In 2013, we developed a Proposal Portal for all our workshop proposals. This way, everyone responsible for workshop scheduling, including conference and non-conference, has access to the same information.
Why the portal? Your information is secure, we have all your information (including bio and photo) in one place, the status of your proposal can easily be tracked by you and by us, and you can go back into the system to add new workshops or modify/update your information any time you wish.
The portal also means that we no longer have to task a single person with gathering all the disparate emailed proposals into one (or two or three) coherent documents and then distribute them to the pertinent parties.
(Insert sound of celebration here. Wrangling that list was a bear. A grizzly. An angry polar bear with an inflamed toenail.)
Our purpose here is to answer some of the commonly asked questions we get from people who would like to present some sort of workshop for us.
Do I have to be a multi-published author like Robert Crais, Pam McCutcheon or Carrie Vaughn to be a presenter?
No, not at all. But you do have to have something–experience. Anyone can propose a workshop on any topic; we’d like to know why you are the person to present this workshop.
Plus, we offer a variety of workshops on topics that are writing-related. Cover design. Building a platform. How writers do their taxes. How the FBI really works. This means we’re looking for various fields of expertise, so if you have experience in something you think writers might want to know about, shoot us a proposal!
What are you looking for in a presenter?
Someone who really knows their topic and has proven they can speak to a large audience without fainting, bursting into tears or babbling uncontrollably. If you aren’t an experienced speaker, that doesn’t mean we won’t consider you. But it might mean we’d ask you to present a Write Brain, for example, before inviting you to join the conference faculty.
Why do you ask for my bio and photo?
One word: Publicity! If you’re doing a workshop for us, we want to let the world know! What better way than by including your credentials and visage with our announcements? You can get away with just the shorter bio, if you like. And about that photo, we can already tell you–your hair looks fabulous and your choice of clothing was nothing less than inspired.
How can I make my proposed workshop more appealing?
I’m so glad you asked! Think about query letters or back cover blurbs–you want to entice readers with those. You want to entice writers with your workshop title and description. Wit is great, but don’t force it. A catchy title and a good, inviting description are key. Make the PPW writers feel like this is the best thing since moveable type. Generally speaking, one sentence of description is too little and more than a paragraph is too much. Similarly, a title that is too brief or too long can be a turn off, so make it catchy and to the point.
What’s the optimum length all about?
Is this a workshop you can do in about an hour? That’s an average conference workshop, while Write Brains are generally two hours. Please note: If you’ve decided to condense a 3-hour, half-day workshop into a one-hour conference slot, please plan accordingly and don’t repeatedly tell your audience that you don’t have enough time. We’d rather you pitch it as the full length workshop to begin with.
Can you define your categories?
- Business of Writing: All the things you must do to further your career that aren’t the actual writing. Platform building. Publicity. Social media or regular media. Taxes. Making money. How to turn your family vacation into freelance pieces for seven separate publications. Query letters. Pitching.
- Craft of Writing: All the things that make your writing better. Pacing. Plot. Dialogue. Setting. Prologues, epilogues, hollow logs. The Hero’s/Heroine’s Journey. Self-editing. Theme. Plotting boards.
- Genre Specific: Anything that addresses a particular genre. Romance Heroes. World Building for Sci Fi and Fantasy. How to plot a mystery/thriller. Writing realistic YA dialogue. Putting the creep factor back into horror. Note: It’s especially advantageous if you can make this appealing across genres. For example, “Spellcasting for Dummies will teach fantasy writers how to build a magical system that doesn’t contradict itself or the laws of physics. It will also detail how elements of spell magic can be woven into stories of romance, mystery and horror, when you want just a sprinkle of paranormal in your work.”
- Reality Track/How to: The real things that real people do, and writers want to know about. Examples are firefighters, EMTs, FBI agents, SWAT teams, police officers, morticians, doctors, nurses, private investigators, paranormal investigators, spies, super heroes, military police/intelligence, search and rescue, dog trainers, etc.
- Writing Life: Some would call this the “feel good” category. How to write the novel of your heart. How to stay passionate about your career. How to carve out the time to write.
What the heck is “attendee level?”
The feedback we get from our members is that they’d like to know if a workshop is mostly aimed at beginner, intermediate or experienced writers. Particularly for conference, we’ve had requests for more intermediate and experienced workshops.
Why didn’t you accept my proposal on Indie Publishing? People would love it!
Frankly, at times it feels like everyone who has sold a single self- or independently-published book now considers him/herself to be an expert on the subject. There are so many people publishing their own work now that we have the luxury of choosing people with proven track records, who are consistently publishing and selling well-regarded work.
Why didn’t you accept my proposal on (fill in any other topic)?
In terms of conference, we start with our keynote speakers, then our agents and editors, and then fill in the rest of the faculty. We may have someone else already covering the topic you suggested. For example, would you rather attend a presentation on query letters from John Q. Author, or one from an agent or editor whose professional livelihood includes reading those letters every day?
For non-conference events, we have a limited number of workshops we can put on, and they must be balanced between the above categories. No worries, though! Your proposal will stay in the system unless you wish it removed, which means that just because it wasn’t accepted this year, doesn’t mean it won’t be accepted in the future.
How do you choose workshops for conference?
It involves a 20-sided die, a full moon and some chicken bones. Or a half-dozen dedicated people, several days, a blizzard of sticky notes and a desire to offer a diversity of programming. Those categories detailed above? We try to balance them all, while offering workshops for beginners, intermediate and experienced writers. We want workshops that are exciting and fun and full of useful information.
We do keep track of which presenters and which classes are offered every year. While some topics are always popular (query letters, for example), we try to switch things up and offer new topics as well. We try to balance traditional/indie/self publishing, and we try to offer at least a couple of workshops for the nonfiction crowd. Unfortunately, we can’t be everything to everyone. (If you’d like to see a change in how things are currently done, volunteer!)
Is it better to propose one highly specialized workshop or a variety of workshops?
If you’re talking conference, more is better. You’re demonstrating to us the depth and breadth of your experience. The more we know about what you can teach, the better able we are to reach out and ask you to tailor something to meet a specific need, or to participate in a panel. We especially love presenters who can do genre-specific topics as well as more general topics.
On a purely economic scale, it’s financially more prudent for us to bring in faculty members who can do more than one workshop. We’re a non-profit organization. Nobody is farting money or underwriting the travel expenses for our keynotes.
As far as non-conference, the more we have to choose from, the better. If one of your workshops is too close to something we’ve already got scheduled or that has occurred in the not too distant past, another one may be just the right fit for us. We try to juggle the various categories to provide a diverse set of workshops, which means if we’ve done one on the Writing Life in January, it may be several months before we’ll consider another Write Brain in that category.
What the heck do you mean by A/V needs?
Do you need a projector? A whiteboard? A piece of twine and two hardboiled eggs? You have to let us know–in advance. Our NCE Director cannot pull computer equipment out of thin air. If you need a laptop, bring one. And do not count on having a WiFi connection for your presentation. We use a variety of venues, and cannot guarantee what will be available. Plan ahead and download whatever you need before the presentation.
Do you require a PowerPoint presentation?
Nope. Some of the best workshops we’ve offered feature a speaker relating directly to the audience, giving examples, asking questions, all without the aid of a machine. Some topics do lend themselves to a more structured approach. Totally up to you, but don’t feel like you need a PowerPoint presentation because all the cool kids are doing them. Note: if you do use PowerPoint, make sure your presentation consists of more than you reading what is printed on each slide.
Similarly, we don’t require handouts or any other media. Should you prefer they be a part of your workshop, that’s great, but so is not having any media. What it boils down to is: what will work best for your presentation? We will ask you if you have media for your presentation, but that is not us hinting that we think you should. We just need to know what you need from us and what to expect from your workshop.
Will a 47-page handout be a problem?
Yes, if you expect us to print that behemoth, it’s a problem. We’re trying to foster creativity here, not aid and abet the deforestation of the planet. Please consider whether your handout is absolutely necessary. If it’s merely a printed copy of your PowerPoint slides, it probably isn’t necessary. But we love worksheets that people can take home and use again with different projects. Ditto lists of useful sources and web references. Like A/V, we need to know about handouts in advance.
Do I need swag or prizes for the audience members?
Nope. But feel free, if you’re so inclined. If you’re doing a Write Brain, we’d love to give away a copy of one of your books, or a service that you offer. (A tarot card reading, a critique of a query letter, something like that.) Some presenters give out book swag (magnets, nail files, jewelry, etc.) as prizes to people who ask or answer questions. Totally your call.
You need to have (insert famous author name) at your conference! Invite them immediately.
We’d love to. Do you have direct contact information for that person? Or their agent? Or their publicist? Some Big Name authors have gatekeepers to keep the request for appearances to a minimum. Or they’re busy–you know, staying at the top of the NYTimes Bestseller list takes some attention to one’s writing. But if you do have that contact info, send it along.
Now that you’ve read all of this, feel free to visit our Proposal Portal and submit some ideas! If you have a question that’s not answered here, please feel free to contact us using the form in the right sidebar.