Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Plagues, Witches, and War

In mid-October, I’m going to take an online historical fiction class with an optional writing component. Squee! (The class, “Plagues,Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction,” is available from the University of Virginia. And because I’m auditing through Coursera, it’s free.)

I love lit classes, getting my hands dirty in the text—discovering the symbols, controlling metaphors, subtexts, effects on the canon, analyzing it from different critical perspectives, etc. (Though as a writer, I find myself in an uncomfortable relationship with lit crit, which seems like a cranky aunt telling an author that their beautiful child really has Uncle Tony’s warty nose, even though the skin is smooth. But that’s another post.) The class includes many classic texts, which I’ve already read, thankfully. And there are some modern writers who will be guest lecturing, including Geraldine Brooks. (I loved her People of the Book—the writing was lyrical.)

In any case, the class got me to thinking about how much things have changed for writers. Back when I first started, there weren’t any writing blogs, no sites to check for information about agents, etc. You had to join a local writers’ group and hope that it wasn’t dominated by some aggressive person who tried to get everyone to write in his/her voice. (Been there, done that. You can keep your long, flowery, over-adjectivized phrases to yourself.) Or worse, someone who wants to share their very creepy, slasher short stories. (Sorry, I get nightmares.)

The writer’s life has changed a lot. I love that I can check Grammar Girl, instead of pulling out The Chicago Manual of Style. (Though sometimes TCMS is faster—mine opens automatically to the pages I use the most.) I love my online writing friend. She’s got my back. (Sweetie, do not make any radical changes to the plot when you’ve only had five hours of sleep.) I love that I can take a class while ironing or wearing pajamas. Though old habits die hard, so I’ll probably always be dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, my hair pulled back in a ponytail, and red pen in hand.  Wait. Everything’s done on computer. That means, gulp, I’ll have to use MS Word’s Track Changes… Hmm. Maybe all these modern changes aren’t quite so great after all.


  1. The class you'll be auditing sounds fascinating! I can't wait to hear what tidbits you'll get from it. :)

    Also, I totally feel you about how much things have changed. Just research alone is so much easier. Need to know a little bit about an obscure subject? Google it!

  2. Class sounds great. Interesting what you mentioned about how writers' lives have changed. That calls for a lengthy post!

    How did an unknown break in to the publishing world back then? It's amazing how many resources we have today: agent names and blogs, online writing classes, etc. And of course, the internet itself is like one big library for researching subjects!