However, I must make sure I’m as well as I can be for this weekend, since teaching this workshop about writing and the professional field at the moment always leaves me exhausted, even when I’m well at the start.
Because I’m teaching this workshop I’m naturally thinking back to the first workshop I took as a student, which was the Oregon Coast Professional Writers Workshop.
At the time I was a young mother, with two children seven and three, and taking two weeks seemed like an awfully long time and an awfully hard imposition. In addition it cost a lot of money. I’m not sure how much it was, back then, but once we were done paying for plane, lodging and food, the total outlay came to about $2000.
I resisted taking the workshop because of the money and time outlay, but my husband told me he’d stay home and watch the children for the two weeks. As for the money – and at the time spending $50 a year for a zoo membership was a serious expense that needed to be carefully justified and we only did it because we went to the zoo every other week – he told me that we’d find it.
I went to that workshop and walked away with my first book contract. In the meantime, though, I asked Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, who taught it, why make it so long and charge so much? Didn’t they want to make it accessible to people like me, a broke mother of two? Couldn’t they have made it cheaper and shorter?
Their answer taught me a lesson I’ve found true, and which has held up over the years: when people are given something for free, they don’t value it. If you want people to learn and take the workshop seriously, you have to charge them enough for them to feel the pain, and they have to make an effort to attend.