Taking a break from talking about the Hugos and Jonathan Ross for actual important stuff.
A few days ago I tweeted:
Writers of Color, raise hands if you want to attend writing workshops but can’t afford one financially.
And I got many responses. One of the reasons I asked is because I wanted to point out again why the Writing Excuses Carl Brandon Scholarship was important and encourage people to apply1. Then a couple of responses made me realize I needed to do something else as well.
@cafenowhere That’s me. With added complication of being main care giver to a child & living in the Midwest.
@LonAitewalker *raises hand* compound that with being disabled as well – double whammy.
Lack of funds isn’t the only barrier. There’s the inability to miss work for a week or weeks at a time, or not having anyone to leave a child with for that time, or other obligations that make going away to a workshop not possible.
As other responses point out, going to a workshop can be a life-changing experience. Not only do you gain valuable writing instruction, you also get valuable networking done and face time with authors who are generous with their advice and influence. Workshopping is an important element in developing a career. It’s not necessary, it’s just very helpful.
So how can we make workshops more widely available to writers who are more likely to miss out on these opportunities? A few good ideas I’ve seen lately:
One Day Workshops: Clarion West does these occasionally (and lately doing more of them). They usually involve tackling a particular subject, like how to research or how to create more immersive fiction, take place on a weekend day, and cost a fraction of what the 6 week workshop costs. The downside is that they only take place in Seattle for now. I hear that there are discussions to expand into…
Online Classes via Google Hangout: I’ve heard of several writers doing this, but the only class I’m at all familiar with is Mary Robinette Kowal’s. She does two types, a weekend intensive (Friday night to Sunday) and an 8-week course that meets one day a week. Since they take place online you don’t have to travel and it may be easier to structure your time even if you have caregiving obligations. Click here to see explanations for her workshops, which will give you a good idea of how most are run.
Neither of these solutions is absolutely perfect and will work for everyone. They go a long way toward helping, though. More one day workshops in other cities and towns mean more people can attend. Doing things online through Google Hangouts open it up even more–you don’t even need a webcam, just a mic2. Then we’re back to cost.
These workshops are far less expensive than the long 6-week ones like Clarion or even retreat-type workshops like Out Of Excuses. That doesn’t mean they’re that much more affordable since the cost is still in the hundreds for many. Scholarships are needed here as well.
I have a request for pro authors giving workshops and organizations coordinating workshops. Would you be willing to set aside one registration per workshop for a writer who cannot afford it but would greatly benefit from attending? Could you perhaps work with an organization willing to help coordinate some of the particulars, like matching writers who want to attend with appropriate workshops?
People involved in organizations and community groups that raise awareness around diversity in the genre, would you help out by doing some of that coordinating? Or even setting up scholarship funds so that the workshop runners still get paid?
This could end up being a major project for some non-profit, but major projects take time to build. As that happens, if that happens, I’d still like to see some smaller efforts to help build momentum. Such as workshops deciding to set aside that one registration. Or writers helping each other raise money individually. A larger project like Con or Bust would be great in the long term. I just don’t want people to think we have to wait for that to come together in order to get started.
So let’s discuss this! Here in the comments, on social media, at cons, wherever. This is just the spark of an idea. Help me grow it.
Oh, and apply for the Writing Excuses Carl Brandon Scholarship! Applications must be in by 3/15. If you can afford the time but can’t afford registration, hotel, and travel, the scholarship covers those things.