Last week I had an interesting experience with an on-line workshop that I believe proves my point.
All About Me
The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators is offering a series of digital workshops for its members. The week before last, writer Kate Messner ran a revision workshop. I had the option of signing up to take it live, in real time, so to speak, but for one reason and another didn't. I watched it the next week when I could squeeze it in between, I don't know, my pathetic attempts at making cloth masks and my obsession with working on my grocery order to be delivered to the house.
This was a very good workshop. I've never read anything by Messner, but she's well known and well regarded in the New England SCBWI world. The content, as well as the presentation, of this workshop suggests the buzz is well deserved.
More importantly, though, was how I took this workshop. In addition to taking it in my living room, perhaps in my yoga pants (I can't remember), because this thing was archived, I could go back to repeat things I missed, such as the title of a book she mentioned. I was able to stop it altogether for a while so I could put something in the oven for dinner.
Additionally, I did not have to put in an hour or two of driving to and from a site, which I have sometimes had to do for workshops. I did not have to get up early. I did not have to hunt around the day before to make sure I had something to wear. I did not have to decompress after I got home.
But It's Not Just About Me
A friend from my writers' group attended a day-long NESCBWI event last month that had to be switched to a remote program. She came away with contacts she could make submissions to and, as she pointed out, she saved time and gas money because she didn't have to drive to the southern part of the state to attend this.
The Cons Of Digital Workshops
Yes, I have attended some on-line programming over the years that wasn't terrific. That was even lame. But that's also true of events I've attended in the flesh. I once went to a workshop led by a very famous children's author who clearly hadn't prepared and didn't even know he was scheduled to be there for two hours. I lost the money I paid to see him, but also the time and effort it took to get there and home again. If we'd done that whole thing over the Internet, I would have lost only one of those three things.
"You make connections at real world events, Gail," some of you may tell me. No, I don't. And while it's true there are agents and editors out there who are closed to submissions unless they come from writers they've encountered at conferences, in my experience, they're open to everyone who attended the conference, not just the ones in their workshops. They can still do that with writers who've signed up and paid for virtual workshops. My writers' group friend is a case in point.
I Don't Believe In Predictions
There's no telling what life is going to be like after a few million people have spent six weeks or much, much more at home. It may not be any different at all. But if change does come, it might come because people end up liking some of what they were doing on their own. It remains to be seen how many people like saving time on their professional short-term learning experiences, and if we start seeing more and more workshops and presentations offered on-line.