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Viable Paradise on the Horizon

by Jonathan 0 Comments

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It’s been almost three weeks since I learned I was accepted into Viable Paradise, a week-long, intensive writing workshop on Martha’s Vineyard. To say that I was stunned and elated is an understatement.

Since then, there’s been a lot to take in since then and a lot to figure out.

Having started this journey of isolation and rejection a little over eight years ago, the validation of my work from outside, professional sources has been sparse. I started out writing my first novel with the occasional short story sprinkled in between the seven or so drafts. I’ve had beta readers, queried, submitted short stories to pro markets.

There have been moments — personal rejections, kind words and encouragement — and of course the writing, always the writing, but like many along their own path, there has been doubt as well.

The thing is that I always felt like I was somehow missing the boat, that I should be doing X instead of Y, or that Y was taking too long. Although I knew somewhere in my mind that this was part of the path — that this was the path — I felt I was missing something critical.

In 2013, I donated to the Star Ship Sofa podcast in exchange for a critique of the first fifty pages of my novel by Paul di Filippo. He was kind with his critique, even went so far as to tell me I had “chops”. During our call, he recommended attending SFF cons as a way of tapping into the writing community.

So I did. I attended Capclave in D.C. for a couple of years, then World Fantasy Con for the last two years. I met great people, attended tons of fun and informative panels, yet I noticed something: So many of the people I met had these built in networks of people with whom they could share their experiences, go to dinner, talk about writing, etc.

I enjoy my solitude as much as the next introvert, but when I’m at a con, I want to immerse myself in the experience and soak up as much as I can. Without prior connections, it’s been a challenge to create meaningful, lasting relationships with the people I’ve met. As a result, I felt like I was only scratching the surface at these events.

Sometimes it was a case of being at a different place on the road to publication than the writers I spoke with. On another level, it seemed to come back to not having some sort of legitimacy, some way to indicate to other writers, published or otherwise, that I was worth talking to or was even a writer.

I realize that previous statement sounds a little desperate, but there’s truth there.

Upon tweeting my acceptance an amazing thing happened. I started to receive congratulations from previous VP attendees. People started following me. It was an incredibly uplifting experience.

And so, as much as I’m excited to improve as a writer in the crucible of Viable Paradise, I’m just as excited to meet people and to have that shared experience that creates lasting bonds.

Reading to retreat, recharge, and resist

by Jonathan 0 Comments

The last three months have been a rollercoaster, to say the least. In order to maintain some semblance of sanity I’ve turned to reading even more than usual.

I’ve been trying to hone my short story skills more. Normally I listen to podcasts, but as of late I’ve turned to some collections on my shelves. The two listed below have a nice array of stories and that may be part of the problem. I get pulled into the stories and forget to evaluate them critically. That’s good for the authors, not so good for my learning. Still, I’ll read on and enjoy if nothing else.

Loosed

And this:

XIII

I’ve got to keep one foot in “reality” and am doing so by reading this. I can’t recommend The Devil’s Chessboard enough. I’m about two thirds through and, so far, it’s providing and pretty good background into the shaping of the CIA in the wake of World War II. If you’re paying attention, decisions from 60+ years ago are reverberating strongly today.

DevilsChessboard

Last, but definitely not least, I’ve been enjoying the hell out of We Are Not Good People by Jeff Somers. I’m not all that enamored with Urban Fantasy, but the tone of the story, the character development and the magic have be sucked right in. I’ve read some Richard Kadrey, Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, and probably some others and I would put this up there with American Gods and Neverwhere, broadly speaking. Anyway, we’ll see how it ends but I’m all in.

NotGood

In addition to reading, I’ve been working on a couple of short stories. Not surprisingly, they reflect some of the issues we are dealing with on a daily basis. With some elbow grease, these will find a home in the short fiction marketplace.

 

Lastly, a shout out to This is Horror and The Outer Dark podcasts (currently enjoying The Outer Dark’s State of the Weird episode. Sooo good.) These shows get me through all the local miles I travel taking my daughter to school, running to the store, etc. Fully entertaining and smart.

That is all. Be well and take care of yourselves.

 

Sorting

by Jonathan 0 Comments
Sorting

This scene evaluation process gives me the time and space to identify needs and flaws much better than diving into revisions from page one. It’s helping me see things on three levels – world building, character and story.