One of the banes of subscribing to newsletters for writers and a range of publishers is the constant pitching of courses for writers. Apart from a deep suspicion as to their value (I’ll come back to that later), I am flabbergasted by the cost. Yes, there are a few shining lights of moderation in this space but most are asking fees in the hundreds of dollars (including MasterClass where you can ‘learn’ from already rich writers). When it comes to formal tertiary institution programs (e.g. Master of Fine Arts), the sky’s the limit.
To save your metaphorical breath, I already understand the following things:
- There is no such thing as a free lunch and genuine knowledge imparted by experienced published writers who take their students seriously will always be valuable.
- A tiny minority of people make a living as a writer and these gigs help some of them pay the rent.
- All writers want an audience and whatever helps them to achieve that is potential grist to the mill.
- It is essential to decide in advance what you want to get from a particular course in order to be able to assess fairly whether you got what you paid for.
My main concerns are these:
- The vast majority of writers cannot afford to access these courses. (A few angels provide free entry to a small number but they are rare.)
- For those who do invest their meagre funds, there is no way of researching the value provided by the course or the course provider i.e. there is no Trip Advisor for your writing journey.
- I can find no directory of successful writers listing the courses they found helpful with their writing or their efforts to get published.
Take it as read that my response to paid feedback is similar i.e. who can afford it and does it provide specific suggestions/ edits for the writer to consider and/or implement.
I have written to a number of publishers and to my own State’s Writers Centre to suggest they implement some or all of the following low cost or no cost strategies to help address these issues. They include:
a) Providing randomly allocated free or low cost entry to all courses and feedback programs
b) Establishing a feedback portal for writers to share their experiences with paid courses and paid feedback and to rate them on value for money.
Tellingly, not one of them has ever given me the courtesy of a reply.
OK, load up your bouquets and brickbats and let me and my mighty army of followers have your thoughts.