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    Online Writing Workshops: Make them Work for You

    Online writing workshops lets writers make observations from different angles. Members are provided, free of charge, important details and significant viewpoints from a diverse membership. Not only do you communicate with others who use the net as a resource center, you network, review each other's work, and learn about possible publishing endeavors. Others see your work instantly and feedback can continue until you pull your story or poem off the site.

    Online workshops differ greatly than workshops that are held in a classroom setting in that your peers are each different and unique. The participants are not held back by nationality or educational background, thus offering distinct and diverse opinions of your work. In a face-to-face workshop, I would be limited to fellow writers who had the same background as me, the same cultural experiences and customs and probably the same level of education as me. As a member of an online writing workshop, I am able to express myself and describe events in my life that I would be reluctant to share in a face to face workshop.

    The ones worth noting are those that offer password-protected forums and discussion areas, ensuring your work is not stolen. Author-author.net is fast becoming the choice for writers online. Writers Digest recently included Author-author.net in the best 101 web sites for writers. The site is easy to navigate and the administrators more than willing to help out the newcomer. The crowd can be both friendly and starkingly honest.

    If you plan to invest time into an online writing workshop, the following five tips should be beneficial.

    1. Jump right in and introduce yourself. Many sites have introductory forums or thread. You can include any information you are willing to share about yourself. Your child's name, your employment and where you have been published can all be shared. Do not let your beginner's status hold you back from an interesting conversation. And remember, all the fellow members also began as "newbies" and had to start somewhere.

    2. If you want your work to be critiqued, review other work. Writers who only want to build their egos or attract people to their writing generally do not take the time to read other work on the site. Because of this, many have instilled a mandatory requirement that detracts from those only interested in getting their article or story proofread. DO NOT give generic critiques and comments such as, "Good story!" This will not get you any return favors and older members will see you as opportunist.

    3. Limit your time. You must limit your time not only online, but also at your writing workshop. Many workshops have forums or categories that are not writing related. Designed as a hangout and to let members get to know each other, they also serve as time wasters. Do not snub this aspect of your workshop and do participate, but it is not necessary to participate in all threads.

    4. Do not share anything you will later regret. An advantage of being a member of an online writing workshop is anonymity. Yet, this can also work against you. Use your own judgement when discussing certain issues. Putting on a professional face will not hurt you. Keep in mind that many of your peers are journal editors or owners. As always, do not give out your telephone number or home address or other sensitive information that can be used against you.

    5. Do not stay if you feel unwelcome or you feel your time is being wasted. Do not think you have to stay because of your invested time or are owed critiqued. Also try to voice your concern, what might have transpired may have been simply an understanding. If all else fails, look for another site. Copyright © 2000 Noemi Martinez

      Noemi Martinez is editor-in-chief of http://www.chicanawriter.com, a writing resource center for Chicanas, women, and diverse cultures. She also publishes two literary journals, Redefining Words and Devuelveme La Tierra.

      The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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