This past November, I attended the Futurescapes 200-Page Intensive Writing Workshop. Overall, I’m glad I took part. That said, I’m not sure I’d do it again.
What is Futurescapes?
In my last post, Writing, Revising, Resting, and a Writing Workshop, I shared the exciting news that I’d applied to and gotten accepted into the Futurescapes 200-page intensive writing workshop. At the time of that post, I was scrambling to revise the manuscript I planned to submit for the workshop. I was also still trying to figure out what to expect from the workshop. Their website was woefully lacking in specific details. Now that I’m on the other side of the experience, though, I’ve got lots to share with you.
There are actually several different Futurescapes Workshops that happen each year, each with a different focus. There’s the horror-focused workshop, Fearscapes, as well as a 3,000-word and a 50-page workshop. (They’re accepting applications for the 3,000-word workshop right now, by the way.) I took part in their 200-page intensive program. This year, the workshop was entirely virtual, and though it has happened as an in-person workshop in the past, I’ve heard that the organizers plan to keep the program virtual moving forward.
How It Worked
Participants were organized into small critique groups of four or five, each led by a faculty mentor. We received a survey in which we got a list of all the authors and literary agents who would be mentoring, and we ranked how interested we were in having each one as our group leader. Researching the participating faculty took a bit of time and energy because Futurescapes only provided names. They didn’t provide bios or even links to bios, which was a little annoying. However, after doing my due diligence and googling each and every participating agent/author, I ranked my preferences, and to my absolute delight, I got my first pick! Author Matthew J. Kirby, winner of the Edgar Award and the PEN Center USA Literary Award, led my critique group.
I and my fellow group members were introduced to each other via an email and encouraged to “get to know” each other, though how we did that was left up to us. Futurescapes doesn’t use any sort of learning management platform the way Gotham Writers or Writers Digest programs do. I created a google chat space, and my critique group used it to communicate in the weeks leading up to and during the workshop.
We exchanged our 50,000-word (200-page) manuscript excerpts (by email) and then set about reading and providing feedback in the form of editorial letters based on a list of guiding questions provided to us. My group members did an amazing job, and the feedback I got from them was thoughtful, reflective, specific, and useful. I suspect that mileage may vary on that front depending on who’s in your group.
The Workshop Sessions
The actual workshop consisted of a series of 2 to 3-hour-long zoom meetings spread out over a single week in the following order:
- (1 hour) Futurescapes opening Welcome session
- (3 hours) Students-only (and student-led) critique session.
- (3 hours) Students and faculty critique session (faculty-led).
- (15 minutes) One-on-One meetings with your faculty mentor.
- (1 to 2 hours) Query letter critique session with a literary agent.
- (1 1/2 hours each) Several back-to-back Saturday Zoom classes taught by various authors and/or agents.
- (1 hour) Futurescapes closing Wrap-up session
Was It Worth It?
Futurescapes boasts a much lower price tag than some other well-known writing workshops such as Clarion, Viable Paradise, Taos Toolbox, or Odyssey Writing Workshops, but it’s still quite expensive. The feedback I got from my fellow group members was not significantly higher quality than what I’ve gotten from my own personal writing group. Don’t get me wrong, it was good feedback. But was it worth the cost of the workshop? For me, maybe not. If you don’t have an established critique group or a trusted critique partner, however, Futurescapes might be worth the cost.
A huge missing element of the Futurescapes experience (for me) was the social piece. One of the things that make the more expensive in-person workshops mentioned above so attractive are the the peer-to-faculty and peer-to-peer networking opportunities and friendships that form during the off-hours of the programs. At Futurescapes, networking opportunities were practically non-existent.
There was a Discord group. I’ll give them that. But it was informal (not actually run by the organization), and it was not widely (or uniformly) publicized. Some but not all participants and faculty mentors used it, and it was mostly used to troubleshoot technical difficulties.
A month out from the workshop, I have not communicated once with anyone in my critique group. We scattered to the four corners, which is unsurprising. There was no opportunity for us to socialize and get to know each other embedded into the structure of the program. Not that there couldn’t be. Maybe (I hope) the organizers will find ways to build that into the Futurescapes experience moving forward.
I also lamented how little actual interaction I got with my faculty mentor. He shared some great insights in his editorial feedback letter, but I only got a single 15-minute one-on-one meeting with him to discuss that feedback outside of the group critique zoom that he led. Eva Scalo ran my group’s query letter critique session, and she was great. But, again, we got a single group zoom session with her that lasted just over one hour.
So, unless they change the format of the 200-page workshop moving forward, you shouldn’t expect a lot of contact time with any of the participating faculty members.
Final Thoughts on Futurescapes
I’m glad I got the chance to participate in the Futurescapes 200-page intensive virtual workshop, but I don’t think I will do it again. Based on my experience, it’s an excellent “entry” level workshop for writers who either can’t or don’t want to take part in one of the in-person workshops that exist.
If you have thoughts about writing workshops in general or questions about Futurescapes, drop them in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by, and as always, happy writing!
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