Viable Paradise: A Survivor’s Tale

I never would have thought it possible to function on so little sleep. The entire week, I only managed 3 or 4 hours per night. Part of this was my own fault. I chose to wake up at 5:30 so I could join Jim MacDonald for his daily 3 mile walk. I could have slept later, but then I would have missed the sunrise over the bay.

Of course, Viable Paradise isn’t about watching the sunrise. It’s about pouring your heart into a story and having it critiqued by the best in the business. I had four separate one-on-one sessions and one group critique. There were varying opinions on how to improve chapter one, so for the next week, I’ll be sifting through everyone’s feedback before I plunge into editing mode.

In between lectures and critiques, there was also a writing assignment and the horror that is Thursday (of which I will not speak, now or ever again ::shudder:::). Despite Thursday, I really enjoyed brainstorming with my roommates over our writing assignments. That was the best part of VP: talking about writing with other writers who are just as dedicated to the craft as you are and Who. Get. It.

We also enjoyed mandatory fun which included dramatic readings of The Unstrung Harp, Or, Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel (“Dreadful, Dreadful, Dreadful” is my new battle cry) and The Life and Death King Richard the Second (the Duchess of York had a sultry southern accent thanks to a fellow VPer).

We did have time for sightseeing. On Wednesday we took a trip to see the gingerbread cottages. Friday we headed across the island to Aquinnah Cliffs to watch the sunset. In between we witnessed glowing jellyfish, saw a meteor shower, and filked until 2:00 in the morning while drinking the cure for scurvy. No one has ever died of scurvy at VP.


Would I recommend Viable Paradise? Absolutely, but only if you have a strong stomach for criticism. This isn’t a workshop for the faint of heart. You have to want to learn and change, or the experience will be wasted. If you think you have what it takes, then apply as soon as application process opens in January. You won’t regret it.

17 thoughts on “Viable Paradise: A Survivor’s Tale”

  1. “That was the best part of VP: talking about writing with other writers who are just as dedicated to the craft as you are and Who. Get. It.” YES. No one ever looked at us funny when we cried about writing the worst thing ever, or debated the usage of commas. Being in a room with so many writers felt a lot like finding home 🙂

    1. Oh, yes. Who could forget all the lemons – mine and the ones for the scurvy cure. As for brainstorming – call me, maybe? (Earworm? You’re welcome).

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience, and again, KUDOS to you for gaining a place at the table. That in itself is a tremendous honor. Can’t wait to hear more about it!

  3. I was VP 9 and, looking back, I didn’t get nearly as much out of it as I could have. It taught me that I needed more time than a week when I took a workshop. Since I took VP9, I have also learned that I have learning difficulties – wish I’d known before I took that week-long course! The critiquing – I’d been critiqued before, but the feedback I got from our group was good. (BTW, Debra Jess, nice blog – I spotted your link in the PRO loop of RWA.) But it was my local chapter of RWA that was rah-go-get-’em professional, and supported me in pushing my work out there. As I deal with THEM, I find little snippets of VP9 coming back to help me out.

    1. Welcome to my blog, Linda. I’m so glad to meet another VP grad. I’m glad you like what you see here, though I haven’t had a chance to update it recently.

      I agree, VP is very intense. It’s not for everyone, but the most important experience I got out of it was meeting other writers who were as dedicated to the craft as I was. I’m still in contact with folks from my class and we support each other. Of course it’s easier now with all of us on one or more social networks.

      The second most important experience of VP was getting feedback from non-romance readers. It gave me a whole different perspective of my work. In return, I was able to give a romance perspective on some of my classmates stories, so I’d like to think I helped a bit in that aspect.

      You’re right, though. VP was a one time experience never to be repeated. RWA is continuous and the more you participate, the more you get out it. I’m very involved with my local chapter. They have been the biggest cheerleaders and I wouldn’t be as close to publishing as I am now without them. It looks like, from you’re web site, you done very well. Five novels and a half dozen short stories? How awesome is that?

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