Writing Excuses Workshop 2018

A workshop and retreat at sea

from Sep 22, 2018 hours 14:00 (UTC -05:00)
to Sep 30, 2018 hours 11:00 (UTC -05:00)

Houston Marriott South at Hobby Airport - 9100 Gulf Fwy, Houston, TX 77017, USA


from Sep 22, 2018 hours 14:00 (UTC -05:00)
to Sep 30, 2018 hours 11:00 (UTC -05:00)


Houston Marriott South at Hobby Airport
9100 Gulf Fwy, Houston, TX 77017, USA

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The 2018 Writing Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat will be held from September 22 through September 30 on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas.

It's a cruise ship.

The base price of $1300 covers the full week of intensive seminars, writing exercises, and free writing time, plus meals, double-occupancy lodging on the ship, and a cruise to three different Caribbean destinations. The conference begins on land in our hotel in Houston, TX before transferring to the cruise ship and continuing for a week at sea. (We have arranged for a hotel, breakfast, and transfer to the ship for $150. Staying there is optional, but conference events do begin on land.) Attendees will also be invited to attend live recordings of episodes of the Hugo award-winning podcast Writing Excuses, hosted by Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells.

At sea. Seriously.


  • September 22 - Houston, Texas - Registration and classes ashore
  • September 23 - Galveston, TX - Transfer to the ship, board, and classes.
  • September 24 - At Sea - Classes and writing time.
  • September 25 - At Sea - Classes and writing time
  • September 26 - Roatan, Honduras
  • September 27 - Belize City, Belize
  • September 28 - Cozumel, Mexico
  • September 29 - At Sea - Classes and writing time.
  • September 30 - Return to port in Galveston and transfer to Houston, TX.


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

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


Because balancing family and fiction is often difficult, we are including a small number of classes specifically for family members.

Topics include:

  • So, you have a writer in the family
  • How to critique your writer without breaking them.
  • Finances of freelance writers

Participants will also be able to sign up for a limited number of additional breakout sessions or one-on-one sessions with individual instructors. There is no additional charge for these, but because of the size of the event we may not be able to accommodate everyone with their first choice.

These breakout sessions include:
6-member novel critique groups: Members will submit excerpts up to 3000 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 3000 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.)

One-on-one Q&As: This is a 25-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, practice making a pitch, drill down on a worldbuilding conundrum, answer specific questions, or offer general advice.

"Office Hours": Each morning, instructors are available for individual drop-in sessions to cover those questions that come up mid-cruise.

ticket Tickets


Our instructors cover a range of genres and experiences. In addition to lectures, each instructor will also participate in critique sessions, one-on-one discussions, and social time with the participants.

Instructors and Staff

Amal El-Mohtar

Writer, critic, harpist. Oracle of Buses. Hugo, Nebula, Locus winner. Known to leap wide oceans with irregular bounds. Agent: @dongwon

Dan Wells

Author of Partials, Bluescreen, I Am Not a Serial Killer, and the new novel EXTREME MAKEOVER. Co-Host of Writing Excuses. Player of boardgames. Eater of tacos.

Howard Tayler

Creator of Schlock Mercenary, husband to @SandraTayler, father of four, twitterer of many tweets. https://t.co/kqvkHzifen #RESIST

K Tempest Bradford

Science Fiction & Fantasy writer, media critic, professional harsher of squee. https://t.co/LU7hGfq3ul | https://t.co/c2qVnBihq6

Kathy Chung

Writing as Kathy Kenzie, coordinator for the Surrey International Writers' Conference, genealogy buff, and all sorts of other things that make for a busy life.

Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of historical fantasy novels: Ghost Talkers, and The Glamourist Histories series. She is also a three time Hugo Award winner. Her short fiction appears in Uncanny, Tor.com, and Asimov’s. Mary, a professional puppeteer, lives in Chicago.

Maurice Broaddus

Writer. Teaching Artist. Community servant. https://t.co/VuSGE1PIQE

Piper J. Drake

Author of the bestselling True Heroes series. Foodie. Frequent Flyer. Day Job Road Warrior. Alter-identity: PJ Schnyder

Sandra Tayler

Blogger, Fiction Writer, Maker of books, Mother of four, married to @howardtayler

Valynne E. Maetani

YA author of INK & ASHES (June 2015/Tu Books). Rep'd by @johnmcusick of Folio Literary.

Harassment policy

Writing Excuses is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age or religion. We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form. Conference participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference without a refund at the discretion of the conference organizers.

Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.

Instructors, staff, volunteers, and family members are also subject to the anti-harassment policy.
If a participant engages in harassing behavior, the conference organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the conference with no refund. If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact Kathy Chung, or any member of conference staff immediately.

Conference staff will be happy to help participants contact ship security, provide escorts, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the conference. We value your attendance.

We expect participants to follow these rules at all conference venues and conference-related social events.


All Writing 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!

Family rates

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 of any age, it's between $900 and $1200, depending on cabin type. 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.


The access policy of Writing Excuses follows the Social Model of Disability. This regards barriers to the full participation of disabled people as the fault of society (and more immediately we as the organizers), not the 'fault' of the person with a disability. We further reject any negative value placed on a person because of their disability, or indeed on their disability. Disability isn't good or bad, it just is. Please respect our disabled members by engaging in neither negative stereotyping (eg 'If I was you I'd kill myself' or 'I'd rather be dead than in a wheelchair) nor false pity ("I'll pray for you to be cured') - many disabled people do not want to be cured and regard their disability is a fundamental part of their identity.

Additionally, please note that person first language ("person with disability") is not the universally preferred form of address for disabled people. Many prefer the Social Model and 'disabled person'. Please treat the appropriate form of address for disabled people as you would treat preferred pronoun usage, by asking for their preferred form of address and using it.

We picked Royal Caribbean because their ships are designed to accommodate all of our guests, including people with mobility, hearing, and visual disabilities. Read more about the accommodations that are available on Royal Caribbean. In addition, when you fill out the registration form, please let the WX staff know about any accommodations you require. 

Refund policy

  • Full refund until June 1st
  • 75% refund until July 1st
  • 50% refund until July 29
  • 25% refund until August 26th
  • No refunds after August 26th


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 Writing Excuses attendee.

Q: Can I get a private room?
A: Yes, but it will cost more. 

Q. What if I don't have a passport yet?
A. All guests must have a valid passport to cruise. If you do not have one yet but are ordering one, you may put "Passport on order" in the passport field. By doing so, you acknowledge that it is your responsibility to acquire a passport before cruising and that you cannot board the ship without one. Writing Excuses is in no way responsible if your passport does not arrive before cruise time.

Q. Which airport should I fly into?
A. Houston Hobby Airport is the closest to our hotel. 

Q. When I'm booking my flight, when should I arrive and depart? 
A. Arrive in Houston prior to 7:00 PM on September 22nd. On the day of departure, September 20th, your  flight cannot leave before 12:30 PM.

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: 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. Will you have a scholarship again this year?
A. Yes! We are offering four scholarships. For full details on the scholarships, please visit the Writing Excuses website.

Q: How big is the ship?
A: The Liberty of the Seas holds 3634 guests, of which we'll be a small percentage. The Writing Excuses 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, games with Dan). We'll also have our own area of the dining room, and the guests will rotate tables each night to sit with different instructors. 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: There are usually about 200 of us. As mentioned above, the instructors will be hosting different attendees at dinner each night and participating in other activities in order to make ourselves accessible to each and every one of the attendees.

Q. Are there any additional fees?
A: The price of your cruise includes:

  • The Writing Excuses workshops and seminars (for workshop attendees)
  • WiFi
  • Ship accommodations
  • Transfer from the WX Hotel in Houston to the ship and back to Houston again.
  • Ocean transportation
  • Gratuities
  • Most meals onboard (To be clear, it is possible to have all of your meals in venues that are covered.)
  • Some beverages onboard
  • Most entertainment onboard

The following services are not included in the cruise price:

  • Dining in Specialty Restaurants such as Portofino
  • Dining in Johnny Rockets (Where applicable)
  • Spa and Salon services
  • Golf Simulator
  • Gambling (Including Bingo)
  • Art Auction
  • Any purchases made in the gift shops onboard
  • Shore excursions
  • Photographs
  • Video Arcade
  • Medical Services
  • Transfers (Unless guest has purchased an air/sea package)
  • Laundry and Dry Cleaning Services
  • Ship to Shore Telephone calls
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Non-Alcoholic Beverages (excluding water, lemonade and iced tea)


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