'm trying to find a balance between the shorter and the longer stuff. 

@Mess_Jess, I've been thinking about minimum requirements. On one hand, I don't want to shut anyone out—if someone is a beginner and wants to study a subject or with a specific instructor, I don't want them to feel like they can't. But at the same time, I can see the value of a class where everyone is on the same level. One of the things I'm trying to do is break the classes out into specific disciplines, and boil them down a little more to the point. And design certain classes with a beginner-friendly slant. 

As for the LBL's, every instructor gets leeway on how they handle feedback. I don't think a line-by-line critique is necessary—it depends on how an instructor works. I think as long as the instructor is hitting the major points in their critiques—theme, arc, story, whatever's being studied—that's the important thing. At the same time, if you have issues with the level of interaction, you can always bring it up to me, Kara or the instructor.  

Another thing I'm trying to do: Make things clear right at the front of the class, because everyone is a little differnet. Suzy didn't even critique most of the students in her dialogue class. We made those critiques a lottery so we could bring in more students and bring the price down a little. I was really worried people were going to get into the class and be upset about that. I'm glad the experience was positive there. 

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 29, 2013 - 3:11pm

As far as shorter vs longer - if you can find instructors maybe willing to craft courses to fit both needs and periodically offer them, you might find that sweet spot for consumers. People who have the money vs people who don't have the money and people who want a longer course vs people who don't want to commit as long.

When I take the classes in Boston, I'll go through their semester catalog and think, "Oh, I'm free this Saturday, I'm going to take the 6 hr class on Magical Realism" which is relatively inexpensive or I wanted some help on my novel so I'm taking a full on 10 week course.

I will say, I like the differences between online learning and in-person. My experiences in the flesh and through LitReactor have both been very beneficial. The best part about the classes here is just having the lectures, feedback, discussions to go back to and review when you need it. That's a very nice perk.

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce January 29, 2013 - 3:20pm

The best part about the classes here is just having the lectures, feedback, discussions to go back to and review when you need it.

This is so true. I've set a schedule up for myself for the next month to "redo" all my LitReactor classes. It's just so convenient, particularly given I'm a nomad and I can't do anything that requires commitment to being physically present.

Covewriter's picture
Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons January 29, 2013 - 4:15pm

I am in Jon's class now and am benefiting from it and enjoying it. However, when I first started and learned I could only post one story -- many two as a rewrite -- I was kind of thinking it wouldn't be worth my money. There are 17 people in the class. Jon is great and extremely responsive, and I've learned from the lectures and short story segments and class discussions. Everything right now seems to be helpful to me. 

HOWEVER, if you are an active litreactor member you get a lot of the critique and feedback from good writers anyway. I think if I were not a litreactor member everything would have been more valuable to me. Feedback from other students is great, but Utah , Moon and Bryan Howie give me that on litreactor anyway.

I am enjoying the class now so I want to give positive vibes. But, maybe smaller so you could post more? If I take another the price would make a difference for me at this point in my life. But I do like the class. 

 

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 29, 2013 - 5:17pm

@OtisTheBulldog and Mess_Jess, that's one of the most valuable part of taking classes here: The flexibility. Sometimes it's hard to be in a certain place at a certain time. Sometimes it's easier to know you can check in and out over the course of the week. We kicked around ideas about doing a webinar, but I'm not sure if that's what people want, because then they have a hard and fast time they need to show up. Making appointments to do anything is hard. That's why my DVR is always almost full. 

@Covewriter, the idea of Jon's class is to rework a piece of writing. And the submission process is staggered so that everyone gets an opportunity for input. That makes it more valuable and more focused than trying to critique the same piece for four weeks straight for 17 people, or to try and produce four disconnected pieces of writing. 

Of course in the workshop you'll get feedback from great writers. And I don't mean this as a knock against anyone in the workshop, but Jon is supremely talented writer and teacher. It does make a difference, and that's why he's teaching a class. 

Covewriter's picture
Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons January 29, 2013 - 5:51pm

Yes I totally get it now. It is working for me.

drea's picture
drea from Rural Alberta, Canada is reading between the lines January 30, 2013 - 7:50am

Hey, Rob 

I'm looking for a modern essay course in 2013. An author I would love to work with in this genre is Roxane Gay. If you could make that happen, that would great, thanks.

Others are Matt Bell, Monica Drake, Chloe Caldwell, Karen Karbo,James Bernard Frost, Kevin Sampsell...just to name a few. Authors I would have a hard time saying no to working with again are Dr. Yuknavitch, SVS, and Vanessa Veselka. 

LitReactor quickly established itself as THE place for online writing courses; that's what brought me here and has kept me. I mean, the smack talk in the forums and WAR are just icing on the cake. 

Thanks for soliciting input. 

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 30, 2013 - 7:59am

@drea, thanks for giving input! An essay class would be interesting. We have not had great luck with non-fiction thus far but I wouldn't discount it. Thanks for adding some names to my list. 

Is there anyone else that you folks would really love to work with? 

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters January 30, 2013 - 8:11am

Again, teachers are available and interactive on the class forums, and the phone conferences. Do you have any suggestions on how to improve those things?  

And I've not taken a class, so I can't speak from experience on what does occur, only what I would want to occur if I were going to drop the money.

I have no idea what the contract for the instructors here includes.  I work at a community college, and I know that our online-only professors are required to log in X number of hours in the blackboard forums.  That's all I could suggest there.  If the instructors are actively participating in conversations, that is all I could really expect.  Bouncing things around with other students is fine, but I'm paying (hypothetically) for the teacher.  Phone conferences sound like a great idea. 

FYI - Books and Booze did an interview with Jon Gingerich recently and I'm actually itching to take a class with him now.  He was great and really knowledgeable.  Just from our short conversations I would recommend him. 

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 30, 2013 - 8:29am

@averydoll, I think it's hard to require teachers spend X amount of time on a class, because it's tough to determine how much time is appropraite. Everyone has a different teaching style, the classes have different lengths, different numbers of students.

I do believe that all of our teachers engage with students and get involved in discussions. We want and encourage that interactive approach.

It's interesting to hear so many people in favor of the phone conferences. I've been on some that went really well, and I've been on some that were a bit awkward because no one knew how to lead the conversation. 

And Jon is the goods. I peek into the class from time to time and the guy knows his stuff. His class filled up so quickly this time, I'd like to bring him back sooner rather than later. 

Hey, here's a thing I'd like to try, and y'all can help me: What about video conferences? Like a video chat session between the students and instructor. It might only work with smaller groups, but my concern is that not enough people would have cameras. Though they're pretty ubiquitous now, right? 

What do you think? 

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce January 30, 2013 - 8:36am

I would cry with happiness if Margaret Atwood could give a literary speculative fiction class. But from what I can tell, she's not as popular with American readers as she is with Australian and Canadian readers.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 30, 2013 - 8:42am

@Mess_Jess, I would say that Margaret Atwood is pretty popular in America. We'd sell that class out in a second. Whether we could get her... that's the question. 

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 30, 2013 - 8:51am

You shouldn't be afraid to consider asking Jon to teach a different type of class, either. I'd most likely sign up for another of his classes if I have the scratch.

And I know Amy Hempel respectfully declined - but if you were able to lure her and maybe charged a bit more, I'd pony up.

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce January 30, 2013 - 8:56am

@Rob - No one seems to have read her books when I mention her. Let's blame that as a Florida specific issue, then. ;)

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 30, 2013 - 8:58am

@OtisTheBulldog, the issue with Amy isn't so much price, it's that she's not technilogically inclined, and she already spends a lot of the year teaching. I would love it if she would teach for us, because she's a lovely person. Incidentally, my friend is working with her in the MFA program up at Bennington and he lords it over me. 

As for Jon's class... I'm sort of inclined to keep it the same, because it's focused on short stories, it speaks to his strengths, and it's a very solid, full-realized course. Kind of like Craig with his 200 Proof Storytelling class. But if Jon has an idea for something different he'd like to do, I'd be open to it. I'll ask him. 

drea's picture
drea from Rural Alberta, Canada is reading between the lines January 30, 2013 - 9:22am

I don't think you would have any problem filling a class led by Roxane Gay - I'm going to ask her if she'd be down just for the hell of it because she already knows I want to have her literary babies. 

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 30, 2013 - 9:29am

@drea, thanks. I took a look at Roxane's stuff. She looks like the goods. 

QUICK DISCLAIMER TO EVERYONE: If you know an author you think would make a good fit for our program, please contact me before you contact them. I may not sign off on it, and I don't want there to be any miscommunications. 

drea's picture
drea from Rural Alberta, Canada is reading between the lines January 30, 2013 - 10:09am

^ Good point about shutting the barn door after the horses are out, Rob. 

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts January 30, 2013 - 11:24am

I'm waiting for Joe Lansdale to teach a class. Or anyone Southern, Tom Franklin or Ron Rash or someone of that ilk.

Yeah Gingerich's class looks great. Glad to hear that it's actually that awesome.

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 30, 2013 - 12:19pm

I'm not suggesting Jon scrap his current class, it's great. I'm only suggesting if he had the time/desire to add a different course, I think that'd be a good thing for those of us who've already taken his first class and appreciate his teaching style. 

 

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books January 30, 2013 - 4:25pm

I've only taken two classes, both with the same instructor, so I can't speak much for how other instructors do things--but both classes with Lidia were great, lots of interaction from the instructor and great mind opening lectures and discussions. It definitely comes back to participation though. In my first class every one in my "group" dropped out. That sucked. I don't know how that can be helped other than possibly laying out the average time commitment for the course? I realize that is very different for each individual, but if someone knew they should expect 4 hours a week minimum perhaps they would fare better than assuming they had the time when they didn't?

 

colleen.m.hampton's picture
colleen.m.hampton from ATL is reading A Fractured Light January 30, 2013 - 6:57pm

Hi Rob,

I took (and loved) The First 50 Pages with Eric in 2012. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot. He did an amazing job of encouraging everyone to crit eachother. Also, his lectures were terrific and I feel I learned a lot. I loved the experience so much that I've signed up for the Feb class with Many Hubbard.

That being said, I'd almost like to see the classes offered on a more regular schedule. I can't take the Urban Fantasy class this go round but am interested. I'm worried that the class wont be taught again. Is there anyway to hold the classes more regularly?

Covewriter's picture
Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons January 30, 2013 - 7:32pm

I am truly enjoying Jon's class. As skeptical as I was to start, I'm really benefiting from it. Two more weeks to go and I look forward each day to see what has developed. I don't think I would change it. I will probably take another. I was wrong at first to be upset to only post one or two stories. It offers more than critique of your own stories.

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce January 30, 2013 - 7:38pm

That being said, I'd almost like to see the classes offered on a more regular schedule. I can't take the Urban Fantasy class this go round but am interested. I'm worried that the class wont be taught again. Is there anyway to hold the classes more regularly?

I was just thinking this today. I saved up specifically for Averil's erotic writing class that starts in a month, but now I might not be able to do the class because of internet access issues at that time. Which utterly blows if it doesn't get held again!

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 31, 2013 - 12:46am

I want the teacher to be involved in the message boards.  I want to pick their brain, throw out ideas, discuss different ways of doing exactly what they are teaching, etc.  I want interaction.  I want the teacher to be as enthusiastic as the most enthusiastic student.

I agree with Bryan Howie big time here. The only time a student is ever engaged is when the teacher is engaging.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 31, 2013 - 7:32am

In order: 

@Renfield Irma Gurd, noted. Good suggestions. 

@OtisTheBulldog, also noted. I'm catching some drinks with him on Monday. I'll ask!

@Max A., yup, dude does not mess around. 

@SparrowStark, Lidia is great. I should check in with her. As for average time committments... everyone works at different speeds. Your three hours might be my six hours. But I can see the benefit of spelling out the workload a little better, so people have a sense of what they're getting into. 

@colleen.m.hampton, We've found that if we offer a class, and then offer it again too soon, not as many people sign up. Maybe it's fatigue, or because we've already tapped that demographic. So I'm hesitant to run classes too frequently, especially on a niche topic like urban fantasy. I am trying to get classes up on the site as early as possible, so if it's an issue of timing or money, people can better accomodate it. And we're clocking in at almost a class a week through the summer (when things might slow down). All that said, if you—or anyone—really wants to take a class, let us know, or e-mail me. We just brought back Taylor's grammar class because of how many people were asking for it. 

@Covewriter, I'm glad you're enjoying it!

@Mess_Jess, we'd love to have you in Averil's class! Internet issues suck, but remember, the classroom and assignments are accessible 24/7. And I (or you) could always give Averil and Kara a heads up to let them know your internet is spotty. 

@Chester Pane, yup, that's my favorite part of this whole thing—a lecture is nice, but then having the instructor able to pop into a forum to answer direct questions or take part in a conversation, instead of sneaking out the back door after the lecture is over, that's what sets us apart. 

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks February 2, 2013 - 9:43pm

I just enrolled for my first class, so here are some notes prior to going in. I'll try to respond after the class is over, too.

What kinds of classes do you want to see?

Well, I'm signed up for the YA novel class with Mandy Hubbard, and I bought it because I realized as I got deeper into my manuscript that it worked better for that genre and just happened to have the money left over from a student loan and begged for help from my parents. Seriously. It was a total fucking fluke.

What would I like to see? It was mentioned above, but I'd kill for a chance to see classes more regularly. Lidia Y.'s class are my white whale in this situation. Whenever they're offered, I don't have the money, and when they aren't offered, I do have the money. One suggestion that may or may not work, because instructors are people and can't promise they'll ever have the time to teach again, is to allow people to pre-order a class. It would only work for people like me, who don't have jobs or moving or kids to worry about and could take a class on a whim, but it could be an available option if a professor feels that they can manage a class soon in the future.

And, like everyone else, I want to see cheaper classes. I could whine for hours about how I don't have $120 to spend on a bargain-cheap class like Patrick's, but I know that this is a very age-specific issue and a very cliched one at that (starving college student, anyone?) but I'm bitchy enough to know that you all care specifically about me and no one else.

What would you hope to get out of a class?

Experience and knowledge. I want to be a better writer, have a better understanding of what I'm doing, and gain valuable insight.

Have you ever gone to sign up for a class and something made you decide not to?

Actually, that did happen once. I don't want to name the class for reasons you'll understand, but reading testimonials for one actually turned me off because a writer I don't like specifically named the class as the reason she wrote the way she did. Again, though, that's person-specific. I don't recognize most names on the testimonials and very, very rarely do I read them.

---

Can I ask the people who are talking about poor critique groups something? I've noticed that many, many people who don't frequent the workshop or the boards are the ones signing up for classes, and now I'm worried. I don't know what format Mandy H.'s class will take, but I was going in expecting quality similar to the workshop here and now I'm a little hesitant. What was the ratio in your class for quality reviews and shitty reviews? Knowing that people have had major issues with that is making me question whether I want to sign up for more classes.

drea's picture
drea from Rural Alberta, Canada is reading between the lines February 2, 2013 - 9:59pm

@Courtney, be consoled! Kara gives each class feedback parameters and if you have one good reviewer in the class, the others tend to take their lead. I still workshop with 3 writers I met in my first class here over a year ago, and none of them frequent the boards or the workshop part of the site.

You don't tend to get LBL's from everyone in the classes, but for first drafts, those can be more of a source of frustration than anything else. 

For every crappy review I've ever received in a class, I've had at least one valuable one, so it definitely balances out. Congrats on pulling the trigger! 

As to this, 

...but reading testimonials for one actually turned me off because a writer I don't like specifically named the class as the reason she wrote the way she did...

I'd just say feck it. If a writer you don't like on a personal level found value in a class or from an instructor, that has no weight as to how and what you will do with the same lectures and content. 

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts February 2, 2013 - 11:04pm

@Court Most classes I took were about half-half people who frequented the site and people who signed up specifically for the class. I always got decent reviews, sometimes better than in the workshop, I can only guess that's because since we shared interest in the class subject more reviewers understood what style I was going for. Christa Faust's class, the general style of reviews by the students seemed to be blunt, brief but not holding back in what really sucked about a piece. All those students, though, were very advanced in skill and took their work seriously. Even with some rough reviews it paid off to be around people with high talent. I was immersed with writers ridiculously better than me in SGJ's class too, but everyone there pretty much knew each other and gave reviews with good depth. But if you don't get in that sort of situation and the reviews aren't what you like, take the lead and show by example. Ask questions, keep them talking.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this February 3, 2013 - 8:21am

@Courtney, your pre-order idea is intriguing. I'm not sure how it would work, but I'll think about it. I have been putting up class pages as far in advance as I can, so that people have more time to save the money or fit them into their schedules. We used to give people two or three weeks notice, now it's more than a month, sometimes up to two. Hopefully that's a little more helpful.

And FYI: Lidia's next class is April 25. 

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks February 3, 2013 - 11:16am

Thanks for the responses, guys! I feel a lot better now and I'm definitely relieved.

The testimonial was definitely a petty thing to step away from a class for, but I didn't want to get myself into something I couldn't actually put to use. That doesn't detract from the class' value, because I know of people who love both the instructor and the student who turned me off. It just wasn't my style, and it made me aware that the class probably wouldn't be geared towards my style, either.

@Rob It has been fantastic having so much time in advance to prepare, I guess (in my mind) pre-ordering would work like a deposit. The business side of things would be tricky, though, like when to pay the instructor and, if not at time of deposit, making sure LR has enough cash on hand to make that payment up.

Knowing Lidia's next class date means I can start saving, so thank you. I know it would be ridiculous to put a banner up for her class already, but have you thought about maybe a class catalog calendar in the class tab? Just something to give everyone a long heads-up?

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this February 3, 2013 - 12:18pm

@Courtney, I've considered a calendar type thing, going out further than just the classes with sales pages. Probably a good thing for situations like this. I will talk to the site designer and see if we can impliment that. 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. February 3, 2013 - 2:20pm

I need to start saving up.  I want to take Lidia's class, too.

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks February 3, 2013 - 8:11pm

That would be a great idea, Rob. And Howie, I'd kill to take a class with you.

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading Zombie Bake Off by Stephen Graham Jones February 4, 2013 - 1:33am

Yay Lidia! I've been saving up for months and months waiting for Lidia to teach another class, and the fact that Courtney and Howie will be in the workshop doing critiques just made it even better.

For the record this will be my first class.