Online writing courses jumpstart a literary career

woman leaning over her laptop

School is starting up again, but what if you forgot to register for that writing course you’ve been meaning to take? Is there any hope of getting expert help with your novel, poem, or blog before the year ends?

Instructor Angela Rydell has helped her online students find a path to publishing.
Instructor Angela Rydell has helped her online students find a path to publishing.

There is, and it can happen immediately.  Online writing courses from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies allow you to sign up anytime and complete the work within a year. The thirty-some offerings include Creating an Online Presence, Fiction in a Flash: The Art of the Very Short Story,Playwriting, and Screenwriting: Write Your First Draft Fast. Since the online courses began in 1998, they’ve enrolled 5,000-plus people from more than three dozen countries.

And they’ve helped writers get a leg up in the publishing world. Pat McConnell of Portland, Oregon, placed poems in Enhance Magazine and Pudding Magazine after enrolling in Poetry Writing: Taking the Poetic Leap and Poetry Writing: Getting to Good with instructor Angela Rydell. She has also worked with Rydell through the Division of Continuing Studies’ critique services.

Sean Higgins placed a story in Bluestem magazine.
Sean Higgins placed a story in Bluestem magazine.

“Angela works in a thoughtful and direct manner when editing,” McConnell says. “I appreciate it when she can tell me where I need to ‘show rather than tell’ and when she points out those places in my poems where I have led the reader astray by not expanding on a theme or straying from an established metaphor. In addition, I value Angela’s encouragement to stay with a poem that has good bones and keep revising it.”

Compelling fiction

Sean Higgins of Ann Arbor, Michigan, had a similarly productive experience in another of Rydell’s online courses, How to Write Compelling Fiction. Bluestem magazine published his story” Hypnotizing Chickens,” and “The Night Shift Sardine and Sauerkraut Club” is forthcoming from the literary journal Crack the Spine.

Higgins says that How to Write Compelling Fiction “is exactly the jolt that my writing life needed. The lessons themselves delve into technique in a very practical way, and Angela’s critiques are specific and detailed—enough so that I was able to start using them in my writing immediately.”

To jolt your own writing life, see the complete list of online courses or contact Christine DeSmet, cdesmet@dcs.wisc.edu, 608-262-3447.