Cascade Writers July Workshop Recap

I’ve been horribly slow about posting my recap on the Cascade Writers July workshop back on July 23-26. It was a wonderful experience for my first workshop, and registration is already open for next year.

There were three highlights for me from this workshop: Networking, Critiques, and Panels.

Networking: I’m pretty bad at networking. Introvert, exudes frigid vibes, and good at being nonobservant when I don’t think I need to be, are all descriptors that can fit me. For that last one, an example would be the weekend my husband proposed—on at least two occasions leading up to him popping the question, both my mother and his mother made statements that would’ve ruined the surprise if I’d been paying attention. I believe one of the phrases uttered was, “so, was it a big ‘yes?’” when I walked in the door at my future in-laws’ house. Apparently they hadn’t gotten the memo that my future husband’s plan had changed. To which I replied something like, “no, we didn’t end up going horseback riding.” True story.

Back to the workshop. One of the great things about this particular workshop is that registration was capped at around 35-40 attendees, not counting the speakers, staff, etc. This made it a lot easier and less overwhelming to meet just about everyone. Making friends happened a bit more seamlessly, and remembering/recognizing people was made easier since often we were attending the same panels. Plus, all of the panels were hosted in the hotel. Extra thanks to people who wore the same jacket or other noticeable piece of clothing/accessory each day–it made it easier to remember names without resorting to the awkward and obvious look-at-your-name tag-trying-not-to-be-obvious. I made connections with emerging and established writers, chatted with several industry pros, and made new friends, all without encountering one bit of nastiness, snobbery, or diva-ness.

Critiques: for this workshop most of the critique groups were I think between 6 and 8 attendees with submissions capped at 3,750 words, led by an established writer. My group was fearlessly led by Everett Maroon, and was a wonderful experience. Critiques were two-hour sessions, two on the Friday of the workshop and a final one on Saturday morning. I’ve participated in critiques through online classes and with a private online critique group, but this was my first experience with the Milford style. Giving an oral recap of my thoughts within 4 minutes per submission was daunting, but we all got through unscathed (I think). My submission was up for critique first, and I received some great feedback and discovered a few patterns and impressions that were unintentional on my part. Looking forward to getting it revised so I can send it out to markets.

My only criticism of the way the critiques were run is that three of the groups all met within the same room, while two others got smaller, separate rooms. The room we were in was large enough that we weren’t cramped together, but it could be hard to hear a critique if one of the other groups had a loud moment (we were guilty of loud laughter a time or two). However, I’m not sure the workshop will be held in this same hotel (Ramada Inn in Kent) again, so that comment may be moot.

Panels: the panels were great, and usually only two ran at once so it was easy to meet everyone and not feel like you were missing out on a bunch of other stuff you wanted to see/hear because of time conflicts. They also were scheduled so as not to conflict with the critique groups or meal times (a luxurious two hours allotted for meals most days). There was great variety in the panels, ranging from worldbuilding/setting type panels (Maps and Geography) to character development, managing the publishing side (queries with literary agent Jennifer Azantian, pitches, contracts, and how to manage social media), and a panel each for long form and short form works. With the workshop being on the smaller side, it was great for the panels. They had a more relaxed, informal vibe that is harder/impossible to have when you’re speaking to a room of a hundred or more instead of maybe fifteen or twenty people. We had the opportunity to ask questions and chat with the speakers without feeling rushed or running out of time (ever been to a panel where twenty people line up to ask questions when there’s only ten minutes left?).

A wonderful workshop experience, and I hope I can attend next year. I’ll be interested to see the similarities and differences when I attend the writers’ workshop portion of Sasquan later this month.

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