Wednesday, March 17, 2010

LiLa University

Big news in the Cleveland writing world: The Roecker sisters are going back to school.

That's right. We're teaching an adult education course in Beachwood, Ohio called Novel Writing 101. This all sounded like a fabulous idea back in December when we pitched the idea to the local recreation department, but now that it's starting in less than a month we're scared.

Hold us.

I mean, what if no one signs up? What if we totally bomb? What if everyone thinks they wasted their $85 ($80 for residents)?

OK, deep breaths.

Bottom line we have two hours every Monday night for six weeks (12 hours total for our math challenged readers) to talk about the crazy ass world of writing and publishing with aspiring authors and if we're being honest we're not really worried about filling up all that time. If anything, there's too much to talk about. Agents, queries, the first 250 words, going on much. information.

Our question for you guys is if you had shelled out $85 to listen to us blab about publishing, what would you want to know? (Please don't say "nothing" we're already panicked enough as it is....)

If we can talk our Dad into being our AV guy, we might be able to post vlog snippets of our course every Monday. But seriously how geeky is it to have your dad video tape your adult education class? SO much more humiliating than dance recitals and you all remember what happened to those videos...


Rebecca L Sutton said...

Ohh Congratulations!!! What an awesome opportunity to pay it forward. Lucky students, you two will be a blast!

I think you should cover the basic basics to start with because from what I've seen so many people truly have no idea of the "rules" so many of us in the online writing community have learned.

Formatting your MS, like you mentioned-query letters (that could be 12 hours alone! some people have no idea what a query is), how to find agents and research them individually, suggestions on how to find and connect with fellow writers (to critique and have your back the days you want to quit)...

I could go on and on but I hope that helps. Good luck! Can't wait to read the posts on class nights. ; )

Unknown said...

Wow, very cool... I think the hardest part will be laying down the law for your students.

I've sat through too many classes - writing and business classes alike - where there's at least one student who wants the floor for the entire class.

Having said that I think a fun class would be explaining terms - agent, publisher, query, interns, etc all the buzz words that a beginning would not be familiar with.

Oh and totally go for that hot-for-teacher look... heels, bun and Sarah Palin glasses.

Good luck and looking forward to reading all about it!

Christine Danek said...

Good for you guys! What a fun class with you guys as teachers. As an aspiring author, I would want to know what catches the eyes of agents and editors so they will read my manuscript and love it. I would want to write a manuscript that is truely from me and my ideas but I want to know how to get it to land that publishing deal. Sorry I had to cut this short my little man is climbing again--arrghh!
Great post!

Candyland said...

Oh this list could be long.
Formatting, basics, query writing, plotting, pacing, character development, importance of betas, how to write synopsis, how to find critique groups, what to look for in an agent/where to find them/how to approach them, marketing/promotion...
hmm...that's all I've got for now.

I would totally sign up if it were closer:)

Kimberly Franklin said...

Yay. That's so fun! Congrats!

PS - there's something for you on my blog today.... if you scroll beyond the hot boy pics.Hehe.

Kim said...

WOW! Only $85 and in 6 weeks I will "successfully secure representation and sell my book"?!?!?! SIGN ME UP! You two are amazing!

Seriously...just use your natural combination of sweet and snark and you'll have the class loving every minute.

Good Luck!

Jemi Fraser said...

You ladies will be awesome. Those people in the course are going to get so much more than their money's worth!

I think some people will want to know about outlining, plot development, character arcs, revising, editing, how to spot those darn plot holes...

Those 12 hours are going to FLY!!

Stina said...

Way to go on the class! I taught my ten-year-old son's class about writing. It was two hours for three weeks. It's amazing how quickly the time flew by. Of course the first thing they asked was, "Did you write Twilight?"

Definitely give the participants insight into the industry. The more they know about the realities the better.

Seriously, you two will rock no matter what. :D

Bethany Elizabeth said...

That's such a cool idea! Way to go - you're so much braver than I'd be.
If I were taking a class, I'd really want to know how to make my writing stand out. What makes some novels 'sparkle' and others... blah, even if they're both well written? And if agents are always necessary/how to avoid publishing scams/ whether or not self-publishing is a good idea. Just some suggestions. :)

Katie Anderson said...


Talk about dialogue and "beats" for sure!

Ending chapters with suspense.

not using "that" and "just" and adverbs.

how you plot and outline.

sticking with it and writing - even when you don't know what to write.

Creating a habit of "completion" being wary of competing "big ideas." Just write those down and save for later.

how to show setting through other things like food and weather and dialogue, etc...

well-rounded quirky characters.

The importance of good critiques and how to do it. Being a good beta, etc...

blogging 101. conference going.

I could go on. Call me.

Unknown said...

Oh my gosh you so need your dad to video tape you!!! I want to see! It's sounds nerdy, but hey I'm nerdy which is probably why I don't mind!

Congratulations! I would pay $85 for some much needed guidance! I don't think you'll have an empty room, in fact I think it will be filled with people.

I would love the basics, the rules, tricks of the trade. I'm knowledgeable in any of it so anything would be more than helpful. Queries are something to be talked about! I wish I could be there to soak up the information because I know that is a very important part, but starting your manuscript, breaking into chapters, editing, revising and such, all of it is important! I would want to know it all!

Oh no will six weeks be enough?! Hope that helps!

Katie Anderson said...

Oh! And revision, revision, revision. And tactics for.

Most new writers have no idea how many times we revise.

getting an agent.

writing a pitch. and a query.

Jill Kemerer said...

Your students have got to be the luckiest people on earth! I would love to take a class with you as teachers. You're funny, welcoming, smart, and down to earth.

Beginner novelists would benefit with a great list of writing craft books. I think encouraging them to think about their characters' goals and motivations is vital. So many beginning writers don't know.

Good luck!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Oh, how I wish I lived near you. I'd shell out my $80 in a heartbeat! And as for your dad videotaping, you can use that as part of the lesson - part of being a successful writer is marketing. Voila! :-)

I would probably want to know where to start, what to do when I finish a book, what the protocol is, and how to go about doing it all.

Christina Lee said...

REALLY??? Awesome! I may sign up and throw spit balls at you from th back *wink*.
I think, depending on the where the majority of the class is in the process, you should do a night of reading queries or first 250 words out loud and give opinions-- that is always so helpful at conferences! Everyone else gave such great ideas too!

Stephanie Thornton said...

Ohh! That sounds totally awesome! And if you're teaching adults you can be sure there won't be TOO many paper airplanes whizzing by your head! ;)

Honestly, the class sounds totally cool and I'm sure people will sign up. I would imagine people would want to know the basic path it takes to write a novel in addition to stuff like plot, setting, and characterization.

Good luck!

Emily J. Griffin said...

I believe the class should be renamed to, "How (Not) To Be A D-Bag While Writing A Novel" -- obviously, props are already taken care of.

Each lesson can be based on either a Board Certified Ultimate D-Bag (ie: what NOT to do) or a class-A Nie Guy (ie: what TO do).

Not only will this involve eye candy (let's face it, lots of D-Bag's are superbly hot - and talented - Jude Law, for example), but it will be informative and very YOU.

Feel free to expound upon this, I only ask for credit in syllabus ; )

Christine Fonseca said... awesome you guys. I would SO come see you! Anyway - I agree with Rebecca - formatting, researching agents, pitching, critiquing etc

Laura Pauling said...

I'd want to know a little about publishing, but if I were a beginner, I'd want to know the basics about story and scene structure, finding ideas, revision, critique groups,and personaly hints and tips from the both of you. I'm sure you'll do awesome and keep them laughing.

Carolyn V. said...

I would pay $85 to come see you guys! You need to come out West. =)

Good luck! Oh...and I can't wait to see those awesome vlogs from class. =)

Tere Kirkland said...

Wow, what an amazing opportunity!

I guess I'd want to know all the things I had to learn the hard way:

What Show don't Tell REALLY means.
Suggested formats for manuscripts and queries.

Online writing resources like crit groups.

The importance of an online presence.

Oh, and not to address a query letter to an agent AND their dog--despite the fact that the dog is included on the staff portion of the page. Not professional, or funny.

Good luck with the class!

erica m. chapman said...

Yay! So excited for you guys. That's awesome ;o)

I wish I lived just a little closer, I'd totally go. Let's see *puts on thinking cap and empathy wig* How about what set your book apart from any other, what makes you two unique. I mean I can guess *wink wink* and maybe, how many times you had to edit your book? What changes you made etc.

Hope this helps. Can't wait to hear all about it! You guys rock, so I know you'll be great ;o)

Elana Johnson said...

LOL! I cannot wait to hear how this goes. And dude, can I just say how jealous I am that you guys pitched this first? I'm so stealing this idea and pitching it to my rec department or library.

And if I paid $85, I'd want to know many things. First pages, first chapters, plot arcs, character arcs, then query letters, researching agents, submissions, waiting, blogging, building a platform, all of it. Just think of what you do and teach that.

Shannon Messenger said...

Not sure I can really add anything that hasn't already been covered, but if it were me, I'd make my approach to be all about "de-mystifying the publishing process." It seems like this magical, confusing place from the outside, but really its a professional world with rules and regulations and dos and donts and writers need to know these things. And I'd definitely highlight the donts.

Oh, and maybe talk about writer's conferences. I know I was worried they were a waste of time and were just a scam to get hundreds of dollars from a bunch of desperate writers. But I asked around and found out they were really helpful, and boy am I glad I went to one. ;)

Dara said...

I'd want to know how to catch the agents and editors attention--what really makes prose stand out.

If I still lived with my parents, I'd so sign up for that class. Wasn't a Beachwood resident, but that's only like a 15 minute drive from my parents' place.

Alas, I'm stuck in Dayton.

K. M. Walton said...

I think all of your previous comments have nailed what to present so I'd like to give you a wee bit of advice on how to is actually my job :) I coach teachers on how to teach, not what to teach.

#1. Start each class out with an Ignition...aka, something to snare your "students" from minute one. Something captivating and connected to the night's lesson - something they can respond to in a Quickwrite (a 2 or 3 minute written response to whatever you shared, read, showed, etc...)

#2. Gradually Release your "students" by at first showing them what "it" is (effective query, killer first page, good dialogue, etc...) Then let them "try it on" with a partner or small group - let them give it a to speak.

I wish you both heaps and heaps of luck and chill-inducing-teaching-moments!!!!!!!

Sherrie Petersen said...

With you guys in front, I have no doubt that this will be a fun class! Can't wait to see the vlogs :)

~Jamie said...

You guys will be AWESOME, and NOT Totally Bomb (Hey, isn't there a website somewhere with that name? :P)

Teach 'em how to keep the story interesting, end each chapter with a mini cliffhanger and such :)

Mariah Irvin said...

You guys have excellent advice! Don't sweat it, you'll be great!

Tana said...

Terrific! I signed up to teach 10-12th graders the same class and the turn out was so low I had to cancel the class. SOmething tells me adults are the right range for this. FOr starters they'll want to be there unlike my students who were shoved in my class because the other one was too crowded. Oh and forgo the cool and please have your dad film it. Or maybe set up a tripod? I for one would love a front row seat.

Hayley Lovell said...

Ooo that's so exciting! I wish I lived in Ohio so I could go, no joke we have no writing programs where I live. But this is very cool, you guys are going to have a great time and you'll be fine. I bet lots of writers will want to go, as stated before I know I would. Just take deep breaths and work hard, it will be a synch. And vlogs would be really cool I'm sure your dad would love to video it for you...hint hint.

Marsha Sigman said...

I would so go to that class if I could. Have Dad video all of it and then sell it as an online video class. I would pay for that!

You already have a lot to mention but maybe mention that it is a good idea to join organizations such as RWA or SCBWI so they can interact with other writers, join critique groups, and have easier access to editors and agents.

Unknown said...

Congrats, that sounds like an awesome opportunity. And, what lucky students, you two have a lot of wisdom to imbue in them.

Unknown said...

Oooooh, wish I could come!!!

Hey, you've got the hard part covered - people who voluntarily pay $85 to come are pretty likely to be a captive audience (unlike my classroom full of 22 first graders who need to be kept amused... AND learning). ;)

You have some great advice here, and just remember that you can always change your ideas for future classes based on what comes up during a class. It would be a good idea to survey your writers on the first day, have them put some things on an index card for you, like whether they are just beginning to write or have written and are wondering how to publish, or anywhere in between... what genre they are writing...etc. By finding out more about your audience, you can tailor what you are teaching. Are they all hopeful YA writers or writers in general? Do they understand the differences between genres? Do they know how to find critique partners (or even what they are/do)? Finding out where they are will help you decide where to go with them.

Unknown said...

How fun! I don't really have anything to add that hasn't already been said, but you guys will do a great job! I'm sure you'll be worth every penny of your $85. :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Teachers! I don't know. I may need a head adjustment to deal with this. :D
You'll be so cool, they'll want autographs. Why not divide the classes up into the categories you know you will discuss in timeline fashion--from getting an idea, rough draft, revision, polish, query, etc. And ask students to write questions they want to know about right at the first meeting. That way you'll know what to emphasis according to their interests.

Lori W. said...

This is so cool. Revision for sure, and bring examples of everything. I loved when teachers brought in copies or had slides of what worked well in others' writings (examples of show don't tell, etc.). I always bring those in when I teach writing.

Also, I love to use samples from students in the class (obviously I ask first), especially if I can show how they've made a big change between drafts.

Set clear boundaries and have fun! I bet you'll have so much fun, and they'll love you.

Kitty Moore said...

I would sign up if I loved closer! I would love to write a novel x

Jeannie Lin said...

Oh, this is so cool! I've been thinking of trying to find a high school program or library program for teens who want to write. This has really inspired me.

Unknown said...

can you skype it so I can be part of the class? I'll pay!!!:-)

not too serious i hope


Come teach one in Florida, damn it!

I think you guys have covered the basics. Maybe how to develop core ideas into something bigger, outlining vs. not, things to avoid when editing (cliches, etc) ...

I went to a novel writing workshop at the local college, and I was floored by how little some people know. I realize I was in the exact same place at one time, but I've been writing and researching the field for so long I sometimes forget that.

lexcade said...

moooooost excellent! i wish i lived that way. i'd totally hang out with you and take your class :)

good luck. you guys will rock it.

Michael Ferrari said...

I've only scratched the surface of your blog, but I don't see how you two couldn't be vastly entertaining and informative in a workshop setting.

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