Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Stealing Fire: An Ask, and an Offer

EDIT: The DFW Writers Workshop is currently reviewing funding for its programs. The Writers Bloc will continue uninterrupted, but this Patreon drive is on hold for now. (I'm leaving the post up, because I'm proud of it.)

I went. I conferred. I wouldn’t say I conquered (‘endeared’ is more my style), but I had a hell of a time on my great northeastern odyssey this month. Now I’m home, and after a *delightfully* indolent Thanksgiving with some of my very favorite people, the sleepless throbbing behind my eyes has finally subsided, and I can think again.

Favorite people, and favorite dogs. Can you spot dog #6?
So I’m coming at you with two things: an ask, and an offer.

The Ask

At the beginning of 2016, it occurred to me that we have a real conundrum in the writing community: how to pay teaching professionals appropriately for their time and expertise, AND still make that education available to everyone. (Usually it’s one or the other: either the presenter is being asked to donate their time, or the price tag on the event is shutting out a whole stratum of writers – usually the ones whose perspective is most conspicuously missing from the bookshelves.) I wanted to change that.

Fortunately, the DFW Writers Workshop gave me their blessing, guidance, and funding, so that we could start a new DFWWW program. It’s called the Writers Bloc, and the formula is simple: every month, we bring in an author or expert to give a presentation about some aspect of writing (craft, business, marketing, etc.), throw a cocktail/social hour afterwards, and make the whole thing free and open to the public. No membership needed, no money required. We’ve had attendances upwards of 80 people, and more enthusiasm and support from all corners than I ever expected.

8-year-old corner included.

So now that we’ve proven that there is a demand, a value in doing this, our next goal is simple: help the Writers Bloc to pay for itself. It will always be a DFWWW program, but I firmly believe that it can pay its own way – without an up-front charge. I’m thinking of a PBS or public-radio model, here: where the people who CAN afford to contribute help cover the cost for everyone, and get special swag and goodies for doing so. We launched the Writers Bloc Patreon page earlier this year for just that purpose – and we’re about halfway to our funding goal. Hooray for progress!

And the really cool thing about this Patreon drive is that it’s letting us bring these local events to a wider audience: we’re now video-recording the presentations and sending out the accompanying notes and handouts to our supporters, so even people who don’t live in DFW (or who are not available to attend in person on Saturday afternoons) can benefit from these seminars.

Here, try one out: this is our "Dialogue for Non-Fluent Characters" webinar with Dr. Sheri Wells-Jensen - and here are both handouts to go with.

So. January marked the beginning of this great adventure – and I would love, love, love it if December saw it come fully to fruition. I want the Writers Bloc to pay for itself by the end of this year, to prove that this community-support model can pay our professionals AND hold the door open for all comers – and for that, we need your help. Your financial contribution, and your help in spreading the word. $5 per month for the big thumbs-up and supporter’s badge. $10 per month for our presenters’ notes and handouts. $15 per month for full access to our video vault – every recording of every class, plus a new one every month. (Here’s our current list of archived classes.) Any dollar you can pledge is another step toward the goal, and another vote for community-supported writers' education. If you value these resources and want to see more of them, please contribute what you can.

Okay, so that was the ask.

The Offer

One of my tour stops this month was the Writer Unboxed Unconference – a phenomenal, transformative, life- and craft-affirming week-long event in Salem, Massachusetts. I attended as a student, not a presenter, and walked away with a massive stack of notes, an entirely new understanding of story-chemistry, and more new friends than I know what to do with. The pros there were the best of the best – Donald Maass, Lisa Cron, Kathryn Craft, Keith Cronin, and so many more – and it was a thing of beauty to look around that room and actually SEE the scales falling from each others' eyes as we listened (when I wasn’t frantically typing 100 words per minute, that is.)

This was not all of us - just the 10% who wanted to brave a 7AM walk.

And here’s the thing, y’all. Not everyone can spend a week and a thousand dollars on a conference like that. Almost nobody I know has that kind of opportunity. And when I lie awake at night and wonder who I’m supposed to be, the only answer I can rest my mind on is “some kind of squishy, cheerleading Prometheus.” Most of my advantages are unearned – but they won’t go unshared. My life’s mission is to steal fire from the lofty far reaches of the world – from thousand-dollar writing conferences and six-year graduate degrees and million-page arcane reading lists – and share it with every striving wanter I can find. (And that is the handy thing about fire: taking some does not at all diminish the original quantity.)

This is the Writers Bloc help board, which I think captures the Unboxed spirit as well: a place where everyone can ask for help with one hand and offer it with the other.

So here is the offer: help me finish funding the Writers Bloc (we are only $250 monthly-dollars short of our $450 goal!), and I will get these 35,000 words’ worth of typed, finished notes to every one of our Patreon supporters, yourself included. That means you get the writeups from all of the following:
  • Anne Greenwood Brown – Wrangling Plot (plus interactive Excel ‘beat sheet’ – plug in your ideal word count and see every plot point laid out!)
  • Donald Maass – Character Layers and How to Use Them
  • Donald Maass – The Hidden Novel
  • Donald Maass – The Story You’re Not Telling
  • Donald Maass – Unboxed Story (four-hour workshop!)
  • Heather Webb – Making the Good Great with Revision
  • Kathryn Craft – Emotional Turning Points
  • Kathryn Craft – Spotlighting Techniques
  • Lisa Cron – How to Write a Scene
  • Lisa Cron – Secondary Characters, Subplots, and Flashbacks
  • Lisa Cron – Story Genius (four-hour workshop!)
  • Lisa Cron – the Reader Manifesto
  • Therese Walsh, Barbara O’Neal, and Heather Webb – Writing True Characters

And I’m not asking you to take a leap of faith here, either. Here is collateral on the promise: my witeup of Donald Maass’ four-hour “Unboxed Story” workshop, now in handy printable workbook form. (Do yourself a favor and curl up with a paper copy of this – it is an incredible, in-depth exercise that will change the way you think about your characters and your relationship with your story - not for scrolling and skimming.)

To be clear: if you become a Writers Bloc Patreon supporter, you’ll be charged monthly, for whatever dollar amount you choose. You can choose one of our $5/$10/$15 levels (and get the goodies that go along with them), or type in a different amount. You can cancel anytime you want. And the Unboxed notes offer is good for any dollar amount - $1 and up. I'll send the entire package as soon as we reach our $450 monthly goal. (Heck – if this works out, maybe we can start doing this notes-sharing thing on the regular. I have quite a stockpile already, and more conferences on the calendar for 2017.) DFWWW members, I'll happily include you as well - but you must opt in (email writers.bloc at dfwwritersworkshop.org if you're not already signed up), and I would really appreciate your help in sharing this initiative.

So that’s it. That’s what I’m asking, and what I have to trade for it. Please reply here with questions, or hit me up by email: tex at thetexfiles.com. It’s a strange proposition, to be sure... but I believe in this, and us, and you. And the beautiful thing about fire is that only grows by sharing it.

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