IFWA Workshop

Every year, my main writers’ group, IFWA (Imaginative Fiction Writer’s Association) runs a Clarion-style writing workshop for two days in conjunction with the local convention, often sharing a guest author with the con. In the past, we have had Edo Von Belkom, Mike Resnick, Joe Haldeman, Patrick and Honna Swensen, Rob Sawyer, James Allan Gardener, Dave Wolverton and Rebecca Bradley. Having the chance to work for two days in a small group (maximum twelve participants) with such stellar authors had been invaluable–not to mention the information about the business of writing that we have been able to pick up over lunch.

This year, our guest was Randy Schroeder who writes under a number of pen names (I have a collection of short stories, “Crooked Timber,” under the name, A. M. Arruin) as well as teaching Science Fiction at Mount Royal College. The two days were awesome. Each participant had a short story or novel submission (3 chapters and an outline) critiqued by the group. Randy grouped our stories to illustrate writing points and followed each story up with an exercise to practice the points covered. It was great. I got a real “aha” moment for my specific story, as well as picking up a number of points that I will want to mull over as I consider my writing.

We spent some time contrasting the processes of right and left brain writing, affirming the need for both and looking at ways of developing both craft and “godfire.” Of course, each writer has to develop her own self-awareness of what types of craft she needs to work on, and that self-understanding needs to change as her writing improves. One note I wrote from this workshop was, “once you reach a certain level of craft, the challenge you have to overcome is your own patterns and internal barriers.” To me, that said a lot. Craft can be developed systematically, and I feel my craft level has developed well. But godfire? How do you stimulate that? More difficult, but one way that Randy suggested (and on reflection I realized it is something I have found successful in the past–though I was never conscious of using it) is to set barriers for yourself. One he gave us, was “brainstorm how you might write a time travel story in which no one actually travels through time.” You get the idea.

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