Stretch Your Writing through Classes

Monday, September 10, 2018

Because I work full-time and continue to freelance and write on the side, I don’t invest a lot of time in taking classes, especially ones where I have to have a physical presence. My time is stretched a little too much as it is. But, as I’ve been on a quest for personal development in a lot of different areas in my life this past year, I decided to take advantage of WOW’s impressive list of online classes and move right on out of my comfort zone recently. At the beginning of August, I signed up for “Ashes, Ashes: Writing Personal Narratives about Childhood” with instructor Melissa Grunow. I felt like I had some lingering memories and issues from my childhood that might benefit from a little writing therapy. And boy, was I right. It was the best investment I’ve made in myself in a long time.

I’ve always considered essays to be one of the weakest areas of my writing. After reading so many of the fantastic entries in the WOW! Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest over the past year, I became more interested in trying my hand at tackling the tough topics. Because as it turns out, I had plenty of them!

The classes at WOW! are small, giving them a more intimate feel. Each week we were provided with a hard copy of the lecture, along with examples of essays that represented the theme of the week. We also exchanged e-introductions at the beginning of the course, allowing our instructor the chance to tailor the different weeks of the course to our specific interests.

To go along with each lecture, we had an essay assignment with a maximum word count. Our instructor provided us each with a full critique of each piece, and we also received critiques from two other classmates. Plus, we also had to read and critique two other writers’ work. This alone was worth the roughly $30 per week the class cost. Reading the different comments and questions on each of my essays gave me feedback that I know will make each piece even stronger and more well rounded.

I had to dig deep for the material. One week I wrote about possibly breaking my nose in an accident at age 10 and not being taken to the hospital. Other essays centered around a childhood friendship, surviving an attack by some neighbors’ dogs, and a family secret that was never resolved. The writing process was so cathartic for me that I broke down crying over the last essay. It was also interesting to read the responses of my peers. There were times they said things like “this probably wasn’t so and so’s fault,” making me realize I was holding onto a lot of unnecessary anger.

In the end, I came away from the class with four solid creative non-fiction pieces to continue to polish and shape and make my own. Whether or not I will do anything with them remains to be seen. But it was nice to challenge myself, connect with other writers, and realize I still have a lot to learn about creative writing.

Have you taken any writing classes or workshops recently? What were they about and how did they work for you?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer who enjoys writing suspense/thriller and young adult fiction. In another life she should have worked as a criminal profiler for the F.B.I. She also works as a marketing director for a non-profit theatre company so there is plenty of drama in her life! Visit her website at


Angela Mackintosh said...

Renee, I'm glad you got so much out of the class! Besides what you mentioned, I think classes are what you put into them as well, and it sounds like you put a lot of heart and soul into it. Four essays is awesome, and the cathartic experience is why I love creative nonfiction.

I'm currently taking Music, Truth, and the Towns Inside Us: A Cross-Genre Exploratory Workshop with Naomi Kimbell. She's a fantastic instructor and beautiful person. This workshop is different for me because we're reading and writing poetry, writing to music, discussing film, and more! We just started our second week, so I'll see what happens, but I wrote a CNF flash in week one to music, and it turned out more of a gritty prose poem of sorts packed with imagery. I never write that way, so I'm looking forward to seeing what I will excavate in this class.

I also take all of Chelsey Clammer's creative nonfiction workshops and love working with other writers who have the same goals as I do. Classes push me in a way I don't push myself, and I feel a real sense of accomplishment when the class is over.

I have a lot to learn about creative writing as well. I feel like I'm waiting to burst through a barrier that's been holding me back for so long. I'm almost there, and classes are helping.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--It sounds like your class was part writing class and part therapy. Finishing four essays in the course of one class is fabulous.

I would highly recommend Katherine Boemer's book "The Journey is Everything." It's taught me lots about essay writing.

I've never taken a class through WOW, but you and Angela are great salespeople. (Should I check out Chelsey Clammer's classes? It sounds like I should.)

Renee Roberson said...


I want to take a class with Chelsey too now! I can honestly say I've never had an issue with any of the instructors so far, including the lovely Margo Dill, who I took a novel writing class with. You can learn more about Melissa Grunow in a few weeks, too, when we run an interview with her about her new book of essays!

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top