“The Workshop is a great place to learn about the craft and to meet other writers. The convention is tons of fun, and the writers who attend the workshop find that they have a built-in cohort throughout the weekend. Writing is a long game, and that’s why it’s important to find your community.”
– Rebecca Schwarz
Coming this summer is Austin’s great science fiction and fantasy writing conference, ArmadilloCon! The con is celebrating its 41st anniversary after years spent supporting and engaging with up-and-coming speculative fiction writers. ArmadilloCon features a one-day writing workshop with professional writer guests like Rebecca Roanhorse and Dan Tolliver who critique and edit the attendees’ works. The deadline to submit manuscripts before registering for the conference is June 14, and this year’s con writing workshop falls on Friday, August 2nd, the first day of the 3-day conference. We spoke with this year’s ArmadilloCon writing workshop director, Rebecca Schwarz, and are happy to share the conversation here.
An Interview with Rebecca Schwarz
Scribe: What inspired your decision to direct the ArmadilloCon Workshop?
Rebecca Schwarz: I came up as a writer through the workshop. I attended as a student for three of four years. After I began publishing short stories, I was asked to teach and did that for a few years. Stina Leicht and Marshal Ryan Maresca had been running it during that time. When it was time to pass the torch, Stina asked me if I would like to step up. Since the workshop was such a big part of my development as a writer, I was honored to be entrusted with it.
Scribe: Who is the audience that you would most like to attract?
RS: The workshop is geared for beginning to intermediate writers who are interested in writing speculative fiction, which generally encompasses science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Workshop participants can submit up to 5,000 words of either a short story or the first chapter of a novel. For the purposes of the workshop, our definition is broad, anything with a speculative element is welcome.
The morning has panels on craft, some writing exercises and collaborative activities. In the afternoon students break out into small group critique sessions. Each critique group is led by two professional writers. This workshop is a great place to not only work on craft, it is also a great place to meet and make connections with fellow writers.
Scribe: Which part of the conference has been the most interesting or exciting for you in past years?
RS: This is the third year that we have provided a Sponsored Seat program for writers of color. (The workshop page has more information about the sponsored seats and a link to the application form.) Diversity is vital to speculative fiction–a genre centered on exploration and encountering the Other. Over the past three years, the sponsored seat program has grown as well as the general attendance. It has been wonderful to see all of the different voices and visions from writers of all kinds gathered together at the workshop.
Scribe: In what ways has the science fiction and fantasy writing community grown through this workshop?
RS: This will be the workshop’s 21st year (and the convention’s 41st!) and having a long-running workshop focused on science fiction and fantasy writing has served as in incubator in central Texas for the genre writing community. You can check out the faculty on the Workshop’s page for just a taste of some of our amazing local and regional Texas writers. We’ve kept the cost of the workshop low, so writers from all walks of life can have a workshop experience. Those who enjoy and benefit from this sort of workshop can come back year after year. This is just my third year and one of my favorite things is seeing repeat students improve–stretch their wings in their writing, and eventually start getting published themselves!
Also, because we maintain low teacher/student ratio in the critique break-out groups, we assemble a faculty of between 12 to 24 teachers each year. This year both the Guest of Honor, Rebecca Roanhorse, and the Toastmaster, Marshal Ryan Maresca will be teaching along with the rest of our amazing faculty. The faculty generally participate in the convention and the entire weekend is a time to commiserate about writing, share industry information, and bond.
Scribe: As a writer yourself, what is your best advice to aspiring writers?
RS: Keep writing, keep trying to improve, and keep it fun. Writing is a long game. There are a lot of skills in play and it can take a long time to develop and hone them.
Scribe: What are the most significant takeaways from ArmadilloCon?
RS: The Workshop is a great place to learn about the craft and to meet other writers. Honestly, critique groups are not productive for every writer and this one-day low-cost workshop is an excellent way to find out a bit more about what kind of writer you are. The convention is tons of fun, and the writers who attend the workshop find that they have a built-in cohort throughout the weekend. Like I said, writing is a long game, and that’s why it’s important to find your tribe. Personally, the workshop and the convention are a time where I can visit with old friends and make new connections within the community. It fuels my writing for the rest of the year.
You can find more details about timing, events, and pricing of the ArmadilloCon workshop here.
To submit your unpublished work for the conference, go here.