Archive for July 21st, 2012

Saturday, July 21st, 2012 by Ken Scholes
Conventions and Conferences and Workshops, Oh My!

Howdy folks and Happy Saturday!

This week is theme week at Genreality and the topic is…conventions and conferences and workshops.

Conventions and conferences and workshops can great experiences for people who are in the early stages of their writing career for a lot of good reasons.  They can be great places to make friends who are like-minded, learn about the craft and business from people working in the field — particularly pro writers, editors of all varieties and, in some cases, agents.

As you get further into your career, they become places where you do a bit of business, hang out with friends you’ve known for years but only see a few times a year, promote yourself and your work, and pay it forward to the new writers coming up the trail behind you.

There are four conventions yearly that I try to make though over the last few years between the kids and being overwhelmed by life I’ve had to limit my attendance.

My two local conventions, back when I was starting out, were really important.  I learned a lot from the panels and workshops I attended and I made friends with people that I look forward to seeing every year.  Once I started selling short stories, I started sitting on panels and giving readings.  As books started coming out, I participated in signings.  Each year, I typically go to Orycon in Portland and Norwescon up in Sea-Tac.

The two cons that I try to travel to each year are Worldcon and World Fantasy.  I was already established as a short story writer when I attended my first Worldcon.  It’s a huge convention if you’ve never been before.  And it draws a lot of fans and pros — the Big Name Pros even — into one place.  The panels, readings, dealers’ room, etc, are all much larger than the local cons I’ve attended and it’s a great place to gather with my tribe.  World Fantasy is less “fan-focused” and has a reputation (that I concur with) for being a very business-friendly convention because so many professionals in the industry attend.  It’s still pretty big but it feels more intimate than Worldcon.  Still, both are on my list and I look forward to attending even though they wipe out my little introverted self.

When it comes to workshops, the one I recommend the most requires you to submit short stories to the Writers of the Future and win so you can attend (which I also recommend highly).  It was taught by Tim Powers and KD Wentworth (who sadly passed away this last spring.)  Other pros came in at the end to give us career advice.  And the other that I recommend is anything that Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith teach.  They’re straight-shooters who are the perfect team-teachers giving practical advice and input to new and established writers.  They’re simply amazing.  And while it’s not a workshop, I highly recommend the Fairwood Writers Village out in Quinault, WA on the Olympic Peninsula each year.  It’s a gathering of writers each year with a lot of focus on retreat-style writing with guided conversations led by various pros.  The year I went, I not only talked but also put on a few cabin concerts.  I’ve also presented at the Cascade Writers Workshop — a workshop that puts a group of newer writers with a pro writer or editor for a long weekend for critique with presentations mixed in.  I think that style works for a lot of writers and I’m very supportive of the program (and especially the people who run it) but I also tend to not be a writer helped by critique groups.  My first few critique group encounters taught me that I work best with a small, fluid group of readers — one that changes from project to project though the core members of that team remain the same.  Still, for someone trying to break in, the bigger takeaway from Cascade, I think, is the people you get to meet and the friends you get to make.  And the same is true of all of the conventions and workshops out there.  Who you meet and make friends with is a part of how your network in built.  Just go into it thinking of it as making friends, not as networking or getting people to read and buy your writing.

So what about you?  What conventions or workshops or conferences do you attend?