Once upon a time, I taught a writing class on Wednesday nights for the local arts center. Or maybe it was Tuesdays. I remember it was winter. I remember my divorce attorney attended, as a show of support. We met in person, for three hours at a time, armed with coffee, notebooks, and pens. Nobody ever brought a cellphone.
“Writing a Woman’s Life,” we called it. We would write in reaction to a prompt for an hour or two at a time and share what we had written, voices tremulous. Sometimes we were angry or sad. Sometimes we were funny. Sometime we started off funny and got angry as we went.
We were trying to uncover the truths of our lives, to grapple with and make sense of the things that had happened to us, to try to find our voices in a world that wanted us to shut the hell up.
The world still wants us to shut the hell up.
After thinking about it for a while, I decided to bring back that class. Then I realized that I didn’t, not that class; that was a class I taught when I was a different person. I wanted to bring a new “Writing a Woman’s Life” out into the world, but I realized it would need some changes.
• It would need to be online so that people from anywhere could join in.
• It would need to allow for ongoing enrollment so that people who found out about it a month from now could still benefit from it.
• It would need to have options for people to share their work with no one else, or only with me, or with everyone in the class, or with the world.
• It would need to provide instruction in the elements of craft so that writers could produce a piece of writing—art—whether that is a poem or an essay or a short story or a full-length memoir. In other words, we wouldn’t all just be keeping journal entries.
• It would show how the process of revision helps writers discover what they are trying to say.
• It would provide feedback so writers would know how to most effectively convey their message (but only if this feedback is desired).
• And it would need to provide adequate compensation for my time and energy.
That’s quite a lot to ask from one class. But, here is the solution I came up with:
Writing a Woman’s Life is an ongoing, online class for exploring your life experiences through writing. You can enroll at any time. The cost is $49 per month (30 days). Each week, I will provide writing prompts, suggestions for working on craft, and examples of my own process—you’ll see me writing and revising my own work.
Students who are interested in sharing their work with others and in offering mutual support will be able to do so in a Slack work group. However, this is not required.
For each month (every 30 days) that you are enrolled in the class/group, I will personally critique a piece of your work, of up to 2,000 words (for longer pieces we can work something out). If you don’t have anything to share that month, that’s fine—but the critiques can’t be rolled over from month to month without an explicit agreement (otherwise my schedule would quickly become impossible).
You will not be automatically enrolled in a subscription. After you enroll in your first month, I will send a reminder out when your month is coming to an end and you can decide if you want to re-enroll. (I may send out a few follow-up emails as reminders, but I will stop after three.) You can stop for a while and then jump in again. The idea is for this to be flexible for all of us.
If I decide, owing to lack of enrollment or for other reasons, to discontinue the class, I will give everyone at least a month’s notice that we’ll be wrapping things up. I don’t know how this will go, so I may have to change some elements, but I am committed to keeping the cost reasonable and to providing direct feedback to each student who wants it.
A Paypal button is below, or you can just Paypal me the $49 to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would prefer to pay by check or another way, let me know (use the above email address) and we’ll work something out.
Jennifer Lawler is the author or coauthor of more than forty nonfiction books and novels, including her popular and award-winning Dojo Wisdom series (Penguin). Her personal essays have appeared in publications such as Family Circle, Neurology Now, Minnesota Monthly, and the Chicken Soup book series. Her blog post, “For Jessica,” went viral some years ago and and became a Nieman Notable Narrative. She recently published a humorous memoir, The Improbable Adventures of a Middle-Aged Woman.
She has taught writing and editing classes for many membership organizations, colleges, and universities.
She has worked for many years as a freelance book development editor on a wide range of editorial projects for traditional book publishers as well as independent authors.
She earned her Ph.D in medieval English literature from the University of Kansas and a black belt in Taekwondo at approximately the same time. She hasn’t quite decided which has been more helpful in her career.