In 2008 I attended Viable Paradise, a week-long speculative fiction workshop held on Martha’s Vineyard.
It was the smartest thing I’ve ever done for my writing career. When I applied I was already past the million-word mark, but I had only a few sales under my belt (all a decade ago, too), and a completed novel but no agent. I knew I wanted to write short fiction again, but I hadn’t begun to do so. The instructors of Viable Paradise gave me the tools to take my next steps with confidence, without wasted effort, and with a new sense of excitement and dedication.
When I applied for the workshop, my father was dying. I don’t remember whether I talked it over with him; what I do remember is the understanding that came to me with his passing:
I know some writers who are content to be hobbyists, to write for an audience of their spouses or to stuff their completed manuscripts in a desk drawer.
I’m not one of them. I need my work to be read. And I needed professionals in the field to help me quit wasting time and start writing my best work, submitting it to pro markets, and getting it accepted.
I also needed contact with a community of my peers. My fellow students turned out to be a truly inspiring and supportive bunch. We have a wide range of styles and forms, but we all share
an intensity of purpose.
It’s been just over a year since I attended. In that time, I’ve made my first two professional short fiction sales; I’ve joined the Ideomancer team as a slush reader; I’ve written two-thirds of my second novel, and three other stories that I believe are ready to sell.
Every one of these steps was made easier and quicker by the things I learned at the workshop. So: a huge thank-you to Elizabeth Bear, Debra Doyle, Steven Gould, James MacDonald, Laura Mixon, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and John Scalzi.
And to aspiring applicants: look at that list of instructors. Those people are awesome. You, too, could learn from them, talk literature with them, have a drink with them, have another drink with them, find yourself singing folk songs you don’t know very well, and come home with spectacularly scarred knuckles!