Thursday, July 12, 2012

Doing Workshops and Programs by Terry Burns

I do a lot of programs and workshops, generally one or two a month. I have some that continue to be asked for even though I have done them for several years, and I add new ones from time to time as they are requested or as they occur to me.

I have one I call "Too Shy to Pitch and Promote" which is one I have done the longest. I started doing it on the spur of the moment at one conference when I realized how many writers were there that were simply too shy to take advantage of the opportunities to pitch an agent or editor. Then I discovered that a lot of writers have trouble with that even if they aren't the shy type. They have trouble because they don't know how to present themselves as a writer. I touch on both in the program now. Maybe I ought to re-title it "Developing a Writer's Personna." Whatcha think?

One that has been very well received when I have been asked to present it I call "Writing to Reach the Unbeliever." I maintain that writing with that goal in mind is 180 degrees different from writing for the family of the faithful. Writing for the Christian market the readers expect to see very strong faith content and see it very early or they will probably decide the book is not what they want to read. With a nonbeliever strong faith content right up front will probably make them put it down. In this program I talk about why I think that happens and what to do about it to reach that market. I also believe that a "crossover book" is not one that is written to reach both, that usually ends up not doing a good job of reaching either, but one that does an awesome job of aiming one market or the other and manages to cross over and be read by the other market as well.

"Editor and Agent Pet Peeves" - Hartline agent Linda Glaz and I have worked on collecting these little gems from a variety of agents and editors, as well as from a lot of writers speaking of their pet peeves ABOUT agents or editors and we both do a program on them that is both enlightening and interesting.

"Just Say Yes" is my strongest faith based program. I've done it as a keynote, testimony, dinner speech or devotional, as well as a regular workshop. I was stunned to come to believe that when the Holy Spirit impresses on us the need to do something, there are just two possible answers, yes or no. Maybe, or later, or a variety of other excuses are not alternate answers, they are just another way of saying no. I really don't want to be saying no to God, so coming to this realization has greatly affected my own service to the Lord. This is also probably THE greatest hurdle for people to overcome in making a decision to be saved.

"Survive Your Way to Publication" is a program I did as a month-long online program for the American Christian Fiction Writers. I was asked to do it because of a statement I used to have in my email signature that said "getting published is not a selection process, it is a survival process." This program explores how to survive the many obstacles to publication. It also looks at a proposal not on WHAT should be in them, but why the items are in there and what we want them to do.

"It's Not My Job to Sell Your Manuscript." What? I thought that was an agents job. In this one I talk about the fact that it is OUR job to sell it, not just my job and what writers can do to work with an agent to improve their chances of success.

An agents panel or editor panel are always popular at conferences, but some conferences are too small for that and I do an "Agents Q and A" in such instances as a substitute. Of course I like to do all of my workshops in a Q & A format as much as I can to better reach the needs of the participants.

From time to time I add programs or replace them. Any of them sound interesting to you or do you have a suggestion for one you would like to see done? Have any agent or editor pet peeves you want to toss out?


sally apokedak said...

Well, I love the Too Shy to Pitch, or Developing the Writer's Persona idea. I'm very opinionated in blog comments, but I'm not as confident with oral communication as I am with written. I'm in Toastmasters now, and one of the things I'm trying to learn is to develop a speaker's persona, because I want to project myself as confident.

All of these classes sound great, though.

Anonymous said...

From my rather limited experience with Writers' Conferences, a lot of these workshops are good choices for writers to attend at least once. As for a suggestion, one coherent workshop answering this question would be good for the less experienced writers, "What can I be doing now to prepare for a writing career in the future?"