Thursday, 26 July 2018

More on Creative Writing MOOCs

My first week's experience with the University of Iowa's MOOC (massive open online course) Moving the Margins has been an education in itself. I graduated with my final degree 20 years ago. I've attended a few evening courses at local universities and have even taken some simple online creative writing courses where the focus was on feedback for your writing. I'm used to online formats, but the Strathclyde courses I did were much smaller, no more than 12 students probably. Massive is in no way a misnomer here. I can't figure out how many students there are but there are hundreds from all over the world.

A large number of participants can be both a positive and a negative. I had 4 comments right away on my piece when I submitted it  2 days ago, though they are all pretty terse, but nothing since. Some people who submitted early had dozens of comments, but I think I'm late to the games. I've been making sure to respond to people who haven't gotten many comments themselves. No one should be left out. The teaching assistants are not commenting on anyone's submissions which is a shame as that's what a writer really needs when they're learning, feedback on their own work.

You read texts, watch video lectures, answer discussion questions relating to the stories and your own writing. Then you submit your own pieces. I haven't taken time to read everyone's answers to the study questions though I do read a few after I've answered just to see how others are taking to the texts. But there's no real feel of a discussion. A woman asked a question related to one of my comments, so I had a chance to explain myself, but then it was dropped. There's just too many people to really get a meaningful dialogue going.

It feels a bit odd, I have this expectation that because it's part of the University of Iowa's creative writing programme it should be an excellent course and I'll gain lots of insight. But so far, I'm not feeling it. The stories they've chosen to discuss are well-written and interesting in terms of examining for writing style and the theme, of course, but I feel distant, not getting the benefit of discussing it with the teacher or my other classmates. And ultimately to not have the teacher's feedback feels kind of pointless. It's like reading the crib sheets of the UofI course. So I'm not a fan of MOOCs at this stage anyway. 

I'm waiting to see how Wendy Pratt's course works out when it starts next week. There are over 30 participants so far, so will hopefully be more of an intimate, interactive course.

I've been mainly working on my first fiction piece for the UofI course, but I'm submitting a poem to my local writing group this week for feedback. We're meeting in a cafe which isn't as great for reading out our chapters, so I've chosen something short which should work better.

I'm still submitting constantly to magazines, I've had about 46 rejections and 4 accepts from various magazines this year which is about half-way to my goal of 100 rejections. Of course, I'd like to see more accepts. 

Enjoy your week.



Friday, 20 July 2018

Back to Business: Short Online Writing Courses

Two days back home and I have a major case of the 'post-holiday blues' going on and just a bit of jet lag, so I'm struggling to get back into routine. Our holiday was wonderful and I have lots of fodder for new work from it, but how to get started.

As my normal writing group is basically on hiatus over the summer, I have joined two online writing courses that will hopefully kick me back into writing mode, though I still have the kids at home for almost a month yet.

One through the University of Iowa's writing programme is called Moving the Margins: Fiction and Inclusion. It is free and part of their online writing resources and MOOCs (massive open online courses). There are hundreds of participants, so I'm not sure how inclusive it's going to be, but I figured it I would give it a go. I don't write short fiction, so am hoping to focus my writing assignments on new pieces for my novels. It's a shot in the dark, but it sounded interesting. And it had me up at 1am last night, scribbling down an idea I had for one of my novels. So not a bad thing.

I'm also joining a poetry writing course run by poet Wendy Pratt. Starting in August, it uses nature as inspiration and I'm hoping to work on some pieces inspired by our recent visit to the Highlands. She will send out daily writing prompts and five lesson plans, looking at established writers' work. The course only costs £10 which is a bargain considering how much most online courses cost and I'm sure it will be more personal than the UofI course.

And finally, I've also joined an online writing group started by a friend. There's only a few people in it so far and again, they're focusing on short fiction, but it will give me a more immediate reaction to the work I'm writing for the UofI course, so I'm sure it ill be helpful.

We're taking it easy for a few days while we get used to being back home, so I'm trying to squeeze in extra time writing while there's too much screen-time going on, but we'll see how things go when I'm on my own with the kids again.