Friday, June 22, 2007

Writing Workshop Summaries

People seem to google writing conferences a lot and find my blog, so I've pulled together all of my posts on writing conferences in one place. My descriptions are based entirely on my own experience at the conference. You should check the conference websites for prices because those vary tremendously. And keep in mind that a "workshop" is twelve people sitting around a table usually commenting on one person's short story. A "class" or "lecture" is what it seems, but it's not a workshop.

Tin House Summer Writers Workshop is a writing conference and workshop on the lovely Reed College in Portland, Oregon. It felt a lot like being in college again, including the fact that I couldn't sleep because the dorm was so noisy. But the teaching in workshop was excellent all around; everyone said so.
+ great teaching in workshops
+ collegial feel between all writers
+ relaxed scheduling of events allowed for social time
- dorm living
- agents were around, which makes many writers crazy and convinced they're about to be discovered
Advice: Apply early in January. If accepted, send your deposit immediately. This helps to guarantee your spot in the workshop of your choice. Without the $800 deposit, no spot in the workshop you want.

Squaw Valley Writers Workshop is a writing conference and workshop in Squaw Valley in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I did a fair amount of hiking in the high country on an afternoon off, and down below in between workshops and class. Besides hiking, I also went to workshop. The faculty rotate through workshops, which means that you only have one faculty person one morning in workshop before he/she moves on. This is done on purpose to give you a sense of what many types of writers, editors, and agents are like in workshop. I don't necessarily like it, but it does mean you don't get stuck with a turkey.
+ relaxed camp-like feel in gorgeous setting
+ helpful one-on-one feedback from faculty
+ lovely outdoor evening meals with socializing
- rotating faculty
- agents were around, which makes writers crazy as I've noted above
Advice: Watch your alcohol consumption at high altitudes. Don't have conference sex.

The Algonkian Writer Conference through Web del Sol is a writing conference that has changed a lot since I attended at a farm near Half Moon Bay, California. At the time, I appreciated the rural setting, the small group (four students!), and the short time frame (a long weekend). It has a much more intensive and formal curriculum than the other conferences, and is not a workshop.
+ small groups
+ formal instruction in novel-length construction
+ short
- relevant details (food? time? money?) seemed missing or disorganized at times
- no housing provided
Advice: Come with a novel mostly done for polishing work.

Desert Nights, Rising Stars is short conference on the campus of Arizona State University. It features small groups for workshops (five people!), and while it's not in anywhere as glamorous as Half Moon Bay, Tempe in February is extremely pleasant.
+ small workshops with excellent instruction
+ participatory classes in all forms (poetry, memoir, and fiction) during non-workshop time
+ short
- no housing provided
- not a great deal of writerly bonding (though I went with a friend, which solved that problem)
Advice: Avoid the Twin Palms hotel unless you love parrots and visiting athletic teams. Pay extra for the small workshop, which is optional, but the best part.