Online Study

As I’ve stated elsewhere, while there are certainly some arguments for getting an MFA (particularly if you wish to pursue teaching), I myself prefer my cobbled-together, custom MFA–comprising mainly courses through the UCLA Extension Writers Program, and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop. I’ve further spiced up my program of study with other classes, some online.

When I first began taking classes at the UCLA Extension Writers Program, they were all of the in-person variety. I approached their online classes skeptically, but have been pleasantly surprised. Some things are lost, but others are gained: the ability to study with teachers and fellow students from anywhere; the freedom to follow up on and extend certain discussions; the ease of posting documents and links. Furthermore, it’s encouraged me to branch out outside my comfort zone and take classes in poetry and screenwriting. (Classes run year-round.)

A relatively new addition to the workshop scene are online classes offered by literary journals. The student gets feedback from a working editor as opposed to a teacher; the journal uses the income to subsidize the largely losing proposition of running a literary magazine. I’ve taken a workshop given by Mid-American Review, and later one by American Short Fiction. Both were worthwhile and reasonably priced. MAR offers a three-year subscription along with the class, and very generously has set up an ‘alumni’ site so students can stay in touch and continuing trading stories and notes. (They’re currently mid-workshop; inquire at the website about the next round.) I’d probably give the nod to the ASF workshop, mainly because their sensibility is closer to mine, and because they offer a 30-minute chat with an editor that I found invaluable. (Classes at both the introductory and advanced level begin July 15.)

A different option is that offered by Dzanc Books–a non-profit independent press that through its various imprints is doing great things to promote both the short story form and emerging writers. They are offering one-on-one, flexibly structured Creative Writing Sessions with some of the most exciting young writers out there. Many have donated their time, and all funds go toward supporting another great Dzanc initiative: free literary and writing classes for students grades 4 – 12.

Other classes I’m less familiar with include: the Stanford Online Writer’s Studio, and an array of classes through the Gotham Writers Workshop, some in conjunction with the literary magazine Zoetrope.

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