A Piece of My Mind: Dos and Don'ts of Workshops
Bennet Pomerantz

Most people won't realize that writing is a craft. You have to take your apprenticeship in it like anything else.
   ~ Katherine Ann Porter

Before you become too entranced with gorgeous gadgets and mesmerizing video displays, let me remind you that information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, and wisdom is not foresight. Each grows out of the other, and we need them all.
   ~ Arthur C. Clarke

Summer is in full bloom and so are writers' workshops and conclaves. Don't get me wrong, there are writers' workshops all year long . . . there just seem to be more available when the weather is warmer.

Some people debate whether workshops, conclaves and continuing education are good for them. Think of this as an apprenticeship education for writers. An accountant takes courses in tax law yearly.  Shouldn't a writer?  I know I have been writing for 23 years and I still take classes, workshops and conclaves to hone my skills as a writer.

That is also why I say you need to take classes from Coffeehouse for Writers, they have workshops on line!

Now, you must understand, I been to a few of these workshops over the years. I see what happens and I also see mistakes, simple ones that can be corrected. There are a few common sense rules that I want to explain to you here.

DO take a pad and pens for notes. You do not know how many times writers ask me for a pen or a piece of paper. Be prepared to work at a workshop.

DON'T just sit in chairs listening to the discussion and never take a note. Ideas will flow, take notes! Take the author's suggestions of books to read. Join in the discussion and debate, show up both in mind and body.

DON'T try to pass along your only copy of a 150-1000 page manuscript that you would like the writer guest to read. It has been done many times.

A side note to the last DON'T . . . I was at Rising Star Science Fiction Convention and workshop. During one of my breaks from a workshop class, This young writer came up to me and said "Mr. Pomerantz, do you have a few minutes to read something that I wrote." I agreed, as this person pulled out of his knapsack a 200 page, gem clipped work. I looked at it and put it in my carry bag, saying "I will look at it later." He then said, "Sir, it is my only copy?" I suggest if these writers at these workshops agree to this viewing of your new work, ask if you can e-mail it or mail it to them. I know most writers and editors read fast, but not THAT FAST!

DO ask questions and advice during the workshop period.

DON'T ask if the guests if their agent has room for another client or if he or she can speak to the agent on your behalf.

DO network with other people at the workshop. In a classroom setting, I always say "Look forward, look beside you and behind . . . these people are now your network of friends. Get their names, numbers, address and e-mails."

DO listen . . . even if a writer does not do the type of writing style that you do. You can always learn something from these people.

DO be prepared for writing exercises. Many of the classes have an exercise to open discussions.

DO talk to the writer guests. Engage them in discussion if they want to. Some writer guests, after they finish their class or presentation, head to the green room, their hotel room, the bar or off-site. However, most would love a great chat.

DON'T buddy up to the guests. That means if they are eating breakfast or dinner, do not ask if you can join them or have them autograph their article or book while they are eating (I have seen this happen and it has happened to me) . . . unless you want to be cursed out (or punched out-AND I have seen writer guests do this to "over the top" fans).

DO have a good time. This is a chance to enjoy the company of others who have similar interests. Enjoy the time with your peers. Most are in similar boats as you.

And DO ALWAYS reach for the stars

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About the Writer:

Bennet Pomerantz is a media review columnist in 175 newspapers with his weekly column AUDIOWORLD. His fiction and reviews have appeared in the pages of Affaire De Coeur, Gateways, Mystery Scene, Power Star, The Hot Corner, Washington Entertainment Magazine, and many others. He is also known for his review appearances on the MCN Forum. View his web site at Audioworld.