Q. I’m a newbie to the world of writing. Am I going to be out of place?
A. No. In fact, history suggests you will feel right at home. I strive to instill a “we’re-all-in-this-together” sense at every workshop. Because it’s true. I just got back from hiking 160 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail and it’s the same way there: some people — especially the young ones — bite off 35-to-40 miles per day. Others go 15-to-20. But at the end of the day, when you’re sitting around talking, you’re all just hikers trying to move up the trail. Whether you’re a published author or just breaking in, we’re all driven by this wonderful and wacky sense of desperation. I have seen beginning authors who’ve found their “trail pace” and love the journey; I’ve also found seasoned authors who’ve lost their sense of enjoyment of the journey and are flustered by not having the success others are having. In the end, attitude – not level of achievement – is everything.
Q. I still have bad memories of being put on the spot in a writing class — and embarrassed. Might that happen here?
A. We encourage discussion; I can’t tell you how many times I throw the proverbial soccer ball out and watch as the workshop members do all the “heavy kicking.” But, no, nobody is ever forced to answer a question, read from their work, or, as you say, get put on the spot.
Q. In what ways do attendees learn at a Welch workshop?
A. You name it, they learn through it: my imparting of information, for starters. With more than four decades’ experience as a writer, I can draw on my own experiences, which emphasize “showing” you nuggets of writing truth, not “telling” you. That said, I, like many of you, am thirsty to learn. Every time I read a book, I do so as both reader and writer. So I take examples from stuff I read. I am constantly reading books on writing. And I love it when I bring up an idea and a handful of attendees suggest nuances I hadn’t even considered. I am not the Shell Answer Man. I am just the guy leading the hike! So, people learn from each other. Another way people learn is from my critique of their work. Invariably, people find that one-on-one valuable; many times they’ve never had an experienced writer evaluate their work. I try to be encouraging but there’s no value in pretending they’ve written a stellar piece of writing when it needs an overhaul. Everybody does something well in their writing — and everybody has areas that ned improving.
Q. I’ve been to a number of Welch workshops. Will this be like watching a “Gilligan’s Island” re-run?
A. I can only hope it’s that good! Seriously, three things draw veterans back to our workshops. First, everyone can use a “refresher course”; and hearing some bit of info when you’re at Point F in your writing journey is different than hearing it when you’re at Point A; it’s like when I’m researching a book. I always circle back to my initial info when I’m near the end of the book because I’ve learned so much in the process that stuff that didn’t seem important at the start now seems extremely important and needs to be feathered in to the story. Second, there will be plenty of new information; as a constant learner, I try to enliven each workshop with concepts I’ve discovered in my own writing journey – and concepts I’ve learned from others. Finally, every mix of people at a workshop is different so you have the potential to learn from a whole new set of people.