Saturday, March 03, 2007

Writing Classes and Workshops

This is a great time to sign up for a spring term writing class or workshop, either an on-line or a regular class. I've taken both within the last two years, and the four classes have been enjoyable and enlightening. These are not "senior" classes, but non-credit classes for everyone. Check out your local area, of course, but here are one in Chicago and one on line that I can heartily recommend from personal experience. Both have terms beginning the week of March 5, or soon thereafter, so hurry. Search the Internet for other places, other schedules.

Jill Pollack's StoryStudio Chicago (, located on the north side of Chicago, offers courses in creative writing, freelance magazine writing, writing personal essays, writing the novel, and others. The eight-week courses usually cost about $360; shorter workshops cost less. Most classes are in the evening. Teachers and students are generally young and talented, and these classes are a good source of inspiration.

Angela Hoy's WritersWeekly University ( offers a variety of on-line courses, usually six weeks long. The cost is about $40. Lessons arrive via e-mail once each week, and students and teacher exchange their writing and make comments at their leisure. See the course descriptions to find a class that interests you. This is fun if you have enough discipline to work independently, but with good feedback from others. There are many other online classes too--do a search. Read on for more information on my own experiences.

I spent my working life teaching writing, mostly freshman composition, so why have I taken four writing classes or workshops in the last two years? Yes, I know the "basics" of writing, including fiction, but I'd done very little writing of my own during my teaching and department chair years. I was busy and full of excuses for not writing. Except for a few minor articles and conference presentations, I published nothing.

When I found myself retired, widowed, childless, and alone in 2005, I asked myself the obvious question: What do I want to do? The answer was write. For more details, see my book. I also needed to get out among people (I live in a young people's condo building where almost everyone is at work all day and long into the evening), so I decided to explore writing classes and workshops.

My first idea was to teach informal workshops, probably for my fellow seniors. However, I live near downtown Chicago, and from my few inquiries, I learned that writing centers and even senior centers prefer younger teachers and/or those who still have college or university connections. My writing background was too limited, my community college ties not very prestigious for a big city that abounds in talent. I don't think most people realized that I was serious about this.

Anyway, I knew I wanted to write. Making money was not the object. I took an evening LifeWriting course at StoryStudio Chicago, and it inspired me to go on with and complete my memoirs. Right now I'm just finishing a Creative Writing I class there. In both classes, I loved the relaxed discipline of having something to write (no grades to worry about, of course) and I loved hearing what others were writing and what they had to say about what I wrote. I was impressed by the writing talent I saw in both classes. Since I have been the oldest member (by far) of both classes, I'm afraid the other students (and probably the teachers) were afraid to criticize my work, but I have learned a lot anyway.

I have also taken two online courses from Angela Hoy's Writers Weekly University. If you are homebound or just want to write on your own, but with feedback, this is an inexpensive source of no-sweat six-week online classes. Participants come from everywhere; I had one classmate writing from the Netherlands (in English, of course). You receive assignments and advice via e-mail once a week, and share feedback with the instructor and with other class members. This is fun! I have "met" students of all ages and backgrounds. There are many on-line writing classes; try one.

Of course you can find free writing classes for seniors at some libraries and senior centers. Check those out, too. And see the Eons Writers group ( and the Writers Forum at to meet more interesting people.

As I've said so often before, just write!

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne

1 comment:

Cookies Blog said...

Thank you so much for this article.
I have been retired for 2 years and have tried a few things and nothing seemed to work. Now I am writing and it is what I am really good at. I need to find a free writing class in chicago. If you know of any email me.