Registration is open for the 2015 Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat

Registration is now open for the 2015 Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat.

For the last two years the event has had a very limited size, and as a result has sold out very quickly. For 2015 we have moved to a new venue, removed the attendance limit, and increased the amount of instructor interaction—all without raising the price.

The 2015 Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat will be held from September 20th through the 27th on the Independence of the Seas.

It’s a cruise ship.

[UPDATE: We have sold through our original block of rooms. The cruise has provided us with additional rooms, but the rate is higher for these. The updated rates are now reflected on the registration page, and in the numbers provided below]

The base price of $1300 covers the full week of intensive seminars, writing exercises, and free writing time, plus meals, double-occupancy lodging, and a cruise to four different Caribbean destinations. Attendees will also be invited to submit questions for some of the episodes of Writing Excuses which will be recorded while we’re at sea.

At sea. Seriously.


Each seminar will include writing exercises and Q&A time with the instructor. Topics will include:

  • Outlining
  • Revision
  • Pacing
  • Suspense
  • Humor
  • Worldbuilding
  • Character creation
  • … and much more.


There will be a limited number of additional breakout sessions and one-on-one sessions with individual instructors.  There is no additional charge for these, but because of the size of the event they will be distributed by lottery. The first 100 attendees registering prior to January 15th, 2015, will be entered in the lottery.

These breakout sessions include:

6-member novel critique groups: Members will submit excerpts up to 5000 words for critique by the group as well as one of the podcasters. (Please note that this means you are committing to critique the stories of the other group members.)

6-member short story critique groups: Members will submit short stories up to 5000 words for critique by the group as well as one of the podcasters. (Please note that this means you are committing to critique the stories of the other group members.)

6-member outlining sessions: Each person must come prepared with a story idea, including an ending. The host will help each attendee turn that into a working outline, ready for them to begin writing.

One-on-one Q&As: This is a 15-minute one-on-one session with one of the hosts, and you decide how that time will be spent. We can critique the first five pages of a manuscript, drill down on a worldbuilding conundrum, answer specific questions, or offer general advice.


Nalo Hopkinson
Nalo Hopkinson. (Photo (c)2011 by David Findlay)

To give you an even bigger bang for your buck, we are inviting other authors and industry professionals to help teach classes and breakouts throughout the week. The number of additional hosts depends on the number of attendees.

Nalo Hopkinson is a professional writing teacher, and one of our favorite panelists to listen to at conventions—she’s personable, funny, and brilliant. She’s been nominated for the Philip K. Dick award, the Nebula award, and Aurora award, all multiple times; her short story collection “Skin Folk” won the World Fantasy award, and her novel The New Moon’s Arms won the Sunburst award. She’s a Jamaican-Canadian whose tap roots extend to Trinidad and Guyana. She is a professor of Creative Writing at the University of California Riverside. She has taught numerous times at both Clarion and Clarion West. Her short story collection Falling in Love With Hominids will appear from Tachyon Books in 2015. In short, she’s very good at what she does, and very good at teaching others how to do it. She’ll be an excellent addition to the workshop, and we’re excited to have her.

Delia Sherman was born in Tokyo, Japan, and brought up in New York City. Delia’s short fiction for adults has appeared most recently in the anthologies Naked City and Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells. Stories for teen readers have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Steampunk! and Under My Hat. “CATNYP,” a story of a magical New York Between, inspired her middle grade novels Changeling and The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen. The Freedom Maze, a time-travel fantasy set in Louisiana, was awarded the Norton Award, the Prometheus Award, and the Mythopoeic Award. Her recent collection of short fiction, Young Woman in a Garden, has appeared on PW’s list of Best SF of 2014. She has worked as a contributing editor for Tor Books and has co-edited the fantasy anthology The Horns of Elfland with Ellen Kushner and Donald G. Keller and The Essential Bordertown with Terri Windling, as well as two anthologies of Interstitial fiction, Interfictions 1, with Theodora Goss and Interfictions 2, with Christopher Barzak. She is Executive Editor of Interfictions Online: A Journal of Interstitial Arts. She has taught writing at Clarion, Odyssey, and in the MA program in Children’s Literature at Hollins University.

Ellen Kushner - Delia Sherman - 2014 - Melissa C Beckman
Ellen Kushner – Delia Sherman (Photo (c)2014 – Melissa C Beckman)

Ellen Kushner is the author of Thomas the Rhymer (World Fantasy and Mythopoeic awards), the interconnected novels Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword (Locus Award, Nebula nominee), and The Fall of the Kings (written with Delia Sherman). She narrated these as audiobooks for Neil Gaiman Presents (Audie Award). With Holly Black, she co-edited Welcome to Bordertown. A co-founder of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, Ellen Kushner was also the longtime host of the national public radio show Sound & Spirit. She has taught creative writing at Clarion, the Odyssey Workshop, and is an instructor at Hollins University’s Children’s Literature M.F.A. program. She lives in New York City with Delia Sherman and no cats whatsoever.



  • 20th Sept: Depart Ft. Lauderdale 4:00pm
  • 21st Sept: At Sea
  • 22nd Sept: Labedee, Haiti 8:00am to 5:00pm
  • 23rd Sept: Falmouth,Jamaica 10:30am to 7:00pm
  • 24th Sept: Georgetown, Grand Cayman 8:00am to 4:00pm
  • 25th Sept: Cozumel, Mexico 10:00am to 7:00pm
  • 26th Sept: At Sea
  • 27th Sept: Arrive Ft. Lauderdale 7:00am


All Out of Excuses seminar attendees must be 18 years of age or older. Children from the ages of 12 to 17 may attend if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
Children aged 11 and under are welcome aboard ship, but cannot attend the Out of Excuses seminars. Child care and age-appropriate curriculum is available  through Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean® youth program.
All attendees, attendee guests, and accompanied minors must have a valid passport. Getting onto the ship? You need a passport!


There are plenty of things to do on the cruise ship besides attend the Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat. If you’d like to bring a significant other or family member, it’s just $900 for a non-workshop stateroom berth, or $1,000 for a non-workshop balcony cabin. And if the family member is between the ages of 12 and 17, and has an interest in writing, they can pay that reduced price and still attend the seminars with you.

If you want to bring more than three family members, we’ll put you in touch with Lisa Harding, our cruise manager, who can help you with pricing and any other arrangements.


If you need to cancel your registration for any reason, your registration fee will be refunded based on the date of your cancellation:

  • Full refund until June 1st
  • 75% refund until July 1st
  • 50% refund until August 1st
  • 25% refund until September 1st
  • No refunds after September 1st


Q: What does “double-occupancy” mean?
A: It means that the price is for half of a room. You’ll have a roommate. This can be a friend that you arrange to room with ahead of time, it can be a family member, or it can be another Out of Excuses attendee.

Q: Can I get a private room?

A: Yes, but it will cost more. When you register, at the bottom of the form select “Single Occupancy” from the “additional items.”
Private room prices:

  • Standard Interior Stateroom: $1300 + $600 = $1900
  • Promenade Stateroom: $1400 + $650 = $2050
  • Oceanview Stateroom: $1500 + $800 = $2300
  • Oceanview with Balcony: $1750 + $900 = $2650

Q: What level of writing expertise should I have attained prior to attending?
A: “Level of expertise” is far less important than your desire to improve. The workshop is structured to be accessible and useful for new writers with a passion for learning, and to be challenging and rewarding for seasoned professionals looking for refinement, or additional perspectives. Different classes will be designed for different levels of experience.

Q: Can young children attend?
A: Children aged 11 and younger are welcome aboard the ship, but cannot attend the Out of Excuses seminars. Royal Caribbean has an excellent youth program which includes child care. Follow this link for more details about Adventure Ocean®.

Q. Will you have a scholarship again this year?
A. Yes! We will be partnering with the Carl Brandon Society again this year. 

Q: How big is the ship?
A: The Independence of the Seas holds 3000 guests, of which we’ll be a small percentage. The Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat has its own dedicated spaces, ours alone 24 hours a day, for classes, writing time, impromptu discussions, or other activities (like, say, a Magic draft with Brandon). We’ll also have our own area of the dining room, and the podcasters will rotate tables each night to sit with different guests. While the ship is large, it will be similar to being at a convention in a very nice hotel. You’ll know your tribe, you’ll know where to find them, and you’ll have places to hide from all the scary non-writer people.

Q: How big is the event?
A: As of this writing (October 24, 2014), we have just over 100 attendees, including family members. As mentioned above, the podcasters and our guest hosts will be rotating tables at dinner, and participating in other activities in order to make ourselves accessible to each and every one of the attendees.


47 thoughts on “Registration is open for the 2015 Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat”

  1. Is there any chance of some scholarships popping up? I’d love to go, but that price tag is a little too hefty for me. A lot, actually. Okay, honestly, I’d have to go all Walter White in order to make that money, and I don’t have the RV. Or the chemistry expertise. There’s no way for me to get that money, is what I’m saying.

  2. My heart is broken….

    I had planned everything for this next year. I had the money, the time off, everything. If only it weren’t a cruise.

    I’m violently motion sick. There’s no way I’ll be able to do this. If this goes well is this going to be the way they are offered in the future? Or is there a chance again you will offer something on land?

    1. Oh, I’m sorry.

      This is probably how we’ll be doing the main Out of Excuses event going forward, assuming it works out well. That does not rule out awesome no-boat events in the future, of course, but we don’t have any plans beyond the 2015 “at sea” Out of Excuses at this time.

      You might consider attending Mary’s “Writing The Other” event. It is pretty awesome, and is land-based in the lovely Woodthrush Woods home where the previous Out of Excuses events have been.

  3. Just how violent is “violently motion sick,” Teresa? I’m not speaking from personal experience, but I hear that cruse ships tend to be pretty impressively steady. I’d chip in for dramamine to help you out!

  4. @Teresa Having been on this ship, I can tell you that the motion was only perceptible on one day. There were people aboard who said they usually get violently motion sick but don’t have a problem on big ships. But if you’ve tried it before…

    Meanwhile, here’s a list of possible remedies.

    @Chris Baxter – Yes, there will be a scholarship. We’re partnering with the Carl Brandon Society again this year and will post details later.

  5. Well, thank you Chris.

    If I fly, I’m sick from the time the plan takes off until it lands and let’s just say I feel VERY sorry for anyone stuck sitting next to me. In cars, I have to either drive or sit in the front seat so I can stare straight ahead. And I am fine in small boats that are open, but closed cabins are as bad as planes.

    I’ve tried everything from home remedies to scopalomine patches and nothing has worked.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think that this is an amazing thing for the WE crew to do. It gives so many more people the opportunity to participate and I’m sure it’s going to be amazing. I didn’t try to go to this year’s because I felt I wasn’t yet a good enough writer, so now I know to seize the opportunity instead of waiting.

    If I could only get some of those cool NASA glasses….

  6. @Mary, I have now refreshed my memory on the Carl Brandon Scholarship, and I’m curious if there’s ever going to be a chance of any other scholarships becoming available. The Carl Brandon Scholarship is awesome and wonderful and I’m glad it’s there, but I’m about as qualified for it as a ham is for a vegan dinner!

  7. @Chris Baxter – We’re discussing one for women, because we’ve had a significant gender imbalance among the attendees and want to try to address that, but at the moment the Carl Brandon one is the only one we have in place. May I suggest checking in with your local arts council? Many places offer grants for writers for exactly this sort of thing.

    @Teresa – We haven’t set a date yet.

  8. @Joe Registration is open until the boat fills up. It holds 3500 people, although I seriously doubt we’ll come close to that, there will be other people sailing. The tricky thing is that we only reserved a certain number of cabins. When those are gone, though there will still be cabins available, the prices from the cruise line will have gone up.

    You can see how many spots are available on the registration page.

  9. So there we be time to get off the ship and see the sights as well as time to write? Seems like a lot of fun to fit
    into a short period of time :)

  10. This sounds awsome! I would have come but I live in Sweden and I can’t afford going to USA. I will keep listening to writingexcuses, your podcast is helping me a lot!!

  11. @AK We’re planning on setting up some shore excursions that will encourage things like… writing on the beach. Or, visiting a Jamaican plantation to have tea and talk about colonialism in fiction. Those are entirely optional. The main classes will be aboard ship at times when we are not in a port.

    @Erika Scholarship information is coming.

  12. Is there a travel agent or someone I can talk to? I’d like a type of cabin that’s sold out in the block. I’m so excited to go on this workshop/cruise.

  13. Is there any way to register/pay to hold a spot without the passport number? Our passports have expired, and we’re worried all the cabins we can afford will be gone before our new ones come.

  14. So excited to sign up for this!! Have been hoping to get to one of these retreats, the past couple of years. Looking forward to meeting everyone and improving my writing.

  15. WHAT THE HECK. This is actually too amazing for words. I wish I wasn’t a broke recent college graduate.

  16. I would like to echo Shannon’s question. I would be attending with someone who does not yet have a passport and I want to be sure that she can go before I pay for it.

    Also, paying for the room + the workshop just for me, right? For her it is the +800?

    Thanks !

  17. @Ann – Use the “contact organizer” button. We’re working to get more balcony cabins, but the price is likely to be higher. We reserved these last spring to get the super-low prices and were not expecting the high end ones to go first.

    @Shannon – For passport, enter “pending” and it should let you complete registration.

    @David – You are correct about the room payments. Family members are just $800. We’re trying really, really hard to make this affordable in both time and money. Part of the strategy for that is making it easy to bring family.

  18. Mary: I have to say that you guys have been super fabulous about this. I am awed and humbled that you guys would go out of your way to try and put something like this together, and still be so awesome about helping people out and responding to them in a fairly timely manner.

  19. Here’s to opening up more balcony cabins! At least many outsides are still available. I don’t know if I’d be eligible for a scholarship, but I’m looking forward to see what that entails as I’m on a pretty tight budget these days. I also need to get a passport if I want to do anything like this going forward. Having the retreat on a boat is brilliant: all the mundane things are taken care of so actual business can take place. Bravo/brava!

  20. Thanks Mary! Making it to the retreat and going on a cruise were both on my bucket list; now I can knock them both off at once.

  21. Is there any chance that future workshops will be held during the summer, like the first one was? I’m a grad student, so I teach (and take) classes during the typical school year. As much as I want to attend, it looks unlikely that I’ll be able to get away for a full week.

  22. I almost skipped over the post, but then I saw that it was a cruise! We’re a cruising family and this just might work.

    Sent one message to the organizer, then another… related to some family (3rd and 4th little kids in a room) and schedule-related questions. I’m part-way to wife and kids buy-in.

    On the schedule question, will there basically be wall-to-wall W.E. events on the two sea days, and evening events on the 4 middle shore days? If so… I think I can sell that (since I’ll do a lot with my wife and kids on the shore days.)

    Fingers crossed and awaiting responses. :D

  23. @Dominic — It turns out that summers are really hard for us to get all four cast members in one place. Brandon tends to be on book tour then and a lot of the big conventions are in the summer.

    @Jamie Maltman – We’re going to try to make sure that there’s a good balance between classes and free time. We’re waiting to set the final schedule until we know how many students we have and what areas of focus y’all are interested in. We’re planning, currently, to have classes only while we are not in port, which is as you’ve guessed. The two at-sea days and then in the morning or evenings of the other days.

    BUT those will not be wall-to-wall, because we’ve learned that people need breaks between classes to absorb new material.

    We’re also hoping — but it depends on attendance — to offer some option shore excursions that combine tourism with writing. For instance, there’s a plantation in Jamaica built in 1757. We’re trying to make arrangements to take a group there and talk about historical fiction and colonialism while having tea in a historic setting.

    As for family… we have a family inclusive social planned, and a couple of classes for family members like “Care and Feeding of Your Writer” or “How to be a Beta Reader.”

    We’re still a year out from the cruise so we have plenty of time to tweak it to fit the needs of the folks attending.

  24. Sounds awesome! What’s the process if we wanted to bring our significant other along (who is not interested in writing)?

    1. On the registration page, select one registration for yourself, and then select another further down the page using one of the two “family rate” options, which is $800 for staterooms, and $1,000 for balconies.

  25. Can someone calm down a nervous Canadian about hurricanes around this time of year?

    And what’s the cancellation policy?


  26. @Beth I asked about hurricanes, too. The answer is beautiful. We will never be in a hurricane on the ship. They can see them coming DAYS before it gets to us and they just move the ship. The worst case scenario is that we have to go to different islands than the original itinerary and maybe have to spend an extra day there.

    The refund policy is listed just above the FAQ in this post, but I’ll paste it in here as well.

    If you need to cancel your registration for any reason, your registration fee will be refunded based on the date of your cancellation:

    Full refund until June 1st
    75% refund until July 1st
    50% refund until August 1st
    25% refund until September 1st
    No refunds after September 1st

  27. Hi there! I am so super excited about this! I have always wanted to do this since ya’ll started it but could never afford it… it booked up so extremely fast. :) (I suspect it’s because y’all are awesome!)
    I have some questions I need answered to get my non-writer husband on board (no pun intended) since we have 2 kiddos under 4.
    1) I found this cruise on the main cruise line website and a couple bargain places for under $600. So does the family price here of $800 ( I’m assuming that’s for an adult since 3rd and 4th passengers are a flat $249 on the site) include all the taxes and port fees and all that jazz? I’m trying to reconcile the price differential.
    2) If my family and I decided to book the cruise separately, how much would just the workshop be and would that be an option?
    3) On the podcast you spoke about dinner arrangements- everyone sitting together in a certain area while the podcasters rotate through different tables on different nights. Does this mean we will not be having dinner with our families? The only way I would able to even dream about coming to something like this is if I can convince my parents to come with us to help with the kids….I don’t know how well that’s gonna fly if I desert my husband every evening for dinner while he gets to hang out with my mom, a toddler and an infant (my dad wants to do the workshop with me). Don’t get me wrong – my husband and I have a great relationship with my parents but still….would you want to spend every evening for a week by yourself with your in-laws on your vacation? So, in my round-about way of asking, how will dinner arrangements work for those bringing family members?


    Megan H

  28. @Megan H.

    1) It includes all of the taxes and port fees. Plus a small add-on for WXR15, since we’ve got some family inclusive social activities planned. Our rooms are also not in the bargain cabin areas, unless you want to be next to the elevator or dance clubs…
    2) If your family wants to book separately, that’s fine, but everyone attending the workshop needs to book through us.
    3) Seating at dinner will include family members (presuming they book through us :) ). One of the things we’re hoping is that by encouraging people to bring their families, we can help families understand what a writer’s life is like. That means getting to hear and participate in conversations. The workshop are restricted to attendees, but dinner is for everyone.

    Just as a data point: Right now we have 93 people registered, 75 of which are students, and 18 of which are family. The ratio at dinner is still going to be mostly writers.

  29. Okay, ticket bought. Now I just need to figure out how to get to Florida (good thing greyhound trips are awesome readying time)!

  30. I bought my tickets (Yay!) but got an email from Lisa Harding of Whodunit Productions, Inc, requesting some info. I gave it, but I wanted to check in an make sure that this was legit, that I didn’t just give away info to a phisher or something.

  31. Thanks! All of my information came from the podcast and I didn’t even look at the page except to ask this question, I have to admit. I’m sorry – I should have thought to look.

  32. My first writing retreat and I’m *already* making excellent first impressions. This was my second mistake in signing up! Can you be both crazy excited and mortified at the same time? I’m morticited.

  33. Hello,

    I’m close to buying tickets, and just wanted to know if there’s still a chance at being the first 100 with a chance at a Breakout session lottery? If there’s still a chance, I’m definitely in.

    Michael M

  34. Excellent, thanks Howard.

    I just signed up with a friend, so now I just need to start preparing. It would be great if as a future topic, you guys could talk about how to best prepare for these types of events (or this event in particular).

    Now, time to dust off the inkwell.

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