I've spent a good many years writing and whether taking a class in college or participating in a critique group, the talk is nearly always about the craft of writing. How do you write a good piece of prose?
SWS doesn't pay attention to any of that. SWS assumes that you can write and that you're ready to get into the nitty-gritty of the business end of publishing. Sure, there is time spent discussing the ever problematic "getting butt in chair" disease many writers suffer from, and there's time spent discussing how to properly manage writing time vs. family time, but the real meat of the seminar is the business.
The most memorable topics of the seminar, for me, were:
- Listening to Eric Flint break down where all the money goes when a writer only gets X% of the cover price in royalties
- Getting to view an actual book contract as Eric went through it clause by clause
- Being able to ask Brandon Sanderson directly about things I didn't understand in his film contract
- Hearing David Farland totally break down how to work film rights when dealing with Hollywood
- Listening to Tracy Hickman's moving story about why we write (and his story can be listened to for free at the SWS site)
These are the things they don't teach you in college and that you'll likely only learn from someone who has been there before. In the case of SWS, there are five instructors, plus bonus guest instructors, who have been there before and can share their experiences.
I found all the instructors to be approachable. They are there to teach and often join the SWS attendees at mealtimes and sometimes even evenings out. It's hard to bend an author's ear when they don't know you, but they will listen here, and arguably the best part of the seminar isn't sitting at a table taking notes but talking directly to them. Once you make that connection, you stop being a face in the crowd.
I feel a lot wiser having attended, and at least for me, it was a chance to see Kevin, Rebecca, Eric, and David again. All are Writers of the Future judges and I originally met them back in August when I was still awestruck that I was even participating in an esteemed workshop. (Kevin J. Anderson's first impression of me was nervously giggling throughout a barbecue.)
Multiple writers have told me that conventions are their social functions. It's where they see each other, because most of the time they live scattered across the country each working on their own novels. After having meet the WotF judges again, I can see that. It's times like this that we meet, relationships are made or renewed, and I now look forward to a time when I'll see them again.