Any of you trying to decide whether to take that cruise to the Bahamas or attend a writing workshop? Well, now you can do both! The Sail to Success writing workshop combines the awesome vacation experience of a Bahamas cruise with a professional level writing workshop.
I attended this year’s first-ever workshop, and it was well worth the cost, which was higher than some other venues, given that we combined a vacation with a small group workshop with top talent.
When I heard about the Sail to Success writing workshop, I had to go. Not only was the venue uniquely enticing (I’d never cruised before), but the line-up of faculty presenting to the small group was outstanding. Presenters included:
- The prolific and always helpful Kevin J Anderson and his wife, Rebecca Moesta,
- Legendary author Mike Resnick
- Top literary agent Eleanor Wood
- Novelist, instructor, and editor Nancy Kress
- Author and instructor Jack Skillingstead
- Author and teacher Paul Cook
- and Toni Weiskopf, head of Baen Books.
Wow. And the reality lived up to the expectation.
The workshop proved extremely productive, although being on a cruise ship proved to be a challenge as well as a great benefit. It was a little difficult to focus on class time while the ship was docked in Freeport or Nassau.
The class schedule was intensive: from 8 AM to noon, and from 6 PM to midnight most nights. We managed to slip ashore in the afternoons, but lacked the time for extensive excursions like scuba diving (we had to return to the ship by 4:30). Luckily, my wife came along since the purchase included cruise for two, and she vacationed for both of us while I sat in class.
I didn’t mind. The classes were excellent. Not only did we receive excellent instruction on craft from Nancy Kress, but we learned from these long-time, successful professionals about the nuts and bolts of the publishing business.
The highlights of the class were the critique sessions from Nancy Kress and Toni Weiskopf. Nancy reviewed samples of our writing from an editor’s perspective, and provided wonderful feedback. Toni reviewed other samples from her perspective as a purchasing editor. What a rare opportunity to sit with a publisher and see exactly how they look at your work. It proved enlightening, and a little scary.
Toni receives over a thousand manuscript submissions per month. When she considers those submissions, she’s not looking for reasons to like a manuscript. She’s looking for any excuse to stop reading, and to give that submission the dreaded ‘red mark of doom’. It might come in the first paragraph if she sees it’s not the type of story they’re looking for, or it might come on page two when she finds herself confused, or sees too many grammatical mistakes. If she can’t find a reason to throw the manuscript away quickly, then it just might be a work she’d consider reading further. Of the fifteen students in the class, only three of us earned that distinction, which was a rare moment of validation.
The only complaint about those critique sessions was the lack of time. Given the time constraints, feedback was limited to 7-10 minutes per manuscript. It just wasn’t enough time. However, in 2013 the program will be structured slightly different. Each student will select if they want a critique from Nancy or from Toni, not both, although all students will get to sit in on both critique sessions and hear the reviews of all of the submitted works. That should allow for more time per submitted work.
So overall, this workshop proved well worth the investment in time and money, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who’s a serious aspiring writer.