Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The 2011 Muse Online Writers Conference--personal highlights

Every year since this conference began I start it out in pretty much the same way. I look over the advance material on workshops and chats and try and figure out what appeals to me--and then end up doing something completely different.

To be honest, I'm never quite sure why I'm attending the conference when I start out. Not that I think it will be a waste of time, just that I don't really have an objective. This year was no exception. I took the time off and thought well, if it lags a bit, I can at least finally clean my house.

But no. I got completely immersed, as I always do if I actually have the time to give myself over to it. When I wasn't in the chat rooms attending presentations about everything under the writing sun, I was trying to complete various assignments.

Here are some personal highlights:

Margot Finke offered her workshop on hooking an editor from the first page. I sent something in, and got a good tip and some additional things to consider, but in some ways the best part of this workshop is to read the way Margot edits other people's work. You're a little more detached and a lot less defensive and you can see what she's saying. A truly tireless Australian. Thanks, mate!

Janie Franz's freelancing workshop was basically a complete course packed into a few days. I think I only managed to complete about half of it during the actual time, but the handouts are thorough and will be an excellent reference. I'm torn about freelance writing as a bigger commitment, but I know if I actually snag something, I'll give it my all. Great course, Janie.

Pepper Smith took on what is usually a team effort in offering a suspense workshop. She was great on analysing what is and isn't suspense. I think one of the most successful of us who gave this a stab actually wrote a humorous piece about a pet awaiting dinner. It's not about the actual peril, it's about the state of anxiety induced in the protagonist. Thank you, Pepper, for guiding us through all this. I've got a suspense piece to work on as a result.

Perhaps the most surprising development for me was when I joined D. S. Kane's chat and subsequently his workshop called True Lies: Writing Covert Training and Missions into Fiction. I didn't realize until I took his workshop that I've actually been increasingly drawn to reading and perhaps writing about the realm of spycraft in our modern world. Excellent resource and gracious teacher--thanks, D.S. Kane!

Karina Fabian lead a host of excellent chats, and though I did not attend her workshops this year, I was constantly impressed about how effectively she presented her information in her chats, including an impromptu chat about clutter and the writer--by popular demand.

Funnest chat? That presented by the awesome A.R. Braun, up and coming horror writer. I don't typically write horror, but I loved the way he threw us all into writing a horror story together--which actually had a nice twisty ending. I have to admit that I was laughing more than cringing at the unfolding, but that's probably just my very macho mentality (I lie.) Checked out his workshop afterwards and I'm sorry that he did not get more horror writers to follow through, as he had some very sound principles for people who are interested in this genre.

You can't mention the Muse without mentioning host Lea Schizas in the same breath. This is her baby. She's a Canadian dynamo, who manages to be anywhere and everywhere in the conference, sort of like God. She's got a publishing venture up herself now: MuseItUp publishing and MuseItHot Publishing. Having written a story for an anthology for Lea, I know that she's a terrific content editor and a real go-getter on behalf of her writers.

This is only one small corner of the conference. Registration will be open for next year shortly. I'll post a link here when you can sign up. There will be other courses and workshops through the year which you will then be on the A list for. It's free. What's to lose?  

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