a transformative experience.

A little over a week ago, I took the ferry from Woods Hole on Cape Cod over to Martha’s Vineyard, where I attended the week-long Viable Paradise writing workshop for SF and Fantasy writers.  The workshop exceeded my most optimistic expectations.

To those of you who don’t write, a detailed review of the experience would be terribly boring, so I’ll just sketch a broad picture in this space.

It’s hard to describe Viable Paradise to someone who wasn’t there.  I could tell you about the thrill of getting to sit down with successful authors and editors in the field, and having them go through my work and tell me precisely what works and what doesn’t.

I could tell you about the new friends I’ve made, the almost surreal feeling of cohesion among the students, and the feeling that I truly found my “tribe”.

I could tell you about the excellent lectures and collegiums, getting frank and open advice about all aspects of the writing business by professionals who have been successful in the field for decades.

I could tell you about the consistently high quality of work from students and instructors alike, about the feeling of being in a room full of highly talented people, and about everyone contributing to–and feeding off–the creative energy in the room.

I could tell you about the instructors, who shared their time and expertise willingly and generously, and who then spent their free time socializing with us: Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Jim Macdonald, Debra Doyle, Steven Gould, Laura J. Mixon, Elizabeth Bear, and John Scalzi.  I think the world of each and every one of them, and you’d have a hard time finding a more professional and generous group of tutors.

I could tell you about the beauty of the island itself, about standing on the beach at night and seeing the most incredible starscape I’ve ever seen.

I could tell you about the fabulous staff, who took care of us around the clock, making sure that we could keep our minds free for the many readings and writing assignments.

You can hear about all of those things, and you’ll still only get a vague idea of what Viable Paradise is all about.

On the ferry back from the Vineyard, I discussed the workshop with some fellow students, and I used the term “transformative experience”.  It was one of those rare occasions where you are in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, and the resulting experience changes your attitude and outlook radically.  I have a new understanding of the writing craft, a new confidence about the quality and commercial viability of my writing, and a whole new section in my address book full of people I’d trust with the keys to my car and house without blinking.  There wasn’t a person at the workshop I didn’t like, and everyone I met said the same thing.  I’m a bit selective about the people I choose to hang out with, and in any given crowd, I generally dislike half the people in it, but that was not the case at Viable Paradise.  That kind of instant meshing with like-minded people is a rare experience for me.

If you’re an aspiring science fiction or fantasy writer, and you’re looking for a workshop that will give you the tools you need to advance your craft, I highly recommend you apply to Viable Paradise.  It’ll be worth every minute of your time, and every dollar of your tuition.


12 thoughts on “a transformative experience.

  1. Tiffani says:

    I’m finding myself in the same boat (or ferry? Hmmm…). I’ve described the week to another writer friend who totally gets it without my having to finish each sentence, but I still haven’t quite figured out how to talk about VP to non-writers. I told my husband that it’s like him explaining engineering to non-engineers; we only get so much of it. And I’m afraid that the lack of understanding on the part of non-writers will render the description of VP as so much babbling. But *we* know. The tribe understands.

  2. Jay G. says:

    Why do I have a feeling I’d be looking at the other participants in much the same manner as the chimps looking at the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey???

    Glad to hear it was worthwhile, Marko.

  3. Al T. says:

    Pop psych term is “significant emotional experience”. Good for you!

  4. MarkHB says:

    Excellent news, sir!

  5. i’m glad it was an enjoyable and cathartic experience for you as a writer, mw…

    i’ll be looking for new content under the “fiction” tab of your blog in the near future.


  6. Chang says:

    Yeah, I am simultaneously overwhelmed and underestimating the impact of this event. No one really understands what this was like.

    Hey, where or what the frig is the RSS feed on this mofo?

  7. Chang says:

    Oh, here’s how I described it to a friend:

    “Take the last 20 minutes of 2001 A Space Odyssey. Mash it up with the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Throw in a copy of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. “

  8. al terego says:

    al t. you’re not hijackin’ my name are ya?

  9. MacAllister says:

    Cheers, M – There are VP grads all over who know precisely what you mean.

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