Product Review: The Desktop Writing Workshop

Introduction to Fiction is a new series of interactive, multimedia CD-ROM tutorials, featuring Tom Parker and produced by L'Autre Monde Productions under the label The Desktop Writing Workshop. "Character" is the first release in the series, with subsequent volumes planned entitled "Getting Started", "Plot", "Setting", "Style", "Theme", "Point of View" and others. Aimed at Character CD-ROM Cover
amateur writers and students, the interactive format leads students to "discover" the principles for themselves. Liberal use of voice and video gives the feeling of personal contact with congenial host Tom Parker. The publisher of the series, L'Autre Monde Productions, is an educational multimedia company founded by former award-winning professor Dr. Timothy R. Hill.

The Desktop Writing Workshop includes a Tour to orient the user on how to use the program and two main components: the Workbook, a book of expandable tips organized around the workshop metaphor, and the Workbench, a set of interactive lessons that illustrate the Workbook points.

Acclaimed author and writing teacher Tom Parker is the host for this series. His book Anna, Ann, Annie was a Bay Area bestseller as well as a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize nominee. Mr. Parker also co-authored the national bestselling Winfield: A Player's Life (W.W. Norton/Avon) with former New York Yankee superstar Dave Winfield; and CEO: Building a $400 Million Company from the Ground Up (W.W. Norton/Harvard Business School Press) with ASK Group founder, Sandra Kurtzig.

For those beginning writers and students who do not live in the San Francisco Bay Area and cannot attend one of Mr. Parker's popular writing workshops or take one of his classes, The Desktop Writing Workshop is an opporunity to get Tom Parker as a personal writing instructor. Even if you are stuck in the backwoods somewhere wondering how to craft that first novel you know you must write but haven't a clue as to how to put it together, help is on the way.

The video production, sound and color are excellent. The navigation system is easy to use -- much more so than some other writing multimedia productions that we have reviewed. Viewers are never "left hanging", wondering how to get back to the main menu.

One of the CD's best qualities is its interactivity. The viewer has the opportunity to make "hands-on" revisions on the text under discussion. The narrator then explains why the revisions were made. The program is lively and entertaining, keeping the viewer's interest.

Another useful feature is the ability to submit your homework assignments by email and have them reviewed and returned, for $10.00 a page by secure server at the Web site.

In summary, for under $30, The Desktop Writing Workshop is a bargain.

Technical Notes: The Desktop Writing Workshop, 1997, L'Autre Monde Productions, CD-ROM, System requirements: 486-33 or better for Windows and 68030 or better for Macintosh users. Apple's QuickTime is required to run the CD-ROM: installers for Windows and for Macintosh are included. Price: $29.95 via secure server at (note: website defunct) or by phone at 1-800-883-9620. Credit cards accepted.

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