My reasons for applying to the Speakeasy Project’s “Live to Write” Class were practical ones: basically, I wanted to cross-reference my submitting/marketing process with a professional’s to see what I had right, what I had misunderstood, what I could improve on, etc. In Dr. León’s warm, welcoming virtual classroom (quite an accomplishment in and of itself, as the internet at large often paints itself with a colder, unemotional landscape), we went through the basics of what to do behind the scenes as a writer, “emerging” or otherwise.
The idea behind this class is both necessary and too often obscured: This is all the stuff they don’t tell you about in traditional workshops. Dr. León’s educational curation covered a wide gamut of topics, step-by-step, week-by-week: how to tidy up a professional cover letter; how to apply for residencies; how to compose a press kit (this was my favorite idea/practice—it’s essentially a multi-media packet enveloping a sampling of your work as a writer, updated every six months). Our small class even went so big as to sketching the basics of a book tour and making promo videos based off our work, with a little extra time for brief creative workshopping, as well as many other tactics.
To borrow a phrase from other realms, this class really “works if you work it”. The more time I invested into Dr. León’s suggested homework each week, the more I got out of it. The skills fostered in our class are ones that any writer should have in her pocket if they want to succeed in the publishing world. The industry, for many, can be a hostile monstrosity for the budding writer, especially those skirting on the margins of mainstream patriarchal, xenophobic, cisgender, my-way-or-the-highway American publishing …
within the beginning moments of the first class, I felt Dr. León’s outlook permeate the wide array of students from all over the globe: we are all equals here; we are all writers, doing our best. This great equalizing vibe let us springboard each of our ideas and feedback in turn, building up that great and inspiring kinetic energy of community that any good workshop should do—and all this on a screen from home. Mix this with an array of talented guest speakers, tangible examples of each tool in her shed, and good-good energy, and you have a class that I recommend to anyone who is interested in a greater understanding of the writing process. If you are serious about your writing, this class is for you.
Raina’s “Live to Write” class was a joy to look forward to every week. I have had less than stellar online class experiences in the past, but was more motivated than usual because of the value and care I received during our Sunday afternoon discussions. Raina’s teaching style was compassionate, informed, and at the end of the day, just plain useful for writers at any stage in their careers. From the format of the class, to the interviews and guest speakers, to the assignments she posed and the resources she provided, it was clear early on that I would walk away with methods for living my life as a writer who was new to the idea that I can actually aspire to live as a writer. The small community of that classroom was so supportive and engaged, and I hope to stay in touch with everyone as we all take the skills we learned from Raina and each other into our futures. What a generous and loving mentorship we all received!
My time spent in the two Live to Write workshops taught by Raina León have been instrumental in the development of my upcoming book projects. Her four week “Agent to Your Truth” class offered a sense of community unparalleled while challenging me to dig deep into the objectives and goals of my still-in-progress poetry collection. I found myself thinking more clearly about the statement I want to make with my work and the impact it will have toward a larger conversation. When these concerns at times began to feel overwhelming, Raina was always available to offer one-on-one consults as well as Saturday office hours during her eight week class. Across the combined twelve weeks I spent in her company, she has been nothing but generous with her time,wisdom, energy, and personal resources. By the end of our two sessions, I had built up the beginnings of a solid press kit, refined a project proposal and residency packet which I’ve used to apply to several prestigious writer’s conferences, bolstered my confidence in the power of my own voice and work, made lasting connections with agents, editors, and other writers in the class, and hopefully found a mentor and close friend in Raina herself. I would be remiss if I did not mention that one of the best parts of these workshops has been my ability to watch and learn from the rigor and dedication with which Raina approaches her own creative work. She is the kind of writer who keeps me inspired in the belief that we really can do all of the things we’re passionate about without sacrifice. I encourage everyone to study with her if they can!