Still on the fence about the 2013 Write-a-thon? Read this interview with Marie Vibbert, one of our top ten Write-a-thon writers in 2012, who after her Write-a-thon experience applied to the Workshop and is in our 2013 class: Clarion “seemed a wonderful, magical thing. I’d have given anything to go, but … it always seemed out of reach for me. In recent years, I’d given up on the dream of going, and in part, on the dream of being a writer. The Write-a-thon woke me up.”
Do you have dreams that need awakening? Sign up for the Write-a-thon and start writing!
How did you become aware of the Write-a-thon? Were you aware of Clarion, and planning to apply?
Since I was sixteen, I’ve belonged to a writing workshop here in Cleveland. Several members of the workshop had been to Clarion, and participated in the Write-a-thon. They encouraged me to join in. When they talked about Clarion – it seemed a wonderful, magical thing. I’d have given anything to go, but I had to work my way through college, first, and there was never enough money or free time – like my dad always said, working seasonally himself as a construction worker: you get either money or time, never both. So it always seemed out of reach for me. In recent years, I’d given up on the dream of going, and in part, on the dream of being a writer. The Write-a-thon woke me up, presented me with a way to be a part of this.
Was the Write-a-thon experience enjoyable? Did it help your writing?
It was tremendously enjoyable. I set myself a high goal – 50 stories. I defined a story as at least 1,000 words long and with a complete plot. The goal was high enough that I had to push myself the entire way through the Write-a-thon, and concentrating on creating complete story drafts kept me from getting bogged down. I made decisions fast and didn’t worry about the quality of my ideas. I was forced, in short, to be true to myself and write what I really wanted to write. It was a bit of a breakthrough for me. I hadn’t realized how much I censored myself in my writing, expecting critical first readers. I did have a few bouts of writer’s block, two three-day stretches of NOTHING, but in the last week and on the very last day I finished off three of the most awful stories ever written to meet my goal.
Also I was very moved by the generosity of my friends. I didn’t want to be a nagging fundraiser – I asked particular people I knew were interested in Clarion or Science Fiction or my writing, and I made a few posts on my blog and Facebook wall. And the donations just poured in. I started out hoping I’d make just ten dollars or so, and ended up in a competitive race to beat fellow Cleveland workshop-member Ferret.
How much did it influence your decision to apply to Clarion?
I’d say it led directly to my applying to Clarion. Because I told my writer’s workshop friends that I was glad to have had the chance to be a part of Clarion through the Write-a-thon, since I obviously never would go there in real life – and they started pressuring me to try for it, to ask for the time off. Geoff Landis was particularly relentless, asking me every time I saw him, “So have you applied to Clarion yet?” At first I was a bit angry. Didn’t they know this was impossible? But then I went ahead and asked for the time off, and after my boss got over his shock, he said it wasn’t entirely impossible, if every person on the chain of command agreed and I fixed every computer problem in the entire building before then. So I applied.
How excited are you about going to Clarion this summer?
I’m still not quite certain this is real. It feels like I’m getting a reprieve from adulthood – a chance to be a college student again! I’ll wear nothing but sundresses the entire time! No one will ask me to set up the email on their iPhone for six weeks! That alone is heavenly. That I get to spend this time intensely working on my writing craft with people I admire? That I feel like I’m finally making positive steps toward becoming what I wanted to be when I grow up? Yeah. Pretty darn excited. I’m not being a very good employee this week.
The impact of donations made to writers like Marie is clear.
I was very moved by the generosity of my friends. I didn’t want to be a nagging fundraiser – I asked particular people I knew were interested in Clarion or Science Fiction or my writing, and I made a few posts on my blog and Facebook wall. And the donations just poured in. I started out hoping I’d make just ten dollars or so, and ended up in a competitive race to beat fellow Cleveland workshop-member Ferret.
Thanks to Write-a-thon Director Jim Shea for conducting this interview and from a class of 2010′er, good luck Marie!
Kristene is a former professional stunt performer for film and television (as Kristene Kenward) and self-described ‘fishing goddess’. Pathologically nomadic, she has lived in Japan, Costa Rica, the Cook Islands, and a very tiny key in the Bahamas, just to name a few. Her stories have appeared inDenizens of Darkness, Canadian Storyteller Magazine, The Barbaric Yawp and Hemispheres Magazine. In 2010 she won the Surrey International Writers’ Conference Storyteller Award.
Kristene is a member of SF Canada. Her novel,Warpworld, is the first in a five book adventure science fiction series, penned with her Texan co-writer, Joshua Simpson. The second book, Wasteland Renegades, will be published in July 2013.
She currently resides in Nelson, BC, Canada but her suitcase is always packed.
The Need For Speed
The throttle is your friend. This valuable piece of wisdom took me far too long to learn when I started my stunt training in motorsports. Dirtbikes, jetskis, snowmobiles, it didn’t matter what I was riding, 99% of the time it was more speed, not less, that would get me out of trouble. It’s counterintuitive to hit the throttle when you’re afraid of crashing, but momentum works miracles.
Writing a first draft is no different – speed is your friend. Do you have a manuscript you feel you have been working on forever? Or maybe you have a piece of work that started out brilliantly but now sits unfinished, gathering dust, staring at you accusingly? Why?
The heart of creativity is risk. Nothing will take down a first draft faster than that moment you start to worry about crashing, about getting it wrong. You ease off the throttle, start editing when you should be writing, start questioning when you should be savouring the literary wind in your hair. Start doubting. Next thing you know, that spark of brilliance has vanished and the blinking cursor of death taunts you. Blink-blink-blink…You-really-suck. You stop.
First draft, rough draft, draft zero, however you choose to label your first attempt to turn ideas into words, that’s the time when nothing matters more than getting to the finish line. There is no wrong. The end product will be messy, it may be spectacularly stinky-bad, but it will be complete. You can now lift your hands over your head and say, “I did it! I am amazing!”
When you’re done, take a good look at that stinky-bad manuscript and consider that crashing wasn’t nearly as terrible as you imagined it would be. In fact, it can be kind of fun. And, hey, if you can finish a first draft, surely you can finish a second?
Have you ever stalled out on a first draft? How did you find the momentum to keep going?
Writers, it’s time to sharpen your pencils, refill your fountain pens, or warm up those keyboards. Join hundreds of other writers around the globe for our annual Clarion write-a-thon, now open for registration.
What is a write-a-thon?
Like a walk-a-thon, except for writing! Participants can be pledged by the word, chapter, or story. Finish that novel you’ve been working on. Write and submit new short stories. Try your hand at writing speculative poetry. The goal is up to you.
The six-week event mirrors the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, running from June 23rd to August 3rd. Write and/or pledge to show your support for the latest batch of students, chosen from among hundreds of applicants, as they learn from some of the best writers and editors in our field.
Who can join?
The write-a-thon is open to everyone, whether you’re just getting started or you’re a seasoned pro. Previous attendance of Clarion is not required.
What does the money raised from donations and pledge go to?
All funds raised during the write-a-thon go to the Clarion Foundation, whose express purpose is to support the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, financially and strategically, in providing a high quality educational experience for aspiring writers.
Barbara Galler-Smith lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She’s an award winning author, a long-time member of Edmonton’s largest speculative fiction writers group, The Cult of Pain, and co-founder of a group designed for emerging speculative fiction writers called The Scruffies. She’s also a Fiction Editor for On Spec: The Canadian Magazine of the Fantastic. Along with US writer Josh Langston, she’s the author of The Druids Saga– an historical fantasy epic trilogy: Druids (2009), Captives (2011), Warriors (release date August 2013).
Reviews and Drawing the Line by Barbara Galler-Smith
I never review books I don’t like–mostly because I haven’t time nor patience to finish them and because I haven’t that bent necessary to let me say with utter impunity in public, negative things about writers that could effect their sales. If I were a carefree columnist book reviewer, I would say exactly what I thought, and damn the torpedoes, but that’s not me.
However, that doesn’t stop me from privately amusing myself and my writer friends with scathing comments about some of the best sellers in the world. Do you think it’s okay to vent privately about some “average writer’s success with a poorly written book”?
There is, however, a firm line separating private thoughts and public ones.
I hate anonymous reviews mainly because I think it’s cowardly to anonymously slam a piece publically, even it’s awful. Own up to your opinions, then have the courtesy and courage to put your professional name to it. The best reviewers address the best and the worst of a piece (those stand-bys of plot, character, theme), and forego clever or pithy slams suggesting the work is mediocre in spite of its financial success.
So, I review books I like. That way, it’s easy. For professional reviewers who don’t choose the titles they must review, I imagine the task is harder.
So, how do you remain respectful while criticising something? Do you try to balance positive and negative? Do you slam books you would never choose for yourself such as historical when you love zombie adventure, or paranormal romance when you read only military SF for pleasure, just because you don’t like that kind of book? Where do you draw the line?
I recently started reading slush submissions for Ideomancer, an opportunity I’m enormously grateful for. I’ve long been a believer in the benefits of critiquing the work of others. Slush-reading has brought me new insights to apply to my own work. Here are the top three lessons I’ve learned thus far:
Get to the Point
I should know this. I’ve heard the advice countless times. You only have a paragraph, maybe a page, to capture an editor’s interest, so it’s best to cut to the action as quickly as possible. Still, there’s nothing like reading a dozen story openings in quick succession to drive the point home. The other day I reread a story I always loved but was never able to sell. It was obvious the first six pages needed to be cut. All the setup I thought essential? Not so much.
I see a lot of otherwise well-written stories with pacing problems. Once you’ve gotten an editor’s attention, you need to keep it. Don’t use the second scene to dump all the information you cut out in the first. (Guilty.) Remove any scenes, no matter how pretty, that don’t move your story forward. (Also guilty.) And please, don’t bog down your middle explaining things your reader has already figured out. (Ugh. So completely guilty.)
Deliver the Unexpected
Most slush stories end exactly how you expect they will. They’re not necessarily weak endings – just not memorable. Those rare moments when an author surprises me with something unexpected are the ones I hope for every time I open my inbox. I’m still working on incorporating this into my own writing. My slushing experience has helped me see that I need to focus more attention on my endings.
Do editing, slush reading or critiquing the work of your peers have an impact on your own writing? Is it positive or negative? What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through engaging in these activities?
Sonnet was born at the John Radcliffe in Oxford and spent the first six years of her life living in the town of Abingdon close to both her grandparents and most of the rest of her family. She moved after that to Cornwall for three years and then to Devon for another three before moving to where she has lived for the last fourteen or so years. Sonnet now lives in Worcester, Worcestershire, famous for Lea & Perrin’s Sauce and as the site for the last battle of the Civil War. Sonnet has had a passion for the written word from a very young age and enjoys nothing more than to read a good book. The worlds created by words.
I always think the best way to have believable dialogue is to sit in a crowded room and listen to how people talk. To make a character sound real, they have to talk like a real person. You have to learn to ignore some of the little wavy lines that will appear under your words when typing.
There are certain things that make dialogue more realistic. Most people don’t speak in complete sentences all the time and they don’t use perfect English. Human beings use slang, we drop letters, and we have regional accents. Try to include all of these foibles when writing your dialogue. The internet is a never ending tool for this. You can google and find whole dictionaries dedicated to the differences in a common language. The Urban Dictionary is a site in particular, which records and defines slang terms. People call the same object different things, find these words and use them in your writing.
Dialogue can be used to define the class of a person before you know anything else about them. A man for instance on a busy railway station in Victorian London greets another with “’ello guvnor.” You can hear two things immediately from this sentence, that the man himself is probably working class and the person he is addressing is probably viewed to be of a higher status that him. He wouldn’t say for instance “Good evening my fine fellow.” Well, he might, if he were taking the mickey but that is something that would be conveyed in the prose after his speech.
Talking is a fundamental tool in conveying information, emotion and personality in writing. If it feels stiff to you then it will probably sound stiff to your readers.
Your host, Lynda Williams, is the author of the Okal Rel Saga (Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing) and editor of the Okal Rel Legacies series (Absolute Xpress). She also works as Learning Technology Manager for Simon Fraser University and teaches an introductory web development course at BCIT. For a list of Okal Rel titles see: Lynda Williams on Amazon.com.
Do you commit editos? They are like typos, but instead of typing “the” for “she” the resulting mess is due to splicing incompatible sentence constructions.
Here’s an example from Part 9: Holy War, in my ten-novel series The Okal Rel Saga.
Herver hadn’t held out much hope of spiritual influence working against hard core fanatics like the followers of Dod, but it had been the only way he could think of to helping when the fighting broke out.
Knowing me, I suspect I began with:
It had been the only way he could think of helping, when the fighting broke out.
And then changed it to.
It had been the only way he could think of to help when the fighting broke out.
Or tried to! My brain thought I was finished before my eyes confirmed the job.
The most maddening thing about editos, for me, is that I introduce them when improving an earlier construction. And they seem hard to spot on proof-reading. After discovering a few of these in the first five chapters of Part 9: Holy War, post inputting my editor’s feedback, I’ve asked for the MS back as laid out for printing to do an extra anti-edito pass.
Grr arg! Do you suffer from editos, or is it just me?
I’m considering the possibility it is my brain (or my flying fingers) that need fixing.