My eyes hurt, I’m tired and a callous is forming onÂ my mouse wheel finger.Â This is the current cost of The Muse Online Writers Conference this year.Â Great, isn’t it?
When I first heard of the conference I thought to myself, “It’s online and it’s free.Â It’s probably not going to be very good.”Â I signed up last yearÂ with noÂ idea of what to expect.Â I was armed only with the knowledge that I’d be out of the town for the end of the conference and miss out on the last few days.Â Let me describe for you what the conference last year was like.Â Overwhelming.Â Educational.Â Fantastic!
Last year I learned about how to world build, where to find grants, why vampires are so loved and so on.
The workshopsÂ the last twoÂ yearsÂ were held in week-long forums hosted on Website ToolboxÂ and were easy to use.Â This is the software being used this year too.Â If you’ve ever used forums before these are basic and pretty easy to use.Â The “smart quotes” from Word don’t translate well so be prepared – turn off that feature in Word if you’re going to copy and paste your work into the forums.Â There is so much information, critiquing and networking being done.Â The organizers pay toÂ keep theÂ forumsÂ open a few weeks longer than the actual conference so participants can review missed discussions.
The chats have been held through ParachatÂ and have a maximum capacity of 100 logins before it starts bumping people out.Â I signed up for a lot of chats last year.Â The organizer hopes to have enough donations from this year to upgrade the software or switch to something else for chats.Â
Each year the conference gets better based on constructive feedback.Â I wasn’t there for the firstÂ year, but the workshops were held in Yahoo!Groups.Â Yahoo!Groups is a great tool but it can be difficult to follow multiple discussions at times.Â Last year a request was made for transcripts of the chats.Â And this year most of the chat sessions have transcripts available afterwards.Â I wonder what will be in store for 2009?
After experiencing the conference last year I cut back on the chats and only signed up for the workshops I thought I would participate in.Â During this year’s conference:
- I’ve reworked a short story that’s been through several drafts already.
- I’ve received good/helpful criticism on a short story that’s been rejected several times but is dear to me so I don’t want to trunk it.
- I’ve begun a new short story with elements of suspense.
- I’m exploring some of the scenes that will take place in my next novel.
It’s only Friday morning.Â There are so many more exercises to do and things to learn before the week is over.Â It may be a free conference but the time and effort that went into the week really shows in the quality of the presenters and the participants.