In August, I signed up for a writing class run by Megan Beam through Les Conteurs. The class started on Sept 3rd and run 8 weeks. It cost me $100.
Why I took the Class:
My friend took the class and recommended it. She said Megan’s style and mine were similar and she might help me go through the second draft of my novel “Follow Me: Tattered Veils”
Megan is a published author in my genre, and I was looking for something to drive me and make me accountable. I wanted feedback.
A third consideration, is that I wanted to blog about my experience in Megan‘s class. I wanted to talk about what it was like to go back to “school” for writing. I missed regular work shopping. I wondered if focused assignments would help me this time around or annoy as they had in the past. I wondered how a writing class would compare to a writers’ group. I wondered what kind of writers I would meet in class and if I would make friends with them as I had those from my writers’ group. I even hoped to get insight in how to query agents, publish, and market. There is so much a published author could tell me.
As readers know, I haven't blogged about the class. I think my experience will explain why.
I received no notice on September 3rd, so on the 5th I emailed Megan asking her if I’d missed something and confirming they enrolled me in her class. She sent me a generic “I’m working on it” email. Satisfied, I waited.
I got an invitation into Quip on September 10th. When I logged in, I saw I would take this class with two other writers. Both these other writers were in the summer session with Ashley and had already started folders. What did Megan clean up if she left her previous students’ class work from last class in place? It made me feel like a fish out of water right away, to be the only new student. I tried to ignore this and dismiss it as me being too sensitive. At this point I still wanted the class to work and thought I could still achieve all my goals even if I was the "new kid on the block".
There were no instructions other than to create a folder and an intro, so I did that. I waited a week before Megan got class running. Two weeks gone and no actual meeting happening until September 23rd.
Now the meeting on the 23rd was productive. We were missing one member but those of us there outlined our desired projects, what we were looking for, and what we planned to do that week. Megan seemed interested in my work, and it thrilled me. This is what I’d signed up for, a fellow urban fantasy writer to geek out over my writing on. Megan never mentioned what projects she planned to work on, which I found strange because my friend told me Megan also wrote and asked for feedback on her writing during class. I resolved that I would go to her folder and comment on her writing from last class. Though, since she said she'd finalized the work there, if felt a little awkward to comment. Like when I find corrections to make on a fellow writer's work when I know the work is out for submission.
I commented on Megan and my other classmate‘s work within the week. On Sept 30th Megan said she hadn‘t read anything and would get to it ASAP. We had no meeting or chat of any kind. She didn‘t comment on my work until Oct 10th. We are over “half” done with the class and I’m just getting feedback. The feedback inspired edits on my chapter 1 & 2. One reason I wanted to join class was met, though it's only about 8,000 words of feed back and I was thinking 2,000 words a week minimum at eight weeks and I'd see the first 16,000 words read which would give me a strong direction in my novel. At that point I'd either be able to continue on my own or sign up for the winter session.
I made edits, asked questions, and in a burst of enthusiasm, posted Chapter 3. I also went over to her folder and made spent time digging for comments on her work. She is a good writer. I enjoyed reading her work, but felt there were too many missing chunks for me to make a lot of commentaries. Still, I tried.
To be fair, I received a lot more attention than my fellow student did. She had three documents up and only got two comments on her outline with no thoughts on her prologue.
This is where the class ends though. We got no assignments, no one got concrete advice, and there was no class opening or closing. We had one meeting over 8 weeks. I feel cheated.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I never reached out to her and expressed how neglected I felt the class was. These typed words are the first expression of my frustration and anger regarding the class. On the other side, when I sign up for a class, I expect to show up in the classroom and for the teacher to be there. I don't expect to have to write a letter to the dean asking why my instructor rarely shows up and never has a lesson plan when she does arrive.
Normally I wouldn't bring this issue to public in this manner, but there is no other way to leave feedback on the class. Both her site and the Quip site she uses don't have any area for feed back. I could start a direct confrontation with her, but at this point I don't know that I want anything from her. What I want is to speak in public about what happened and let others make their own decisions regarding the "class".
Can I Recommend the Class?
Obviously not. I don’t think it was Megan’s intention to quit on us, but she should have communicated more and she should have refunded our money when it became self evident she could not run class this semester. Or, if she always intended this to be a paid beta reading service with a thirty-minute meet and greet, she should have called it that. Her actual shop service is vague enough she may legally skate by. This is why I'm outlining what specifically was delivered for $100.
It was a weird experience, and it reminded me of working with an English teacher who didn‘t want to teach but didn’t know what else to do with their major.
And why Quip when Google Docs and Hangouts exists? The site choice was a miss for me. It wasn’t bad, there are just better options.
My experience differs greatly from the summer session, so perhaps a person could go to a future class or have gone to a past class and had a more constructive experience. It’s $100 gamble though.
Do I Recommend a Writing Class in General?
Of course! Writing class can be a great way to get feedback from a group of fellow writers. It can help keep a writer focused and writing. It can give assignments that force a writer to explore topics, genres, and styles that help them grow.
Talk to me! Have you ever been to a writing class? If not would you want to take a writing class and what would you look for in said class?
If you‘ve been in a writing class, how did it go? What did you do? Did you learn anything? Did you make any friends?