Just got back from a great four days of workshopping with three of my writing friends. I did a post a few weeks ago about the benefits of a DIY writing gathering. We had two poets, a fiction writer and a non-fiction (primarily) writer. At left, we all wore orange one day to visit a St. Louis-style eatery in Phoenix. We had toasted ravioli, cracker-crust pizza and ooey-gooey butter cake.
A writer friend of mine posted a comment about conferences on Facebook saying the main benefit she found was the networking and deal-making. As for networking, you do meet new writing friends at big conferences sometimes (if you're both having an outgoing moment). Some you actually keep in touch with, although my CherCon friends have been more reliable over the years. As for deal-making at a conference, this never happened at my lowly level. I'm equating that kind of conference activity with one I would do for Web Content Specialists (my day job). The only differences being for those there are only a handful to choose from a year (not the massive amount available to poets), they aren't as expensive and you can often get your office to pay for it. You'd think the sheer number of writing conferences would bring the cost down, by supply and demand. But then there are so many writers, so few web content specialists.
In any case, having our own was informative. Our biggest problem was not having enough time to do all we wanted to do. Being friends, we spent a good deal of time catching up and chatting (in the pool, no less).
On the positive side, you're happier at a DIY with your friends (and a pool). On the negative side, you're too happy.
Also, half of our group didn't finish their readings ahead of time. So a majority of the time was spent reading for them. However, the workshopping was really high quality. Pre-select is good stuff in this case.
We selected some short stories from The Art of the Story by Daniel Halpern. And although we all agreed we didn't much like the four stories we selected (or the layout of the book), the more we discussed the stories, the more I came to appreciate them and something unique in them relating to our projects. We also read The Art of Description by Mark Doty from the World into Word series on Graywolf Press. I'll talk about that more later (probably after my move). Two of us read the same book and make our own marginalia...it will be interesting to see where our "likes" intersected.
We all agreed we wanted to keep doing these things yearly. Notes for future events:
- Build in time for reading
- Build in time for chatting
- Focus less on writing time (too much chatting and reading to do)
- Keep in the workshop sessions