May 20 Written by 

How to Destroy a Writers' Conference

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Take a fully-functioning annual writers' conference that's been successful for ten years or so, a conference loved by its participants, but difficult and draining work for its organizing committee and its instructors, who nevertheless realize, when it's all over, that they've created something wondrous and given some of the participants the greatest moments of their lives. Then destroy it, bit by bit. Here's how.

1. Decide it has to turn a bigger profit.
2. Cut the director's salary in half.
3. Refuse to pay reasonable fees for "name" writers as instructors and speakers, and instead hire graduate students, unknowns or personal friends.
4. Exploit upper-class high-schoolers' career-minded parents and start a youth writing workshop that runs simultaneously, and then mix the youth in with the adults.
5. Use as a logo a typewriter image or a quill pen image obtained from a free clipart site.
6. Cut the publicity and mailing budget and rely on Facebook and Twitter to drum up interest.
7. Book and announce the workshop instructors at the last possible minute.
8. Accept all applicants, including those who can't write a plain English sentence.
9. Raise the price each year.
10. Stop offering a scholarship for a person who can't afford the price.
11. Don't bother sending acceptance confirmation or welcome letters, or orientation kits.
12. Instead of offering bagels in the morning, get a committee member's mom to contribute a dry little quickbread. Cut it into very thin slices so there are enough slices to go around.
13. Hold the workshops and events in cheaper, shabbier buildings and rooms.
14. Cease hiring the instructor who is a popular, proven success, whose workshops fill instantly; get someone more hip.
15. Because the fiction and poetry workshops aren't filling, combine them into a fiction-and-poetry workshop.

(#15, friends, is the death blow, showing a total misunderstanding of writers, the writing process, and workshops.)
Catherine Rankovic

Writer, with 30+ years' writing and publishing experience, 20+ years' teaching experience. Last book read: Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton.