This, for me, was a transformative experience. A two-week workshop, the Taos Toolbox is demanding in terms of time, work, and cost. That said, it was worth every minute and every last penny. The instruction I received was as high-level as any during my graduate studies, and it has had the largest impact of any investment I’ve made toward improving as a writer. The focus is on novel-writing (in speculative fiction) though, short story writers do also attend. My only caveat – this is a working workshop in every sense. Attendees should be prepared to write, critique, and to show up on time for lectures. While it takes place in a beautiful area and there are activities to enjoy, this workshop should be treated as seriously as any college graduate course, not as a relaxing getaway. (This is a serious undertaking. Lazing through the workshop like it’s some kind of endless writer’s spa is a poor use of your time and bad for your budding reputation.)
The very lackluster website aside, Worldcon is a great place to connect with other writers, meet favorite authors, and have the geekiest possible weekend ever. While Worldcon is, essentially, the home of the Hugo Awards, it’s mostly a big, big, big convention for fans of all manner of fantasy and science fiction. There’s panels, there’s costume contests, there’s independent film showings, there’s a dealers’ room where you can spend your way into the poorhouse. For writers, there’s also a pretty spectacular critiquing workshop where you can get feedback from fellow writers and from industry professionals. It’s huge, overwhelming, and spectacular and it takes place all over the world (hence the name). I attended in Spokane in 2015 and found it an excellent place to network and to reconnect with writer friends.
This west-coast speculative fiction literary convention was one of my favorites. I enjoyed participating in a writers’ critique session and was lucky enough to moderate a panel while I was there. The low-key atmosphere makes it a great, great workshop for networking and it is held alternately in Seattle and San Jose (and, sometimes, Portland). Potlatch is one that I look forward to attending again.
Writing the Rockies
This weekend-plus workshop takes place in gorgeous Gunnison, Colorado. Writing the Rockies is carried out in connection with Western State’s creative writing MFA program. You don’t have to be enrolled to attend, though, and it’s a nice way to get back in touch with your academic side (or to discover one). If you’re curious about their program, this is a great way to look into it but it’s also a nice workshop to attend just for a change of pace. Gunnison, while one of the nicest places I’ve even been, is not easy to get to. It’s a bit expensive to fly there and driving requires a good deal of time on winding, 2-way roads. Still, the town and surrounding area is beautiful, and I enjoyed the high level of talent in both the instructors and the participants.