You know, we here at DFWcon are amazingly fortunate to get so many excellent VIPs and first-rate speakers, all of whom donate their time to help make our conference a success. And Les Edgerton has donated more than most: here on the eve of DFWcon, he has taken the time to write to you, to let you know not only who he is and what he’s about, but also what you can expect at his classes and workshops. Take it away, Les!
I’m excited to be participating in this year’s writing conference and looking forward to meeting you! This convention represents a “coming home” for me as I was born in Odessa, Texas and raised until a teenager in Freeport, Texas. This is a little farther north than I’m used to, but it’s Texas and that means the food is going to be great and the people warm and friendly, and pretty smart cookies.
I’m a full-time writer, with 17 books published and my 18th coming out in August, a black comedy crime caper titled THE GENUINE,IMITATION, PLASTIC KIDNAPPING from Down&Out Books. It’s also coming out from my German publisher, Pulpmaster. Got a couple other projects near completion—a new craft book based on the workshop I’m presenting here—A FICTION WRITER’S WORKSHOP AT THE BIJOU—and a memoir titled ADRENALINE JUNKIE that we’ve also got some film interest in. I have a bit of a checkered career, having been an outlaw for many years and doing time in prison, to teaching writing in college for UCLA and the University of Toledo, and a lot of other stuff in between.
Besides writing, my main activity is teaching novel writing in an ongoing private online class. We keep the class to 10 people each ten-week session and many keep taking the next session when it comes along. We’ve had extraordinary good fortune with the class as just about everyone who has stayed with it, has emerged with a publishable book and agent. My students have dubbed it “Les Edgerton’s Boot Camp for Writers” and it’s aptly-named. It’s the toughest ten weeks just about all of them have ever gone through. I taught in colleges and universities for many years and just didn’t like the methods most schools want their teachers to use, so decided to quit wasting my time and my students’ time with methods that aren’t much good. Specifically, that “sandwich” method of teaching most schools seem gaga about. Where you offer a student a bit of praise and then a bit of criticism and then a bit of praise. Just never made much sense to me. Often, writers in class haven’t done a single thing to be praised for—every single word and sentence sucked—and I never could see the value in making stuff up to make people feel good. Unless a person is dumb, he or she can spot false praise a mile away and it isn’t worth much. Our class is very different. We don’t hold anyone’s hands and we don’t believe in praise when it hasn’t been earned. It takes a writer with a tough skin to get through it, but just about everyone who has will attest they emerged a much better writer than when they began. I have a philosophy and it’s this: if the work sucks we let you know it sucks. We also show you how to make it not suck and how to create work that’s publishable. That’s our only goal—publication. You don’t get a participation trophy with us just for showing up.
We rarely have openings but we do offer an alternative. For a nominal sum, anyone can enroll with us in an auditing capacity. You don’t actively participate, but you see everything we’re doing in class and it’s quite an education. The response I had recently from an auditor who held an MFA in Writing is pretty much the norm—he said he’d learned more in that ten weeks watching our class work than he had in all the years in his MFA program.
And that’s the only goal I’ll have this weekend in the workshops and classes I’ll be leading. To show you how to achieve publication of your writing, provided you have the talent and provided you have the work ethic. It’s the only goal I’m interested in when working with writers. In our workshops we’ll show you what works and what doesn’t and we’ll show you why it does or doesn’t. I won’t ask you to simply “take my word” for what works and what doesn’t—I’ll show you the reasons why it either does or doesn’t.
And, I don’t care what genre you work in. I’m with Nabokov on this one—the only two genres I recognize are good writing and bad writing.
If you can get into the workshop on Thelma & Louise, I’d urge you to do so—I think you’ll agree afterwards that it’s one of the single most informative sessions on writing you’ve ever experienced. I feel the other two are equally valuable. The first—Hooked—will cover the principles advanced in my book of that name. We’ll cover extensively how to begin your novel so that the gatekeepers will keep reading—the same techniques that apply throughout the entire novel and that lead to a “yes” from them. In the second workshop, on Antagonists and Protagonists and story structure—we’ll go over in great detail what each character needs to do to serve your novel and how to create a story structure that will serve any novel you want to write. We’ll be knocking down a few sacred cows in this one…
Finally, as a Texan myself, I believe in one of the great adages of our state—we don’t tolerate well folks who are “all hat and no cattle.” We’re going to help you get those cattle.
Looking forward to a great experience!