Writing Seminars in Austin Next Week

Aaron Allston and Michael Stackpole

Monday and Tuesday (July 26-27) Aaron Allston and I will be at Dragon’s Lair Comics and Fantasy in Austin, TX to hold two days of writing seminars. Dragon’s Lair has posted the full schedule of events for your edification. We’re putting on ten hours of seminars, including my 21 Days to a Novel and Aaron’s brilliant Plot Analysis seminars. A cursory glance at the schedule makes very apparent the fact that these seminars will cover everything you want to know about writing. You’ll develop and strengthen your skills set, as well as learn about the business.

Aaron and I have taught seminars together in the past, most notably at DragonCon and Origins. We’ll do so again at DragonCon this year, expanding the above program to include four more hours of new content not available in last year’s seminar sessions. When I sit in on Aaron’s seminars, I am very impressed by not only the depth and wisdom of his analysis, but the very effective methods he’s developed for teaching others.

This has always been my problem with writing seminars in the past: Great writers aren’t always great teachers. It doesn’t matter how good a writer is if he can’t communicate to others what he actually does. There are a number of reasons for this lack. First off, it could be that the writer isn’t analytical enough about his own process to actually know what it is he does. You’d be surprised how many authors fly on auto-pilot and never identify the tricks of the trade that make them so effective. Aaron and I have done that, and are willing to provide our students with that information.

Second, some writers know what they do, but don’t want to share for fear of training up the competition. Speaking for myself on that point, I’m not worried about competition. First off, if any student gets better than I am, it’s because I’ve gotten lazy. In that case, I deserve to be shoved out of the market. Second off, I’m not training competition for me, I’m training the writers who will end the careers of lazy writers who are taking up my shelf-space in stores. Third, and perhaps most important in the shifting world of publishing today, there is going to be less and less competition for shelf-space, since virtual shelves accommodate everyone. So, in offering these seminars, Aaron and I get to train up a generation of writers who will turn out the sorts of stories that we like to read.

Third, teaching requires an entirely different skills-set than writing. In college I was trained to be a teacher. I’ve been teaching writing seminars since the early 1990s at Gencon. I’ve expanded to other conventions and other venues, including university conferences. Part of being a teacher is understanding that different students learn in different ways. Great teachers shape their lessons and hone their approaches to provide multiple vectors on making a point clear. In short, they figure out the ways to get the message across to you, so that you can make the most of it.

Some folks will think that $10 an hour for writing seminars is kind of pricy, especially in this economic climate. If you’re committed to becoming the best writer you can be, that’s a tiny investment in your career. The first story you sell to a professional market after these seminars would more than pay for the entire course. When else are you going have a chance to learn the craft of writing from a pair of New York Times Bestselling authors at such sensible prices? (And I would note that lots of people have paid a lot more for some of these very seminars in different venues.)

I’m looking forward to meeting folks at Dragon’s Lair. There’s an incomparable joy in seeing eyes brighten and smiles grow as someone hears a solution to a problem that’s been vexing them for a long time. I really love helping others achieve the dream that I’ve been lucky enough to have come true. Hopefully you’ll be one of them.

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6 Responses to “Writing Seminars in Austin Next Week”

  1. This seminar sounds phenomenal, Mike. What are the chances of you and Aaron doing one in Arizona?

  2. Wish I could be there, Mike.

    If anyone reading your site is on the fence about whether or not it’s worth the time and money, I can tell them without hesitation – IT IS!

    Mike and Aaron are not just great writers, they both do an excellent job sharing how they do what they do. I had the privilege of learning from both of them at Origins this year, and from Mike at both Origins and Gen Con last year. I don’t regret a single penny I spent on the seminars or the CDs I purchased.

    I’ve definitely seen my writing, and the way I approach it, improve dramatically as a result of time spent learning from Mike and Aaron.

    If you are in Austin (or can make it there) next week, do it. You won’t be disappointed.

  3. To echo what Mike Salsbury said, I caught last year’s seminar at DragonCon. If you’re torn between attending another program or seminar and this one–make it this one. You’ll walk away with tools you can use–immediately–to strengthen your story and improve your writing. It’s time and money well spent.

  4. The more I teach, the more I learn that gatherings of teachers will always involve complaining about our students….but that’s because we care about them, and we treasure those moments when we know we’ve connected. Hooray for sharing knowledge!

  5. Michael
    I know it’s a long way off but is there any chance you’ll be running any seminars in November 2011? Is there anything that regularly happens around that time? The reason being that I live a long way away (Australia) but plan on being in the US around that time and would love to take a class. I’ll be between LA and Orlando so anywhere in between is feasible.

    Ian Martin

  6. Hi Mike — I really enjoyed this writing seminar! Had never heard of either of you, but now of course will have to go buy a couple of your books ;+)