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Fairwood Writers Workshop by Jeremy Zimmerman

Guest blogger: Jeremy Zimmerman, alumni of the Fairwood Writers Workshop

Fairwood Writers Workshop is a free workshop offered at Seattle’s local large SF/F convention: NorWesCon. This convention is held Easter weekend each year, but submissions for the workshop are typically due in late December. They haven’t posted a deadline for Norwescon 2012 yet.

The workshop has been organized for over twenty years by the Fairwood Writers, a closed, invitation-only writing group that meets weekly out in Issaquah. The group, capped at ten people, has been meeting for the last twenty-five years, though their roster has changed over the years. In addition to NorWesCon, they send volunteers to workshops at Orycon and Radcon.

“The workshop is our opportunity to give back,” Erin Tidwell, one of the Fairwood Writers, explained to me. “At some point, we all benefited from the advice of a writer who was farther along the path than we were, and running the workshop gives us the opportunity to help someone else.”

There are two styles of workshops available at Norwescon: round robins and individual sessions.

The round-robin style of workshop is only available for short stories. Though I didn’t do the round-robin this year, it sounds much like the workshops I’ve done in other venues. You come into the session having read work from the other participants. Over the course of two hours your submission and those from other participants are each critiqued in turn. In addition to having your work critiqued by fellow aspiring authors, you also receive feedback from three writing professionals and the moderator from the Fairwood Writers.

Fairwood Writer Renee Stern noted, “Round robins can be a good choice for participants without a home critique group or who have limited experience providing critique, because often we see problems more clearly in other people’s work than in our own.”

There are also individual sessions available for those who submit short stories or novel excerpts. Since I was trying to gauge the quality of one of my novels, this was the option available to me. In this format it is just you, three professionals and the Fairwood moderator and all the attention is on you.

When I did the workshop, I had my work reviewed by authors John Pitts and Rosemary Jones, freelance editor Andrea Howe of Blue Falcon Editing, and Fairwood Writer Rhiannon Held. Each of them was very positive in their feedback. As I came to realize from their comments, the excerpt I provided needed a lot of cleaning up, but the advice they gave left me feeling confident about the potential of the work.

Since I know Rosemary through our D&D game, I picked her brain to get her thoughts on her experience with the workshop.

“I’ve been on both sides of the table at the workshops held during Norwescon,” she said. “Back before I was published, I submitted manuscripts on two different years and found the critiques helpful (even though the books submitted never made it to publication). Not because the authors gave me any particular plot points or style tips, but because they said, ‘You’re on the right track. What you write is publishable.’”

In addition to the workshop, the Fairwood Writers host an afternoon social for workshop participants and curious convention attendees. Last year, they also organized a couple of talks by writing professionals.
Those interested in the workshop for 2012 should email writersworkshop@norwescon.org or check out the NorWesCon Facebook page.

Jeremy Zimmerman has published RPG sourcebooks and numerous short stories, and he constantly strives to use his fiction to look at the world in off-kilter ways while hoping that he’ll eventually get all the ideas for stories out of his head. He has so far been unsuccessful in the latter.

In his secret identity as a county bureaucrat, he hopes to someday be good enough for government work. Jeremy lives in Seattle with his beautiful wife Dawn and a herd of cats.

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