Anne here, and today I'm talking about taking classes, both as a teacher and as a student.
Lately I've been doing both. Currently I'm in Brisbane, (state capital of Queensland) at a conference called GenreCon which celebrates all varieties of genre fiction. There were people writing crime, romance, urban fantasy, science fiction and all shades, subgenres and combinations of these —even fan fiction. There was a mixture of panels, speeches, workshops and discussions and it ended up with a very funny, not-exactly-serious debate on the topic "Genre just wants to have fun," in which I was a speaker—but I digress.
In one panel discussion the question arose as to whether classes in "how to write" were any use. There was a strong difference of opinion among the speakers and there was some good discussion of the topic afterward.
Since I do quite a lot of teaching—and I wouldn't do it if I didn't believe it helped— I was arguing on the side of taking classes to help your writing along. I firmly believe my pathway to publication would have been different and possibly faster if there'd been good classes available — or I'd known about RWA.
The discussion got me thinking about taking classes in general. I enjoy teaching — in fact on Friday, I'm going to be heading even further north to Far North Queensland (find Cairns on the east coast of Australia and head a little south to Innisfail) where I'll be teaching craft-of-writing the whole weekend.
But I particularly love being the student, where there's no responsibility except to work and enjoy and play and learn. Several of my friends are doing classes just for fun — two are learning Latin dancing -- the tango in particular. They live in different states and are at very different stages — one is a beginner and one very accomplished. The beginner isn't too impressed with her teacher and we were joking that the person she really wanted to teach her was Antonio Banderas. If you want to see him in action, click here.
But we all agreed that taking classes and learning new, unfamiliar things was good for the soul. Five years ago, one of my friends took up violin for the first time — he wanted to learn to play Irish folk music. He was in his 50's and everyone said he was mad, too old, etc. But he persisted and now he plays in an Irish fiddle group and you'd think he'd been playing since he was a boy. He has a busy, stressful job and he told me once that coming home to play the fiddle at night is what's kept him sane.
One of the things I often do to celebrate finishing a book is to take some kind of a class — usually a craft class.
After several books I've taken a class in PMC (Precious Metal Clay) jewelry. PMC is a clay-like substance which molds like clay, but which, when fired, shrinks about 10% as the "clay" burns away and you're left with silver that's more pure than sterling silver. For firing small pieces you can use an ordinary kitchen brulé burner and the results are gorgeous. Those are some earrings I made.
Recently, after I'd turned in my latest book (The Winter Bride) I took a class called "Bijoux Porcelain" which was fun and easy and the results so pretty. It involved rolling out porcelain clay, then cutting out shapes and then applying Japanese tissue transfer designs, and then firing. The whole process was amazingly easy — very much like making cookies (or biscuits as we call them in Australia) except the baking was done by the teacher in a pottery kiln.
I haven't seen the fired pieces yet — there they are sitting on a firing sheet waiting to go into the kiln— I'll pick them up when I get home again — but we all took photos of our pieces before we left the class (so we didn't mix any up.) The gray color will be pure white when it's fired. My pieces are to become earrings, brooches and pendants. Some of the others were made by people who'd already done one class and brought their own Christmas cookie cutters to make ornaments for the Christmas tree. So pretty. Guess who's thinking of doing another class to make ornaments?
What about you? Do you like taking classes as an adult? What's the best class you've ever taken? Or what would be your ideal class and who would be your ideal teacher?
I'll send a book and one of my porcelain pieces to someone who leaves a comment.