Category: teaching

My Two Favourite Online Courses For Authors

I love learning. I’ve read tons of books on writing craft and marketing books, as well as taken several online courses. There are many good options out there, but to save on space (lest I overwhelm with too many good options) I’ve narrowed it down to my two absolute favourites.

  1. Learn Scrivener Fast by Joseph Michael

I’d been using Scrivener for about five years, give or take a few months. I loved it from the moment I started just for the way it organized my writing, but I never used it much beyond a word processing tool. Last summer I watched a free online video by Scrivener coach Joseph Michael. I realized there were so many more things Scrivener could do – including formatting everything from epubs to mobi files to paperbacks to plays and more!

But, as a long time Scrivener user, I thought I should be able to figure things out for myself. The software comes with tutorials and there are tons of videos online, so I took those free tidbits from Joseph Michael and continued on my merry Scrivener way.

Things changed drastically when I tried to format a book. About forty hours later, bleary eyed from watching confusing youtube tutorials and upmteen ‘trial and error’ compilations, I gave up. Compiling my files for publication just wasn’t as intuitive as I had thought. In desperation, I signed up for Joseph Michael’s course.

AND IT HAS BEEN THE BEST INVESTMENT I HAVE EVER MADE FOR MY WRITING CAREER!

I’ve managed to format and publish multiple ebooks, paperbacks, and pdfs. I organize my blog posts using Scrivener, and I even do a lot of my outlining using the corkboard function. I can’t imagine writing without it and whenever I run into a snag, all I need to do is go to Joseph Michael’s easy to follow videos and – voila! Problem solved!

If you’re planning to delve into indie publishing, this is the course for you. It is worth every penny hundreds of times over!

  1. Your First 10k Readers by Nick Stephenson

I’m sad to list this course second, because it has also been such a good investment for me. Nick Stephenson has appeared on multiple podcasts with the likes of Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Joel Freidlander and others. He talks about ‘lead magnets’, permafree books, automations etc. all with step-by-step videos and very useful cheat sheets and other helpful resources. You can find many similar courses out there on creating ‘systems’ for writing and marketing, (like Shelley Hitz’s ‘Author Audience Academy”) but I happened to come across Nick’s back in the summer of 2015. I took the risk and signed up – my first time actually spending hard earned cash on an online course.

It has been worth the cost ten times over. It’s not that I’m now rolling in cash. Nick cautions students right up front that his system takes work. It is not a get rich quick scheme or a fly-by-the-seat-of your-pants way to fool people into buying your books. What it is, is a really smart and well laid out system for growing your audience while offering value to your readers – all in a step-by-step format that keeps that ‘overwhelmed’ feeling from taking over.

I voraciously listened to the entire course in the first week or two upon receiving it, but there is so much content and so much detail that there is no way I could implement everything at once. Heck, I’m still taking baby steps two years later, but I’ve managed to make some significant inroads. Another wonderful thing about Nick’s course is that he continues to add new content and update old information without adding to the cost. Plus, he’s a very funny guy, so it’s quite entertaining to listen to him teach. You’ll see what I mean if you watch his free training videos. (Excellent, but the entire course is so much more in depth.)

Of course, there are many more valuable resources out there but these are my two all time favourites.

Nano Time Again!

November is my favourite time of year for one simple reason: Nanowrimo. In case you’ve been living in a cave (or aren’t a writer), Nanowrimo stands for ‘National Novel Writing Month’. Writers of every genre and experience are encouraged to write 50,000 words during the month of November, cheering one another on via forums and other incentives. I missed last year’s Nano, but I have completed my required 50,000 words six consecutive times before that. Two published book came out of it (NEIGHBOURS 1 and KEEPING UP WITH THE NEIGHBOURS) as well as other works that I hope to publish some day.

This year I am breaking with tradition and trying my hand at non-fiction. Technically, I’m not writing a novel, but I figure 50,000 words is still 50,000 words, right? I’m excited about several memoir projects that are in my head, so that is the direction I plan to go this year. As a former homeschooler, I have lots to say on that topic. As a heart attack survivor I’ve got some revelations to share. As a drama teacher, I’ve got some advice on teaching theatre in the ‘boondocks’, and I recently was inspired by something a house guest said about ‘agism’ in our society. Where I actually end up will be anyone’s guess, but I have lots of inspiration. Stay tuned for more.

And now back to those 50,000 words…

Even Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks

Who knew after seventeen years as a Drama teacher I could still feel stage fright? (Not from being on stage, as I will explain…) In that time I’ve directed and produced somewhere around thirty shows, but my experience in drama goes beyond that to involvement in church productions, practice teaching, and my role as a playwright. Yet it never ceases to amaze me that I still learn new things with each production.

Recently my extra-curricular group, the ‘KodiActs’, performed one of my published plays called ‘Ali and the Magic Lamp’. It’s a twisted parody of the classic tale where Ali is a skateboarding teenager and Genie has attitude to spare. The troupe performed four shows over a two day period and by all accounts it was a smashing success. The audience had no idea the anxiety that took place before the show or the somewhat scary turn of events backstage during the last performance.
Crisis number one: My school does not have a stage so every show we have to rent one and construct everything from the ground up, including a complicated truss system for hanging the lights and every
thing else that goes with it. I have a lot of confidence in my ability to direct and produce a show. Inevitably, despite set backs and various crisis situations, everything seems to come together. However, I have no illusions about my abilities when it comes to construction. I’ve always relied on people who are more mechanically inclined (most notably my husband) to help me with these aspects. This year, however, my husband was away working and I had to rely on my own abilities to get the job done. I had a few sleepless nights just thinking about the logistics of ladders, and power tools…

Of course, I’ve seen it done dozens of times, but this time I was actually the foreman, showing students how to bolt together a thirty-two foot truss and then raise and mount it above the stage. I had to demonstrate how and where to screw all the stage flats together to make the backdrop, making sure the twelve foot centre archway didn’t come crashing down in the process. I had to help string electrical cable and hang heavy (and expensive!) stage lights, although I did find a brave volunteer to climb the ladder who was also stronger than I,  to make sure they were clamped in place and wouldn’t come loose during the show.

In all, it was a fantastic learning experience for me. it showed me that I could do this part of the job. I’d often wondered how I would manage without my right hand man there to help me, and now I know I can do it. It gave me a new sense of accomplishment.

But that’s not the whole story…  Enter ‘Crisis number two’: During our final performance, one of the actors had a seizure on stage. (She is being tested for epilepsy and had a similar incident last year backstage. But this time it happened on stage during a scene!)

I was so proud of how my other young actors handled things. They’ve been trained by the old motto, “The show must go on,” so her scene partner ad-libbed his way through the initial awkwardness and I immediately called for lights and music. When I got backstage, she was out cold. With the help of another teacher and a couple of other actors we managed to get her off the stage and out into the foyer. Her parents were called immediately, (we have a contingency plan in place since the incident last year) and the rest of the play went forward with her understudy completing the play.

Although there was a longer than normal scene break at one point, some of the audience didn’t even know what happened. I mentioned it at the end of the show and the student in question got a nice round of applause. Meanwhile, she had been ‘out’ for almost five minutes in total. Her parents took her to emergency and she was disoriented when she came to, but she was otherwise alright.

This was another first for me. I’ve had actors sick and throwing up backstage; panic attacks, last minute substitutions, and as I said, one similar incident with a seizure (but at least it was off stage!) It just goes to show that even when you think you’ve seen it all, something new is bound to happen. Like I said, even this old dog can learn a few new tricks.

 

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