My annual plug for VP is a little late this year. I’ve been busy with writing the novel, so I’m just now playing catch up on my blog.
If you’re a writer of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and/or Horror, this is the residential workshop you’ve been looking for. It’s less than a week, and takes place in beautiful Martha’s Vineyard in October. I attended back in 2012 and it was worth it in so many ways. I’ve posted about my experience here.
It doesn’t hurt to apply. Applications are open now and don’t close until June 15th. Give it a chance. It will change your writing life for the better.
Today, my Viable Paradise classmate, roommate, and friend, Dawn Bonanno has featured me and four other published novelist who graduated from VP Class XVI on her blog today. Click on over and meet Camille Griep (Letters to Zell), Alison McMahan (The Saffron Crocus), Lauren Roy (Night Owls), and Tamara MacNeil (A Fine Romance).
But before you go – applications for Viable Paradise open today. If you’re a writer of Science Fiction (including Science Fiction Romance), Fantasy (including Urban Fantasy), or Horror, apply to Viable Paradise. You won’t regret it, I promise.
1. I’m all registered for the Paradise Lost Writers Workshop. This is a sequel to the Viable Paradise Writers Workshop I attended two (gasp!) years ago. (has it already been two years?). It was started by my friend and fellow VP grad Sean Patrick Kelley, who I interviewed a few months ago. This years professional staff includes: Chuck Wendig, Delilah S. Dawson, and Robert Jackson Bennett. My heart is filled with so much squee about this.
2. I also finished proofreading my assigned sections of Lightspeed Magazine’s “Women Destroy Fantasy” special issue. Another amazing issue chock full of great stories all written by women authors.
3. I’ve finished another story for the Tales from Thunder City short story collection and started a new one. All of these stories take place in the Bloodsurfer universe. I hope to have these published at the same time as Bloodsurfer. We’ll see what happens there.
As for me, my current project is Tales from Thunder City: A Bloodsurfer Anthology. This will be a collection of short stories about the adventures of the superheroes who appear in my novel, Bloodsurfer.
Starlight Presents is a semi-regular feature where I invite authors to share their latest book release with my audience. In this case I’m making an exception. I’ve invited author Sean Patrick Kelley, co-founder of Paradise Lost to talk about his inspiration for this writers workshop.
1. What made you decide to start your own workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy writers?
It’s not an easy undertaking.
After a decade long hiatus of not writing, I decided I wanted to get back in the saddle in my late 30s. I started by attending David Farland’s 2 day “Write that Novel,” class and then went to his “Nanowrimo Death March” camp in November of 2009. When I was mostly finished with that novel, at the urging of some other writers friends, I applied to Viable Paradise. I was lucky to receive an invitation to attended Viable Paradise 14.
After VP, I was very a trifle overwhelmed, but processed through all the new learning and skills and started to apply what I had learned, but I wasn’t selling yet. I was good enough of a writer to see that I had improved, and to see that my work was still flawed as well. What I couldn’t see was how to fix it myself, and so I started looking for ways to continue my education. There were many writing programs for the early writer, and there were exclusive writing groups that met for those who had professional credentials, but for those writers working at a journey persons skill level, there wasn’t a lot of options to continue your education.
I guess this is where I should say while I play an extrovert on TV, I am prone to being an introvert as much as the rest of my writer brethren. I am also, ah, not much of a joiner. If I want something, I am more likely to just make it for myself rather than ask for help, but in this case I was pretty well stuck. I felt like I had to talk through this frustration. I was lucky that a friend from college, Stephanie Leary, was also a VP grad. I reached out to her and we caught up in Dallas one week when we were both there for business event.
She shared the similar frustrations in the lack of continuing education and the perceived absence of genre writing community continuity for support in Texas. We talked about how cool it would be to host something that suited both of those needs, and in a moment of insanity I said, “We could call it Paradise Lost.” We were hooked.
We did our homework. We poled writing groups, and conducted surveys online to under what writers wanted. We talked to friends, trying to determine if people would show up. We talked to a few professional writers asking them if they could come teach. In October of 2011 we had the first Paradise Lost in Texas, here in Austin.
2. What is Paradise Lost’s mission? We’re both graduates of Viable Paradise and know what an incredible experience it was. Are you trying to recreate that experience, or do you have a different goals for PL?
We started out trying to be a place for Viable Paradise graduates to come and experience that magic again. We figured out pretty early that isn’t possible, but what’s more important was we quickly developed our own feel and culture. Now Paradise Lost is open to anyone who qualifies for the Codex writers group, and alumnus of either Taos Toolbox of Viable Paradise. We did that because we feared being too insular would limit the development of a diverse writing community, and because we realized that what we were doing was of value to more than just VP grads. That being said, we are huge fans of Viable Paradise and Taos Toolbox. Those programs are in our DNA and we’ve share staff with both of them.
3. Right now you only accept applicants who have already attendedViable Paradise, Taos Toolbox, or who are members of Codex. Why did you decide to limit your attendees to just those workshops and that one forum?
I’m glad you ask this, because we receive a few impassioned pleas each year for early writers who want to attend, and it is really disheartening to have to explain this each time. It comes down to two things. The first is consistency of skill. When you’re paying to go to a professional event, where you receive critiques of your writing, you want to know that the persons sitting across from you bring as much to the table, or more, than you. The only way to guarantee that consistency, short of moving to a writing sample submission system, is to create standards which set a bar for participants abilities.
The second is that are cruel heartless writing over lords who want to crush the dreams of spunky writers who are just getting their start. Sorry, I kid. The second reason is that our professional staff are not coming to teach you how to get started writing. We structure out lectures for writers who already know how to write, and in fact are already selling their stories to paying, professional markets. The lectures they deliver are not going to be as help or relevant to a person who is just getting started. There are lots of good programs for writers out there at that level, I’ve mentioned several here. Go attend them first so that you’ve got the foundational elements of writing craft in place. Then come to Paradise Lost, and learn and challenge us to learn from you as well.
4. Do you see Paradise Lost expanding to include graduates of other workshops?
I don’t think so, because if you look at Codex membership requirements, it covers most of the other workshops we could add. I want to move away from targeting specific workshops and focus more on broad prerequisites so we hit a bigger audience. Paradise Lost has always been a genre event, but we’ve focused on Sci-fi and fantasy. As we grow I want to see us bring in others elements of genre like romance, westerns, and horror.
5. You have a very impressive line-up of guest lecturers (including Chuck Wendig and Delilah S. Dawson next year). They must be beating down your door to attend. How do you fend them off?
There has been a tremendous amount of interest in next year’s event, and the third professional staff member we are seeking is equally amazing. I suspect we will book up very fast this year. We’re a small event, and we plan to stay small because class size is important to creating the right learning environment. (Did I just say that? Good grief, those education classes from college really did sink in.)
6. Are there any success stories you can brag about? Workshopped stories that are now published?
We don’t track what stories have sold, because many of our students are already selling stories and thus we don’t feel like we should take credit for that success. We are about continuing education for early professional writers. That being said, in the years we’ve had editors on our pro staff, we have almost always placed one of the stories from the critiques. I won’t lie. That is a source of pride for me to see a student bring a story and walk away with a sell.
I’m a little late in floggingViable Paradise this year. This amazing writers workshop opened it’s doors to applications on January 1st and those doors will close on June 15th. If you write Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror (this includes Science Fiction Romance and Paranormal Romance – RWA members, take note), this workshop is a must. Unlike other residential writers workshops, VP is only one week – one very intense week, but for those of us who can’t get away for two, three, or six weeks, this is doable.
My final polish on Bloodsurfer is done. I finished it in a 17 hour marathon session starting at 8:00 am in the morning and ending at 1:00 am the next morning. It’s been submitted to everyone who has requested it. After I finished I realized (thanks to Erik Gern’s blog post Six Months Since Paradise) it has been six months since I returned from Viable Paradise in October. What started as a blackmail threat – a close friend of mine said if I didn’t apply to VP last year, she would apply for me and send them a trunk novel of mine – has resulted in a completed, polished, award winning, and requested manuscript. All in under a year. That’s a quarter of the time it took for me to finish my first two manuscripts. I couldn’t have done this six months ago. I sure has hell wouldn’t have done it a year ago. Viable Paradise brought out the best of my writing, gave me focus, and helped me find the support I needed to carry me through this adventure. I will forever be grateful to the staff, faculty, and Class XVI.
Viable Paradise is accepting applications through June 15th. If you write Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror or any of the subgenres (including Science Fiction Romance, Paranormal Romance, etc.) this is the workshop you need to attend. It will challenge your writing and change your life.
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.
I’ve been sitting on this news since Monday and it’s damn near killed me. I found out I’ve been accepted into Viable Paradise, the residential writers workshop that’s held on Martha’s Vineyard every October. After I finished my snoopy dance, I sat at my computer, fingers poised on the keyboard ready to announce my great news to the world! Then I reread the email and the powers that be asked that we refrain from making our acceptances public until today so everyone who applied would have a chance to read their emails. NO SOCIAL MEDIA ALLOWED. Grrrrrrr. I still told fifty of my best friends and family, but gave them strict orders to keep it offline. Now that the embargo has lifted, I can post about it. Yay!
I already have two roommates lined up. One is from California, the other from Chicago. We’ve been emailing back and forth. I’m amazed at just how much we have in common (cat lovers, unite!). Various instructors and past participants have been posting to the email loop, teasing us noobs about what happens on Thursday night (insert Jaws theme).
2012 has been such an amazing year so far and there still so much good stuff to come. I’ll be at RWA’s Annual Conference in little over a month. I should have the final results from Query Quandary and one other contest before then. I’ll be submitting to three or four contests this summer and there’s still the possibility of hearing from one or more of the editors that I’ve pitched to March. I’m so close to achieving my dream I can taste it.