The Seton Hill Experience
I've met them before, Seton Hill alum or students. They seem normal (well as normal as authors can be anyway) until you mention the Seton Hill Popular Writing program and they all break out into the same goofy grin. I've been hearing about Seton Hill since we first published Mike Arnzen in 2004. He's on the faculty at SHU which was my first clue that there was something not-quite-right about the place. I'd met students and graduates from there and had been impressed with them all. Seton Hill's is the only graduate program dedicated to genre writing which I always thought was great. So I had a generally good impression of SHU.
That all changed when we were invited to be publisher guests at this year's annual In Your Write Mind Writer's Workshop. That's right, I've been converted to one of those goofy-grinners. How to explain the SHU experience? First of all, we were treated with respect and courtesy at every turn. They made sure we were fed, slept in comfort and never got lost going between events. Truly, all the people I met were friendly. Every event has its dramas but when the problems are solved before you even know about them that is the mark of a smooth operation. I don't actually know the roles of everyone involved but Venessa Giunta coordinated with us in advance and made sure everything was scheduled to fit into our travel plans. I know Donna Munro, Lisa Carino, Judi Flemming and Deanna Lepsch put in many hours to make things run smoothly. Again, the fact that I don't know the specifics shows how well they did their jobs. I do know Natalie Duvall was in charge of the book signing which was a whirlwind of sales that more than made the trip worth it.
RDSP's table at the book fair (picture taken by Michael Arnzen
What about the caliber of the other guests? Stellar! Although we didn't have as much time to chat with Geoff Fuller or Michael Knost as we would have liked we recognized kindred spirits. Both have years of experience and can give great perspective on both the business and the craft of writing. I highly recommend meeting these two gentlemen if possible. At least consider reading their blog posts on the workshop. Fuller's is here and Knost's is here. There are also classes given by faculty and alumni. Although I didn't attend as many as I would have liked these show a breadth and depth of knowledge that far exceeds most writing workshop fare.
Heidi Ruby Miller taught a class on Sci-Fi Romance
As guests part of our duties were to take pitches which I was somewhat dreading. Again SHU presented itself well. These were definitely the highest quality pitches we have received and the students have so much knowledge about both writing and the publishing industry. It was nice to be able to give advice to people who could understand and were in a place to really hear what we had to say.
Attendees at the Gatsby Ball
But the most impressive thing about SHU is the community. There is a real feeling of pride and a sense of belonging that pervaded the whole event. I know every community has their disagreements and I'm sure there are plenty of those but what I felt was a respect for the craft of writing, and the people who do it, despite the sometimes overwhelming life pressures. And the beauty part? The In Your Write Mind Workshop is open to anyone. So, if you are considering the SHU program, or are an author that wants to learn more about the craft and the business, I highly recommend putting next year's workshop on your calendar. (http://inyourwritemind.setonhill.edu/) You might just become a goofy grinner yourself.
See more photos from the event here.