Friday, November 10, 2006

Get What You Want

Sometimes when you’re not involved in the planning for an event or class, it’s puzzling why the organizers did what they did. Why didn’t they choose a different subject? Why didn’t they do a panel discussion instead of a one person talk?

I know when I was the Executive Director of the Writers’ League, people would sometimes call and ask us to do a class on some specific topic. Since I was the one in charge of setting up all the classes and workshops and a lot of the retreats, I would try to arrange it. There were things to consider, like how long has it been since we did that subject? Did the class do well? Can I find an instructor? Should it be a half-day, full day, or weekend class? A lot of times, though, by the time someone called, the classes had already been set up months or even a year in advance. In that case, the suggestion might get relegated to the next year’s plan.

Right now I’m involved with the planning for Texas Mystery Month (this used to be called Texas Mystery Week, but since events and presentations go on all month, we decided to change the name). We had our second meeting today. The main topic of discussion was what to do during that month, May.

Some things we already know. As we did last year, we’ll have the Future Authors Extravaganza, where unpublished authors will read from their work in progress. Author Karen MacInermey will teach a four day class on How To Write A Mystery. We’ll also have a Day of Mystery Writing at a local Barnes & Noble. The big culmination will be the Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writers Event, which includes both a special speaker, a Mystery in Four Parts (great fun) and published authors mentoring aspiring authors, as well as a tribute to the late Barbara Burnett Smith, a wonderful mystery author and someone who believed in helping other writers.

But what things should we set up the rest of the month? We agreed we should focus on mini-workshops with some panel discussions. We came up with a beginning list of possible subjects, from writer’s block to dialogue, setting, and characterization, from putting humor or romance in a mystery to writing other things besides the novel, like plays or short stories. Now we have to find instructors. Not just any instructor – someone who’ll teach for free.

What this tells you is that planning for workshops or classes starts months or even a year in advance. If you have something you want to see or hear or even teach, get in on the planning. And do it early. Your input is wanted. And I’m not just talking about Texas Mystery Month. Any organization that does education welcomes suggestions.

For Texas Mystery Month the focus right now seems to be all about what will we do, who will teach, what venues will host these workshops, who will organize, who will do the work – the real mechanics of putting on any event or a month of events. But the real focus is on those the event is meant to benefit. That is, the authors who teach – we hope they get exposure to new readers and maybe some book sales – and the people attending, most likely pre-published authors – they’re looking for valuable information and networking (even mentoring) with published authors.

But the only way to really get what you want is to get involved either by suggesting ideas or joining the committee, organization, or group.

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