I just spent over a week on the Oregon coast attending the 2018 Anthology Workshop run by WMG Publishing's Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Allyson Longueira. The other editors this year included Denise Little, Ron and Brigid Collins, and Mark Leslie Lefebvre. Plus nearly fifty professional writers who wrote stories for six different Fiction River anthologies and Pulphouse Magazine. How was it? Fantastic and intense.
Anthology Workshop Basics
Dean Wesley Smith runs the Anthology Workshop along with Kristine Kathryn Rusch and WMG Publishing on the Oregon coast. The link to Dean's site provides more information about this invitation-only workshop. Basically, a bunch of professional writers write short stories on a tight deadline for a half-dozen anthologies before going to the workshop. They also read the stories.
This isn't a critique workshop. The writers don't critique each other's work. The only critiques come from the panel of editors who each give their opinions and thoughts on each story in turn. The editor of that anthology is the final word on the story, making an offer to purchase the story (pro-rates) or rejecting it. It takes all day to get through the stories for each anthology.
If you have a hard time with form rejection letters, sitting and taking notes while 6-7 editors pick apart your story in front of a room full of writers might not be for you. It's a fantastic opportunity to learn.
Anthology Workshop Reflections
A year ago I decided to attend the Anthology Workshop once I finished my MLIS degree. I've attended numerous other Oregon coast workshops on writing craft and business. I've sold stories to Fiction River. Despite that, I hadn't attended one of the anthology workshops. I knew what to expect (more or less) from my other experiences. It definitely met my expectations and was a great way to launch my effort to relaunch my writing.
The schedule each day started with joining other writers at breakfast at 9 AM at the Historic Anchor Inn. Then up to the Inn at the Spanish Head for the sessions at 11 AM. The editor panel started through the stories up for that anthology. We broke for lunch at 1 PM and came back at 3 PM to continue. Another break at 6 PM for dinner, back at 8 PM for the final stories. Once the panel finished with the stories the anthology editor assembled the anthology, making decisions about 'maybe' stories. In some cases decisions waited until later in the week. Throughout Dean also picked stories for Pulphouse Magazine. By 9:30 PM (usually), we wrapped up and went back to the Anchor to hang out until 11 PM or so.
It's great fun hanging out with lots of writers. I also found that I needed to take care of myself by getting some solitary time back in my room. As the days went on, I cut back on attending some of the morning and evening sessions. I needed that time. I still took time to spend talking with the other writers and editors. I learned a lot and enjoyed those conversations. I just took time for myself when needed.
The Anthology Workshop highlights so many invaluable details about storytelling. As each editor discusses each story, you hear what worked, what didn't, and what they might suggest changing in edits. You see them disagree with each other. One editor might say that they got confused, or think that something should be changed, only to have another editor contradict them. Very few stories work for the entire panel.
A chief lesson: send the stories out. Each reader will have different reactions. Some will love a story while others don't.
Selling Isn't Everything
Out of the six stories I submitted, two got picked up. One for Fiction River and another for Pulphouse Magazine. That's two more professional sales and I'm thrilled. It isn't the most important thing that I took away from the anthology workshop. The writers wrote something like 1.2 million words of fiction for the anthology workshop. The editors talked about every single story. And I have notes about all of the stories.
That is the best thing about the anthology workshop. I have extensive notes about what worked and what didn't work for each editor about each story. That's a terrific learning resource which will help me improve my writing. I'll be happy when my stories get published, but the storytelling lessons will continue to improve my writing for years to come.