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I came back to Portland yesterday from the Writers Weekend in Moclips, Washington, and my wife returned from Indiana, so life is familiar again now.

I had a great time up in Moclips at the Ocean Crest Resort, and will blog in more detail about the experience of the Writers Weekend. Took part in workshops, socialized a bit, went for walks and runs on the beach, and even got to see Hell's Belles (all-girl AC/DC cover band) at the nearby casino. The most fun, probably, was meeting and talking to a great variety of cool, fun and interesting writers of fiction.

The "writer gurus," Jay Lake and David Levine both did a great job as critique group leaders, and David performed double-duty with a series of three presentations, including his "Mission to Mars" (see a more hurried version of an earlier presentation on YouTube here). Big thanks to Jay and David for their efforts, and also to Karen Junker who not only organized the event, but put up with a writer swarm filling her cabin for most of the long weekend.

I'll say more in a subsequent blog post about some of the people I met, and specific things we did. The biggest surprise, to me at least, was the overall very high quality of the critiques given. I figured a lot of people would give other people's stories a shallow reading and a careless critique, but everyone seemed to dig in, read the stories closely and think about them carefully, and make a sincere, good-faith effort to help each other improve the work. I look forward to staying in touch with many of the writers I met. Overall it was great fun, both stimulating and challenging, and something I'd recommend. So if you missed out on going to this year's Writers Weekend and you're considering going next year, I'd say it's definitely worthwhile.
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I've mentioned this upcoming Writers Weekend retreat in Moclips, Washington a few times, and I keep saying "I'll write more about this soon."

Here's a link to the thing, in case anyone's interested:

http://www.WritersWeekend.com/.

First of all, I've never been to Moclips, Washington, which is on the central coast. In fact, I've only been to the Washington coast once (not counting Long Beach or Ilwaco, which are just across the bridge from Astoria, Oregon), to Hoquiam, which is more of a harbor town than real ocean beach. I'm kind of an Oregon Coast snob, which was probably reinforced by briefly living in Seattle, when all the Washingtonians I knew drove down to Oregon, to Seaside or Cannon Beach or Manzanita or Lincoln City, when they wanted to vacation at the beach.

This is one part "fun beach trip" and one part "writing workshop" but I'm looking forward to both aspects. The group is about fifteen people, including two "writer gurus," Jay Lake and David Levine -- in case you haven't heard of these guys, they're both award-winning, widely published writers of science fiction and fantasy. The other attendees are a diverse assortment of NW writers, some already fairly skilled and having some success getting published, and others closer to the beginning of the learning curve. I'm looking forward to seeing how this goes, though I suspect I may be the only one who's completely new to this kind of thing. I've done writing critiques before in classroom settings, but never a workshop like this, and I've done a variety of other art-related critiques as well (I'm a renaissance kinda guy like that) so I think it'll be somewhat familiar.

These things are always a little twitchy for me, because as a critic (say, evaluating music for Hypnos which -- if you're just tuning in -- is the ambient music label I run, along with my wife now) I tend toward blunt honesty. Usually I figure that's best for everyone involved, but in these settings that doesn't always work. I suspect these critiques may tend toward the opposite extreme... everyone finding two things to praise and two things to politely suggest tuning-up, for every story. You know, one person submits an A+ story that is immediately publishable with small tweaks, another person submits a real careless, confusing mess, and both people get critiques that basically say, "I like what you did with X, but if I were you I'd change Z a little bit -- overall good job!"

That's fine, I'm up for it. I figure with this kind of thing you make an honest effort, both beforehand with your submission, and during the event with your critiques, without sweating too much if a few of the others are trying not quite so hard. The old 80/20 rule always applies, so most of the helpful insight I receive on my own submission will come from just a few critiques, and the people who make the best use of the critiques they receive will likewise number in the single digits. You can't know who is who until you get underway, so you just have to act in good faith. Critique groups always have a self-aggrandizer, and at least one person who's absolutely offended at any suggestion they might change anything about their work.

But usually, there are sharp minds, good ideas, and wisdom to be shared.

Anyway, I'm expecting this should be fun, and I may even blog from Moclips, if there's wifi. I was originally just going to take along just my iPad and see if I could go computer-free, but if there's no wifi it'll be useless, so it looks like the Macbook Pro (for writing and note-taking, even if I'm offline), plus iPod Touch for the drive.

If any of you fellow workshoppers happen to see this, I look forward to meeting you.

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