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December 31, 2012

It’s That Time Again (Shameless Promotion Edition)
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:03 PM * 22 comments

Tomorrow, O my friends, the doors open for applications to the Viable Paradise Writers’ Workshop.

Submissions run from the First of January through the Fifteenth of June. Viable Paradise (have we really been doing this for seventeen years?) will be held at the Island Inn on Martha’s Vineyard from Sunday, October 13th, through Friday, October 18th, 2013.

The instructors are the Lovely and Talented Miss Teresa, the Handsome and Witty Mr. Patrick, Dr. Debra “The Black Goat Of A Thousand Young” Doyle, the Hugo-Winning Yet Oddly Approachable Elizabeth Bear, Steve With A Hat Brust, Steve Without A Hat But With A Movie Gould, Sherwood the YA Goddess Smith, and me.

So, what is VP best known for (aside from the scintillating conversation, the brilliant stories, and the lasting camaraderie amongst its graduates (those who make it past Thursday Night))?

The food.

Note with appalled wonder:

What else? Well, we also teach how to write commercial science fiction.

Heh, yeah, I guess you had to have been there. The point is, you can.

Comments on It's That Time Again (Shameless Promotion Edition):
#1 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2012, 08:25 PM:

Application is lined up, spit-shined, and ready to go. (I was going to apply a couple years ago, but man, that book was *bad*.)

Out of curiosity, how many applications do y'all usually get?

#2 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2012, 08:45 PM:

The absolute number of applications varies from year to year, but always, always there are more excellent submission stories than we can accept.

#3 ::: FranW ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2012, 08:54 PM:

And if you can be there, by all means do be there. It's awesome.

#4 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2012, 09:04 PM:

Oh, sure, I'm just curious about the scale - is it closer to 100 or closer to 1000? On the one hand, it's quite a financial commitment, but on the other, everyone who goes seems to speak very highly of it, and many of them go on to get published. (A friend of mine went, and her YA novel comes out next summer.)

If it's not public info, though, no worries. As I said, I'm just curious.

#5 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2012, 09:08 PM:

The NSFW podcast link:

http://isbw.murlafferty.com/?p=160

is having a problem. It may be in Times Square. Is there a clone available?

#6 ::: Kellan Sparver ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2013, 05:02 AM:

Wow. Has it really been a year since I read these fateful words on Making Light, and thought, "you know, maybe this year's the year"? How time flies.

#7 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2013, 06:36 AM:

Thought about it for amoment, but I seriously can't afford that kind of financial commitment right now. The tuition might just be affordable, but accommodation and flights more than double the expense. So, I think for me it is actually not viable.

#8 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2013, 09:10 AM:

Jules@7: Most people share hotel accommodations with 3 other people. The townhouses are huge and come with a kitchen. Also, your tuition includes dinner.

I can't speak to transportation. Coming from eastern MA, I took the bus to Viable Paradise. However, accommodations do not have to double the expense of the workshop.

#9 ::: Sherwood Smith ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2013, 09:56 AM:

Jim: perhaps the hotel data might be updated--it goes back to 2011.

Aside from that,yes. The food really is amazing. Mac Stone has been refining the recipes all these years. But that doesn't hold a candle to the conversations. Think of it, writers. A whole week talking writing, as well as every other subject under the sun.

#10 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2013, 10:49 PM:

I'm afraid Paradise isn't Viable for me either since I lack manuscript as well as money. What I need is something much more basic, like how to write from the beginning to end rather than bits and pieces in random order.

#11 ::: Tam ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2013, 12:16 AM:

Kellan @6 I was thinking something very similar. It was something I always meant to do and then finally got the money and the time off and the manuscript all in the same year. And look at me now! A few months on and you can hardly see where they put the chip in my brain.

Oh, and Jim, one more thing I'd add under the "note with appalled wonder" heading: Impromptu live music events most (possibly all) nights. I never learned so many songs or sang in front of so many people in my whole life. (I am an introvert, gosh darn it!)

#12 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2013, 07:56 AM:

iamnothing, don't knock the bits-and-pieces method! My brain seems to want me to write the emotional linchpins first, and only when I've got those down does it let me go back to the start and progress along something resembling an outline. Then it'll give me another charged moment, and I'll have to plunk that down in its spot in the line, go back to where I left off, and write until I reach it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I got a book out of it!

#13 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2013, 11:40 AM:

As awesome as the instructor list is, my mind still slightly boggles at the idea of the author of Yog's Law participating in an event that, at first glance, appears to violate it.

Do you have a certain level of quality in the submissions below which you have to tell people "we don't think there's enough here to even work with"? If not, wouldn't that mean that you are, in some sense, taking people's money in exchange for indulging their pretensions of being good enough to be published? (Or because they expect to earn it back when they eventually *are* published, in which case they are more likely an optimist than a statistician. The list of sales by alumni, without mentioning the number of attendees who never sold anything, seems like an open invitation to count the hits and forget the misses.)

I'm not asking this from hostility, but because somehow this offer tickles my "if you can't see the sucker at the table" nerve. Maybe it's just oversensitive, but, you know, better over than under.

#14 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2013, 11:45 AM:

A random datapoint: the year I attended, I wrote most of the manuscript that got me accepted in the four weeks before the submission deadline. So even if you don't have a manuscript now, you could have one by then.

#15 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2013, 11:52 AM:

Chris @13

Yog's law applies to publishing, not to education - you shouldn't be applying to VP if you're thinking that it's a publishing thing, not an education thing. You don't tell someone not to go to college if they want to be a writer because going to college means that money is flowing away from the author (not that you have to go to college to be a writer, of course).

VP is like a MFA, except VP is cheaper, more practical, and contains 100% more historical merry-go-rounds.

#16 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2013, 11:54 AM:

"Money flows toward the writer" isn't a universal law, it's specific to publication. Viable Paradise is a school, not a book.

#17 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2013, 12:19 PM:

Do you have a certain level of quality in the submissions below which you have to tell people "we don't think there's enough here to even work with"?

Yes. That's why we have the submission process, and regular instructor chats where we rate the application stories. We don't say anything as cruel as "We don't think there's enough here to work with," the letters we send out in late June/early July are either "You're accepted," "You're on the wait-list," or "Thank you for your application." Everyone we accept is on the high end of the bell curve.

That could produce a bias too. If we only accept people who will probably be published anyway, then who's surprised when they publish? Lately we've had more and more applicants who already have professional sales on the CVs.

Workshopping isn't a necessary step to publication. Far more people have published without going to a workshop in their lives than the opposite. (You also have your workshop junkies: The folks who try to collect the whole set; Viable Paradise, Clarion, Odyssey, Taos Toolbox, etc. etc., who never submit a work to anywhere that isn't a workshop.)

VP 1 and II -- when the workshop was attached to a convention -- took everyone who applied. VP III, our first year at the Island Inn, was the first time the students outnumbered the instructors, and was the year we didn't have any staff to take the load. That was a class-size in the mid-twenties.

For myself, what I'm looking for in applications is whether I can teach the person something. Perhaps help the person get past a couple of years of trial-and-error. It's one thing to hear, "You have to learn to edit your own works," or read Self-editing For Fiction Writers, it's another to watch Miss Teresa, at normal reading speed, red-pencil in hand, take two pages of your work (which you've presumably already edited to the best of your ability), and shrink it by a third while making it sound even more like you.

After the first couple of years we've had 24-28 students per year, so you can figure out pretty easily how many folks have gone through the workshop. (We've dropped back to 24 because we found that with 8 instructors we can give better personal attention at that level.) Somewhere in the low four-hundreds. Someone who isn't me has the actual count.

The list of student publications isn't exhaustive; it's self-reported, and maintained off site by a volunteer.

We aren't publishing anyone, nor promising that you'll be published; workshops count in the same category as a subscription to The Writer or membership at a convention, or a semester of Freshman Comp at your local community college.

#18 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2013, 01:33 PM:

It's one thing to hear, "You have to learn to edit your own works," or read Self-editing For Fiction Writers, it's another to watch Miss Teresa, at normal reading speed, red-pencil in hand, take two pages of your work (which you've presumably already edited to the best of your ability), and shrink it by a third while making it sound even more like you.

I have done enough editing of my own work (and, on occasion, others'), and watched other editors, to be suitably impressed -- I can see how a person could get there, with years upon years of practice, and I both know what it looks like and know how far it is from where I am.

Wow.

#19 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2013, 07:52 PM:

you shouldn't be applying to VP if you're thinking that it's a publishing thing, not an education thing

Ah, I see. I guess I was focusing more on the specific work being worked on, not on how the experience develops the attendee's skills as an author.

#20 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2013, 08:25 PM:

How to tell the difference:

Normally, publishers pay you for your work.

Normally, you pay schools for their work.

#21 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 08:04 PM:

Rikibeth @12: That's encouraging. Still, I don't have very many bits and pieces.

#22 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 11:54 PM:

I can confirm that having somebody comment on your work can make it better. I've had that experience. It happens with fan-fiction, and all sorts of methods have developed to get that input to a work.

There are few people such as Teresa, who is on a whole different level of critical ability. They're not going to be right every time, but never dismiss what they say. You might even win the argument.

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