Monday, July 7, 2014

A new kind of teaching

In April I taught The Magic of Immersive Fiction, a one-day workshop for Clarion West. The workshop sold out within 90 minutes of announcement. We were all startled (at least I was, and if CW was expecting that kind of stampede they kept it quiet). As an experiment, I offered to teach the same workshop again six weeks later. Within a day that one too had sold out, and had a waiting list.

Participants, it turned out, came from all over the country, and from Canada. I was surprised by that. It seems like a huge investment to fly thousands of miles to attend a one-day workshop. Three days of absence from home life, two nights' stay, food, flights... I didn't feel responsible, exactly, but I did want to be able to offer more than a single six-hour workshop: go out for beer, talk, eat. Something. But because I simply hadn't expected anyone but locals for the first, and because of the last-minute nature of the second, my schedule wouldn't permit it. (I can't remember what I had booked for the evening after the first but after the second it was a talk to a book club about Hild). 

The workshops were wonderful. It was a delight to meet and work with such committed people. I wanted to keep going. I was only just beginning to figure out what everyone needed, how they thought, how they learnt best. And they were just beginning to understand each other and work as a group. And there was so much I wanted to teach.

Clearly there's a demand for focused workshops. I've been considering ways to address it. Kelley and I have done a lot of thinking and talking.

We've both done a fair amount of teaching, both writing and other things. One of the many things we agree on is that writing concepts are better absorbed over time. It doesn't have to be a lot of time, a long weekend say, just enough to think and test and question alongside others, formally and informally.

So we're pondering a workshop for a small number of writers. At this stage we're not sure how many because we've only just started thinking. (12? 15? 18? Something like that.) We're not sure of venue. We're not sure of structure or of admission principles. (Selective? First-come basis?) But here's what we do know. 

  • Genre doesn't matter. Story is story. I don't care whether you call it science fiction or literary fiction or crime fiction, the same concepts apply. Good writing is good writing.
  • Kelley and I would both teach. We have a similar understanding of how writing works, both at the basic and expert level. We'd teach different segments of the (say) weekend: I'd teach, for example, setting. Kelley, for example, story structure.
  • There would be time to socialise. One of the things we both love to do is bring people together: to hold parties, give readings, talk about everything from business to creativity to life. Such weekends would be an opportunity for writers to become part of a lasting and growing network.
Given that Kelley and I live in Seattle, Seattle might be the best place to do this. At least at first. Once we've figured it out we might be able to occasionally take it on the road, either as an independent workshop or to run concurrently with a convention or conference. Not sure yet.

So what we're looking for now is input.
  • Is this something you'd be interested in? 
  • What time of year works best for you? 
  • Would you prefer a holiday or regular weekend?
  • Is coming to Seattle workable for you?
I'm serious about this. We'd really like to hear from you.

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