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If We Build It, Will They Come?
Putting out fires in Kailey's field of dreams.
In our marriage announcement post, Ben mentioned that he subtly challenged me to launch Write or Die workshops with 30 offerings. At the time, I had about 15 scheduled or in the works, and for a second, I thought:
Whoa, whoa, is that even possible?
Will that many instructors want to teach for us?
Slow down, buddy.
I had a number of contacts lined up, those who had taught for Write or Die previously, before the merge, and a few writers who I knew were looking for teaching opportunities. When Catapult shuttered its educational services, I made a list of who was teaching for them. I knew they would be looking for work, for new places to teach the classes that had abruptly pulled out from under them. But I was also a little intimidated. All these seasoned and favored instructors. Would they say yes?
But after some thought, some “you can do it’s” in the bathroom mirror, I decided to take Ben’s workshop number as a challenge. (Ben’s intensity has me wondering if he is a fire sign, or has some Capricorn in his chart, but I don’t want to ask him for his birthday or time of birth for fear that he and Karina will be like, fuck, we partnered with one of those astrology freaks?? But I suppose what better way to out myself than in their own newsletter.)
The response to my influx of teaching inquiries was amazing. They were interested! They loved the idea of Chill Subs and Write or Die merging! “A match made in Heaven,” one instructor said. “Excited to be a part of it.”
I decided to set up meetings with all interested instructors. Email is just so impersonal, especially when brainstorming workshop ideas and forming a business relationship. And I genuinely wanted to meet all of them. We chatted on the phone or met over Zoom. I started all the conversations by asking what they wanted to teach, and what they were interested in and passionate about. Some had workshop ideas ready to go, and others wanted to discuss what the Write or Die community was looking for, what they needed in their writing practice. We brainstormed together.
A few times, the conversation turned towards writing itself, in which I shared that I was working on the third draft of my novel. It’s always a joy for me to talk to writers who have already accomplished my goal, who have a book out in the world. They shared encouragement with me, tips, and positive sentiments. A conversation with Emma Brodie, who is teaching a querying workshop in the Fall, actually turned into a therapy session as she encouraged me to keep going when she heard the frustration in my voice. She followed up by sending me this article, which I needed to read at that exact moment. Maxim Loskutoff, who also has workshops coming in in the Fall, after sharing that it took him 10 years to write his forthcoming novel, reminded me that it's okay to have moments of rest, to not be writing at all. “Good luck on the novel,” he signed one of his emails, “whenever you find those quiet moments.” I live for writing conversations like this. I sincerely enjoyed getting to know everyone.
But all this love came with some challenges too. A week before the launch, I had trouble sleeping. My mind was racing with all the things I had to do the next day, potential workflows, questions I had for the Chill Subs team. But the most predominant anxiety was this:
what if the workshops don’t fill?
When instructors send their course information to me, I ask them for the minimum and maximum number of students they would like in the class. Maximum is obvious-some classes only work with small groups, especially when there is workshopping, and critique loops involved. But the minimum amount has more to do with the instructor and their time. Instructors are teaching because they love it, but also because they want to get paid. Write or Die pays the instructor 50% of the price of the workshop, per student. (The other 50% goes towards marketing, hosting platform fees, and a little to the WOD fund to be able to pay writers who we publish and, eventually, our editors.) Therefore, the instructor has to assess what dollar amount will be equivalent to the time preparing for the class and their time spent running it. I wanted instructors to pick this number on their own, instead of having a WOD standard because it’s their time. Each instructor’s workshop/class is different, and I didn’t want to treat it as a one size fits all kind of thing.
So yeah. There I was, beady-eyed at 2 AM, thinking of all the things that could go wrong as one often does before an exciting venture. I was thinking about all those minimum numbers, those figures we needed to hit. When Write or Die was running workshops before the merger, I had the very unpleasant task of writing to an instructor to tell them that their class hadn’t sold and that we have to cancel or reschedule it. It made my skin crawl. I know that writing instructors are used to these emails, that it’s never a guarantee that students will have the means or the interest in their offerings. But I also understand waiting for a paycheck, calculating monthly expenses with the hopes that this or that will pull through and get you paid. I have freelanced and waitressed, two professions that have you waiting around for cash, crossing your fingers it will be enough for your week. And maybe I’m putting too much weight on these workshops, but I don’t know each instructor’s situation. I don’t want to deny them that paycheck.
I had expressed this concern to Ben in one of our thousand meetings prior to the merge, but he continued with his fiery optimism. Basically, he was saying to me, if we build it, they will come.
So, we built it.
On launch day, we had more than 30 workshops listed which I’m attributing to my own fire sign placement (Leo rising, ya’ll!), and the response was super positive. I also understand that self-promotion can be difficult and awkward, so we had the idea to create media kits for each instructor. After their class is scheduled, I send them the link to their personalized google drive folder where they can access Instagram and Twitter graphics that include their workshop information, and mini questionnaire so students can get to know the instructor before purchasing their class.
Some of the instructors have sent me such wonderful and encouraging messages about this added detail which filled my little heart with joy because I really love making them.
This is amazing, thank you so much! It's so so nice to get assets like this! Can't say enough about it.
Wow, I truly could not be more impressed. The website looks fantastic, sharp, fun, inviting, etc., and the marketing materials are incredibly thorough and helpful.
Thanks so much! Wow y'all look so polished, I love the look!
This looks so good and so organized! Damn.
And it seems to be working! People were buying workshops! They were excited about our instructors! As of the day I’m writing this, we have sold 50 workshop/mentorship spots. And more and more workshop pitches are coming in and being added to the calendar weekly.
But I’ll be honest, I’m still losing a little sleep. It’s only been about a month since we launched, and there is still so much work to be done. Marketing-wise, website-wise, you name it. I’m still freaking out about those minimum numbers. But I’m taking my melatonin and magnesium each night, with the reminder that this thing we have built is pretty fucking rad. And I’m excited to watch it grow, and for all of you writers to learn and grow with us.