FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How does this class work?
It's a three-week class, designed so that you can learn how to generate story ideas easily and get them out to the right markets. In the first week, I'll share my strategies to help you start building your idea generation muscles and a huge list of story ideas. During week two, you'll continue building up your inventory of story ideas, but you'll also start learning how to refine your brain spurts into stories you can sell. We'll work together closely during this week. And in week three, I'll show you how to take those refined ideas and target them for the right markets. You can have the greatest ideas in the world and write brilliantly, but if you're sending your work to the wrong magazines, you're still going to have your work rejected. Editors won't shift a magazine's editorial focus to accommodate a writer's genius.
How much do your classes cost?
The Premium-level costs $179, which includes access to the class online and e-mail support. If you would like to add three 30-minute phone mentoring calls during the class, the cost is $329.
How does phone mentoring work?
You'll get three 30-minute chunks of my time where we can talk on the phone. I'm flexible with this, though. If you would rather talk for an hour during week #2 and save the last thirty minutes for the third week, we can find a way to make that work. I can mentor you via phone, or what most students like, by Skype.
Which should I choose, email support or phone mentoring?
I'm taking money out of my own pocket by answering this honestly, but 90 percent of my students need only email support. The only time I would encourage someone to sign up for phone mentoring is if they're making a huge career change, such as quitting a job to write full-time or they have so many questions about writing that are beyond the scope of the e-mail portion of the class (which just focuses on ideas, not all the other aspects of writing). I spend an enormous amount of time responding thoroughly to my students' emails; it's not like you're getting "less" by getting email-only support.
How can I pay for the class?
You can pay by PayPal or by check. If you’d like to pay by check, please contact me at and I’ll send you my mailing address.
What happens after I sign up?
I'll get a notification from PayPal that you've signed up for the class. Within the next business day, I'll send you a welcome email. If you sign up late on Friday or during the weekend, this means you won't hear from me until Monday. In this note, I ask all students to send me an introductory email, which is helpful for me to receive before class starts. I'll be in touch with you again shortly before the class officially starts.
I suck at coming up with story ideas. What makes you think you can help me?
If you really lack that much confidence in your idea-generating abilities, please sign up. I can give you that kick of confidence you desperately need. In all my years of teaching writing classes, I've never met a student who couldn't come up with a handful of ideas–not just any old ideas, but ones that could sell!–by the end of the course. I help students by asking them questions about their lives, their interests, their dreams for the future–the same kind of questions that I'll ask you in our one-on-one e-mails. Coming up with ideas is a skill, not a talent–and once you learn the basics, you'll find that generating good story ideas gets easier and begets more good ideas. You may not ever love coming up with ideas, but my course can certainly make the process easier–and less painful–for you.
Wait...you're going to see my ideas? Should I be worried that you'll steal them?
You know, I myself was worried about this. Not that I'd steal your ideas, but that one of my students would accuse me of stealing, which is why when I first ran this class as a workshop, I offered no input on ideas. But several things happened. First, my students started begging me for feedback. They didn't seem concerned that I'd pillage their piles of stories. Then I talked to my co-author, Linda, who critiques story ideas when she taught and never had a problem with students worried about idea theft. I've also critiqued story ideas and queries from writers who've taken my magazine writing courses IRL. All I can do is assure my students and potential students I have so many ideas of my own and so little time to get them out to editors that I hardly have time to pilfer ideas from other writers. And if you've read The Renegade Writer, you know how much we despise editors who steal story ideas...surely it's not a practice I'd adopt.
Will I benefit from your class if I've been freelancing for awhile?
If you've had a career-long struggle with idea generation, I think my workshop could help you. If your ideas feel a little stale, perhaps some of my techniques will get you thinking in a new and different way. I've designed the course to be helpful for both beginning and working freelancers, so there are some points within the workshop where I talk about stuff an experienced freelancer should know, such as knowing your markets or what TK stands for. This might irritate you, it may not, so consider yourself warned. If you don’t know or understand what I’m talking about, just ask–no question is silly except the one you don’t ask.
What's your teaching style like?
I think my students see me as a very positive, enthusiastic teacher. I'm encouraging but I'm not going to tell you your idea is pure gold just because I want to be nice and not hurt your feelings. The way I see it, you're paying me money to be honest with you–and better to hear from me than from an editor that your idea needs some work. If I don't think a story on why women should drink eight glasses of water per day is especially compelling, I'm going to say so, but I'll do this by suggesting how to shape that broad idea into something that might sell. For example, you could turn that idea on its head: Is there any evidence that drinking eight glasses of water a day might be bad for you? On the other hand, if I'm enthusiastic about an idea, I'm going to let you know and maybe even push you to pitch it to a certain magazine. This happens a lot, and many of my students who followed my advice got assignments. (You can read two examples on the front-page testimonials.)
How do I access the class? Do I need special software?
The class is web-based; all you need is an Internet connection, a computer (Mac or PC) with browser software like Safari, IE, Firefox, or Chrome, and an e-mail address. You can even use an Android or Apple tablet, I suppose. When you click on the URL I send to you on Monday mornings, you'll type in your login and password in the popup box that appears, then that week's lesson will show up in your browser.
Do I have to be in a certain place at a certain time?
Nope. I send the workshop's URL/password out every Monday morning. You can read lesson and do the work at your convenience, although starting with the first week, you'll be asked to do some work each day. The class is progressive and you'll get the most out of each week if you do the daily work.
I'm overseas. Can I still take your class even though I'm in a different time zone?
I've had students in my class from all around the world: England, Ireland, Israel, Germany, India, Thailand, and South Africa to name a few places off the top of my head. What I do is make sure lessons arrive in overseas mailboxes at local time by using an automatic email scheduler. So when I say a lesson will be in your mailbox at 8 a.m. on Monday, it'll be there whether you're in Boston (MA) or Boston (UK).
English is my second language but I really want to write for American magazines. Will your class help?
You need to be at a high level of English fluency to write for national magazines, I'd say at the CEFR C2 level. Don't feel slighted: plenty of native English speakers struggle to write for these magazines, because not only do you have to write well, you have to write with an ear for subtlety in a magazine's voice or style. I'm not saying it can't be done--I had one mentoring student from Italy whose English was not only flawless, but his ideas were engaging and his style of writing would have fooled anyone into thinking he was a native English speaker. But again, he was the exception. By the way, this is true for a speaker of any second language, not just English. In fact, many American writers have trouble writing for British magazines because of language differences, and vice versa. Like Mark Twain famously said, "England and America are two countries divided by a common language."
Can I access the class after the session is over?
I change passwords every few months for security reasons. If you need to access the class and your login/password doesn't work, drop me a line at and I'll set you up with new ones. Better yet, when you get the lesson, you can save it by printing the webpage to PDF and saving the resulting PDF on your computer.
Where do I send my questions and homework?
My email address for this class is firstname.lastname@example.org.
What kind of e-mail support do you give?
We'll be communicating via e-mail during the week. You can ask me questions, and I'll be checking in with you. I get really antsy when I don't hear from my students--I encourage you to communicate with me! The more you communicate with me, the more I will communicate with you. The students who reach out the most are the ones who get the most out of the class.
When will you answer my questions/give me feedback on my ideas?
I check e-mail daily and get back to you with answers to urgent questions. For assignments, it's first come, first served. I spend a lot of time responding to ideas in detail because I want each student to walk away feeling like they know what to do with their stories and how they can move forward as freelancers. That takes a lot of thought and consideration on my part; I'm not just sending out responses that say, "Looks good. You should send this to X Magazine." All this means if you turn something into me late on Friday (especially during the second week, when I'm critiquing ideas) or over the weekend, I won't be looking at it until the following week. I make no apologies for staying away from my computer on weekends.
I'm going on vacation for a week during the workshop. Is that okay?
I advise you to sign up for this workshop when you have a full three weeks to commit to it. It's not designed in a way that makes it easy to take a break. Each day builds on the previous day, sort of like weightlifting. It's not going to do you a lot of good if you have to walk away in the middle of it. Don't worry – I offer this course frequently enough, so if you can't take it now, it'll always be there later.
I'll be away/busy/tied up with a project when the workshop starts and would like to start a few days late. Can I do that?
If you're confident that you can catch up on the workshop to your satisfaction, starting a day or two late is usually fine. As I mentioned above, I'll be offering this workshop frequently, so you can always sign up for a session that works better for your schedule rather than start late. I'd almost prefer you do this than start late, but it's your decision.
Will there be any interaction with the other students in the class?
No. Any interaction will be between you and me.
If I come up with a great idea in the first class, will you help me write a query letter or pitch?
First, I'll be thrilled that you came up with an idea you're ready to pitch to editors. If you've signed up for phone mentoring, I'm okay with looking at a pitch letter or query because we can discuss it over the phone during the mentoring session. If you're signed up for email support only, I cannot critique your pitch letter simply because there's not enough hours in the day to write out a thoughtful response for every student who asks, this on top of critiquing their ideas during week two of the class. So for the actual writing of the query, that's beyond the scope of this class.
What kind of money-back guarantee do you offer?
If, after I send the first lesson, you don't think this class is for you, I'll return your money, no questions asked. After that, I issue refunds on a case-by-case basis. Do I guarantee results? I wish I could but results only come when you do the work involved in getting assignments. Believe me, I wish I could guarantee wonderful assignments for everyone who takes my class, but surely you can see that would be possible only with a magic wand. I will do everything in my power, however, to give you the tools and advice to help you achieve your goals.
What if I have questions after class ends. Can I contact you?
I'm always happy to hear from "my" students after class. I love hearing how you're doing and I have no trouble answering a quick question or giving a bit of advice. Fortunately I don't get former students who abuse this policy; if I did, I would ask that they sign up for some phone mentoring time, for which I charge $50 for 30 minutes.
I have a question that's not answered here. What should I do?
Please e-mail me your question at email@example.com.