Welcome to my advice for the muse-ridden! If you’re an aspiring novelist, memoirist, or screenwriter, this may be the most valuable part of this website.
Full disclosure: Lenore (my partner in life and writing) and I both write, and teach creative writing at the university level as well. She has an MFA and I have slightly more years in the business! Individually or together, we’ve taught or presented at Florida State University, the Cape May Institute, The Naval Academy, George Mason University, Eckerd College, Florida Community College, Old Dominion University, University of Pittsburgh, The New College, and many other venues. We’ve also done a lot of keynotes and presentations. If you’d like to invite us to speak at your conference, college, writers’ group, library, or festival, please see the Contact Information page.
Though writing is a lonely art, it’s not good to wall yourself off. You need to hear how others react to your work. To be honest, the best and fastest way to learn to write (and to make the contacts that are SO necessary, too) is to attend an accredited creative writing program. This can be helpful even to those who aren’t necessarily in the market for a teaching or graduate degree.
Lenore and I teach at Wilkes University, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The Maslow Family MA in Creative Writing there is a 21/24-credit, 18-month low-residency program taught in three one-week residencies, in January and June, and on the Web between the residencies. (A weekend-only option was added in 2017.) Other noted writers, screenwriters, and poets teaching in the program are Richard Uhlig, Robert May, Juanita Rockwell, Jean Klein, Robert Arthur, Jan Quackenbush, Robert Mooney, Kaylie Jones, Jeff Talarigo, Mike Lennon, Nancy McKinley, Phil Brady, Christine Gelineau, Gregory Fletcher, Rashidah Ismaili, Laura Jean Cannady, and many more. Our Director is Dr. David Hicks. Students meet with their teachers and complete their plans during the residencies, then do their area reading, writing projects, and finally their capstone (thesis) project, usually a novel or short story collection, during the semester.
Finally, our outside readers for those thesis projects are not academics, but practicing editors and agents from New York. This well-planned, rigorous program not only trains students to write, but also to plan, organize, refine, and market their work. Which not all programs seem to do, in our experience! For more information about it, check out Wilkes Creative Writing. New this year: a one-semester, non-degree Master Class that lets you plan or refine your book under the supervision of an experienced, much-published writer.
There are many other good CW programs, though, and if you’re really serious about writing as a career, or plan to teach it, you really should seriously consider an MA or an MFA in the field.
If you decide against a formal degree program, however, I recommend local writers’ workshops. Also, go to as many writers’ conferences as you can conveniently make. They help educate you in the craft. They give you contacts you’ll yearn for come marketing time. And they stoke that fire in the belly we all need. If it’s close enough to you, we also can recommend the Ossabaw Island Writer’s Retreat, where we also teach from time to time. The Writers Conference of Northern Appalachia also has a yearly conference, if you’re in their geographic region, or are writing about that area. We often attend that. And there are MANY more.
Whatever you decide to do, Good luck! Writing has been good to me. May it treat you just as well!