Wednesday, December 12, 2007



You just sold a novel. You may have some short-story sales under your belt, too. Or some articles. You’re about to have a second novel published, and you’re at work on a third. Did you ever think about teaching a “How to….” class?

I have only a Bachelor’s Degree, but because I’ve had a lot of things published, I was able to teach non-credit courses at Leeward Community College in Hawaii. I’m about to do the same in Arizona where I live now.

Most community colleges offer non-credit courses for interested adults. Pick up a catalog from your local college to find out what kinds of non-credit classes they offer. Pay special attention to any section on writing. Memoir writing is fairly popular in my community, but it’s not anything I’m particularly interested in doing or teaching. However, I can teach a class on how to write for children and teens, or how to write a novel, or how to write a short story. I can also teach a class on how to market what you write, although I never guarantee that my students will be published. Heck, I can’t even guarantee that I will get published.

The first thing I do is put together a portfolio with samples of my work. I have photocopied pages from some of my children’s stories and books, articles I’ve sold, and so on. I put each sample in a plastic sleeve and into a binder. I think a professional-looking presentation makes a difference.

I print out a list of my publishing credits to give to the college, but I also have a resume that gives other information, such as where I went to college, what degree I earned, and so on. I already know that the college will probably ask these questions.

Before I call the college to set up an interview appointment, I write up a course outline for each class I want to teach. For example, I plan to teach a class on how to market what you write. So I’m going to include everything from manuscript preparation to query and cover letters to submission packets to how one finds publishers to what records need to be kept, and so on.

As I prepare the outline, I try to come up with exercises, too. For instance, for the class on marketing, I’ll have my students write a story synopsis, a query letter, and probably a cover letter, among other things.

Writing the outline helps me figure out what handouts I may need. Handouts might include sample query letters, or a manuscript that shows and tells the students how to correctly format a manuscript! The college where I’ll be teaching this summer has a policy regarding handouts. They don’t want to photocopy too many, so I need to be judicious.

As for textbooks, the non-credit program may frown on that extra expense. They may feel the students have to pay enough in tuition. That’s something you’ll need to find out at your initial interview.

Writing the outline also helps me figure out how long the course needs to be. I try to give myself enough time to teach each part of the course thoroughly, and time to answer all the questions that arise.

So that’s it. Once I have the course outlined, have my portfolio up to date, know what handouts I’ll need, and can at least make an educated guess about how long it’s going to take to teach the class, I’m ready to approach the college.

One nice thing about non-credit classes – the students are motivated adults. You won’t have to grade them or put anyone into time-out. You will get to share your experience and expertise and help others down the road to – hopefully – publication! And that’s a very satisfying feeling.

1 comment:

Tia Nevitt said...

Hmm . . . I'm thinking of applying this advice to my calligraphy.