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by Hedgebrook Guest

As writers, we’re constantly learning, improving our craft – or at least we should be. The ways you can educate yourself nowadays are mindboggling: get an MFA, participate in in-person workshops, attend conferences, read blogs or books, even take online classes. This last option is the one I personally like the best because it doesn’t involve travel (you know how we writers hate having to put on pants), can be done on your own schedule, and is significantly cheaper than traveling or getting a degree. Plus, many are taught by expert working authors with names you’d recognize – those who are at the place in their careers we all aspire to be.

I’ve been fortunate to participate in several types of online courses. The simplest have been through the Romance Writers of America and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. These are usually done through a message board on the association’s web site in which an instructor posts a pre-written lesson and students respond online with their assignment and to one another. The instructor then replies. Margie Lawson’s Writer’s Academy takes this basic idea a step further by using a dedicated website that is easier to navigate than a traditional message board, allows for attachments, pre-recorded video lessons, and provides more in-depth and ongoing feedback from instructors. I’ve had great experiences with all of these and highly recommend them. But…

…by far, the most interactive and exciting online course I’ve taken was offered by our beloved Hedgebrook. Yes! They are now offering online courses in addition to in-person Master Classes! Back in October, I was fortunate to be one of eight authors who participated in the pilot of a course taught by award-winning mystery writer Elizabeth George. Even though I live in St. Louis, Missouri, I was able to see and ask questions of her by video/audio, interact with Hedgebrook staff in Whidbey, and talk with my fellow classmates across the country by audio, video and through tools within the program itself. Talk about fellowship! It’s as close as you can get to classroom learning without leaving your house. And all it required was headphones, a microphone, internet access and a little of my time.

Before the class started, we had a fairly short pre-reading assignment that prepared us for Elizabeth’s lecture. The class itself consisted of a live video lecture from Elizabeth, a Q&A session with her, a period where we could discuss the lecture with our fellow classmates and a homework assignment. There is definitely something special about having the lecture taught in real time by an instructor you can interact with then and there. It feels more “real,” without any of the distance that can be evident in other virtual learning situations. And it’s fun! The time flew by as my classmates and I talked about what we found most useful and which techniques we were going to employ in our future writing and in the homework assignment.

The homework – which was challenging – was handled through an online forum similar to a message board, where we could post our assignments, talk to one another and Elizabeth, and offer feedback to each other. It was a great way to continue the feeling of community after the class was over. For those who take the full class this spring, I’m sure it will be a nice way to keep in touch between class sessions. I like to think of it as a “virtual Farmhouse Table,” but without the yummy food from Julie, Denise and Vito!

There are probably other places that offer online courses similar this, but you know Hedgebrook, they always offer something extra. To help us feel like we were really in residence, they included a special “care package” for online attendees. Ours included two of Elizabeth’s books (the non-fiction, Write Away, and one of her novels, both of which she referenced during the class), a sprig of lavender straight from Hedgebrook’s gardens (which took me back there right away), and a door hanger that says “Writer in Residence,” to remind us that we’re still part of the program even when not online. (I still have it on my bedroom doorknob to remind me that once because I’ve been a part of Hedgebrook, it will always be a part of me.)

So if you’re thinking about taking Elizabeth’s online course or any of the others Hedgebrook offers in the future, I have two words for you: DO IT! You will not regret it. It really is as close to a residency/Master Class as you can get without traveling. If you’ve already been to Hedgebrook, it will make you nostalgic for your time there, and if not, you’ll get a taste of what radical hospitality is really like. And hopefully, you’ll come away having learned a thing or two that will make you a stronger writer.


About the Author:

Nicole Evelina headshot horizontalNicole Evelina is a St. Louis historical fiction and romantic comedy writer. She is one of only six authors who completed the first week-long Master Class taught by #1 New York Times bestselling author Deborah Harkness at Hedgebook in March 2014. Nicole’s first novel, Daughter of Destiny, the first book in a historical fantasy trilogy telling Guinevere’s life story from her point of view, was published on January 1. It’s available in ebook, paperback and audio book at most online retailers. She will publish three additional books this year. Visit her online at nicoleevelina.com.



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Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.


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