When is a workshop not a workshop?

When it’s an unworkshop, obviously. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Perhaps you’ve heard of Translation Mastermind, a group that I’ve been running for a few years now, several of which have been in partnership with ProZ.com. The participants (around 1,350 translators) are made up of a small minority who’ve joined independently and the vast majority who enter the group as one of the benefits of being ProZ.com membership Plus subscribers.dinner

The subjects discussed in the group are varied and eclectic, and may indeed range in any month from client issues to health, or from freelancing in general to dealing with complicated or long texts. In other words, anything related to being a freelancer in the 21st century, however tenuous that connection might appear at times.

The upshot of all this sharing – amongst the small number of vocal participants (par for the course in any Facebook group) – is that active members have shared a huge amount of experience, grown familiar with each other and built trust over the years. Perhaps this has been further enhanced by the ethos we’ve tried to maintain since the beginning – that we can of course question and even challenge each other, but that the acrimony or squabbling that forms such an integral part of much of what passes for social media interaction is simply not acceptable. So we probe, we rationalize, we even disagree, but we never shout, and in several years the number of ad hominem comments can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and usually result in swift action.


But all of this remains virtual of course, and being real people, we all crave real interaction from time to time. And so it came to pass that many years ago we began a series of annual gatherings that became known as “Ganzas” (a feeble play on “extravaganza”). In fact, the first of these happened within the Standing Out group that morphed ultimately into Translation Mastermind, and was called the Standingoutaganza (yes, ouch). But we had subsequent events in Avignon (the “Avignonaganza”), Heidelberg, Dublin, Prague, Barcelona and now Calahonda, where I live in the South of Spain. 


The Calahondaganza took place just last weekend. Like all its predecessors, it was a small event (we’ve never had, or wanted, more than 20 participants), but those who came travelled from places as far afield as Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus and even Texas, as well as more “local” starting points such as France, the UK and elsewhere in Spain.

When planning the event, Tanya Quintieri and I decided that one more session on “How to market to direct clients” or any other conference staple would send us into a state of mild catatonia. So why not dispense with formal input altogether? We all know that the real benefit of conferences occurs in the coffee breaks, so perhaps we could have a gathering which was one long coffee break? Hence the idea to go for a non-workshoppy feel, or an unworkshop.


The translators in attendance would probably end up talking shop anyway, mixed in with other issues about life, philosophy and the universe – just as they do in the group. And so it transpired. Apart from the first evening at a restaurant, a meal at my house on the Saturday evening, and a Sunday brunch, the “event” itself consisted of a long walk along the Andalusian coast and back, in what turned out to be a 10km round trip. We split into pairs and threes, and of course had lunch in the next town along before making the return journey, taking care to switch partners for the outward journey, the meal, and the final leg. We then gathered in a plenary session with soft drinks (pictured) to discuss our impressions of the day. Fortunately, we were blessed with glorious sunshine throughout, apart from a slightly greyer sky on the final morning. 

beach in Spain - Andrew Morris


The feedback was all extremely positive – when it’s you setting the agenda, you can talk about whatever moves you. And the changes of partners also ensured variety. 

Between the walk and the social elements, everyone got to know each other better and friendships were forged and deepened.

We’re already planning one for next year. And we’ll definitely be sticking to the unworkshop theme. Looking forward already to meeting a great bunch of people one year on, and any newcomers who decide to join in the fun. 



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Andrew Morris

Written by Andrew Morris

Coordinator, ProZ Pro Bono

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