Community Is Important for Writers

To be honest, I’ve been pretty down for the last week or so.

As I’ve shared before, I have been teaching Legacy Writing classes via the Lifelong Learning Academy here in Sarasota-Bradenton. It is a great opportunity for me to share some of my knowledge about creative writing and meet some really great people. The most recent academic quarter, I had a class filled with writers who had taken earlier classes with me and were eager to keep their writing momentum moving forward. This was a great group of adult learners who had some really magnificent stories to share.

Near the end of the eight weeks of class, several of the students were fighting various illnesses: a broken knee-cap, vertigo-like symptoms, heart problems, and other medical issues.

And then, I found out one of the students passed away last week, only hours after our last email exchange. He was a student with a long writing background, and his work showed it. The selections he brought to class to share with the group were outstanding. I had been hoping that the two classes he’d taken with me were just the beginning of an ongoing literary friendship. I was looking forward to many years of chatting about writing and sharing work together.

And then, he was gone.

It wasn’t as if we were great friends. And yet, his passing has left me very sad. I wanted to know more about his life; I wanted to read more of his words.

Putting down some literary roots can help encourage and deepen your writing.

Putting down some literary roots can help encourage and deepen your writing.

Just last week, I was telling my writing students about the need for a writing community. We learn and grow best when we are surrounded by those people who can offer us a healthy balance of support and critique. One of the reasons I teach classes like the Legacy of Words class is because I gain more knowledge and experience in creative writing every time I teach. And, I gain new literary friends.

Tonight, I met a new writer friend. She reached out to me, having stumbled upon my website, because she is at one of those points all fledgling writers get to: she’s in need of her own literary community. We talked for an hour and a half, and I walked away feeling re-energized and excited having spent time with someone who has such passion for the written word.

It doesn’t matter if it is a client/student, a writing peer, or someone whose masterful knowledge of the craft I hope to learn from: having other writers to talk to, share with, help, and learn from is a key ingredient in my development as a writer. We don’t have to be in the same classroom, at the same coffee-shop, or even on the same continent, but putting down those literary roots so we can soak up the nutrients around us is a valuable thing.

I hope you are writing, and that the words you write matter.


As I finished this post, I was reminded of this line, from the song, I Don’t Want to Waste Your Time, by Over the Rhine. (Link to YouTube video version.)

But I don’t wanna waste the words
That you don’t seem to need
When it comes to wanting what’s real
There’s no such thing as greed
I hope this night puts down deep roots
I hope we plant a seed
‘Cause I don’t wanna waste your time
With music you don’t need

Read the lyrics to the whole song at Over the Rhine’s website.

Big Thanks…

Just a quick note to say a hearty “thank you” to the fine folks at the Lakewood Ranch Women’s Club meeting tonight for listening to me talk a bit about Legacy Writing and sharing our life in words. I had a wonderful time. For any of you in the area, be sure to check out their website.

Two Writing Courses Offered

Blog readers come from all around the world. According to the WordPress stats, I have regular visits from readers in Moldova and Argentina. Go figure.

But, I know I also have some local and semi-local readers in the Sarasota and Bradenton areas of Florida. This post is (mostly) for you.

The winter quarter is fast approaching and I will again be offering two writing courses through the Lifelong Learning Academy. The classes will be at the University of South Florida – Manatee campus, and both will be offered on Fridays, starting January 18th.

The two courses will be:

You can read the course descriptions by clicking on the course title above, and you can register at the Lifelong Learning site.

As of today, the Fiction class only has ONE participant. I need four or five more in order to have the class, so if you, or anyone you know, is interested, please pass this info along and sign up now, before I get that dreaded call: We’re going to have to cancel…

The Legacy Writing class is always more popular, and I love teaching it, but I’d be really sad if the Fiction class is cancelled. You don’t want me to be sad for Christmas, do you??? 


I do have some news about the Spring quarter: I heard from the curriculum committee this week, and I will be teaching both an Intermediate Fiction class and a Legacy Writing Workshop for those of you who have already been through the initial courses. More information about that, as it becomes available. 

Leaving a Legacy of Words: New Article Focuses on Legacy Writing

One of my Bradenton-Sarasota writer friends, Juli C. Hilliard, recently wrote an article about individuals who want to leave a “Legacy of Words” by writing their personal and family stories and preserving them for children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.

Alan Toy (along with Ginger and Lou Pavloff) was interviewed for Better Living magazine’s article about Legacy Writing. Alan and the Pavloffs were members of my first Legacy of Words class, and they have continued writing their life stories in the months since the class concluded.

Juli knew I was teaching Legacy Writing as a component of both my private writing instruction business, and the writing classes I teach at the University of South Florida campus via the Lifelong Learning Academy. We sat down at Starbucks (where we see each other most often, anyway) and talked about the Legacy Writing program. I also introduced her to three of my former students and she interviewed them about their experiences with tackling the writing of their personal and family history.

The full article was printed this week in the Better Living magazine. It was the cover story, even, as they featured a wonderful photo of Alan Toy, who was one of those students who often had that wide-eyed smile of a man both on a mission and dedicated to doing the hard work of writing. Inside, there were more wonderful photos of Alan and Ginger and Lou Pavloff, as well as some historical family photos from all three.

If you have a few minutes, follow this link to read Juli’s article (it starts on page 16-17).

NOTE: Next week IS Thanksgiving week, but I also have some big things planned for the blog…until then, Happy Writing!!

Why Teaching is Good for Writers

Recently, I received word that I would be teaching two writing classes for the local (Sarasota/Manatee County, Florida) Adult and Continuing Education program. I proposed a Fiction Writing Basics class (self-explanatory) and a class called, Leaving a Legacy of Words, which focuses on writing a personal or family history to be shared with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and so on.

I put together a brief outline of the classes before I met with the folks in charge of the program, so I knew what the classes would cover in the broadest sense of the word. Then, last week, I started planning out the actual course content and trying to figure out how much (or, in this case, how little) I can fit into six weeks of classes on creative writing. I started looking at the high points and trying to decide how I would add meat to the bones.

And, it hit me, as it has so many times in my life as an educator, how important teaching is to solidify learning.

Just as writing helps me work out what I’m thinking and feeling, what I know and what I suspect about life, teaching helps me work out additional levels of knowledge and understanding about those things I’m most passionate about. I have tons of notes and handouts and examples of writing strategies and bits of inspiration that I accumulated during the MFA years, and at some point all of those things become either artifacts of a time past, or they are integrated into a deeper, richer whole.

If I’m teaching, and reaching back into those notes to find those bits of inspiration to share, it is much less likely that all of those things will become just useless hieroglyphs of a long-forgotten epoch of this life.

This isn’t news to me, but it does still catch me unaware, every time I’m able to share something that is important to me, just how much more ingrained into my own thoughts and actions and philosophy those “important” things become. They become important not just in word, but in deed.

I hope you are having a good spring, even as some of you were reminded this past weekend of the chilly realities of winter.

If you would like to know more about the Fiction Writing Basics and the Legacy Writing classes I’ll be teaching here in the Bradenton and Sarasota area, please feel free to contact me. The classes will be daytime classes, at the USF campus. If you aren’t local, or can’t make those classes, I do offer both on-line and in-person creative writing classes for individuals and small groups. You can check out my web-site for more information ( or drop me a line.

Video Blog Round-up

Yes, it’s been a while since I created a new installment of my video blog series, The Three Minute Writer, but if you’ve been thinking to yourself, I really wish I could find all of those video blogs that Eric did in ONE PLACE (besides, you know, YOUTUBE) have I got good news for you: My Thumbtack profile (where I advertise one-on-one and small group writing instruction in the Bradenton/Sarasota/Tampa area) features links to all the Three Minute Writer videos. If you’ve missed the soothing sound of my voice, feel free to stop by.


Needed: Modern Day Patron

A few months ago, several about-to-be MFA graduates talked about where our post-MFA search for income might lead us.

  • Teaching: Teaching creative writing is something most of us would like to do, including me. I love the idea of passing on some of the knowledge I’ve gained about writing fiction. Teaching in an institutional setting or one-on-one would be great.
  • Publication: This is our goal, obviously, but the financial reality for most of us is that publication, when it does come, is not a financial windfall. It’s a good thing. We want it. But we aren’t deluded into thinking it will make us rich.
  • Non-related work: For a lot of writers, this is the reality. Working–full-time or part-time–in an area not related to the creative endeavors we would most like to pursue is a necessary thing. Not ideal, creatively, but it is a reality.
  • Patronage: Finding a wealthy person or a not-for-profit which supports the arts isn’t easy, but for some writers, this is a way to pay a few bills while pursuing the writing life.

This last one came up as a joking wish, at first, but one of our fellow writers told us about how he had, in fact, had a financial benefactor at a couple of times in his career. One time, the patron had provided him with a few thousand dollars as a supplement to his other income, so he could focus on his writing. In another case, a different patron provided $50,000 over two years to allow the writer to focus on his craft. The funds were provided through a self-directed, not-for-profit, charitable organization. It was a tax-break for the donor, a windfall for the donee.

“I want a patron like that!” We all laughed and nodded and wished. But, as my writer-friend’s experience shows, it isn’t completely impossible.

So, in the spirit of, “if you don’t ask, you’ll never know,” here are some possible patronage levels for my readers (or someone who happens to be in the Bradenton and Sarasota area, or, someone who is just looking for a writer to support). If someone has a legitimate interest in supporting the arts through specific patronage of a writer, I would be happy to share more details or develop a long-term proposal for any of these options.

  • $3,000 – Colorado Summer – This amount would allow Cami and I to spend the summer months in Colorado, the setting of my next novel.
  • $9,000 – The Office – This figure would allow me to rent office space (with shared conference space) for two years. (One of the drawbacks of having a two-bedroom apartment: my “office” is a desk where the dinning room table should be.)
  • $20,000 – The House – There is a house we would like to buy. A little more space, great location, an amazing creative vibe. This patronage gift would allow us to have a 20% down payment AND add an office space, increasing our living space AND dramatically reducing our monthly costs.
  • $32,000 – The Scholarship – A retroactive scholarship, yes, but a patron to help repay the MFA costs for education, travel, materials, and other expenses would still be appreciated, even after the fact.
  • $150,000 – The Writer’s Salon – A gift of this amount would be used to establish a non-profit writer’s salon for the Bradenton-Sarasota area. My vision for this salon would include space for writer’s and other creatives to work, socialize, share, and find inspiration. The space would include individual office spaces, community spaces, and instructional spaces which would be available to writers for very-low or no cost.
  • $500,000 – Think big – This level would allow me to accomplish two life-long dreams. I would buy two condos, overlooking the bay or the convergence of the river and gulf. In one, Cami and I would live. In the other, I would establish a writer’s residency program which would provide a place to live and work for writers. A majority of the residencies would provide room and board (including prepared meals) for writers in two- or four-week blocks, free of charge. Some other residencies would be available for a fee. A not-for-profit organization would be established to oversee and administer the details.

Are these sorts of dreams realistic? Maybe not, but one of the things I’ve learned about my writing life is that I need to have big dreams, big goals, big things to work toward, even as I’m typing away, trying to find a few local writing instruction clients. Patrons, if you are out there, feel free to say hello.