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Thread: [Workshops] Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network / BARN

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    [Workshops] Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network / BARN

    Just looking for advice before I leap into expense and perhaps poor advice.

    I live in the Tacoma area and was considering taking a multi-part novel course offered by the BARN on Bainbridge Island. I knew they had a new writing program after hearing about several courses from friends. Right now I am taking another course there and it's pretty good, but the instructor seems a bit unable to answer questions beyond the basics.

    Regardless, the BARN novel in four months course appears comprehensive and interesting. Write a 60,000 word novel in only a few months. Is that enough words? Anyway, I was just about to take out the credit card when I decided to really dig deep into the instructor's Google past. To my surprise I could not find a single credential. She's never been in the publishing business, large or small, never been an agent, never even taken submissions or worked for a short fiction journal of any kind. She's never taught writing, but used to teach in high school. She's never been published unless you count something that appears on Amazon that doesn't even appear to have a real book cover, just something slipshod. She does have an MA, but she won't say from where. That raised another flag for me.

    The money isn't a lot, but what I am concerned about is this: will I be receiving suitably good advice from an instructor who really has few if any credentials at all? Is she qualified to be leading me through all the various twists and turns of writing a novel from start to finish?

    I'm interested to hear what the community thinks, and if anyone can offer advice perhaps for a different and better course in the Sea-Tac area.

    Thank you!!!

  2. #2
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    The instructor hasn't been published by a trade publisher, doesn't have books you can find in your local library and actual book stores, I'd be cautious about paying.

    I don't know what you'd get that you couldn't get from reading, butt-in-chair and resources like NaNoWriMo and workshops.

    And it's always wise to leery about people who assert an academic credential and won't say where it's from or what it's in.

    Also? I have a Ph.D. in English (UCLA, 2008). I've worked in publishing for a very long time, and have several books from trade publishers.

    There's no way in Hell I'm qualified to teach a course about writing a novel; I don't write fiction. I can teach fiction, but not writing fiction. An M.A. without a solid publishing record is kinda meh.

    You might want to consider the Cascade Writers Workshop, or the PNW Writers Conference in 2018; it's at least a way to get local reccs.

  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW cornflake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Ellen Writer View Post
    Just looking for advice before I leap into expense and perhaps poor advice.

    I live in the Tacoma area and was considering taking a multi-part novel course offered by the BARN on Bainbridge Island. I knew they had a new writing program after hearing about several courses from friends. Right now I am taking another course there and it's pretty good, but the instructor seems a bit unable to answer questions beyond the basics.

    Regardless, the BARN novel in four months course appears comprehensive and interesting. Write a 60,000 word novel in only a few months. Is that enough words? Anyway, I was just about to take out the credit card when I decided to really dig deep into the instructor's Google past. To my surprise I could not find a single credential. She's never been in the publishing business, large or small, never been an agent, never even taken submissions or worked for a short fiction journal of any kind. She's never taught writing, but used to teach in high school. She's never been published unless you count something that appears on Amazon that doesn't even appear to have a real book cover, just something slipshod. She does have an MA, but she won't say from where. That raised another flag for me.

    The money isn't a lot, but what I am concerned about is this: will I be receiving suitably good advice from an instructor who really has few if any credentials at all? Is she qualified to be leading me through all the various twists and turns of writing a novel from start to finish?

    I'm interested to hear what the community thinks, and if anyone can offer advice perhaps for a different and better course in the Sea-Tac area.

    Thank you!!!
    I have no idea about that particular course, instructor or school -- so take with a large grain of salt.

    There are a couple things here, and I think it largely depends on what you're really looking to get out of a class.

    Some people have trouble working consistently or keeping a basic plot structure working. If that's an issue, having to show up with work, each class, that other people will read and comment on can be a really good motivator. Some people have or can find good critique groups in their areas that serve that purpose, but it can be hard. Sometimes people don't show, or monopolize time, or are rude about work. Having a group that paid for the time, with a moderating instructor, usually does away with those kinds of issues. If you're mostly looking for structure and accountability, a decently-priced class (which that seems to be, considering the number of sessions), can be worth it. The other people in any class though, are what they are. Might be fabulous, insightful people who will help immensely, might be people whose critiques aren't as helpful.

    If, however, you're looking for more guidance w/re the writing itself, technical questions, specifics, advice on developing plots, structure, characterization, whatever, and your experience with the school's instructors thus far has not been fruitful, that might be more frustrating than helpful. This instructor might be great, despite having few credentials, but the lack of credentials of kind of any kind would make me wary to begin with and what you've noted about your questions and previous experience wouldn't help.

    You can find a lot of help for the latter types of questions here; if you haven't looked around check out some of the different sections. In short, I think it depends on what you want to get out of the class.

  4. #4
    Mildly Disturbing Filigree's Avatar
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    60K seems a little light on a trade published book's word count, except for category romance or some literary constructions. If you're looking at genre fiction, aim more at an 80K to 100K wordcount.

    Without seeing solid publishing credits from the teacher, I'd be more inclined to save the money and do a self directed writing push.

    This is the self-pub author teaching the workshop. http://www.bainbridgepubliclibrary.o...esa-smith.aspx

    I give her kudos for doing both art & writing. Fused glasswork is not easy.

    Here's a sample of her novel. https://www.smashwords.com/extreader...tion-for-crime
    Last edited by Filigree; 11-12-2017 at 06:30 AM.

    This M/M space opera
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  5. #5
    All about that action, boss. ElaineA's Avatar
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    It's an extremely low price for so many sessions, and if I have this right, BARN is a reputable organization. I agree with cornflake that it really depends on what your expectations are. Certain things jump out at me to indicate it's something of a fly-by level of instruction--which isn't all bad, as long as it's what you're after. One 3 hour block on revision and manuscript prep is...um...inadequate for any sort of real depth, but if you already have a base of knowledge it might suit you fine. You probably won't come out of the workshop with a 60K manuscript that's ready to submit, but for a first draft, it's nothing to sneeze at.

    Another possible consideration is whether you respond better to outside-directed deadlines over self-directed learning. You can learn all of those subjects by reading craft books, but if your style means reading =/= words on the page, that's not exactly helpful (she says from experience).

    The PNWA Conference AWAdmin mentioned above is $375, and having gone to it myself, my impression was the presenters ranged, as conference presenters tend to, from mildly entertaining to surprisingly informative. I would say it's a conference ideally suited to a writer with a book already written. The Surrey International Writers Conference in BC (which takes place in October) is loaded with solid presenters, offers a blue-pencil opportunity, and the opportunity to attend a pre-conference 1-day intensive Master Class. I attended SIWC once and I keep wanting to go back now that I know more about craft.

    There are also classes at Hugo House in Seattle, which is serious business, literary-focused, and much more expensive (not to mention getting to Capitol Hill on weeknights for their classes would be a huge time commitment from Tacoma).

    Also, and welcome to AW from another Puget Sound area member.

  6. #6
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by AW Admin View Post
    The instructor hasn't been published by a trade publisher, doesn't have books you can find in your local library and actual book stores, I'd be cautious about paying.

    I don't know what you'd get that you couldn't get from reading, butt-in-chair and resources like NaNoWriMo and workshops.

    And it's always wise to leery about people who assert an academic credential and won't say where it's from or what it's in.

    Also? I have a Ph.D. in English (UCLA, 2008). I've worked in publishing for a very long time, and have several books from trade publishers.

    There's no way in Hell I'm qualified to teach a course about writing a novel; I don't write fiction. I can teach fiction, but not writing fiction. An M.A. without a solid publishing record is kinda meh.

    You might want to consider the Cascade Writers Workshop, or the PNW Writers Conference in 2018; it's at least a way to get local reccs.
    I feel pretty much the same way. The flags are waving red.

    Will definitely look into your suggestions! Thank you for your kindness and frank talk.
    Last edited by Mary Ellen Writer; 11-13-2017 at 09:51 AM. Reason: Don't want to bring in anyone without permission.

  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElaineA View Post
    It's an extremely low price for so many sessions, and if I have this right, BARN is a reputable organization. I agree with cornflake that it really depends on what your expectations are. Certain things jump out at me to indicate it's something of a fly-by level of instruction--which isn't all bad, as long as it's what you're after. One 3 hour block on revision and manuscript prep is...um...inadequate for any sort of real depth, but if you already have a base of knowledge it might suit you fine. You probably won't come out of the workshop with a 60K manuscript that's ready to submit, but for a first draft, it's nothing to sneeze at.
    Thank you for your welcome!

    One three hour, yes, you're right, it can't be adequate. And I can't help but doubt the adequacy of the rest of it. As provoked by comments here, I realize I could probably get as much or more out of a book written by a real published author or former editor, or someone who has actually been connected to the business.

    My concern is getting bad advice on critical details. If I don't have a real trust level and I have to verify what she says using books and Absolute Write and other writers, why would I sign up at all?

    Thanks for helping me solve this issue.

  8. #8
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Yes, I will do as you suggest! Thanks.

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