Updated August 8th, 2015: This top 10 list still holds true, as I head into my fourth LitReactor online erotica writing class next week, which runs August 13th to September 10th. You can sign up through August 12th and if you have questions, email me at rachelkb at gmail.com with "LitReactor" in the subject line. You can also read what my students have to say - I'm thrilled to see so many of them enthused about erotica and getting published.
Since my first LitReactor class ended in November, I've been thinking about all the reasons why I was so impressed with online teaching and why I'm moving toward making that my primary teaching tool.
You can read what my students have said, but here are my reasons for enjoying teaching at LitReactor:
1. It's online Yes, that may seem obvious, but it made such a huge difference to me. On a business level, I know in advance how many people will be part of the class, and don't have to compete with other events happening that same night or worry about the weather making it hard to get there. Anyone with internet access can be part of the class. This also means students from anywhere in the world can be part of it. They also don't have to leave their houses and can work in the environment they're most comfortable and, with LitReactor, can participate whenever is convenient so time zones aren't an issue.
2. Anonymity This goes along with the fact that it's online, but I've found that in in person workshops, sometimes there is remarkable camaraderie, but sometimes people are shy about sharing their work. I never force people to share, but I found a greater percentage of people willing to post their work for critique and give critiques under the cloak of anonymity. (LitReactor lets users sign up with any username they like; most people used a pseudonym for my first class.)
3. It's four weeks This one also may seem obvious, but I didn't realize how much I would appreciate it. Here's the thing: no matter how prepared I am, I almost always forget something in person, because I'm human. I might remember to mention a certain story or call for submissions, but forget another. Online, if I forget something, I can add to a lecture or start a new discussion about a smaller but relevant topic. I found myself doing that several times during the last class and was so grateful I had the opportunity to do so. The freedom of being able to log in 24/7 helped foster an environment that, for me, helped me both remember and think of new things to share.
4. Reaches the literary and erotica worlds Because this class is via LitReactor, it draws on their broad readership based in various literary communities as well as my contacts in the erotica community. I found that this breadth of cross-sections made for a rich level of feedback across various subgenres.
5. Ample time to think, read and research In my typical two hour workshop and even in my longer three hour ones with CatalystCon, the focus is on writing exercise and delivering a large amount of information in a small amount of time. With my LitReactor class, I'm delivering a written lecture, and giving assignments, which students have time to ponder, ask questions about and devote more than a few minutes to the assignment. If they start a draft and it's not working out, they can scrap it and try another premise. They can think and process at their own pace. Let's face it; some people write very quickly, and for others it's a slower process. Some of us alternate between those two modes. Having several days to complete an assignment means you can let it gestate in your head and see where it takes you. You also have, again, #1, the internet at your disposal so you can look at photos, do research if you need to, access information and visual prompts you don't have time for if you only have a few minutes to write.
6. Supportive environment This is, of course, not exclusive to online teaching, but one of my favorite things about the class was the way it was set up. Students can access and respond to their fellow students, start discussions, ask questions privately of me or "publicly" to the other students, all within that controlled environment.
7. I can focus on individual questions If I only have fifteen minutes to answer questions, I can't really take 1/3 of that time to devote to one person's very specific query. But online I can. If someone wants to know about a specific market or an aspect of publishing or pseudonyms or novellas or whatever it is, I can answer their specific query. This is also helpful for other students; even if student B has no intention of publishing an erotic science fiction novel, details about that process might be useful when thinking about Student A's situation. For me, I want to make sure students get the answers they are looking for, and I appreciate the opportunity to say, "Here's a link," or "I'm not sure about the answer but I know who to ask and will get back to you."
8. Highlight authors, editors and publishers I always give out a syllabus and information on current markets for erotica, but with my online class, I go further, and I learned a lot from the extra interviews I included. I am in the process of updating that information for this next class and in the process discovering markets and publishers I hadn't previously heard of. These in-depth looks are useful because I am just one person and while I've worked with many publishers, I haven't done everything, and this gives me the chance to highlight different paths students can take when considering how to break into the erotica market.
9. Discussion and room to experiment The assignments I give in my LitReactor class are fundamentally different from the ones I assign in live workshops largely because of the time allotted. I can't say "Write 2,000 words in 10 minutes" and expect people to be able to work with that. Though I always hope in live workshops students will want to continue their work after they get home, with LitReactor, I can give them twists on types of stories and see the progression of their work. Students can try various ways of approaching their work; maybe they are used to writing in first person, or third person, or writing about a certain environment, but over the course of a month, they may be inspired to try new kinds of viewpoints, plots and approaches.
10. Giving and getting feedback and forming community This is something I found extremely valuable, because it shows students in a practical way the various directions a mind can go with a given assignment, and how that plays out on a practical level. I critique all assignments each week and students have the option of critiquing their fellow students' work. Over the course of four weeks, I found that through the process of reading, writing and asking questions of me and each other, students formed a mini community. They helped each other and offered links and information I wouldn't have come across. Since the class is limited to 16 people, it means students get a range of opinions, but it's small enough that people can get to know each other and their various writing styles.