This past weekend, Chad and I roadtripped to Harrisonburg, VA, for the inaugural Write-Brained Network writing workshop. In an effort to keep this from becoming way tl;dr, I’m going to do a quick overview here, then follow-up over the next few weeks with a series of blog posts about each of the panels and the insights the panelists shared in them.
This was my first writing workshop — not counting the on-campus ones I attended at college a couple of decades ago — so I was picturing something along the lines of what I’m familiar with from gaming and comic conventions: a large room with booths for people to mill around and separate rooms for the panels. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The workshop was held in the Court Square Theater, a cool theater with gargoyles on the walls and lots of comfy stadium seating. The workshop was also a single track, which meant everything was in one room and we didn’t have to worry about deciding which panels to attend and which ones we’d have to miss.
After Chad grabbed some breakfast from the spread WBN coordinator Ricki Schultz and her crew had provided in the concession area, we found seats, readied our pens and notepads, and settled in for the panels. (I’d had a Kashi bar in the hotel room so I was good for breakfast, but I did treat myself to some mini chocolate chip muffins throughout the day.)
First up was Redline Your Writing: Tune-Up Tips from a Master Mechanic with David L. Robbins. With insights like “Don’t create complications for characters the reader doesn’t care about yet” and “Start a scene at an ending so the reader wants to know what’s next,” David’s talk was less a lesson in how to self-edit than a super-condensed creative writing course.
In First Page Pit-Stop: A Clinic, David teamed up with YA author Tiffany Trent to review and give feedback on writing samples workshop attendees and members of the Write-Brained Network submitted.
Getting Noticed, Getting Paid: How to Build Platform & Freelance Your Way to an Audience featured Bridgid Gallagher and Clifford Garstang discussing freelance writing and how to get the most from your online presence.
At this point we took a break for lunch. On the recommendation of Ricki’s husband, Kyle, and her right-hand man Copil Yanez, Chad and I ate at Clementine. I had the roasted red pepper hummus with pita and a salad. (I’m a nut for hummus.) Chad opted for one of the daily specials, a southwestern chicken burrito with chips. Yummy stuff! I highly recommend Clementine, if you’re ever in the area. Also, make sure you check out their “single-stall bathroom”. It’s bigger than my living room! (Nicer, too.)
After lunch, we settled back in at the theater for the Everything that Works & Nothing that Doesn’t: A Query Clinic panel, where literary agents Dawn Dowdle and Lauren MacLeod gave us a quick peek at a day in the life of an agent as they read through and gave a thumbs up or down to queries submitted by workshop attendees and WBN members.
Traditional Publishing, Self-Publishing, & E-Publishing: Alternate Routes to the Same Destination or Completely Different Paths? had Dawn and Lauren team up with authors Tiffany Trent and David Kazzie for a discussion of the different types of publishing available to writers these days.
The last panel of the day was Your New BFF: The Author/Agent Relationship with YA author Jodi Meadows and her agent, Lauren MacLeod, talking about how writers and agents work together and what to expect from an agent.
The workshop wrapped up with a reception at the Arts Council of the Valley’s Smith House. It was pretty low-key, and I had a good time chatting with some of the panelists and other workshop attendees. I also loved the artwork there, but then I’ve always been a fan of abstract and Impressionist paintings.
I’m glad I picked the WBN workshop to be my first foray into the world of writing conferences. It was small enough that I didn’t feel overwhelmed, yet sent me home re-energized for writing. I also met some great people, like Bridgid Gallager, who does rock climbing; Joy Hensley, who shares my taste in shoes; Tiffany Trent, who writes steampunk (and we all know I love steampunk); Cliff Garstang, whose publisher, Press 53, is in the town next door to mine so he actually comes to my neck of the woods on occasion; Copil Yanez, who I later learned is a fellow fountain pen enthusiast; and so many others I can’t begin to name them all. Oh, and I finally got to meet Ricki Schultz, thanks to whom I now know what “5 by 5″ means.
Best of all, thinking about some of the things David said in the first panel on the drive home led me to fixes for two stories I’ve been fighting with. That alone is worth the price of admission.