Thursday, October 10, 2013

Where John is Going for a Week

So, the Bathroom Monologues have been a little quiet lately, and they’ll be a little quieter next week. I’ve got a fresh Bathroom Monologue for Tuesday, and a Friday Flash ready for the following Friday, but otherwise, I may be off the internet entirely.

Where am I going? Viable Paradise.

No, it’s not a cult. It sounds like a cult. When I first heard Moses Siregar III mention it, I thought he was saying “Bible Paradise,” which made the reverence sound even more cult-like.
Okay, that slogan is slight cult-ish too.
But it’s actually an intense weeklong workshop with several of the leading editors and authors in American Fantasy and Science Fiction. Of particular excitement for me are Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, two lead editors from Tor, and novelists Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear. Lynch is coming in straight off a press tour for Republic of Thieves, which I imagine will be a whirlwind.

I’ve seen a few peers surprised or even angry that I applied to a workshop. I’ve hesitated to write about this, but, what the hell. It’s as though they thought they were about as good as me, and they jumped into self-publishing thinking they were good enough to go immediately, and I’m offending them by taking more pains for craft. It’s a weird position to be in, and I’ve yet to deal well with one of these arguments. Responding to being yelled at by neither a) deflecting nor b) turning belligerent is one of those abilities I certainly need to hone. I have, perhaps, too strong a desire to engage.

The truth is that I push myself very hard in my writing, am enormously self-critical, read as much as I can, and never feel like I do enough. This year my health failed enough that I could no longer keep up my writing schedule, which is a big part of why the Bathroom Monologues are no longer daily. And there are small presses that would take my novels at this point, but I want to run them through a real crucible. There are many things to get out of Viable Paradise, and for a year now this has been the planned precipice. I’m returning to hard subs and publishing plans as soon as I leave.

Friends Theresa Bazelli and Brent Bowen are both graduates of VP and have glowing words for it. Whatever it says about me, I’m most looking forward to critiquing my fellow students’ work, to helping others toward perfecting their craft. That’s a unity I cherish in prose communities.

Yet I’m not excited, as I don’t get excited about many important things. I get excited about dumb things, like going to Pacific Rim with a friend, or an ice cream break at the end of a diet week. The wait for VP feels like learning to walk again, and going to college, and having surgery. God willing it’ll be more fun than surgery, but my head is just in Wait Mode until the minute things actually happen and demand response.

What it will all amount to for you, my beloved faithful readers, is a series of novels that will be worth your time. I will not waste your time.


  1. Friends have been critical? That's crappy. They are just mad because you have the drive to better yourself as a writer and they don't.
    Sounds like it will be an incredible week. Scott Lynch? Now that is just awesome.

    1. A few were friends, others just being peers emerging in the field. It was very awkward.

      And yeah, Lynch is a heck of a novelist. The whole cast is great.

  2. I'm amazed that anyone would find fault with the desire to interact with successful professionals, especially in a setting that is designed to let you learn from them. What is that, crazy jealousy? Some bizarre idea that True Art, Holy And Pure is revealed only to the self-taught auteur who grinds his own inks?

    Good on you for working on your craft!

  3. I remember when you said you got in! Great stuff. I hope you have a fabulous time and blog about it when you get back. It sounds like an amazing experience, not least because it's focusing on your preferred genre area.

    Re: the naysayers, I had the opportunity once to get critiqued and attend a lecture with a novelist and poet who had published several books, won awards, etc. I don't want to name her in case she's changed her mind on this, but she cautioned against taking too many courses. That seemed like strange advice from someone who taught several writing courses a year, but she explained that people who take a lot of courses tend to sound like they're writing for a course. I once was in a two-month series of weekly workshops and saw this happen: people started writing about the same topics in similar styles.

    That isn't going to happen with Viable Paradise, because it's a one-week thing and it's going to be amazing. But it might be something to think about in the overall education plan. I still take courses and go to workshops since that lecture, but I'd say because of the advice that author gave I take them for different things.

    Have a good trip!

    1. Classes and workshops definitely can program people into writing for the group. That's been lobbied at Clarion and Odyssey before, and I buy it, because the teaching staffs have such authority and it's so intense. I'm going into VP hoping to hone the specific things I'm doing in those novels - the humor, character-centric rather than world-centric Fantasy, and so-on. As you say, it probably won't happen, but for people who serially attend workshops or classes I could see the threat. It's why I strive to find peers who will help me with my goals, and of course, reciprocate. I think that's the best way in the long term.

  4. I cannot imagine you wasting my time. I admire the perseverance and sheer work that you putting into perfecting your craft.
    And I am taking the liberty of getting excited for you. I hope that this workshop is everything and more that your friends have indicated. And hiss and spit to those who condemned your actions. Your writing, your dreams, you life...

  5. Sounds like it should be very rewarding. I can't imagine surprise or anger about your decision. Workshops, classes, and critiques help us learn and become better at all stages. I admire your work ethic and desire to hone your craft to your expectations, and make that publishing splash when you're ready. You write well and help others write better because you care.

    Have a good time at the workshop.

  6. I'm excited for you, friend! Good luck. Write well. And don't make anyone cry.

  7. It's wonderful learning more about your craft. I'm surprised by people's reactions. My writing friends usually get me, but I've come across a few who don't believe in all the hard work, learning, and years it takes to master the craft. They must either think writing is easy or they're jealous about the time, money, motivation, etc. it takes to go to workshops and conferences.

  8. I hope you get everything you want and more out of the workshop. :) It sounds like an amazing opportunity. I look very much forward to reading the series of novels!

    (Also, I get excited about movies with friends and ice cream, too! I mostly just get sick with nervousness for the big stuff. >.<)

  9. I hope you have an excellent time! There's never any need to apologize for wanting to improve your craft. If anything, I'm sure you'll come out with a bunch of new writing friends to cheer you on. I think that's priceless. :)

  10. Congratulations on going to the workshop!

    As far as those critical friends, I have a hard time imagining that. What could they possibly object to? How dare you try to improve your craft? It makes no sense.

    Maybe they were a bit jealous? I know I always feel a little twinge of envy when I hear about cool cons and workshops that I can't attend... Maybe they're just a little pea green? I don't know.

    Anyway, I'm very happy for you! (and only a very, VERY pale shade of green!) I'm sorry about your health problems but glad you feel well enough to go. You rock. :)

  11. Hey, I'm a VP grad from a couple years ago, and I chose to self-publish!

    As you likely know by now, VP isn't a seminar on how to be traditionally published. It's about craft, and process, and story. It's about meeting folks who love storytelling just as much as you.

    And I hope you are enjoying every moment of it!


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