I remember when I started writing again how at sea I felt. On the waves of an emerging literary boom in South Africa, I decided to dip my toes into the water. For many years I just wrote, churned out stories week after week without any idea as to who my reader might be or where I would send the stories to for publication.
I read every writing manual I could lay my hands on and scanned the internet week after week for a course where I might meet other wannabe writers. But alas there were no courses available and it was just by coincidence that I learned of the MA in Writing programme at Wits. It was certainly the catalyst that yanked my writing out of its status of dabbling and catapulted it into my life’s commitment.
There are obviously courses for horses and I would say the MA was a lucky bet for me; it provided exactly the didactic atmosphere that I enjoy. I learned a lot about craft – not everything, but a helluva lot. There are aspects of writing that I felt definitely were not given the attention they deserved, such as the ethics of writing and revision and editing.
Currently there are a lot of writing courses on offer and they are varied and seem tailor-made for the new writer who wants to try their hand. The range of topics is vast – romance writing, song-lyric writing, poetry, memoir, etc. Personally I find most courses geared towards the beginning writer who wants to specialise in a certain genre, yet there are other areas that could provide extremely interesting content for the more experienced writer, such as real travel writing, not tourist blurb; representation of the Other in contemporary literature; writing and meditation; how to use De Bono to generate stories. In fact, I think I will teach some of these classes …
Hereunder is a list of some of the companies offering courses. Please note the list is not exhaustive and it is given as a guide only:
http://www.sawriterscollege.co.za/ – S A Writers College offers a range of online courses and a user-friendly website with lots of interesting info for writers. Their online short story course costs R2995.
http://www.cityvarsity.co.za/shortc/sc_journ/sc_fmj/shortc/sc_ctbdates/ – City Varsity in Cape Town offers a basic 5-week journalism course at a cost of R3500. It is held in the evenings, which makes it a viable proposition for people who work.
http://www.futureshock.co.za/nucourse.htm – South African Writers Network offer self-study modules at a cost of R350 per module.
http://www.intec.edu.za/live/content.php?Item_ID=103 – Intec offers self-study courses in Creative Writing and Journalism. Their price is R3760 to R4 178.
http://www.anneschuster.co.za/ – Anne Schuster offers the Women’s Writing Workshop. Appears to offer courses that focus on introspective writing – a good place to start – not a good place to stay for either yourself or your writing.
http://www.unisa.ac.za/Default.asp?Cmd=ViewContent&ContentID=7612 – UNISA (Pretoria) offer a correspondence BA in Creative Writing in both English and Afrikaans. Inquire at fees office for cost of this course or modules thereof.
http://www-za.iaj.org.za/index.htm?main_category=4 – Institute for the Advancement of Journalism(Parktown, Johannesburg) offers a range of courses during the year. User-friendly site, but again no costs advertised so you’ll have to email at email@example.com
http://web.wits.ac.za/Academic/Humanities/GSH/GraduateProgammes/MACoursework.htm – University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg). Many published graduates from this programme. No details on their website about the Creative Writing MA, may be in abeyance. Phone them to find out on 011-717-4032 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
http://www.commerce.uct.ac.za/organisations/creative_writing/application.asp – University of Cape Town. Full details available for the MA they offer in Creative Writing. Lots of published graduates from this programme.
http://www.writersbureaucourse.com/?gclid=CNrx0Kr00pQCFQ8gQgodyil1lg – The Writers Bureau is an international correspondence course based in the UK and they offer a guarantee on their courses. Exchange rate may be prohibitive for some of the overseas-based online courses.
Things that you might like to consider when deciding on where to take a course are: Who is teaching the course – what are their credentials? What type of interaction will I have with teachers or mentors to help solve problems that I may encounter? What exactly will I learn on the course. Ask for an outline so that you know what will be covered and the learning level at which the course is pitched?
Accept that there is no single course that is going to provide solutions to all your writerly needs, but the benefits that accrue from learning your craft well and making contact with people who are literary minded are well worth it.