Saturday, June 2, 2007

My Favorite Time of the Year

Christmas? Thanksgiving? My birthday? Nope. The first week of June. That's when the annual Palm Springs Writing Workshop takes place. The workshop is run by novelist and screenwriter Raymond Obstfeld, and is now about 25 years old. The workshop, that is, not Raymond. He's a few years older than that.

Note that this isn't a Writer's Workshop, but a Writing Workshop. And much writing get done. No lectures, no speakers; just writing and critiques. A dozen or so writers. You write every day. You critique every day. And you hand in your stuff to be critiqued every other day. Near-instant feedback. I wouldn't want it every day of my life, but it is wonderful for a week or so.

The genres of the manuscripts and the levels of experience and ages of the attendees run the gamut. No one is needlessly cruel (usually), but the critiques are frank and very specific. Of course, in the span of a week, only a small amount of material can be worked on--typically a chapter or two--but those pages get a real workout.

Palm Springs in June? Isn't it a bit, umm, warm? Yep. Hellish, in fact. Hence the low hotel rates on luxury accomodations. It keeps you in the hotel room and minimizes distractions (except for the time spent at the pool. Most of the folks do their written critiques at the pool. The sight of people wandering around in the pool reading manuscripts and making notes raises a few eyebrows among the other guests; and, inevitably, a few of the manuscripts end up getting handed back to their authors in a puffed-up state, like a paperback that has fallen into the bathtub.)

Writing, reading, near-instant feedback, and not a few bottles of wine. Heaven must be like that. Except perhaps not quite as hot.

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