This fall, my media course returns in Burbank, Southern California’s Media City, with a new focus. Originally conceived as a workshop for predominantly self-employed artists in LA’s mid-Wilshire district, the 10-week course on social media functions as a media self-defense kit. I’ve re-formulated what was once a tutorial on essential ideas for general social media for branding, purposing and self-defense.

The Maximizing Social Media theme that rational social media is created, used and applied as the means to the end of one’s selfish pursuit of happiness remains. This means that students create, examine and discuss profiles, posts and campaigns on sites, apps and technology such as Tinder, Instagram and Snapchat as well as Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Quora and Facebook. I also instruct the class in the origins of each company and impetus for startup in addition to success and acquisition, so a company’s motives, potential conflicts of interest and record of privacy also get attention, from Microsoft, and LinkedIn to Comcast, NBC Universal and Snapchat, for instance. But it’s not a business class, so one’s personal and professional profile and development come first.

This is why I’ve come to appreciate social media as a tool for self-defense. Bearing in mind the privacy implications of any among today’s tech tools, which is an important caveat (Edward Snowden advises against using Facebook at all, for instance), media which is social in purpose and origin can buttress one’s values, arguments, body of work, reputation and philosophy. Reasons why this might become necessary are rapidly changing in today’s world, thanks to changes in technology, work and the culture. Today’s dominant or trending catastrophe, fact or news cycle can be tonight’s opportunity for advancement, management of expectation or aversion of unwanted attention. I’ll engage students in this new exercise for the first time this fall in Maximizing Social Media. (Get details and register online for my Maximizing Social Media and Writing Boot Camp courses here).

Writing Boot Camp returns, too. With emphasis on my seven-step writing process, the 10-week course affords opportunities for each student to think, formulate, re-think, finalize, detail, research, draft, edit and read aloud new pieces of writing. Then, the student gets feedback. It’s called boot camp for a reason, so I engage the student in a serious endeavor to think hard and for longer periods than many of today’s adults may be accustomed to and there’s enough practice, repetition and participation to undergird what’s learned and gained.

Students also read, break down and study excerpts, stories and great works of literature. Among the short stories, articles, essays, authors and poems past boot camp enrollees have evaluated for topic, theme, research and outline are Berton Braley, “The Lottery”, Charles Darwin, Invictus, Maya Angelou, The Early Ayn Rand, Rudyard Kipling, Leanita McClain, “The Last Leaf” by O. Henry, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and science fiction by Ray Bradbury (as well as some of my own unpublished short stories, blog posts and LA Times articles).

One of my recent boot camp “alumni” members, who enrolled and attended both of my courses, was employed by a Burbank studio as a talent scout. She recently announced on LinkedIn that she’s now a literary agent. Other past students have been published in poetry and story collections, do standup comedy and pitch pilots, movies and series to studios. Students have also been peace officers seeking to write clearer reports, lawyers, businessmen, immigrants studying English and entrepreneurs.

Next month’s course includes a new lesson integrating what I’ve learned from my 30 years of freelance writing. But, really, the whole Writing Boot Camp cashes in on that subject.

If these courses sound interesting, I invite readers to come to Southern California and attend the courses at the Henry Mingay campus near Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport. Class size is small and intimate. Tuition is low, thanks to Burbank Adult School, which pays for these courses entirely through the fees. Also, feel free to tell others and share this post, tag me on Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and spread the word. Classes accept waiting lists when capacity is reached and I’m happiest teaching to a full classroom, so if you’re unable to attend, help me fill each class.