Update July 12, 2024: Library patrons can now access Universal Class here.

Dennis, from our lab staff, shares his writing journey with Universal Class and our Spring 2022 Writer in Residence.

Have you ever wished you had taken a class in college or high school but for some reason didn’t? I was interested in creative writing but never had the time to pursue that interest. Then I learned about the library’s new online continuing education resource called Universal Class. It’s a free service that allows you to take courses on numerous topics — including a series on creative writing! So, I signed up through the Libby application and took the first one.

The classes were informative and the assignments fun. After I completed the course and received my certificate, I thought my writing bug would be satisfied. I was wrong. I kept thinking about the class assignments and thought there might be a fun story in the making.

I pulled up the assignments and went to work. It’s been several months since I took the course and started writing. I am amazed how the storyline and characters took me places I never saw coming! I finished the first draft, and am working on my first rewrite.

Luckily I am not working on it alone. Gregory McNamee, the library’s spring Writer in Residence is available to guide me with my project. In its third year, the residency features professional writers and editors who provide free consultations and lectures. Deciding to take advantage of these sessions, I booked a 30 minute private consultation. What a treat that was. I explained why I wrote the story and asked, “What do I do next?!?” He requested a brief plot summary and, when I finished, told me it sounded intriguing. He cautioned on what to avoid and how to check my story to make sure it contained the typical “hero” elements successful novels share. I took his advice and checked my story against the 12 elements of a hero’s journey. Surprisingly my plot had nearly all of them. He recommended I make another appointment with him once I complete my first rewrite and hero’s journey comparison. At the end of our meeting, I was energized and excited to continue improving my story. You can learn more about Writer in Residence at https://www.ajpl.org/writers-in-residence-program/

I don’t know if anything will come of the story, but it’s fun applying what I learned in the certification course and consultation sessions. I am happy at how far I’ve come.

If you have an interest you’ve always thought about pursuing, take a look at the numerous courses available through the library’s website or Libby app. You just need your library card to access them. As novelist George Eliot said, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”