The Cascade Writers Conference was fantastic! It’s taken me a few days to recover and gather my thoughts—something I’m noticing around the web as a commonality between other attendees of this adventure—but now I’m excited to share how much fun I had!
I found the Cascade Writers workshop by random googling of “fantasy writing conference + summer,” and I can’t be happier at the twist of fate that landed me in Vancouver, Washington this last weekend. I don’t know if I would have had the same experience at any other workshop, but I’m so grateful that this was my first. I met oodles of fantastic people, beautiful minds, and lovely souls, and I came home like a kid bemoaning the end of summer camp!
Critique workshopping was the main focus of the Cascade Conference. Each attendee submitted a 3,750 word story or chapter about six weeks in advance, and was assigned to a group of six to eight people under the guidance of a skilled group leader. We were expected to critique the piece before the conference, where we used the Milford style to share our thoughts. Initially, the task seemed daunting—peers and a leader critiquing our words, and then being expected to professionally, kindly, and thoughtfully do the same for those around us. But the groups were generally warm and friendly, and in my group in particular, quite fun! Ken Scholes, a speculative fiction author, led our group, and we all left feeling as though we’d gained an incredible mentor and friend. After the critiquing, each member had a one-on-one session with mentors to discuss anything about the craft. I’m not sure if this personalized guidance component happens at other conferences, but it certainly helped me!
The event also boasted workshops and seminars on all sorts of pieces to the craft: a playful segment on “Revision and Editing” with Jay Lake, a tremendously helpful piece to “Outline Your Story in 90 Minutes” by Mark Teppo, a creative journey to find “Stories on the Fly” by Ken Scholes, and an informative “Query Letter Workshop” with Michael Carr (the agent with whom I had the opportunity to informally practice chatting about my book). Several other segments filled the time, but these were my favorites for their usefulness and approaches to the topic at hand.
The instructional component through seminars and critique workshops was grand, but one aspect of the conference remained the best experience of them all: that of talking and getting to know other authors. The world is a competitive place, but the writing world is not. There’s no reason for it! Each of us brings something unique to the table, and writers stand out as a tribe of people opening their arms and sharing their craft with one another. I learned so much this weekend, but my favorite part was the chance to get to know these people on a personal level and just hang out. I came home with over two dozen new contacts and friends that I’m delighted to have in my circle. In some cases the connection focused on the craft itself, and in others, it was just about making amazing friends—going to lunch with fifteen-people groups, sharing flash fiction in a hotel room with three great gals in my group, or even closing down the nearby bar talking “life” with the brilliant and fun minds of Patrick Swenson (author, publisher, and editor of speculative fiction) and Mark Teppo (speculative fiction author and conference speaker). I hardly slept, I ate and drank a tad too much, and I came home still feeling warm and fuzzy at the warm mental hugs we all shared.
All in all, would I do it again? Yes. Absolutely.
Can any conference compare to the awesomeness of the Cascade Writers Workshop? I’ve no idea, but I’m looking forward to trying more.
And what were the best things I learned? Write, write, write, and write more, and of course, make lots of new friends. 🙂
A big thank you to Karen Junker, who did a spectacular job of organizing the event. (And also a thank you to the very nice bar server who let us stay well-past closing. 😉 )
Keep writing, everyone!
August 1st, 2012 at 5:25 pm
Sounds like you had an awesome time! Yay!
I’m happy that you enjoyed the experience so much. I had a similar experience at the Backspace Writers Conference in NYC back in May. Like you, I want to try more conferences and see if the experience is anywhere near as energizing and motivating. Plus, making new friends is always a plus. 🙂
August 4th, 2012 at 10:59 am
I’m glad your experience was similar! It was definitely a blast and I am crossing our fingers that we both have a great next experience. I’m actually pondering a retreat for my next writing adventure. Have you been to one?
August 2nd, 2012 at 1:24 pm
Wonderful post! Colorado Springs hosts the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in April of each year, and this year they had quite a turnout for science fiction. You might try it next year.
August 4th, 2012 at 11:00 am
Thanks, Marylin! I haven’t heard of the Pikes Conference but I will look into it. Sounds fun! Thanks for visiting and commenting.
August 4th, 2012 at 2:31 pm
Three years ago, Writer’s Digest listed it as one of the top ten conferences. It’s Friday-Sunday in April each year, with approx. 30–375 participants, and has authors, agents, editors and publishers who offer workshops, panels, and also sit at the round tables with participants at all the meals. There are over 60 workshop choices. It’s a great place to bring mss. and show to agents and editors.
August 5th, 2012 at 4:15 pm
Sounds great! I will definitely keep it in mind for my next event. Thanks for the information on it! 🙂
August 3rd, 2012 at 3:27 pm
Sounds like the conference was great!
August 4th, 2012 at 11:00 am
It was! I couldn’t be happier. 🙂
August 5th, 2012 at 12:06 pm
That sounds wonderful! I think writing can be such a solitary thing that it’s really great when you get the opportunity to connect with other authors face to face. Like you say writing isn’t about being competitive and everyone can bring something new to the conversation. I will have to find out if there are any similar conferences here in the UK.
August 5th, 2012 at 4:17 pm
It is definitely a great sharing and learning experience. I originally started hunting conferences in the back of a book on agents and conferences, but then found more success just googling — I hope you are able to find one over there! Thanks so much for commenting, Elaine!