Do YOU Write? -- Guest blog by Lorin Oberweger


After waking up all groggy and Houdini-ing myself out of a closet, I found this wonderful guest blog post in my gmail. Wish I knew how it got in there…or where I’ve been for the last couple weeks.

In all seriousness, the Muses have a special treat for you today: Lorin Oberweger from FREE EXPRESSIONS.

Some of you may remember Veronica’s interview with Lorin on being a manuscript consultant. Today, she’s giving us a different (and wonderful) perspective of the STORY MASTERS WORKSHOP from that of the event’s organizer. Lorin is a pro at throwing these intensive seminars  and an awesome writer too.

Enjoy! And afterward, visit FREE EXPRESSIONS to see all their offerings for editorial work and workshops.  Over to you, Lorin…


Do YOU Write?

Even though I had to chloroform Bret, drag his body into a closet, and quadruple-bolt the door, I’m going to begin by thanking the YA MUSES for “inviting” me to contribute this week.  If you read this blog, you already know how talented, dedicated, and awesome these folks are; it’s an honor to mix it up with them.

Here’s a secret: behind every successful writing workshop is a person cursing a printer for mangling its twentieth sheet of nametag paper.  A person who might be hugging a writer one minute and berating hotel staff for vacuuming outside the conference room the next. A person who sometimes spends too much time running around to really soak up the wealth of material coming her way but who, at every event, is treated to a few luminous moments where she feels the tangible energy of inspiration, the bristling, intense excitement in a room and thinks, “I helped create this.”

Invariably, at some point during a workshop, a participant will ask me, “Do YOU write?” I think it’s because I forget to look tortured. And, of course, the answer is that I DO write, that I’ve written for almost as long as I’ve breathed, and that so much of what I know about writing translates directly into putting on great events for writers.

First, EMPATHY.  Just as you can’t create really rich characters if you’re not willing to slip into another person’s shoes, you can’t put on a successful writing event if you’re not willing to consider the needs of your guests, to ask yourself what kind of experience would be of most value to them, and make your choices accordingly.

For example, as a participant of other workshops, I’d watched folks drift around at meal times, looking lonely and unmoored. So at my events, I provide a decent lunch and an opportunity for students to sit down together, make new friends, network, chat and laugh. 

Secondly, and inversely, I’ve learned that YOU CAN’T PLEASE EVERY PERSON, EVERY TIME. The key is to shoot for the richest, most satisfying experience for as many folks as you can but not to drive yourself crazy working for everyone’s approval.

At every event, there are those folks whose internal thermostats demand a room warm enough to hatch chicks. There are those with food allergies so idiosyncratic I’d have to fly in chefs from the Mayo Clinic to attend to their needs. I can do my best, but I can’t make every single participant perfectly happy. I CAN offer the best possible event for all, though, and hope that the quality of the experience outweighs the small shortcomings.

And as a writer, I can’t write to the highly specific demands of each individual reader.  All I can do is work to tell a compelling story, with the richest characters and the best prose I can muster and hope that it resonates for MOST readers.

I succeed at both of these things, I like to think, because I also embrace the idea that YOU NEVER STOP LEARNING. 

You know what one of the most awesome parts of Story Masters was for me? Seeing the instructors show up each day to learn from each other, watching them scribble or type notes as enthusiastically as the other students did.

The most successful writers I know are those who still, even years into their careers, attend workshops, read craft books, gobble novels like Skittles. They are constantly engaged in their craft—working to learn all the time, about the general elements of craft but also about their own hearts, about the hearts of their characters, about the themes that strike chords within them. Those folks are my heroes.

And speaking of heroes, today is my father’s birthday. Unfortunately, he passed away a long time ago, but he taught me something that’s served me amazingly well as a writer and as a workshop producer. It boils down to this: IT CAN BE DONE.

Every member of my family, at one time or another, has acted as an entrepreneur. I grew up with the idea that if someone of reasonable intelligence could do something, so could I. (As long as it didn’t require a lot of athletic prowess or math skills.)

This has served me as a writer, independent editor, and as a businessperson. It’s helped me build a facile mind—one that can respond to thorny plot issues in a client’s novel, sluggish pacing in my own work, or a hotel that has forgotten to reserve rooms for, oh, half my staff.

Writers often give up, I find, because they don’t truly embrace the belief that a solution exists for just about any writing problem, that it’s possible to make their novels more palatable to the reader without sacrificing the elements they most cherish. They limit themselves out of fear or obstinacy.

In life, and in writing, a belief in the likelihood of success is key. The workshops I produce, the help I try to offer--all of it boils down to that idea: that given the right tools and insight, a writer can move from good to great, from unpublished to published, from story amateur to, dare I say, story MASTER.

I believe that for myself, and I believe that for YOU. Go get it.



24 comments

Thanks Lorin! I am feeling inspired all over again. You mentioned one of my favorite parts of the conference too. The Masters were in every session, every day, learning and growing right along with the rest of us.

Thanks so much for the excellent guest blog! Hoping to take the StoryMasters workshop next November.

"It boils down to this: IT CAN BE DONE."

Absoluteapositively. If a dunderhead like me can do it, anyone can do it. Just need the right amount of perserverance and the common sense to follow the teachings of a pure insprational leader like Lorin and her gaggle of writing friends. (Just don't become a stalker--that only gets you into stories.)

Write on! Write on!! Brothers and sisters, amen. Write on!!!

Lorin,

Your events are the best. The best information along with the best support. Now I know why. No vacuuming allowed!

Looking forward to Story Masters in Seattle in 2012.

Lorin, you are an inspiration and continue to be. Looking forward to Story Masters 2012.
Cheryl

The Storymasters event was fabulous, and Lorin--you looked completely unruffled.
Maybe this is Zen writer mind at work with all your years of practice. Just think of Kwai Chang Caine traveling through the wilderness of writers to bring new skills and peacefulness to all.

Thank you for taking over today, Lorin! But especially thank you for organizing such an amazing event and keeping us "constantly engaged in our craft."

Wonderful to read such an encouraging post. Much appreciated.

Thank you again, as always, for Everything

Great post Lorin and much Wisdom from a true Story Master...

Janine C.

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Ok...let me try this again...without spelling errors...ugh...

Awesome! Awesome! Words of wisdom Lorin, YOU ARE RIGHT. NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY, YOU CANNOT PLEASE EVERYONE! (5 page rant, anyone?) Sigh.

Awesome EVENT! Tanner and I LOVED IT!

Brilliant, Lorin, especially this:

"Writers often give up, I find, because they don’t truly embrace the belief that a solution exists for just about any writing problem, that it’s possible to make their novels more palatable to the reader without sacrificing the elements they most cherish. They limit themselves out of fear or obstinacy."

Yes, yes, yes!!!

I loved the connections between writing and setting up writing events. Thanks for visiting!

And Bret, hope you snap out of the chloroform-induced stupor soon.

Thanks for all the lovely comments, all! The very minor kerfuffles mean absolutely nothing against the joys of getting to do what I do with people as amazing as y'all. (Bringin' it back around to V's stab at Donna's native tongue. ;-))

Okay, so YES, I like a warm room and maybe I have issues with vacuuming public carpets or have a food allergy fetish, but did you really have to plaster it all over this lovely blog in black and white (and a few other random colors)? I mean, COME ON!!! :)

Yes, of course, you know I think you're awesome! Seeing all the things that go on behind the scenes at these events, I also TRULY appreciate you and the love and care and hotel boiler room fights you put yourself through for the happiness of others. You ROCK, sweet Lolo!!!

Now, I have to go get some Skittles. Did you HAVE to mention Skittles? REALLY?

I can attest to Lorin's expertise at making her guests at home. She always had exactly the right kind of candles, bottled water, sheet thread count, and atmospheric music I require when I travel to workshops. ;)

Seriously, I attended the Breakout Novel Intensive a little over a year ago, and every participant (staff or otherwise) was forever scribbling or typing. Our manuscripts grew considerably in the five days that we were there.

By the end of Lorin's post, I wanted to stand up and shout "Yes!" That "can do" energy is almost palpable at her workshops, and continues to empowered me.

Great post!

There are story tellers and there are story masters. I have personally benefited from Lorin's prowess as a story goddess. This guest blog is but the latest demonstration of her ongoing commitment to inspire, motivate and give writers a reboot with her words and ways. Well done!

Story Masters was a fabulous event as was San Antonio's Intensive and Dallas' Fire In Fiction!! I always come away with tools to make me a better writer and that's all because you organize and make such wonderful events happen.
I've also had the pleasure of working with you and my writing improved 10 fold after brainstorming and receiving your edits!! Thank you so much!

P.S. You're also just a really neat person!

Lorin is nothing short of amazing. Great post.

I so totally agree. I don't know where I learnt it, but for as long as I can remember I too have felt I can do many things if I truly want to and will give them my wholehearted effort. So glad to see this applied to solution seeking in writing too!

I am only just setting out as an author, but so want to keep than banner of 'IT CAN BE DONE' over each and every manuscript! Thank you for the inspiration.

Lorin,

I've been working on the second draft of my outline and having doubts. So I went over to twitter for a little procrastination time. I needed inspiration and there you were telling me, "it can be done" Thanks so much for an inspirational post and thanks for all you did for us at BONI Louisville. Love the Muses blog too. I will be back!

Thank you for the reminder that "a solutions exists for just about any writing problem." That message of hope is just what I needed to hear!

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