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 of Texas, 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, though, 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, by the time someone called, the schedule of 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.
I’ve been 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). Each year, early in the planning, the main topic of discussion is what to do during that month, May.
As with most “repeating” events, some things remain the same from year to year. But event organizers try to bring in new things, new subjects, new speakers, new ideas. For example, event coordinators may agree to focus on mini-workshops with some panel discussions. Then they come 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. Then they have to find instructors. Not just any instructor – someone who’ll teach for free, if at all possible.
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. Any organization that does education welcomes suggestions.
The organization or planners may seem to be focused on what they will 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 – the instructors 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. If your book comes out next Spring or next Summer, you need to be considering now what conventions you’d like to speak at and what you could add to the conference’s line-up. You need to be thinking about writers groups in your area that you could teach a class for and what would qualify you for that class. It seems a long way off, but it’s not.
2 weeks ago