(2) One old castle complete with arches, candle sconces, and bedrooms larger than most studio apartments.
(2) Two critique circles, one mini write-a-thon, and one free-for-all brainstorming session.
Let simmer for three days in the south of Germany. For extra flavor, toss in a moat, a mysteriously locked closet, and self-made rumors of a resident spirit.
I know I've promised people a report of the Villa Diodata Workshop, but honestly, I don't know how to begin. It's not the kind of experience you can sum up in a five hundred paragraph essay. It was like being in a college apartment with roommates again--complete with an enthralling, freewheeling conversation that went on all day and that you could dip in and out of at will--but without the homework and with a dedicated purpose. I met awesome people, I learned tons about the business, and I had time to write. In short, I loved it.
Random Things I Learned:
Talking to writerfolks in person is even more fun than hanging out with them online.
I really ought to look into foreign reprint rights for my published stories because, hey: Expanded readership and free translation!
When looking for agents, it's useful to play the numbers game: Submit to a bunch of them at the same time, then, as soon as one of them offers representation, contact the others with a diplomatically-worded letter to the effect of: "I've received an offer from so-and-so but, honestly, I'd rather work with you. I was wondering whether you've had a chance to look at my manuscript yet." This motivates them to look at the manuscript quickly and, if they like it, gives you the option from selecting among several offers rather than having to make a blind decision on whether the accept the first one.
There is a nifty site called agentquery.com.
My novel outline is mostly sound from a structural viewpoint, but needs to be motivated more effectively. In one of our late-night we-really-ought-to-be-sleeping conversations, Deanna pointed out that it might even be marketable to a mainstream audience if I could fit it into a structure familiar to them. "Science Fiction Thriller" is actually not too bad a catchphrase...
Speaking of mainstream, I really ought to write a Fantasy Thriller, because it sounds like something I'd love to read.
My children had fun at grandma's house without me, although they've been a little clingy since I got back.
John Olsen makes a heck of a three-course French dinner.
...and that doesn't really even scratch the surface, but it's enough for now. I had a blast, and fully expect to be there next time. Big, big kudos to Ruth for putting the whole thing together.