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.
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
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.
A few years ago in Scottsdale with some of the class. Holly, Linda, moi, Mary and Maegan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
membership is $400. To be an auditor is only $50.00.
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.”
Diana Beebe and I meet up in Dallas at the DFW convention. Diana recently won a major writing contest and her work is being looked at by several prominent agents and publishers. She's a member of our class.