Viable Paradise 14

As earlier noted, the reason I wasn’t here much in the last week was because I was at the Viable Paradise writing workshop, at which I and other science fiction pros offered advice and information to newer writers. The workshop this year was very good; I expect you’ll see a number of VP14 students selling their works sooner than later, since in at least one case my advice about a story was “I have no advice to give you. This story works. Send it out.” This is not to say I won’t claim credit for this and other students’ successes when they inevitably happen, mind you. Oh, that writer? Was a student of mine, you know. Everything they know? From me. Yes, indeed.

For the VP14ers and others who are interested, here’s my rather meager Flickr set from the week.

This particular VP session was ever-so-slightly melancholy for me because I won’t be an instructor next year; I have plans for next October which I can’t detail at the moment because they’re not totally set yet, but when they are you’ll probably agree it’s pretty cool. But it means not being at VP, which makes me sad. In the three years I taught there I made a number of good friends, benefited from the wisdom of my fellow instructors,  and I also learned about myself as an instructor of writing, primarily that I can be a pretty good instructor of writing. I wouldn’t necessarily have laid money on that one before I did it. It’s an interesting thing to discover about one’s self, and for me a good thing. I do like being useful to other writers; I like to think I’ve been useful to these VP students. Especially since I plan to take credit for their success anyway.

In any event, I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to have three very good years teaching at Viable Paradise. I hope the instructor who replaces me next year feels as happy to be there, and gets as much out of the workshop and the students, as I have. I don’t doubt that they will.

22 Comments on “Viable Paradise 14”

  1. Next October?
    Ah, that would be in the middle of pre-production for the movie adaptation of Old Man’s War! Or something else altogether…. :-)

    Alan

  2. Thanks for the critique as well as the laughs. You were very very good at distilling the essence of the manuscript down to fulfilling (or not) the reader’s expectations and desires. You can’t ask for more than that when preparing to tackle paying markets.

  3. There’s never any shortage of talent in these things. The ones that succeed are those who keep at it. I wish them well.

  4. Well… now we’re all speculating about Oct. 2011.

    Also – you’re looking good. The conscious eating choices are working for you. Congratulations!

  5. For those wondering, John’s not really blowing his own horn, he is very good. Pointed out some plot holes nobody else saw. Usually when just one person says something in a critique you should take their comments with a grain of salt. When I corrected the ones John pointed out, not only did I have a stronger plot, I learned a lot about the art of telling a novel length story. John is pretty damn good at the teaching.

    Guess @6, last year I took a novel (although you only get to have the first 8000 words or so critiqued).

  6. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    Chang for days

    I gotta say that I the advice from Scalzi that I got truly changed my writing. I didn’t even realize how much until I got went back this year to teach a lil’ yoga to the 14’ers and realized what his and everybody’s advice did for my writing.

    But is that it Scalzi? No more VP for you? This seems like a “So Long” letter more than a “TTFN” memo.

    To think no one else will get to teabag your Red Vines.

  7. Chang:

    Just in case you see this before I fix it, I accidentally put your comment in the moderation queue. A slip of the finger on the Droid. I’ll release it when I get home. Sorry.

  8. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    Chang for days

    Sure. That’s what they all say.

  9. There, it’s back now. As if NOTHING EVER HAPPENED.

    Xopher:

    I wouldn’t say no to coming back to Viable Paradise at some point if it fit into my schedule. There are currently no plans for me to return, however.

  10. and it’s in MARTHA’S VINEYARD, for god’s sake. In the Fall. Holy crap. Are you recommending replacements to them? Pick me, ooww, pick me.

  11. Could have sworn I read: “and gets as much out of the worship of the students, as I have.” as the end of the second to last sentence of this post. Then I went back and found:…”and gets as much out of the workshop and the students, as I have.” I mean you have a very healthy ego, but that was a little over the top even for you.

    This is what happens when I’m lying on the couch reading while sharing breakfast donuts with the dogs! My reading speed stays about the same, but my comprehension goes to the dogs.

  12. I want to second what #7 said – you are looking good Scalzi. I think you have successfully lost the “I’ve given up” look, and are now sporting the “my wife is with me by choice, not for the sake of the children” look. Nice job!

  13. Like Steve, I’m going to tell you that John is that good of a teacher. Teaching is my primary source of income, and I evaluate other teachers to boot. I can tell he’s got the IT factor, that mix of charisma and knowledge that makes for a gifted teacher.

    Like Chang, I’m going to tell you that my session with John changed my writing. He’s insightful, and he pointed out that I knew what I needed to know, I just wasn’t writing enough down.

    And John, I hope that you get a chance to return to teaching writing sometime in the future. You’re that good at it, and I hope you have a chance to use your gifts again in this way.

    Catherine

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