Posted On January 19, 2016 by Print This Post

The Power Of Workshops: A Behind the Scenes Look by Mary Buckham and Margaret Crowley

Today we have something a little different for you – a conversation between Mary Buckham, whose writing workshops are always in demand, and Margaret Crowley, who has organized workshops led by some of the biggest names in romance. Scroll to the end to find out about Mary Buckham’s giveaway!

I’m Mary Buckham, published author and writing craft instructor. With me is Margaret Crowley, writer and volunteer extraordinaire. Margaret planned and hosted  big writing events for her RWA chapter for years. Today, she’ll give you tips on planning a workshop. She’ll also tell you how to get the most out of attending one. I’ll give you the opposite POV. I’ll tell you what an instructor strives to do and how attendees can get the best lecture from me.

MB: Margaret, when we met several years ago, you were coordinating COFW [Central Ohio Fiction Writers] daylong workshops. Since then our paths have crossed a number of times in different ways for which I’m profoundly thankful. Recently we talked about what it means to commit to attending a workshop, or a conference, or any event that motivates us to expand our understanding of the craft of writing.  As a participant and planner, what would you tell people preparing to go to workshops?

MC: This is your time. And your money. Make it count. Commit to being present. Something in this workshop will improve your writing. In a productivity workshop I took years ago, I learned Susan Elizabeth Philips used a chess-timer to make sure she wrote three hours a day. That didn’t work for me, but all was not lost. I adapted her idea. When I’m stuck in a scene, cookies go in the oven. Before that timer rings, the scene must be finished or those cookies burn. (Be still my heart! Burnt chocolate chip cookies: quelle dommage!)

MB: Oh, I wish I’d known this. Susan Elizabeth’s advice and the fact you could write to get cookies. Win-win!!

MB: From an instructor’s perspective, I love seeing students take advantage of a different perspective, a different experience being available. If an instructor prefers to come in, teach, and step away, then take advantage of her or his expertise in the classroom.

MC: Ask questions. Get clarity if a concept is not clear to you yet. Trust me, if it’s not, someone else in the room is probably confused also. If the instructor is available for meals before, after or during the workshop, it’s a clear sign it’s okay to talk shop. Pick their brains. Talk about recently read books or changing trends they see. About insights on…finding time to write, juggling social media with writing, recommendations of craft books, etc.

MB: Margaret, how do you find a speaker who meets the needs of a chapter?

MC: The key is to find a teacher. Just because someone is multi-published or an expert in their field, doesn’t mean they can impart their knowledge. A real teacher will reach everyone in the workshop. In your Power Plotting Workshop Mary, I discovered that shorter sentences speed up pacing. The published mystery writer sitting next to me fixed her manuscript’s sagging middle. We both loved your workshop.

MB: What should the student think about in committing to taking a workshop?

MC: Thank you, Margaret, and you’re right on the money in understanding that teaching and sharing knowledge are very different than being a writer or an expert. The challenge for an instructor is to provide information that benefits both the newest writer and the multi-published author. It’s a tricky thing but it can be done. Furthermore, instructors need to make their information appropriate for their audience and what the audience is writing. I’ve listened to instructors be emphatic about a concept without explaining that said concept is most appropriate to one genre, sub-genre or even publishing house. If this happens, speak up, ask questions. The instructor doesn’t know that you are the only student in the room writing a gay lesbian cowboy space opera, or that half the group is writing thrillers and the other sweet romances. Your questions will help not only the class, but also the instructor, who will appreciate knowing how to modify their class to help everyone.

MB: How do you find a qualified speaker?

MC: Google is your friend. Check out the potential speaker’s website. See if they’ve taught online, at other chapters or at National and talk to people who’ve taken their workshops. Ask for suggestions from people in nearby chapters. See who spoke at the breakout workshops at last year’s big regional conferences. (Spring Fling, Moonlight and Magnolias, Emerald City Writers, New England’s Chapter Conference to name a few.)  Finally, RWA has a speaker’s bureau. https://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=547

MB: Great ideas, Margaret! Also ask coordinators at other chapters who have had the speaker give a workshop. Students can do the same thing. In a few minutes of research you can discover where the speaker presented recently and find at least one person at that event who might be able to answer a few questions.  There are some big name writers who are brought in for their name, not their ability to teach. Some instructors motivate as well as impart information. Some instructors can speak to a certain market understanding because they are very well-versed in that market—Category Romance or Breaking Out or Social Media. All have something to offer, as long as you are aware of their strengths and your expectations.

MC: Hey, it’s Margaret. It’s my turn to ask Mary questions. But first I’d like to say that volunteering is arduous – as is committing time and money to taking a workshop. Luckily both come with rewards. Meeting Mary was a huge reward for me. She’s become a good friend. She’s also one hell of a teacher. Mary’s taught everything from hour-long workshops to four-day retreats.

MC: Mary, can you describe the difference between short and long workshops? How people should prepare for them and what they should expect from them?

MB: As a student of workshops myself, I prepare mentally by going into any workshop with a specific goal: I want an answer to a question, or insights into how to incorporate what the teacher is saying and applying it to my work, etc. But I also stay open to hearing what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. To me, learning is about pushing our comfort levels, making us stretch our perceptions and understanding. I personally know I’ve reached the point where I’m learning when I get that scared feeling, that sense of I-don’t-know-if-I-can do it. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but that’s not a negative thing. Think of it as a growth opportunity.

As for different length workshops, a shorter one is like an appetizer. It can be a good introduction to a topic or approach and give me a sense as to whether I want to explore the topic in some depth or spend my time and attention elsewhere. Longer workshops can be challenging because we’re not used to spending that much time in one session with intense brain-work, even as they can be hugely beneficial digging into a subject or offering a range of information. Think marathon not sprints. Stay away from sugar because while it may taste good it’ll also crash your energy as the day progresses. Take time to walk around during breaks, breathe fresh air, grab some protein to keep going. And drink water, lots of water. Small commitments on the students part can help them continue to learn throughout the day.

MC: What are the emotional benefits? I always leave your workshops so inspired.

MB: Thank you, Margaret! To me a good workshop is like a good craft book–it juices a writer to want to write. A good workshop offers lots of ah ha moments, not just one or two. A good workshop challenges a writer to improve, experiment, explore. A nice side benefit is the shared camaraderie of the other writers. Once the event or the day is over, there are still people around you who had insights, took notes, can practice the concepts with you. That’s invaluable for long-term learning. Plus you now know about an instructor who might have more to offer—other craft books or classes their fiction work to read to see how they put the concepts they taught into play, a website or newsletter that continues to offer insights and learning opportunities.

Coordinating, attending and teaching at a workshop are all part of the same coin, with participant and instructor in a collaborative endeavor. It can be a win-win for everyone, as long as each of us participates.

***

Now it’s time to hear from our blog visitors. Best words of wisdom you heard at a workshop? Have you ever recommended a teacher to your writing group? What advice do you have for another writer who is looking to attend a workshop? Or to a writer who has stopped attending workshops?

Take a moment to share your insights and you’ll be eligible to receive a copy of Writing Active Hooks: Book 1 from Mary Buckham. There will be two lucky winners  with names drawn forty-eight hours after this blog is posted. Best of luck to all!!

Check out MARY BUCKHAM’S plotting workshops here: http://marybuckham.com/live-events-2016/

BREAK INTO FICTION Power Plotting Workshop in Columbus, Ohio: http://marybuckham.com/power-plotting-columbus/

Author TONYA KAPPES joins us on Friday, January 22.

***

Bio:

margaret crowley

Margaret Crowley is a contemporary romance writer without a shoe fetish.  She attributes her lack of Louboutin lust to working in the news for years. She liked the stories but the death and destruction: not so much. Now she creates flawed characters, grappling with the ridiculousness of love. Laughing, Margaret’s found, is the best way to stay sane while finding a Happily Ever After. Margaret is a member of RWA and Central Ohio Fiction Writers. You can find her on Facebook @MargaretCrowley and on Twitter at @Margaret_Crowle.

 

 

 

 

 

USA Today bestselling author Mary Buckham writes the Amazon best selling WRITING ACTIVE series for writers – WRITING ACTIVE SETTING and WRITING ACTIVE HOOKS.

mary buckham

BreakIntoFiction_300

 

 

She is also the co-author of BREAK INTO FICTION with NYT author Dianna Love and has taught online and live writing workshops to writers of all genres around the US and Canada. Her most recent non-fiction release: A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting: How to Enhance Your Fiction with More Descriptive, Dynamic Settings (Writer’s Digest) was released in January, 2016.

WritingActiveHooksBook1_300px copy

 

Mary doesn’t just teach writers though, she practices what she preaches, writing Urban Fantasy w/attitude. Love romance, danger & kick-ass heroines? Find it in her Alex Noziak or Kelly McAllister series!

 

 

 

 

 

WritingActiveSettingCover[1]-2

A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting: How to Enhance Your Fiction with More Descriptive, Dynamic Settings Paperback use pre formatted date that complies with legal requirement from media matrix – January 1, 2016

Author – Mary Buckham

Enhance Your Fiction with the Power of an Active Setting!

Setting is one of the most underutilized and misunderstood elements of the writing craft. And when writers do focus on setting, they often pull readers out of the narrative and jolt their attention from the action on the page.

 

A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting will show you how to create vivid, detailed settings that bring your story to life. You’ll learn how to deepen character development, anchor readers to a specific time and place, reveal backstory without slowing things down, elevate action sequences, and more.

 

Drawing upon examples from authors writing across a variety of genres, Mary Buckham will illustrate exactly how the proper use of setting can dramatically improve your story. You’ll learn what’s effective about each passage and how you can use those techniques to make your story shine.

 

“Takes an all too often overlooked technique, and elevates it to a next-level game changer for powerful fiction.” —Cathy Yardley, author of Rock Your Plot

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Discussion

48 Responses to “The Power Of Workshops: A Behind the Scenes Look by Mary Buckham and Margaret Crowley”

  1. Mary and Margaret – I can’t thank you enough for this fabulous post! I haven’t been to Mary’s plotting workshop yet. I’m on a hiatus from workshops and conferences right now for budgetary reasons, but I hope to take Mary’s Plotting workshop when time and money allow. Margaret, I think we first met in person when I attended the workshop with Suzanne Brockmann and Virginia Kantra that you organized a few years ago. I took so many notes I think I filled two whole legal pads!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 20, 2016, 12:07 am
    • Becke ~ you know I’ll always find a room at the table for the next Plotting Retreat. You have your hands full right now and sometimes a break away makes the next workshop rev the writing juices all over again! Thank you for hosting Margret and me today. Blogging at RomanceU is always such a delight!

      Posted by Mary Buckham | January 20, 2016, 11:28 am
      • Plotting is an area where I need all the help I can get – I’m a pantser by nature, but I need to find a way to improve my plotting skills so I don’t have to do a gazillion rewrites. This workshop is just what I need! As soon as I get back on track with writing, I’ll be there!

        Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 20, 2016, 9:11 pm
  2. Thanks for having us Becke! It was a wonderful learning experience to do my first blog with Mary. (She so kindly held my hand during the process.) Looking forward to answering peoples comments.

    Posted by Margaret Crowley | January 20, 2016, 7:41 am
  3. Great info, ladies! Mary does give awesome workshops. And Margaret knows how to host one like nobody’s business! So, if you’re wanting to plan a great workshop, this is a great place to start.

    Posted by Sheri Adkins | January 20, 2016, 7:58 am
    • Thanks for the kudos, Sheri. There really is nothing like a workshop to revitalize your writing spirit. There’s something energizing about being surrounded by people who understand that your characters just will not follow your plot, Thanks for stopping by.

      Posted by Margaret Crowley | January 20, 2016, 10:29 am
    • Love your stopping by today Sheri – thank you! Someone once described that organizing a workshop event, especially an all day one, is like organizing a wedding event. I don’t know how Margs did it but she did with style and grace. Always! If I didn’t adore her she’d intimidate the heck out of me 🙂

      Posted by Mary Buckham | January 20, 2016, 11:30 am
  4. I’d been studying Mary’s ‘Hook’ book before the workshop and some of it wasn’t clear to me. Listening to her during her lecture the items that confused me were made clear. While her books are clear and concise sometimes listening to the person live helps.

    Posted by J. Paulette Forshey | January 20, 2016, 8:13 am
    • Wouldn’t it be handy if we always had authors on hand to clarify any questions we might have?

      Seriously, that is one of the best things about workshops – not just asking questions, but hearing writing tips straight from the authors’/speakers’ mouths.

      I tend to remember things best when I see them written down, but having things explained in detail helps lodge them in my brain.

      Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 20, 2016, 8:46 am
    • Three stars to you Paulette for going to Mary’s workshop prepared. I love going to workshops when I’ve red the instructor’s book(s). It’s the icing on the cake. Thanks for stopping by!

      Posted by Margaret Crowley | January 20, 2016, 10:31 am
    • Paulette! Talk about hitting the nail on the head. The Q&A aspects of a workshop can hold invaluable gems as can the nuances, the way an instructor explains more or adds an additional insight, can make a world of difference. So glad you came to the last event, and came ready to dig in! Thank you!

      Posted by Mary Buckham | January 20, 2016, 11:33 am
  5. “handy” and “on hand” – that’s the kind of mistake I catch in my writing a lot. My brain picks up on a word and seems to think, “That’s a good word – let’s use it again.”

    And I like em dashes and ellipses, but that’s another story.

    Good thing I have a couple of Mary’s books, but I need to get more. I have some brushing up to do!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 20, 2016, 8:48 am
  6. Thanks for the interesting and informative blog, Margaret and Mary! Lots of great info here, and yes, Margaret is amazing at putting together workshops and other programs. And I’ve certainly gotten a lot out of your workshops and online classes over the years, Mary!

    Online classes and conversations are great ways to improve our craft and learn all kinds of things. But writing is such a solitary endeavor that, for me, getting to hear someone teach in person, being able to ask questions and get an immediate answer, and talking with other writers, is invaluable and re-energizes me like nothing else. 🙂

    Posted by Robin Gianna | January 20, 2016, 9:17 am
    • Hey Robin, I agree! There is nothing like a live workshop. The energy inspires me. And as I said before, there’s nothing like meeting someone who understands that character WILL do what they want, damn the plot. Thanks for stopping by.

      Posted by Margaret Crowley | January 20, 2016, 10:48 am
    • Spot on Robin! Back in the cave man days – before the internet made so many online workshops available, I used live workshops to refocus and energize me. Twice a year I’d drive 300 miles to the closest big RWA writing group as a way to recharge and connect with other writers. The concept is still applicable today! Thanks for swinging by and sharing!

      Posted by Mary Buckham | January 20, 2016, 11:36 am
  7. Welcome to the world of blogging, Margaret! Loved the interview from both perspectives. I really like Mary’s advice about preparation by finding one thing you’d like to learn at a workshop. For anyone who is tackling the job of workshop coordination, listen to Margaret’s advice. She is the best and organizing and promoting. Plus she’s an awesome lady.

    Posted by Carol Ann Erhardt | January 20, 2016, 9:44 am
  8. Good morning Mary and Margaret! Thanks for sharing your knowledge about the writing profession. I’ve been in the business a long time and I’m still learning. I totally agree that being multi-published does not qualify someone to teach.

    Hugs, Becky

    Posted by Becky Barker | January 20, 2016, 9:44 am
    • Becke: There’s a big difference between being a piano virtuoso and a piano teacher. It’s the same with writing. I’m glad your still learning. I once heard Bob Mayer say that if you stop learning new things about the craft, you stop loving to write. Thanks for stopping by.

      Posted by Margaret Crowley | January 20, 2016, 10:50 am
    • I think different speakers are invited for different reasons and that can be challenging as a student when you want one thing from the event and not finding it. Public speaking is not easy for most people and we see this time and again where someone who has done very well in his or her publishing career can be asked to talk to a group as opposed to teach a group. These type of events are where I let go of my expectations (which is not always easy) and focus on listening even more closely, expecting and knowing there’s something important for me to hear. What we focus on we tend to get and I’ve never been disappointed in learning something. Not always from the instructor, but because I let go of expecting the source of what I needed to learn. Hope this makes sense. Thanks so much for sharing!

      Posted by Mary Buckham | January 20, 2016, 11:51 am
    • Thanks so much for joining us, Becky! I miss my Ohio friends!

      Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 20, 2016, 8:47 pm
  9. I’ve been burned by a couple of “bad” writer’s workshops…none of which were Mary’s. It’s hard to know which will be great content for those hard earned dollars and which are mostly just after dollars.

    The only good thing that has come out of them has been the contacts I’ve made that developed into some good friendships.

    Thanks for the commentary…I might have to look for some outside of Minnesota…the ones here haven’t been good.

    Posted by Susan | January 20, 2016, 11:22 am
    • This can be a challenge Susan and does happen. It’d be lovely to have a database of workshop reviews or instructor reviews so that you’re able to make a more informed choice as to whether a particular workshop will work for you. What happens many times is it’s easier to go to the events closest to us – thinking, and rightly so, that we’re supporting our local writer’s group, or it’s less expensive then traveling further afield or it’ll be a few hour commitment vs most of a day, etc. All logical, sound reasons to attend an event. But the longer we work toward writing for publication the more we keep hearing the same information and get less juice out of what might be at one time just what we needed. That’s when it really falls back on us to make some hard choices. Instead of 3 or 4 events locally maybe 1 event every six months. See a topic or instructor you’re considering learning from? Ask questions on your loops or on other loops. You can ask folks to privately email you for insights. Know what you are hoping to achieve – i.e., does this instructor know her stuff? Does she give concrete examples or simply talk about how she wrote X? Are there any hands on involvement or simply a talk? Is she easy to listen to and seem responsive to questions? Whatever you’ve felt has been missing in the recent events you attended. Knowing what didn’t work is a great learning experience to tell us what we need next. Cultivate friendships with folks locally who have attended a lot of workshops as a starting point to find out their take on speakers. Someone, somewhere has heard something that can help you decide whether the next workshop or the one after that is worth your time and $$$. Best of luck and don’t give up!

      Posted by Mary Buckham | January 20, 2016, 12:04 pm
      • Hi Susan, I’m sorry to hear you’ve been disappointed in the past. As Mary said, finding what you want can be tricky but with some research and budgeting, you can do it. (Mary pretty much covered this and we give suggestions in the blog so I won’t list the ways here.). RWA lists workshops by the month on their site. It’s a good place to start. If budget is a problem, (and when isn’t it?), try some online courses. They can be wonderful. I save the questions and answers then check back when I face the same problem. I hope you met some great people a your workshops because that is worth the price of admission. Don’t be shy in the next one you go to. We’re all introverts but meeting people is wonderfully inspiring. I wish you the best with your writing. Thanks for stopping by.

        Posted by Margaret Crowley | January 20, 2016, 1:49 pm
  10. Ever since I stopped looking at writing as ‘something I’d do one day’ and actually did it, I’ve been fortunate to have attended several workshops. Most were very good, some were OK and only one was bad – but even that had extenuating circumstances. I’ve learnt something from every workshop and still have highlighted notes to prove it. Those notes are as much old faithfuls as my go-to craft books. Not all authors are born to be teachers, but those who do teach invariably have the knack of making their subject easy to understand for their students. Being asked questions also sometimes stretches a presenter so that they learn too. If you sign up for a workshop, you’re cheating yourself and wasting your hard-earned bucks if you don’t make the most of it. After all, it’s your writing career at stake. Thanks Mary and Margaret, I enjoyed this post very much.

    Posted by Victoria Chatham | January 20, 2016, 3:45 pm
  11. What fun looking at workshops from both the presenter’s and the organizer’s perspective! I’ve always thought booking speakers is THE hardest job in any writers’ group, although admittedly there are some jobs I’ve never attempted.

    The workshop words of wisdom I’ve quoted most often came from Suzanne Brockmann who said (in effect) “we all hang out with writers, which makes us think everyone writes. All 45 people in this room are writers. But if you took all 45 people at the McDonald’s next door, how many of them have ever written a book or even begun a story? MAYBE one. We’re more special than we realize.”

    For writers looking to attend a workshop, feel free to contact the teacher in advance if you have any questions about the material. The organizer can answer questions about the venue-cost-etc, but the teacher knows what kind of experience the workshop provides — ask directly. (Teachers LIKE hearing from students!)

    And, Mary and Margaret, we readers like hearing from YOU…thanks for a great blog!

    Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | January 20, 2016, 7:53 pm
  12. I’ve been lucky in that most of the workshops I’ve attended were excellent. There are many I’ve had to miss for one reason or another – I have a long wish list of workshops I’d like to take one day. Mary’s plotting workshop tops the list! I’d love to attend one of Laurie’s workshops, also Debra Dixon’s.

    I’ve attended workshops by Donald Maass, Jennifer Crusie, Bob Mayer, Virginia Kantra, Suzanne Brockmann and more. I came away from each of those with a new perspective on writing and hopefully some new skills.

    When my grandkids get a little bigger, I’ll have to make up for lost time, so keep me on your mailing lists!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 20, 2016, 8:55 pm
  13. Hopefully this won’t end up being a double post…
    So, yes, I’ve been the organizer for several workshops, retreats and monthly speakers for local RWA meetings. All three require careful consideration before booking a presenter.
    As was pointed out earlier, speaking to a group and TEACHING a group are two very different things. For workshops and retreats, our goal is for attendees to take away something new that will help them take their writing to the next level, so it’s important to select a presenter who won’t just “talk” but knows how to disseminate the knowledge in multiple ways to hopefully address the different learning styles of attendees.
    The experience, itself, is going to be different for each participant. The important thing is to go in with an open mind and looking for even that one nugget of new information – or information you’ve heard before but all of a sudden it clicks this time. There are so many topics that I’ve heard multiple times, and each time, I took something different away from it. If you go in to a workshop with the thought that you’ve heard it all before, you probably aren’t going to have a positive experience.
    Looking for presenters:
    #1 – Have a goal, and let the presenter guide you. For example, if you have a full day workshop and the presenter has multiple mini workshops, listen to their expertise in regard to which of their workshops will achieve your group’s goals/expectations. They know their presentations…tap into their expertise.
    It’s also important to consider the personalities of the people attending and the personality and expertise of the presenter. They don’t always mesh.
    As the person in charge of setting up the workshop, retreat, or conference, be organized, communicate and make sure your presenter is treated well from the moment they arrive until you say goodbye. (Imagine yourself in a strange city/town and being left alone except at the workshop. That’s not a very good experience for the presenter, either.)
    Being organized will make the experience positive for everyone – attendees and presenter(s).
    Communicate – A LOT. Make sure you’re keeping the presenter in the loop on all aspects of the program so they know how to plan. Make sure attendees understand exactly what’s going to be happening and the learning goals for the day. (Oh, and if you’re the one picking up the presenter at the airport or train station and you’ve never met, it never hurts to send a photo ahead of time so they know exactly who they’re looking for when they arrive. (Even if you’re not photogenic, they’ll appreciate it! )
    If you’re one of the people in charge of hiring the presenter, then do your homework. If you can see the person in action at a conference or someone else’s workshop, I highly recommend it. Although it was only one time, we did have a presenter we were considering for an all day workshop whom we decided not to go with because when we actually saw this person in action, they weren’t as effective as we’d hoped. The person was a speaker not a teacher, and we were looking for a teacher.
    Finally, I always found it was a bonus to be the organizer. Because I handled the shuttling and housing, it gave me ample opportunity for one on one time with someone with incredible knowledge and experience because they were stuck in a car with me. (Oooh, that’s definitely not as creepy as it sounds! In fact, it’s not creepy at all, I hope. )
    Seriously, I’ve found that these presenters are incredibly giving and want to help all of us learn the craft of writing and hopefully be published one day. They’re generous with their knowledge and contacts…it’s okay for us to take advantage of them. (There I go…sounding creepy again. As a writer, I really should be choosing my words and phrases more wisely.)
    And, in that spirit of giving, I’m sure any of us who have been the organizers of workshops, etc. would be happy to share what we’ve learned. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask.

    Posted by Laurie Adams | January 20, 2016, 9:07 pm
    • Wowser Laurie – there is so much excellent information in your post it should be standard reading material for all RWA groups. Thank you for sharing and for articulating from the perspective of your teaching background. Most instructors I know were not taught to be teachers. Just as many conference/workshop coordinators are volunteers who are learning as they go.Laurie picked the best word – communication – so everyone can make the experience a win-win for all!

      Posted by Mary Buckham | January 20, 2016, 10:03 pm
  14. Wow – Thanks to Mary and Margaret for responding to all your questions and comments in addition to their amazing post.

    And thanks to all of you for your fabulous comments – this has been so much fun, and you’ve all brought SO much great information to the table!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 20, 2016, 10:12 pm
    • Becke ~ it’s always a pleasure blogging at RomanceU – great insights, great camaraderie and for me – a great co-blogger. Thank you for having us here today and looking forward to sending prizes off to two lucky winners. Remember you have 48 hours from the beginning of this blog to share your own insights and to be eligible for the drawing! All the best to you all!!!

      Posted by Mary Buckham | January 20, 2016, 10:49 pm
  15. Great blog post Mary and Margaret. I so wish you all were on this side of the planet. I would love to attend one of Mary’s classes though I have attended the online classes and I’ve recommended her classes and books as much as I can. Great advice on the cookies. Wish I’d thought about it when I started. I don’t eat cookies but I could’ve become inventive with chocolates.

    Posted by Marie Dry | January 21, 2016, 12:46 am
    • Hi Marie! Lovely to see you here. One of the bonuses of an online workshop is the chance to connect with an author in a different way. It’s not one-on-one but the door to that relationship is cracked open. In a live event, I know it can be scary, or hard to walk up to a presenter and introduce yourself, or tell them you’ve met online, or even ask them if they’d like coffee together the next morning. You might get a no, but that’s not personal, it simply means the instructor is already committed or scrambling to do ten things at once 🙂 But business is all about networking and making connections and publishing is a business. Live events are opportunities to do that and pushing us past our comfort zones. Setting a goal to speak personally, or get a picture with an instructor or meet new writers are all win wins. Oh, and if you send the photo to the instructor it’s one more way to connect. Just as authors need readers, instructors value students – you are what allow us to keep teaching. Your sharing a good experience, or a not so good experience, allows the coordinators to make informed choices in who they invite to speak to other. Students are powerful people!! I love that as I love thinking that one day here I’ll head to South Africa to give a workshop or several and we’ll have chance to meet in person! Thanks for sharing.

      Posted by Mary Buckham | January 21, 2016, 1:08 pm
  16. Ladies, great advice for getting the most of a workshop.

    It’s especially at this time of year, with the snow and cold, that I think, “It’s time for a workshop — preferably somewhere sunny and tropical.”

    Congratulations Margaret with your first blog and Mary on your new book!

    Posted by Tanja Fazzari | January 21, 2016, 3:34 am
  17. What a great blog! Thank you Mary and Margaret So much good info! And oh my great auntie, did you ever hit the nail on the head by mentioning that some presenters, while great in their field, are not necessarily good teachers. The very first conference I ever attended was like that. A room full of local writers looking around at each other with sinking hearts and watching all their dollars go flying out the window and nothing gained to show for it. I wasn’t able to attend another until I went with Paulette to Mary’s workshop last year. What an incredible difference!! I learned so much! And thank you Mary, for being so generous with your time and knowledge. All the little questions I had about Break Into Fiction were settled. I’m so looking forward to attending more workshops this year. Love the advice on keeping yourself on track with writing. It’s so easy to let the little things be a distraction. Now I have to go and start my cookies in the oven while finishing that gay cowboy space opera scene…LOL. (I know you were joking- but I think I would actually read that)

    Posted by Cindy Stonebrook | January 21, 2016, 8:23 am
  18. How lovely to see you here Cindy and thank you for taking the huge step of trying a workshop again after getting bruised the first time. Even “bad” presentations/workshops can teach us something if we ask ourselves the right questions. Instead of ‘why did I do that’ or ‘what was I thinking’ maybe ‘what did I learn in this workshop that indicates what I need next’ or ‘how can I move forward when choosing my next investment in my writing career’. If you think about it that workshop that disappointed you is teaching you that one event will not make or break you as a writer. Same with one rejection. One disappointment. It’s in the act of trying again that starts setting writers apart from those who want to publish to those who will be published and keep going. So gold stars you on many levels. You got back up on the writing horse. You know about chocolate chip cookies as a tool 🙂 and who knows, your next why-not-try-it project might just be a gay cowboy space opera [can’t you see Jack from Will&Grace meets Serenity?] Love it!!

    Posted by Mary Buckham | January 21, 2016, 1:18 pm
    • LOL! Oh my gosh, that would be awesome! They’d have to pick up Karen in a pub somewhere along the way. Poor Mal…
      And thank you for your great advice! I never wanted to give up my goal of writing, but after that workshop I was at a bit of a loss. I was so blessed to have found the writers group I’m with now and all the wonderful people there. They’ve really encouraged me and found great resources for us to study and work on our craft. Might just write that opera yet…

      Posted by Cindy Stonebrook | January 21, 2016, 4:47 pm
  19. Thanks for an informative article! I rarely get to go to workshops because of all the weekend activities with my kiddos, but I appreciate the advice on how to get the most out of workshops I can attend. I fortunately was able to attend Mary’s workshop and came home wit so many insights and ideas. I was particularly blown away by the branding segment! I love having found a writer/teacher I can turn to for valuable advice.

    Posted by Catherine | January 22, 2016, 11:44 am
    • Thank you so much Catherine! I have such a good time sharing that branding information. It’s a delight to see the ah has as writers at all stages of their careers start to see the possibilities. Breaking a concept down into mini-segments makes it easier to tackle. Not easy 🙂 but easier. So glad you could come and we could spend a day together!

      Posted by Mary Buckham | January 22, 2016, 1:18 pm

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