A writing class is one of the best ways to find a writing community, but how do you find a class and a teacher you know will be worthwhile? The tips below will help you begin your search.
1. Decide what you want from a writing class.
Spend some time thinking about what kind of creative writing class you’re looking for. Do you want to focus on craft, or do you need to reconnect with your creativity? Are you more comfortable with gentle writing teachers, or do you want someone tough, who’s really going to challenge you? Before you start shopping around, think about what will most help your writing at this moment.
2. Ask other writers.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, talk to other writers and see where they’ve taken writing classes and who they’ve studied with. Ask about class size and about the writing level of the other students. Did the teacher create the kind of atmosphere that’s conducive to your writing?
3. Check your library.
Libraries often host creative writing workshops themselves, so it’s worth checking with your local branch to see if anything’s planned for the near future. (And if it isn’t, your asking will let them know that there’s a need.) Because classes at the library are free, they’re a relatively risk-free way to try out the workshop experience and to meet other writers in your area — who can then recommend other writing classes.
4. Look at colleges and universities.
There are a lot of classes out there, and it’s often hard to tell what’s legit and what’s not, especially if you don’t have other writers to ask. For this reason, it’s worthwhile to look into local colleges. Most will offer some kind of continuing education program (which won’t require you to enroll in a degree program). Some, such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also have online writing classes, if you can’t get to the school or need more flexibility.
5. Contact your local writers’ association.
Even if you don’t live in a big city, there may be a writers’ guild, league, or other organization(s) that can point you in the direction of local classes — or that even organizes writing critiques themselves. Northern Colorado Writers, for instance, hosts monthly critiques, as well as workshops and conferences. Writer Sandra Balzo credits much of her success to a writing group she met through her local chapter of Mystery Writers of America, so clearly a really dedicated writing group can offer many of the benefits of a class (and for much less money).
6. Research the teachers.
Once you have a school or program in mind, find out who teaches for them. Read their bios and Google their names. See what the program administrators can tell you. How long have they been teaching? Where have they published? If they don’t have many publications, do they have an MFA? Read some of their writing to find out if their style is compatible with your own.
7. Consider other options.
If on the other hand, you feel that you’re looking for something more extensive or more formal, start looking into MFA programs. With low-residency programs springing up around the country, MFAs are obtainable even for people who work full time or care for children. You can also get some of the experience of a class through books like Alan Ziegler’s The Writing Workshop Note Book (which also has valuable advice on participating in a writing workshop). And don’t forget that online forums, such as the forum connected to this site, and chat rooms are another source of recommendations.