That time I planned a workshop…

Have you ever impulsively raised your hand and volunteered to do something, then later wondered what you were thinking? Yeah? Well, me too!

Last January, at our Sisters in Crime chapter’s board meeting, our president asked if anyone would like to be in charge of our bi-annual mystery writing workshop. I thought about it for all of ten seconds, maybe twelve, then raised my hand and quietly said, “I can do that.”

So in just under three weeks, this is happening:


The major perk of planning an event like this is that I’ve always wanted to take a class from Jess Lourey, mystery author and speaker extraordinaire, so I just, you know, called her and asked her to come. And she said yes!

And I could listen to the ever-entertaining Catriona McPherson describe socks for an hour and a half and it would be one of the best days ever, so of course I tapped her as well. (Luckily, she’s going to talk about writing, not socks, which: EVEN BETTER!)

For a long time, I’d had this vision of teaching a class on brainstorming with one of my BFFs — who was also the inspiration for Brody, the BFF of my main character, destination wedding planner Kelsey McKenna.

We both work in advertising together — me a copywriter and him an art director. Which means our job is to come up with ideas for a living. All the time. Rain or shine. Good mood or bad. In advertising, there’s no “I don’t feel like it.” There’s no writer’s block. You learn how to come up with ideas on demand. And learning how to do that has been the number-one best thing I’ve learned as a writer.

So Brody and I — oops, I mean Gene and I have been planning this class for the last few weeks and between you, me, and the Internet? I can’t wait. I have this vision of us taking the act on the road, spreading our weirdly unique take on writing craft.

Next time I’m up, I’ll let you know how it went. Or if you’re in the Bay Area, come and see us on October 6!

Have time for a quick survey?

The comments section inspired me to create a survey for writers to be used in developing my class. If you’re a writer and have four or five minutes to spare, I’d love to get your insight! Click here to participate.


Readers, do you use brainstorming in your work or in your writing? Does it come naturally or is it hard? And if you were taking a class on brainstorming, what would you want to know?

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to Chicks on the Case and never miss a post. Just click the button on the top right side of this page and let the fun begin!



28 thoughts on “That time I planned a workshop…

  1. This sounds like a great workshop. Wish I could be there!

    I don’t brainstorm, per se, but I do get flashes for scenes. If I think of the scene for more than three times, I know I’d better put it down on paper because it’s begging for a story.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. This looks great, Marla! Your chapter must be thrilled you raised your hand! I may pester you for a tutorial on brainstorming, M. As soon as I have an idea, I start wondering if I can make it work, which is kind of a buzz kill on the creative side!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Vickie! I think the best approach isn’t to wonder *if* you can make it work, but wonder *how* to make it work! (I’m taking notes on all these comments, BTW. This is great food for thought!)

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I so wish I could go!! Jess’s workshop is AMAZING. As is her book. And yours sounds amazing, too! Hey – I just did a webinar: “It’s a Funny Thing: 15 Ways to Add Humor to Your Writing.” Perhaps a future double bill with “Cracking Creativity???”

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Ooh, I’m jelly! So wish I could go. I did have the opportunity to take Jess’s workshop several years ago and it was fantastic. And totally agree with you about being able to listen to Catriona talk about anything! Together with you and Gene, that’s going to be one heck of a workshop. Gold stars all around!

    Re: brainstorming, I was asking my family to do some brainstorming around the dinner table this weekend, and I said to my sons that the best approach was not to be negative about any ideas but to say “yes, and?” for maximum brainstormy goodness. (And then I was secretly like, hey, did I take an improv class without knowing it? Where did that come from? But it worked.)

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Well, all I can say is, there are going to be a LOT of people who wish they could be there in person. Maybe you should make it a podcast or YouTube video so we can all watch it! I guess if I were going to ask something it would be, How do you brainstorm with just yourself, as opposed to a fun group of people? We used to have brainstorming meetings when I worked at a kids’ book packager and they fed us tons of candy, popcorn, raw cookie dough (special request), and all the soda we could drink. (Massive loads of sugar work wonders for creativity! Pizza not so much, because everyone got sluggish.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a good question! I will add that to my notes on things to include. In advertising, we normally work in pairs or on our own. Sometimes there are group brainstorms but I never found those as productive. But I always enjoy it when the Chicks put our heads together! (#damnit)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Looks like you’ve put together a great conference. Hope it and your part of it goes well.

    I don’t brainstorm a lot. I’m not that good at it. I’m not sure which came first, my lack of creativity or my lack of ability to brainstorm.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Ohmygorsh, I love this to much!! I so wish I could be there. It looks all kinds of amazing.

    Since we’re work twinsies as copywriters, I’m 1000% with you on brainstorming and coming up with ideas on a dime, no matter how uncreative we feel. I’m always eager to hear and incorporate new ideas. For me, two (or five or 17) heads are better than one.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That looks like an awesome lineup! You might not be happy you volunteered, but I’m sure everyone else is. As for brainstorming, I’ll echo some of the other comments and say it’s always good to eliminate telling yourself “no” and to keep your mind open to all the possibilities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Marla! I’m happy I volunteered, but right now is that last minute panic of hoping it all goes well — and literally only having myself to blame if it doesn’t! Eek! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Not a published author, yet, but I do brainstorm. I can’t write on the fly. I plan, so I have to brainstorm.
    I brainstorm at work every day, because I’m never doing the same thing, never dealing with the same people, and I have to explain a buttload of stuff to people.
    So it definitely a natural thing for me.
    What would I like to know? Mind mapping! I’m not that great at it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m with you on mind-mapping! For me it’s the format (and limitations of space on the page). If I figure out the secret to it, I’ll let you know! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s