Tag Archives | teaching writing

While She Was Out

PrintshopI grew up partially in my Dad's printing plant.  One of the many things I loved about that was hanging out in the front office, which was cleaner and more organized than the rest of the shop, but not by much.  And one of the best things about the office was the office supplies.  I particularly loved the pads of paper headlined "While You Were Out" with handy pre-printed lines to write the message on. I LOVED those pads.  

Alas, they did not survive.  But check out the photo to the left of some simple scratch pads that did. The business itself did not survive the onset on computerized printing in the eighties, and went bankrupt.  Tough times.  But I digress.

Because the point is that I will be out.  Overseas. Across the pond. Gone fishing.  Whatever.  It is time for the annual Let's Go Write workshop in France, this year in Collioure.  Last year, I think I actually managed to post once or twice, but maybe I just made that up.  It might well happen this year, too.  

But I have also made provisions for while I am out.  I have lined up a couple of fun oldie but goodie posts from the archives, written and scheduled a couple of new ones, and also created a couple of link posts that I think you'll like, drawing on the eight years of content (and 1266 posts) from this blog. So there you have it.  All will not be lost.  There will be a dim shadow of a Charlotte here.

But, alas, I've put the Inventive Writing Prompt blog and weekly posts on hiatus until I get back. But don't despair.  As of this writing, there are 392 prompts there, so that ought to keep you busy for awhile.

One more thing–don't forget that my Get Your Novel Written Now class starts in October, and I've extended the early bird registration until I get back so go SIGN UP NOW.

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What Does a Writing Coach Do, Anyway?

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The recent news that my novel has been accepted for publication has inspired me.  As I mentioned in a post last week, it was the getting of clarity that I consider a key factor in this acceptance.  Last fall, I got crystal clear in my thinking about my goals and realized that I wanted to focus on writing books and blogging. 

And, of course, coaching.  I love working with writers and get really excited when I have the chance to coach. So last week I took a fresh look at my coaching packages and felt my heart drop. (I know, cliche, but I swear, I felt it thud.) Because they did not, in any way reflect the excitement I feel about coaching writers.  They looked dull and boring and I wondered why anyone would want to hire me.

And then I realized the problem:  I was designing my coaching around what I thought I should do and who I thought I should be rather than what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be.  I did the same thing last year around other aspects of my career. And it was time to apply the same clarity of vision that I used on other aspects of my career to my coaching.

So I designed two new coaching packages (with more to come no doubt) that reflect who I am and what I want to share with the world.  Check them out by visiting my new coaching page.

But, here's the deal.  Many people don't really understand what, exactly a writing coach does.  There are writing coaches, and writing teachers, and writing mentors.  So what's what?  And what does a writing coach do?  Perhaps a bit of explaining is in order.

I'm going to being by talking about the role of traditional writing teachers.  The old tried and true path for a writer was to get an MFA and then teach at a university.  This kind of teacher traditionally presides over classes that are given on-site, ones that meet several times a week, taking you away from your home and writing, but giving you lots of time to absorb good information on craft.  You might also take these kinds of classes at a community college, or some kind of community or private writing center.   Before a few years ago, if you wanted to get your MFA in writing, your only choice was to attend an in-person program at a university.

Next, let's consider the role of a writing mentor.  The writing mentor works with students one-on-one, generally offering lessons on craft and reviewing the student's writing.  The main difference is that the mentoring is done through email or snail mail, with occasional phone calls, and the student spends her time writing at home rather than sitting in classrooms.  One on one mentoring is one of the main hallmarks of the relatively new brief-residency MFA programs (I'm a graduate of one of these), which have become a common way to earn this degree.

Which brings us to the writing coach.  In order to investigate what they do, let's ponder the profession of life coaching.  Unlike therapists, who traditionally delve into your past in order to make a better future, coaches start from where you are, right now, assisting with goals, problems, obstacles, whatever  you need to help you lead a better life.  Thus, a writing coach focuses on problems and obstacles that might prevent you from creating your best writing life.

So which route do I follow?  In my role as a teacher at the Writer's Loft in Tennessee, I mentor students, as explained above, focusing mostly on the actual reading of the work. My writing coaching is a hybrid creature.  As a writing coach, I coach you to create a writing life that you'll love, assisting you with finding time and motivation to write and helping you to overcome the obstacles along the way.  And I also teach you craft and review your work.  So you get the best of both worlds, as far as I'm concerned.

For some people, attending traditional classes is the best way to go.  Others will desire the personal care that a coaching relationship offers.  I urge you to ponder all the options and decide which one works for you.  And of course, if you are ready to hire a coach, I'd love to talk to you.

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Looking Back, and More Important, Looking Forward

It is New Year's Eve, 2008, the cusp of a new year.

I'm a wildly optimistic person and every year I proclaim that the next year is going to be the best yet.  And, nearly everyone of them turns out to be best in some arena.  It may be very difficult for some people to come up with good things to say about 2008, given the upheavals we've experienced.  Once again turning on my Pollyanna persona, I believe these are necessary shifts we've had to go through–and that 2009 will be better.  I'm excited about our president-elect, for one thing.  And I'm excited about the opportunities for writing in 2009.

Although the publishing industry is in turmoil, it is going to be a good year for writers. Not only will many of us find more time to write because of fewer business obligations, but in general a depressed economy forces us to stay home more–and what better thing to do at home then write?  Along those lines, I have plans in the works to assist you in your writing endeavors next year.

But first, before we get to what's in store for 2009, I present my year in review, along with a list of favorite posts.

Good Things About 2008

1.  My ghostwriting career took off.  I've been privileged to write several books for wonderful clients. This allows me to enter a different world and become the person I'm writing the book for.  Gives me a small taste of what being an actor must feel like.  

2.  After teaching in the program for five years, I became co-director of the wonderful writing program, The Writer's Loft.  Anybody interested in improving their writing skills should take a look at the program.  It is based in Tennessee, but since its a distant-learning program you can live anywhere and take advantage of one-on-one focused mentoring.

3.  I started Bookstrumpet, which is floundering at the moment but had a glorious beginning with many wonderful reviews from various people.  I'm pondering this blog's future at the moment.  One possibility is to incorporate all the material into Wordstrumpet.  Ideas?

4.  Word Strumpet became available on Kindle and at this writing it is currently #12 on the bestseller list in Lifestyle and Culture.  Thanks to all my Kindle subscribers!

5.  I began a newsletter, The Creative Equation, and got some subscribers.  Thanks, guys!  For those of you who don't yet subscribe, you can do so on the front page of Wordstrumpet.  I send it out irregularly and don't harass you with tons of emails about stuff to buy.  But it is the best way to keep up with news about product releases and my plans.  (See below)

6.  I started running and found many commonalities between the practice of running and the practice of writing.  See below for some of my posts about it.

7. I made two wonderful new friends, Rachel, and Mayanna, both of whom I adore.  And I kept up with my old friends in Nashville, too numerous to list here, and LA, and my bestest friend, Suzanne.  I share a love of writing with all of them.  Rachel and Mayanna both started blogs this year and Suzanne really got going on hers.

What I Resolve to Do Better

1. Respond to comments more consistently.   I love, love, love it when you guys comment yet I don't always manage to comment back.  No excuses.  I'll do better.

2.  Be as helpful with your writing as possible.  I want to do more posts on craft and motivation, as these are what the respondents to my survey said they really appreciated.  I also want to do more posts featuring exercises you can use in your work immediately.

3.  Send the above-mentioned newsletter out more regularly.

4.  Fully embrace the possibilities of blogging and allow Wordstrumpet to be all that it can be. 

Favorite Posts of 2008 (Mine and Yours) 

1.  The series on words.  Part one is here, part two here, and part three here.  This seemed to be a crowd-pleaser, and I loved reading the comments about how you find strong verbs and other good words.  We writers are a word-loving bunch!

2.  The series on scene.  Series seemed to be big this year, and since scene is often a point of confusion for writers, this one went over well.  Part one is here, on flat scenes is here, part two on elements of a scene here, and part three on rising and falling action here.

3.  When One is Born a Writer.  This one got so many great responses I did When One is Born a Writer Redux.

4. My posts about running.  Read them here and here.  At the moment, I'm sidelined with a knee injury, but I can't wait to get back to it.

5. The Filtering Consciousness.  An arcane but important aspect of craft.

6.  A Day in the Life.  I'm trying to get better about not devoting quite so much time to writing.

7.  Birdsong.  I thought this was just a little throw-away, but people loved it.  I did too.

8.  The  Character Who Wasn't Dead. Sometimes we writers are kinda dense.

9.  A two-part series on erotic romance.  Part one, on writing it, is here.  And part two, on publishing it, here.

10.  Finally, I resisted this one, because it is multi-parts, and creating all these links is a lot of work.  Plus its almost time for me to get ready to go out.  But I did a whole series on The Writing Bogs that I've since turned into an Ebook called Set the Words Free.  So, here are the links:  part one, part two, part three and part four.  Phew!  I could swear there was another one, but I can't seem to find it.

Looking Ahead to 2009

For the record, my biggest non-blog-related goal is to get a contract for my novel.  Go, Emma Jean!  I know a lot of you are also looking for agents, writing query letters, submitting like crazy.  So let's all communicate and support each other through the process.

Besides the above-mentioned goals, I want to give you a heads-up on what I'm planning, project-wise. My biggest goal is to get my pet project off the ground–the Charlotte Rains Dixon Novel Writing Academy.  Is that not a fabulous and grandiose name?  I adore it.  And its going to be wonderful, a membership site full of lengthy and informative articles, forms, and exercises.  Plus regular teleclasses, videos and all kinds of goodies.  

Realistically, it is also going to take a few months to get off the ground.  So in the meantime I hope to offer a product or two.  Stay tuned–and thanks for hanging around as long as you have.

Happy New Year to all!

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I Confess

I cannot tell a lie, because you have no doubt noticed, but I am a blogging slacker.

Two weeks ago I headed to Nashville for the Writer's Loft fall orientation.   This was a big to-do because it was the first actual orientation that my partner Terry and I planned since we took over the program.  And, I am happy to report, it was a rip-roaring success.

So much so that I got completely re-inspired to work on my novel again.  Not just working on it, but working working on it, if you know what I mean–keeping the file open on my computer, working on it every spare moment, obsessing about it all the other moments, stealing time from paying work.  That kind of working on it, which I love because its been too long since I've been in this space.

To my credit, there has been guilt.  Lots of it.  So much that it finally drove me to cautiously log onto my Typepad account.  So here I am.  I've not gone anywhere, just deeply into the novel.

Here's the good news–I took copious notes while sitting in the workshops and lectures that inspired me so much and my plan is to write blog posts about what I learned.  Um, never mind that that has been my plan for the past week, since I returned home.  I'm going to do it.  I wrote this post, didn't I? 

I also have a pile of reviews to post on my companion site, Bookstrumpet.  So stayed tuned, there is much more to come.  Really.  Trust me.  I promise.

And now excuse while I go look at what I wrote this afternoon on my novel.

Oh, one more thing–I was having some computer issues last week.  Like big ones.  Like my beloved Vaio melting down type problems.  Its okay for the moment, but I'm in the market for a new one.   I'm so tempted by the Macbook.  So very, very tempted.  I've resisted the whole Apple cult for years and now I feel it ensnaring me.  Help me, PC users! Not a big fan of Dells, but I've loved my Vaio.  I would like it to be less than astronomically expensive.  So if anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear it.  Has to be a laptop–it goes with me wherever I go.

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