Sunday, August 7, 2011

PNWA Conference

Yesterday I taught a three-hour workshop at the annual Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference, held at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue. The organizers had told me to bring about 70 hand-outs. However, on Saturday afternoon there turned out to be only two tracks of programming, so I got over 300 people. During the three hours, people came and went as each kept appointments to pitch their work to the agents and editors present -- a prime attraction at this sort of conference. Hotel workers had to open up partitions between two rooms to accommodate everyone at the workshop.

It went well, even though this kind of thing is exhausting for everybody. I talk for about two hours out of the three. The attendees are expected to write, in stages, an entire scene during the course of the workshop. We cover dialogue, description, point of view, characters' thoughts, the shape of a scene, different kinds of scenes, using exposition, ordering scenes -- a lot. At the end they are dazed with information overload, and I am hoarse. I like it.

I also taught a smaller, shorter workshop on Friday, on writing SF. Friday was enlivened by a different sort of communication as well: my very first ever obscene fan mail. And no, whoever you are, I do not want to work in a futuristic brothel. I'll stick to writing and teaching.


Folly Blaine said...

Thank you for teaching at PNWA. I really enjoyed the workshop and our discussion about frugal weddings beforehand. Your book, "Beginnings, Middles, and Ends," remains my favorite. - Christy Johnson

stephen matlock said...


I was writing furiously and thinking and revising my manuscript (in my head, of course; I was paying attention to you the entire time).

Sometimes it seems like common sense: you just write so that others understand you and are emotionally drawn into the story. How hard is that? It's what gossip and phone calls are all about; it's what makes blogging so successful and fun.

But there's that damned craft that's required, and that is nearly unteachable. It takes writing and revising and deleting and crying and banging the keyboard and swearing. It takes listening to well-meaning people who miss the entire point of your scene - surely they are just stupid - until you see that your scene is mostly just telling people what they should feel & maybe you should return to your day job counting passengers in the carpool lane. It takes writing a query letter and realizing your novel really isn't that good at all, and that your pitch is only what you wish your novel could be, and that it is in reality many, many words of little, little interest.

I wished your seminar was ten hours longer, and yet I was impatient and waiting for it to end so I could return to my keyboard. You provoked me to want to be a writer.

So thank you for that.

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Carl Lee said...

Nancy, thank you so very much for sacrificing your voice for our benefit. Your 3 hour session was amazing. I have your Beginnings, Middles, and Ends. I cannot wait to get your book on Viewpoint.

Bill Weinberger said...

Thanks for your patient instruction at PNWA. I learned a lot about scene construction, pacing, dialog, description... everything--even your take on outlining headlight-style. This is all stuff that I can use immediately in my draft and again when I get to revision. Fantastic.