Odyssey Online Writing Classes to Begin Soon

Odyssey Writing Workshops is one of the premier SF/F writing workshops in the world, a six-week-long intensive program that takes the best writing candidates and helps them be all that they can be. Or wait—maybe that’s the Army. Anyway, they’re really, really good, led by the energetic and incredibly knowledgeable Jeanne Cavelos. I’ve done a couple of guest spots over the years and have been mightily impressed, both by the program and by the writers.

Well, that workshop occurs in the late Spring. But they’ve begun an online version, with some classes starting in January and February. If you’re an aspiring SF/F writer, you really might want to take a look. Don’t wait! Applications for the first sessions close soon!

Here’s where to go: http://www.sff.net/odyssey/online.html. Tell them I sent you.

Cape Cod Writers Conference

I’m nearing the wrap-up of my long weekend here in Hyannis, Mass., teaching sessions on speculative fiction at a conference that is very much about all kinds of writing. I’ve met some really nice poets, for example, and reconnected with a thriller writer, Gary Braver, who lives in the same town I do. For some reason, I never see him except at writers events. I met another writer who’s getting ready to move to my town, and several students who already do. This is largely, but not entirely, a middle-aged crowd, and quite dedicated to what they’re doing. My SF class is small, but focused and quite talented.

Here’s proof that I showed up at the conference center:

And here’s how I demonstrated by example how one can seek out necessary rest and inspiration. I needed it, since they scheduled me for 8:30 in the morning sessions. Anyone who knows me knows that is a profoundly risky idea! (Still, it worked out okay.)

The ocean is always good for a few ideas for me, and sure enough, after about a half hour of floating and swimming in the Atlantic, a couple of ideas came to me for the rewrite of Reefs, things that happen down the road a ways.

Day two, after a class and a private mentoring session, I hopped in my trusty Landshark and drove to my favorite place in Sandwich, the beginning of the bike path along the Cape Cod Canal. I got in a solid hour of roller blading, and returned just in time to shower for the banquet. (We won’t mention that I forgot that the keynote speech was before the banquet, not after, and I sort of missed—no, I said I wasn’t going to mention that.) Anyway, as usual, I’m drawn to the water when I have the opportunity. Best way to clear the head, reward myself for doing some good work, and gather thoughts and impressions for later.

And maybe dream a little.

Tomorrow we wrap, and I head home. (With a stop, I hope, for a bit of biking. I brought both skates and my bike.)

As usual with these events, the best part was the people I met. I hope to cross paths with some of them again. Maybe even at my local Trader Joe’s.

Upcoming Appearances!

I haven’t posted about this in a while. I’ll be showing my face in public in two very different events in the next couple of weeks.

This coming weekend, August 7-10, I’ll be conducting several workshop sessions in science fiction writing at the Cape Cod Writers Conference, in Hyannis, MA. It’s not too late to sign up! (At least, I don’t think so.) This one is for the general public, and last I heard, there was still room in my workshop, which is just part of a much larger conference. So if you’re in the area, and you’re interested, check into it right away!

After that, I’ll be in London for Loncon, the annual World Science Fiction Convention! This will be the first worldcon I’ve attended in a number of years, and I’m looking forward to it. Cool fact: My wife Allysen went through Air BnB and got us a place to stay on a boat on the Thames! How can you beat that? I was late in registering, and apparently too late in asking to be put on the program—because they didn’t schedule me for anything, not even an autograph session. Ah well, that may make it a more relaxing trip, after all. 

If you’re at Loncon, keep an eye out and say hello if you see me!

EDIT: I’m signing at 3 pm Friday. Please stop by!

Champlain College: A Fine Place for a Young Writers Workshop

Last week I wrote about the time I’d just spent at Bread Loaf working with high-school aged writers. Well, now I’m just back from a similarly awesome event, the Champlain College Young Writers Conference, in beautiful Burlington, Vermont, overlooking Lake Champlain. This was my first time there, so I had to discover how things worked as I went. While extremely busy, it was a little more laid-back than Bread Loaf. (Sometimes that meant easygoing and sometimes it meant confusing.) I saw a bunch of familiar faces from Bread Loaf, both faculty and students, and that gave me a feeling of comfort. There were also quite a few of us newcomers among faculty, including Craig Shaw Gardner, who rode up with me from Boston. As far as I could tell, everyone had a great time.

For me, there are three great things that come out of this kind of event: First, the chance to work with incredible kids, whose talents and ambitions both inspire and challenge me. (If any of you guys are reading this, thanks! And that includes the terrific college students who helped us as mentors.) Besides their writing, some of them gave “Moth talks” on real events from their own lives, which were funny, touching, alarming. Their final group presentations were priceless.

Second is the opportunity to mix with writers from all sorts of fields—poetry, mainstream fiction, playwriting, nonfiction—whom I would probably never otherwise meet. They feel like valued new friends, even if I only see them once every year or three.

The third thing is a little less obvious, and that’s the chance to learn more about teaching. Most of these guys not only write, but teach for their day jobs. They have quivers full of skills that enable them to keep a classroom full of kids interested and engaged. I try to soak up as much as I can, while I can. For example, Linda Urban at Bread Loaf gave me a great group exercise for learning to write dialogue. (I didn’t have time to try it on this round, but next time!) At Champlain, I sat in on a craft session on writing from different points of view. I was in awe of Sarah Braunstein’s command of the group, and the way she got them to experiment with different viewpoints. I’m keeping notes for next year!

I also discovered that Phil Baruth is a hell of a pool player, as well as a Vermont state senator. But that was after hours, when I learned that excellent craft beer on draft is a staple in downtown Burlington, and when I for the first time tasted gravy fries. And tasted. And tasted again, just to be sure!

P.S. Many thanks to Lesley Wright and Jim Ellefson for inviting me!

Story from Bread Loaf: “Joe Biden Is my Homeboy”

I’m just back from this year’s New England Young Writers Conference at the Bread Loaf writing center near Middlebury, Vermont. As usual, it was awesome, challenging, inspiring, and exhausting all at the same time. I made some new friends among the writers in residence, reconnected with some old friends, and spent time with a magnificent group of high school student writers. Their talent, intelligence, and mutually supportive nature just blows me away. They’re awesome writers and awesome people.

(Next weekend, I get to do it all over again at the Champlain College Young Writers Conference. Two of my Bread Loaf students are doing that one, too. Talk about dedication!)

This year I particularly enjoyed the readings given by other writers in attendance. One piece I can actually share with you (though not the voice part). This is a story called “Joe Biden Is My Homeboy,” written by Rone Shavers, and inspired by Damon Weaver, a kid who as a 5th grade reporter interviewed candidate Joe Biden for internet TV.

Here’s how the story begins. Try to imagine a sonorous black man’s voice, with cheerful jive intonations, reading the narrative in a voice so fluid it makes you forget that the language is something other than standard English. That would be the voice of the author, who is also by the way a great guy.

Joe Biden Is My Homeboy
by Rone Shavers

Ooh, Ms. Noonan, the reason I was not in your class last week was cause I went to the White House. I was all up in the White House and I was on TV. Okay, you got me, maybe not TV, that is my dream, but I was on TV on the internet, which is called Youtube. I was all up in the Youtubes, but I been there before so you can’t fail me for missing no school. You said if I told you the truth you would let me take them tesses I failt, so I am telling you now the truth.

Ooh, but it is not just the truth, it is also the background, which mean it is the scenario, and that word I learnt in a rap song. No, my whole for real true life story is once, way back when, back in the day, when planet internet generation Kids TV first came to our school, I met Joe Biden. I also met Shawn Marion and Dwayne Wade, star of the Miami Heat, but that is a different story from the one I’m telling you now, so please listen. You got to listen and focus up on my right now story, my story is Joe Biden, he is vice president, and he is my homeboy for real. I sent him a internet email video, and in it I had me on some khaki pants and a smooth polo shirt and I said Joe Biden, I heard you is gone be vice president. That is cool. Will you be my homeboy? If you is my homeboy, I get to interview you, so just say yeah, like Shawn Marion and Dwayne Wade, who is the basketball star of the Miami Heat. Joe Biden, do you like basketball? I love basketball… [read more]
 

Here is a YouTube video of young Damon Weaver interviewing Joe Biden. How much of the rest of the story is true, I do not know.

Upcoming Workshops

May is going to be a busy month for me, for teaching. I’m participating as an instructor in two different conferences for high-school-aged writers. The first (coming up this weekend) is the New England Young Writers Conference, at the Bread Loaf campus of Middlebury College in Vermont, which is something I’ve been doing off and on for a number of years now. It’s always a great time, and I hope this year will be even better.

Just one week later, I’ll be teaching for the first time at the Champlain College Young Writers Conference, in Burlington, Vermont, which I’m told is rather similar. (And even has some overlapping faculty.) I look forward to working with still more young writers on what I understand is a beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain.

I get a break after that, but August 7-10, I’ll be teaching one more weekend, this time at the Cape Cod Writers Conference in Hyannis, Massachusetts, which is a workshop conference for adult writers. At this one, I’ll be working specifically with aspiring science fiction writers, while a lot of writers in other genres will be teaching the tools of their specific trades. This conference is still open for registration, so if it sounds like something you’d be interested in, take a look and maybe I’ll see you there!