If you're an aspiring writer and you haven't signed up for the annual Pima Writer's Workshop on May 24-27, you're missing the boat.
Meg Files, director of the workshop and chairwoman of the English and journalism department at Pima's West Campus, has been organizing the writer's weekend every May for the past 24 years. For local aspiring writers, it's a must-go event.
Why? Because it's three-plus days devoted to teaching writing and helping aspirants plot strategy to get their work published.
Files brings in successful writers and literary agents who work with local writers in seminar-like settings. They're not here merely to sell books and absorb applause - they're also here to teach.
This year, all the visiting agents and writers (but one) will be meeting one-on-one to critique the work of workshop participants who submit manuscript samples.
Most of the "faculty" also will give readings and talks and lead guided-writing exercises intended to develop some important writerly skill.
These artists and literary pros bring a depth and breadth of experience, skill and success that local writers are unlikely to experience in any other single setting, especially at this price: $130 for three days of readings, seminars and workshops.
This year's lineup includes:
• Thomas Cobb. A Tucson native, Cobb's first novel, "Crazy Heart," was picked up by Hollywood and made into a a two-Oscar film starring Jeff Bridges.
At this year's Pima weekend, Cobbs will be reading from his work, leading a workshop titled "What I Learned in Hollywood," and sitting down, one-on-one, with local writers, to discuss their work.
• Justin Torres. His first novel, "We the Animals," has drawn attention on National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post and ... well, you get the picture.
Torres will read from his work, lead two workshops ("Writing from Personal Experience"), and guide participants in a writing exercise titled "Who Are We," and also meet with workshop participants one-on-one.
• Jin Auh. Auh is a literary agent at the Wylie Agency, which represents (brace yourself) Dave Eggers, Larry McMurtry, W.S. Merwin and Salman Rushdie - that's the short list.
Auh will be giving a talk titled "A Reason to Write," and working with workshop participants.
• Markus Hoffmann. An agent with Regal Literary and former "literary scout," Hoffmann's main interests are international and literary fiction, crime, pop cultural studies, current affairs, economics and history.
He'll give a talk called "Tell me something new: What are the stories that fiction and nonfiction agents and editors are looking for?" and he'll guide a writing exercise titled "It's a Question of Perspective - What You Need to Know About Point of View." Plus, he'll be reviewing participants' manuscripts.
Others who will be participating include writer-editor-book doctor Sarah Rainone, novelist Michael Parker, poet Andrew Grace, short-story writer Gina Ochsner and novelist Joshua Mohr.
Have workshop, will travel
Jim Deuster has participated in the workshop repeatedly since 2003, making the trek here from his home in Racine, Wis.
Back then, Deuster said in an email, he was looking for a writer's event in an attractive climate, which Tucson certainly had, but he had his doubts about the Pima weekend.
"My hesitancy came from two directions. First, what did a 'community college' have to offer? Certainly a university would offer more, I thought. Second, wouldn't the attendees be just a bunch of young local students? I might not fit in well," Deuster, who is retired, wrote. "I was wrong on both counts. The Pima Writers Workshop's excellence shines. It is first class. I doubt if there is a better three-day program anywhere."
Since then, Deuster hasn't run up a perfect annual attendance record, but not because he didn't want to.
"Every year I have wanted to go. It is a wonderful blend of lectures, readings, writing exercises, Q&A periods, and individual manuscript consultations."
Deuster planned to leave Wisconsin for Tucson last week. Look for him at Pima next weekend.
If you go
• What: Pima Writers Workshop
• When: May 24-27. There's a reception to meet the visiting authors on May 24 at 7 p.m. at Hotel Tucson City Center, 475 N. Granada Ave. Workshops, talks, critiquing, writing exercises are scheduled through the weekend. Download a brochure at www.pima.edu/press-room/whats-happening-announcements/201204-09-writers-workshop.html online.
• Where: Pima West Campus, Center for the Arts, 2202 W. Anklam Road.
• Registration deadline: May 24. You can register in person at any Pima campus (specify "non- credit" course) or by phone at 206-6468.
• Manuscript submission deadline: Was May 10, but Files will try to accommodate late requests; email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
• Cost: $130.