Tag Archives: writing classes

Holiday Gift Guide for Writers

 The Holiday Gift Guide for the Writer in Your Life

With fall already in full swing, the holidays are right around the corner bringing with them the promise of cooler temps, mistletoe, carols and a holiday pastime you could do without…shopping.  There’s nothing like the jam-packed parking lots and bargain shoppers fighting over the last item on the shelf to get you feeling the joy of the season.  Then add in the fact that you have to give that special writer in your life something to show them just how much they mean to you, and the process doesn’t become any easier.  However, with this list of holiday gift suggestions you are sure to wow your writer and earn the reputation of the best holiday gift-giver ever. 

Give a journal or notebook.  Even though most writers in today’s age prefer to write on a computer, writers are always coming up with ideas so a journal or notebook to jot down their inspiration would still be a great gift option.  Pick one that is small and something that they can easily carry with them on the go.  Of course, this doesn’t mean to go to Target and just grab your standard black and white composition book—make this gift special by choosing one that is unique.  Give a legendary Moleskine journal and if you want to do something that shows just how much thought you put into it…get the recipient’s initials put on the front.  {Editor’s Note: Some swear by Moleskine, I prefer Black n’ Red for rough drafts and notes on ongoing projects. I also love those cheapy hardcover spirals you can find at the dollar store or Michael’s for daily journaling, inspiration and collecting quotes and musings}

Give music.  When in the writing zone, a lot of people like to listen to some good tunes.  So when considering holiday presents, think about adding music to the list.  Depending on their taste and musical preference, you can choose something that will really inspire.  You can go with a cd, an album purchased on iTunes or even an iTunes gift card. {Editor’s note: Another fun and FREE idea is to create a personalized Radio Station on Pandora, then send the link to your writing friend!}

Give a special pen.  Again, computers may be the most popular writing method, but a nice pen makes a nice gift.  Writing using a keyboard is faster but many writers will agree that writing with a pen and paper can make their work all the more enjoyable and fun…allowing them to stop and savor the feeling of writing, inspiring new work.

Give a good book. Often if someone is deeply involved in writing, they are also deeply involved in books and a new read would make for a wonderful present.  There are so many options with this idea…you can purchase a book for pleasure, to inspire, to give a writer a break from his or her own work to study the literature of others, and even a book about writing is great too.  Find out their favorite genre or author and choose a book that is sure to impress.  {Editor’s Note: I have my favorite writing books, such as Page After Page (Sellers) and How to Write the Breakout Novel (Maas), but on my wish list this year are: The Writer’s Workout, Christina Katz and The Marshall Plan of Novel Writing, Evan Marshall}

Give a writing class.  This is the writer’s gift that will keep on giving.  Take to the internet to search for available writing courses.  Most cities offer such classes at local colleges, but your best bet may be to find an online course.  This makes for an untraditional gift that can really help a writer to hone their craft and brush up on details like grammar, punctuation, composition and descriptive writing skills.  {Editor’s Note: If you have a young writer that lives in the Chicagoland area, consider giving a gift card for my Summer Studio Workshop; if you have a writer who longs to teach or a teacher who longs to write, I have an Amazing online course starting in 2012! Email me for details and an early bird discount! Mjcwriter at Comcast dot net}

Give a digital voice recorder.  A recorder will be the perfect addition to any writer’s toolkit.  One especially great thing about this idea is that it won’t break the bank (Olympus makes a recorder for less than $60!).  When you have an idea that just pops into your mind and you have nothing to write on or are on the go, what’s a better solution?

Give a lap desk.  Working at a desk can get old and to really get the ideas and creative juices flowing, a change of scenery is a must—therefore, so is a lap desk.  Ideal for writing and curling up in bed and basically anywhere in the home, this handy and flexible alternative to a regular desk will be greatly appreciated by your writer.

Guest Post by: Cindy McDonald, author of this guest post is also a writer for Best Christian Dating Sites where she covers topics centered on online Christian dating.

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No Degree? No Problem!

Tuesdays with..guest blogger, Justin Birch.

A College Degree isn’t Necessary to Become a Writer

While many students are taught that it is imperative for them to receive a college degree to be considered a great writer, the truth is attending college isn’t always necessary. All it takes for a writer to be successful is perseverance, focus and a willingness to take advantage of the resources available to them. In fact, writer’s workshops, online education opportunities and movement grants can provide a writer with all the tools of the college graduate without the expense or the time. Not everyone can attend college but anyone with a love of words and the work ethic can become a successful writer.

For example, Gore Vidal never went to college and he is arguably one of the most respected writers of the 20th century. He received his literary education from the fine literature available to him in his grandfather’s library. Similarly, Jane Austen wrote some of the most memorable books of the last 200 years before a college education was even an option for a woman.

One of the primary ways that people learn to write in college is by reading. It is a given that anyone who wants to be a writer also loves to read. Yet while pursing a college education one is forced to read books that they wouldn’t ordinarily read. It might not be a science fiction lover’s first instinct to read seemingly dry 19th century literature, but writers learn from extending themselves and challenging their minds. As such, aspiring writers should read anything and everything available to them. They should read interviews of famous authors, and read those authors’ favorite books.

In order to be successful, it is crucial for writers to find an outlet where they will have the opportunity to workshop their manuscripts and receive feedback from other writers. Yet, this doesn’t need to occur in a college classroom. Check local newspapers, bulletin boards at bookstores and Craigslist for writing groups in your town. However, of you can’t find a group in your area, you can always start your own. All it takes is a group of writers who take their writing seriously and will commit to meeting regularly, although it is of the utmost importance that they understand the concept of “constructive criticism. There are also many wonderful online writing groups like Coffeehouse for Writers .

Those interested in writing can also attend online writing classes and receive professional critiques and coaching at sites like Gotham Writers Workshop. Likewise,  Writer’s Digest , has a Web site that offers webinars, tips and prompts, and books for the writer who wants to learn the craft without sitting in a classroom.

Another option for writers with the financial resources, is attending large-scale workshops. Going to workshops can be an invaluable experience. These conferences provide the opportunity to attend seminars and meet with industry professionals like agents and editors, as well as best-selling authors. Like any other career, writing involves networking, and the connections made at a conference or workshop can make a big difference in launching a writing career.

The best way to become a writer is to write. While the blank page can become daunting and it is easy to assume that only people with impressive degrees are qualified to write, all a writer really needs is a platform for sharing their work and the courage to plough forward. An enterprising writer who would like experience writing and building an audience should consider blogging. A blog can usually be set up for free and from day one the writer can begin interacting with readers and finding their voice.

As with most things in life, practice is the key to success. As such, the more one writes the better they become. In the current publishing culture it is more and more difficult to get your foot in the door. Thus, any writer waiting for permission from the establishment to write will never compose anything but e-mails.

Ultimately, one of the reasons many writers pursue a college education is that while they’re in school that they are often having their education paid for by student loans, allowing them to use any surplus loan money to support themselves while they write. For writers who begin their careers without a degree the National Endowment of the Humanities provides many grant opportunities. Better yet, the organization provides awards to a significant number to authors who are inexperienced and not college graduates. The National Endowment for the Arts is another resource for grants to help support fledging writers.

Being a writer doesn’t require a college degree. A reader won’t refuse to read a book or an article because the writer is completely focused on their craft and not necessarily on the pursuit of a degree. An aspiring writer simply needs to be willing to take advantage of the resources available to them and success will be theirs.

Justin Birch wanted to be a high school teacher, and then a college professor, before encountering the difficulties of graduate school and professional academia. Now, as a writer and editor, he works to promote the quality and availability of undergraduate education in America.


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