last-minute FAQ about our first module

Next Tuesday at 5 pm the journalism course kicks off with the first meeting of our first official module, Digital Freelancing and Features with Arts Writing. It will run through probably June 12 with except for the first two weeks of April (spring break). I’m looking forward to introducing all the participants to each other and having a great term. Here is the last-minute FAQ:
How much work is in the module?

You’ll write about four or five stories or reviews plus some other exercises and a longer piece that you’ll work on throughout the course. There will also be reading of many articles by others. Most writing assignments will have to do with the arts but the longer story can be about any subject that interests you. The longer story is circa 1500-2000 tightly packed words – I just calculated the length of some of the model stories, so this is a more reliable guide than the 4000 I may have scared you with earlier. We’ll work on the long stories piece by piece and I will teach you the Wall Street Journal formula for in-depth story writing. We’ll also identify possible markets for your work and write query letters to editors.

What will we do week to week?

There are four elements to the course, not all of which will be present in any given week:

  • The didactic part: Reading and discussing examples of good writing, which I will assign; instruction on planning your own writing.
  • The writing workshop part: Everyone reads each other’s work and we discuss it, constructively; you also get separate feedback from the instructor. Learning how audiences see your work is a standard element of journalism and writing courses and a major benefit.
  • The computer lab part: Everyone learns WordPress, Twitter, basic Photoshop, or tries new things if you already know it. This is so you can push your writing out to audiences and/or maintain social media at work.
  • The guest speaker part: We have a number of guest speakers from the arts and arts writing who will be helping us to become more perceptive observers by guiding us through some of their work and experiences.

Can I do anything to prepare?

Interview yourself about what you’d like to write about (whether in the arts or not), books and articles you’ve enjoyed reading, writers you’d like to emulate, blogs you enjoy. Journalism is about specifics so if you start with yourself, be able to define some specific enthusiasms or curiosities. E.g. not just “I like reading” but “I like reading New Music Express” or books by Zadie Smith or graphic novels (formerly called comic books) or Vogue Italia or gardening instructions or train timetables or memoirs by prominent exiles or whatever. Come up with some possible long story subjects. We’ll start narrowing down your ideas in the second week.

What else should I know?

We’re not writing PR in this course. PR is a perfectly worthy thing to write, but we’re going to do journalism and that means we need to be free to incorporate critical opinions of the things we’re writing about. So for your coursework you need to steer clear of writing about things you or people close to you work on or participate in. Now is a good time to experiment with writing about things you aren’t involved in but are curious about. If you do PR in your day job or want to do PR, having done journalism will help you understand how critical people can be, and enable you to advise your clients better.

Is it too late to join the module?

Not yet, but almost. You need to fill out the MA programme application (lower right link here – it’s just two pages long but you do have to create a logon first), send me a writing sample and have a chat with me, because for bureaucratic reasons we would need to admit you to the whole MA programme even if you only take this module. So if you have been thinking about it, think faster!


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