DIY MFA Workshop Recording

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Writing

“Will there be a recording of the DIY MFA Online Workshop?”

This was perhaps the most common question I got after the workshop this past week so I thought it would share the answer on the website today, along with the concepts that this question brought up.

First, the short answer. Will there be a recording of the workshop?┬á No, but also yes. This specific workshop was not recorded. But don’t worry. If you wanted to attend but were unable to do so, you will be able to get your hands on some version of this workshop very soon. the only difference will be in the format.

We are currently working with Shindig (the platform that hosted last week’s workshop) to run another live event on this same topic in the future, so keep your eyes on the newsletter or on this website for details coming soon. We are also exploring ways to reformat the concepts presented in the workshop so we can provide the same information in different formats, such as video and/or audio recordings or downloadable worksheets or eBooks.

Why no workshop recording?

The easy answer would be to say that it was a logistical decision and in a certain sense, it was. Doing a recording is an extra step, one that requires a little more technical know-how, and since I was using this interactive platform for the first time, I wanted to focus on basic things first. But the truth is that in retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t record it and I’m not sure that I will record workshops like this in the future.

A live event is live for a reason. There’s that interactive and spontaneous component that you get at a live workshop and a recording will not be the same experience. Maybe I’m a purist, but a recorded version of a live event doesn’t feel right to me, it feels like I’d be providing the “next-best thing” to the live workshop and to me that’s just not good enough. Why provide a second-rate alternative to a live workshop when I can adjust the content to create a first-rate version of something else with that same information? I would much rather create a video, podcast or workbook on the same topic as the workshop but craft it so that the content really shines in that specific medium.

In the end it all comes down to respect, and there are three ways that respect comes into play here.

1) Respect for Technology

First, it’s important that we respect the various media through which we share our stories. We can tell the same story through the printed page or via pixels on a screen and there will be subtle but significant differences between the two versions. Each medium we use to tell our story has advantages and disadvantages and it’s important to understand what each one can do. There are things you can do with the printed word (convey a character’s thoughts, for instance) that will never be possible on a movie or television screen (unless you rely on cheesy voice-overs) Respecting the various outlets that we use to tell our stories means we must understand what each medium can and cannot accomplish, and this means adjusting our stories so that they come to life in that medium.

For example, I’ve noticed that people read differently with eReaders, tablets and printed books. Kindle is great for reading on-the-go because it’s portable, stores multiple books on one device and it’s easy to turn pages with the click of a finger. At the same time, the Kindle is horrible for navigating reference books because it’s had to flip through the pages and find a specific section. Also, following links on the Kindle is clunky and awkward so the Kindle–and other eReaders like it–is generally best for reading novels or memoir, which people tend to read sequentially.

Tablets are great for creating an interactive experience for the reader, integrating text, links and even video or audio components. Of course, the main downside with tablets is the strain it puts on your eyes. Personally, I find eReaders or printed books to be much easier on my eyes, especially after a long day of reading and writing at my computer.

Printed books have some great advantages too. Excepting 800-page hardcover tomes, printed books can be quite portable. They’re less likely than tablets to cause eye-strain and there’s something about holding a book in your hands that just feels nice. The downside, of course, is the expense. Paper books are more expensive, both in terms of printing and the cost to the consumer, and when you add up all the poor, helpless trees who gave their lives for all that paper you have to admit there is a certain environmental cost as well.

But eBooks versus printed books is just the beginning. Writers can choose to tell their stories via movies or television, audiobooks, podcasts, blogs and websites, even smartphone apps. The key to respecting technology is understanding what it can and can’t do and making sure that the story you’re telling fits the medium you’re using to tell it. Which brings it to the next type of respect.

2) Respect for Your Writing

When you take a piece of writing and try to shove it into a format where it doesn’t belong, that’s not good either for your work of for your own ego. Disrespecting one’s own writing comes in many forms but the two most common are submitting work to the wrong places and forcing a piece of writing to be something that it’s not.

You might submit your work to places where it clearly does not fit, on the off-chance that maybe, just maybe, it will squeak through and get published. It’s astounding how many writers do this. Clearly their work gets an immediate rejection and that’s doubly-bad for the writer. Rejection is painful, no matter how many times you go through it you’ll never quite get used to the sting, so why not save yourself that pain? More importantly, the time you spend trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole is time not spent submitting the work to a place that may be a good fit. Respecting your own writing means finding the right audience for your work: people who will read it, appreciate it and share it with their friends.

The other thing to avoid is trying to make your writing into something that it’s not. When I started DIY MFA, I thought of it as a concept for a book and the website was just a side project. Now, two years later, the website has completely overshadowed the book part of the equation. It’s crucial that when you’re writing, you’re sure that your book is actually a… book. Sure, if you’re writing fiction or memoir, the answer is more clear-cut, but if your book is prescriptive non-fiction it’s important to consider whether your book really needs to be a book. Could it be something else? A podcast? A blog or website? A video channel on YouTube? Or is it all of the above?

3) Respect for Our Readers

At DIY MFA, we respect our readers. A lot of writers, bloggers and online businesses out there have no problem recycling and repackaging the same content and presenting it to their audiences as though it was something new. Personally, I find that to be supremely disrespectful of the readers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for writers using as many different platforms and technologies to present their work. After all, different readers will prefer to consume stories or information in different formats and part of respecting one’s audience is in recognizing their diverse quirks and preferences.

I do take issue, however, with writers and publishers who shove a book into a new format without stopping to consider whether the original text should be adjusted to suit the new medium. Even worse is when writers or publishers claim that this repurposed version is somehow different and more special just because it’s in a new format. Some may call this multitasking approach “more efficient” but I call it just plain lazy.

This is why we are not recording our workshops. At DIY MFA we believe that presentation matters. Every bit of content we create is adapted specifically for the medium in which we share it with you. We won’t cut corners because we know our readers are smart enough to notice if we do. That’s why we love you guys.

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