2012: The Year of the Workshop

After roughly 13 years of turning up my nose at the idea of me ever wanting/needing/desiring to attend a writer’s workshop, I’ve finally reached the point where I see their value.  I’m no longer too stuck up or stubborn to admit that there’s always room for me to improve on my craft; but, more importantly, I recognize the necessity–and embrace the desire–to network with other writers, face to face.  So this year, I’m going all out.  My 2012 resolution is to attend four or more quality workshops while trying not to break the bank.

For weeks, I toyed with the idea of applying to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont–but I’m not sure I’m psychologically ready to spend 9-10 days in a row at one conference.  The BL conference in Sicily would be a much better fit for so many reasons, but apparently they’re full for 2012–or at least the poetry workshop is.  Oh, well.  I’ll try again when they start taking applications for 2013.

Sail to Success doesn’t have an application process.  You just have to be one of the 22 lucky ones to sign up (and make a deposit) before they run out of room.  And, this year, I’m one of the lucky ones.  As a budding spec fic writer, I figured it’d be wise to attend at least one workshop devoted exclusively to the genre, but famous workshops like Clarion and Odyssey are simply out of the question thanks to the day job.  I’d almost given up hope of being able to attend a decent SF/F workshop before I came across the StS posting at writing.shawguides.com.  I checked out the site and weighed the pros and cons of attending… Pros: the limited class size; the stellar faculty; the intriguing schedule of classes; the incredible networking opportunities, not only with people who are fixed stars in the SF/F constellation, but also with SF/F writers who are at my level; all of the aforementioned while on a cruise to the Bahamas in December (are you kidding me?)…oh, and not that I’m a glutton or anything, but the all-you-can-eat-food while on the ship and free room service are pretty damn awesome too.  Cons:  the cost.  The pros clearly outweigh the con, but this is going to set me back for sure.  My gut tells me it’s worth it.

After signing up for StS, I needed to find a workshop on the West Coast, preferably in California.  I live in and love Virginia, but for some time I’ve recognized that my personality and interests click much more with CA than with VA; if I had the money, I’d almost split my time between both states–eight months in one, four in the other.  Guess where the eight would be spent?  But I digress… As you can imagine, there were plenty of options for CA workshops, but the one that seemed to offer most of what I’m looking for was the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.  I signed up a couple of days after reading Heather Null’s vivid, funny, a bit heartbreaking, but overall awesome post about her experience (stayed up till 2am on a worknight to read the whole thing–but no regrets–it was enlightening–and days later, I’m still laughing about “Dick Wishington”…).  Still, immediately after reading Heather’s post, I was hesitant.  Her first time there wasn’t exactly the best time of her life; and with the luck I usually have, I could see my time there being even worse.  But there were a few things that eventually sold me: the opportunity to attend workshops on both poetry and speculative fiction (how many other highly regarded conferences offer this?); the fact that the gentleman who runs the Spec Fic workshop calls it “Phantastic Fiction” and says the workshop will focus “on literature of the visionary, supernatural, metaphysical, new age, horror, fantasy, and science fiction” (my fantasy novel Broken Angels just happens to be heavy on the visionary, metaphysical, and new age–maybe I can get a more sympathetic ear/assessment of my work than I’ve been getting from East Coast folks); and the opportunity to mingle with fellow writers while enjoying some good California wine (yes, I’ll admit I am a big, fat wine enthusiast/snob, the type who believes CA makes some of the best wine in the world and France is a bit overrated…but, again, I digress…).

Two workshops on the list, two or three more to go.

I intend to apply to a workshop where I can focus exclusively on poetry.  I’m looking closely at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley workshop and the Jackson Hole Conference.  I also think it makes sense to attend at least one workshop/conference taking place in the DC/Virginia area.  I’ve lived in the area for about 15 years and have been writing all the while; I guess it’s about time.  I’ll post updates when my plans are finalized.

If you’re a reader of this blog and plan on attending StS or the SBWC or any of the workshops I mention in future posts, send me a message so I know to look for you when the time comes.  First glass of wine or cocktail or beer is on me.

2 Comments

  1. Heather Null

    Thanks for the mention! I’m really glad you decided to sign up — I hope my blog post doesn’t scare people away! SBWC is an amazing experience (if you don’t make the same mistakes I did the first time around) and Santa Barbara is a lovely town. I think you’ll really like Matt Pallamary’s workshop; it tends to attract some pretty interesting people. I also recommend the “pirate workshops” that take place late at night, if you can stay awake for them (which I couldn’t). That’s where all the cool folks hang out. I hope you drink lots of delicious wine, and have a great time!

    1. Thanks, Heather! I wouldn’t worry about your blog post scaring people away from the SBWC. After all, it got me to sign up, right? Anyway, I think the scariest stuff in your post was all related to the Hostel from Hell… So I’m sure (and I hope) folks will steer clear of that place! I’m looking forward to the experience, and I’ll be sure to blog about it upon my return.

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