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Theodora Goss
Posted on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 09:47 pm:   

I thought I would begin a topic for anyone who wanted to ask me questions, especially about writing and publishing. Not, of course, that I'm at all an expert. But I'm a relatively new writer, so in the last few years I've gone through what all new writers go through (workshops, rejections, first sales, and all the rest). And I've made every mistake known to man or woman. (In my first submission to Weird Tales, I misspelled the name of the magazine. As in Wierd Tales, not thank goodness Weird Tails, which would have been worse. The editors were exceedingly kind.)

Also, sometimes I receive a question that I can't answer, but someone else reading this board might be able to. For example, someone wrote to me just recently, asking me how to locate an agent who accepts unpublished writers. I have no idea. My rudimentary response is,

1. Find out which authors write the sort of thing you write.
2. Find out who their agents are. (Someone once explained how to do this, in a workshop I think, but I can't remember off the top of my head.)
3. Query to see if those agents accept manuscripts from new writers.

Not much of a response. But there must be a better answer out there, somewhere?
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 03:32 am:   

Does the SFWA site keep a list? I haven't checked, but it sounds like the sort of thing they'd do.
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Christopher Barzak
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 10:42 am:   

I dunno if the SFWA site keeps a list, but often you can look in the acknowledgment section of one of those books you think is the sort of thing you write, and the author has thanked their agent, _name goes here_, and you can then look up that agent's name online at various agenting sites to get an address. And then, yes, the next thing to do is query them.

It *is* an entirely unsatisfying answer to the question, and leads to much self-doubt and frustration with a seemingly walled-community type of feeling, imagining yourself at the gate, buzzing, buzzing, to be let in, and waiting for someone nice to answer. But it's the only way.

Oh, the other thing to consider when looking for an agent is if you have friends who already have agents, and have done the rounds. Ask them about their agent, what sort of questions they asked when they were interviewing agents (remember, you're hiring them, too, it's a partnership).
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Alan Yee
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 07:22 pm:   

Hey Dora (and other readers),

Congrats for your forthcoming chapbook! I can't wait to see it when it's released.

I am just almost thirteen, but have been writing seriously for about three years (maybe even more). My writing has received personal recognitions from a couple contests, and was even published just recently in a small press contest anthology.

I would like to ask, is it too early for me to start writing a novel? I've just begun attempting to expand my borderline short story/novelette (in the 7400-7500 word range) into a novel, but I wanted advice on whether I should continue writing the novel version.

Thanks for reading this! Anyone is welcome to respond.
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 09:22 pm:   

And, for agents, you can also look at the announcements section of Locus. Often it will list which agent sold an author's book. Melissa, I'm sure I've heard of a list somewhere, probably connected with SFWA. I'm just not sure where. And lo! she cannot find her SFWA directory.

(Anyone know what "lo!" means?)
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 09:54 pm:   

Thanks, Alan!

It's fabulous that you've been recognized in contests, and congratulations on the publication! I started writing around that age as well; I was serious about writing, and becoming a writer, by the time I was twelve. I think there are some things you just know about yourself.

I don't think it's too early to start writing a novel. The only way to learn how to write a novel, I think, is to write one, and then rewrite it, and then rewrite it again. Then write another. It's the old practice makes perfect principle. And in general I think that whatever you have in you, whether it's a novel or a haiku, you should write.

I will make a prediction, which I hope you don't mind. When you finish the novel, you'll think it's wonderful. After some time passes, you'll think it's dreadful. After some more time passes, you'll think it could be wonderful, if you could make some changes . . . I write this because it's how my first novel went. I wrote it during law school, when I should have been studying, and then hid it in a desk drawer. When I started submitting stories, I looked at it again and realized that it just wouldn't do. But I've been thinking about it again lately, and realizing that the ideas were pretty good. All it needs is to be completely rewritten! :-) I think everyone's first novel follows something like this pattern.

I don't think age should stop you. Laurie Marks published a novel recently that I think she mentioned starting when she was quite young. And of course you have the example of Christopher Paolini and Eragon. Though I have to add, too, that I would continue to write short stories, and even poetry if you're interested in it. Writing shorter works can really help you develop your writing skills. At least, that's what I try to do!

And finally, I don't know if you're interested in workshops, but I just recently learned about the Alpha Workshop.

Do let me know how the novel goes, if you decide to work on it!
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Greg Wachausen
Posted on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 11:17 pm:   

Hi Dora,

First off, I love your work and I look forward to purchasing a copy of the chapbook.

I'm a fairly new writer. I just graduated Odyssey (class of '04) and I've been binging on "How to write" books as I prepare to start writing again.

So I was wondering, do you have any favorites/recommendations for instructional fiction writing-type books?
(Or any other post-odyssey advice?)

Take care,
Greg
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 11:09 pm:   

Thanks, Greg!

I think Ellen Kushner mentioned your name when we were talking about Odyssey. (Isn't it nice to know you made an impression? A good one, of course!) And congratulations on attending the workshop. I learned a lot at both Odyssey and Clarion, but Odyssey is where my writing went from promising (or so I was told) but unpublishable to potentially publishable. I think because Jeanne focused so much on technique. I learned writing isn't just about putting words on paper. It's about communicating to a reader. Your story doesn't happen on the paper but in the reader's head. So you have to know something about how readers approach text. (Sorry for the choppy sentences, or fragments thereof. I'm thinking this out as I write.) Odyssey was the first time I looked at my own writing as though I were a reader, approaching it from the outside rather than from inside my own head. And it was the first place that I received encouragement about my writing--from actual writers! Of course, it was also the first place a story of mine was attacked by critiquers, like a pack of ravening wolves. If you don't spend a good half-hour weeping over the tattered remnants of your manuscript, is it really a workshop? Ah, the memories! None of which has much to do with your question! :-)

To be honest, I haven't read many how-to-write books, and the only one I remember is a book of writing exercises by Ursula Le Guin. Her point in the book was that writers learn principally by observing other writers, and by writing themselves, and I think I agree with that. So here's what I do instead of reading books on writing: I read the stories and novels of other writers as though they were books on writing. It isn't as much fun as reading for pleasure, I'm afraid. But I look at a story, for example, for how the writer has structured it. I try to figure out his or her techniques. And sometimes, I try to apply them myself.

For example, in the introduction to The Wings of the Dove, Henry James talks about how he dealt with the character of Milly Theale. He never wanted to approach her directly, so he wrote around and around her: he wrote about how everyone else in the novel reacted to and thought about her. She is the center of the novel, and her presence is felt throughout, but we end up knowing very little about her. I tried to do that in a short story, though I don't know how well I succeeded. (It's like making yourself write in a particular poetic form, which I also used to do.) Or writing in the voice of another writer. I wrote a story recently that I wanted to sound sort of Isak Dinesenish.

I think I like doing this better than reading books on writing because I don't really believe in writing "rules." I think there's only one rule in writing: You must interest the reader. If the reader doesn't finish your story, you've failed. But you can interest the reader in so many ways. I read a Patricia McKillip short story recently ("Out of the Woods" in Flights: Extreme Visions of Fantasy) in which the story didn't necessarily hold me, but the style was so wonderful that it held me to the end. Neil Gaiman's "The Problem of Susan" in the same book held me because it piggybacked on another story that I care about, and offered a new interpretation of it.

Wow. This is turning into a long response. I'm going to continue in another response, in case the computer decides it's hungry (it sometimes eats responses).
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 11:49 pm:   

Doing this actually makes it easier to read stories that don't succeed, because you can spend your reading time trying to figure out why--what didn't work. I read a story recently that I could barely get through, and ended up skimming. It was so clogged by imprecise adjectives that reading it felt like swimming through mud. (But the author has sold many more stories and novels than I, so take my criticism with a grain of salt. Or a salt-shaker full.)

So, Dora's rules for writing:
1. You must interest the reader.
2. Anything another writer has done, you can do.

The second rule exists because writers, at least in genre writing, are told all sorts of things they should and should not do. But great novels have begun with long descriptions of landscape, for example. They have included philosophical dialog that interrupts the action. They have even ended with the protagonist discovering it was all a dream. (Though anyone trying to write like Lewis Carroll has my skeptical sympathy.)

(Tangent: I think the second rule applies to anything, not just writing. So many children are told that they should not expect to be writers, or ballet dancers, or basketball players, so they should go to medical school instead. And yet people become writers and ballet dancers and basketball players every day. Not everyone can, certainly. But who's to say that you're one of those who can't? Anything that someone else has done--becoming a rock star, say, or conquering the known world--can be done again. Sorry, this is something that bothers me. Can you tell that I come from a family that does not approve of writing as a profession?)

The point of all this isn't to imitate other writers but to learn from them, sort of like student painters learning from the masters. Because writing is so difficult. I've spent hours, sometimes, trying to write a person moving through a room.

So, that's a really, really long way of explaining what I try to do instead of reading books on writing! The other thing I find really interesting is reading writers on their own writing, or on literature in general. Virginia Woolf comes to mind.

General advice for writers:
1. Write as well as you possibly can.
2. Submit your stories. (I actually wrote this one first.)
3. Do not attempt to analyze your rejections. (They all mean the same thing: submit your story to another market.)

And that's a rambling response to a succinct question! I would answer so much more clearly with just a little more sleep . . . :-)
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AliceB
Posted on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 09:17 am:   

Thank you Dora for some of the best advice I've ever read.
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Alan Yee
Posted on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 01:35 pm:   

Dora,

I agree with Alice that your advice is very helpful. It's not complicated, but it's useful!
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Alan Yee
Posted on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 02:00 pm:   

Dora, in response to your comment about workshops, the only workshop I can really handle is the Critters Online Workshop. I've been a member for about a month now, and I'm positive that my story (the one I'm expanding) will do fairly well this year and early next year in the contests, based on all the helpful feedback I've received.

By the way, I've been plotting and outlining my novel off and on, as I am finishing up my third short story for contest season (SFWoE for the third year, Writers of the Future for the first time...)

In-person workshops don't really work for me: the Alpha workshop takes place in Pittsburgh, and Clarion West is in the actual city of Seattle. I live on the West Coast a little south of Seattle. Critters was enough for me to learn how to make all my stories better. Since I'm basically thirteen, I wouldn't be willing to leave home for six weeks to live just in Seattle. (Maybe when I'm in high school.)

Yes, I have read about various authors who've written their first novel at around age thirteen. So why can't I? As for the stories, I could save up some prize money for college if I place high enough...

My 10 pieces of advice (a few of which are a combination of other writers' advice) for fairly new writers are:

1. You learn to write by WRITING.
2. Don't let anyone convince you that you can't be a writer.
3. Write and rewrite until you are confident that you've written your best work to date.
4. Get advice from other writers through critique groups. I highly recommend the Critters Online Workshop.
5. Research your markets.
6. Read their publications.
7. Carefully study their guidelines.
8. Submit it to that market!
9. If you receive a rejection, don't think they are condemning your writing and style.
10. Submit it to another market!

Sound simple? Fairly simple, but the writing part is still the most exhausting!

Thanks for letting me blabber away! (I just had to let everything out of my brain.)


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Greg Wachausen
Posted on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 09:41 pm:   

Hi again,

Thanks for your response. Before Odyssey, I would study other writing to see how the author did it, but I always thought I was breaking some kind of law. Then Bob Mayer said: "you find a story similar to the one you're writing, and do a book dissection." And now you have assured me again! And I agree with you on the "rules" of writing (it has been a pain reading through a whole book only to come out with one or two things I agree with.) Jeanne gave us a writing exercise that I feel goes along with your advice: take a passage you like and copy it. Word for word. I've been doing this one alot since Odyssey. Things that you didn't realize were there while reading it will jump out at you while you're writing it.
And I'm glad I made a good impression on Ellen! She really let me have it. I couldn't get away with anything. Which is good, of course:-) To tell you the truth, the story she critiqued was modeled after your "Rose in Twelve Petals." Structure-wise anyway. I wanted to tell a short story with a few different characters.
(Oh, kind of off topic) Delia told me that she is working with you on an interstital anthology, so I look forward to reading that too. Then I threw her a curve ball and asked where I could find it in the bookstore:-) (We talked a little about the IAF too.)
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 09:43 pm:   

Thanks, Alice and Alan! I'm glad you found what I wrote helpful.

Alan, it's great that you're entering SFWOE. I entered the first story I wrote at Odyssey that I thought was potentially publishable, and it won 2nd place (the year my friend Larry Taylor, who was my classmate at Odyssey, won 1st). If anyone's interested, the story is on my website: "Hyacinth". It's not exactly the sort of thing I write now! (Now I can see all of its many flaws.) But I think it's interesting to see what other people were writing when they started out. The year after, I submitted a post-Odyssey story (also one of my submission stories for Clarion) and won 1st. It's a better story, I think, though still flawed in many ways. It's on the SFWOE website: "The Tile Merchant's Garden". I include these stories because they should encourage anyone starting out. I mean, I made a lot of mistakes, that I didn't think were mistakes at the time.

I noticed, by the way, that one year you won a special prize. Good for you!

I encourage anyone who hasn't published (that's one of the requirements) to enter. Gil Reis, who runs the contest, is incredibly nice, and Ed Bryant, the judge, is of course wonderful. Here is the link: SFWOE. Note that the deadline is coming up at the end of October.

I like Alan's 10 steps. Of course #3 is the hard one. :-)
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 10:12 pm:   

Greg:

"Before Odyssey, I would study other writing to see how the author did it, but I always thought I was breaking some kind of law."

Interesting! Why did you think so? I ask because writing used to be taught through imitation and translation, before the 1950s. One would imitate something by a "great" writer, and at least in Britain translate from Latin. We've moved far, far away from that model. I suppose it has to do with the 1960s emphasis on creativity, which was central to education policy until everyone started worrying about test scores in the 1980s. When I was in school, we were taught to express ourselves, not to imitate anyone else. I guess I've answered my own question, in a confused way. Our writing was supposed to be about self-expression. And there was absolutely no emphasis on technique.

(In the 1980s, it changed. Then it was all about technique. We were taught to write the five-paragraph essay, the dullest and deadliest form of writing known to man. This was when standardized tests became increasingly important.)

Sorry. I digress.

"Then Bob Mayer said: 'you find a story similar to the one you're writing, and do a book dissection.'"

Yes! Or even, if you want to be daring, a story that is completely different!

"Jeanne gave us a writing exercise that I feel goes along with your advice: take a passage you like and copy it. Word for word. I've been doing this one alot since Odyssey. Things that you didn't realize were there while reading it will jump out at you while you're writing it."

Octavia Butler also talks about doing this, and how valuable it is. And I think it's just as interesting to take a story apart structurally.

"And I'm glad I made a good impression on Ellen! She really let me have it. I couldn't get away with anything. Which is good, of course."

Ha! No, Ellen wouldn't let you. Another person who's a master critiquer is James Patrick Kelly. I remember him, at Clarion, actually acting out the physical movements in someone's story, to show why they couldn't have happened. For anyone coming to Worldcon, the Cambridge SF Workshop, of which I'm a member, is doing a demonstration workshop. The story up for critique is Jim's. And while I usually love his stories, I think this one needs serious rewriting. (The workshop is subtitled "A Public Hanging"!)

"To tell you the truth, the story she critiqued was modeled after your 'Rose in Twelve Petals.' Structure-wise anyway. I wanted to tell a short story with a few different characters."

Neat! Let me know what happens to it!

"(Oh, kind of off topic) Delia told me that she is working with you on an interstital anthology, so I look forward to reading that too. Then I threw her a curve ball and asked where I could find it in the bookstore (We talked a little about the IAF too.)"

Yeah. We're working on that. :-) Seriously, we're hoping to get the calls for submissions out some time this fall.
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Greg Wachausen
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 10:57 pm:   

"Interesting! Why did you think so?"

I think it's because at times, it seems to me like camouflaged plagiarism. Now I know this isn't true, but it's kind of a subconcious thought, or a voice in the back of my head. Let me give you a longwinded example.

Sometimes a bit of a story will come to me: a one-liner, or a little description, or a scrap of dialogue. (This often happens when I'm doing something other than writing.) I've been writing down ideas and such for a story where the sky is going to be a piece of setting that is continually reffered to. The other day, (when I was actually writing,) I wrote a bit of sky-description. The next day, another line of descriptioncame to me:

"The sky's a moving painting."

I put this line at the end of the description I wrote. Re-reading the description, I found it familiar, and a little off. I'm going to use the last two lines as my example. They are:

"The sky is brushed and caressed by clouds. The sky's a moving painting."

This just didn't sound right to me. Well I realized that what I wrote was similar to some description I recently read in Steven Millhauser's novella "Enchanted Night." In it, Millhauser uses the moon as a piece of the setting that is continually reffered to. In his story he has a character looking at the moon from beneath tree branches. These are his lines that are similar to the ones I wrote:

"The moon's cut by little twigs. The moon's a cracked dinner plate."

Right away I noticed his second sentence is 7 syllables, as is mine. But his first sentence is also 7 syllables, mine isn't. Another similarity is how the sentences describe the setting element. The first sentence describes through action, the second, through metaphor. (A third similarity is, obviously, the use of a unifying setting element.) So I re-wrote my lines to have equal syllables:

"The sky's brushed by soft white clouds. The sky's a moving painting."

Now it sounds right to me. My Millhauser lines. (Now that I see them again, I notice that the use of contractions is a fourth similarity.) Do you see what I mean about camouflage plagiarism? Again, I don't think that this kind of imitation is plagiarism (this is a strong example though) but it does set off bells.

There are other tyes of imitation. For instance, I think there are some very strong parallels between Neil Gaiman's "Stardust" and Lord Dunsany's "King of Elfland's Daughter." But these are more story and character similarities. We're talking more structure, technique, and the like.

"Neat! Let me know what happens to it!"

Definitely. It's one of my tougher stories though, and right now I want to tackle something easier, so it'll be awhile.

"Yeah. We're working on that. Seriously, we're hoping to get the calls for submissions out some time this fall."

Oh, so you're soliciting submissions? For some reason I thought the two of you were going to sift through recent (and maybe not-so-recent) publications for interstitial works. Kind of like a "year's best." Either way, Good luck!

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Theodora Goss
Posted on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 06:23 pm:   

Yes, it will be an open anthology. So all of you reading this (I know there are some lurkers), prepare your manuscripts!

Notice that the relationship between your two lines is different than the relationship between Millhauser's. His is visual: the twigs are the cracks on the dinner plate. Yours works differently. You're taking the "brushed" in the first line, which is a verb describing the motion of the clouds, and turning it into a noun that doesn't appear but is implied in the second line: a paintbrush. The sky is a moving painting because the clouds are functioning in part as paintbrushes, although they're also part of the movement. Interesting.

But this is what writers do, I think. They take the words that, let's face it, so many other writers have used before, and use them in new ways.
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 09:16 pm:   

Just ran across this: Resources for Teen Writers, especially those interested in Speculative Fiction. It seems to be put together by David Barr Kirtley, who is a great guy. (He once told me a story about a friend of his who had no middle name. One day he decided to legally adopt a middle name. Guess which name he chose?)

I thought this link might interest Alan and anyone else under twenty.
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Greg Wachausen
Posted on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 06:32 pm:   

Okay, new question: Do you have any advice on poetry? Even though I've published twice as many poems as I have stories, (two poems vs. one story :-) I have more difficulty with verse. Poe once said something about having to be in a certain state of mind to right poetry, which makes them more diffcult to write than stories.
I have http://www.taverners-koans.com/ in my "favorites."
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 11:03 pm:   

Just quickly, and not at all responding to Greg's question, on which more later, but I don't want to forget this. At Worldcon, during a panel on agents, one of the agents on the panel said that all legitimate agents (the only ones you should work with) are members of the Association of Authors' Representatives. Here's the URL for the AAR website, which lists members:

http://aar-online.org/

I thought that was important advice for anyone starting out!
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 11:05 pm:   

Anyone guess? Guy gets to choose his own middle name. What name does he choose? Someone's going to think this is so obvious . . .
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jill krupnik
Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 12:33 pm:   

hello,

I've been lurking on this board for a little bit. I've read your two stories from the Year's Best Anthologies and I've really emjoyed them. If I can ever find someplace that sells your chapbook I plan on buying it, but paypal doesn't play well with me.

This has been a really helpful discussion although due to lack of experience I doubt I can add much to it without parroting my instructor's "wisdom."

Shouldn't poetry be harder to write than prose? There are so many more things to take account, and it seems as if with poetry that every word matters. There's just so much more to take into account and be responsible for.

I'm not helping am I?

-jill
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Greg Wachausen
Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 09:35 pm:   

"Anyone guess? Guy gets to choose his own middle name. What name does he choose?"

Is it Barr?

Jill:

Hello. You're right, every word matters in poetry. But the same is true for fiction.

"There's just so much more to take into account and be responsible for."

I disagree. There could be more or there could be less, or there could be the same. I think it depends on who you ask:-)

I remember one of of my college professors asking the class what makes poetry different from fiction. He made us all think twice about answers of "poetry rhymes," and "fiction tells a story, poetry is abstract."
(There were more insightful answers than those, I just can't remember them.)
In the end he told us that the only real difference is that poetry is written in verse, fiction isn't. I tend to agree, but then again, I'm not the most knowledgable person when it comes to poetry--that's why I'm asking for advice:-)
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 10:16 pm:   

Hi Jill! I'm glad you liked the stories! I've had problems with Paypal too, in the past. I should probably get a list of the (few) bookstores that will carry the chapbook, as soon as Gavin returns from wherever he is, which I think is Scotland. They will be available at several conventions, including World Fantasy (at the Prime Books table), though that only helps the relatively small number of people who go to conventions. I think they can also be ordered the old-fashioned way, by putting a check in the mail, but I'll have to figure out the details. (I should know all this, shouldn't I?)

Sorry for the several days' absence. I picked up a cold at Worldcon, and then thought I would give it to the baby, who's been snorting for the last few days like a miniature rhinoceros. And then Kendrick decided that he wanted it too. So we've all had colds. :-(

Ha! No, the middle name he chose was Danger. As in, "Danger is my middle name." Except that Danger really is his middle name! (For anyone who doesn't think this is as funny as I do, remember that I've had a cold. And we English Lit. types think it's funny when symbolic speech turns literal. We're a nerdy lot.)

So, the problem with answering your question about poetry, Greg, is that I've been having a lot of problems with my own poetry lately. I have to agree with Jill in that I personally find poetry harder to write. Or at least I have lately. But in general I think Greg is right that it depends on the writer. I, as a writer, am having a lot of problems with poetry. (Of the tearing my hair out variety.)

I think one problem is that the sort of poetry I enjoy writing is fairly traditional. But no one wants fairly traditional poetry. The sort of poetry I can sell, I have grave doubts about. I'm never all that happy with it. It never feels done to me. This is such a vague paragraph that I think I'll have to give an example, and then discuss it specifically. I'll try to do that tomorrow.

So, really my non-answer is that I'm currently completely confused about poetry, and the best I can probably do is explain my confusion.

Greg, I do have a question about this sentence:

"In the end he told us that the only real difference is that poetry is written in verse, fiction isn't."

What does this mean? My OED says that "verse" is (1) poetry, (2) a stanza of a poem. (I'm abridging a bit here, but that's the main sense.) So did your professor mean the difference is that poetry is poetry (was he trying to be funny)? Or did he mean that poetry has a stanzaic structure (which isn't always true)? Or was he using "verse" in a way that I'm not familiar with? Because, dictionary aside, I've always heard it used either as a synonym for poetry or for a stanza of a poem.

So, I'm going to write about poetry, I promise. But it's going to be about the problems I'm having. That may at least help anyone else having problems? I dunno.
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Greg Wachausen
Posted on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 11:20 am:   

Well I'll join you two in saying poetry is harder to write.

"I, as a writer, am having a lot of problems with poetry. (Of the tearing my hair out variety.)"

Ones of my problems is that I'll often look at a poem I've written, or am in the process of writing, (which has potential, yet does not please me) and think: "I can use some of these better lines in a story," or, "I can tell this better as a story."


"What does this mean? My OED says that "verse" is (1) poetry, (2) a stanza of a poem. (I'm abridging a bit here, but that's the main sense.) So did your professor mean the difference is that poetry is poetry (was he trying to be funny)? Or did he mean that poetry has a stanzaic structure (which isn't always true)? Or was he using "verse" in a way that I'm not familiar with? Because, dictionary aside, I've always heard it used either as a synonym for poetry or for a stanza of a poem."

Okay, I looked up verse too--on dictionary.com, and came up with this:

1.
a. A single metrical line in a poetic composition; one line of poetry.
b. A division of a metrical composition, such as a stanza of a poem or hymn.
c.A poem.
2. Metrical or rhymed composition as distinct from prose; poetry.
3.
a. The art or work of a poet.

5. A particular type of metrical composition, such as blank verse or free verse.
(I omitted irrelevant definitions.)

I think what he meant was poetry is written in metrical lines that don't (always) go to the end of the page, and that the first letter of the first word in each new line is capitalized.
I don't think I'm explaining it well, but then again, this was a few years ago.
So I think he would agree with definition 5.

You've got me re-thinking my opinion, because now I remember seeing poetry that doesn't follow this scheme (as you said,) and of course, fiction that has metrical lines. So maybe it's the author (or creator) identifying his or her creation as poetry that makes it poetry.
I'll have to think about it more.
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Theodor a Goss
Posted on Thursday, September 23, 2004 - 10:57 pm:   

So sorry not to have responded sooner! I caught a cold at Worldcon, and obligingly brought it home for Kendrick, since he missed most of the convention. Of course the baby picked it up as well. Her first cold. It was a miserable week. (I described her to someone as snorting like a miniature rhinoceros. I never realized, but one has to learn to blow one's nose, and she hasn't learned yet, so she was terribly stuffed up, and didn't want to eat or sleep, which usually occupy most of her day. Oh, the exciting life of a writer!)

Greg:

That sounds like what your professor was thinking about, but you're certainly right that much of modern poetry is written to the natural cadence of a voice, not to meter, and that lines nowadays rarely start with a capitalized letter. There's not a lot of "metrical or rhymed composition" out there anymore. But I'm not willing to go so far as to say that poetry is what the poet identifies as such.

Here's one way I might think about the difference between poetry and prose:

The basic unit of poetry is the line; the basic unit of prose is the paragraph.

I'm not sure how best to explain this, because it comes from instinct as much as anything else. When I write a story, I think of it paragraph by paragraph. I try to get each paragraph right. If the paragraphs are right internally, and they're arranged in the right order, there's a chance the story will be a good one. But when I write poetry, I have to think about it line by line. Each line, individually, has to sound right. And a line is not the same as a sentence.

I don't have a good example, although if it weren't late (as always), I would try to hunt down "Prufrock," in which Eliot uses lines masterfully. "I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be . . ." (Which I suddenly realized is designed to remind the reader of Hamlet's soliloquy: "To be or not to be . . .") Rambling again, sorry.

This distinction may not be useful to anyone but me, so tell me if you don't think it works.

I still haven't addressed the "why poetry is difficult for me" issue, though I will. Soon. (My latest attempt at a poem is headed for the circular file, I think.)
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 11:21 pm:   

Quickly and before I forget:

At Noreascon, Steve Pasechnick, the editor of Alchemy, told me that he was actively looking for stories, and I told him I would spread the word to writers I knew. Alchemy is so new that many writers haven't yet realized what a good market it is. I've seen the first and second issues, and they're both gorgeous.

Here's what Steve is looking for:

Literary fantasy of all types (read the magazine to get a sense of what Steve is looking for), up to 15,000 wds. Pay is $.05/wd.

You can get copies of the magazine at Clarkesworld.

(Fair warning: he does have a significant slush pile. But who doesn't?)


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Robert Burke Richardson
Posted on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 11:37 pm:   

I submitted to Alchemy recently and Steve responded in about two weeks. It takes mail from Canada about a week there and a week back, so seems like they're on top of things down there :-)
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 03:35 am:   

Alchemy is very quick.
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Tracy Taylor
Posted on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 01:46 pm:   

Thank you for the heads up. As an aspiring author, its always nice to hear about a new venue.
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - 10:58 pm:   

Hi Tracy! You're very welcome, and I'll certainly try to post about markets that I'm submitting to. (Everyone knows the reading period for Polyphony, right? It's right on the Polyphony discussion board, but I can link to it if anyone hasn't seen it already.)

I realized recently that if it weren't for the new "slipstream" markets, like Polyphony, Strange Horizons, Lady Churchill's, etc., I'd have one or two stories in Realms of Fantasy to my name, and I'd be trying my best to write "straight" fantasy, with dragons and all. (Not that there's anything wrong with dragons. But I personally find it hard to do anything new with them, since I read Ursula Le Guin as a teenager. The dragons of Earthsea are so exactly what I think dragons ought to be.) So thank goodness that I started publishing exactly when I did. And hurray for the small press!
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Richard Parks
Posted on Thursday, October 07, 2004 - 06:31 am:   

Probably wouldn't have been a good idea to concentrate on dragons anyway. Shawna's pretty sick of them. :-)
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Thursday, October 07, 2004 - 06:52 pm:   

Which makes me think of Jo Walton's novel, which I haven't read. Has anyone? And any reactions? I'm thinking of the one with dragons in a Trollopian universe, the one that has been described as a fantasy of manners.

Poetry. I should tackle this issue, I guess. Ugh.

So, here's the problem. And it's enough of a problem that I haven't written poetry seriously for at least three years. I can write poetry that has a good chance of being published. For example, my latest, the one headed for the circular file. Here's the title and first section:

The Lions of Manhattan

One morning in September, when the sky
Was gray and filled with rain, the pigeons restless,
A lion roared in Times Square.

His mouth was as red as a stoplight or pomagranate.

He ate a bankruptcy lawyer, a crossing guard
For P.S. 17, a socialite
Heading to Bergdorf's with her chihuahua wrapped
In a light-blue cashmere scarf.

His mane was gilded, like the halo of a saint.
His roar was louder than traffic.

[Skip a bunch of stuff. Lions everwhere, eating people. Nuff said. Now the last section.]

We order sandwiches from the delicatessen,
Which never arrive, and look through photographs,
Remembering what it was like before the lions:
Walking through Central Park, and drinking coffee
[Sorry, haven't figured this line out].

You say the marines could save us, without conviction.

And I ask myself if this is a demonstration
That the universe is absurd, as I imagined.
Maybe somewhere above us, John Paul Sartre
Is laughing his metaphysical pants off? Maybe.

Sometimes, we sit together and watch the lions,
Who lie together like haystacks, or on mornings
When mist rises from the sea, obscuring the sidewalks,
Like undiscovered islands that we could sail to,
If we had charts, or knew which stars to follow.

So, I think if I worked on this it would eventually find a publisher. It's surreal (lions suddenly appear in Manhattan) and refers to Sartre, so it sounds intelligent. But I was bored with the poem before I finished it.

Here's what I actually like to write (this is an old one):

Autumn, the Fool

The leaves float on the water like patches of motley--
Autumn, the fool, has dropped them into the lake,
Where they rival the costume, not of the staid brown duck,
But the splendid drake.

He capers down the lanes in his ragged garments,
A comical figure shedding last year's leaves,
But as he passes the crickets begin their wailing
And the chipmunk grieves.

The willow bends down to watch herself in the water
And shivers at the sight of her yellow hair.
Autumn the fool has passed her, and soon her branches
Will be bare.

But the only market I know for a rhymed lyric that doesn't say anything in particular except that autumn is a strange, sad season is The Lyric, which this may actually have appeared in. So what to do with that? The sorts of poems I think there's a market for, I don't like to write. What I like to write are the sorts of poems there's almost definitely no market for. Which is why I'm writing almost no poetry.

Ugh.
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Greg Wachausen
Posted on Monday, October 11, 2004 - 09:15 pm:   

"Which is why I'm writing almost no poetry."

Hmm. That's too bad, I rather like your poetry. In fact, it was the poetry on your website that first interested me in your writing.

This is kind of a late question but...

In a previous post, you wrote:

"To be honest, I haven't read many how-to-write books, and the only one I remember is a book of writing exercises by Ursula Le Guin."

Do you recall the title? Was it "Steering the Craft?"
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 03:29 am:   

There IS a writing book by her with that title. (I have it.) Don't know if there are others.
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Richard Parks
Posted on Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 05:55 am:   

There is also THE ALTERED I, which is both a writing book and an account of a writing workshop she taught back in the late '70s.
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 09:02 pm:   

Thanks, Greg! It was Steering the Craft. I think, though, that I learned more from her book of essays, Language of the Night. (I think that was the title?)
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Greg Wachausen
Posted on Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 09:32 pm:   

Thanks Melissa, Richard, and Dora.
I read a little bit of "Steering" and "Language" at Odyssey (Jeanne recommended them) but I didn't really have the time to get into them. I'm gonna check them out again.

Just did a search on The Altered I--it's out of print, and my local library system doesn't have it. It is for sale, used, at amazon. Maybe I'll buy a copy.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0909106010/qid=1097641442/sr=1-1/r ef=sr_1_1/104-2962400-6153543?v=glance&s=books
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Alan Yee
Posted on Tuesday, November 09, 2004 - 09:19 pm:   

Hello, fellow writers! I thought I'd bring this thread back to life.

Anyway, I've been writing off and on for the past few months (off and on due to school and homework [*groans*]), but I feel that I can't keep my writing away from experienced eyes ;-}

I don't know if I'm ready to start submitting to any markets. Any advice or suggestions? I know that Strange Horizons is considered by SFWA as a professional market, but someone's got to start somewhere right? (Remember, I'm only thirteen year old!)

Just wondering,
-alan
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Robert Burke Richardson
Posted on Tuesday, November 09, 2004 - 11:47 pm:   

I know that Strange Horizons is considered by SFWA as a professional market, but someone's got to start somewhere right?

I'm not sure I understand the "but" in this sentence. If you're asking if Strange Horizons is a good place to be published, I for one think it is.

Good luck with your writing, Alan!
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - 03:54 am:   

Have you been to Ralan.com yet? He has one of the most complete and up to date market lists I've seen.

Strange Horizons is a wonderful market. Not easy to break into, though. (At least, I'm still trying! ;) )

Good luck!
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Thursday, November 11, 2004 - 11:12 pm:   

Sorry, taking this thread on a tangent, but I saw two things today that stuck in my head. The first was a PBS special on the hypothesis that the events leading to the Salem witch trials were in part the result of ergot poisoning (a fungus that grows on rye which, when ingested, creates hallucinations, convulsions, and other symptoms reported by the people who claimed they were suffering from witchcraft). The second was an article about a wealthy designer who started out, as a boy in a poor immigrant family from Italy, by taking the flowers discarded after funerals, making bouquets of them, and reselling them to people who came into the graveyard.

I don't know why these two things struck me particularly. But I thought, that's what happens in the writer's mind. These sorts of things get in, and then they stew around for a while, and then come out in completely new ways. These are what stories are made of.
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Thursday, November 11, 2004 - 11:20 pm:   

p.s. Go Alan! Yes, Strange Horizons is a difficult market to break into. I had a number of rejections before they took a story of mine. My advice: go ahead and submit, and if the story comes back go ahead and submit somewhere else. Keep going down your list. I remember reading the website of a writer with a number of short story publications who mentioned that she received an average of seven rejections for every acceptance. So I figured, if I didn't send a story out to at least seven magazines, I wasn't trying hard enough. Granted, I have put stories away again after receiving a rejection that made me realize the story wasn't ready yet, or quite right in its current form. They're in the "to be revised" pile.
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Sunday, November 28, 2004 - 10:00 pm:   

Received the following by email, and Lynne said I could post it here. So for anyone who has been keeping a Lovecraftian story in a drawer somewhere, or dreams of writing one:

"Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!"

Hear the primordial call and pick up your pens...Commit to paper the will of the ancient ones...

Simulacrum: The Magazine of Speculative Transformation is planning a Lovecraft issue! And we want you to submit! What do we want? Work inspired by Lovecraft -- not pastiche works. We crave your originality -- show us Lovecraft for the new millennium!

'The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.'

H. P. Lovecraft, "The Call of Cthulhu"

Yours

Lynne Jamneck & Doyle Eldon Wilmoth, Jr
Simulacrum Magazine
www.specficworld.com
http://www.specficworld.com/simulacrum.html
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Jason D. Wittman
Posted on Monday, November 29, 2004 - 11:05 pm:   

You know, Dora, I read some of Lovecraft's work a while back. And I can't help but feel constrained to point out that he used the word "shudderingly" on more than one occasion. :-)
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - 01:40 pm:   

No! You may not use the word "shudderingly," no matter what Lovecraft did. If Lovecraft jumped off a bridge over the yawning abyss in which blind Nyarlathotep dances to the sound of a maddening flute, would you jump too? All right, you may only use the word "shudderingly" if you are writing a self-conscious pastiche of Lovecraft, and under no other circumstance.

And even then I advise against it. Because, no matter what you write with the word "shudderingly" in it, everyone will assume it's a self-conscious pastiche of Lovecraft . . .

Shudderingly,
Dora
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Alan Yee
Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - 07:27 pm:   

An Outburst of Random Intellectual Curiosities

Dora, have you ever considered applying for a membership in SFWA? I believe that you have three stories that have been published in one of their qualifying markets: Strange Horizons is on the list, so "Sleeping with Bears" would qualify; "The Rose in Twelve Petals" in Realms of Fantasy, as well as "In the Forest of Forgetting."

However, I'm curious to see if Alchemy would qualify. After all, it has the 5-cent-per-word requirement. Or maybe the publisher is too small of a company. Do you happen to know the name of Alchemy's publishing group?

You actually have a respectable list of publications. Your other stories are (in my mind, but what do I know?) among the most notable and distinguished small press magazines (hint, hint, Polyphony and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet).

Also, several weeks ago, I noticed that on several websites, they mentioned the Polyphony 5 reading period, which is 11/1-12/15. Did you submit something this year? I know you did for P2 and P4, and yes, I know about Professor Berkowitz and "The Wings of Meister Wilhelm" (however, I haven't had the chance to obtain "Wilhelm" yet).

Thank you for allowing me to ramble on randomly. I appreciate it.

P.S. Praise the Lord! The SFWA qualifying market page just happened to be updated today, the same day I checked it!
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - 09:12 pm:   

Hi Alan! I'm an associate member (I think that's the right term), and you're right that I qualify for a full membership. I just haven't had the time to complete the paperwork yet, which is a lame excuse but a true one. As far as I know, Alchemy's distribution isn't wide enough for it to qualify. It doesn't have a publishing group; it's a small press magazine, and Steve Pasechnick of Edgewood Press does most of the work himself.

Thanks! I think I've gotten into some smashing magazines, and I consider myself very lucky. I also have a story coming out in Tim Pratt's new magazine Flytrap, which is excellent (based on the issues I've seen).

I did submit to Polyphony, though my story is quite short, actually under their preferred length, so Deborah and Jay may not be interested. (Or they could just not be interested in the story! :-)) Which of course is the way it works. But it would be great to have another Polyphony story published . . .

Please feel free to ramble. I feel as though I do so constantly.
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Sarah Miller
Posted on Sunday, December 05, 2004 - 02:52 pm:   

Hi Dora! This is Sarah, one of Thomas's Alphan friends from Worldcon. This message really has no purpose, since I have nothing extremely exciting to announce. I've not had time to send stories out in the past couple of months, between school and, well, more school. I have a lot of stories in the half-written stage, and I never have time to work on them. I did get my first personalized rejection letter back in October, though, which was rather exciting. :-)

(I have eight stanzas of a Poe parody left to do for English class and I'm procrastinating.)

Are you thinking about Boskone at all this year?

-Sarah
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Alan Yee
Posted on Sunday, December 05, 2004 - 08:04 pm:   

???ALPHAN???

As in the Alpha Young Writers Workshop? OOH, OOH!!! I'm awake!

Sarah,
I guess you're a teenager, then, but I'm a year under the minimum age for Alpha (the minimum is 14, I believe):-(

Man, I don't feel like a normal 13-year-old! What 13-year-old hangs with adult writers from all over the Web (and the world, for that matter) and talks about random topics about writing.

I'm not sure if Alpha is possible for me; Seattle/Tacoma suburbs are probably very different from Pittsburgh (so far, yet so desirable!!!).

I am finished, I guess.

Yawn. Must go to school tomorrow. HOW I LONG FOR CHRISTMAS VACATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Em Tersoff
Posted on Monday, December 06, 2004 - 03:28 pm:   

Eh, not so weird. I mean, it's not really weirder than an almost-seventeen-year-old hanging out with adult writers on the web. Then again, I have lots of teen writer friends, too, so it works.

My friends and I talk about stuff like pov, and conflict, and plot holes. This is what we do. For fun. All the other kids at school think I'm weird. Go figure.

(Alpha rocks. Just think, if you're too young now that gives you lots of time to work on your parents.)

-Em (of Em-and-Sarah-and-Piggy from Worldcon)
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Monday, December 06, 2004 - 06:09 pm:   

I wish I'd known more kids like you guys when I was in school. (I was the kid who read the dictionary while waiting for the teacher to show up.)
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Sarah Miller
Posted on Monday, December 06, 2004 - 07:29 pm:   

"Sarah,
I guess you're a teenager, then, but I'm a year under the minimum age for Alpha (the minimum is 14, I believe):-("

Yes, I'm sixteen (almost seventeen.) I went to Alpha last year and I'm actually coming back this year as a Beta, or teaching assistant -- assuming I get around to revising & sending my submission story!
I would suggest emailing Diane Turnshek and asking her about going a year early if you want to go this year. They probably won't mind an exception or two if they think you're really ready.

"Man, I don't feel like a normal 13-year-old! What 13-year-old hangs with adult writers from all over the Web (and the world, for that matter) and talks about random topics about writing."

I know; isn't the Web wonderful?

"I'm not sure if Alpha is possible for me; Seattle/Tacoma suburbs are probably very different from Pittsburgh (so far, yet so desirable!!!)."

We actually spent very little time *in* Pittsburgh; I flew in to Pittsburgh, and Confluence is in Pittsburgh, but Alpha is actually at the UPitt Greensburg campus, which is at least a half an hour away from Pittsburgh. It's very green, very peaceful, and there's a graveyard right across the street with a wonderful view of the sunset (Em and Thomas and I ended up spending a lot of time there.)

Even if you're not interested in going this year, you should definitely go at some point. The critiques and the classes are helpful, but it's also such a buzz to be around other genre writers in such an intense setting. It's...it's indescribable. Definitely tops up there as the best 12 days of my life thus far (and I should add, it's beating out a week in Bermuda with a bunch of cool teenagers, and 10 days in England with a bunch of cool artsy teenagers.)

Em:"My friends and I talk about stuff like pov, and conflict, and plot holes. This is what we do. For fun. All the other kids at school think I'm weird. Go figure."

How odd of them.

I remember the moment when I realized I needed more writer friends. In eighth grade, I walked up to a girl who was, at that point, my best friend, handed her a printout of the first part of my novel (which I think was between 50 and 100 pages right then) and said, "Here. Read this and then tell me what you think of it." She gave me an odd look and walked off, which in retrospect I really should have expected. It took some determined wheedling on my part to make her read freaking Harry Potter -- forget Tolkien, Heinlein and Gaiman.

Since then, of course, I've realized that that novel is actually in need of some major reconstructive surgery before it is fit to be shown to ANYONE. So I don't go around doing that anymore :-)

-Sarah
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Thursday, December 09, 2004 - 01:10 pm:   

Hi Sarah and Em (and Piggy)!

It's great to hear from you. Sarah, how did your Poe parody go? Em, you're doing college applications, right? I hope they're going well. (So sorry, I owe you an email! Things have been really, really crazy.)

I only know Alpha from students who've been there, but it sounds wonderful. Thomas Seay was in my Clarion class (he's also a double Odyssey/Clarion grad), and he knows a lot about what teenagers are looking for in terms of their writing--he actually went to Odyssey and Clarion as a teenager. I always recommend writing workshops. I think they affected my writing profoundly--and, I have to add, my level of confidence in my writing. It was great to have professional writers tell me that I really could do this!

So good luck, Alan! My mother was fairly protective, and I don't think she would have let me go to a residential writing program when I was fourteen. But she might have at sixteen. So sometimes a few years makes a difference. (Of course, my family's straight out of the nineteenth century! I could give you a long list of all the things I wasn't allowed to do . . .)
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Em Tersoff
Posted on Thursday, December 09, 2004 - 04:46 pm:   

:-) College apps are crazy. I still have two more to do, but they're both common app so I just need to figure out supplements and I think I'll be okay. I find out if I got into Georgetown in a week or two, but it's sort of not exciting now that I'm pretty sure I don't actually want to go there, and I've already gotten into what's probably my first choice....

Alpha is wonderful. Thomas is wonderful.

I first went when I was sixteen. I think my mom was glad I was finally really going somewhere on my own. Going also made me a lot more confident in general, about which she is also happy.

I realized I said I was almost seventeen. I meant eighteen. I have to keep reminding myself I'm not eighteen yet (yet! yet! *jumps up and down*) and I think I overcompensated.

I don't want to write about Hamlet. I enjoyed the play, really I did, I just don't want to write an essay right now. I want to sleep, and then I want to play outside. (I refuse to believe it's really December. I want May.) -Em
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Sarah Miller
Posted on Friday, December 10, 2004 - 07:00 pm:   

"Sarah, how did your Poe parody go?"

It went very well; my English teacher liked it a lot. (Too much, I think -- she made me teach English class today because she didn't feel like it.)

"I always recommend writing workshops. I think they affected my writing profoundly--and, I have to add, my level of confidence in my writing. It was great to have professional writers tell me that I really could do this!"

Absolutely. One of my most flattering Worldcon memories was James Patrick Kelly introducing Em and me to people at parties as "the next generation of fantasy writers. You know, the ones we're always saying don't exist."

"Alpha is wonderful. Thomas is wonderful."

They are both quite marvelous. Dora, are you still thinking about coming down as a guest lecturer in a couple of years?

-Sarah
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Sunday, December 12, 2004 - 10:48 pm:   

Em: Congratulations! Honestly, my college years were the most intellectually satisfying of my life, until graduate school. Somehow, we have a cultural idea that college is about parties. But I found college parties ultimately boring. The classes, on the other hand, were fabulous.

Absolutely. One of my most flattering Worldcon memories was James Patrick Kelly introducing Em and me to people at parties as "the next generation of fantasy writers. You know, the ones we're always saying don't exist."

And if you hear it from Jim Kelly, you know it's true! He's one of the sharpest critics I know, and one of the best teachers.

I'd love to come to Alpha at some point, in any capacity!
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Em Tersoff
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2004 - 12:19 pm:   

"I'd love to come to Alpha at some point, in any capacity!"

Sarah keeps threatening to bring me in her suitcase. If she ever gives up on that, you're welcome to my spot. ;)

My English teacher from last year read over part of a story for me the other day, and afterwards we were talking about reading and writing and my visit to Bard, and at one point she just looked at me and smiled and said, "You're going to love college." Actually, I first fell in love with Bard because it reminded me of alpha, except longer and with more people and it wasn't just writers.

"And if you hear it from Jim Kelly, you know it's true! He's one of the sharpest critics I know, and one of the best teachers."

This is actually one thing I found myself wondering about after WorldCon. I don't know so much about the other alphans except for when we were all with Diane, but Sarah and I were certainly introduced to a lot of people who had never read a word we'd written and yet who introduced us as writers, and even good writers, or at least writers with plenty of potential. Is that normal, for cons? It's just that I am silly, and a worrier, so of course I got home and started thinking, "But what happens when they read one of my stories and decide that I'm a horrible writer?" Not that any of you would. But you might. So did you just take Diane's word for it, or give us the benefit of the doubt, or did we give off some sort of writerly vibes...? -Em
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2004 - 10:51 pm:   

Wouldn't it be nice if you gave off a writerly vibe? :-)

It's an Alpha vibe, really. People mention you as writers with potential because they know you've already been through a workshop with a good reputation. It's the same with the other good workshops. So, they expect you to be a good writer, until you prove them wrong (not that you would!).

I, on the other hand, was first introduced to Jim while I was applying to Clarion. He looked at me and said, in his Clarion-instructor's voice, "So, have you published anything?" :-)

General advice: If you ever get the chance to have Jim Kelly critique your writing, jump at it!
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Jason D. Wittman
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2004 - 11:08 pm:   

Yes, Jim Kelly gave Clarion 2001 our motto: "Does anyone here have any talent?"
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Deborah Roggie
Posted on Friday, December 17, 2004 - 08:05 am:   

Jim was one of my teachers at Viable Paradise in 2002. His critiques were insightful and encouraging, and he was remarkably generous with his time. After going over my first story, he asked if I'd brought any others. He critiqued two additional stories for me within a day.
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Em Tersoff
Posted on Saturday, December 18, 2004 - 01:32 pm:   

"Wouldn't it be nice if you gave off a writerly vibe?"

Yes, it would. But alas, I can't have everything.

"It's an Alpha vibe, really. People mention you as writers with potential because they know you've already been through a workshop with a good reputation. It's the same with the other good workshops. So, they expect you to be a good writer, until you prove them wrong (not that you would!)."

Cool. I guess I hadn't realized that Alpha was quite that big a deal. I mean, it was a big deal from my perspective, but I hadn't realized that, you know, grown-up-type people would see it the same way. (Grown-ups can be very strange, sometimes. I plan to be a very old kid.) That's actually really good to know, then, that having been to Alpha truly is a mark of distinction. I feel all cool now. :-)

"General advice: If you ever get the chance to have Jim Kelly critique your writing, jump at it!"

Heh. I think only if I'm feeling particularly brave and/or crazy. -Em
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Luke
Posted on Monday, December 20, 2004 - 05:06 pm:   

Hey, I want to get published, someplace not to serious, not to casual, if I get payed whatever, but its more for just getting exposed on whatever scale. Fantasy or no, I was wondering if you knew of a good place to do that, be it for a contest, anthology, or just on a website.
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Monday, December 20, 2004 - 06:54 pm:   

Have you checked out Ralan's Webstravaganza? He has a great market list.
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Luke
Posted on Saturday, December 25, 2004 - 08:14 pm:   

Thanks for the advice
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Sunday, December 26, 2004 - 09:02 am:   

You're welcome. I started with the 4-the-luv/pays by copy section, and then got bolder with practice.
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Sunday, December 26, 2004 - 03:57 pm:   

Luke:

I would start by getting to know the various market lists. Ralan is good, as is Speculations (Ralan is free, and Speculations is inexpensive):

www.ralan.com

www.speculations.com

The most important thing is to know the market for SFF, to know what the best magazines are, to get a sense for who's doing good anthologies, that sort of thing. I think you get that just by talking to people over the course of a couple of months. For example, both Alan and I have experience with the Science Fiction Writers of Earth contest, which I think is very good:

http://home.flash.net/~sfwoe/

Also, it's good to keep in mind that getting that first story published is HARD. At almost any level, you're competing with writers who have years and years of experience. So be patient with yourself and work as hard as you can on your writing. I read a note by Jane Yolen recently in which she wrote that a story of hers was accepted by an editor, and the next one she sent that editor was rejected. Then the third one was accepted. I mean, one of Jane Yolen's stories was rejected! She's not just a pro, she's a super-pro.

I like to remind myself of that when a story isn't going well, or when (as now) I'm struggling just to find the time and energy to write, or when I've just received a "Well, it was well written. I mean, there was nothing wrong with it. But I just didn't like your story." Or a "I don't know, I just found the ending predictable." Both of which I've received!

So I think my advice to any aspiring writer looking for that first publication is, practice patience, because in this field you're going to need it! And work on your writing. And go to workshops if you can. (Hey, that sounds surprisingly like the advice I give myself! :-) Although I don't go to workshops anymore, I still workshop most of my stories.)
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Alan Yee
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2005 - 07:12 pm:   

Hi Dora and all the other BB readers/writers/browsers!

I'm finally beginning to have a creative burst flowing through my head! I now have two novels-in-progress; one is the slowly-expanding SF story/novelette and the other is a completely new Dark Fantasy/Supernatural Horror novel about vampires and other supernatural creatures. In between activities, school, and homework, I've been writing scenes, making character sketches, plot outlines, etc. I've also started to write a dark, adventure-fantasy story, which has only progressed to about ten paragraphs so far (hey, I'm just waiting for right idea to pop into my head).

I now subscribe to F&SF, which is very fast with shipping the monthly issues as well as submissions (the longest response time recorded out of 350+ stories was 75 days, according to the BlackHoles database).

To help evaluate my own writing, I've read published stories and compared them to my own writing. I ask myself, "What positive aspects are unique in this story that mine doesn't have?" or "How were certain elements of the story better than those in mine?" Questions like that. This doesn't mean that I imitate and/or cliche styles and ideas; it just means that I try to see what makes a story publishable.
Then again, good stories come easily to some, but come to others with great difficulty. But as I usually say, you learn to write by writing.

My dreams are what keeps me going; sometimes they are random scene flashes, visions that give me ideas, but most importantly there are my hopes at being an award-winning novelist/writer/poet/anything-else-I-want-to-be in this terrifying world.

If I'm this confident at 13, think about what I might have published by the time I'm out of college!

Thanks for my letting me speculate everything in my head!

Alan

P.S. My own Geo/Sci teacher has noted that I DO tend to ramble on in my presentations...
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - 07:14 pm:   

Hi Alan!

To help evaluate my own writing, I've read published stories and compared them to my own writing.

I do this all the time. Who have you read lately that you've used as a "writing manual" in that way? All I've been reading for the last two weeks is Agatha Christie, because it's the only thing I can read that takes almost no energy or concentration, neither of which I've had. But I've read Isabel Allende and Joyce Carol Oates that way recently.

. . . in this terrifying world.

It is sometimes, isn't it? I mean that seriously.
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Jason D. Wittman
Posted on Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - 09:07 pm:   

One piece of advice I would give to a new writer, Alan, is that you should be prepared for a very lengthy learning process. I've been writing for...well, a while, and I still have yet to sell consistently. I recently received two rejections from Eric Heideman at Tales of the Unanticipated (submitting to him is well worth it, even if you get rejected, because he always gives a detailed and comprehensive critique), and one recommendation he made for both stories was that I shave off about 1,000 words. Well, I sat down with each of those stories and hacked at them with my editor's pen, and when I reread them, I had to concede that they were better for it. (One of them, now clocking in at 8,400 words, had orginally weighed in at 17,000 in the original rough draft! I even used Stephen King's formula: 2nd draft = 1st draft - 10%, but even that wasn't enough.) You wish you could see these things for yourself, but, alas.

Or maybe this is just me. I do have a very slow working mind. :-\
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 08:41 am:   

I, on the other hand, often have to add stuff to my first draft. No, that's not quite right. I handwrite the very first draft, and I take out and rearrange as I type the second. So by the time I write the third draft, I often have to add back in, because I've pared and pared, and sometimes pared out crucial information.
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Jason D. Wittman
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 02:56 pm:   

For the record, I handwrite the first draft too. :-)
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Sarah Miller
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 05:13 pm:   

I've started handwriting the first drafts of things, partly because so many people have recommended it and partly because I've suddenly become phobic about my computer crashing.

I wrote one really good story that way -- the best story I've written thus far -- and then I haven't been able to write anything since. I think part of it may be that I have horrible handwriting, and my brain starts twitching whenever I think about trying to actually decipher my scrawling.
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Jason D. Wittman
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 07:50 pm:   

Well, different writers have different methods. One reason I handwrite is that I have good penmanship--beautiful, according to many women who've seen it (it's a wonder I'm still single). Another is that ideas flow better for me from a pen than from a keyboard. But that's not the case with every writer. Each writer has to find their own comfort zone. If yours is not with a pen, that's perfectly all right. :-)
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Latreaumont
Posted on Saturday, February 05, 2005 - 09:15 pm:   

I tend to favor dipping my quill into the fresh blood of a still-quivering guinea pig and then make my rough draft right on the shaved side of a recently murdered piglet. Cut and repeat.
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Thursday, February 17, 2005 - 03:18 pm:   

You do know that, eventually, you will be judged by Amarta the Guinea Pig Goddess and Hamurabi the Pig God, right? (What did you guys think happened after--you know? I expect to appear before Mumbi the Spider Goddess myself, for various crimes against spiderhood.)
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Jason D. Wittman
Posted on Thursday, February 17, 2005 - 05:23 pm:   

And don't forget Weyerhauser, goddess of trees. ;-)
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Alan Yee
Posted on Tuesday, February 22, 2005 - 08:36 pm:   

You guys seem to be extremely bored...
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Alan Yee
Posted on Tuesday, February 22, 2005 - 08:47 pm:   

So sorry, I forgot to say hi... I have this entire week off school, so I decided I could revisit the discussion area. I know I should be writing, which has been very hard to approach during the last few months, but I thought I'd better see what was going with the Gossling clan. How are Kendrick and Ophelia doing? Wait a second, I think her first birthday was yesterday, if I'm not mistaken (the website says she was born 21 Feb 2004).

Greetings to the entire SF crowd out there!

Alan
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Tuesday, February 22, 2005 - 08:57 pm:   

Hi Alan!

The Gossling clan is fine, though going a little crazy at the moment (see my new "Why my life is a mess" thread). Ophelia's birthday was yesterday, and although we're having a party for her a bit later (three one-year-olds in the same room! chaos!), we had some cake. Did you know that the proper thing to do with cake is to throw it on the floor? No, sorry, first you squish it in your hand, then throw it on the floor. Take that, cake! Can you tell that I'm writing on a serious lack of sleep?

I'm going to update my journal soon--I have all sorts of brilliant (well, not that brilliant) observations about life, the universe, and child care. As soon as I can find the time to put it on my website . . . And I have stories I want to annouce, and a collection that is probably going to come out this fall . . . I'm going to write it all, I am, maybe tomorrow . . .

There needs to be a sleepy emoticon.
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Alan Yee
Posted on Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 09:19 am:   

"Can you tell that I'm writing on a serious lack of sleep?"

Um, yes, I can tell... At least we're all relieved that it won't last forever (more or less)! Zombie-eyed mode is not very well-tolerated, so PLEASE get as much sleep as humanly possible, for everybody's sake (and yours).
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Sarah Miller
Posted on Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 02:41 pm:   

I've just recovered from Zombie-eyed mode (due to the general excitement of Boskone PLUS sharing a room with Em and Thomas, which essentially meant getting no sleep for three days.)

Luckily, my school's also in the middle of February break right now so I've been able to sleep.

Sent out five stories between yesterday and today, and now I need to actually go write so I have more things to send out. An assignment for screenwriting class has sort of swallowed my life, writing-wise.

I picked up a copy of Alchemy -- 2, I think? -- while I was at Boskone, and I really, really liked Miss Emily Gray. Just thought you should know :-)
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Darja Malcolm-Clarke
Posted on Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 02:46 pm:   

Hi, Dora,
Thanks for putting up this forumóvery helpful! Iíve enjoyed reading your work in Alchemy; and actually, I proofed the second volume for Steve, so I know ďMiss Emily GrayĒ rather well. :-)

I have a weirdly specific question for you. I am also a grad student in literature, in my last year of coursework. I donít know how far along in the process you are, but I get the feeling youíre more at the dissertation stage? Maybe youíre done? Anyway, one of the greatest challenges Iíve encountered in being a new writer in grad school is finding actual time to writeónot motivation, not ideas, but timeówhether itís because of readings or teaching or whatever. I was wondering if you found had the same obstacle, and whether once you finished coursework and were into exams and dissertation, you had more time to structure your own time to write?

Are you planning to go the professor route? Thatís what Iím thinking, though as writing has become very important to me, I wonder if I should consider another direction that will allow for more time dedicated to writing. Or maybe itís just last-year exhaustion talking. :-)

Thanks for whatever comments you might have!

Darja
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Thursday, March 17, 2005 - 09:51 pm:   

Hurray, Sarah! I mean for the five stories. You must have had lots of fun with Em and Thomas! I wish I could have been at Boskone, but February was, well, it just was. And I'm glad you liked "Miss Emily." I've written a second Miss Emily story, and hope to write a third in the next few months. She's one of my favorite characters.

Darja, I'm so sorry it's taken me this long to respond! Steve mentioned that you were doing the proofs for him. :-)

Congratulations on making it to your last year of coursework! I am in the dissertation phase, but it's been stretched out by the time I've taken off to have The Child With the Stomach Virus (see the "My Life is a Mess" thread). I've taken off about a year and a half, altogether, and although I'm working now, it's more slowly than before.

But writing and working on a PhD. That is a hard combination. The thing about a PhD, which I'm sure you've experienced, is that there is no end to the work. There is no point at which you go, all right, I'm done, I know everything I need to know about Victorian literature. I don't need to read anything else. You can always do more. It's hard during coursework because you have deadlines: presentations and papers. It's hard during the orals period because you're studying for orals. And I'm not sure that it's much easier during the dissertation phase. You do have more freedom to structure your time, although that depends on whether you're teaching. (I taught every semester until I was, um, expecting Ophelia, which sounds like the title of a teen self-help book. And then I just slept for months and months.) I find teaching particularly deadline-intensive. But it depends on your program: in some programs you TA rather than teach. In my program, we teach stand-alone classes after one TA year.

All that to say, I always found writing a scramble, trying to finish things late at night. The summers were better, since I chose not to work so that I could go to workshops and write. Ah, poverty . . .

I don't know what I'm planning to do, exactly. I'm hoping that I can work at a smaller college where I can teach a combination of creative writing and literature, but that's sort of the dream job. I'm not sure how possible it will be. So far, my advisors and the director of graduate studies have been incredibly helpful and supportive, and they seem to think that's a possible track for me. We'll see . . .

But yes, I definitely found (do find) it hard.

What are you studying? And best of luck with that last-year exhaustion. It really does help when you're setting your own deadlines, although the dissertation phase can also feel like an enormous void that you're trying to fill . . .

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