Taos Toolbox: Community

This is an interesting kind of post to write. This is the part where I take a look at the people and the workshop at Taos and think about how we all interacted. And I attempt to do it in a classy fashion. 🙂

Writing workshops experiences are as individual as the people who attend them. I’ve been to a whole four organized writing events. For the most part, I’ve found those experiences to be positive. To keep myself a positive contributing member, there are a couple of things I need: to get away by myself for a while, and least every couple of days, and to get enough sleep.

At Taos, sleep was my biggest challenge. Good ole altitude! But there was a lot of napping as could. As to time alone, yup. I had a great roommate who gave a lot of distance, and plenty of time to hang out. So for the most part, while there were days I was doing the headache, or sleep had me cranky, I think that I managed to be a contributing member of the whole thing.

Another thing that I think helps any workshop is some deliberate community building. When fellow workshopper Lauren Teffeau suggested a pot luck, I did the commercial, and Dave McAmis did the decorations. So Sunday we had a great time. And David was also responsible for setting up the bar in the lounge. Fran Wilde organized a tech night where we talked about computer-y things, and Walter set up group hikes. There were conversations with Nancy late in rooms, and plot break sessions. A trip to Taos with Fran and Lis Bass. The more of this kind of thing, the more likely people are to bond. When you’re sitting across from one of the instructors at the table, and he agrees with you that Revolutionary Girl Utena is the best anime ever, well, you sort of feel a connection. So we did have opportunities to meet and greet.

On an individual level, I gotta say it’s hard to be positive all the time. But I do my best. As Daniel Abraham said, one of the most important rules is to be nice. You never know how any of those folks are going to affect your future. That’s just a good rule for life in general.

By going to a writer’s workshop, it’s a moment where you can be around other writers who take your writing and their writing seriously. Sometimes in my life, I feel that it can be difficult making writing as much of a priority as I would like, and it’s good to be in spaces where that can happen.

So, were there any bumps? Yup. In circumstances where you are in a small intense community, that can bring out the best and the worst in all of us. In the same span of time. Well, at least I didn’t repeat my performance in Dallas where I took two depression pills on the same day. Which explained a lot of the anxiety I experienced that last day…

So, to some extent, these sorts of events are what you bring to them. This is not to say that I felt comfortable every moment, but that was more personal for me than a sense of community. We’re coming to that. But you get out of this what you put in. At any rate, if you get the chance to be at a retreat, definitely consider it for the value of being in a community of writers.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

2 thoughts on “Taos Toolbox: Community”

  1. I agree that you get out what you put in. There *were* some trying moments at Taos, but some really great ones as well, many of which you highlighted. I think the awkwardness is the norm for a bunch of introverted SF writers, though.

    The more people can view socializing through a professional lens than a personal one–particularly for those new to such workshops or those feeling vulnerable–the better, as it makes it easier to deal with any interpersonal bumps along the way.

    But learning to interact with others in the SFF field is a great exercise in and of itself. And I’m happy to have met people like you at Taos 🙂

  2. Our Raven Words Summer Youth Writing Workshops got a big boost this week from New Jersey-based traveler writer Jenna Schnuer , who will be volunteering her time to teach a travel-writing course for kids ages 10-13 during the week of July 18-22. Thanks to her generosity, we’ll be able to offer five scholarships to young writers. Stay tuned for details, and in the meantime keep directing young writers to Jumpstart Your Write Brain , Comic Adventures , and Ravens and Tigers and Bears . It’s all part of the fun at Raven Words, with summer workshops July 18-29 at Winterberry Charter School in conjunction with the Alaska Writing Consortium .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.