Get Your Writing in Shape with Myla Goldberg
At The Center, each of our classes are thoughtfully customized to accommodate a wide variety of interests and needs, whether you’re interested in writing short stories, novels or more. Both beginners and intermediate/advanced writers can participate in a workshop led by some of today’s most exciting writers! Get to know our teachers with our series of interviews.
Are you an aspiring writer who is just getting started? A practicing writer who wants to recharge your creative battery? Need to trim the fat…from your stories? Join Myla Goldberg as she leads a 4-week class that will create a supportive environment for brainstorming and new writing. Don’t worry, Creative Bootcamp: Craft & Practice won’t involve any rigorous dieting! In fact, one of Myla’s favorite writing tools includes a sweet treat…
Favorite Writing Tools: Salted dark chocolate covered almonds
I’m currently reading: A Wrinkle in Time (with my 9-year-old daughter), Delicate, Edible Birds by Lauren Groff (with my mouth agape at how well she writes short stories)
If I could be a fictional character for a day, I’d choose: Moby Dick! I’d get to stay under water for 90 minutes at a time, bite off a sea captain’s leg, and destroy several whaling ships.
You should take my class because: What’s neat about Creative Bootcamp is that it draws writers from varying experience levels, with writing exercises and craft discussions that work for beginners as well as more advanced practitioners.
Why I love The Center for Fiction: The elevator. Every time I ride up in it, I read something on its walls that makes me smile.
Stuff We Love: LitReactor
What is LitReactor?
LitReactor is an online community for readers and writers. It was born out of Chuck Palahniuk’s official website, ChuckPalahniuk.net, which grew to host interviews by other authors, a writing workshop, and online writing classes. It was growing so fast, the decision was made to spin some of those elements off into their own entity, independent of Palahniuk (though indebted to his influence).
LitReactor offers a lot of great things, but essentially, if you want to be a better writer, find something new to read, or connect with literary-minded individuals, this is where to do it.
How does the online classroom environment help writers meet their goals?
The classes are highly collaborative. It’s not a couple of written lectures and then you’re left to your own devices. Our teachers answer questions and critique work. There are phone conferences and video chats. We’re introducing new formats, and covering different disciplines and genres.
The online environment is flexible, too. If you have to work during the day and you can’t check in until later in the day, or even the middle of the night, the lectures and assignments are there.
The most important thing, though, is that you’re not just interacting with your instructor—you’re working with your classmates. They’re critiquing your work, taking part in discussions, and encouraging you to push yourself.
What can writers expect to get out of the classes you offer?
Our goal is to provide writers with an a la carte approach to a writing education. Going to an MFA program is out of reach for a lot of people—they’re expensive, they’re a huge time commitment, they’re far away. We wanted to do something a little more democratic. If you want to work with a particular author, or focus on a particular discipline, you can do it here. If you want to take one class or all of them, you can do it.
Ultimately, we want writers to leave these classes with confidence, with polished work, and with better tools and resources.
Who teaches the classes?
Our teachers are established authors and industry professionals—from writers like David Corbett, Jack Ketchum, Craig Clevenger, Lidia Yuknavitch and Christa Faust, to agents and publishers. You can see the full run of courses that we’ve offered at this link. We’ve had some really fantastic people teach for us, and we’ve got some exciting people lined up.
Do you offer any other resources for writers?
We have an online workshop, where in order to post your work, you have to review the work of other people. You earn points based on how helpful your critiques are, and when you earn enough points you can post your own piece. This is to encourage people to engage, rather than post their stuff and move along.
We also host essays and columns on craft and the publishing industry. There’s also a discussion board, which has a life of its own. We have a very close-knit community, and they host flash fiction challenges and develop projects together.
How can writers sign up for classes?
We put out new classes through the website, as well as our social media accounts and our newsletter. If people are looking for a particular class, or want to learn more, they can visit the site, or just e-mail us, at email@example.com. We try to take requests into account—we’ve gotten a lot of requests for classes covering erotica and non-fiction, and we’re working on developing them.
Well, I did it.
I am now enrolled in a six-week online Creative Writing 101 course with Gotham Writers’ Workshop! My start date is Tuesday, October 4th. I have no idea what to expect, but since this is education that I opted to pursue, I intend to get as much out of it as possible! I have to keep reminding myself that I have been a writer since I could hold a pencil. But this time, there is some very inspired purpose within me. This time, I mean business.
And in other news, I will also be studying for the Google Ad Words Certification Exam this fall. It just seems to be the perfect time for education of any sort. I do hope to become an expert in both areas.
But most importantly, my hopes and dreams have been corralled for so long, I imagine it will feel amazing to let those hosses run. May you always have the courage to take the first step in the direction of your dreams as well!
consider sharing your work (or not!)
I’ve been trying and deleting past attempts at this post, because it’s not an easy thing to do, and I do really try to spend more time on making writing an easier, less painful process for everybody. But this has really helped me lately, and I’m hoping it will be helpful for you as well.
The benefits of sharing your work: Writing can be a lonely, soul-crushing process and when you’re stuck in your own mind you can develop really unhealthy attitudes about your own work. I’ve despaired for days over things, only to come back later to them and realize they weren’t that bad. You cannot be the judge and jury over your talents and skills all the time. You need feedback. You need sounding boards. You need to share your work, if only to convince yourself it’s worth doing.
Writing Groups: I’ve hated the idea of going out and finding a writing group and having to suffer the trials of dealing with people who may or may not help. I hated it. By a sheer stroke of luck, after moving to Beijing a writing group found me. I took something I’ve kept in my closet for years to it on the first day, and guess what? They liked it! They liked it a lot! They even gave me some ideas for how to fix the ending, which has troubled me from the beginning.
Finding a writing group is not the easiest thing to do. If you live in an isolated area or are limited by time and age, it may be harder. But I really, really do think there are things that make it worth it. If you can, find one. If you can’t, consider starting one with enough members to ensure you will meet again after one time. You will get different opinions you may or may not agree with. Better still, you’re get more ideas whether you get good advice or not.
Online Communities: These are great to solve that isolated area problem or finding people with similar interests. And there’s lots of them! You can start one with your friends or just find one on tumblr. You can pick and choose between what you want and what fits for you.
As for how to find one, start simple. Google your interests, check some of your favorite writer’s pages. Ask around. If you’re into fanfiction, see what sites have the most active communities and what they do. Online groups can be just as good as any other kind of group.
Writing Class: You may be lucky and get a good class. You may not be lucky and will never meet a bigger group of self-absorbed assholes who live off tearing your work into little shreds because of their own sad reasons. I took a writing class several years ago. I’m still bitter about it.
‘Then why the fuck would you recommend such a horrible thing, Black?’ you might say.
Okay. There are some things you can get out of a writing class. You can find out how to deal with harsh or unfair criticism. You can try different styles and see what works best for you. You can figure out some of your weaknesses.
Taking that writing class helped me figure out some basic things. It wasn’t easy and I didn’t like it, but it did help. It might be worth trying!
Team You: Gather the friends and family for some feedback. Now, granted, they are sometimes not helpful. Feedback you get could be as useless as ‘it’s okay.’ But it’s a start! Even if they’re just checking for typos, you could get something out of it. Even if it’s just validation that your work is worth reading.
To note: I am not saying you have to share your work. If the very idea horrifies you, don’t! If it doesn’t make your writing process easier, don’t. You have lots of options as a writer. There are reasons people don’t share their work. They are valid! How you feel is important. The great thing is that you get to choose what works for you.
Attention Food Lovers and Writers!
This summer, The Loft is offering a Food Writing course, led by Claire Stanford, whose food writing has been published on Grist, GOOD, the Bon Appétit website, the Slow Food blog, and Civil Eats. Whether you want to write a magazine article or pen a book-length food memoir, you’ll learn how to get your culinary experiences from the kitchen to the page. You will leave this class with one polished article-length piece.
For more information, click here.
The next set of classes will be...
…starting up in May. To avoid Monday holidays (Victoria Day, this time out), we will be running classes Tuesdays to Thursdays.
Thursday May 1 will be the first meeting for HOLMES INCORPORATED #4. Interested students can email firstname.lastname@example.org–only students who have taken classes with Ty will be considered.
Starting Tuesday May 14, Ty will be teaching PENCILING THE PAGE. Previously calledLAYOUT FOR COMICS, this class “is the fundamental how-to course for creating comic art – from blank paper to finished page, through thumbnail sketches, layouts and pencils, this is everything you need to know about how stories are told visually, and how to make great pages come to life.”
WRITING FOR COMICS PART TWO will take place on Thursdays, starting May 16. Only students who have previously taken PART ONE (in any session) will be registered for this workshop.
Check the information under UPCOMING CLASSES for all the details on WRITING FOR COMICS PART TWO, and PENCILING THE PAGE.
“I’m often asked if writing classes are any help, and my immediate and enthusiastic answer is always, Yes! Writing classes are wonderful for the writers who teach them and can’t make ends meet without that supplementary income. They are also good places for unattached people to meet, talk about books and movies, have a few drinks and possibly hook up. But teach you to write? No. A writing class will not teach you to write. The only things that can teach writing are reading, writing and the semi-domestication of one’s muse. These are all activities one must pursue alone.
Aspiring writers are told these things over and over again and constantly push them aside. They want something quicker. A magic bullet at Breadloaf. A secret passageway at Iowa. They are desperate for someone to tell them it’s not what you do but who you know. And when I tell aspiring writers I didn’t know anybody, I see the light go out of their eyes.” - Stephen King, The Writing Life
Might I add that hearing “It’s who you know” sickens and frightens me of the future when I think of the possibilities of success in any of my writing endeavors. This inspired me.
Class Project (The Hunger Games) : Temperance's POV The Reaping
My friends and me are doing a project in our writing class and making our own Hunger Games, it’s based as the first ever games, this is Temperance’s POV of The Reaping, I have one for all of my characters, well almost, I still have two to write :)
Temperance > District Four
Last week the order had come in, everyone was ordered to watch the television at noon today or be punished. I still don’t understand how they would know if we did watch the program or not, but I still sit in front of the couch by my father’s feet as I lean against the worn down couch, I suppose we were all still afraid after what happened to District Thirteen, The Capitol had blown it up before all of our eyes. It had been horrifying.
But I’m not afraid anymore; President Caton had been talking about it all week, something he came up with to show us who’s the boss. The Hunger Games. Teens from twelve to eighteen were going to have their names tossed into some sort of drawing and a boy and a girl from each district was going to be picked.
Today was to be the first Reaping for years to come, or so he had said last week.
My little sister plops down on my lap and I wrap my arms around her softly, and hold her against me. She’s worried, she knows there are tons of teens in our district but she’s still afraid my name will be called; she’s only nine so she has a few years before she has to worry about this Reaping thing.
“Temperance, you aren’t afraid, are you?” She whispers as her green eyes flick up to me and I smile down at her.
“Nope, should I be?” I ask her, before I ruffle her light brown hair, “I’m not afraid of anything, only of you getting hurt, and you’re too little for your name to be called, so I have nothing to be afraid of, and neither do you, because all you have to worry about is yourself when you turn twelve.”
Our father reaches down and pats my red hair lightly, “You’re such a brave girl.” He says, I know he’s afraid too, he doesn’t want to lose me, after Silla and my mom died, I have always been the one to help her with girl things, I don’t know what he would do if she starts her period if I’m in the games.
“Of course she is!” Silla says, “Temperance isn’t afraid of anything, especially not the big fish or President Caton.” Even as she says this, her eyes can’t help but widen when the music starts playing on the television in our home and the screen bursts to life.
My bright eyes go to the screen and The Capitol symbol shows up for a few seconds before the screen goes black and I glance to my dad, “Is that them or our television?” I ask before I move Silla off my lap and stand up, my knees crack from sitting for so long, they have gotten use to swimming all of the time.
I walk to the television and slam my pale fist against the top and the screen bounces back to life, Caton is in the middle of some big speech, I don’t pay attention as I glance back at Silla, her eyes are locked on the television, but I focus on her.
Her hair is light brown and straight unlike my curly red hair that I get from our mother, but we have the green eyes she had and the freckled covered skin. I walk back over and I sit down and pull her back onto my lap as I look to the television, my lip curls upwards slightly in a snarl at the man on the screen. He’s short, shorter than I am, with brown flowing hard and blue eyes that always look like they stare right through me.
Silla shudders away from the television and buries her face against the crook of my neck, I hold her closer, as if my arms could protect her from him even though he was miles away.
I could feel her heart start to race at his words: “The Hunger Games is a challenge, only one can survive.” He then seems to smirk at every single one of us, and goes to a large container filled with names with the number one in large bold black on it.
He says names but they start to blur together I only chat a few: Justic from one, Vanity from two, Ever from three and then he goes to our district and my heart pounds in my ears, the name Merrick left his lips, left his smirk, I knew him, he was my age, in my classes but it wasn’t his name that I was stuck on. No. My head was still spinning from the name he had spoken before Merrick’s.
He had said Temperance and had smirked widely.
Silla’s green eyes were brimmed with tears as she stares up at me, “T-temperance?” She stammers, “As in you?” Fear fills her tone and her freckled arms tangle around my neck as she clings to me and I hold her closer against my chest.
I try to calm my breathing, the sound of the door being pounded on adds onto the drumming of my heart in my ears.
Father stands up and he goes to the door as he shakes, his arms are trembling and I know he’s terrified. No one knows what to expect of these Hunger Games. When he opens the door, I turn my head and I can see Peacekeepers outside the door, guns in their hands as they smirk at him.
“Temperance,” An older looking man says, “We’re here for Temperance.”
Silla bursts into tears and she clings to me tightly, I barely feel myself stand up as I place my arms under her butt to keep her boosted up in my arms, “What?” I ask and their eyes go to me.
“You have been chosen for the games, say good bye to your family and grab a special item, you have three minutes.” The younger looking Peacekeeper says and gives me a smile; he looks kinder than the older one.
I slowly set Silla down but her arms tangle around me and I hug her softly before I fall to my knees in front of her, I pull back my emotions. I’m terrified, but I won’t let her know that, I have to be brave for her so I smile, “Silla,” I say softly, “I have to go, but you’ll see me on television, so cheer for me, okay?” I press a kiss to her forehead before I stand up and turn on shaky knees to our father.
He’s there to catch me as I fall forward a bit, his arms enclosing around me, still large and muscular like I remember from when I was just a little girl, “You’re so strong,” He whispers to me and kisses my head, “I’m so proud of you, I’ll take care of Silla, don’t worry.” He then takes my mother’s locket from his pocket, he had been carrying it for five years and he unclasps it and puts it around my neck, the silver chain glitters around my throat and the locket falls lightly against my chest.
My fingers go to it, “D-daddy,” I whisper, I haven’t called him that in years and tears fill his blue eyes, “I can’t … this is … this is mom’s.”
“Take it, just take it, I want to see you with it,” He whispers to me and kisses the top of my head again, “Now tell Silla everything will be okay.”
I nod slowly, my body moves automatically to the sobbing nine year old on the floor. I pull her up and hug her close to my chest as I kiss the top of her head and rock her gently in my arms, “I love you, be strong for me,” I whisper to her softly, “Everything will be okay, daddy will be here, and I can write to you, I hope. So don’t worry.”
She sobs against my chest and leaves tear drops all over my dirty purple shirt, and I slowly set her back down, pressing a last soft kiss against her forehead before dad picks her up to stop her from following me and I walk to the two Peacekeepers, they seem pleased I don’t fight for more time, and probably surprised I was counting out the minutes.
“Perfect.” The older one says before he takes my arm roughly and pulls me out of the door, I barely have time to look back at my family before the younger one slams the door behind us.
Suddenly I feel even more afraid as they led me through the town; people stared out their windows at me as the Peacekeepers led me to a train. A train that would more than likely take me to somewhere in The Capitol.
My fingers raise to my mom’s locket – my locket, and I press my index finger and thumb of my right hand against the smooth sides of it, my heart pounds and I take a calming breath, trying to just will myself to breath.
Continuing Education: Elements of Creative Writing at The Newberry Library
I am in this course at The Newberry Library because I need discipline. I love to write but I also require some structure to stay focused. To that end I am in this seminar for the next few weeks. I am hopeful that it will keep me grounded and that I will be able to enjoy the same things I did years ago when I was a bright-eyed Rejectionist at the university. It’s easy to reject things when you’re young. You haven’t lived enough to know the value of things like hard work and good writing. Back then I was a lot of energy, a lot of opinion and a thimble of ability and talent. I can’t account for the talent now (that’s for readers to decide) but I’d like to think that the opinions are more educated, and the energy is still there. Yes there is bad writing, but there is rarely willfully bad writing and I try not to be a snob about it too much anymore. You can read romance novels that are technically as good if not better than “high minded” work. That’s why it’s important to read a lot and read everything and anything. We all have our preferred writers, subject matter, styles, and genres but that doesn’t mean good writing isn’t being done in other venues. I know it’s tough. You only have “x” amount of dollars to spend on “y” amount of time to read and you want to use that money and time economically. But if you like books then you risk the possibility of missing something great that you wouldn’t have read if you didn’t take the chance.
Back to my focus. What I can appreciate about creative writing classes is the variety of people who take these classes: age, gender, ethnicity, you name it. There is a common thread: love of reading, love of writing. In advance I can tell you that the work provided by this group of 19 will be varied in perspective, interest and sensibility. This has always been the case from the classes I’ve taken. Nobody will write, read, or like exactly what you do so embrace it, and if a critique is too harsh be ready to back it up with your own reasoned analysis. Your may be wrong but at least you won’t come off as a loudmouth with a shaky opinion. Process the commentary. Counter it with your own thoughts. Engage your audience—-good things come from sharing your work and thoughts. Your writing will become sharper. Your thoughts more clear.
It’s good to be around people whom I would never meet if not for this class. We all have the same desire: to write, whether for our own amusement or for others. That should be enough for you to listen and engage.