Learn to sell your writing – classes at StoryStudio
StoryStudio is a premier educational setting in Chicago for writers from beginner to professional levels. This is the place to get connected, build a network, learn to market yourself and sell your writing and to polish your skills. Whether or not you live in Chicago, this is a resource to be aware of.
We interviewed StoryStudio director Jill Pollack and she gave us amazing ideas about how to progress as a writer with StoryStudio on your side.
Jill, tell me just a bit of background about you and about StoryStudio Chicago, please.
StoryStudio was started in 2003, mostly because I wanted a place like this to go study my craft, to meet other writers and to just hang out. My first class had four students. This year, about 500 students will come through. We work with writers of all levels including those interested in applying to MFA programs. We have amazing success with our students being accepted into those incredibly competitive MFA programs.
What’s the most common stumbling block intermediate writers, our primary readership, are up against?
For intermediate writers, there’s a point at which you’ve learned enough about the craft to go off on your own and write. But you probably realize there’s much more to understand about the telling of stories. However, the biggest problem is time — that’s why StoryStudio offers a variety of writing workshops that focus on giving and getting critical feedback on your drafts. It can keep you motivated giving you deadlines and before you know it, you’ve got another fifty pages finished. My strongest recommendation to intermediate writers is to read. A lot. With reading comes greater comprehension of language, rhythms, structure.
What do intermediate writers need to focus on, usually, to take the next step?
Reading is crucial. Next would come workshopping. I have some writer friends who I think are so incredibly talented, really brilliant writers who have contracts. But they still share their work in a workshop because that feedback can help solve issues you may not see yet. Sharing work–at whatever stage you’re comfortable with–can really push you to reach higher heights. Having said that, I remind my students that just because someone gives a suggestion or doesn’t like a scene, it’s the writer’s. We’re commenting on what we see but you have to tell the story you want to tell.
What do you say to writers who have frequent bouts of writers’ block?
I don’t believe in writer’s block, per se. The problem comes more from our own expectations that our stories will be great, right off the bat. Writing is hard work and good writing comes in the revision process. But to have something to revise, you have to have a few sentences on the page. Sit down and put some words down. It doesn’t matter what they are. Just describe the room you’re sitting in and I guarantee, something will come. We have a fun class called Story Workout — a series of exercises we do in class and share. We get amazing stuff out of these. Some students even use the exercises for short stories and novel beginnings.
How does professional training or specialty courses figure in to a successful path?
Successful paths come in all colors. At StoryStudio we focus on making people better writers through craft and workshopping. But more importantly, we share information. Everyone who gets published (and we have a lot of writers getting published) is more than happy to share experiences and knowledge. I stress networking between students instructors because the more people you know, the better to get to the person you may need. Our meet and greets and salon-type events give students a higher level of networking. We provide students with information, connections and knowledge so they can develop their own path.
Where can intermediate writers expect a warm reception for their work?
Markets are changing. For short fiction, literary journals are great as long as you do your homework and submit where there’s a good fit. But the Internet is really the Wild West for writing. You can find all kinds of opportunities online. And of course, you can publish yourself easily with a blog. Remember this – if you don’t sit your butt in the chair and write, you don’t stand a chance.
If an intermediate writer could only manage one course, what would you advise?
For intermediate fiction writers, I would recommend our Fiction II course. It’s a hybrid of class and workshop so that while you’re giving and getting feedback, you’re also delving deeper into craft issues. This class really helps students to hone their critical reading skills.
What if a writer would like to know about you?
I’m always available to answer questions and writers are more than welcome to call us at 773.477.7710 to discuss individual questions.
Many students outside Chicago work with StoryStudio coaches on a one-to-one basis via email and phone. If you’re interested in private instruction or manuscript reviews, check the Coaching Program or call for information.