Thursday was the last day of the workshop. I woke up that morning to the usual sounds of something going on that I had associated with the ship docking. Only this time when I went to my balcony, I saw that we were still on the water, and a large square boat was tied up alongside. And another cruise ship maybe four hundred yards off of ours. We were at Great Stirrup Cay, a small island owned by Norwegian lines. There really wasn’t anything there but a store and beach. Since I had a meeting with Mike Resnick at noon this day, and the workshop afterwards, I decided to pass on the Island. Breakfast on the back deck offered a view of the island and another nearby, as well as the other cruise ship. Soon people were para-sailing near the other ship, and the boats were going back and forth from the Sky to the shore.
At noon I met Mike Resnick in the dining room. I wasn’t really hungry, having just eaten breakfast a couple of hours before. We sat at a small table and had a very nice, casual conversation about books, movies, my career, you name it. We talked for about an hour, and when Mike was ready to leave, and I told him I need to grab a quick bite, he volunteered to stay while I ate, so I got not only more than the fifteen minutes promised, but well over an hour. For those who aren’t familiar with Mike Resnick, he is considered the most awarded science fiction writer of all time. The winner of five Hugos, he related a story on one of the panels on how he had thirty-seven nominations, and that his thirty-two losses made him the losingest Hugo of all time nominee as well. I started reading him when I was still a kid, and was now talking with him as I closed in on sixty.
Mike asked me about my goals, including if I really wanted to become traditionally published as I was doing so well as an indie. So we talked publishing, books, famous writers and movies for the hour. Asked how he felt about Forbidden Planet and was delighted to know that he thought it was a great movie (while he doesn’t think much of most scifi movies). An hour of talking to someone who had lived so much of science fiction writing history was almost worth the price of the workshop itself.
At 1:30 PM was the second part of the Manuscript Critique with Nancy Kress. Again, close attention needed to be paid to get the perspective of this writer on the submissions. Next up was Eric Flint, talking about how to write for his 1632 Universe, which opened up another opportunity for submissions in the future. Dinner on the rear deck came with a view of the Great Stirrup Cay and nearby islands fading into the distance in the darkness. After dinner were the sessions Sharpening Prose and What Kind of Writer Do You Want To Be. The last session was the entire faculty relating their funniest publishing stories. And at 10 PM it was all over and I was exhausted.
The last morning on the ship was waking to the Sky tied up at the dock in Miami we had left from at the beginning of the week. I decided to keep my bags with me on exiting the ship, so after breakfast I went through the disembarkation procedure and Customs, which was actually relatively quick and painless. What wasn’t so painless was the drive home, eight hours on the road to Tallahassee while still really tired.
So, what were my final impressions of Sail to Success 2016, and how did it compare to other workshops I had been to? I thought it was an excellent workshop and overall experience. The faculty was world class, open and knowledgeable. It wasn’t cheap, but then again, neither were most of the other workshops and seminars I had attended. How did it measure up?
The first workshop I ever attended was Jody Lynn Nye’s Intensive Writer’s Workshop at Dragon Con, which I would recommend to anyone who has never been to a workshop. Or to anyone who wants to improve their craft and attend a gigantic con. It was reasonably priced, and part of a larger experience. I made my first live contacts with others in the profession. There was a manuscript critique. I think anyone starting out who is within driving distance of Atlanta should attend Dragon Con and this workshop. Jody, and her husband Bill Fawcett, also do a one hour workshop at Liberty Con some years.
Superstars was the second conference/workshop I ever attended, and was, after hotels, flights, and fees were considered, about in the same price range for this writer as the cruise. It featured world class faculty and interesting and informative instruction. It also had a VIP dinner that allowed the student to have a conversation with one of the faculty members. I sat with Eric Flint one Superstars, with Toni Weisskopf the next. Kevin always makes this a great experience. Definitely worth the price, and enjoyable enough that I went twice. I would attend this year, but it’s time to look at some other opportunities.
David Farland’s (Dave Wolverton) one day workshop, Greenlighting Your Novel, was a one day affair, within driving distance. While a more specialized workshop than the others I have attended, it was well worth the price. Dave is a great instructor with a lot of knowledge of the publishing and movie industries. When another reaches my neck of the woods, I will probably attend.
Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Workshop on the Coast was also expensive, with flights to Oregon, a hotel for the what amounted to nine day stay, and the workshop fee. You get to interact with six different editors, including two lunches during the week with two of the faculty members. To this writer it seemed a little too much, six days of constant manuscript critiques that seemed to beat me down. Still, the information about what editors want is there, and if you are interested in doing a lot of short fiction submissions this is a great workshop, which also offers the opportunity to sell some stories to the anthologies that come out of the workshop. And for the right kind of person, this seems like the ideal workshop, since many attendees come back year after year. Just be sure you have a thick skin, and are far enough in your writing to have a chance.
Sail for Success was also expensive. It also offered world class faculty in a unique surrounding (A flippen 70,000 ton plus ship). It included manuscript critiques and the chance to interact with the faculty. I consider it up there with Superstars for the best workshop/seminar. I doubt I will go again next year, but maybe some time in the future.