RWA Workshop Tips – OK so it’s a slight rant

At the RWA National Conference in Washington D.C. this past July, I bought, for the first time, the workshops on DVD.

Oh – aside: I also went all cash at the conference and let me tell you how freeing it was to NEVER use the credit card. I had to hand over the card at the hotel, but after they took the card (in case I turned out to be a room destroying deadbeat) I paid cash for the room. The first day. Never once did I have to worry about how it would feel when the bill came due as there was no bill.

So, yeah. Anyway, I plunked down my cash for the conference DVD — because the hotel was paid for, all the rest was food and gravy, right? My DVD came a couple weeks ago and I’ve been listening to the workshops. I’m perhaps a quarter of the way through and I now have some tips for people giving workshops of any kind.

  1. Do not simply read your workshop essay. It’s BORING no matter who you are. Listeners will mentally check out as you drone on (because an essay just isn’t as exciting as, say fiction) so what’s the point? They’re not listening. Also, writers, being excellent readers, will invariably read TOO FAST. Not even the people with their butts in the chair can follow you if you’re reading too fast. (And you are.)
  2. When you’re told you MUST repeat questions from the audience, that’s true. Because Here’s what it sounds like if you don’t:
    Speaker: And that sums up my list of sekrit tips for getting published. Any questions?
    Question Asker:



    Speaker: Oh, good question! I can’t believe I forgot to mention that. Yes.

  3. The more conversational you sound, the more interesting you sound.
  4. Do not approach a workshop as nothing more than an opportunity to pitch your books. Really. Don’t. Even if you’re not a self-centered b*tch, you’ll sound like one.
  5. If you’re on a panel and you’re sitting in front of a mike, be aware that all the little noises you make will be on the tape. Like, huh, tsk, yeah. It’s really really distracting.
  6. If there is dead air during your workshop, if you can, preface that with an explanation of why things are so silent. Or explain what’s happening.
  7. The workshops I’ve enjoyed most so far are the ones where the speaker(s) sound the most interested in genuinely communicating what they know or have learned. (See previous point about people who are just trying to sell their books…)

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6 Responses to “RWA Workshop Tips – OK so it’s a slight rant”

  1. meljean brook says:

    I haven't listened to these, but I just want to say, Hell Yes! about repeating questions from the audience — no matter where that person is standing or how loudly they ask it. Not just for the recording, but for the other people in the audience.

    It irritates me SO much when you feel like you have to yell "What was the question?" EVERY panel moderator should make a habit of automatically repeating the question before anyone answers it.

  2. Carolyn says:

    Oh, Meljean, you are so so right. Most of the moderators have been great so far, but I just finished listening to one where no one did that. Frustrating!

    The conference DVD is totally worth it so far. I have several that I intend to go back and listen to again. It cost $100 for the whole DVD, but I know individual sessions can be downloaded, so people on a budget can certainly pick and choose.

  3. RKCharron says:

    Hi 🙂
    Thank you for sharing.
    When I attend a convention (after I sell a novel – this gives me incentive/motivation) I'll go cash.
    Did you get the conference DVD because you missed some workshops? Or do they schedule some at the same time? I'm glad you said it was totally worth it to get it. Do you recommend conventioners get one?
    Love & Best Wishes,

  4. Carolyn says:

    Hi RK:

    First, there is a LOT to be said for attending RWA BEFORE you're published. For some, it's just too expensive.

    There are several tracks of workshops so at any given time there are several workshops going on. It's impossible to attend them all. Buying the DVD makes it possible to listen to them all.

    This is my first year buying the conference DVD and I have to say I'm quite glad I did. Whether others should do so depends on budget and how likely they are to actually listen to them.

    My RWA experience these days tends to be less workshop attendance and more meetings (agent, editors, other writers, etc) and networking (hanging out in the lounges and bars) though I did attend a few workshops this year.

  5. Sandra Schwab says:

    Temptation, thy name is Carolyn. 🙂

    Now that I've finished the dratted diss, I could buy the DVD and listen to all the lovely workshops I missed by not coming to RWA National this year. I really could.

  6. Carolyn says:

    Sandy, I have to say, if you can afford it, do it. If money's an issue, eventually I'll be blogging about my favs and that might give you an idea about which one's you might consider purchasing singly.