The real strength of the workshop was the way in which you both taught us to be analytical about our writing. You emphasized the creative and magical piece of composing as important, but if we hadn’t managed to get that far, we wouldn’t have been at the workshop. Where most writers founder at this level is in regard to the ability to look at our work, really look at it, and make choices about how to sharpen scenes or revise purposely. We now have tools to do that.
During the first week back home, I could feel the cognitive dissonance as my writing strategies shifted themselves and morphed into what I now think of as Taos-fu. I can see the strengths and weaknesses in scenes, and I can fix them. When a reviewer tells me that something is slow, or halts forward movement, I can deal with that. I control the revision process now.
While Taos Toolbox is not a magic bullet for writing, it gave me the tools that make precise revision possible. And it strongly supports doing more of those magical things that make good stories to revise: digging deeper in characterization, dialogue, and world building. It’s worth the time, the effort, and the hard work.
–Catherine Schaff-Stump, Taos Toolbox 2012.
What Taos Toolbox is most like, is a graduate level mixed workshop and lecture course on the craft of the Science Fiction and Fantasy novel, taught by two experts in the field, Walter Jon Williams, and Nancy Kress. Walter has, according to Wikipedia, two Nebulas and a Sideways, and Nancy has four Nebulas, two Hugos, a Campbell and a Sturgeon. You don’t often find this kind of expertise in universities. You don’t often find masters of science fiction short stories like guest lecturer Jack Skillingstead in universities. These are working pros in the field right now, and they are some of the best. Their lectures alone, their critiques alone, would make the workshop worth every cent and every second invested. Personal conference with the faculty? Yup. In the Jacuzzi? Optional.
But wait, there’s more
Workshop classes are a participation based method of instruction, so the better the classmates, the better the class. My classmates in the 2011 were all professional writers. Every one of them has sold fiction in professional markets. By heaven, every one of them wrote well when they got there, and the critiques they gave were professional and insightful. Walter bills the course as a master’s class, and the 2011 gang certainly reflected that. They were also, without exception, a wonderful bunch of people. Interesting, funny, delightfully strange around the edges, and all serious and professional about writing.
–Jim Strickland, Taos Toolbox 2011
It was a pleasure and honor to be able to sit at the right hand (and sometimes the left hand) of Walter and Nancy and learn from such outstanding and accomplished writers at Taos Toolbox. I know I’m a better writer for having attended, and also know that all the practical knowledge I’ve gained will elevate my writing to a new (and hopefully profitable!) level. I have attended other well-known workshops and can say without a doubt that Taos Toolbox stands head and shoulders (to the tune of around 10,000 feet) above the rest.
–Ed Rosick, Taos Toolbox 2011
My first and only pro sale was a year and a half before I attended Taos Toolbox. In between I’d continued the write-submit-reject-resubmit slog, wondering what was wrong, growing more disheartened with every month that passed. Two weeks on the mountain with Walter and Nancy was like having the best of every book on writing I’ve read over the past ten years (including Nancy’s own!) distilled and fed back to me over a two-week period. I came back, wrote two short stories, and immediately sold them both to pro markets.
One of my classmates referred to Taos Toolbox as “Clarion weeks 7 and 8.” I haven’t been to Clarion, but he has, and I trust his assessment. While the Toolbox focuses on novel-length fiction–and that was a great education!–the immediate improvement in my short stories is the best endorsement. And I’m not alone–another of my classmates has made her first two pro sales since TT!
–Christie Yant, Taos Toolbox 2011
Taos Toolbox accomplished exactly what it advertised and more… An intense, well-organized two-week workshop filled with invaluable lectures and discussions, useful writing exercises, excellent reading assignments, wonderful guest lecturer, and laser-sharp critiques that mercilessly cut through the crap and made your prose, plot, characters, and descriptions bleed (for the better). Of course, the toolbox could not have been complete without its modifier: Taos. The Taos Ski Valley was a gorgeous setting to place the toolbox within and called to each of our Muses no matter the hour. In short, we were not only provided incredibly valuable writing tools, but also were taught how to appropriately use/apply them as well. Just from these two weeks alone, the quality of my writing has greatly improved. Not only have I become more aware of the issues in my writing, but also have the tools to fix them! Oh, and extra bonus: Who knew one could regain their Chastity in just two weeks?! Such is the power of the Taos Toolbox. Stand in silent awe; that is, until you hear the Horn of Summoning, or a Bear, or a laptop tray fan…
–- Hallie Rulnick, Taos Toolbox 2010
Taos Toolbox was, for me, an ideal workshop experience – much the right length, with enough time to work and enough time to process the work while connecting with others. If it had been another week long, I would have burnt out, and a shorter workshop would not have saturated my brain. The critiquing was top-notch, from both the other students and the instructors. I came out certain that I’m just a step or two away from being able to publish at a professional level, given dedication and commitment. I also walked out knowing exactly what those extra steps will require, and holding the tools with which to climb them. As a bonus I bonded with a pile of good friends in a similar state of readiness, creating a support group for our future writing endeavors.
— Richard Baldwin, Taos Toolbox 2010
I had an amazing time at Taos Toolbox, and I feel that it really helped to take my writing to the next level. Before attending, I had a lot of craft information floating around in my head, but Taos really helped me put it together all the puzzle pieces into a coherent picture. I find that my writing process has undergone a material change for the better since the workshop, and I’m also much stronger at revision due to the lessons I learned. For that matter, I even feel like a better critiquer, and I have a better understanding of fellow writers’ critiques of my own work.
— Amy Sundberg, Taos Toolbox 2010
Taos Toolbox only produces good writers. (The rest get fed to the bears.)
The beauty of a really superior workshop is the opportunity to take yourself seriously as a writer. Sometimes this means engaging in long plotting sessions with your colleagues, and analyzing scenes paragraph by paragraph. Other times it’s using the phrase ‘He’s got a toad on his head!’ as ‘Good Morning’.
— EF Kelley, Taos Toolbox 2010
Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress are an unbeatable team. If the right don’t get you, the left one will. Their areas of strength are beautifully complimented, their differences of opinion enlightening. Between them, they provide a wonderful variety of tools for the student writer.
The nice thing about Taos Toolbox is that it’s just the right size. They stop filling your head with knowledge just before it explodes. Barely.
— Sean Craven, Taos Toolbox 2010
1) Taos Toolbox nestled in the high altitude of Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico took a quivering mass of insecurity and made a man out of me. Which is pretty amazing considering I was a woman before I went.
2) Taos Toolbox exposed the blindspots in my writing. It’s two weeks of networking with a well-rounded group of emerging talent and two seasoned pros. Walter put a lot of thought into everything from the roommate choices to the catering. My time with Connie and Walter gave me a lot to think about over the next six months of work back at home. And you’ll never see another movie without yelling out its plot techniques.
3) Before Taos Toolbox, I was a hot tub virgin.
4) Bring a camera to use on the paparazzi. Have a loved one send you a care package. Bring a printer and coffee and chocolate. Lots.
5) Better than my Clarion experience. Better accommodations and no one ended up hating anyone. In fact, we all became outrageously sentimental at the end. I’d do it again.
— Isabel Whiston, Toolbox 2007
Taos Toolbox was everything I was hoping for and more. In two weeks I learned what felt like years’ worth of experience about the craft of novel writing. Walter and Connie are among the very best writing instructors I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, truly in a class of their own.
— Christopher M. Cevasco, Toolbox 2007
Taos Toolbox was a roller coaster ride into writer’s paradise. Waking to the fresh mountain air and the crack of Walter’s whip made every day a joy. Sometimes the learning continued after dinner with a movie highlighting the writing tools we had focused on during the day. After the movie, I might be up until 2 am working on Walter’s exercises, my week two submission, and reviews of other students’ submissions–and loving every minute of it. The voices of our crit circle echoed in my mind for weeks afterward. Leaving the friends I had met and coming down from the mountain after such an extraordinary two weeks was very hard.
— Bonnie Freeman, Toolbox 2007
I’ve never worked so hard in my life and I’ve never learned so much. Taos Toolbox would be cheap at twice the price.
— Dorothy Windsor, Toolbox 2007
Taos Toolbox provided the perfect mix of professionalization, camaraderie, individualized attention, and genuinely useful advice on craft. Walter is a wonderful instructor, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the experience.
— Saladin Ahmed, Toolbox 2007
Taos Toolbox fulfilled my expectations and then some. My notes from our lecture and critique sessions contain more useful (and entertaining) information than most books I’ve seen about fiction writing, andthe motivation and camaraderie were unbeatable. Time and a lot of rewritten pages will tell if Toolbox made me a better fiction writer; without doubt it has made me a more insightful reader.
— Rebecca Stefoff, Taos Toolbox 2007
Two fantastic writers and workshop leaders in a comfortable lodge with a hot tub, movie nights, catered dinners, nature hikes, trips to scenic Taos, dinner at a fabulous Bavarian restaurant, and no worries in your head except for those about writing. Who could ask for anything more?
But what if the movies are instead lessons in plotting and raising stakes, the trips to town mean getting groceries and story copies, hikes and the hot tub provide a much-needed break with those fast becoming friends, and dinner out is a bittersweet ending to a wonderful two-week journey? Is that enough, or should I mention the one-on-one meetings with the instructors or the in-depth discussions on plot, structure, and a dozen other useful things much-needed by fledgling novelists? Leave some extra room in your suitcase, because you’ll be returning home with an ample supply of tools to further your career as a writer.
— Traci Castleberry, Toolbox 2006
Walter understands how stories work — and don’t work — with an impressive depth that few others match. His acumen is unparalleled.
In addition to being a first-rate writer and storyteller, Walter is an excellent analyst. He sees straight to the heart of things, and renders even the most complex writing issues with remarkable clarity and wit.
Walter has a long history of mentoring new talents. He actively encourages the professional growth of promising writers. He is a top-notch instructor, and an accomplished cook to boot!
— Ian Tregillis, Clarion 2005
Walter Jon Williams is not just an award-winning writer, but also a gifted writing teacher. He has a talent for finding the heart of a story and helping bring it to life. Sign me up for any workshop he offers.
— Paolo Bacigalupi, Rio Hondo 2006
After thirty years in this business I sometimes get pretty smug about my experience, but a half hour in the presence of Walter Jon Williams reminds me how much more I have to learn. This guy could teach the muses themselves a thing or two.
— Jerry Oltion, Rio Hondo 2005
Walter Jon Williams is a superb writer, but more importantly, he is an extremely capable workshop organizer, and a brilliant teacher and mentor.
— Geoffrey Landis, Rio Hondo 2005
Unless you’ve decided to give up writing and play the tuba for change down near the park swings, passing up a chance to go to Taos and study writing with Walter Jon Williams is probably a big mistake. Walter knows how to run a workshop, and he knows what he’s talking about. He knows about the art, the craft, and the business of writing. This kind of graduate stuff isn’t easy to find elsewhere.
— Ray Vukcevich, Rio Hondo 1999, 2000, 2006
Eat, drink, critique and be merry, because. . . In that case you must obviously be workshopping with Walter Jon Williams.
— Michaela Roessner, Rio Hondo 1997, 1998, 2006
Walter Jon Williams is a thoughtful and perceptive critic and critiquer, with a wide-ranging knowledge of the sf/f field. He is also a human cornucopia of arcane information, a martial artist, and an avid hiker. He has experienced more ups and downs in his career than many elevators, and can speak with authority about writing pitfalls others don’t even know exist. He also runs a mean workshop, with out-of-this-world culinary adventures thrown in.
— Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Rio Hondo 1997-2006
When we were shot down over Cambodia, Walter carried me on his back through the jungle for two grueling, harrowing days. How he managed to nurse me back to health all the while evading enemy patrols, I’ll never know. His stamina and stealth are nothing short of astonishing.
— The highly imaginative Ian Tregillis, Clarion 2005