The Long Ridge Writers Group is an online/by mail writing school. They offer courses in short fiction and nonfiction as well as an advanced novel writing course. More than ten years ago, a friend of mine, another author, invited me to become an instructor. "You're just what they're looking for in instructors," she told me.
I really looked askance at that. A by-mail school? I thought of diploma mills and that infamous 'Famous Writers School'. Well, maybe. I was supporting myself and two sons and money was more than tight. So I said yes when Pam Kelly, the head of instruction, called me. To my surprise, it was no 'instant hire'. Instead, they sent me sample assignments, the course -- which was quite good -- and when they decided I'd do, I got some intensive training. To my surprise, I realized that they weren't just looking for published authors to look good on their brochures. They were looking for good teachers.
And even more to my surprise, I found that I was a very talented teacher. More importantly, I found that I have a genuine passion for teaching. I can share my passion for writing with aspiring writers and share the hard-won lessons in how to do it better that I have spent quite a few years acquiring and polishing.
One final gift -- I found that by working with a wide range of fiction writers, writing in all genres as well as narrative nonifction -- that my sense of story, of what makes a story work, has grown and expanded in a way that it never would have, I believe, if I had not begun to teach.
And the shelf of published student works grows gratifyingly year by year. Can you really teach someone to write? You can teach them to write well. You must have a desire to tell a story or communicate an idea. But few people who lack that gift want to write anyway. And what teaching does is to help the student increase his or her craft skills and perhaps more importantly, to acquire confidence in their own words. Over the years, I have found that the students who really do want to get published get published, either during the course or soon after.
Now many people don't really want to write. Oh, they want to be a writer. They just don't want to do the work. They want to write that blockbuster best seller right now, then sit back and enjoy a lavish best-seller lifestyle. Them, I can't help much, and they usually quit or take one leave of absense after the other. Writing is hard work. It is very hard work and you really don't want to figure your hourly wage.
I love each new student. He or she is like a wrapped present. What will I find? A high degree of talent? A strong, new narrative voice to make me laugh or sniffle and wipe my eyes at the end of that tale? Each one is a new adventure and I do my best, in our time together, to make that student as strong in his or her ability as I can. And my bookshelf keeps filling up.
The Long Ridge Novel Course is new. I designed and wrote it with Pam Kelly and I must say I'm proud of the job we did. It takes students from the first idea through the marketing process and is only open to students who have mastered basic craft skills.