Wednesday, January 13, 2010

3 Tips on Starting a Community Writing Program

It's been four years since I spearheaded the Writing Room, a community writing program sponsored by a local nonprofit, the Emrys foundation, here in Greenville, SC. FOUR years! Wow.

Anyone interested in starting a writing program in your community? Ask away-- I've learned a lot about what classes to offer and how to get the word out.

For starters, here are THREE questions to ask yourself if you're thinking about starting a writing program in your community:  

1. Are there writing classes or degreed creative writing programs already in your community?If there is, you need to offer and specialize in something different [less expensive classes, or  children's writing, etc.] Find a niche! If there aren't any writing programs around-- good. You may have an untapped community of writers who are aching for classes, mentors, and instruciton. [That was so in our case.]

2. Consider approaching an established nonprofit [an agency, univeristy or school] in your area to sponsor your program. A nonprofit  has  infrastructure in place [emails, members, accountants, insurance, building]. You can offer to be the program director of your writing program for them and handle all details and events.  What's in it for them? Among other things, a way to increase the number of members/students. You can start your own nonprofit, but that's time consuming. You can go private-- but you'll need to protect yourself with an umbrella insurance policy, accountants, etc.

3. Tap into author events already in place. If there is a reading series nearby, a bookstore that regularly has author signings, or a low-residence MFA program not too far away, you may be able to contact writers coming in or near your town and ask if they'd like to teach a one-day seminar. Offer  to pay lodging as well as an honorarium [we offer $500], with the understanding that if the class doesn't make within a week or more before the class-- a certian amount of pupils you know will cover the costs for the class-- you can cancel or postpone. Another thing-- ask a local bookstore to either sell the author's books on-site, or have a signing in the store after the seminar.

The best part is building a community of writers.  I often sit in the seminars and workshops myself, and learn a lot...we have fantastic writing teachers.

We're kickng off the new Writing Room schedule with a seminar on Sunday, Jan 24 [I've found Sunday afternoons are a good time for seminars]. Marc Fitten, novelist and editor, will lead it.

The Writing Room has a new line-up of classes starting this month. 
Our winter and spring schedule of seminars and workshops include the new--how to write a sex scene-- and the tried and true-- Ashley Warlick's popular "Focusing on Your Book Length Manuscript."
 Winter/Spring 2010 schedule includes:
  • Soup to Nuts: Some Notes on Publishing in the 21st Century
  • Writing Sex Without Being Tacky
  • How to Avoid the Slush Pile
  • 12 Essential Tips for Fiction Writers
  • Works in Progress: Focusing on Your Book-Length Manuscript
  • Write Your Life
  • Writing for Children & Young Adults: Creating Memorable Characters
  • Monthly Workshops: Out of Your Head and Onto the Pages*
For online class registration or information, visit the Writing Room page at
* The Writing Room will continue to offer monthly writing workshops for $5, "Out of Your Head and Onto the Pages," held at
Earth Fare's community room in Greenville.
Seminar: Notes on Publishing in the 21st Century

Marc Fitten, novelist and editor, will present a three-Marc Fittenhour seminar on writing and publishing.This seminar for writers will cover everything you need to know about the rapidly changing marketing and publishing business.
Topics include
: what is a saleable b
ook, and how do you know you have one? What are the deadly mistakes that kill a manuscript in the first five lines, paragraph, and page?

Novel ThoughtsMarc Fitten's debut novel, Valeria's Last Stand, is being published in ten countries and was a German bestseller.
He lives in Atlanta where he is the editor of The Chattahoochee Review, Atlanta's oldest journal.
Date: Sunday, January
Time: 2:00 -5:00 pm
Instructor: Marc Fitten
Location: Innovate Building Conference Room,
148 River St. Greenville

Cost: $45; $40 Emrys members
Register at
Note: Marc will be reading at the Reading Room, Monday January 25, 7 pm, at the Bohemian Cafe & Restaurant.

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