Hands-down some of my best experiences in learning how to be a writer, be it craft-level tips on how to structure and write short stories, or business-level tips of how to compose a killer pitch letter, all were learned in the context of a Writer’s Workshop. I have attended two in-person workshops and one virtual one. One of the unanticipated side benefits to these workshops has been connecting with other writers who are in a similar place in their careers – ability, intensity, pursuit of specific goals. I have gained many insights from just talking with other writers who are struggling with the same things I am – whether or how to independently publish, doubts about abilities, frustrations with rejections. Don’t underestimate the value of a peer group.
A beautiful Oregon coast sunset (time enough for sunset walks at this workshop, at least!)
This list is by no means complete, but I’ve been working on it for a little while, asking writer friends what workshops they’ve attended, which ones they think have the best return for their investment. Workshops are an investment. Most will set you back $1000-1500 between workshop fees and travel expenses (some do offer scholarships and are worth pursuing.) If you haven’t started treating your writing like a business (instead of just a hobby) it may be difficult to imagine spending that much, but if you are committed to selling your work, finding readers who love the kinds of words you write, you can consider this a business investment in your future.
Have I missed any important ones? I’ll edit this list if I find I’ve overlooked something big, so please post a link in the comments!
Viable Paradise - This is my dream workshop because I love this part of the east coast but have never been to Martha's Vineyard. It's specifically for Science Fiction and Fantasy writers (my genres!) and takes place in October. This year Elizabeth Bear is among the illustrious instructors!
Superstars of Writing - This workshop is focused on the business of being a writer. If you're ready to take the next step and begin actively marketing and selling your work, this is the top workshop for you. Several writer friends have attended this workshop in the past and highly recommend it. It's on my short list. Next workshop is in Feb, 2014 and Dave Farland, Kevin Anderson, Brandon Sanderson, Rebecca Moesta are among the many fantastic instructors.
Orson Scott Card runs a Literary Boot Camp from time to time, though no current dates are easily available (my google-fu is failing me this morning.) New York Times Bestselling author Jamie Ford attended this boot camp in the past and credits it with jump-starting his career. His latest book, Songs of the Willow Frost entered the NYT bestseller list at #11.
Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop is another on my short list of cool workshops I want to attend. This one is specifically focused on teaching astronomy science to writers (so their science fiction is accurate AND entertaining.) It's in Laramie, Wyoming during the summer. They open for applications usually around the first of the year, with application deadlines in the March-April timeframe. I have applied and been rejected before, maybe 2014 will be my year?
Clarion and Clarion West are two very well regarded 6 week residential writing workshops that take place in the summer. It's never been possible for me to even consider taking 6 weeks away from family to attend a program like this, but these programs are considered among the best in the industry.
For those with even more time, or anyone looking to pursue an advanced degree that would support them in their writing efforts, the 2 year Writer's Workshop at The University of Iowa culminates with the awarding of a Masters of Fine Arts degree. It is also a little less genre-focused, as I understand, compared to the others I've linked thus far.
Writers Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch offer both in-person and online writing workshops. The in-person workshops take place in Lincoln City, Oregon. The term city is used loosely, this is a small beachside town on the coast about 2 hours west/south of Portland. It is a beautiful location. I've attended two workshops here, in part because I find the area inspirational. Their workshops are focused on the aspiring professional writer, not the beginner, and emphasize the business aspects of writing.
I have previously attended an online workshop called Writing on the Fast Track given by Mary Robinette Kowal. I highly recommend this workshop, but it looks like her remaining dates for 2013 are sold out. She and several other writers are offering an in-person writing retreat in June of 2014 that is worth considering, called Writing the Other.