Well, someone’s got to do it and it might as well be me. I suspect that’s the line that’s gone through the minds of so many entrepreneurs and artists. Sometimes the best way to get an idea started is to try it – and then find out how it should be done better. Do that enough times and eventually I’ve found that either I get much better at it, or someone else decides to step in and show how they think it should be done. Talk prompts talk. Action prompts action. So, instead of just talking, I decided to act. Actually, several of us decided to act; which is resulting in a workshop for writers on Whidbey. At the same time, similar inspirations are happening with coworks and a few other items. Now we get to see who helps and who is helped.
Four years ago, Molly Cook, Wynn Allen, and I held a weekend workshop for modern self-publishing. Two days of talks, discussions, and strategizing with about a dozen writers. Some where beginners. Others had completed manuscripts and dismal experiences with publishers. It was fun; and evidently, useful.
I haven’t checked lately but as I recall, in 2000 there were about 35,000 self-published titles through print-on-demand presses; and about 250,000 traditionally published titles. About 15 years later, the number of traditionally published titles was about the same, but over 500,000 titles were self-published through print-on-demand and e-books. Publishing changed.
My first book, Just Keep Pedaling, was published on a print-on-demand (POD) press in 2002. Evidently, I was early in the industry. That book continues to be one of my two best-sellers. Must be something about bicycling across America that folks find interesting. Maybe it’s the chihuahua story. Nah. Probably the bit where I was chased by a house, yes, a house, not a horse.
For a variety of reasons, we didn’t repeat the event. We tried, but instructors moving off the island is a detriment.
About the same time, and with a much longer lineage, there was a famous writers conference on the island: the Whidbey Island Writers Conference. Catchy and clear title, eh? I enjoyed it, and always wanted to rename it to the Whidbey Island Publishers Conference because the focus was on traditional publishing. Agents and editors ruled the stage. It was popular because it provided useful information, great contacts, and fun networking. Alas, that went away with the closure of the local writers association. It was far grander than our event and attracted people from around the country with a few extras who dropped across the border. Glad there wasn’t a border wall to keep them out.
Advocates and entrepreneurs watch and listen for opportunities for supply and demand. With the closure of writers association, many people stepped up and took over various projects and tasks. If you want to see how active a group of enthusiasts can be, check out meetup.com and search of writing events on Whidbey. Pattie Beaven (aka @Earth_Fit), moved to the island for the writing community, witnessed the collapse of the organization, and introduced the writers to a new way to gather. No official organization required. Very cool. Almost all of the functions handled by the previous organization were picked up and championed by individuals. Come to the island now and find plenty of social, supportive, and collaborative endeavors. Of course, considering Whidbey, walk into almost any coffeeshop or library and see a few folks working on manuscripts or screenplays regardless of a group. It’s a very creative place.
It is understandable that no one picked up the task of creating a writers conference. That takes a lot of money, dozens of volunteers, and a major commitment of time and energy. I didn’t want to see any longer gap than necessary, though; so, welcome to the Whidbey Writers Workshop, that just happens to have the initials WWW. That shouldn’t confuse anyone. (Sarcasm) The workshop is based on a simple concept: Whidbey has an impressive community of writers, and some of have something to share and know how to share it.
Four of us can fill a day of presentations that reach from getting started with your writing through publishing your work.
Local writers spread the effort of teaching. Local writers hopefully benefit from the effort. The teachers learn from the other teachers. The students learn from the other students. And, we all get to demonstrate that Whidbey has an active enough writing community that what was could be again – regardless of official designations and incorporated organizations.
If nothing else, launching the idea will inspire others to suggest, and maybe act upon, possible improvements. There have already been (humorous) suggestions about fixing the start time. Evidently, 8:30 is too early for some writers. Some writers understand caffeine. Others don’t. Of course, Hemingway understood alcohol, but we can’t have that. Hunter Thompson understood the rest, but we don’t want any arrests.
While the workshop is being developed, other initiatives are inspiring other folks. Now that the South Whidbey Commons has opened their coworks, hours of conversations have been started about variations on the theme. After all the initial talk, one organization acts, and the others realize the opportunity and offer variations on the theme. The nice part about the South Whidbey community is that they are sharing the conversations to turn potential competitions into collaborations. If everyone has something else to offer. Great! Find ways that let everyone, including the coworkers who are customers, to benefit.
Hosting an event like the Whidbey Writers Workshop is something I decide to do because I think it is useful. I arrange it as a for-profit venture because my finances encourage me to respect and value my and others time and experience. The passion for ideas and people comes first, then I find a way to make it sustainable. Maybe we’ll attract a crowd, in which case it will be good that I’ve arranged for a second facility.
And, when I inevitably hear about ways to “do it right” or “make it better” or “get out of the way”, I won’t be surprised and will probably be pleased; especially, if the conversation is about collaboration rather than competition.
Stay tuned. Show up. I know I’m looking forward to it.
A Whidbey Writers Workshop
Saturday, November 5th, 8:30-4:30
South Whidbey Commons
There’s always something to learn. It’s good to practice old skills and learn new ones.
Whidbey has an impressive community of writers.
A few of us decided to put together a Whidbey Writers Workshop for Whidbey writers by Whidbey writers.
This will be a simple forum for a few classes ranging from basic writing skills up through making your work public.
Just Write: Jumping Into The Flow – by Jo Meador
Revising Your Own Work – by Deborah Nedelman
Writing for the Internet – Sean Keeley
Modern Self-Publishing – Tom Trimbath
Price: $160 for the entire day or $50 per session
Update: $120 for the entire day if registered by the end of September.