Saturday, January 9, 2016
AUDITOR POSITIONS ARE OPEN
Well, our latest bootcamp class session has ended and in about a week (Jan. 17) a new, ten-week session will be beginning. I’ve heard from several people who are interested in joining us, but alas, we only had two openings for writers this time and both were filled from the auditors who were on board last session. This is the first place we always go to when we need new class members.
Our auditor program has been a resounding success for the several years we’ve had it. Basically, auditors have access to everything we do in class at all times. They see how we operate, how we present our work, how it’s critiqued, and are privy to all the many conversations about craft the members have. It’s exactly like sitting in class with the only proviso that they can’t participate actively. Many auditors have told me that they learned more by sitting on the sidelines observing that they did in their university classes on writing. We are a serious group, with but one goal—that every member become published and published well. Our track record in that regard is excellent. And, we expect that goal to continue next session. As many as six writers will have finished the novels they’ve been working on in class and I believe all of them will find a legitimate publisher. A few nearing the completion of their novels have already secured good agents and are just putting the final polish on their manuscripts.
Which means that we will probably have several openings in the following session. Not that many—most who finish their novels opt to remain in class as they work on their next work. People who are already in class always have first dibs on being in the next session. When we do have openings, we’ll solicit from the ranks of the current auditors. If openings are not filled thusly, we then open it up to anyone who applies. This rarely happens.
The purpose of this post is to let people know that we are always open to auditors. There are no limits on the number of auditors who can join us, simply because we don’t have to take any time for their work. It’s that simple. That’s also the reason we maintain class size at 10-12 people each session. That’s the number of participants that we can serve properly and fairly and thoroughly. Any more than that, we would run into a time problem. Both myself and all the class members take significant time to read and comment on the submissions each week, and if we added more to class, we’d have to spend less time on everyone else’s work and we’re just not going to do that.
The way class works, the class is divided into two groups. Holly Love, our class administrator and member herself, assigns each group to a color. Six in each group. Each writer is required to read and make detailed comments on the other five members in his/her group and return those for the class as a whole to view. That doesn’t mean that they can’t read and comment on any writers outside their group—they certainly can and do—but these are their required reads. A few years ago, each class member had to read and comment on everyone else’s work in class, but it got to be too much for more than a few, so we’ve divided the class in two now. I’m the only one who reads and comments on everyone’s work.
What’s different about our class is that we don’t care about placating people’s feelings. We’re not mean-spirited, but our standards are based on helping our fellow writers create a publishable novel. We’re not there to make people feel good or to lavish praise on each other. If praise is warranted, they’ll receive it, but our biggest focus is on what isn’t working and how to fix it.
This is the reason I formed this group several years ago. I’d taught in various universities and other venues, both online and on site, including the UCLA Writer’s Program, the University of Toledo, Phoenix College (the “real” college, not that internet pretend school you see on billboards), St. Francis University, Trine University, the New York Writer’s Workshop, Writer’s Digest Online Classes, Vermont College, and other venues. The reason I quit and opened up this class was that every one of those venues required their teachers to practice the “sandwich” method of teaching. Put simply, you were to provide a bit of praise (the bread), a piece of criticism (the meat), and then another bit of praise (more bread, ala the sandwich method. I simply couldn’t do it any longer. The truth is, often there is nothing to praise and I had to make up something. Mostly to salve their feelings. And, to make sure they had a pleasant experience and would return to take another class.
I just couldn’t do it any longer. I kept seeing students who were no closer to being published than when they began and they kept clinging on to the bits of praise handed out with their sandwich as some kind of justification that they were “writing.” Well, many were writing… just not writing well.
It was then I realized that praising someone for bullshit wasn’t a kindness at all. If they didn’t know their writing wasn’t working, they’d never do anything to get better. And, by and large, many didn’t. Many were perfectly happy, sitting in a warm, fuzzy club that kept feeding them these sandwiches. Kind of like more than one local writer’s club. Most people didn’t want to tell others the truth, which often was… “Your writing flat-out sucks.” When you tell someone that, they have two choices. 1. Disagree, often violently. 2. Agree, and do something about it. I only wanted to spend time with that second group. When I first began the classes, I fully expected a huge turnover each new session. We had a class structure and philosophy that didn’t deliver sandwiches to the others. If a writer’s work sucked, we told them that. With no mincing of words. But… and here’s the big “but”—we didn’t just say it sucked; we told them why and we also told them how they could improve it. Don’t misunderstand—we don’t promote “formulas” or anything like that in class. We tell them why it wasn’t working and suggested how they could make it more publishable.
What happened was that I got a huge surprise. People didn’t quit. They forged on and enrolled in a second class. And third… and… Their books began getting published. It turns out people aren’t as thin-skinned as too often thought. It turns out there are a lot of people who actually want someone to tell them why they’re not getting published and offer them tools to actually find a publisher and see their work in print. Some do… quit, that is… but not nearly as many as I figured we’d get. Some truly tough writers, who didn’t believe that genius was the only requirement to see their books end up on bookstore shelves. Who knew that hard work, patience and attitude were just as important and maybe even more so.
Those early folks (some of who are still with us, four years later), created a name for our class. It has become “Les Edgerton’s Bootcamp for Writers.” And, it is a bootcamp. We don’t tolerate sissies or quitters or know-it-alls or needy folks. Just don’t have time for that kind of person. We welcome men and women who are willing to do the hard, hard work of becoming publishable writers.
Anyway, sorry to go on like this, but I’m extremely proud of the writers in our classes. And, I’d like to invite you to join us as an auditor. I wish I could allow everyone who wants to become a working member, but I can’t. But, I think I can safely promise you that you’ll be courtside to a class where you’ll learn an awful lot about how to write a publishable book. And, safely. The class won’t even know you’re there. And, then, if you like what you see every day, when one of those rare openings occur, you’ll have the first shot at filling it.
Class membership is $400. To be an auditor is only $50.00.
If you’re interested and would like to know more about it or to just sign up, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for taking the time to read and consider this. I’m wishing you nothing but profitable writing this coming year. Like that brilliant philosopher, Red Green, says: “I’m pulling for ya. We’re all in this together.”