Why I’m Glad I Went to College for Writing

gvsu-top-college

I see a lot in advice for young writers something along the lines of “You don’t have to go to college for writing.”

This is true. You don’t have to. You can just as easily get the same knowledge through going to conferences, reading writing books, following writers’ blogs, and, most of all, writing. All of those things are excellent things to do, and maybe for you as a writer, it’s the path you need to take.

But don’t discount going to college for writing too quickly.

It’s the path I decided to take, and I don’t regret it. As a teen, I knew I wanted to pursue writing, and I knew I wanted to go to college. Since I didn’t have the money to go to college and attend writer’s conferences, I chose college.

I was blessed that my local university (Grand Valley State University) has an actual writing department and B.A. program that is separate from the English department. Only about 30 colleges in the United States have a program like it. All of the professors have to be actively writing and either publishing or pursuing publication. The classes are writing classes and workshops, not English classes. The difference? An English class looks at a metaphor and interprets what it means. A Writing class looks at a metaphor and asks what it does, how it works, and how to use it. The Writing Center, where writing students help other students work on their papers and writing due for classes, is so well-known that Harvard (yes, Harvard!) patterned their writing center after it.

Yeah, pretty cool.

Better yet, I pushed my writing in a way that I don’t think I would have any other way. So here are seven reasons why I’m glad I went to college for writing:

1. I learned how to write when I didn’t feel like it. I’ve always been motivated by grades, so when I had a story due and I didn’t feel like writing, the thought of that failing grade pushed me to write anyway. Once I built up that discipline, it was easier to keep it up after college.

2. I learned how to take a critique. There’s nothing like offering up a story to thirty people plus your professor, then having to sit there silently while all 31 of them pick your story apart in front of you. It’s pure torture the first couple of times, but usually everyone is respectful and only gives constructive criticism.

3. I learned how to give a critique. Once again, grades are a good motivation. At GVSU, we were graded on the quality of our critique. I learned how to read another student’s work with an eye to helping them improve.

4. I learned how to distance myself from my writing. The classes, especially the upper level writing classes, could be intense. I didn’t always get a lot of time between writing a story, having it critiqued, and editing to turn in. I didn’t have the luxury to set it aside until I was ready to tear it apart. I had to make myself ready and dive in.

5. I learned how to write tight. I’m still working on this, but I’m much better than I used to be. Since we had limited amount of time, we learned and wrote short stories in our writing classes. It was tough learning to tell a story in such a short form, but I learned to cut a lot of unnecessary stuff to give me more room for plot and character.

6. I learned to develop characters. Anyone who has read my work knows I struggle with this. It is still a struggle, but I had almost no character development before going to college. Since GVSU teaches literary writing, character is king. It pushed me to think about characters in a way I hadn’t before.

7. I learned how to be a part of a writing community. There is something special about walking into a room and knowing everyone in that room gets writing. I’m sure a conference is even more amazing, but I liked starting small.

Like I said, there are other ways to get all of these things. But for me, this is the way I was pushed. I needed the accountability and discipline that college demands. A writing partner might let lack of discipline slide, but a college professor doesn’t.

And I got a degree that was worthwhile. A Writing degree is surprisingly versatile. A variety of businesses look for good writers, not just publishing companies.

So what is your path? Do you think going to college for writing is for you or is something else?

Cover Reveal – A Dream Not Imagined

Today I’m taking a break from my own book launch to host a cover reveal for fellow indie writer Shantelle Mary Hannu. Her debut novella releases in June.

A Dream Not Imagined CoverAbout the Book

A MAID, a PRINCE, and a DUKE. A GARDENER, a STEPMOTHER, and a secret

Ellie Abbington, a beautiful yet unassuming young woman, quietly longs for her life to change. Too privileged to associate with the servants—too underprivileged to associate with her own family; she dreams a dream of a prince and a happily ever after.

But it could be that her own stepsisters, conniving Dezmarie and easily-influenced Adelaide, are dreaming the same dream…of the same prince.

In the end, are dreams even all they’re made out to be? Especially with deep and long-hidden secrets about to be unearthed?

A Dream Not Imagined is a non-magical fairytale novella based loosely on the classic tale of Cinderella.

About the Author

KODAK Digital Still CameraShantelle Mary Hannu was born in the mountainous west, spending her golden childhood years there. Since then, she has relocated time and again with her parents and seven siblings, making cherished memories in both the South and Central United States.

A Christian homeschool graduate, Shantelle has a passion for writing and all things books. From a young age she’s been penning tales with a hope of sharing with the world adventurous and soul-stirring stories that bring glory to God.

A Dream Not Imagined, a fairytale novella, will be her first published book. She’s currently preparing a full-length fantasy novel for publication as well, and working on its sequel.

Shantelle blogs at A Writer’s Heart: http://shantellemaryh.blogspot.com/ about her stories, favorite books and movies (with reviews), healthy wheat-free recipes, and hosts fellow authors, among other things. One of her joys is connecting with fellow writers and readers! You can also find her on:

Facebook: Shantelle Mary Hannu, Author (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shantelle-Mary-Hannu/1622068488014168?ref=aymt_homepage_panel),

Twitter: @shantellemary (https://twitter.com/shantellemary),

Goodreads: Shantelle Mary Hannu (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13804303.Shantelle_Mary_Hannu),

Google+: Shantelle H. (https://plus.google.com/101772131563789927466/posts), and

Pinterest: Shantelle H. (https://www.pinterest.com/h0160/).

About the Illustrator

Natasha H. is an aspiring photographer and also loves drawing and painting. A Dream Not Imagined is the first book she has drawn the cover picture for.

Learn more about her work at her blog: http://tashahphotography.blogspot.com/

Bloggers Participating in the Cover Reveal

 Hayden Wand at The Story Girl

http://everystory-storygirl.blogspot.com/

Claire Banschbach at Claire M. Banschbach – Thoughts and Rants

https://clairembanschbach.wordpress.com/

Amber Stokes at Seasons of Humility

http://seasonsofhumility.blogspot.com/

Ghost Ryter at Anything, Everything

http://ghostryter.blogspot.com/

Deborah O’Carroll at The Road of a Writer

https://deborahocarroll.wordpress.com/

Kaiser Writes at …The Adventure Begins

http://ekaiserwritesablog.blogspot.com/

Alyssa-Faith at The American Anglophile

http://www.theeamericananglophile.blogspot.com/

Hannah Williams at The Writer’s Window

http://williamshsj.blogspot.com/

Laura Pol at Crafty Booksheeps

http://craftybooksheeps.blogspot.com/

Natasha H. at Through My Lens (+ review)

http://tashahphotography.blogspot.com/

Skye Hoffert at Ink Castles

http://skyehoffert.blogspot.ca/

Jaye L. Knight at Jaye L. Knight’s Blog

http://jayelknight.blogspot.com/

Serena at Poetree

http://poetreeandbooks.blogspot.com/

Brittney at Brittney’s Book Nook

http://brittneysbooknook.com/

Jesseca Dawn at Whimsical Writings

http://jessaswhimsicalwritings.blogspot.com/

Lena K. at Read, Write, Laugh, DANCE

https://readwritelaughdance.wordpress.com/

Allison Ruvidich at The Art of Storytelling

http://www.allisontheartofstorytelling.blogspot.com/

Shannon McDermott at Shannon McDermott’s Blog

http://www.shannonmcdermott.com/?page_id=189

Cover Reveal!

*Drum Roll*

I’m super excited to reveal the cover for Dare: 

Dare Ebook Cover

My friend Ashley did the cover for me. She’s a graphic designer and illustrator, and it’s a mark of a good friendship when she can design a cover for a picky author and still remain a friend. 🙂

Her email is ashleyjoyillustration@gmail.com if anyone is looking for a designer or illustrator.

So what do you think? Isn’t it stunning?

Blog Tour

To participate in the blog tour for Dare, please fill out the below form before May 1:

This sign up has now closed.

Publication Announcement!

A year ago, the characters and basic plot line for a three book series dumped into my head all at once. Looking back, I don’t even know if I thought of a character or the premise or the plot first. It showed up all at once and demanded to be written.

I wrote it. All three books, one after the other. They were messy drafts. Quick drafts. But special.

I edited, rewrote, edited, and rewrote book 1, Dare. When it was ready, I worked up the courage to send it to Nadine Brandes, who sent it back with a bunch more edits and helpful comments.

I’m putting on the final polish and can announce: ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????After researching my options for a over year while I was writing and editing, I decided to publish Dare with my own Indie publishing label Sword & Cross Publishing. Roseanne White designed the logo, which I’m so excited to see on the spine.

About the Book

Courage could cost him everything. 

Third Blade Leith Torren never questions his orders or his loyalty to King Respen until an arrow wound and a prairie blizzard drive him onto the doorstep of the girls whose family he helped destroy.

Survival depends on obedience, but freedom beckons. How far does he dare go to resist the king and his Blades?

No matter what Leith chooses, one thing is certain.

Someone will die.

Dare will be available in ebook and paperback on June 6, 2015. I’m planning to eventually add an audiobook version as well. The cover will be revealed on or after April 15. I’d also like to have a blog tour from June 2 through 16. If you’d like to participate in the blog tour, please fill out the below form before April 25:

Bailey Baxter Series – Fun Stuff Part Two

Today, I’d like to introduce you to three of the main characters from the Bailey Baxter series by Kim Moss.

Bailey

Bailey Baxter

Physical characteristics

Medium height, straight blonde hair, blue eyes, skinny but not athletic, olive skin tone

Personality

Bailey is very introspective and mature for her age.  Some people might call her an old soul. She’s creative and sometimes gets lost in her own daydreams.  She’s very trusting and kindhearted to her friends, and she’s full of compassion for others.  She’s also adventurous and can be a risk-taker when it comes to matters of the heart.

Likes/Dislikes

She loves to climb trees.  She loves to curl up with her leather-bound journal or a good book. She’s read Pride and Prejudice & Romeo and Juliet.  She’s a wistful romantic, a lover of poetry and stories.  Perhaps she’s a sucker for star-crossed lovers or impossible situations.  She plays the guitar and writes poetry.  She hates all things algebra.

Strengths/Weaknesses

Bailey’s biggest strength is her faith in God. Throughout life’s tragedies, she’s able to trust in Him.  She’s optimistic and hopeful.  Bailey’s also stubborn.  Yet her biggest weakness is probably her indecisiveness.  She’s a typical teenage girl, whimsical in her decisions.  Sometimes this can be to her disadvantage, especially where her love life is concerned.

What Draws You to Bailey

She’s your typical all-American girl, which makes her very relatable to many young people.  She’s not the most popular girl in school.  She’s not an athlete, she’s not the captain of the cheerleaders.  She’s not remotely wealthy or even all that beautiful.  She’s real, just like your little sister or your best friend, and you want to root for her.  Even when she makes mistakes, you cheer her on because you might have even made the same mistakes yourself.

Bryce

Bryce Hall

Image courtesy: http://s1.favim.com/orig/8/boy-cute-eyes-guy-Favim.com-169605.jpg

Physical characteristics

Medium height, wears glasses sometimes, brown hair, hazel eyes, athletic build, adorable dimples and a smile that makes you weak in the knees

Personality

Bryce is a perfect gentleman.  Both quick-witted and charming, he’s absolutely brilliant and makes good grades in school.  He’s also very sensitive to other people’s feelings. He’s a risk-taker when it comes to extreme sports, but he guards his heart carefully.  Bryce is the kind of guy that all the girls want to date (but don’t because they don’t think they meet his high standards.)

Likes/Dislikes

Bryce is a lover of Shakespeare and the X-Games.  He spends a lot of his time at the skate park. He’s also very athletic, which makes him very good at almost anything he tries.  Although he’s very athletic, his deepest love is reading and writing.  He loves science fiction and poetry.  He’s not a huge fan of team sports.

Strengths/Weaknesses

Bryce’s biggest strength is his likable personality.  He’s a flirty, funny guy, and everyone wants to be friends with him.  He’s a people pleaser, which can also be a weakness.  He has a hard time making decisions, and despite his popularity and outward zeal, deep down, he’s a bit unsure of himself.  Sometimes he gives up when he’s afraid he’ll fail.

What Draws You to Bryce

Bryce’s dad died when he was younger and he was raised by his single mom, so you’re immediately drawn to his sensitive side.  You root for him because he’s been through a lot of the same things that Bailey is currently going through.  You like it that he’s not afraid to be affectionate with those he cares about. Whether it’s giving his mom a hug or taking Bailey by the hand in English class, his boldness draws you to him.  You’re always waiting to see what he’s going to do next.  Despite his affectionate side, he’s never kissed a girl.  He’s a romantic dreamer who saves his first kiss for someone he loves.

Max

Max Martin

Image courtesy: http://img15.imageshack.us/img15/5433/mrhedlunddotcom1721.jpg

Physical characteristics

Tall, short blonde hair, blue eyes, boy-next-door

Personality

Max is a Southern sweetheart.  Having grown up with Bailey in Louisiana, he’s known her his entire life and has a deep-rooted interest in her well-being.  He’s very quiet and can be passive aggressive.  He’d rather pick on Bailey than tell her he’s crazy about her.  He’s not a risk-taker, which makes him very patient.

Likes/Dislikes

He loves the Baxters.  He feels like they’re a part of his family. He likes to play pool and spend time with the people he cares about.  Whether it’s wakeboarding or jet-skiing, Max loves getting out on the lake.  He’s athletic and very good with little kids. He doesn’t like seeing Bailey get hurt, so he’s very protective of her.

Strengths/Weaknesses

Max’s biggest strength is his caring heart.  He’s good with the little boys he works with at camp in My Summer Storm, and he’s very intuitive when it comes to Bailey’s feelings.  However, he’s not always sure about his feelings for Bailey, so he sends her a lot of mixed messages.  One minute he treats her like a little sister and the next he flirts with her like he wants more.  His patience is a strength, but it could also prove to be a weakness, too.

What Draws You to Max

Max is the perfect guy to have a crush on.  He’s good-looking and funny.  He’s Bailey’s knight in shining armor.  He’s the one who has always been there.  You love it that he knew and loved her mother and shares memories with Bailey.  You enjoy imagining them together as children playing in the backyard together.  You look toward the future and wonder if Max could be Bailey’s “someday.”  The thing you love most about Max is that he loves Bailey from a distance and seems to always have her best interest at heart.

To read more about these characters, check out Leaving Nelson and My Summer Storm: 

leaving-Nelsonv coverNow available. Click to order.

Also, my giveaway is still running through Friday. Click on this link to enter:a Rafflecopter giveaway