"A Writer-Owned Experimental Cooperative School"
An interview with the founders of Writing Co-Lab
This is the tenth in a series of behind the scenes video interviews with authors, editors, teachers, and others in the field about aspects of writing and publishing personal essays, essay collections, memoirs, and other kinds of books.
Previously, I’ve interviewed Alex Alberto (they/them), K.G. Strayer (they/them), and Caroline Shannon (she/her) about their new anti-capitalist publishing collective, Quilted Press; author Elissa Bassist about writing the hard stuff through the lens of humor; Natalie Beach about moving past the viral essay that first brought her to everyone’s attendion, memoirist Pam Mandel about adapting her memoir for the screen; poet Maggie Smith about switching to memoir; author Abigail Thomas about her latest memoir with tiny Golden Notebook Press; Chloe Caldwell about acting as her own agent, Tajja Isen about the limited value of critical acclaim, and publicist Lauren Cerand about aspects of book publicity you can handle yourself.
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In this episode, I talk with, , and Sara Lippman about Writing Co-Lab, a new experimental, collective writing school they recently launched as a more diverse and equitable alternative to others, like now defunct Catapult, where they all taught (as did I).
I had wonderful experiences teaching at Catapult. But I never felt as if I was remunerated fairly. Half the take went to an organization owned by the “apolitical” daughter of a right wing billionaire. By the end of each course, I was wiped out, and didn’t make enough money from teaching to give myself recovery time afterward.
Which is why I was personally so excited to hear about Writing Co-Lab, which is being run as an experimental collective. Shearn, Gresko, and Lippman—all writers and teachers—have created the school with the idea of offering different kinds of classes from a diverse lineup of teachers, and allowing those teachers to keep most of the tuition for their courses. Writing Co-Lab takes only minimal cuts, enough to cover their low overhead costs, so that teachers are better supported. Supporting educators in that way inevitably fosters better teaching—and learning. In Writing Co-Lab’s own words:
Writing Co-Lab is a teaching cooperative owned and operated by artists passionate about craft, community, creativity, and the joyous power of the written word. Co-Lab, short for cooperative laboratory, indicates our excitement and commitment to working together and with our students in providing educational experiences not seen within the traditional academic or continuing-ed landscape. Our teachers bring their unique experiences and voices to their classes, which cover a variety of topics, from preparing work for publication, to deepening discipline, trying new styles and techniques, and cultivating fun in the writing process. Taking time to develop your art is a deeply rewarding experience, and it is our privilege to help you on that journey, whether you are looking for renewed vigor on the way, or are about to take your first steps.
Writing Co-Lab has a great, diverse lineup of courses coming up—and they’re offering a 10% discount with the code COLAB2023. For instance, Writing Your Queer Life, with Edgar Gomez; Free Write to First Draft, with Jiordan Castle; Telling & Re-Telling: Fairy Tales as Inspiration, with Rebekah Bergman.
There’s also a five-week donation-based Ungodly Hour Writing Club, with Sara Lippmann, Monday to Friday, 5:30-6:30am ET. I love accountability programs and writing community, and this seems to offer both.
As you can see, I’m excited about Writing Co-Lab. (I’m also talking with them about possibly offering a workshop or two in 2024. Stay tuned!)