My Writing Course

So I’m sitting here trying to think of ways I can continue to buy Fancy Feast for Crum the Cat. Several people have proposed that I ought to start doing dokusan sessions online via Skype and charge money for them. But that idea, frankly, makes me want to vomit. Dokusan, for those who may not know, is a private personal interview with a Zen teacher, usually conducted as part of a sesshin or Zen retreat. Though participants usually pay for Zen retreats, and though some of that money normally goes to the teacher, it is not customary to charge specifically for dokusan. Besides which, if it’s not done in the context of a retreat it isn’t really dokusan, at least in my understanding of what dokusan is supposed to be.

I’ve been sending my resume out to colleges and universities who run writing programs to see if they’ll hire me to teach creative writing. Then it occurred to me. Do I really need a university to hire me to do that? Maybe I could do that myself and eliminate the middle man.

My upstairs neighbor Dave teaches writing at the University of Akron. So I went up there and asked if I could borrow a syllabus from one of his classes. I looked it over and figured I could adapt his strategy to an online course in creative writing to be taught by me.

I’m thinking I could offer a ten week course with 4 – 6 writing assignments that I would personally evaluate. Students would get the benefit of my experience as a professional writer, which is something I’ve been doing for at least ten years before Hardcore Zen came out in 2003. I was writing all sorts of stuff for Tsuburaya Productions. And before that I wrote for zines and science fiction mags. That’s like 20 years as a writer, not even counting the comic books and shitty poetry I wrote starting when I first learned to write.

I couldn’t help get anyone published. I could tell you how I went about doing it. But I have no connections that are going to work for anyone else. I can show you how to make your work publishable, though.

In order to make this worth the time and headaches it would cost me, I’d have to charge at least $350 per student. I may have to charge more, in fact, because it would be a whole big bunch of work for me. The going rate for online writing courses appears to vary between $300 and $800. Although I haven’t been able to find any examples of someone like me, an independent published author, offering such a course. I’m sure such examples must exist somewhere. I would imagine the prestige of the writer in question would determine the price. Does anyone know of a writer who independently offers online writing courses?

So the question I’m asking all of you nice folks is: Would you be interested in taking such a course? I doubt that most of the regular contributors to this blog’s comments section are going to want to do it. So I’m hoping to hear from a few ordinary citizens. This page gets a thousand or more hits a day. So I know that it’s not just those same five guys reading it.

Remember Crum the Cat is depending on you!

112 Responses

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  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 8:38 am |

    i'd have to think about it–but yes I am interested. My first thought was "christ, sell it to me why don't ya!"

    as a long time reader, I think you have the creds to back up what you can teach people. Actually the "DIY" expert thing is catching like wildfire. Go for it!

    I'm a P.E. teacher, not a personal trainer, but I've thought about "consulting" for fitness/wellness for cash for sure. Why not? Liability of course, but as long as my ducks are in a row…

    so good for you, sir. good luck!


  2. Amanda
    Amanda February 28, 2012 at 8:44 am |

    $350 is too steep for me. I could send your cat some Fancy Feast though.

  3. Gordon
    Gordon February 28, 2012 at 8:50 am |

    I dig your books and style but if I were to offer any advice… pick a few lucky winners (2-3) and do a free test run first. It will help you nail down what exactly you want to teach and other various refinements. It could, hopefully, generate some good news/reviews about your class.

    In any event, good luck and I hope it takes off for you. 🙂

  4. Unknown
    Unknown February 28, 2012 at 8:53 am |

    As a spare-time writer, I would be interested in your class. I have actually been thinking of asking you about this.
    – Celia (Kajo)

  5. Harry
    Harry February 28, 2012 at 8:54 am |

    Good idea, good luck with it.

    You know, a lot of writers also offer a once-off type editting/evaluation service… so a person sends you a text and you edit it, and/or evaluate it, or whatever. For example:

    BTW, I don't see the point of making Dokusan all…whoooooo… and freaky. It might be more useful and practical as a friendly chat between practitioners, as opposed some sort of lofty religious observance or whatever. But I appreciate that the Skype way of meeting is limited; I've tried teaching music via Skype and it just seems lacking.



  6. Lucius
    Lucius February 28, 2012 at 9:26 am |

    I have been looking for a text consultant / writing teacher some months ago (in German actually).

    From what I have seen, there are three types of providers:

    Academics – no one is very much interested in their services. They do something here and there but most can't do a living out of it

    PR-Guys, Journalists: They teach how to do a good job. They seem to earn decend money.

    Authors who really know how to make an impact: These people were the most trustworthy and the most expensive. One person who seems to be quite at the top of the food chain charges around 200 USD per hour! But she had actually written some kind of "bestseller" on the issue. Something into the direction of "How to write holy shit great articles".

    So yes, I think you fit perfectly into the profile of the last group. However, the tricky part might be to find an audience. I guess you will need an extra home page. You do not need Zen guys looking for a course.

    Whatyou need are people looking for such a course / text consult. They will click through all the google results and check out the pages. And thats great.

    Everyone who starts to check out your background will see what you have to offer. I mean, how many authors are able to turn something boring like zen into interesting stuff?

  7. Katsuki Sekida
    Katsuki Sekida February 28, 2012 at 9:31 am |

    Nansen Osho saw monks of the Eastern and Western halls quarreling over a cat. He held up the cat and said, "If you can give an answer, you will save the cat. If not, I will kill it." No one could answer, and Nansen cut the cat in two.

    That evening Joshu returned, and Nansen told him of the incident.
    Joshu took off his sandal, placed it on his head, and walked out. "If you had been there, you would have saved the cat," Nansen remarked.

    Tell me, what did Joshu mean when he put the sandal on his head? If you can give a turning word on this, you will see that Nansen’s decree was carried out with good reason. If not, "Danger!"

    Had Joshu been there,
    He would have done the opposite;
    When the sword is snatched away,
    Even Nansen begs for his life.

  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 9:44 am |

    Have you tried local seminars/classes? Teach Zen Poetry, or a Zen Poetry WOrkshop, or something, at a local Zen center – $10 or $20 a head. Not huge money, but it can be a workshop or clinic for 5-20 people, and it'll buy some cat food. Telephone/skype writing coaching services? There are writing coaches out there – Alison Gresik is one, I am sure there are others – that will provide feedback, advice for people who can't get past a structural hurdle, etc. You could charge less but put in less prep work and perhaps get some immediate dough going. One of my goals is eventually writing for Buddhist pubs (essays, etc.) and I'd probably pay for some consultation with someone who has "been there" and would have feedback on what Buddhist mags want, etc.

  9. Des
    Des February 28, 2012 at 10:28 am |

    Would you be considering offering a payment plan? Breaking up the payments might attract more people to use your service.

  10. Moni
    Moni February 28, 2012 at 10:36 am |

    Brad, you should get the patent for a "Brad Warner-daily zen" smart phone application :).That would be a good business.

  11. Mysterion
    Mysterion February 28, 2012 at 10:39 am |


    Go with the employer gig. Adjunct faculty.

    Bad news is you need a Master's (M.A., M.S., M.B.A., MFA, &c.;) for a full-time gig.

    However, there _IS_ a work around! With a B.A. and four years professional experience (you did 'write' for Tsuburaya Productions), you can – in most states – get a VOCATIONAL Credential (Master's equivalency) and THAT is worth exploring in advance of revising your resume. Go to the nearest community college and ask to speak to the (designated) Credentials Secretary. She should tell you how to file the necessary paperwork (and pay the fee ~ $85) to obtain a Credential. These usually only last 5 years and then you have to renew them by demonstrating that you ARE working toward a Master's Degree – usually 12 to 18 semester units or 16 to 27 quarter units – and paying another fee. This requirement you can fulfill by taking a couple of graduate level classes through the 'open university' at the local state or private university. You can look into fee-waver options blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…

    Since most private and public colleges pay $45 to $70* per hour for 'podium time,' it's worth the effort.

    *some top-of-the line private universities pay a lot more.

    'podium time' is the time you spend in front of the class – e.g. 3 hours x 10 or 16 weeks (30 x $45 = $1350 per quarter per class, even in today's economy). You get to correct all the homework that you assign on your own dime. If you have 100+ students and they write a 'rough draft,' 'second draft,' and final paper three times a semester – which is typical in California State Colleges – then you can spend 1/2 a lifetime correcting papers and providing constructive feedback and motivating praise (which is a test of YOUR creative writing).

    I mention the reality of the adjunct faculty (a.k.a. 'freeway flier') rather than the dream so that you don't face disappointment later.

  12. Mysterion
    Mysterion February 28, 2012 at 10:52 am |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 11:01 am |

    Hey Brad,

    How much to edit and spellcheck my book? 🙂

    A very good idea though and may I suggest being a shadow writer too? 🙂


  14. Grand Camel
    Grand Camel February 28, 2012 at 11:16 am |

    Brad, I would enjoy leveraging your experience and $350 seems very reasonable to me.

    Thank you for even contemplating it.


  15. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 11:41 am |

    Hire Gniz to show you how to make money self-publishing. He was able to quit his 9-5 doing it. Thing is you got to write a lot.

  16. Jack Mehoff
    Jack Mehoff February 28, 2012 at 11:58 am |

    I give online dokusan on Chatroulette. Perhaps you have already seen my penis. The only koan that I assign is "one hand clapping".

  17. J Hudson
    J Hudson February 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm |

    There are no guarantees, but I feel that if you had an MFA, you would be able to find a job teaching writing. Your list of publications blows away most MFA creative writing teachers. In addition, your Japanese language and Buddhist credentials are a plus. The NEOMFA is just a few miles away.

  18. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm |

    Brad: You've published 4 books; your blog get thousands of hits; you are now a regular contributor to Tricycle magazine et al. You're at least as qualified as anyone else out there teaching creative writing either online or in the classroom. Go for it ~ Charlie Cardoza PS We have 3 cats who eat Fancy Feast. I feel your pain.

  19. proulx michel
    proulx michel February 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm |

    It seems to me Mysterion's advise is sound. Look it in.

    One of the funny things with being a ghost writer, as was suggested in one of the comments, is that, in French, a ghost writer is called a "nègre" (that is a nigger), because one sweats for the benefit of others…

  20. mdbdba
    mdbdba February 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm |

    I pointed your post at a few friends that have taken classes before and have at least interesting writing ideas if not some cool things already written (IMO). One definite and one maybe if you come in at around $350 for about 4-6 things critiqued. They thought you were right in the mix with the rest of the classes they've taken. Looking forward to reading about how you proceed.

  21. Jamal
    Jamal February 28, 2012 at 12:33 pm |

    Michel, Here in America a nègre is someone who is servicing your Mom..

  22. Melissa Shanti
    Melissa Shanti February 28, 2012 at 12:35 pm |

    I had an idea as I was reading your blog. I am promoting a 7 day spiritual retreat focused on yoga, meditation, music, and spiritual teachings from many different traditions. Located in Canada we will have all the ingredients for transformation. It would be a great place for you to network for your writing idea. Check out our blog

  23. Paul
    Paul February 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm |

    Hi Brad,

    I'd be interested…but you're recent book output i.e. the big hitters haven't been creative in the sense of fiction writing have they? Unless the whole Dogen thing was really just…oh, no!

  24. Mysterion
    Mysterion February 28, 2012 at 1:20 pm |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. Mysterion
    Mysterion February 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. Mysterion
    Mysterion February 28, 2012 at 2:08 pm |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 2:49 pm |


  28. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 3:18 pm |

    What about starting a bradwarner school of arts, teaching classes inall the things you are good at, film, music, writing, drawing, Japanese language tutor, and cat maintenance, incorporate zen into it all good luck

  29. an3drew
    an3drew February 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 4:00 pm |

    Why pay Brad when the Google ad for this post offers "Free Information!" about a writing class?

  31. Gui Oliveira
    Gui Oliveira February 28, 2012 at 4:27 pm |

    The creative writing course idea is a valid one, though if I were you I would also look into giving yoga classes depending on how confident you are in your yoga ability. Also, I heard on npr that there is no required license or degree needed to teach yoga, and since you're already an experienced Zen master/teacher,the yoga idea is not too far fetched. Besides, yoga is becoming pretty mainstream in more populated urban areas, at least that's how it is here in California.

    Anyway, as an English lit major at SF State I would take the creative writing class.

  32. Seagal Rinpoche
    Seagal Rinpoche February 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm |

    The rain could turn to gold and still your thirst would not be slaked. Desire is unquenchable or it ends in tears — even in heaven.

  33. Rick
    Rick February 28, 2012 at 5:32 pm |

    Why not just get a job?

  34. lilith
    lilith February 28, 2012 at 6:09 pm |

    I would take that course if you offered it. It sounds awesome and we don't want the cat to go hungry.

  35. Mysterion
    Mysterion February 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  36. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 6:32 pm |

    The thought of selling Dokusan makes you nauseous? I've got one that will give you dry heaves for sure. Sell Dharma transmission!

    Or you could just charge thousands for retreats and guarantee an "enlightenment experience" like a certain so and so does. Call it "Big Head" work. Or maybe "Big Wallet".

  37. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 6:52 pm |

    Cary Tennis, who writes a column, does online writing workshops and in-person workshops. His website has a lot of info. He popped to mind upon reading your blog, because he also has a pretty no-nonsense writing style. And he's funny. Sometimes the advice in his columns is no-nonsense and makes no sense, all at the same time, so there's some connection to Zen there…somewhere…
    His site is:

  38. Michael Gibbs
    Michael Gibbs February 28, 2012 at 8:13 pm |

    When I lived at the Yellow Springs Dharma Center, Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones, dropped by one morning and sat Zazen with us. She was visiting Antioch University (now Antoich College) for a few weeks to teach a writing workshop.

    Perhaps you should write a book about creative writing from a Zen perspective (that would be awesome!) and then teach writing workshops. However, it would take time to write another book and Crum the Cat would be Crum the Dead Cat by then.

    I'm pretty sure Fight Club author Chuck Palahnuik teaches online workshops for fiction writers. I honestly doubt I would pay $350 for a writer's workshop personally (especially online), maybe with Kurt Vonnegut (never going to happen), though I'm sure some people would do it. I did pay that much for writing classes in college, but I was earning a degree. Now that I've graduated and having a hell-of-a-time finding a job, I'm wondering if it was even worth it.

    You ever think about working for the Akron Beacon Journal like good ol' Chuck Klosterman did?

    If you do decide to go the college route, I'm sure you would have no problem landing a teaching position since you are a published author and have English teaching experience. Teaching would leave your summers open to tour.

    I wish there was a Khan Academy type site that taught English/Writing. Khan Academy kicks ass!

  39. Chas
    Chas February 28, 2012 at 8:28 pm |

    As someone who has read a couple of your books, doesn't really know or care whether you have more than a couple of books, keeps a rough eye on your blog posts via an RSS feeder, has never (from memory) posted a comment here, dabbles in writing/editing, has done a couple of online or live writing courses and uses far too many commas (and parentheses), I would be interested if you offered a course online.

  40. Mysterion
    Mysterion February 28, 2012 at 8:36 pm |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  41. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 8:41 pm |

    I'd take that class for $300.

  42. Carl
    Carl February 28, 2012 at 8:45 pm |

    I've wondered for a long time why you don't self publish. You wrote a post some time ago about how little you make from your books, and as a reader, it really hurt to hear that. If you publish on Kindle and other ebook stores, you can set the prices and make the profits. Under the current publishing model, you do all the work, the publisher owns and controls your hard work, and you get a measly percentage. My unsolicited advice is that you read up on this and try it out on at least one book (you could even sell shorter works as Kindle Singles).

    As for the solicited advice…. Although I wouldn't take such a course (have a professional writing/copywriting background), I think it's an excellent idea. It's something of value that you can offer, absolutely. I agree with the person who said you should have a free trial for a couple of lucky folks first, to test it out and learn. I also think you should charge more, like $500 at least. That puts you in line with college writing courses, and you're actually offering something more valuable: One-on-one interaction and coaching with an experienced, professional book author. Don't charge less than your value and beware of getting into a situation in which you make minimum wage and this takes all your time.

    You might also want to look into writing for the gaming industry. The gaming world needs creative writers to develop stories and write dialogue — and your background and experience make you a perfect fit. I'm sure you could get into this on a freelance basis and it would let you make money and have fun.

  43. Korey
    Korey February 28, 2012 at 9:29 pm |

    Brad, I read in one of your blogs that a good way to keep your eyes from blurring or going unfocused during zazen is to draw a little dot on the wall and focus to keep it clear. I';ve seen you recommend this at least 3 times.

    The other day while meditating with my little "dharma dot" as I call it, it started to move into little squiggles and dance all over the place.

    Is this normal? I mean I like the idea of having "psychedelic" effects to tell me that I am in a very deep trance but you also advise to focus on it to make sure that it doesn't move in anyway.

    Just hoping you could clarify…

  44. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 10:10 pm |

    Get a job you lazy douche. Dont blame the world for your lack of an education.
    No work, no eat. – Fucking Dogen!

  45. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 10:29 pm |

    Re: chat roulette – What is the sound of one hand fapping?

    Brad, does the same thing. But take the advice of somebody who writes fap jokes with a grain of salt!

  46. Moni
    Moni February 28, 2012 at 11:44 pm |

    Mysterion, you have great taste in movies!

  47. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 29, 2012 at 1:52 am |

    I use creative visualization to attract money. I wouldn't mind learning to write about it.

  48. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 29, 2012 at 3:39 am |

    Hey Seagal go eat another hoagie

  49. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 29, 2012 at 5:31 am |

    Hmm… could there be some kind of collaborative assignment where we publish an e-book together at the end for fun?

    I'd be interested but I'm not sure if I could pay all at once… Tell us more, please!


  50. Mysterion
    Mysterion February 29, 2012 at 8:28 am |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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