I’m so pleased to welcome author Keena Kincaid back to Romance University. For writers like myself, the thought of presenting a workshop makes us break out into unpleasant red spots. But Keena’s going to help us select the perfect workshop so as to avoid such undesirable complexion problems.
Happy Wednesday, Keena!
Perspective and passion are keys to creating a great workshop
One of the best ways to learn this crazy business or improve our craft is to listen to the authors who have gone before us. Whether online or in person, we have access to workshops on everything from point-of-view to medieval herbal lore so that we can become better, more accurate storytellers.
Developing and presenting your own workshop is a great way to give back to the writing community and raise your visibility among peers. However, it can be an intimidating undertaking, and more than one person has told me, “I could never lead a workshop because I’m not an expert.”
You don’t need to be an expert. Yes, it takes a deeper-than-average knowledge of a given topic, but what makes a workshop a success is the presenter’s passion and unique perspective on the subject.
The steps to developing a good workshop are threefold:
- Know your strengths
- Dig for the details
- Find the right angle
We all know more than we think we do, and we can turn this knowledge into a workshop that others will enjoy. The trick is to put it together so that it’s unique enough to garner attention and universal enough to peak interest.
Know your strengths
First off, don’t be intimidated by the idea of presenting yourself as knowledgeable in a given area. Experts are often too steeped in minutia to be understood by someone not equally immersed in the subject matter. However, a student of the subject is passionate about the topic. If you have a passion for a given topic—whether it be Regency underwear or the bathing habits of the American cowboy—and know what’s important without getting into the weeds of academic debate and can break down a complicated subject so beginners can understand it, then you have the makings of a valuable workshop.
Another area to consider is your day job. Honestly, you don’t have to be a commando jumping out of airplanes to have knowledge that others may want. Remember that our heroes and heroines come in all occupations, and it’s the little details that add realism to a story.
For example, are you a pediatric nurse? What about a workshop on common injuries to kids, treatments and recovery time? Are you product manager for an agriculture firm? A workshop on modern farm life would be very interesting. Did your company go through a hostile takeover? The ins and outs of living through that could be fascinating.
Dig for the details
As you search for possible topics, ask yourself:
- What kinds of questions do my friends ask me? We often know more than we realize. So, take a moment and think about what questions you’re asked. If you’re unsure, ask your friends. An outside perspective may be enlightening.
- What topics/subjects am I passionate about? We all have our favorite eras of history, pastimes, etc.
- What did I need to learn? We’ve all struggled to master something that others seem to breeze through. Whether it’s an element of storytelling (craft) or building a brand (business), leverage the knowledge you worked so hard to gain by sharing it with others.
Once you think you have a topic, take a moment, or three, and think through each detail thoroughly. For example, going back to the pediatric nurse. We’ve all seen or gotten a shot (or a jab, if you’re in the UK) but what exactly goes on? When do people tense up? Before or during the shot? Which body parts get tense first? What happens if the medicine goes in too fast?
The goal is to be able to identify both the obvious and obscure. The former will help engage participants in the workshop; the latter helps them to understand it thoroughly.
If you’re thinking of a subject, such as an historical time period, you need to be able to explain the previous events that shaped the culture, the overarching events, such as the news story everyone would’ve known about, as well as the details of daily life.
Find the right angle
There are multiple ways to learn so sometimes a new way of looking at common subject provides the perspective someone else needs to “get” it.
For example, I present a workshop called Dirty Little Secrets of Character Development. The workshop grew out of a game friends and I played one night. Basically, a woman walked by with a man, but something about the couple was “off.” All four of us noticed it, and one friend said, “there’s a dirty little secret there somewhere.” We each gave our guess as to what it was, then explained why we thought that, i.e. how they were dressed, walked side-by-side but not in sync, her almost too-short skirt and too-perky-for-her-age breasts, etc.
The game turned the wheels in my mind, and as I developed characters for the book I was working on, I began to play around with their dirty little secrets and how body language revealed those secrets. I incorporated all that into my story (which was my first sale). Yes, the workshop is another way to get at Goals, Motivation and Conflict, but it’s a way that most people grasp in an instant and that deepens their understanding of GMC.
So as you think through topics—particularly those dealing with craft—think about the perspective you bring to the subject and how that could provide a different spin.
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RU CREW, did Keena’s lecture give you ideas on crafting a workshop unique to your passions? Are you more willing to give presenting a workshop a try after hearing you don’t have to be an expert on the subject matter?
Join us again on Friday for debut author Tracy March’s discussion on how to use dialogue to convey the perfect message.
Keena Kincaid is a true history geek. The author of three historical romances, she can spend hours perusing the Oxford English Dictionary online or debating the merits of the 12th century renaissance.
She studied history, English and philosophy at Wittenberg University, concentrated on medieval history in graduate school at Miami University in Ohio, and keeps up with academic research and thought as a member of the Medieval Academy of America. What she likes best about writing medieval romances is the ability to creatively—but logically—fill in gaps in the historical record while telling a love story.
Kincaid’s novels are available from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Borders and other booksellers. You also can find her at http://keenakincaid.com, MySpace and Facebook (and she’s always looking for new friends).
- The Dirty Little Secrets of Character Development
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for April 26-30: Angela Knight, Laurie London, John Warwick Arden & Keena Kinkaid
- To Build or Not to Build—The Platform Dilemma for the Unpublished
- 10 Turning Points to Publication
- Ask An Editor: Point of View Sliding Scale