Monday, January 14, 2008

Online workshops

How is it Monday already?? How is it January 14th already?? Oy!

I'd like to pick your brains about online workshops. I've taken a few of them, I don't remember them all though. I do recall taking ones on self-editing, plotting, and I think dialogue or characterization. Wow, must have left an impression.

I often start out well. I respond to the e-mails and do the mini-assignments. But after a couple of days or a week, I fizzle out. Most of the time I've just saved all of the documents from the workshop for future reference, but not taken advantage of the discussion aspect of the course.

When I choose a workshop it's usually based on the topic. If it's a topic I like, then I'll look at who is teaching it. Oh! And the price, that's a biggie. I don't think I'd spend more than $30 for an online workshop, unless it's taught by someone I really want to interact with, or comes with lots of useful handouts, like if Michael Hauge taught an online one. Those handouts would be worth the $30. Related to price, the length of workshop makes a difference. Is it $30 for two weeks or a month?

I'm also a bit irrational about them. I like that the workshop presenters give out assignments like, 'write a two-sentence hook for your story' and they proceed to give feedback to each one, on the loop. It's great to see what other people write and it helps me to write them.

However, that's a TON of e-mail. If you have 30 people in a workshop, each one posts their hook. Then the presenter responds to each. That's at least 60 e-mails in a couple of days. Then there are always people who respond further and ask more questions - it is an interactive workshop, right? The e-mail quantity adds up.

So I'll eventually set the workshop to digest, particularly if it's a month-long workshop. The problem is - either I forget to read the digest, or I miss the important nuggets of info from the presenter.

I took one workshop where the presenter set all of her general posts (assignments, announcements, tips, lectures, etc) as 'special notice' in the Yahoo Group. Then workshop takers can go into their Yahoo Group interface and change it from individual e-mails or digest to special notice only. That way they only get e-mails from the presenter, and can manually go into Yahoo to read other posts if they like.

That setup worked great for me. I really liked that.

How about you all? Let's take a quick survey.
1) Do you, or have you, taken online workshops?
2) What topics have you taken, or would you like to take if it were offered?
3) What price range do you look for?
4) Do you prefer 2- or 4-week workshops?
5) Do you use Yahoo Groups or another interface for them?
6) Any other comments on online workshops would be appreciated. Things that bug you, things that work well.

9 comments:

Paty Jager said...

1) Do you, or have you, taken online workshops? I've taken one I paid for. The others were more like AskAnAuthor
2) What topics have you taken, or would you like to take if it were offered? the topic I paid for was Feng Shui your work space. I enjoyed it and learned some things. I've not paid for any other online workshops because through the Historical online chapter I belong to I've taken and taught some of the free workshops.
3) What price range do you look for? the cheaper the better! LOL I don't think I'd take a class that was $30 because I know I'd go to digest, then put the info in a folder and never look at it again.
4) Do you prefer 2- or 4-week workshops? the shorter the better
5) Do you use Yahoo Groups or another interface for them? Yahoo
6) Any other comments on online workshops would be appreciated. Things that bug you, things that work well. I just don't have the time or the interest in doing workshops online.

Danita Cahill said...

1) I've taken a couple I paid for. One was on characterization and one on hooks, I think -- my favorite topic of all! I also signed up and paid for one about reading tarot cards, but then I sort of got freaked out by it and stuck the lectures in a file to save, which I later deleted, after deciding my tarot-reading character would read tea leaves instead.

2)I like the askanauthor free lectures. Don't plan on taking anymore online workshops. I agree with you, Lisa -- too much email which I never seem to get to, so to pay for a class is a waste for me.

3, 4, 5)See number two.

6)Three of my favorite teachers are: Shirley Jump, Elizabeth Boyle and Jennie Cruisie and Bob Mayer (plus the latters were free all last year). Shirley Jump had great online workshops posted to AskAnAuthor a few months ago on taking a good book to Sold! I got a lot out of it.

Good luck choosing your weapons, Lisa! There is so much information available out there. Sometimes it is mind boggling, isn't it?

Elisabeth Naughton said...

There are a lot of people who like online workshops. I just talked to my CP - who is the president of the Wine Country Romance Writers RWA chapter in California - and they started their chapter online classes this month. They had over 30 people registered for their first class.

As for me, here are my answers:

1) Do you, or have you, taken online workshops?
Yes, I've taken them. Some I got a lot out of, some left me scratching my head. Like conference workshops, it's all about the presenter and the information they're giving you.

2) What topics have you taken, or would you like to take if it were offered?
Personally, I like to take research classes on things I need for my books. Medical info, FBI procedures, Info on weapons, PI information, etc. A lot of the craft classes don't interest me anymore, though I have taken them.

3) What price range do you look for?
Depends on the presenter and the length of the class but anywhere from $15-25

4) Do you prefer 2- or 4-week workshops?
Don't really have a preference so long as the information presented is good. I like the workshops where, like you said, Lisa, the presenter gives headers like: Lesson 1, etc. so you can skip the comment emails if you want and focus just on the presented information.

5) Do you use Yahoo Groups or another interface for them?
All the ones I've taken have been in Yahoo.

6) Any other comments on online workshops would be appreciated. Things that bug you, things that work well.
Nothing comes to mind. Good topic. :)

Alice Sharpe said...

Interesting topic, Lisa.

I started writing (now, everyone, hold on to your hat) on a typewriter. In other words, I started my career before the internet. You could buy a book or attend a lecture on writing, but other than classes, that was about it. So, if I had been starting out in this day and age, who knows, I might take all sorts of classes.

But I doubt it. All the problems you mentioned would be mine. I would fall behind, get annoyed with all the senseless comments from strangers and drift away.

I'll answer your questions anyway.

1) Do you, or have you, taken online workshops?
nope.

2) What topics have you taken, or would you like to take if it were offered?

I think the only thing I would do is what Eli said, research, and frankly, that's so easy to do anymore on your own, I'm not sure. If I want to be a cop, I talk to a cop. You can talk to anyone. I've hung out at restaurants and learned the ropes for a book, at theaters, at a newspaper office, a firehouse a radio station -- well, there's nothing like being around a person who knows what they're doing to learn how to do it.

3) What price range do you look for?
I am cheap, so if I were to take something, it would have to be cheap. Or free.

4) Do you prefer 2- or 4-week workshops?
I would prefer a one time thing. Maybe two times. Weeks? Ack!

5) Do you use Yahoo Groups or another interface for them?

Very little. That all takes a lot of time I can spend writing. The best lesson I had for writing was actually writing.

6) Any other comments on online workshops would be appreciated. Things that bug you, things that work well.

N/C

Paty Jager said...

Alice, when I started writing it was on a typewriter as well. My first mystery was written on the typewriter.

And I love interviewing people for books. I've wrangled a meeting with the National Bareback Champion (Rodeo and not what you're thinking) in April for my next contemporary western.

Alice Sharpe said...

Actually, Paty, that's exactly what I was thinking. How exciting!

Karen Duvall said...

Didn't we cover this topic recently? Maybe I'm experiencing deja vu. 8^)

I took some online classes when they were first introduced because it was a novelty and I was still learning, especially romance.I remember taking a class on deepening emotions or something. I also took one on writing suspense by Gail Wilson that was pretty decent, but that was something like 10 years ago.

Like Paty, the only workshops I take interest in are the free ones conducted by RWA's AAA-All and AAA-Pro. Some are kind of lame, but there have been a few interesting ones. It depends on your what you're wanting to learn, and where you are in your craft. There's one going on right now about rejection. I'll be interested in the presenter's responses to the workshoppers' questions.

There's so much stuff for free these days that it seems pointless to pay for an online workshop. Articles are everywhere, and now that blogging has become THE thing, you can learn just about anything and everything by visiting the applicable blog. And the info you find is amazing. I got a lot out of Jessica Faust's hook workshop. She's amazing. I want HER to be my agent, lol! 8^)

I just joined Publisher's Marketplace for $20/month, so that does it for me for the rest of the year. I won't be paying for any workshops.

I took Margie Lawson's Defeating Self-Defeating Behaviors workshop five or six years ago and it was okay, but holy crap bisquits, it generated more email than I could keep up with. I gave up after less than a week. Sigh.

So that's what would bug me, excessive emails. And a requirement to participate in discussions or partner with other workshoppers or whatever. That's just annoying. I'd rather be writing. 8^)

Danita Cahill said...

I LOVE interviewing people. Talking to anyone with a passion for something, whether it's a hobby, career, volunteer work or their grandchildren is just a kick in the pants to me. I miss that part of working for the paper.

I still may write for magazines someday, and there's another Focus edition coming out in the local paper in the spring -- like I wrote for last year, so I may be doing some stories for them again. There's a couple who make horse-drawn carriages and then dress old time and ride around in them. I've been dying to interview them and write about it.

With the books I write, I talk to police, detectives and the sheriff for info. It's fun. I enjoy cops' wry, dry humor.

Lisa Pulliam said...

Thanks for the info everyone! And yeah, this topic was probably covered recently - but I have a hard time coming up with a new one sometimes lol.