Taos Toolbox, Viable Paradise, Writing Workshops

It’s That Time of Year Again.

If you’re a writer, you know what I mean. December 1st (or January 1st) is when many writing workshops open their application period for the following year. I’ve been to two workshops: Viable Paradise in 2013, and Taos Toolbox this past summer of 2016. Both have been wonderful experiences, and I’ve met wonderful people–classmates as well as instructors–at both. If you’re looking for a workshop experience, I highly recommend either one of them. So, how do you decide?

Viable Paradise is open for applications Jan 1 – June 15, and the workshop this year is Oct 16-21. It’s held in Martha’s Vineyard, MA, and lasts one week. Both short story writers and novelists are welcome. At VP, a whole bunch of instructors are there the whole time, and a couple special guests, as well. You may think, “Well, what can anyone learn in one week? That’s just not enough time.” And you’d be wrong. That week is intense. It’s filled to the brim with lectures and laughter and bonding and critiquing and reading and writing and food and fun and the Horror That is Thursday. You will arrive one person, and leave someone else. Maybe not obviously different, not at first. But fast or slow, you will be changed by your journey across the sea and back again.

Recap: one week; lots of instructors the whole time; no before-hand reading prep.

Taos Toolbox opens for applications on Dec 1, and has a sliding payment scale based upon when you applied (so it helps to apply early if you can). This workshop lasts two weeks, and is located near Taos, NM. It’s mostly novel-focused, but short story writers are welcome, too. Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress are the co-instructors the entire two weeks, and guest lecturers came in for an evening of extra instruction. This year’s three guests are George R. R. Martin and Steven Gould and E. M. Tippets, so you’ll certainly find something to your tastes there! Two weeks is twice one week, but the pace here is a bit slower, since there is more time . Also, we got reading packets before the workshop, so we read and critted one another’s novel excerpts before arrival (mostly, at least!). There was a free weekend inside the workshop, too, when many of us explored and did fun things (I hiked down Angel Fire Mountain with two other classmates–how often do you go hiking above 10,000 feet, after all?–and most of us went on a group tour of Taos Pueblo). We wrote, we read, we critiqued and learned the joys of “plot breaking” and talked writing until bats swooped into the skies, distracting us. We learned and learned and learned more. The desert skies changed us, and our words.

Recap: two weeks; two co-instructors and a few 1-day guests; lots of pre-workshop prep.

Of course, these are not the only workshops available. The big six-week workshops are Clarion, Clarion West, and Odyssey. While I’ve heard good things from those who’ve attended them, I haven’t gone to these, so I’m only linking to them for your convenience.

Of course, no one has to attend a workshop in order to become a writer. No one will look down on you, and your career as a writer won’t suffer if you never attend one. But if you can and want to attend, it’s a fun way to learn, to make friends at your own level, who’ll go on to crit and hang out afterwards, both online and in real life. And those friends can see you through a world of ups and downs relating to writing and the writing life. They can make you feel less alone in the isolation of writing from your desk, wherever it may be. And that is never a bad thing.

If you can, I recommend you apply.

Personal Life, Viable Paradise, Writing

Dasher’s Birthday

DashDay15

Yesterday we celebrated Dasher’s birthday. He’s now unofficially (since we have no idea of his actual birth date) one year old, and no longer a puppy. Don’t tell him that, though. He still acts crazy and playful as the day we brought him home.

How did we celebrate? With a ball at the field and plenty of water to cool off with, a canine cupcake, a long walk with both his people, and lots and lots of playing. He slept really, really well–both in the afternoon and all night long! 🙂

Today it’s back to the same old routine–morning walk, then Mary writes while Dasher bounces a toy into her leg until she tosses it.  Uh-huh, so conducive to writing–NOT! Eventually he gives up and naps, and I get some actual words on the page. I’m writing on the novel, and editing up a couple short stories, bouncing between one project and another as my brain hits various walls. So far, it’s working.

Last week I wrote out the final steps of the outline for my novel. You know, those last few bits, how that confrontation will play out, exactly, and the final acts as well. How does the novel say “goodbye” to the reader, what is the final scene, the last line, the last glimpse. It felt strange to write that, even in “outline” form. It was a combination of wonderful, liberating, and unsettling. As much as I’ve groused about this becoming the novel that will not end, I can see the ending clearly, and I’m…feeling a little nostalgic about it. Ye-eah, how crazy is that?

Friday I got to help a fellow VP 17er play with her novel, trouble-shooting the outline in a couple areas to find plausible ways through the plot. It was a whole lotta fun to throw trouble at someone else’s characters, to make it as hard as possible for them, and to make journeying through the plot believable without being too easy, or without other ripple-effect changes swaying it off-course. It also opened my eyes to how to do that to my own, dear characters–pretend they’re not mine and have at it!

Which is another reason that, if you haven’t already, you should be considering applying to Viable Paradise Writer’s Workshop.  The most-reduced applications are through March 31st, but you can apply until the June 15th deadline, for this fall’s weeklong workshop.

That’s about all the news here. Writing is happening. Stay warm if you’re in the snowy northlands. Why not write a story set in the tropics to warm up?

Links, Viable Paradise, What I'm Reading, Writing Workshops

Bubbling Over with Good News

…but I can’t tell you just yet, so I’ll share some other great news that I can divulge! Namely, the first issue of Fantasy Scroll Magazine is out, and is really lovely. Especially near and dear to my heart is the interview with Sarah Hans, who is in the writers’ group that I used to belong to, and who is a wonderful person much deserving of the success heading her way!

Also, let me take a moment to remind you writers that Viable Paradise is accepting applications for this fall’s week-long workshop on beautiful Martha’s Vineyard. This year the workshop runs from October 12-17 (but you’ll really want to stay until the 18th if at all possible–trust me on this!). Will you be part of VP XVIII? You can’t be if you don’t apply! You have until June 15th to send in your applications. Hop to it!

Thanks to some happy chatter on Codex, I downloaded and played SPACETEAM. You need at least two people (but three is way better) with recent iOS or Android devices to play, but this free game is so much good, silly fun! You’ll be spouting techno-babble with the best once you start playing. And you’ll see what I do when I should be writing, instead. Now, quick–eject the Gyrespindle! 🙂 (for bonus fun, try playing in another language!)

signal boosting, Viable Paradise

“Geek Theater” Signal Boosting

Today’s quick post is signal boosting for another VP graduate’s latest project. Erin Underwood is co-editing an anthology of of science fiction and fantasy stage plays from current SFF authors and playwrights. It’s to be called “Geek Theater,” and it seems pretty unique. I mean, you see SFF novels, short stories, and movies–but plays? Really? How cool is that? So if you love SFF, or theater, or both, consider dropping a buck in their Kickstarter.

blogging, Viable Paradise, Writing

Link Up!

This post is a collection of random bits, all containing links to other places–that’s the only common denominator, other than my interest in them. Let’s get on with it:

First off, Sarah Hans has a wonderful retrospective, complete with MORE LINKS, on the contributors to the Sidekicks! anthology. When I saw this, I was floored–a year’s gone by already? How!!?? But there you have it, time flies when you’re writing…

From one of my VP 17 cohort, Michael Johnston, comes this pep-talk about wading through post-workshop assimilation. In addition, it’s a great little plug for VP XVIII (and applications are now open. Hint, hint…perhaps you should apply?)

I’m having lots of fun over at Coursera, and thought I should plug them once more. Free, online courses covering a wide variety of topics. I’m taking “Imagining Other Earths,” am learning so much, and am just really enjoying it!

 

plain silliness, Viable Paradise

VP Pin Day

OK, so here it is:  a selfie of me wearing my VP 17 pin, on the 17th. In front of my computer, at my writing desk, so you can see I’m attempting to work on writing.

photo

My classmates came up with this brilliant idea, so if you want to see us, go looking for us on Twitter (#VP17PinDay), FB or our blogs–we’ll all be wearing our pins. Photos will be posted today, tomorrow (as the 18th, which was our 2-month Pin-Day anniversary) or the 19th (which is Thursday, don’t ya know).

Reading, Viable Paradise

Favorite Reads of 2013

John Wiswell, one of my VP classmates, has brought my attention to a “Best Reads of the Year” blog hop, and I thought it might be fun to take part. So without further ado, here, in no particular order, are the books that I read (not that were necessarily published) and loved in 2013:

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

This book surprised me. Really, it did. I expected to like it, maybe even to love it. But to like it better than the first book? Never! But so it is. This book made the first, to me, seem only so-so, by virtue of its being so exceptional.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Again, I was surprised. I knew everyone was talking about this book, but really, the idea of it just didn’t appeal to me. However, after a somewhat shaky start (I was still expecting it to be something else), this book was just the thing I needed to read, and at just the right time. Wonderful, different, surprising and just plain good reading.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

I love language, and how it influences culture (and vice versa). I adore magic (duh!) and how it could exist in our world, just unseen to most. I also love technology and the convenience it makes in our daily lives. Throw all these into one book, along with a cast of characters you can’t help but identify with, and a magic, mysterious tome that everyone wants, and a hard-eyed yet sympathetic look at a culture other than Western–and wow. From my Goodreads rating: My mind was completely blown two times in separate areas of this book. Realize that I generally don’t give five stars. Just read it, okay?

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

I don’t think I’ll be giving much away if I say the main character in this book is not your average “likable guy.” In fact, the book comes down to the fact that he’s unlikeable, and he knows it, making him the perfect hero for the story. I listened to this as an audio book, and Wil Wheaton’s narration was added gilding on an already splendid lily.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin

NK Jemisin did something here that I’ve often intuitively felt, but that I had been so often been bashed and battered by others in writing groups for: she made magic magical. And she did it without resorting to silliness, making it unrealistic, or skewing the story into Mary Sue or Marty Stu-ism. Her world building was stunning, her characters so realistic I thought I might run into them, and her storytelling so lyrical I was thoroughly absorbed and entranced enough to read this book nearly straight through!

publication, Viable Paradise

Signal Boosting

What? 4 posts in 4 days? Yes indeed. I have lots to catch up on, and am going full-speed at this task before the remaining holiday travel blows me right out of the water again (sigh). Anyway, take a look at this:

The next anthology from UFO Publishing is coming out soon. Click here to read the table of contents of Coffee: 14 Caffeinated Tales of the Fantastic.   (full disclosure: editor Alex Shvartzman is in my writing group and is a VP graduate, and I worked as a ‘second slush reader’ for this anthology. As for that last, what can I say but “Hey, these stories are good!)

Coffee_TPB_Cover-300x225

Also on that page, at the bottom you’ll see a Special Holiday Bundle. Buy the UFO, UFO 2, and Coffee Anthologies for a super-special price now until December 9th! You can even choose either paper or ebook options.