Monday, April 15, 2013

Back To School...Without Ever Leaving Home

by Micki Browning 

Scholarship Opportunity
When I discovered that Sisters In Crime offered a scholarship to Gotham Writing Workshops, it only took a matter of minutes and a couple keystrokes, and I was enrolled.

Gotham Writing Workshops
Classes originated in New York City. For those who reside outside the boroughs, GWW offers online classes.  The Mystery Writing (I) course I enrolled in unfolded over ten weeks. Each week, the instructor posted a lecture dealing with the components that make up a mystery novel. At the conclusion of the lecture she posed a provocative question that launched a student discussion. In addition, students submitted a writing exercise that was read and evaluated solely by the instructor.  Twice in the ten weeks, students posted a longer project that was critiqued by the class.  As any writer can vouchsafe, targeted feedback is beyond value--especially when the readers have an interest in the genre and share the same writing goals.  An optional live-chat heated up on Monday nights. Although I had a conflict for active participation, the transcripts were available for my perusal, so I never felt left out.

I enjoyed the humor the instructor infused into her lectures, but in reality, the information could be found in any of a dozen craft books, so why invest the time, money and effort into a Gotham Workshop? Two answers: accountability and community.  No, no one gets graded and there are no homework police standing behind you to make sure you submit your assignment. Writers know that they are the sole person responsible for sitting down in front of a computer and creating prose. There are, however, other students who are looking for the same validation and assistance to overcome their own writing obstacles and erase their own insecurities. For me, I knew if I didn’t turn in my assignments each week, I missed an opportunity to receive valuable insight regarding my work in progress from a published author. If I neglected my two chapter submissions, I would throw away a chance to experiment with words in a safe environment. So for ten weeks, I belonged to the Gotham Writer’s Workshop community, and reaped the benefits of an audience--an opportunity I only had due to the largess of Sisters In Crime.

Beyond the Class
I’ve been a member of Sisters In Crime since 2008.  At first--and sadly--I joined because I thought it would be an impressive credential. Since then, I have attended conferences with other sisters (and a couple of brothers), had wine with a VP, exchanged quips with the current president in an elevator, and scoured the website for resources, calendars, and industry news.

Sisters In Crime is so much more than a credential. The organization lives up to its mission to raise the professionalism and achieve equity among crime writers. It does this by supporting its members. I am still a newbie in the writing world, but it is less daunting because of the connections I’ve made and the opportunity Sisters In Crime has afforded me. While I appreciated the community of a class and the opportunity to improve my craft, the greatest member benefit is the reminder that no writer is truly alone. Not in this community.

Micki Browning