Monday, January 02, 2012
Welcome to School
With the new year comes resolutions. Most of our resolutions are to change bad habits, but they can also be to try something new. For the longest time I thought being a writer was restricted to putting words on paper (or a computer screen). I didn't think about one of the most obvious things writers can do...teach.
Before you shake your head, let me assure you that I don't have an MFA. I am not on the tenure track teaching Creative Writing classes at a university. But I have found plenty of rewarding opportunities to share what I know about writing with others.
What can you teach? Naturally, think of what you've had success with in your writing career first. Do you write children's books, personal essays, advertising copy? Can you think of a group that would want your insider tips? But don't stop there--just because you don't get paid for a specific type of writing doesn't mean you can't be an expert. Do you journal, blog, write poetry for fun? You've just found more ideal class subjects. Then there are writing-related topics--writer's block, setting up a blog, book marketing, finding an agent. Make a list of what you know and then decide which additions could be a teaching opportunity. I've found plenty of ideas from writer's conference workshops or brochures for already established classes such as Gotham Writers Workshops. Remember, teaching could mean a one afternoon workshop or a several week class.
Who should you teach? Seems like a no-brainer, right? Writers! Yes, the folks that show up at your writer's group are one great group to target with classes. But there are also several other natural groups. Moms who are considering the idea of being a writer (hello, have we heard of Christina Katz whose first book was Writer Mama: How To Raise a Career Alongside Your Kids?), teen/tween writers, seniors, even business owners. Many classes, such as journaling or blogging, can be adapted for several different groups.
Where will you teach? Well, you could just plaster your neighborhood with flyers and set up a casual classroom in your own living room. I have to admit, I've never gone this route and prefer to work with groups already in the "class" business. Many local colleges have "lifestyle" or "personal enrichment" classes that don't offer college credits and aren't taught by people with advanced degrees. They are "fun classes" and range from handwriting analysis to planning a trip to Disney World to a smattering of writing classes. If your area has a local art center, church, senior or community center they may also offer a variety of classes. Don't let the fact that they've never offered a writing class stop you, maybe no one ever suggested it before. You can also go online, teaching through an established system like WOW classrooms or by offering classes through your own website or blog. The advantage of online classes is that you aren't limited to just the people in your own neighborhood and your hours are VERY flexible, a definite plus if you also have a 9 to 5 job.
When should you teach? Well, it depends on the class. Some business organizations such as a local Chamber of Commerce will hire you to teach a business-related class such as marketing or business blogging in conjunction with their monthly meeting. Each summer countless schools and other organizations offer fun classes for kids as an alternate to kids staying home alone or going to a babysitter. I teach classes for a senior organization all year round but avoid winter classes. Our winters are snowy and cold and most seniors (most everyone) avoids commitments that may demand that they drive in the snow or miss classes due to bad weather. In the same way I usually avoid November-December classes since so many people are caught up in holiday celebrations. When booking classes consider not only your schedule but the needs of your students, other local activities, and pesky things like the weather.
Why should you teach? Of course there is payment (normally a flat fee from an organization or a per-student fee) but I find that teaching offers so much more. Enthusiastic students always get my creative juices flowing. In fact, just the process of planning a class, deciding what to teach them and which anecdotes to tell can give me countless ideas for my own writing career. It can also give you free publicity if you have your own book or business to promote. And who doesn't? Teaching classes to business people gives you the opportunity to network with those who might need your writing services. Don't miss this chance to have business cards and brochures available for your students.
Jodi Webb spends her days organizing WOW Blog Tours, her nights writing a YA novel and any extra time teaching writing classes. You can learn more about her at Words by Webb.