Organizing a Writing Workshop

So, that was a wrap on the third Paradise Icon. People seemed very happy with it. I’ve learned a few things about organizing a writing workshop now, and here are a few things that I think work.

1. Downtime is as important as on time. We critiqued for six hours on Friday, but with breaks between. We had Friday night. Saturday we had three hours of lectures, two hours of reading, and another two hours of author meet and greet. And everything is optional. If you need a nap, you take it. If you need to recharge your batteries, you do it.

2. Fun. That said, very few people took those breaks. We had a lot of fun, the group of people easy going, funny, and relaxed. The teachers we had for the seminars were great. The author meet and greet was a chance to stretch our muscles in a different way, and the reading was also good. We tried to have activities that were fun, and if you weren’t having fun, you should default to optional.

3. Variety. I think that doing so many different kinds of activities helps too. Hopefully there’s a good fit for everyone at the workshop.

4. The con. If you don’t want downtime, there’s always something for you to do. Bar con, or actual con. It’s a bit like having a retreat in Vegas.

5. Logistics. Making sure everyone had a ride. Everyone knew where to go. That water was available. Think about amenities in advance. That really helps with organization.

6. Niceness. Treat everyone at the even with courtesy and politeness. Yes, even if you do have a low level headache all weekend (did anyone know?) Because if you’re hosting, that’s what you gotta do.

7. Make the event special. Find the good restaurants. Make sure people eat.

A lot of this depends on the mix of people. We’ve been very lucky at PI to have nice people who critique well. Not too much drama in Iowa so far.

Mostly, though, what has made Paradise Icon work is that I’ve been very lucky to have high caliber attendees the last 3 years, who treat each other with respect. I expect we’ll have a few returnees next year, but we’ll probably also have some open slots, and if you can bring yourself to Iowa, well, you’ll meet some really nice people, I suspect.

Next year, I’ve already lined up Tamara Siler Jones to speak. Icon’s guest will be David Gerrold, and we’re also keeping our fingers crossed for Ann Leckie. As an added bonus, I’ll ask Joe Haldeman to think about coming in for a Q&A, as requested.

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.

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