Nicole Cushing talks about her “Goal Setting for Your Writing Career (or Hobby)” workshop

ncushingTell us something about your StokerCon workshop that is not in the original description:

I’ll tell you two things.

First of all, writers who attend my workshop are going to have fun as they learn. I try to create a workshop atmosphere that’s focused enough so we cover all the material, but relaxed and engaging enough so that folks don’t feel like they’re back in high school trigonometry class.

Secondly, we’re going to do hands-on activities. This isn’t just going to be lecture and discussion. By the end of your two hours in the workshop, you’ll have done some serious work toward finding out your identity as a writer (or, as some might call it, your “brand”), what you honestly want out of writing, and how your work might best fit into the publishing marketplace. You’ll leave with a set of practical guides that you can refer to in the future for continuing self-assessment and marketplace assessment.

What skills or achievements make you ideally suited to lead this workshop?

I’ve taught this workshop before for the Indianapolis Speculative Fiction Guild at their retreat. Several of their members shared feedback with me that attests to the workshop’s value. (I’ll share some quotes from the evaluation forms after the interview, so you can see what past students have found particularly helpful.)

My fiction has been praised by Jack Ketchum, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Thomas Ligotti, John Skipp, S.T. Joshi, Poppy Z. Brite, Ray Garton, and Ain’t It Cool News. This year, I’ve been nominated for two Bram Stoker Awards® (in the First Novel and Fiction Collection categories, specifically.) In 2013, I was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award (for a novella).

Why do you feel that your workshop subject is especially important?

Writers are prey to insecurity. At some point in our careers, we’ve all asked ourselves: “Am I doing this right? Am I a ‘real writer’? Am I on my way to becoming a ‘real writer’?” One self-proclaimed publishing guru will tell you that you should self-publish and never, ever query an agent. Another will tell you that, in order to be a “real writer”, you must have an agent. Yet another will tell you to start with the small press and work your way up from there.

In 2008, when I first started out, I found this plethora of (often conflicting) advice overwhelming. Like many newer writers, I lacked confidence and so I tended to glom onto whatever bit of advice was fashionable in my local writers group or on the blog of Big Bestselling Author Dude. I wasted time chasing other writers’ definitions of success, but didn’t know it was okay to create my own. And even if I had known that it was okay to create my own definition of success, I wouldn’t have had a clue about how to create that definition.

Since that time, I’ve figured out a lot about what I want out of my writing career. But I don’t want other writers to go through what I did. So I want to demystify the whole process of coming up with goals and demystify how we define success.

This workshop is based on the assumption that there is no one, true path to writing success. But that doesn’t mean you have to flail around blindly. By doing the work in this class, you can find out more about yourself, more about the marketplace, and where the two can successfully meet.

If you could participate in one other StokerCon workshop, which one would you choose and why?

That’s a tough question!

Maybe Jonathan Maberry’s “Act Like a Writer” workshop? The topic of how to put forward my best “public self” (while also preserving my privacy) is one that interests me.

Do you approach the craft of writing horror differently from other genres?

I don’t think of genre when I sit down to write. Honestly, I don’t. I just write the story I need to write; the story that’s kicking around in my head like a brain-fetus that’s anxious to get out!

As that unpleasant simile demonstrates, dark imaginings come to me quite naturally.

Apart from teaching your workshop, what are you most looking forward to at StokerCon?

I’m nominated for two Bram Stoker Awards®, so I’m obviously looking forward to the ceremony on Saturday night. (Although that will likely be a bit nerve-racking, too.)

Setting that aside, though, I’m looking forward to simply reconnecting with my tribe. Conventions, at their best, are about connection. So I want to reconnect with old friends: colleagues, editors, and publishers.  I want to reconnect with some of the readers I’ve met before, and also connect with newer readers I haven’t met yet. I’m also looking forward to having fun in Vegas with my husband (who is along for the trip this time).

What do you most hope that those attending your workshop will take away from it?

I want folks to leave with less fear, more information, and greater confidence. Gaining confidence is a huge part of gaining success, in my opinion.

Feedback from Writers Who Have Taken This Workshop in the Past

“Nicole rocked it at the Speculative Fiction Guild retreat with her workshop on setting goals, addressing an audience of writers at various stages of their journey, for new to several years (into it).”

“Nicole is an engaging speaker who shows she understands the perspective of her students by relating personal experiences related to the subject matter.”

“Interactive exercises helped make it personal and focused.”


Please click here to read more about Nicole and her workshop, or to register for any of the StokerCon workshops.