Wednesday, December 14, 2011

University of Writer Blogs and Betas


This month's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog's question is by yours truly:

“What formal writing experience do you have? (classes, degrees, major/minors). Did it shape your writing?Have you ever considered getting an MFA?”

  • I took a creative writing class in college. Most of the time, everyone got overshadowed by the one kid who could write an O. Henry ending like nobody's business.
  • I majored in Biology/Pre-Med, and minored in English. The minor was an excuse to pump blood into the right side of my brain, via Children's Lit and 19th Century English literature.

Ummmmm. That's it.

A few years ago, I started writing poetry and was tempted to apply for an MFA, but even the low res program was too time consuming.

Then when I started writing fiction, I figured I was too awful to subject myself to classes. I did join a writer's workshop for writers and doctors for a few years, but I wouldn't call that formal training.

Nope. I went to the University of Writer Blogs and Betas.

My amazing betas and crit partners taught me so much. Show vs tell, ratcheting up the tension, plotting, killing clichés...you name it, they taught me. And then there are all the writer blogs I've visited over the last few years. You guys keep teaching me, and I'm more than willing to keep learning.

So thank you again, everyone. Thanks for being my professors!

Laura Diamond posted last week, and Sarah and Deb will be up soon!

(Psst. Does anyone think it's funny that MFA and LMFAO are, er, similar? Just sayin'. Having an immature moment here...*snort*)

45 comments:

Sarah said...

That is a very cool diploma there, Lydia! I love this question--and love reading people's answers!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I don't have any formal experience. I didn't even think I'd want to read while in school, so took no classes. I've learned the hard way--through reading books on craft, practicing and making mistakes, and through my critique group.

Madeleine said...

Love this post!
I took a couple of writing classes and a 9 month course.
I'd love to do the undergraduate degree at East Anglia Uni, though.

I have also found that blogging challenges and feedback have matured my writing.

Mohamed Mughal said...

I don't have a lick of "formal" writing training or experience. I'm a chemical engineer dabbling in the creative :). Yes, my academic (and personal) background have tremendous influence on my writing.

I like your certificate; it's truly the product of a creative mind.

Bryan Russell said...

I have a BA in English and Creative Writing and an MA in English and Creative Writing (which is like doing an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing at the same time).

And yes! They influenced me, certainly, though, not always in the way that people would expect. There are certainly no magic beans that will let you climb into the clouds, but it's a time when you can really focus on your writing, surrounded by other writers doing the same thing. Constant feedback, constant deadlines, constant writing stimulation. This is good.

Also, sometimes, cliques and stupidity and odd groupish ideas about what writing "is" (and thus what you should be doing with your work). But sometimes you learn the most in opposition to those around you, as it forces you to clearly define your own feelings and beliefs.

Also, great writing friends! Lots of coffee available! Also, you know, other liquid imbibements. Just saying.

Old Kitty said...

I love your certifcate!! I want to apply for the Dean of Caffeine's PA please! LOL!

Take care
x

Suze said...

Can I just say that I like the fact that you ended this post with a snort?

Jessica R. Patch said...

I need an awesome certificate like that and I may have snorted myself! I don't know what I'd do without my critique partners. They've been life lines.

DL Hammons said...

I actually started college as a Journalism major, but that lasted a single semester as I began my roulette wheel search for a career path. What few college courses I took a millenium ago constitute the bulk of my formal training. Like you, most of what I know right now has come from the blogs, or writing related books I've read.

Kind of a street eductation...in the blogospehere...if you will. :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I agree. I've learned more from blogs than I have from some craft-related workshop. Which is why I now stick with research-based workshops. I'll just let my blogging friends teach me everything I need to know. :D

Nancy said...

No MFA here. Writing classes as an adult, a fantastic critique group that I left in my last town (although not so far that I don't still try to make meetings), and lots of practice. Love the certificate.

Coleen Patrick said...

A few classes in college and grad school, but no english degree here. :) I majored in criminal justice. In the years since, I've taken some local and online classes. It's funny but I've learned the most online!
I love that diploma!

Little Ms. Fun said...

I think writing is both a skill and a natural talent. While classes can teach you the basics, practice and born skill make the best writers.

Stephanie Thornton said...

That diploma is totally awesome!

I'm convinced writing is like any other job--it takes practice to get good. There may be a few gifted writers out there, but even they need to practice to really shine. And no one really shines without amazing beta readers!

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Such a great question. And the answers are always interesting, too.

Hurray for bloggers and all that they share and teach!

Emy Shin said...

That is an awesome diploma. The best!

I've also learned the majority of my writing from reading blog posts and from other blogging/writing friends as well. There's such a wealth of information online nowadays -- coupled with some fabulous CPs, you'll have your very own MFA. :)

Bee said...

OMG, why didn't I notice MFA and LMFAO could be cousins? Jeez, and here I was rushing after MFAs while shooting other peeps with LMFAOs :O

I'm a postgrad student of English Literature but it's Absolute Write and the bloggy world that's taught me more about writing than any professional school can :)

Connie Keller said...

I have an undergrad degree in English with a concentration in writing and worked for Harcourt. But writing blogs and getting feedback from betas has been the biggest help. Blogs because they forces me to write, even when I don't want to. Plus, the practice of writing often makes words come together faster. And betas...well, they point out all the stuff that I can't see and haven't picked up from reading/studying writing.

lbdiamond said...

Love the diploma!

Emily Rose said...

You are an amazing writer, regardless of what degrees you have.:) And yes, it *is* funny how similar MFA and LMFAO are!

Karen Lange said...

I like that diploma! How many hours must we log before we can get one? It is amazing to see all the good info out there. And the support! Just incredible.

I took two courses from the Institute for Children's Literature. I was skeptical before I enrolled, but that was short lived. Their courses are comprehensive, and I learned so much, from writing to querying and everything in between and then some. It was well worth it. If anyone wants to write for kids, I highly recommend their courses. :)

Carol Riggs said...

That's great you minored in English! I didn't know that. I took one writing class in high school and one in college. That's it! I've learned as much or MORE through conferences, online articles, blogs, and other writers. I don't think it's necessary to have any sort of degree for writing. :)

Laila Knight said...

I love your certificate. I took a creative writing class when I was in school, but it was nothing spectacular...had a few kids stories published in a local magazine under an assumed name. No one will ever know. I have to say the most I've learned has been from my CPs and from reading...and of course practice, practice, practice. Have a wonderful Christmas. I'll be gone for the rest of the year. :)

Carrie Butler said...

My degree is in business. Exciting, I know... *cough*

Hooray for the University of Writer Blogs and Betas! :)

(I snickered at the MFA thing, too.)

Krispy said...

Love your diploma! :) I think I'm in the same school. Most of my formal writing-related training was in high school, and then I took a bunch of Asian American lit classes.

Thank goodness for the internet and writer friends and my Real Life friends who are ridic talented readers and writers themselves!

Charley said...

Next you need a degree in centigrade or Farenheit. Or, since your writing is "absolutely" cool, maybe it should be in Kelvin.

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss lydia! i got a certificate that says im a doctor of raccoons. ha ha. for sure that doesnt help my writing so much. i didnt ever do a writing class. for sure i learned sooooo much from my writer blogger friends and from the cool writing books they sent for me that helping me be a way better writer. im getting classes from blogsterville u. :)
...hugs from lenny

Cold As Heaven said...

I've got all the degrees I need. No more exams or theses for me. I just enjoy writing >:)

Cold As Heaven

Deb Salisbury said...

I love your diploma! :-)

Heather said...

"University of Writer Blogs and Betas", love that. I also love being thought of as your professors. So true! I often feel as though I learn SO much from all my social network friends!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's where I've learned the most!

Nancy Thompson said...

My experience is similar. Most of what I know is just from reading all the time and knowing what feels right. Of course, that only goes so far and helps so much, so I, too, have relied on CPs to help me home my skills, such as they are.

Sarah said...

"University of Writer Blogs and Betas"

I know that school! I've wandered the halls for hours at a time. :)

Jennifer Hillier said...

As William Hung said on American Idol all those years ago: "I have had no formal training."

Most of my favorite writers haven't. So we're all in great company!

Jane Charles said...

I pretty much learned everything from my crit partners. I would have a stack of unpublished manuscripts if they hadn't been there for me.

Olga said...

I love getting to know you better and get insight into your world.

Botanist said...

I think that diploma is the closest I'll ever get to a formal writing education. Still need to figure out the "worth reading" bit :)

My degree was in mathematics, which I proclaimed (at the time) to be the best subject ever because it did not involve any kind of writing.

Leslie Rose said...

You should get that diploma shellacked onto a thick piece of wood. I have a background in playwriting, but I am constantly awed by what I've learned from blogs, my solid gold critique partners, and conferences.

A Lady's Life said...

I find some pretty talented people on line and yes they know how to write lol

Carol Kilgore said...

My background is business, and I would have been more inclined to get an MBA than an MFA. It took me a few years to realize I was supposed to write down all the stories in my head. So I took basically the same path as you to get here.

Lost_without_a_Map said...

No writing experience. Actually, I have terrible grammar and poor punctuation skill. What I do have are great thoughts that often get jumbled when I attempt to put them down on paper (or type them). I now find myself carrying around a notebook, just to keep up with my thoughts and attempting to not forget them when the evening comes around. In the future, I forsee a 24/7 editor on my speed dial.

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I have an MFA which was great for me, but now I'm supplementing that education with blogs and betas and craft books (oh my!).

Misha Gericke said...

Lol yeah, MFA and LMFAO are very close. *snicker*

I also went to Blog University like you. Best learning experience I could find. :-)

Matthew MacNish said...

It's a really good school!

catherinemjohnson said...

Love that certificate, can we all have one? Exams, yikes!

 
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