Writing and Publishing Magazine Articles (8 weeks)
Magazine writing requires a special set of skills that are related to, yet different from, those needed to write a nonfiction book. I've taught both sets and I know the difference-- and the secret of applying one set to the other task. Whether you want to create a feature story, celebrity interview, essay, concert review, advice column, or first-person account, you will have to go through a process of proposal, submission, and revision. Because magazine and newspaper editors are too busy to read hundreds of articles every month, you'll need to learn how to put your ideas into a Query Letter. A good query letter should fit on a single page (print or email), and contain all the essential information to help an editor decide whether or not to buy your story idea.
But that's only the beginning. Once you get the green light, you'll need to structure a piece of anywhere from 300 to 3000 words or more. In my 8-week course, you'll begin by learning to:
1. Focus your ideas into a simply story format that will appeal to most magazine editors
2. Write a query letter containing the required information in one succinct page
3. Create a great lead-in to hook your readers (and editors)
4. Learn ways to craft a transition from the lead to the body of your piece
5. Use research techniques and conduct interviews to add depth to your article
6. Practice revising and self-editing to reduce excess verbiage and sound more like a pro
7. Search for the appropriate outlet for your article, including online and print sources
8. Revise your query letter based on what you've learned in the class
At times, our class will recreate the atmosphere of an actual publication of which I am the editor-in-chief. You will propose articles to me and I will show you how to zero in on a workable idea that will appeal to an editor. Then I'll help you shape your piece and come up with different approaches to the same subject matter that will appeal to different kinds of publications. As we go, you'll be writing the article that works best for you-- and your potential editor. I will "edit" the article by suggesting ways to revise and improve it--everything from grammatical and stylistic tips to ideas for restructuring.
At the same time, you'll be receiving helpful feedback from the other members of the class. We will also discuss how to approach editors, what print and online magazines may work best for the story you want to write, how to track down interview subjects, and other technical aspects of the magazine writing craft. In the process, I'll share my experience from over 30 years of writing and publishing my own magazine and newspaper articles.
Sacred Journaling (8 weeks)
Journaling can be a free-flowing expression of your inner feelings, thoughts, and intuitive insights. It seems so simple, yet many of us get caught up in feeling self-conscious or anxious, or simply at a loss how to begin and keep going. In this class, we approach journaling as a combination of creative writing and spiritual practice. Because the process often seems so open-ended that you don't know where to begin, we'll work with specific guidance and techniques to inspire you even when you seem to be blank.
Our explorations will cover the specific art of dream journaling, comprising basic instructions about lucid dreaming, and learning helpful keys to remember and record your dreams -- even if you think you "don't dream." Because dreams are a direct communication from your unconscious mind, learning to keep a dream journal will help open you to the unconscious while also generating material for your journal. That's only part of the process, however. Although journaling is an essentially private practice, you can gain support from others who may be encountering some of the same challenges you face in making journal writing a daily practice.
Best-selling author and writing coach Peter Occhiogrosso taught Sacred Journaling at Caroline Myss's CMED Institute (2003-2009). He will inspire you to start journaling regularly, showing you how to make the process accessible, enjoyable, and yet spiritually profound.
Week 1: We'll begin with a discussion of what journaling is and isn't, and its relationship to Spiritual Autobiography and memoir. You'll be invited to introduce yourself and say a bit about what you hope to get from your journaling. We'll look at several kinds of journaling, and let you choose from a variety of approaches that can help you when you feel stuck - and then dive right in.
Week 2: This week we'll zero in on dream journaling. I'll give you some guidance in how to recall and record your dreams by keeping a dream journal, which can be integrated with your daily journal or kept separate. This includes both the mechanics (ways to write down dreams while half-asleep) and the significance of different kinds of dreams.
Week 3: Class members will report on their experiences with their journaling approaches, including the dream journal if they choose to keep one. Members who didn't get to record an actual dream from the previous week will be invited to recall an especially vivid dream from the past and write about it. We'll discuss how to interpret dreams, but we'll also keep moving on the waking journal formats we've been working with.
Week 4: Thus week we will explore common blocks to journaling, and role that the ego plays in trying to prevent us from keeping a journal. When that happens, of course, we write about it. This is one of the fail-safe mechanisms we'll practice: You never have nothing to journal about, because you will learn to explore the nothing that is something. (Or, as the great jazz performer Sun Ra once titled an album, Nothing Is...)
Week 5: Dialogue isn't something only screenwriters and playwrights get to have fun with. This week we'll find ways to create dialogue with yourself. Uh-oh, isn't talking to myself a symptom of lunacy? Not really, because we all have different aspects of our selves, and it's a great idea to get in conscious touch with them through journaling. We're not saying we're all like Sybil or Three Faces of Eve, but we do have separate aspects of personality, and roles our psyche plays that Carl Jung called archetypes. I'll show you how to discover several of your archetypes and then. . . interview them. This may be the closest you'll ever come to having a dream while you're awake!
Week 6: Is there such a thing as the Eternal Now (to borrow a phrase from theologian Paul Tillich)? And if there is, why can't your past be part of the present? As T.S. Eliot wrote, "Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future, / And time future contained in time past." I'm not sure what that means, but maybe we'll find out as we experiment with taking an incident from the past and reliving it as if it happened last week. That's not as crazy as it sounds (and certainly less crazy than talking to yourself). Journaling is a fluid form that allows you to straddle the lines of Spiritual Autobiography, memoir, and reportage, so this week we experiment with your life as fiction.
Week 7: One of the many blocks that keeps us from journaling is a kind of embarrassment at writing about ourselves. It may feel self-indulgent, or narcissistic, even though it's just the opposite (narcissism is uncritical adoration of one's mirror image). Since we talked about reportage last week, this time we'll practice writing about ourselves in the third person. Some teachers advocate writing with your non-dominant hand to get your head out of the process, but I find third-person narrative even more enabling. Anyway, the issue isn't with our head. Lots of creative introverts, including artists, writers, and inventors live in their heads, and that's where their best ideas come from! No, it's about misplaced self-conscious fear of being egotistical. The Lone Ranger never worried about that - that's one reason he wore a mask - and neither should you.
Week 8: How do you read your journal? Look at it every few days? Every few months? File it away and forget about it? We'll discuss several options for working with your journals as you progress - including the possibility of using them as source of material for creative work of all kinds. You'll have a chance to share your most revelatory moments and entries from the last seven weeks, or maybe interpreting one of your dreams.
How to Write and Publish Spiritual Books (8 weeks)
You may have an important spiritual book inside you that you want to get out to the world. Yet, you may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of completing a manuscript and getting it published. After writing and coauthoring 20 books for major publishers, Peter Occhiogrosso has developed a simple way to translate your book ideas into a proposal format that will appeal to agents and editors. Whether you want to find a commercial publisher, self-publish, or just structure a readable manuscript for yourself, family, or clients, this workshop shows you how.
Spiritual is a remarkably broad category in today's market, encompassing books about health and healing; environmentalism and activism; self-help and psychology; mystical experience, channeled wisdom, the law of attraction; and all the world's religious traditions. You will be able to share your writing with the group and get expert feedback and guidance from your teacher. You will even learn some basic breathing exercises and other spiritual practices to help you access the deepest levels of your creativity and insight. As you learn to create a professional proposal, you will receive guidance on writing an Agent Query Letter, as well as surfing the Net to locate appropriate agents, editors, and publishers. You will also learn the pros and cons of self-publishing via print on demand and e-book technology. Ultimately, you come away with the tools you need to create a professional proposal or manuscript outline.
This workshop is open to writers at all levels of experience, including those who have been published and those who hope to be.
Week 1: We'll begin by brainstorming your book idea and how you'd like to implement it. The kinds of real-world questions that an agent or editor might ask about the specifics of your concept will help you narrow and focus your book on a whole new level.
Week 2: Once we've whittled down what you actually want to write about, you will learn how to condense your Concept into just a few short statements. A series of simple deep breathing exercises will help to calm your body and allow your mind to function with greater ease and clarity.
Week 3: Once you have ironed out your principal theme, you can begin to build the structure of your book around it. You'll start by the writing an Overview, a two-page elaboration of your initial concept.
Week 4: We'll discuss the difference between a Table of Contents, a Chapter Outline, and Chapter Summaries - three practical, incremental steps to creating an overall structure for your book.
Week 5: Along with structure, you'll learn how to describe your book to agents and editors in terms of competing titles in the marketplace, and ideas for building your author platform, identity, and promotional strategy.
Week 6: Most editors and agents want to see at least one Sample Chapter. Here you'll get some pointers on how to select the best candidates for a sample (hint: it's probably not the first chapter!), and some overall tips on what to include.
Week 7: The marketplace is changing rapidly, both in commercial publishing and self-publishing. Print on demand an e-book technology offer enormous potential, but also numerous pitfalls that you'll need to be aware of.
Week 8: Once you have a viable structure for your book, you can begin to write it at your own pace. But at the same time, you can be searching for the right agent to help you find a commercial publisher. You'll learn all about how agents work, what fees they should and shouldn't charge, and how to write an Agent Query Letter that will help you land the agent you want.
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