My SFContario Schedule

Cover for Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, out March 16. Cover by Jon Foster http://www.jonfoster.com/
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, out March 16. Cover by Jon Foster http://www.jonfoster.com/

SFContario is coming up soon, right here in downtown Toronto. Here’s my schedule:

How to Overthink Your Way Out of Writing
3:00 PM Saturday, November 18 – Gardenview room
Charlotte Ashley, Matt Mayr, Ira Nayman, Kelly Robson (M)
Theodore Sturgeon famously taught “Ask the next question.” Beginning writers everywhere are advised to ask “What if…?” as they develop their story. With a little research and some extra caffeine you too can come up with such a plethora of possibilities that your story becomes a dense jungle with no clear path – impenetrable and neverending. As denizens of the Digital Age, with its abundance of information and surfeit of attention span, we have never been in a better position to over-complicate our stories – and our lives!

Reading (30 minutes)
4:30 PM, Saturday, November 18 – Parkview room
I’ll be reading from my forthcoming book Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach.

Where do we go from here?
12:00 PM, Sunday, November 19 – Solarium room
Matt Mayr, Lawrence Schoen, Kelly Robson, Clare Wall (M)
Speculative fiction speculates, it’s all there in the name. In today’s rapidly changing climate – cultural, political, and scientific – where should we be pointing next? How can current SFF keep pace with the current developments, and still prepare the way to the future?

Quatloos and Credits and Latinum, Oh My!
1:00 PM, Sunday, November 19 – Solarium room
Alyx Dellamonica, Kelly Robson, Cenk Gokce (M)
Economics is frequently overlooked in SF. Do adventurers simply live on nuts and berries and what they can kill? What do they pay with when they visit an inn or buy a drink? How is trade carried out, particularly between species? Is there still a struggle for resources or has science advanced to the point where anything can be fabricated?

Speculative fiction writing workshops – a list

A list of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror writing workshops (updated October 31, 2017). Thanks @outseideNavah WolfePatrick Neilsen Hayden, Rebecca Stefoff, and Jennifer Marie Brissett for corrections and additions!

Workshops for new writers

Clarion, San Diego, CA
Six weeks in June-August

Clarion West, Seattle, WA
Six weeks June-August

FutureScapes Workshop, Sundance, CO
Three days in April

Gotham Writers’ Workshop, New York, NY
Ten week classes, online and in-person

Gunn Centre SF & Fantasy Novel Writers Workshop, Lawrence, KS
Two weeks in June

Gunn Centre Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop, Lawrence, KS
Two weeks in June

Gunn Centre Young Adult Novel Writing Workshop, Lawrence, KS
Two weeks in June

Milford, Wales, UK
One week in September

Odyssey, Manchester, NH
Six weeks June-August

Odyssey Online
Offers month-long classes through the year

Taos Toolbox, Taos, NM
Two weeks in June/July
I was at the inaugural workshop, 2007, with my heroes Connie Willis and Walter Jon Williams

Viable Paradise, Martha’s Vineyard, MA
One week in October

Workshops for youth

Alpha, Pittsburgh, PA
Only for people aged 14-19
Two weeks in July/August

Shared Worlds, Spartanburg, SC
Only for teens
Two weeks in July

Post-secondary studies

Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, University of Kansas
Offers courses in Speculative Fiction Studies

UCLA Online Extension Program
Offers a certificate program in fiction writing. My wife Alyx teaches Speculative Fiction writing in the online program.

MFA programs

I’ll only list the MFA programs that are specifically friendly to speculative fiction. This list is surely not complete. More info at Michael Underwood’s blog.

Creative Writing MA, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK
Faculty includes Helen Marshall

Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing, Portland, ME
Low residency
Faculty includes James Patrick Kelly, Theodora Goss, Elizabeth Hand

Temple University MFA in Creative Writing, Pittsburgh, PA
Samuel R. Delany is on the faculty

NC State MFA in Creative Writing, Raleigh, NC
John Kessel is on the faculty

Seton Hill MFA, Writing Popular Fiction, Greensburg, PA
Lucy A. Snyder is on the faculty

Other workshops

Many established writers are passionate about paying it forward. Check out the websites of your favorite authors. Chances are good they sometimes teach.

Many Science Fiction conventions offer workshops, master classes, lectures, or manuscript critiques from established writers.

Clarion West (Seattle, WA) holds one-day workshops throughout the year.

Locus runs several workshops (there doesn’t seem to be a dedicated page for them). A two-day workshop is held during the Locus Awards in June (usually taught by the wonderful Connie Willis) and a one-day workshop in October.

The Writing Excuses podcast runs courses and retreats.

The Surrey International Writer’s Conference embraces all genres. It’s a superb professional development conference that offers access to editors, agents, and superstar authors. I was there in 2012 and had the time of my life.

What have I missed? Email or tweet me.

When good enough is not good enough

Young Woman Drawing (Marie Joséphine Charlotte du Val d’Ognes) by Marie Denise Villers, 1801

Until yesterday, I was super happy with my current story-in-progress. The drafting went comparatively fast, and the second draft revision was smooth. The sentence-by-sentence writing developed a few lovely turns, and I was happy with everything I’d done until the third draft polish when suddenly—

I realized the last quarter of the story was dumb. Beautifully written, but dumb. I mean, it was okay. It was probably good enough. Someone, somewhere would have bought the story. Readers would probably go hmmm at the end.

But I’m not in this to make readers go hmmm. I’m in this to make their heads snap back.

I mentioned this situation to a friend, who asked, “How do you know the ending sucks?” Difficult question. Basically, my instinct told me. It simply didn’t feel right. So I sat down with my big sketchpad and did what I always do when I have story problems—doodle and sketch out my thoughts (why does this suck — this is so bad — I have no idea what I’m doing) until I figured out the problem.

The ending hinges on the main character’s reaction to a big dramatic public proclamation, and the person making that proclamation really doesn’t have a reason to do it. They don’t necessarily need a reason—they’re not the point of view character—but without a solid reason, the story rings hollow and false.

So I’m reworking the whole ending. Not quite sure how I’ll fix it. But it’ll be a good ending instead of one that’s just barely good enough.

My schedule at Can-Con, the Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature

T-Rex probably won’t be in Ottawa for the con, but you never know.

I’ll be at Can-Con, The Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature, in Ottawa on October 14 and 15. The convention is held at the Sheraton hotel, 150 Albert Street, and promises to be a wonderful weekend full of everything SF people love.

The con committee does a terrific job with programming. I’m looking forward to it so much. Here’s where I’ll be:

Saturday, October 14, 10:00 AM
Readings
Kelly Robson, Kate Heartfield, Tonya Liburd

Reading from our latest works. I’ll be reading from my forthcoming book “Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach.”

Saturday, October 14, 1:00 PM
Advice to Aspiring Writers on the Craft 

Charles de Lint, Tanya Huff, Kelly Robson, Haden Trenholm, Eric Choi  (moderator)
Established pros discuss their hardest lessons, the watershed moments in their careers (both creative and business), and offer their tips and tricks to emerging and aspiring writers.

Saturday, October 14, 10:00 AM
What Makes Romantic Chemistry Between Characters?
Julie E. Czerneda, Jennifer Carole Lewis, Linda Poitevin, Jamieson Wolf, Kelly Robson (moderator)
Most writers, no matter the genre, at some time need to create romantic chemistry between two characters, whether this will be consummated or remain as ships passing in the night. The panel of writers will use examples from their own published works, as well as positive and negative examples from TV and movies to analyze romantic chemistry.

Sunday, October 15, 2:00 PM
Leveling Up Your Writing with Formal Courses
Curtis C. Chen, Suzanne Church, Timothy Gwyn, Leah MacLean-Evans, Kelly Robson (moderator)
Previous participants in courses like Clarion, Odyssey, Taos Toolbox, MFAs, etc. discuss (1) the benefits and drawbacks of residential vs. online writing courses, (2) how they got in, (3) what they learned there vs. other places to learn.

About impostor syndrome

I was a rodeo princess.

Whiskey and me

When I was a teenager, we lived on an acreage west of Hinton, Alberta, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s beautiful country, but not a great place for a bookish kid to live — especially pre-internet.

I wasn’t naturally athletic. Quite the opposite, in fact. But I was naturally horse-crazy. I competed in the local rodeo and summer gymkhana meets, riding in the barrel racing competitions along with a variety of other timed events. I did steer riding only once. It was the most frightening thing I’ve ever done, next to driving in Sicily.

When I was 14, I lost the rodeo queen competition. Yes, there were tears (I was only 14!). The next year, I was first runner-up, which officially made me Rodeo Princess. Always better to be the princess than the queen, if you can manage it. All the glamour, none of the responsibility.

Lucky and me

But despite all this outdoorsiness, I was a nerdy kid at heart. I never felt comfortable in my rodeo princess skin. I always felt like an impostor, a poseur, a fake.

Writers talk about impostor syndrome a lot. We don’t often acknowledge that it’s not a phenomenon confined to the writing world. Impostor syndrome happens to everyone who’s actively working at getting better at something that most people don’t have the guts or the ambition to try. It happens whenever we’re taking risks.

One of my barriers to becoming a better barrel racer was psychological. I was too scared of getting hurt to really push the speed. Plus, I was working on learning the skill by myself, so I could never see what I was doing right or wrong. And, crucially, I didn’t have anyone to coach me through my fears.

Writers don’t take physical risks, but we take psychological and emotional risks that are just as scary. We have to, or we don’t get better. This is why most of us crave relationships with other writers. We need peers and (occasionally) teachers or coaches to show us the risks are worthwhile, tell us what we’re doing right and wrong, and reassure us that we will get better if we just keep working.

 

About all those best-laid plans…

In December, when I was making my writing plans for this year, I vowed to write five 5,000 word stories. You see, I’d just finished a very long novella (Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach — coming in March!) and I was itching to write shorter. I had all five planned out. So, it’s September. How have I done with that goal?

Let’s see what I’ve been up to:

  • Wrote and sold a 15,000 word novelette (We Who Live in the Heart, published at Clarkesworld — my tenth story sold!)
  • Wrote a 7,000 word story (currently on submission)
  • Currently revising a 9,000 word story (hope it will end up much shorter)

That’s not too bad. The word count is decent. But then, that’s not all I’ve been doing this year:

  • Wrote two columns for Clarkesworld (The Dream of Writing Full Time and Being James Tiptree, Jr.)
  • Revised Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach twice (no small task)
  • Planned a sequel: Time, Trouble, and the Lucky Peach (will be so much fun!)
  • Planned a book I’m dying to write (even more fun!)
  • Planned three more short stories in the series of five I’m currently obsessed with

When I look at this list, I feel pretty darn productive. Also super excited about writing these things.

And in case that looks just too virtuous, I also started and gave up on a story that just wasn’t giving me joy. And that’s okay! Not all ideas work out and not all are worth the time it takes to make them click.

Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach ready for preorder!

 

Cover for Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, out March 16. Cover by Jon Foster http://www.jonfoster.com/
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, out March 16. Cover by Jon Foster http://www.jonfoster.com/

My time travel novella Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach is ready for preorder! The release date is March 13, 2018 in both trade paperback and ebook. Pre-orders matter, so if you’re inclined, please do!

Here are the links:

Check out these amazing blurbs! How  could anyone resist?

Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach is a tour-de-force, with nuanced characters in a masterfully conceived world of stunning, mind-bending eco-tech. Absolutely brilliant storytelling. I didn’t want it to end.” ―Annalee Newitz, co-founder of io9 and author of Autonomous

“The far future, the distant past. Time travel, bioengineering, office politics ― and ecological consulting. How could I not love this?” ―Peter Watts, author of Echopraxia

“A necessary meditation on the nature of change and the sacrifice required to manifest it, Robson’s novella pulls no punches, spares no rods, and leaves no idea unexamined.” ―Madeline Ashby, author of Company Town

And here’s the cover copy:

Experience this far-reaching, mind-bending science fiction adventure that uses time travel to merge climate fiction with historical fantasy. From Kelly Robson, Aurora Award winner, Campbell, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon finalist, and author of Waters of Versailles

Discover a shifting history of adventure as humanity clashes over whether to repair their ruined planet or luxuriate in a less tainted past.

In 2267, Earth has just begun to recover from worldwide ecological disasters. Minh is part of the generation that first moved back up to the surface of the Earth from the underground hells, to reclaim humanity’s ancestral habitat. She’s spent her entire life restoring river ecosystems, but lately the kind of long-term restoration projects Minh works on have been stalled due to the invention of time travel. When she gets the opportunity take a team to 2000 BC to survey the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, she jumps at the chance to uncover the secrets of the shadowy think tank that controls time travel technology.