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