Monday, March 10, 2008

Roads To Writing With Orson Scott Card

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to do a presentation along with Orson Scott Card (who organized this day-long workshop), Jake Black, and Mette Ivie Harrison. After an introductory panel discussion about how all four of us got started in the business, Scott did his 1,000 Ideas workshop, followed by his structure and viewpoint lecture, all of which he also does as part of the two-day workshop he does before his now famous Literary Boot Camp. Given that the two-day version costs $175 and this one only cost $25, I'd say the 75 or 80 people who came got quite a bargain.

After the lunch break, Mette Ivie Harrison (author of the novel Mira, Mirror, which I am in the middle of and greatly enjoying), did a brave presentation on revision. I say brave because she showed the entire crowd 'before' and 'after' samples from several of her novels. I don't know that I would have the courage to show people 'before' samples of my work, but Mette did, and then explained why she made the changes she did.

Jake was up next, and his presentation was about how to network, as well as the importance of doing so. It was a great presentation--he had everyone laughing and talking the entire hour--and it was also an important one. So many writers are solitary by nature, and that's fine, but you can make it in the business without acknowledging the importance of networking and getting at least passably good at it.

Last up was your truly. My presentation was about the Business of Publishing: where to find markets, what to look for in those markets; the differences between publishing short and long fiction, online vs. print; etc. etc. I also talked about what to look for in an agent and how to spots scams (which there is no shortage of). I had done a similar presentation at UNC in Greensboro about a week before, but it was a two-hour presentation. Then a few days later I taught a five-hour workshop on the same subject and threw in additional material about writing non-fiction books and magazine articles and such. So I cut a lot of material out for my SVU talk for fear of going over -- and ended up running out of new material well before my hour was up. Fortunately the crowd had a lot of questions, and when things seemed like they were slowing down, Scott threw out some new questions that re-ignited the discussion. All in all it went well, and frankly I'm happier having a dialogue with an audience rather than feeling like I'm just lecturing them.

Then we wrapped the workshop up the way we opened it, with all four of us on stage doing a final Q&A wrap-up. Of course the bulk of the questions were aimed at Scott, but he managed to work the rest of us into the conversation very naturally. Despite the opinion that some folks may have formed from his religious and political views, he really is a generous soul.

And to wrap up our night, he took all of the presenters, as well as the professor from the English department who helped organize the workshop, to a fantastic restaurant in downtown Roanoke VA. It was called Metro, and we all ate and ate and talked and ate some more. We were probably in that restaurant for two and half hours, and the time flew. All in all, a very good day.