Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Level of Lessons Learned

By S. L. Ellis

As I began the registration for ThrillerFest X, I wondered if I really needed to attend another conference or workshop. As it stands, it would take both hands and the removal of a stiletto to count the number I've attended over the past ten years. Wouldn't my time be better spent writing?

For me, workshops and conferences are rated on effectiveness. If a lesson was learned while attending, I considered them effective. That said, based on this experience, these events can be assigned to one of three levels which are described below.

The Basement
This writer's workshop or conference relies on a key framework: if you can fake it, you can make it. Here, the writer's ego is given free rein and the sessions evolve into taking turns reading your work aloud. This is followed by a round of instructor's praise. As attendee slash audience, you'll realize the cost of shoddy editing, clearly understand the meaning of purple prose, and learn a new definition of kill your darlings. When it's your turn to read, you'll falter, and then create an exculpation so fully developed it has sub plots based on Greek mythology.

The Attic
A workshop of great substance; likely to have a profound effect on survival, or well-being. These are usually held in a cozy and tranquil gather-around-the-fireplace environment. You'll work on plotting—a skill you'll need in order to crawl into the cubbyhole considered your private writing space and bedroom. You'll learn to edit when you discover you're required to take your turn in kitchen chores. Even feeding the table scraps to the goat tethered next to the backdoor won't deter you from admiring the prize winning and erudite workshop leader. You'll be given story prompts daily in unique methods such as discovering surprises left in your bedding by an untrained puppy. Your imagination will grow with every instance of scurrying and scratching noise coming nightly from the corners of your assigned cubbyhole.

The Main Story
This workshop and conference is information based through sharing, discussing, and revising. All elements of writing are studied and practiced. The attendees are coached and mentored with the intention of elevating skill levels. Conference panel sessions are intended to be useful and cover career-related topics. Egos are not obviously displayed or allowed to overtake a session. The environment is one of fun and enthusiasm. There are no goats or untrained puppies in this level.

By attending conferences and workshops at all levels, I've had the privilege of meeting some wonderfully talented and giving authors. Although they didn't know me from a Bronte, these authors taught me things about writing I couldn't have learned in any other way.

Through author-led workshops, through casual conversation during a break between conference sessions, and through the guidance of fellow attendees, I've learned to grow a thick-skin, value a critique over a compliment, pitch my work with a modicum of confidence, conquer the fear of ridicule or rejection, and believe in myself and my writing. Most importantly, I've learned if you're receptive, there is always another lesson to learn.

I'm looking forward to meeting another group of authors in July of next year.

Wait. Does anyone know the Grand Hyatt's pet policy?

Cassie Cruise wants her life back as a kick-ass P.I. Trouble is, she has zero credibility since bungling a case on reality TV. After a public tantrum, she slinks off to bury her head in the sandy beaches of Southwest Florida. Just as she starts over as the owner of The Big Prick Tattoo Shop, a body is discovered in the trunk of her burning car. Cassie's aware there are those who'd get in line for their turn to torch her car. But murder?
You don't have to like her, but you damn well better respect her. And get out of her way—this is one case she intends to solve, with or without an audience.

S.L. Ellis came from a small town in Michigan. After a few decades of winter, Ellis was ready for a fresh start. A move to Florida and a few days on the beach improved her disposition a hundred-fold, and it was here that writing became more than a thought. Classes were taken, workshops worked, and a few books written. Ellis’s short story "A Brush With Death" was published in Vol. 12 DARK TALES, a UK magazine and reviewed by: Vince A. Liaguno, DARK SCRIBE MAGAZINE Anthology Reviews: “A Brush with Death is a solid, at times poignant, chiller in which a dying woman—who knows death well after a lifetime of obsession—makes a deal with the Grim Reaper. Ellis’s keen observations on aging and death are spot-on.” Also, her short story "If the Shoe Fits" was accepted for publication in HARDLUCK STORIES for its final issue. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and ITW. LANE CHANGES, a P.I. Cassie Cruise Novel, is Ellis’s debut novel. It's release date is December 20, 2014.


Jenny Milchman said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on cons, and congrats on the release of Lane Changes!

Unknown said...

Thanks Jenny. I'm always willing to share my thoughts :)