3.18.2005

Speculating on Summer Speculative Workshops

Jay Lake just posted his "rules" for writing (for getting it done, that is) which he usually hands out at workshops.

Tobias Buckell also posted information on his two weekend workshops: the first a short story one with Mike Resnick, the second a novel one with agent Steve Mancino. I attended last year with Stephen Leigh, Jon Hansen, Pam McNew, John Trey, Simon Owens, and Tobias, the 2006 debut novelist himself. All had had some critiquing experience, so it wasn't the awkward rehashing the first week of Clarion (but then the weekend didn't quite capture vibrant enthusiasm of being thrust into six weeks of being considered a writer). Resnick will be replacing Leigh (an all-around, swell fella). I've admired Resnick (not to mention his Kirinyaga work) ever since a college friend mentioned as a kid he'd written Resnick and received a substantial reply. Very cool. (On the down side of the Resnick shop, I might attend if the stars misalign.)

Brief notes on this year's six-week Clarion workshop: Gwyneth Jones is tough but sharp as a tack. I discussed a story of mine with Sheila Williams--a story I didn't much care for myself--but her critical processes seemed very editorial, which contrasts with the usual writerly problem-solving approach yet should prove a fresh perspective when juxtaposed against the usual writer-critiques. Leslie What, depending on how her MFA program is working for her, may be a veritable force and definitely will be more fun than a barrel of monkeys (help her make pizza--mmm). (I only briefly met Joan Vinge at Wiscon--I liked her earthy personality on panels and signing books.)

Cliff notes on this year's six-week Clarion West: Octavia Butler gives great inspirational speeches--perhaps a good foot start on. Gordon Van Gelder like Williams uses an editorial approach (his good advice is very sparse but goes deep; it probably won't solve any story's problem, but he will give you something to chew on for future work). I chatted with Connie Willis a few hours for an interview I still haven't transcribed for a book that graduate school stepped in the way of completing. I sense with my Spidey powers that she will help people focus their critical powers on the writerly craft. If my Spidey powers fail me, then read all of her collections--what a great voice.

I have little to add about the six-week Odyssey (apart from telling you not to take ten years getting home--har, har). I'd be interested in the comments of Clute and Hand, however, since I've read their critical work. (Williams also puts in a day's appearance.) Note that, apart from one week where guests stay the entire time, this workshop's professional guests stay for a day while Jeanne Cavelos provides continuity which may be an asset that other workshops lack--or alternately a detriment though from her handling of the Gene Wolfe fiasco it sounds as if she is amazingly judicious (luckily, she has worked as both editor and writer, so she can probably see things in multiple ways).

I don't think James Gunn's two-week workshop has been updated apart from the dates of this year's workshop. Email Chris McKitterick if you want to know what authors besides Chris, Kij Johnson, and James Gunn will be sitting in on the workshops (Fred Pohl and Elizabeth Hull usually attend, health permitting). Every author has some critical faculty that you may need to build your own, but James Gunn is essential, always on target, especially for those who chose science field of speculative fiction. He's a wealth of history, too, if you can swing to attend that. (Again, depending on circumstances, I hope to attend his conference this year and maybe the workshop.)