Tag Archives: online writing programs


This pandemic life has changed us. We are mostly housebound since Tom’s hospitalization in 2017 for a spinal cord injury. Oh, we can travel, get out, but that is limited. But now, no gym, no lunches, no shopping, no Mass, the lack of socialization is impactful. So, the huge benefit of pandemic life, for me, is the eruption of writing programs moving to virtual. The lack of assembly means scores of authors and illustrators, editors and agents, who are no longer able to do school visits not just because they are at home, but because the students are too!

I am not a copious notetaker. In many programs I find a lot of redundancy, after all, what is really new about writing or storytelling? So, attending these programs is more about what I call ‘the click factor’, someone describing or teaching or focusing on an issue or subject so that at that point in time it ‘clicks’ in your head. You might call this the ‘ah-ha moment’.

To date I have attended a poetry class in Switzerland with Bridget Magee where I learned not only about poetry but how to work on writing my own. Check out Golden Shovel poems. Not a poet here, but a great way to work on your word placement and usage.

When I own something I like to use it all, so a program by Gwen Hernandez on Scrivener was excellent, providing insights into the ways that this writing program can up your ability to focus on the writing and assist in the way to pace, plot and revise. Her book, Scrivener for Dummies is worth the price.

SCBWI Carolinas offered a program on how to ‘Raise the Stakes’ in your writing with Becca Puglisi the co-author of the Emotional Thesaurus,  Writers Helping Writers blog and  One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.  There were two nuggets in this program. One was identifying the stakes using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. and using what I think of as a syllogism as we used in logic class all those years ago: wants +then+emotion to create the story goal.

An excellent program with the delightful Joy Bean, senior editor Boyds Mill & Kane , was a discussion of how publishing is handling the pandemic, offering insights into all the remote work for editors, publishers, book sellers and marketers in a time of social distancing.

A free program with Feeding Mind Press a part of the American Farm Bureau, on pictures books with speaker extraordinaire, Emma Dryden , provided two nuggets: one on children’s milestones to keep in mind when pitching your stories toward a particular age group and, two, the way to use screen writing in the formatting of your picture book layout.

Upcoming I have three workshops with Free Expressions Workshops, an SCBWI Nevada program on graphic novels and SinC workshops on forensics and plot twists. And, of course there are the offerings of SCBWI International Digital Programs for members, and the newly opened SCBWI Vault.

As impactful as this time is, there is room to be grateful.

Got a comment? That’s fine. Be nice. No flaming.

Online Classes

I am not a fan of online classes, although I probably should think of it more as what we used to call ‘independent study’. I always liked independent study when I could speed through the parts that I felt comfortable with and linger over the parts that were more complex.  I just finished a fourteen module program on WriteStoryBooksforChildren.com.  The program covers everything from age groups to writing genres and lots of other information in between.

Each module begins with a the Learning Outcomes. I like that–I like that I know right up front what my takeaways are, yea!  And in a powerpoint style of bullet points and highlights, you can almost hear the ‘voice’ behind the lessons.  With a listing of the major areas of discussion under each module, you can go forward or backward, but you can’t go on to the next lesson until you’ve passed the test.

Each test is ten questions, multiple choice, except the last which is fourteen. You are graded and you must make a passing grade of 70% in order to move to the next module. I would suppose that any type of essay or personal answer would be difficult for this type of course, so multiple choice is not a bad way of getting to a grade. Careful reading and good notes and it’s not that hard.

An amusing part of the presentations was the fact the program originated in the UK. It has a very Brit sensibility about it, using ‘forms’ instead of grades as we do here in the US. Paper is not letter size, but A4. The Fog Scale is used to determine the grade level of the writing. Here in the US we use the Flesch-Kincade readability test. Both are formulas, i.e., number of lines, number of words divided by something and Voila! you have the target age of your writing. Not a fan, personally, but I’m not writing leveled material. 

Some of the information was very basic. All stories have beginning, middles and ends. And some were very clarifying. A Synopsis is a map of the story. A Pitch explains in as few word as possible the heart of the story.  I know many people who are terrified of a synopsis. I’ve tried writing them after I’ve written my story and I know that the story is lacking because of that. A synopsis written at the beginning of the idea isn’t an ironclad contract that the story will unfold this way, but it does point you continually in the right direction.

And some information was illuminating, not because it was new information, but more because of the way in which it was presented.

Bottom line? You get a chance to participate in this course, yes. Do it!