Writing workshops: caveat emptor

One of the best things my wife and I ever did, was pony up some cash for my first writing workshop. Having endured years and years of rejection letters, by 2008 I was hoping to bust out of a serious slump. My wife asked the question, “What else can we do?” I’d never done workshops before. They were too expensive, and they required too much time away from work and home — especially the king of all science fiction and fantasy workshops, Clarion. But it was precisely because I’d never done a workshop before, that my wife and I determined to get me to one. She asked me which workshop looked best, for a “get your feet wet” event, and I chose the weekend-long Kris and Dean Show being put on in Lincoln City, Oregon, at the eclectic Anchor Inn — by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith. This was June of 2009. It turned out to be something of a watershed event, for me as an aspiring professional. In two delightfully exhausting days, Kris and Dean ran the table: from matters of craft, to matters of publishing, as well as self-promotion, book-keeping, personal writerly habits, known pitfalls, and of course myths and conventional (false) wisdoms.

I walked away feeling like I’d learned more in one weekend than in all the many hundreds of hours I’d spent reading “How to write books” books.

Of course, Kris and Dean had been around the science fiction and fantasy scene for a long, long time. Dean had given me some of my first-ever personalized rejection letters, back when he was editing the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthology contest. I walked in the front door at the Anchor Inn believing that Kris and Dean could help me, and I was right. There are things I learned at the Kris and Dean Show which still powerfully influence me, even seven years later. Plus, it was a hoot being able to sit in a giant living room — Anchor Inn, helluva venue — with two dozen other writers, all of whom had the same stars in their eyes.

Aspiring authorhood is a lonely thing, especially since you don’t (yet) have anything to show for your effort. It’s almost embarrassing talking to people about it, because they get that look in their eyes, like if you’ve told them you aspire to become a movie star. The look that says, “Uh-huh, riiiiiiiiiiiight,” and they smile and quickly change the subject. Because they can’t take you seriously. Which is hell on any aspirant, due to the fact the aspirant herself is struggling to take herself seriously!

It’s 2015, and I haven’t done a workshop in over three years. Not because I think I know everything worth knowing, but because I’ve been busy trying to put everything I’ve learned to use; in my career. Having established myself with several short fiction markets, and one major SF/F novel publisher, all focus and effort has therefore been on new production. Because I’ve seen what the genuine pros are doing — the men and women who are making six figures. I know their habits and their plans. I’ve observed the “machinery” of success in motion. All that remains is to pattern, model, and replicate.

But I could not have reached this point, without a lot of learning along the way.

So, let’s assume you want to do a workshop. There are now dozens of them to choose from. Some are venerable and well known. Others are not. They each cost various amounts of money. Some are conducted as distance courses, via the internet. There are hundreds of potential instructors. How do you know which ones are worth their salt, and which ones aren’t?

The answer is: it depends on what you want to get out of them.

Not every workshop is geared toward every writer (or aspiring writer) at every level.

Ask some of these questions, to help yourself get what you need from your workshop experience. Which is not a guarantee against disappointment — in every workshop class, there will always be a few people who walk away feeling let down. But you will go into the experience with the odds improved; that you will exit the experience feeling like you’ve gotten what it was you came for.

Do you want to learn about the business, or do you want to learn about craft?
In many workshops, there is invariably going to be some bleedover on these topics. But most workshops will tend to focus on one topic, or the other. If you go to a craft workshop, and are more interested in business knowledge, you might be wasting your time. Ditto for going to a business workshop, but being interested in questions of craft. You might get some of them answered, but you’re probably going to spend most of your time being frustrated. My own personal thought is that people who have written less than 500,000 words of fiction (lifetime, including short pieces, novels, and anything else) will probably get a lot more out of a craft workshop, than a business workshop. Because if you haven’t done at least 500,000 words of fiction, your skills may not be “entry level” yet — you’re not at the place in your career where business knowledge is going to be useful, because you’re still not solid in your ability to tell a story that audiences will find worth buying. Likewise, if you’ve sold a short story or two, or maybe you’ve managed to interest a publisher in your book, or maybe you’ve got some self-published novels ready to go on-line through indie publishing, then you’re probably at a point where a solid business seminar (like Kevin J. Anderson’s Superstars) is going to help you to plan and execute a business model.

Who are the instructors? What kind of careers have they had?
This is a big one. One of the best things I ever did, was stop wasting my time with “How to write books” books, by people who’d only ever published “How to write books” books. With the large number of workshops being offered every year, spread out across the calendar, it will be hugely useful for you to look at the individuals who are being brought in to teach. What have they done in their professional lives? Do they have the kinds of careers you would like to emulate? Do they even have a career? I’ve seen more than a few instances of workshops — especially fly-by-night on-line workshops — being offered by “instructors” with tissue-thin resumés. I’m going to politely nudge you away from spending your money on those. Look for the workshops being taught by people with lots and lots of experience, and substantial publishing track records. Folks with many, many books in print. People who’ve landed on bestseller lists. The ones who have generated and maintained an expanding, healthy audience. They are the ones who will know more about how to succeed in the field than anyone else. Of course, not everyone wants to sell. (I think that’s silly, myself, but there are plenty of writers wrapped up in the art of the thing. Which is fine.) Are the instructors at your workshop you want to attend, the kinds of writers who win a lot of literary awards? Are they always showing up on “best of” lists, for short fiction, year to year? Did they themselves graduate from MFA programs that have produced other literary notables? The old joke says that those who can’t do, teach. And this is true in writing, as in anything else. I want to strongly suggest that the “doing” is a key component, for determining if the people who claim to be teaching, actually know what they’re talking about.

What’s the word of mouth like?
As in all things, word of mouth may say more about a writing workshop, than anything else. I’ve been very vocal about my enthusiasm for the workshops I’ve taken from Dave Wolverton (Million-Dollar Outlines) as well as the novel and short story workshops I took from Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith. I am also a big fan of the previously-mentioned Superstars business workshop, as well as the long-running Writers and Illustrators of the Future workshop — which is a prize you can win, when you enter the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contest. All of these things helped me a great deal, and all of them involved top-drawer professionals who have cut their teeth in the publishing world. Of course, venue has a lot to do with it too. I mentioned the Anchor Inn, in Lincoln City, OR. That was an amazing place to experience a writing workshop. Especially as a first-timer. I went away raving as much about the setting, as I did about the learning. So, ask around. Of those who have done these workshops before you, what’s their opinion? How much did they get out of it? How satisfied were they with the experience? Did they feel like they got their money’s worth?

Are you comfortable with face-to-face critique?
Most craft-focused workshops, involve some kind of face-to-face critique system — either the instructors critiquing the students, or the students critiquing the students, or both. If your answer is, “No,” let me gently suggest that this is a great reason to go. That may sound like counterintuitive advice, but I firmly believe half or more of the problem with most aspiring authors, is that they never work up the courage to crawl out of their shells. I know, I know, writers being habitually shy and introverted is an earned stereotype in this profession. But just because the stereotype may be accurate, doesn’t mean you — as the workshop attendee — have to live down to it. Challenge yourself. Make yourself go through the hard knocks of putting a book or a story into the frying pan of professional and/or public scrutiny. Even if your book or story gets dumped into the fire, you’re going to be glad for the toughening-up.

Okay, let’s assume you’ve asked these questions, and you’ve narrowed it down to two or three workshops that look good to you.

Here are some additional questions, to help you make your final pick.

How much money is too much? Also: how much time is too much?
One of the reasons I never did Clarion West — even though it was right in my own back yard, in the Pacific Northwest — is because Clarion West asked for thousands of dollars, and weeks of time. I never had weeks of time to give, nor thousands of dollars to spend, on a workshop. Even though it sounded amazing. So, as the years went by, I more or less gave up on Clarion West. And I am glad — in hindsight — to have discovered that Clarion West was not necessary, for me to become a professional. I have been able to learn what I needed to by doing shorter, less expensive workshops. Like drinking a Coca-Cola in sips, versus one long, gulping chug. Just because a given workshop or program may be venerable, and enjoy a lot of notoriety around the field — Clarion certainly does — this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re missing out, if you have to let your budget dictate your actions. If you’ve smartly narrowed your selection, electing to go with instructors whose careers do all the talking necessary, even a very short and/or less expensive workshop, can prove hugely valuable. (ergo, The Kris and Dean Show.) Of course, there are people who’ve walked out of longer and/or more involved, more expensive workshops, and they would not trade that time — that particular environment for learning — for all the money in the world. It was that useful and/or valuable. Just don’t get tied up in knots because a longer or more costly workshop simply isn’t within your grasp. To borrow a line from Kipling: there are nine and sixty ways of making tribal lays, and each and every one of them is right.

Are you seeking a learning experience, or are you seeking a social club?
This question gets tricky, because it’s been my experience that many workshops almost inevitably become social events, whether the instructors intend them to be, or not. It’s a heady thing, to be surrounded by your “kind” of people, all of you babbling (over drinks, at meals, during breaks) about writing: hopes, aspirations, frustrations, plans, ideas, etc. For many aspiring writers, a workshop is their first — and only? — chance to be among like minds. Throw in the pros, many of whom aren’t shy about after-hours or meal time elbow-rubbing, and the environment can turn positively electric. In fact, more than one writer I know is a recidivist at a given, favorite workshop, precisely because that workshop has become a “battery re-charger” for them. A place to come every year, and get the debris of ordinary life sloughed off, so that that dream can shine fully for a few days. And they can go back home feeling renewed, restored, and ready to tackle another year of hard work, setbacks, loneliness, and unrewarded or frustrated effort. My only real guidance in this regard, would be to suggest you seek out and/or locate your local convention. A three-day convention pass costs far less money than a workshop, and if that convention has a solid writing track, you’re probably going to discover most of the same social aspects, as you would at a workshop proper. So, if you’re short on cash, but desperate to spend some time among other writers, a con may be just the thing. Even a writing group that meets face-to-face on a weekly or monthly basis, can do the trick. And again, it will cost much less money. Of course, you will also have a lot less exclusive access to the professionals. Though this is not always the case — especially at an event like LTUE, which I adore, and highly recommend to anyone.

Which brings me to caveats . . . . let’s talk about those too.

A workshop or a convention, is not a replacement for writing.
I have observed this phenomenon over the years: the same faces showing up at the same events, year after year, and when you ask them how they’ve been, what they’ve been working on, etc., they have precious little to talk about. Invariably they will put forth the range of usual complaints about family, school, work, church, and other obligations, all of which have an uncanny way of blocking or derailing the best-laid authorial plans. And all of these things are valid. Make no mistake: every author who sees her year go down the tubes, because life happens, should not feel bad about being diverted from the True Path for six months or a year, or more. The only time this starts to get telling, is when it happens year in and year out. Over several years. That’s when you — as the person sitting on the other side of the panels — begin to see who the “serious” aspiring authors are, and who the permanent aspiring authors are. And that’s a sobering realization. Because some of the permanent aspirants may be amazingly talented. They may even be your close friends. But you can’t make them prioritize their writing. You can’t make them be successful. All you can do is encourage them to keep going, keep trying, and put special emphasis on the idea that the books and stories will never happen unless writing becomes a top-most priority in that person’s weekly schedule. And no, simply going to a con or a workshop, is never a replacement for actual production. It may feel like it. But in the end, you have to go home, and you have to stick yourself in the loft, or in the closet, or even in the bathroom — with your tablet or laptop to keep you company — then close the damned door, let everything else in your life fly to hell for a few hours a week, and produce.

Social circles can turn toxic.
As a fresh aspirant, surrounded by other fresh aspirants, you desperately want to believe that it’s the Three Musketeers: all for one, and one for all. And this illusion will be easy to maintain in the beginning, because everyone is at the same level, and nobody has had time to rub anyone else wrong to the extent that good old human behavior begins to infect the circle. But sooner or later, if you’re in that circle for years, things will inevitably begin to turn. One or more people start making sales, while the rest of the circle does not. This breeds jealousy. One or more people in the circle turn into snipers — always tearing down the work of the others, under the guise of “helping” — thus the group ceases to be a place where you learn to get better, you simply live in fear of releasing your latest book or story into the hands of the butchers who will invariably carve you to pieces. Sometimes, it may be a political thing too. Or it may be a clash of personalities. Or somebody in the group may begin to groom the group — as a crop of “followers” dedicated to stroking that person’s ego. And so on, and so forth. I’ve seen all of this happen to various writing circles, and have even experienced a bit of it myself, and I can state firmly that no social circle, no writing group, no workshop, no convention, is worth sacrificing yourself for the sake of somebody else’s pique, or agenda. The moment you begin to feel like the circle isn’t giving you what you need anymore, or has become actively toxic to your state of being and your goals, don’t be afraid to simply walk away. And it doesn’t have to be a huffy flounce, either. In fact, I’d recommend that it not be a huffy flounce. Just . . . stop showing up. Seek a new circle. Or, better yet, test your wings solo. I knew I was doing some of my best work, when I finally felt like I could send it off to an editor without worrying about what a critique session might say. Because a writing group may or may not know anything about what makes a good book or story work.

Some workshops can blur into promotion pulpits for the instructors.
Another reason to pull back, is if you detect that the workshop is merely serving as a promotional pulpit for the instructor. Now, almost all workshops tend to be somewhat promotional, if only because some person or group of persons is standing up and saying, “Come to us, and we will show you how it’s done!” They’re saying they’ve got the goods. They’ve cracked it. And they know how to pass this along to you, if you will only invest x amount of dollars and spend y amount of time on their workshop. But there may be a time when you feel like the workshop has become too deliberately focused on pumping up instructor(s) at the expense of the learning environment. (One particularly well known SF/F author is said to have spent his entire week at Clarion, giving lazy critiques and treating the event as if it was merely a promotional junket for him, versus an event explicitly designed to focus on the nascent careers of the students.) Again, don’t be afraid to walk away — even walk out. No, you probably won’t get your money back. But you can at least guard your time. Hopefully, you’ve got more than one instructor to work with, and you can focus your attention on those who seem to be helping you the most, with what you want to work on. And again, if the word-of-mouth about a given workshop says that it’s more about the instructors, than about the students, that might be a sign to stay away.

What value recidivism?
I have done the same workshop twice, but I’ve never done the same workshop three times. I’ve seen people do the same workshop again and again and again, for various reasons. I think the one good reason to do any workshop more than once, is if you feel like you learn something new and career-advancing every single time. But if you’re going for the social event? There are easier, cheaper ways to get a writing gang or club together. If you’re doing it to hang out with the pros? Again, check up on your local convention(s). If you make yourself known to the pros that frequent that con, especially among SF/F authors, they will often adopt you as one of their own, and you’ll get all the access you could ever hope for — at far less cost. Only you will know, in your heart, what draws you back to an event, time and time again. I can’t tell you that your reasons are wrong — because they’re not. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wonder about some people who become practically addicted to certain workshop(s), or certain instructor(s). Some of this can simply be chalked up to cult-of-personality. Many pro authors are naturally magnetic, and will generate a halo of followers without even trying. Other pro authors deliberately foster and cultivate that halo, for promotional and ego purposes. My best suggestion to you, is that you do not want to get caught up in anyone’s halo. Your objective is to become that professional author’s peer. This requires a certain level of self-awareness, and an ability to separate enthusiasm for the dream — your dream — from your enthusiasm for a place, a group, and whichever people sit at the head of that group.

Professionals are merely people too.
This is the suckiest part about making the transition from aspirant, to pro. When you realize that some of the people you admire, perhaps even idolize, and at whose feet you have sat, are just as human as everybody else — with body parts just as stinky. The guy who spins amazing yarns — you have and love all of his books! — is a boozing womanizer, who has neglected his way into three divorces. The woman who has entranced you with her award-winning stories, turns out to be your political polar opposite, and is not shy about letting the world know she thinks everyone who disagrees with her politics, is a monster. The man who wrote your favorite book of all time, and who seems like the most charming person in the world on his blog, turns out to be a grumpy troll in person, who snaps at the slightest irritant. The woman who has book after book turned into hit movies, and who seems to be the very paragon of professionalism, actually turns out to be a career flake, who needlessly quarrels with editors, agents, and fans alike. And so on, and so forth. It’s almost a truism, that authors are difficult people. One of your challenges, as someone seeking to learn, will be to separate the person, from the knowledge. You’re not coming to these people because you want a life coach — in fact, I’d suggest writers are, as a class of creative professional, second only to actors and musicians, in terms of being the last people from whom you’d want to take life lessons. As Tom Clancy once said, writing (as a profession) is a form of self-induced mental illness. You’re there to get tips on craft, as well as business. Beyond that . . . keep your own counsel. Mix and match your notes. Find out what works for you and discard the rest.

And absolutely do not fall for the self-romanticization that many pros, and pro-ams, seem to indulge in. You are trying to become an entertainer. You are not Buddha. You are not Jesus. You’re not here to change the world. If you think you are here to change the world . . . well, good luck with that. Plenty of entertainers have gone down that crooked path. It’s not a road I’d suggest taking.

Just focus on telling your stories — and your workshops should be a tool to that end. Not every tool is equally useful to every tool-user. Find what works. Be thankful for the instructors who genuinely understand how to teach. Keep your head up, and understand that the publishing world continues to evolve — what worked ten years ago, or what was iron-clad true twenty years ago, may not work, nor be true, now. Don’t be afraid to revisit something that clicked in the beginning, and which does not click now; and discard it. Your process won’t be a set-in-stone thing. It will evolve as you evolve. Hopefully for the better.

31 Comments

Filed under BRAD R. TORGERSEN, WRITING: ART, WRITING: CRAFT, WRITING: LIFE, WRITING: PUBLISHING

31 responses to “Writing workshops: caveat emptor

  1. jic

    The thing with Clarion West is that the list of instructors is extremely impressive:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Clarion_West_Writers_Workshop_instructors

    The list of alumni? Not so much:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Clarion_West_Writers_Workshop_alumni

  2. I have occasionally heard the opinion (from veteran pros) that everyone who is a veteran pro, would have made it eventually anyway, workshop or no workshop. Either because of the drive, or the stubbornness. Or both. I sometimes think about that, and I suspect it may be true. 90% of this business, is simply refusing to quit. And you don’t need a workshop for that. Then again, for me, I do feel like the workship experience — especially the Kris and Dean Show — was a bona fide watershed. I wasn’t having any luck before I did that workshop, but life since that workshop has been one sale after another, ka-ching, ka-ching. Would it have happened anyway? Possibly. It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing.

    • Laura M

      Sounds like my dad. He says ninety percent of life is showing up.

    • B. Durbin

      Consider that you would have figured out the issues eventually and the workshop just shortcutted the process by giving you the tools so you didn’t have to build them yourself.

      Somebody who isn’t going to bother to use tools won’t do it whether they have to build them or are handed them, but someone who is going to do the job will build their own tools if they have to, just to get it done.

    • Kris and Dean say that on average their workshops cut a few years off the struggle for success. That’s all.

    • i agree with everything you say except what you don’t say about “quitters.” sometimes a fellow decides he’d rather (like P. J. Plauger) be the guy who writes C compilers than be the guy who wrote that story about the guy floating in open space and tossing stuff to propel himself back to the space station.

      there are many valuable occupations that vie for one’s attention

      • Martin L. Shoemaker

        But oh, what a fantastic story! Plauger said he might get back to fiction when he retires. I doubt he’ll retire.

  3. Albert

    I think it was here at Mad Genius Club that I got the advice to always write a little bit each day. So back in February or March I committed to a minimum of a hundred words a day. Six months later I was up to a minimum of 1K each day, and 12K a week, and I’ve held to the new standard.

    There are really people who make the excuse that they can’t find 10 minutes to do that daily hundred words? Wow. I’ve been assuming that I need more experience before I can get anything out of a workshop. Maybe I just need money and vacation time . . .

    • B. Durbin

      If you’re doing 100 daily words on social media (and I guarantee that most people are), you have time for 100 daily words on a piece of writing. (Whether you have the mental space for that is another thing, speaking as someone who is currently facing the ultimate external ADD of three young children. 😉 ) (The annoying thing is that I had one hour a week, free and clear of all children and wi-fi and away from home, and for two glorious weeks I got so much done in that hour. And then it got taken away. And now I am sad.)

      • Albert

        Heh. That’s one reason that if I become successful at this writing this, I’m going to need an office of my own once I start a family. (And a genuine “of my own”, there, instead of the corner that Dad is shoehorned into while Mom’s sewing supplies take up 75-90% of the actual space.) Trying to write back when I had a roommate who never wanted to use headphones was absurdly hard, and I doubt I could do it even now.

        Hopefully Obummercare will be neutered by then, so the question of whether to buy government health care or pay the fine won’t be an issue, should we both work from the home.

        • B. Durbin

          Right now I don’t have a space of my own. Space of one’s own is important. But be careful about that office, because it’s all too easy to stay in there to the exclusion of family unless you set limits. (My husband, who has an anxiety disorder and comes home stressed, gets the first hour after he comes home to decompress. Then he usually makes himself come out so that the kids have time with him. Since he gets home at 4PM, this usually works out pretty well.)

        • “Hopefully Obummercare will be neutered by then”

          It’s pretty funny that you think this is ever going to happen.

      • TRX

        Back in the early 1990s Pournelle mentioned the raw text of “Footfall” was about 900Kb. I noticed that was about the total of my outgoing email (sans headers and quotes) every month.

        Unfortunately, “writing a lot of stuff in small bits” and “writing a coherent story” aren’t quite the same thing…

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I try and do 100 minimum a day, but I always aim for more. Doing *something* every day is essential.

      • Albert

        Indeed. All too easy for “I don’t feel like it today” to become “I haven’t felt like it for months”.

    • Bjorn Hasseler

      Thanks. Aiming for a hundred words a day is helpin.

  4. I’ve been to one writers’ workshop, when I had a non-fiction book in review and was working on _A Cat Among Dragons_. It was a mixed workshop, with a little bit of “how to write” and a decent amount of market info. Some things were useful, some I recoiled from (I am NOT writing for a 4th grade reading level. No.) I ended up sticking with indie. One difficulty with the workshop was/is that most of the writers who attended are romance and inspirational (Christian) fiction authors. A few looked at sci-fi as something faintly odious. Hey, that’s fine, to each their own, but if I’d been a brand-new, hesitant proto-author, that might have stung much worse than it did. As it was overall I found it useful, even if I didn’t really network that much or learn much marketing.

    And I’ll second the DWS/KKR courses. I took the Pitches and Blurbs and it really helped me with sales and cover copy, for fiction AND non-fiction.

    • B. Durbin

      “I am NOT writing for a 4th grade reading level. No.”

      Worst advice ever, unless you’re writing for elementary school. When I was in college, I had to take a couple of journalism classes (for my sins) and on one assignment, we had to find what was “wrong” with each sentence. I couldn’t figure one out. The teacher pointed out the word “epicenter” and said it was too complicated. I glared and said that I was from California, and the news used the word “epicenter” all the time. She didn’t back down. (National and international news use that word as well.) Dumb dumb dumb. I went in to those classes with a low opinion of journalism as a profession and those classes drove my opinion even lower.

      (Note that it used to be “write for an EIGHTH grade reading level.” Gee, I wonder why the reading level is declining. Maybe it is because most people never encounter anything challenging?)

      • Draven

        My theory as to why the reading level is declining: Schools are succeeding in making people hate to read.

        • TRX

          When I was in elementary school and junior high, teachers would assign reading and book reports as punishment. Also, copying pages out of a dictionary.

          If nothing else, they were pretty good at making sure many children would never voluntarily open a book if they could avoid it.

          • My teachers would have done something more like “Copy ten words you don’t know out of the dictionary, and use each one in a sentence.” Even ‘punishment’ was used for teaching. But I had very good teachers all through school. Alas, this was 40-50 years ago, a lost era.

  5. Martin L. Shoemaker

    Pssst… In the Kipling quote, it’s “constructing”, not “making”. The meter is all wrong the other way.

  6. I also broke in after a Kris and Dean Workshop. A Two Week one with the daunting name of Oregon Coast Professional Writers Workshop. I had published a professional (and four semi-pro) shorts when I went there. I sold a novel while there. Everything came from that. It was in 98 or 99. In this house we still have the “As Kris and Dean said” touchstone to a lot of craft/professionalism stuff.

  7. I will give a hearty recommendation to the advice to visit Cons. I started to take writing more seriously a couple of years back, and visited LTUE (and briefly met Brad there!), a steampunk event, a medieval winterfaire, and Salt Lake Comic Con. The benefits came in across the board. I heard from skilled authors, editors, and publishers in panels. I made a lot of new friends in the writing business. I learned about places to submit work. I was able to rub shoulders with fellow authors.

    At this point, I still feel like I’m just stretching my wings. I’m in an anthology, I’m a finalist in a regional contest, and have had as many as five stories submitted and awaiting response at one time.

    It sounds to me like I’m an ideal candidate for a workshop on the craft to kick the skills up another notch. 🙂

  8. I have never done a workshop, and at this point, I’m honestly rather afraid to.

    A short explanation: for most of my life I’ve been a contract worker, so no days off, no vacation, plus there were other reasons why I couldn’t be away from home for long periods of time. So I couldn’t afford either the time nor the money.
    Then later, as I wrote more, my experience with other people I engaged for help fell almost completely into two categories: 1) they wanted to help me re-write my works into -their- stories, or 2) they couldn’t be bothered to help me (even though in some cases I was helping them, significantly, with their professional writing). Hell even my friends STILL won’t read my books and I’ve been an amazon top 20 five times now.

    So everything I know about writing, I pretty much taught myself and I have a tendency to believe most people I talk to now who ‘know’ have no idea what they’re talking about. I’m beyond skeptical in most cases. If somebody tells me something that goes against what I’ve spent many years learning, I’m just not going to listen to them, especially now that I can point to my sales.

    And that’s a bad thing, and I know it.

    But I’ve just been abused by too many egos at this point that I find the idea of paying people to tell me what I’m doing wrong, to be a difficult one. Especially as I know I can do a lot better than I currently am, and I’m looking for ways to improve. So while going to one of these things might help me, I’m incredibly hesitant at the thought of trying it anymore. Like give your cat a bath hesitant.

  9. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    A good post on workshops from Brad. I think that workshops are like just about everything else. You get out what you put in, there is no magic bullet and nothing replaces actual work and practice.