Worthwhile Online Writing Classes

The amount of internet resources for writers is inspiring, but it can be hard to know which ones are the most helpful. Here are some discoveries I’ve made from my recent searches for writing classes.

First, as you probably already know, anyone looking for resources needs to have specific needs and goals in mind. “Unfortunately”, I can usually see the potential of almost any new information I come across as I bounce down rabbit trails, so I find it hard to keep my focus. (Which isn’t completely a bad thing, I guess, since the whole experience is educational, and then I can share it with you!)

I love to learn, take courses and challenge myself, so looking for learning opportunities for me is like a being a kid in a candy shop. And when I am in a candy shop, it’s pretty easy to choose what I want. All I have to do is look for brown. Brown means chocolate, and I have very little use for any candy that isn’t chocolate.

It was pretty simple to choose courses, too, in a process of elimination. I didn’t want to take any classes in person, or as part of a college curriculum. Nor did I want to be restricted by any online courses that had very specific attendance or completion times, especially since the ones I ran across were usually evening courses. I love getting instructor feedback, but at this particular time it wasn’t a priority.

I also avoided online courses that required socializing with classmates online. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love people and visiting with them! But when I’m focused on learning a new skill from an expert, I don’t find it helpful to spend significant amounts of time with my fellow learners. I prefer (what I’m calling) the traditional model of education–tell me what I need to know, give me examples, let me try my hand at it, tell me what I did wrong, let me try again. It seems more efficient to me.

I needed a short course to help me identify what skills I most needed to work on, rather than a course spread over several months or a year. So once I decided on self-guided courses, rather than reading documents, my first choice was video courses.

Then to further narrow down the search, I decided to start with recent recommendations by other bloggers to see which online platforms and websites kept coming up, and this website was one of the most helpful. I liked the way the author offered categories of writing classes, like “Best Course for Writing Creative Non-fiction”. So I concentrated my efforts on MasterClass, Udemy and Reedsy.

I started by visiting each of these to get more information on what courses they offered, and what they cost. I’d seen a MasterClass ad on YouTube with a writing class (Joyce Carol Oates!) that made me salivate, and was surprised to find that they are actually affordable! So I put MasterClass in my back pocket while I searched the others. (I need to pit them against each other before I make a decision.)

Since I haven’t had a lot of time to devote to writing until recently, I am looking to brush up on my plotting and editing skills, and to get help in motivating myself to re-establish a writing routine. (Aargh! “Routine” is not one of my favorite things!)

In the end, I actually signed up for classes with Udemy and Reedsy, who have the specific courses I want, and some were an excellent price, FREE! (I usually start with free or low-cost anything, and then if that doesn’t get me what I need, I pay. And if the price isn’t right, I do without!)

I am quite happy with both Udemy and Reedsy, and recommend them. I love the variety they offer, so I can focus very specifically on what I want to learn.

Now, you need to know that Reedsy isn’t a course platform, it’s an author services organization based in the UK. And the courses are not on video. But they connected me to three courses I was interested in:

How to Stop Talking About Writing a Book and Actually Start Doing It (in my case it was how to stop thinking about writing a book…)

Stop Procrastinating! Build a Solid Writing Routine

Novel Revision: Understanding the Craft

And they are teaching me what I want to know!

Then, I took my time researching Udemy courses, checking on:

  • the background of the instructors
  • how many hours of video content were included.
  • how much additional material was available for download
  • the content and ratings of students’ reviews
  • how many people had taken the courses (I shied away from the ones with less than several thousand students who had taken their course), and
  • how many ratings they had
  • how old the course was, and
  • watching some of the free lessons in the courses to see how the instructors deliver their lessons (immensely helpful!)

I love that they provide all the stats, ratings and comments on their courses up front! I find that Udemy has frequent sales where they discount courses by about 75%. Both of the times I searched for courses, they had amazing prices. Of the ones I purchased, the original prices were around $70-$100 for the courses, and after discounts I paid about $15-$18 (Canadian dollars). As a result, I signed up for more courses than I had time for, so I have only started one of them, which is going well.

These are the writing courses I have purchased (or signed up for, for free) from Udemy:

Starting to Write

Short story masterclass: learn from a prizewinning author!

The Easy Way to Write Short Stories that Sell

Get Your Fiction Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper

Editing Mastery: How To Edit Writing To Perfection

I’ve still got that MasterClass dream class in my back pocket. One day I’ll treat myself to it. In the meantime, these will get me closer to my writing goals without monopolizing my time.

Have a look online! I’m sure you’ll find something that will increase your writing skills, productivity, or enjoyment! I’d love to hear about it if you do.

Have you taken online writing courses? Do you have any recommendations of other online course platforms? Do share!

Online course/computer image courtesy of PxFuel.com – thanks!

Update on Calgary’s Used Book Sales (and two Used Book Stores)

This is an update on the CBC Calgary READS Big Book Sale. They had hoped to hold the sale in September, but will now have to postpone it until next year.  They are in great need of support, as their website says…

We currently have multiple, no contact, volunteer opportunities such as Porch Pick Ups, Delivery of Book Bags, Little Free Library fill ups and Community Book Drops. If you have an interest in participating, please email us at info@calgaryreads.com for more details.

The health, safety and well-being of our volunteers, employees and customers is our top priority and we are following the lead of Canadian public health authorities during this challenging time. Due to the current challenges of COVID-19, our Big Book Sale is postponed.  We are planning to hold the Big Book Sale next year… as soon as we know more, you will too. Your willingness to support us with your time and energy is deeply appreciated.  If you have any questions please contact us at: info@calgaryreads.com

Also, as I posted in May, RESET Society postponed their book sale to next year, but you can still give some needed support here.

“We have made the decision to postpone the 18th Annual Book Drive & Sale. We are truly sorry that the Book Drive & Sale will not be able to move forward in the spring as in previous years, but we are feeling excited about the possibilities for this event next year.

This is an extremely important fundraiser for our agency as it provides over 12% of our revenue and we thank you for your considering supporting RESET Society in other ways during this timehttps://resetcalgary.ca/how-you-can-help/;

 

And just a note…if you are looking for brick-and-mortar used book stores….

My two favorites are back in business!  I have visited Fair’s Fair and Better Books and Bibles in the past month, and I know they would love all the business they can get.  Treat yourself!

I hope that you are well and safe.  We will get through this, and I believe there will be good things that result from this pandemic–let’s watch and see.   God bless you!

I leave you with a photo from my old, old Junior Instructor that always makes me smile…

Writing to Senior Pen Pals

Ah, the joys of writing!

And today I am referring to literally WRITING, handwriting, using pen or paper–not typing. I have found handwriting or printing one of the best ways for me to create and record my thoughts.

But here I want to focus on sending snail-mail letters to people as a way to connect and keep in touch.

Coincidentally, today I received a thank you message from a dear friend who just received my card in the mail. I’d commented that I felt closer to her sending a physical card than emailing or texting, and she agreed wholeheartedly.

Also coincidentally, today I read an article by one of my favorite bloggers who writes about the joys and opportunities of handwriting and sending snail mail. Barb at ritewhileucan.com is full of creative ideas and has a heart for brightening up someone’s day with a card or letter. She just posted about an opportunity to be a pen pal with a senior in a care centre, who are especially lonely because of lockdowns. I am looking into to adding one of these dear ones to my snail mail pen pal list. Thanks, Barb!

Interested?

Go to Rite While U Can and see more precious smiling faces of men and women with their written notes to potential pen pals!

There are also many other similar initiatives catching on around the world, in Canada, the U.K., Australia, to name a few. Check out these news stories!

Caring and Connecting Pen Pal Initiative, Canada

A Nova Scotia University Initiative

Kind-hearted Australians writing Letters to the Elderly

Sending Support Throughout the U.S.

You may be inspired to pen a letter or send a card to one of your loved ones, or one of the seniors at a website. If so, I hope you’ll post a comment about it below!

image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/@shkrabaanthony

Freedom with Writing

Are you, like me, dusting off some stories or manuscripts that have been filed away for a few years? If so, you probably want to find homes for them.

Or, you might be looking for periodicals that are in need of exactly the kind of articles you write.

 

 

Let me tell you about a website I recent discovered, Freedom with Writing.

Most of the online resources I’ve found focus on either non-fiction or fiction, but Freedom with Writing focuses on both, which I like. It’s free and couldn’t be simpler: they send you emails with valuable links to writing opportunities. Apparently, they have been going since 1999!

I can never just “scan” their emails, like I can many others. They are full of meaty information all the time. On top of that, the format is an absolute joy: clean, clear, simple, to the point, giving you in a glance exactly the information you are looking for.

Take their home page, for example. It looks similar to many other websites offering to help you find success. But once you start clicking on their links, you can tell they put in a lot of time and energy into digging up valuable information and passing it on to you.

 

 

They also lend a helping hand to newbies like me with various straightforward, useful articles, such as how to send in your proposal, or helping you understand the realities of the freelance life.

Here is an example of two entries I found today while browsing the information under “95 Technology and Science Blogs, Magazines, and Websites that Pay Writers”  on their home page.

The following is a list of 95 technology publishers that accept pitches directly from freelance writers, and pay for the writing they publish. Payment rates in this area tend to be higher than some other categories; blog posts for a programming site are often in the $200 to $500 range. If you’re not sure how to approach these publishers, then be sure to watch this free webinar.

And here are a couple from today’s “24 Free Writing Contests & Cash Grants (Up to $30,000)”, also on their home page.

 

Today, I STRUCK GOLD!  35 Themed Calls for Submissions (Non-fiction, essays, etc.)  This article is what inspired me to write this blog post. It is right up my alley!

Now, I tend to be overly trusting, so these days I scan reviews of EVERYTHING. I was happy to see that there are many others who agree with my positive reaction to Freedom with Writing. Here are a few:

Alex Tucker, Medium.com, and Make Money Online.

If you check out Freedom with Writing, let me know what you think!

Have fun dusting and getting your creative works out there!

 

[“laptop-and-diary-on-table-in-garden-4559527” photo courtesy of Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels;

Gold photo courtesy of  James St. John at Flickr : “Gold-quartz hydrothermal vein (16 to 1 Mine, Allegheny County, California, USA)” ]

Calgary spring used book sales – the 2020 version

UPDATED ON MAY 31, 2020    

At this time of year, I usually post information to help you plan for the Calgary’s biggest and best used book sales, but this year things are (obviously) a bit different…

 

RESET Calgary usually holds the first used book sale at the Crossroads Market. Here is the note on their website:

“We have made the decision to postpone the 18th Annual Book Drive & Sale. We are truly sorry that the Book Drive & Sale will not be able to move forward in the spring as in previous years, but we are feeling excited about the possibilities for this event next year.

This is an extremely important fundraiser for our agency as it provides over 12% of our revenue and we thank you for your considering supporting RESET Society in other ways during this time: https://resetcalgary.ca/how-you-can-help/”

The Calgary READS sale is usually at the Calgary Curling Club, and they are planning their used book sale for the fall of 2020. BUT in the meantime, they need your donations of new and “like-new” CHILDREN’S books NOW. 

“If you are able to donate “gently used” children’s books, please contact us at info@calgaryreads.com and we will provide instructions on how to donate.”

 

And for those who just can’t wait for the in-person used book sales, you can still shop online. Although the following do not offer as many incredible deals as RESET and Calgary READS will offer, here are some used book stores to get you started:

Calgary’s Fair’s Fair used bookstore updated their webpage: Our Inglewood store will be OPEN to the Public effective THURSDAY, MAY 14th 10:00 am – 4:00 pm – 7 DAYS A WEEK“.

Calgary’s Better Books and Bibles (new and used Christian books) has posted this notice on their website: We are opening our doors again on Saturday May 30th! Our hours will remain the same (10-2) but will increase if business calls for it. We are very excited to see all of you again!” https://www.betterbooksandbibles.com/

AbeBooks, founded in Victoria, B.C., Canada, now worldwide, has a page for searching for books with free shipping to Canada.

Better World Books has free shipping to Canada, and has several deals happening now. As their website says, “Every time you purchase a book on betterworldbooks.com, we donate a book to someone in need.”

Powell’s Books is included in my list because it is near and dear to my heart. This “City of Books” was established in 1971 and is also one of the top attractions in the city of Portland. In the two hours I had allotted to explore it in 2007, I only made it through about a third of this unique store.

Happy reading to all!

 

Wishing you all health, safety, sanity, and patience as we get through this time!

Life is still beautiful. Consider yourself hugged.

 

[Warm appreciation to photographer Artem Beliaikin for the “Pile of Books” image!]

Happy Leap Day! Leap Year in Literature

Just for fun, since it only comes once every four years, I decided to look around for Leap Year-related literature. I was pleasantly surprised at what I found!

The Pirates of Penzance

Having a birthday on February 29th makes you a “leapling”, and sometimes one birthday every four years can get you in trouble!

This is a comic opera that premiered in New York City on 31 December 1879, and is still being performed 140 years later!  Here are some lines from The Pirates of Penzance, or The Slave of Duty, by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.

For some ridiculous reason, to which, however, I’ve’no desire to be disloyal,
Some person in authority, I don’t know who, very likely the Astronomer Royal,
Has decided that, although for such a beastly month as February, twenty-eight

days as a rule are plenty,
One year in every four his days shall be reckoned as nine-and-twenty.
Through some singular coincidence — I shouldn’t be surprised if were owing

to the agency of an ill-natured fairy —
You are the victim of this clumsy arrangement, having been born in leap-year,

on the twenty-ninth of February.
And so, by a simple arithmetical process, you’ll easily discover,
That though you’ve lived twenty-one years, yet, if we go by birthdays, you’re
only five and a little bit over !

You can read the entire work here.  I was fortunate enough to see a performance of this in 1981 in San Diego, but at the time I didn’t know enough about it to appreciate its fame and longevity!

Humorous short stories and plays

Tradition said that men should do the asking when it comes to becoming engaged to marry, but during a leap year, a woman was “allowed” to propose marraige. This topic inspired plenty of writers around the turn of the 19th century!

A 1907 short story by John Kendrick Bangs called “The Genial Idiot Discusses Leap Year” appears in The Wit and Humor of America, Volume X of X. You can read this volume here. It is full of surprises, laughter and we can see from the standpoint of 2020 that we’ve come a long way, baby!

The Misses Pringle’s Leap Year: a Comedy in Two Acts, by Amaryllis V. Lord, is a 1912 play which also centers around this theme of women having the “privilege” of proposing marriage–in this case, it is the bachelor parson! You can find it at Amazon and at Forgotten Books.  Here is a blurb about it advertised in another book:

THE MISSES PRINGLES’ LEAP YEAR

A Comedy in Two Acts by Amaryllis V. Lord
Ten females and the apparition of a man. Costumes, modern ; scenery,
unimportant. Plays half an hour. The Misses Barbara, Priscilla and
Betsy Pringle, while scorning matrimony in public, have a secret inclina-
tion toward it, and taking advantage of leap year, each, without the
knowledge of the others, proposes by letter to Deacon Smith with sur-
prising results. Very easy and amusing, requiring no scenery and but
little rehearsing. Price, 7cents

And here is one more, an 1885 play I found on Hathi Trust, called Leap-Year: a Comedy in Four Acts for Nine Characters, by Susa S. Vance. The entire play can be downloaded here. Who knew that Leap Years would inspire so many humorous stories?

I even ran across a lovely 1913 Leap Year song that has the sweetest lyrics!

 

 

 

From this century….

Here’s a cute Tigger and Pooh book called Leap Day, read aloud on You Tube.

Leopold’s Long Awaited Leap Year Birthday is also worth watching. And there are plenty more at LeapYearDay.com where they have gathered together loads of “LEAPIFIED BOOKS.”

For the science side of things, you might want to check out my post from 2016 or this fascinating article !

 

Happy Leap Day!

Valentine’s Day Toss-up: Something old, something new

With all the romance novels out there, it’s hard to know where the good quality reads are.

So here are some recommendations of clean, well-written romance novels I’ve read over the past couple years.

Some are set in past history, others are set in present day, and one is both!

Calgary Zoo Conservatory - Valentine's Day 2020

 

Falling for June

by Ryan Winfield (2015)

This is a sweet story about a foreclosure clerk Elliot who meets David Hadley, an elderly man living as a hermit in rural Washington State. David needs Elliot’s help to fulfill a promise to his wife June, whom he met in his fifties at the top of a 70 story building. A unique, beautiful love story.

21412234. sy475

Fair Game

by Elizabeth White (2007)

A classic example of me falling for the cover, but this time the image delivered what it promised! Humor, excellent writing, good plot, wholesome values and witty dialogue. Jana wants the land for wildlife rescue and Grant wants it for hunting. But God knows even stubborn enemies sometimes fall in love…

992424

 

Vinegar Girl

by Anne Tyler (2016)

I read this voraciously, as I do all of her books. The introverted 28-year-old devoted daughter of a brilliant microbiologist is asked to do her father a very big favor in order to help bring all of his years of research to a successful conclusion. Brilliant fun, good-hearted book!

Vinegar Girl

 

The Grand Sophy

by Georgette Heyer (1950)

Sophy is a free-spirited young woman who has been left alone far too much by her ever-traveling father, much to the consternation of proper society. A typical Georgette Heyer heroine, this one is shockingly direct and audacious. While he is overseas for an indefinite period of time, she is sent to live with stuffy relatives. They certainly don’t want her there and they look down their noses at her, but she is a take-charge gal and sets out to solve the many problems in the bedeviled family. Along the way, however, she stirs up some new problems. You can’t guess how it’s going to finish until the very end of the breathtaking roller coaster ride, in the last few pages. The version I read was 403 pages, but I didn’t want it to end. It lived up to its high rating as one of the greatest written by this best-selling author of 57 books.

261689

 

Love Letter

by Rachel Hauck (2018)

In this excellent split-time novel, a love letter is found by someone in the twenty-first century who is related to the writer of the eighteenth century love letter. It switches from authentic depictions of characters, relationships and historical events in 1780 South Carolina, to intertwined storylines in present day Los Angeles. The characters are realistic, with fallible personalities and struggles with faith. Brilliant storytelling, and suspense as the author flips back and forth between the two time periods and the two couples, make it a fascinating read!

36576120

I hope you’ll share your favorite Valentine’s Day reads in the comments section below!

Happy Valentine’s Day reading!

Calgary Zoo - Zoo Lights

Unsung heroes in Canadian History

I grew up in the U.S. in a predominantly white neighborhood during the sixties and seventies. My city’s school system began forced busing when I was eleven years old, just as I was leaving elementary school and preparing to start junior high. It was a controversy that sparked violence and unrest.

From a social media group established for our 40 year high school reunion, I know that many people of all races suffered from this mandatory integration. Personally, aside from a couple minor incidents, my memories of that time are good.

I enjoyed meeting new friends of all races, and grew in my respect toward my non-white classmates. I am sure that the forced busing policy accomplished some of its goals to intermix blacks and whites successfully.

(If you’re interested, here are two articles I saved from the city newspaper in the early 1970s. One covers a sit-in protest by students, and another shows a more peaceful option for trying to find common ground among different races.)

So did that experience influence the writing of my third book? You decide.

Last year I was pleased to write another educational book intended for the Canadian school curriculum. It turned out to be my favorite so far!

This is the first biographical work I’ve done, and I so enjoyed discovering many unsung heroes!  It was nearly impossible to choose which to include in the book, but I am so happy with how the book turned out. I especially love the many full-sized photos.

Some of the heroes included are:

Rose Fortune, Viola Desmond, Addie Aylestock,

Oscar Peterson, Willie O’Ree, Portia White,

Drake, Phylicia George, and Eugenia Duodo.

I hope you’ll be curious enough to look up these great Canadians!

Black History in Canada is a series of educational books published by Beech Street books. My book is entitled Famous Black Canadians and intended for students in grades 4 through 6.

 

For any teachers out there, you can find the series at Beech Street Books‘ website and order from there, or from Amazon .

 

Holiday Gems

One of the joys of the holiday is settling down

after all the energetic activities

to read inspired holiday fiction.

 

You are no doubt familiar with some of the well-known holiday books and short stories…

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol…     The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson…

Eugene Field’s The First Christmas Tree…          O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi…

A Visit from St. Nicholas   (‘Twas the night before Christmas) by Clement Clarke Moore…

And, of course, the sacred Bible accounts of the first Christmas.

 

Well, here are some gems that I’ve recently discovered.

They are not as well known, perhaps, but are some of the most beautiful holiday stories I’ve read!

Christmas Day in the Morning” by Pearl S. Buck

A farm boy works so hard, only to see disappointment in his father’s eyes, until one Christmas he overhears his parents’ conversation and learns what Dad really thinks of him.

 

My Christmas Miracle by Taylor Caldwell

A true story of the lowest point of her life

 

A Christmas Inspiration” by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Fun-loving young women living together in a boarding house take notice of one of their quirky, quiet neighbors.

 

A Gift from the Heart” by Norman Vincent Peale

The true story of a young Swiss girl employed by a wealthy American family and her Christmas surprise.

 

The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien (1976)

A collection of letters the author wrote from 1920 to 1943 to his children “from Father Christmas”.

 

and, my VERY favorite,

The Man at the Gate of the World by W.E. Cule

The Magi Caspar’s quest to find the Saviour of the World, and his obedience to the call to stand at the Gate of the World—in the city of Damascus—and wash the feet of weary travelers.

Most of these I found during the past few weeks of reading these two books:

A Classic Christmas, and The Fireside Book of Christmas Stories.

 

For more selections

Here is American Literature’s beautiful collection of Christmas Stories, and

(I can’t resist!) Linus’s version of the first Christmas.

 

Wishing you many peaceful, happy hours of reading, and

A HAPPY NEW YEAR 2020!

 

Imagine! The best quality books for free!

Well, you don’t need to imagine it, it’s true!

As a fellow blogger said, “I rarely pay full price for books. Loving classics has its advantages, they are widely available and utterly cheap.”

I couldn’t agree more!

Ever since I figured out how to put them on my Kindle, I’ve had a blast finding vintage treasures on Gutenberg.org, Internet Archive, Google eBooks and many other websites, including searching for free classic Kindle books on Amazon.  I’ve also discovered many books in PDF format that I put on my ancient tablet to read, and many of these have beautiful illustrations.

Here is a sampling of some of my favorites, followed by some links to whet your appetite even more!

After reading biographical information on the poet Francis Ridley Havergal, I learned that, among many other books, she contributed to a holiday book called Christmas Sunshine. Havergal’s rich poetry appears alongside Thackeray, Milton, Shakespeare and Dickens in a beautifully illustrated book, here.

 

Always interested in nature and children’s books, I have found a treasure trove of nature books written for children in the late 1800’s. My favorite is The Child’s Book of Nature by Worthington Hooker, MD, “intended to aid mothers and teachers in the training of children in the observation of nature.” I love that it was a high priority then–let’s reinstate it now!

One that is similar, but written for all ages, is The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live In by Sir John Lubbock in 1892. It is part science, part inspiration, and contains some lovely illustrations, like the one below.

.

 

 

One of my favorite fiction authors is Georgette Heyer, and thankfully she was a prolific author. I can find a lot of her books in paperback in bookstores, but for those that I haven’t run across, I can usually find them online. Among her always humorous regencies, Frederica (which I am currently reading) and The Black Moth are two of several Heyer novels loaded onto my Kindle and tablet.

 

The Practical Herbal Medicine Handbook , although admittedly not vintage or classic, is nevertheless another gem of a book I couldn’t resist including. I loaded it and several other natural healing books onto my Kindle, which I found on Amazon for free!

And here are some interesting websites to get you started as you explore the literary riches of the internet:

Gutenberg.org’s Top 100 eBooks as of Yesterday

Download 20 Popular High School Literature Books

The Library of Congress Classic Books

Classic eBooks by Female Writers

11 places for thrifty bookworms to download free e-books

Classic Children’s Books Now Digitized and Put Online

UCLA Children’s Book Collection at Archive.org

International Children’s Digital Library

 

Enjoy!  And please, share your favorites!