Keli Gwyn
Presenting a Writing Workshop: Lessons Learned

Keli Gwyn with members of the Yosemite Romance Writers - From L-R: Diane Story, Me, Kimberley Smith, Christina Gulke, and Sheri Humphreys

July 16 found me in Fresno, California at the monthly meeting of the Yosemite Romance Writers chapter of Romance Writers of America®. The group had invited me to be their speaker, an honor I was happy to accept.

The members treated me like royalty. I arrived on July 15 and checked in to the hotel room reserved for me. Promptly at 6 p.m. the chapter VP, Diane Story, whisked me to a Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar called Takumi, where three other members joined us.

Image from Takumi website

Diane had reserved a spot for Teppanyaki. I’d never been to a Japanese restaurant and sat enthralled as the chef performed culinary artistry before our eyes. My teriyaki chicken was delicious, but conversing with the YRW members was the best part of the evening.

After a good night’s sleep, I awoke eager to make my way to the restaurant where the chapter meets. The helpful staff at Marie Callender’s on West Shaw Avenue in Fresno showed me to the conference room and saw to my needs. I set up and reviewed my notes.

An hour later, the room was abuzz as twelve members and I conversed. I enjoyed meeting these talented writers and learning about them and their writing. A business meeting followed, and then it was time for the presentation, “Rockin’ Your Revisions.”

The hour and a half flew by as the members and I explored the benefits of performing revisions, along with information on how to approach them and what to look for when revising our stories. The wealth of talent and creativity exhibited by the members as they participated in the discussion and activities was evident, and I was mightily impressed. The published members of the chapter lent their expertise, which I greatly appreciated.

As promised, there was chocolate, several varieties in fact. Many of my illustrations and one of my activities incorporated the delectable treat. I learned that a Hershey bar makes a great example of three-act story structure.

At the conclusion of the presentation, I doled out the various chocolate bars I’d used, along with some fun chocolate-themed door prizes to the winners.

We had a sweet time learning to rock our revisions, and I had such fun with the members of YRW.

What I Learned About Presenting a Workshop

Don’t let fear keep you from accepting an invitation to speak. Most people are afraid of public speaking. Those who speak anyway are the ones who overcome their fears.

Familiarize yourself with the venue. Taking time to check out the room where the presentation will take place eases some of the uncertainty. Diane had pointed out the restaurant where we’d be meeting the night before, so I drove over and got a look at the conference room. Knowing what the room looked like ahead of time enabled me to envision myself in the setting.

Arrive well-rested. Getting a good night’s sleep meant that I was at my best the next day and able to deal with the stresses of speaking from a position of strength.

Know your material so you have command of it. Even though I’d been a member of Toastmasters for three years, I was used to giving 5-7 minutes speeches, which I’d memorized. Speaking for an hour and a half is different. I didn’t use a script, choosing to work from an outline instead. Because I knew my material well, I was able to come across as more relaxed and conversational. In addition, I wasn’t thrown off track by questions.

Involve the participants. Choosing to answer questions as they occur to those present rather than waiting to the end helps to engage those listening to the talk. Doing so helped me, too, because I was able to gauge understanding and clarify anything that was unclear. I made a point of asking some of the members to elaborate on what I’d said based upon their experiences, which added greatly to the discussion.

Expect the unexpected. No matter how much communication takes place beforehand, there are bound to be a few surprises. Knowing that helps to keep a speaker from reeling when the unexpected happens. In my case, the meals were delivered two-thirds of the way into the presentation. My first thought was that I’d gone over my time, but a quick question assured me everything was fine and I could continue, which I did. I made a  couple of minor adjustments. I nixed the final group activity I’d planned, and I didn’t expect as much feedback from the members since they were eating.

Have a drawing at the end. While this isn’t a prerequisite, letting the audience know that there will be prizes given out at the end can help to keep people from slipping out early. It’s also fun to give back to those who’ve helped make the presentation even better by adding to it with their questions and comments.

Presenting a workshop can be fun. I had a wonderful time with the Yosemite Romance Writers. I’m all about paying it forward, so I find sharing information that can help other writers gratifying. And you get to meet some awesome people as I did.

• • •

What makes a workshop fun for you as a member of the audience?

If you’ve presented a workshop, what did you find most rewarding?

Comment Link 15 Comments
Keli Gwyn
Writing Workshop: Rocking Your Revisions

Do you enjoy learning new things? I do.

I learned a lot recently as I prepared to present my first-ever writing workshop.

On Saturday July 16th I’ll be hanging out with the Yosemite Romance Writers, an RWA® chapter that meets in Fresno, California. I’m eager to meet this talented group and know I’m going to have a wonderful time with them.

What will we be discussing? Revisions. We’re going to explore ways to rock them.

There will also be chocolate. Several of my illustrations involve the delectable treat. I’ve got fun activities planned as well. And, yes, one of them involves chocolate.

We’ll talk revisions, of course. After all that’s a subject near to my writerly heart. But my goal is not simply to equip the audience with some useful tools. I want to encourage them. To spark excitement for a process that can take our stories from good to great.

Can chocolate help to accomplish that? Of course. Chocolate is an amazing product, right?

So, I’m packing my bag, gathering my props, and preparing to have a blast.

• • •

What workshops have you found most helpful?

How did the speaker generate excitement for the subject?

Have you considered presenting a workshop? If so, what topic interests you?

Comment Link 18 Comments
Keli Gwyn