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Apr 01st
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Literary Landslide

AE_literatureTwo writers launch The Monterey Bay Writers Studio
Rumor has it that long ago, Santa Cruz had a raging literary ‘scene,’ where local writers gathered at pubs, exchanged ideas, and developed their own sub-culture. It seems that that electricity has dimmed somewhat over the years, with writers falling back into their solitary ways. Granted, there are plenty of writing groups in town, including famous poets, acclaimed novelists, steadfast journalists, and the like, but when was the last time they all got together and rebuilt that ‘scene?’

It now seems like a literary resurrection is playing out with two young writers, Lindsey Alexander and Ryan Matthews, at the helm. The couple hails most recently from New York, and they have the education, resources, connectedness, and enthusiasm to gather writers together once again. And on top of their social networking pursuits, they’ve also started an educational institution in town for writers, called The Monterey Bay Writers Studio. Their new business premise kicked off at the beginning of the year, where the pair and a third writer are teaching a variety of classes for writers, all with the emphasis on how to get your work published, as well as offering heavy workshop components. What makes these classes unique is that Alexander has a background of having worked for five years as an editor for Harper Collins, the notable children’s book publisher in New York. She knows the genuine ins and outs of publishing, agent relations, what it takes to get a book published, what editors are looking for, how to craft a saleable story, and so on.

The three classes currently underway are: “Writing for Young Readers: Workshop & Publishing Primer,” “Fiction Toolbox,” and “Conversational Portraits: The Art of Creative Nonfiction.” While all the classes are currently filled, the eight-week session will end in early spring, and they plan to launch another series of classes likely in April. The cost is $250 for an eight-week course.

“Writing for Young Readers: Workshop & Publishing Primer,” covers the “world of children’s publishing.” Class time includes writing assignments, critiques, a section called “publishing assignments,” to learn about how to get published, and more. “Fiction Toolbox,” covers all the basics of fiction writing, including extensive exercises on fleshing out your work. “Conversational Portraits: The Art of Creative Nonfiction,” has its participants complete a series of writing assignments and learn about how to get published in this genre.

In addition to offering an educational component through their burgeoning business/social venture, the couple has wide-reaching goals for The Monterey Bay Writers Studio, including establishing a literary festival here this summer, a reading series (sort of like an open mic or ‘story slam’), and a writing camp.

Be assured, Alexander and Matthews have no intention of undermining the writing groups that exist here in town, they just hope to add to the current mix. And for being so young, they bring solid pedigrees to their pursuits. At 27, Alexander has the aforementioned five years of editing work at Harper Collins under her proverbial belt, along with a master’s degree from The New School in New York; she also still maintains a hefty amount of editing work for Harper Collins, and for various other companies. Likewise, Matthews, 28, works as a freelance editor, and also has his master’s degree from The New School, where the couple met in 2007.

Like any love story, theirs deserves a mention—he, formerly of Seattle, had long fought the path of a writer, trying out different classes in college, trying to find his niche. But he couldn’t escape the allure of writing. “It was the only thing that could hold my interest,” Matthews says. “An idea or character would take shape and I’d race home in the rain in Seattle to try to write something while the spark was there.”

Alexander, on the other hand, has been writing for as long as she can remember. As a junior high school student she began attending writing workshops, and eventually became fixated on moving to New York, which she did after getting her bachelor’s degree. There, in New York, she worked in the publishing trenches.

They met at a writing event not long into their entrance at The New School (a university that’s also known for its association with James Lipton’s The Actors’ Studio television show, and Project Runway’s Parsons the New School of Design). When they wrapped up their graduate studies in 2008, Alexander was ready to move on from being in publishing full-time, and Matthews desired some time to work on a novel. They relocated to Santa Cruz last year in 2009, and in January of this year they held two meet and greet events in town (which were well attended) and launched their classes.

With time, they hope that their contributions will “expand and strengthen the literary arts community here,” Alexander says. “There’s such a vibrant community of writers here.” Now, we wait for chapter two to unfold with The Monterey Bay Writers Studio.


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Comments (5)Add Comment
Profit? Hardly.
written by Francoise Hubbell, March 05, 2010
I'd like to raise serious questions about the above comment posted by Mr. Ford. Charging $250 for eight weeks of classes with a student-teacher ratio of 6-to-1 is by NO means profiteering. The must be almost breaking even, but just barely. If these writers wanted to make money, teaching writing at a local community center would not be the choice du jour. Do the math. A 2 hour class for 8 sessions leaves them with about $15 an hour to teach a class for which they are highly qualified. Not to mention class prep which anyone who has ever taught knows is at least a 1:1 ratio with the hours you teach, and private meetings with students (which they do often), and you're looking at about $5 an hour. Well below minimum wage. So a "quick buck"? I think not.

In terms of the "what do they know" part of your diatribe: what, exactly, does qualify one to teach others if not a Masters degree in the subject, previous college-level teaching experience, and half a decade in the publishing industry?

Wouldn't you want to take a class from someone who is enthusiastic, highly educated, and engaged in the process of writing as part of their lives - knowing how to speak to writers as colleagues, respecting the creative process as individually driven, without speaking down to them? I know I would.
written by Thomas J. Lindenhurst, March 05, 2010
First of all, just because they weren't born in Monterey doesn't mean they don't love the community. They did choose to live there, after all. They could have picked Hawaii, or even San Francisco proper, but they chose Monterey. That's an expression of love. Your argument is akin to arguing that all immigrants to America do not love America, which is ridiculous .Furthermore, why should people starting a writing school be required to have some completely irrational, unnecessary love for the Monterey Bay Literary Community above every single other writing community in the known or unknown universe? This is illogical. They live in Monterey, for whatever reason, have a passion for writing and literature, and believe they can offer a service worth paying for. That should be enough. Ultimately they will be judged by their customers as to how fit they are, but expecting them to need some kind of deep seated, metaphysical passion for the Monterey Bay Writing Community to the exclusion of all of the other writing communities in this country in order to offer to teach there is some kind of weird localist xenophobic low self-esteem syndrome that Mr. Ford seems to be experiencing - i.e., "you need to love me most or else you hate me!" I would ignore his irrational, illogical, ill-thought out comment.
MA, English Education
written by Trina, March 04, 2010
As a teacher, writer, and close personal friend of Lindsey and Ryan, I can assure any interested parties that these two are for real. In a genuine effort to build community, they have used their combined expertise to get something started. I admire their ability to dream up an ambitious project and then just make it happen-it's more than many of us can say we've accomplished. The Writer's Studio will surely benefit the community, and students of Lindsey and Ryan will gain a valuable experience as writers and as people. Cheers to everyone involved!
Something to consider
written by Richard Ford, February 25, 2010
I agree that Monterey Bay's literary community could use some extra juice, but I am skeptical that these two are in it for the love of the Monterey Bay writing community.

Getting an MFA isn't that uncommon, and having an MFA doesn't immediately qualify you as an expert to teach writing, regardless of where you went to school. They say on their website that writing is a lot like carpentry and you have to know your tools. True, but none of these instructors have published books. I personally wouldn't hire a young and relatively inexperienced group of carpenters who have never built a house. Maybe that's just me.

I guess you can't blame them for wanting to make money, but I think anyone considering paying for these classes should look carefully at how much of what these people are doing is for the benefit of the writing community versus for their own profit. And carefully consider how qualified these instructors are to charge the rather high fees to dispense advice that hasn't, as of yet, gotten them to the place where most people taking these classes would eventually like to go--i.e. publishing a novel.

Maybe their presence here will be a benefit to the writing and literary community. However, the majority of their Facebook and Twitter updates seem oriented to advertising their classes. They talk about readings and festivals and other great things, so we'll see how it goes. I hope these people aren't using the writing community as a way to turn a quick buck.
Instructor, American University of Beirut
written by Adam Klein, February 17, 2010
I know these guys and can attest to what fantastic readers and editors they are. I had the good fortune to be in a workshop with both of them, and I still return to their notations in my margins, their careful, insightful observations on my work. Congratulations to them and to any of the participants in their workshops.

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