In the spring of 2011, I sat in a room full of eager writers listening to a multitude of published professionals talk about how to query agents and the many trials and tribulations of contracts. One of the pros asked a question to a lady in the audience, the woman stood up and spoke about a writing workshop. Afterwards, I bumped into the lady and asked her a question about this workshop, Cascade Writers. She gave me her card and of course, after deliberation and encouragement from Bad Husband, I decided to attend. From that short amount of time on the beaches of the Washington coast, I made friends that are still with me today. I've also accomplished more as a writer than I ever expected because of the connections I made that weekend.
Karen Junker is the founder of the non-profit organization, Cascade Writers Workshop. She along with her husband Jorgen, and a board of directors, run a weekend long writing event that creates friendships, improves writing, and I dare say can change lives. One of the things, that impresses me about Karen is that she has met so many people over the years but is not a name dropper. She also treats every single writer as though they have the potential to win a Hugo or Nebula. The writers that she chooses to lead groups are high quality well-rounded people who will inspire you to push yourself to the next level. My past leaders have been Ken Scholes and Tina Connolly who both have been published by Tor. Both leaders were able to give me better insight into my writing as well as make me feel like I belonged in the great big writing community.
Karen also leads several writer's groups in the Pacific Northwest the rest of the year. If you have the opportunity to sit down with her, she has stories to tell you personally as well as professionally that will make you laugh, cry, and think about what the hell you are doing with your crazy ideas.
Karen's inspirational story about an experience with her grandmother in the Ozark Mountains inspired me to really push forward with the anthology, Stitches, Witches, and Bitches. Now if I can get her to put it down on paper...
Karen tells us about herself and the workshop:
Katie: How long have you been writing? What inspires you to write?
Karen: I've been writing since around 1962. One of my poems was published in a local paper so I was thrilled about that. I've also had an e-book published in 2005. I like to write stories I'm not finding in published works. But primarily I'm a fan of writers and I want to do everything I can to help them in their work.
Katie: What made you decide to create a writing workshop? How many alumni of your workshop have went on to publish?
Karen: I started the workshop as a way to promote new writers, but also get a chance to meet some of my favorite authors and other top industry pros. I found a way to get people together who need to meet each other. Many of our alumni have gone on to publish, but we can't take credit for it directly--we've had some very talented writers attend our events! Some have met their editors or agents at our events and they later worked with them in their careers.
Katie: How do you choose special guest for your workshop? Who have you featured in the past?
Karen: I like to choose special guests for the events based on who I'd like to meet, who I think will be a great teacher, and whose instruction can really help writers at all levels learn something they can use in their work. We've had many editors from Tor and other NY publishing houses, authors like Steven Brust, Mercedes Lackey, Jacqueline Carey, Jim Butcher, Alma Alexander, Jay Lake, David Levine, Ken Scholes, Tina Connolly, Patrick Swenson and a host of others. We put on events as a private business called Writer's Weekend for many years before we formed the nonprofit organization called Cascade Writers.
Katie: What can writer's expect this year from the workshop?
Karen: This year's workshop will have a variety of genres represented in the guest instructors' work. We have Tor editor Claire Eddy and agent Cameron McClure from the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Author instructors include JA Pitts, Nisi Shawl, Delilah Marvelle, Patrick Swenson, Ken Scholes, Jennifer Brozek, Jaym Gates, Randy Henderson, Spencer Ellsworth, Cory Skerry, Keffy Kehrli, Tom Wright, and Rebecca Birch. We'll have workshops on Wordpress and Promotion, How to Write a Query Letter, Pros and Cons of Small Publishers, a panel on LGBT issues in literature, and many other topics of interest to writers at all levels.
Cascade Writers is offering two scholarships: the Jay Lake Scholarship and a private scholarship from an annonymous donor. Check it out at: www.cascadewriters.com.
I will be attending this year as a student as well as speaking on a panel about starting your own small publishing company.
Evil Girlfriend with a Pen