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Viable Paradise Application Period Is Open

Just a friendly reminder that applications are now being accepted for Viable Paradise 15, to take place this coming October in scenic Martha’s Vineyard. SF/F writers should seriously consider applying.

Why? As a VP student you’ll make use of five important resources:

  1. The instructors. Award-winning writers and editors who will read your story and tell you what they think and offer suggestions for fixing it. These are talented, thoughtful people. Their lectures and your conversations with them will be incredibly valuable to you.
  2. The staff. Think of them as the embodiment of the accumulated wisdom and well-wishing of the fourteen previous years. When you stagger away from a one-on-one with an instructor and need a cookie, they’ll have cookies. (Or better — you will eat very well that week.)
  3. Your classmates. Two dozen talented young writers who are all fired up about writing SF/F, who will also be reading your story and thinking very hard about it, and who have nothing else to do for a whole week but geek out about writing.
  4. The location. When I first looked into VP, I groaned and complained about the location. I live in New England, so for me, Martha’s Vineyard is nice, but nothing special. It’s a pain in the ass to get there. And therein lies its chief benefit: you’re there for a week, disconnected from your everyday life by ocean and spotty cell service. For me, at least, that was the first time in my thirty-odd years that I’ve ever taken a full week to focus on nothing but writing and learning about writing. That alone would have helped my writing considerably.
  5. The network. Long after the workshop itself is over (*sniff*) you’ll still be talking to your classmates and students of previous years. You’ll be sitting there rooting for new students, excited for them. It’s a tight-knit group. You’ll see others succeed, and it will give you the impetus you need to push yourself harder, because you’ll know that you have it in you to.

Compared to all that, the price of admission in blood, toil, tears, sweat, time, and gold is astonishingly cheap.

To those applying, good luck. I do offer one piece of advice: when you think you’re ready to submit, give it one last read for typos, submit it, and then do not look at that manuscript again, lest you discover a typo and freak out about it until summer. Er, not that I did that or anything.

Oh, and tell Teresa that you’re at great risk of developing scurvy. She can help.

 
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Posted by on 4 January, 2011 in Writing

 

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Processing Viable Paradise

I am home. I am at my desk with a view of the neighbor’s tree and its green leaves turned to gold. I have had my moment of wondering whether the last week really happened. (Do not worry, the size of my unread inbox quickly disabused me of that cliche)

There is a lot to be said for spending time in the company of intelligent people and discussing the thing that you all hold dear. The business of writing can be discussed on many levels: from the broad strokes of genre and distribution, to getting down and dirty in the trenches with the commas and semi-colons, there’s a lot to talk about and think about. Until this past week I had only the vaguest idea that some of these topics existed, let alone were important. But boy howdy is my brain full now. I feel like an anaconda digesting a hippo — there’s a lot to get through, but I have reason to hope that I’ll eventually get through it all, and once it’s through, I’ll… um… stop extending that metaphor, actually.

I’m not sure which of the valuable lessons I learned is the most valuable, but I think this one comes close: As a writer, everyone is your ally. Seriously. The editor you’re afraid of? Is on your side. Your readers? Are on your side. Everyone who picks up your story wants that story to be the best thing they ever read. Their time is valuable to them, and they like good stories. They are not looking for excuses to shoot you down, they are looking for excuses to like you. They will ignore imperfections, they will fill in gaps, they will rationalize and make excuses, they will stand on their fucking heads and squint if it lets them enjoy your story. But they can only do so much! The writer has a lot of heavy lifting to do. But there is absolutely no reason to fear editors and slush readers. You should instead try your level best to not let them down.

At VP, we wrote. We wrote for our fellow writers, people whose work we’d read and whose opinions we’d come to respect. We wanted to not let them down, and so we wrote day and night (and night and night) and we gave anguished cries when our sentences went clunk, and we bounced off the walls when we found that one clever thing that would make it finally fucking work. And the results were good, damned good, all good.

I suspect that this post will get one or two hits next January from a host of eager young writers of all ages who are wondering whether it’s worth the agony of application and the arduous journey to Martha’s Vineyard. The short answer is yes. The long answer depends on who you are, but the short version of that long answer is still yes.

Of course, it did break me as a reader. I woke up this morning, and grabbed a book that I’d been in the middle of when I left. A good book, a well-known one. I started reading… and then I reached for a pencil, because man, that one sentence just goes clunk. Oops.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.

 
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Posted by on 10 October, 2010 in Writing

 

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Getting Ready For VP

I’ve been spending some time and energy getting ready for Viable Paradise. I picked up a number of books by and recommended by the instructors. So far I’ve been very impressed: Steven Gould’s Jumper was fantastic, and Doyle and Macdonald’s Land of Mist and Snow is a fine piece of fiction, too. Scalzi’s recent short story at Tor was also well worth a read. There are a few more books by all the instructors that I’d like to read, but there’s plenty of time.

What I can’t quite figure out is what to do with my own fiction. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 20 July, 2010 in Reading, Writing

 

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Doing My VP Homework

So, in preparation for Viable Paradise, I’m catching up on stuff the instructors have written/recommended. All good stuff. (And I’m also improving my chess game!) But it occurred to me that a number of my future classmates have been published as well, and it would be nice to read some of their stuff before I show up. If any of my future VP XIV classmates happen by and have anything they want to link to, please leave a comment!

I don’t have anything of my own published (except academic crud), but if challenged to reciprocate I’ll figure something out. (Does anyone know how to put pages behind a password wall with WordPress?)

 
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Posted by on 13 July, 2010 in Reading

 

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Nothing on Submission

Yesterday I had two pieces still out on submission: A Stab in the Dark (to Strange Horizons) and Death in a Tin Can (my submission piece to Viable Paradise)

At 1am, Strange Horizons said “No, thanks”

At 1:45am, Viable Paradise said “Congratulations”!

I now have no short fiction on submission anywhere. I need to remedy that. But first, we squee.

 
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Posted by on 12 July, 2010 in Writing

 

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