Last July, Justine and I taught at the Alpha Workshop for Young Writers, a science fiction, fantasy, and horror writing camp for people 14-19. It was tons of fun (pic here) and we learned a lot. So when Alpha asked me if I would lend space for their fund-raising and young-writer-recruiting blog tour, I said yes.
So here’s a post by Sarah Brand, an Alpha alum, talking about how workshops and the communities they form help us all to become better writers.
In the summer of 2006, I attended the Alpha SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers for the first time. As I boarded the plane to Pittsburgh, easily the farthest I had ever traveled on my own at that point, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Being a somewhat anxious, awkward girl, I didn’t know whether I would make friends. But maybe I would learn more about writing, or how to get published. Maybe Tamora Pierce, who teaches at Alpha every year, would look at my novel. (I had brought a printout of all 300 pages just in case.)
I was right about some things, and wrong about others. I did learn a lot about the craft and business of writing, enough to recognize that my novel still needed a lot of work. (Tammy didn’t look at it, which was definitely for the best.) And though I was anxious and awkward, and though minor disasters kept happening to me—getting stung by mysterious bugs, making my parents worry by forgetting to call home, and the like—I felt completely at home with the workshop’s staff and the other students. Something magical was happening.
After ten days, the workshop ended, and I went home. But something was different, something that had never happened to me after any summer camp before: I kept in touch with my fellow Alphans, regularly, via LiveJournal and email. We commiserated about school and traded drafts of stories for critique. Even months after the workshop, I felt as close to some Alphans as I did to other friends I had known all my life. Maybe geography had cruelly scattered us from California to New Zealand and everywhere in between, but we were united by our love of making stories happen, and bringing strange new worlds to life.
In 2009, after I had returned to Alpha twice more—once as a second-year student and once as a staff member—fellow Alpha graduates Rachel Sobel and Rebecca McNulty founded the alpha-crits community, which soon became the way many Alphans stayed in touch. In addition to trading critiques, we celebrate each other’s writing accomplishments and publishing successes. For four particularly memorable months, the moderators ran the “700 words a day or shame!” thread, which resulted in Alphans collectively writing 875,799 words in that time. Also, every year as the deadline for the Dell Magazines Award approaches, eligible Alphans frantically write and revise stories for the contest, and everyone pitches in to give critiques with an extra fast turnaround time. (A couple of months later, we all join in the nail-biting until the finalists are announced.)
Importantly, the members of alpha-crits encourage each other to write things and send them out, continuing the time-honored Alphan tradition of treating rejections from agents and editors as a badge of honor. (Rejections, we have all learned, mean that you are writing things and sending them out, and that is always a step forward, even if it doesn’t feel like it.)
Even if I had never attended Alpha, I think I would still be writing. The entire course of the last eight years of my life would be different, sure, but in the end, telling stories is part of who I am. But being part of a community of such fabulous writers—not only brilliant and talented, but also uniformly encouraging and kind—has made the journey much easier, and a lot more fun.
And lest you might think I’m the only one who feels this way, I reached out to other Alphans to get their thoughts. Alpha graduate Marina Goggin had this to say: “One thing I hear a lot that I would never expect out of a two-week workshop is that Alpha changes lives. This is absolutely true… Being part of Alpha makes you a part of the writing world—even if you haven’t been published yet, someone you critiqued probably has been. Someone you know just got an agent, or a job at a publishing company. While I’m working to improve my writing, I’m encouraged by the fact that other Alphans have already been through the same process and are there to help me through it in turn.”
“I have a whole community of writer friends who I can go to for advice or encouragement should I ever need it,” added Alphan Mallory Trevino.
If you are between the ages of 14 and 19 and love writing science fiction, fantasy, or horror, you should apply to Alpha! This year’s workshop will be held July 25-August 3 in Pittsburgh, PA, and applications are due March 2. Everyone else: if you like the sound of Alpha and want to help the workshop, please consider donating to our scholarship fund, which helps students who couldn’t afford to attend Alpha otherwise. All donors receive a flash fiction anthology, written and illustrated by Alpha graduates, as a thank-you gift.
Sarah Brand attended Alpha in 2006 and 2007. She writes young adult science fiction and fantasy, and her fiction is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.
Just wrote a post for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), the organization that compels tens of thousands of people to write tens of thousands of words every November.
For those non-November months, NaNo has a series about rewriting your first draft, called “What Now?” And given that my next novel is about a young writer who is rewriting her novel, it seemed sensible for me to contribute.
This might be useful for those of you who are rewriting, and for the rest of you, I briefly discuss the themes of my new novel, Afterworlds.
Click here to read it.
Here’s the pull quote in fancy letterings:
For the last couple of years, the USC School of Cinematic Arts World Building Media Lab has been working on a project based on my Leviathan series, in partnership with Intel. I visited the lab last July, and took lots of cool pictures, but have been waiting for them to reveal their work publicly before jumping in. They have, and I am.
What the lab is doing is a combination of high technology and storytelling, or what some of them call “extreme Leviathan fan fiction.” They’ve created a 3-d virtual model of the airship, both inside and out, backstories for all the crew members, and a host of ancillary material, like diaries and historical timelines (more detailed than any in the novels).
This expanded world can be experienced in a lot of ways. As print:
Or by walking around in the 3-D models of the airship using VR helmets and interact with the characters, which is what I’m doing here:
Or in a large group of people, interacting in 3-D with the story-stuff using tablet tech, like here at CES:
Obviously, this is pretty cool. (Note: The whale in that footage can only be seen through a phone or tablet, so many of the people there couldn’t see it. But a lot could, as you can hear from the cheers.) And it’s pretty overwhelming to walk into the labs at SCA and see all these smart people working in my world. It’s not unlike encountering fan-fiction archives based on my work, except this one has a multi-million-dollar budget for multimedia. In terms of material detail, this kind of world expansion takes Leviathan well past where Keith and I did.
And really, this is “future of entertainment” that people blather about. Not any specific technology, like tablet-3D or VR helmets, but this cooperative, expansive world-building. Whether it’s created by corporations who command massive resources and a stage at CES or a few thousand fan-ficcers typing quietly in the night, the thing that’s cool is the same: Someone gets inspired by my text (and Keith’s illustrations, of course) and deciding that this world MUST GET BIGGER, and, by jove, they’re the person to do it.
Of course, this is also the past of entertainment, when nobody “owned” stories, and everyone added to whatever was being told around the campfire. But new technologies do expand the ways we can make stories bigger, both in the objects we can create (3-D models!) and the ways we share them (Deviant Art!). So yeah, it’s not just the campfire anymore. It’s more like a campfire that’s linked to all the other campfire, and we can control the flames.
By the way, I love SCA’s redesign for the Leviathan itself, even though it’s not the bowhead whale of Keith’s (still canonical!) illustrations:
Anyway, I have more of this stuff to share with you (Click here for more from their press kit), but I have the rewrites for Afterworlds due on Monday, so I really should stop procrastiblogging and end here.
Hope you’re having a lovely new year.
(Bonus Info: That Uglies news that I’ve been promising you almost fell through, but then it didn’t. And it will be released for public consumption sooner or later.)
I am working very hard on the rewrites for my next novel, Afterworlds, and as such have not blogged. Sorry.
In lieu of actual content, I give you a cat who looks like Count Volger:
Thank you, Twitter’s @countassmaster for this image.
I challenge you all to find cats who look like the other characters in Leviathan.
In related news, I suck at Photoshop:
Dalek Week 2013, the Deviant Art celebration of all things Deryn and Alek, is about halfway over (depend ending on one’s timezone), and there are some lovely pieces up.
This work by Thisoneofmarvels is for the “Scotland” theme, and uses the Scottish and Austrian flags as motifs:
Very beautiful! I love how serious Deryn is.
There are many more to see, so head over to the Dalek Week 2013 folder to feast your eyes and leave your praise.
It’s almost time for the annual Deryn/Alek (Dalek) week on Deviant art!
Dalek Week goes from Dec 16 to Dec 22, and challenges you to upload one piece of art per day. Each day has a theme:
Click here to enjoy the spoils of Dalek Week. (I’ll be posting a few of the submitted pieces later this week.)
Just received the new Japanese cover for Leviathan, the paperback version!
(Actually, the previous edition was also a paperback, but a larger format. For my future bibliographers: the old one was 184mm x 106mm, and this new one is 148mm x 105mm.)
In any case, here’s the new Japanese cover!
I like how this cover is a bit darker, and steampunkier, than the old one. Alek looks a bit less young, and his goggles are better too. Also, it has a blurb from Hideaki Sena, novelist, microbiologist, and president of the SF&F Writers of Japan. Thanks for that!
For comparison, here’s the old one:
Can’t wait to see the rest of the series come out with this new look.
Click here to see my collected covers, for editions foreign and domestic.
News Flash: Uglies and Leviathan ebooks are on sale!
Both titles are $1.99 for all of December. ‘Snot bad.
(This applies to the USA only.)
And for Uglies on Kobo, click here. (Leviathan isn’t on sale on Kobo. Sorry!)
What the hell. I’m just going to throw in some laudatory quotes:
“Full of nonstop action, this steampunk adventure is sure to become a classic.”
—School Library Journal
“When a book pursues you into your dreams, you can’t ignore it.”
“Wouldn’t it be cool if the First World War had been fought with genetically engineered mutant animals, against steam-powered walking machines? And the answer is, Yes, it would.”
—The New York Times
“A superb piece of popular art.”
—New York Times
“This book, the first in a trilogy, asks engaging questions about the meaning of beauty, individuality, and betrayal. Highly recommended for SF fans or anyone who likes a good, thoughtful adventure.”
“With a beginning and ending that pack hefty punches, this introduction to a dystopic future promises an exciting series.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
This is pretty cool. It’s a table restoration by Fiona S. and her grandma, featuring monoplanes, the Emperor’s airyacht, and a kraken on the top.
Here’s a close up of the air yacht Stamboul:
But wait, there’s more!
The side panels feature a flechette bat . . .
a strafing hawk . . .
a message lizard . . .
and the ever-popular perspicacious loris!
Truly a magnificent piece. And it’s great to see everything in such vibrant colors. May you have many fine tea parties on this table, Fiona.
Just a wee headsup: There may be some Uglies news before the end of the year, or in early 2014. Look for it right here, or in the pages of your favorite industry rag.
UPDATE: Ebooks of both Uglies and Leviathan are on sale for all of December in the USA. Click here for details.
Please enjoy the Russian cover of Goliath. The book comes out in December in Russia!
And here are the others, for your referencing pleasure:
The lovely Leviathan:
And the possibly even more awesome Behemoth:
Things I like about this series of covers:
Book 1 has Deryn, Book 2 has Alek, and Book 3 has them both. Like the US paperbacks, but with Deryn first.
The clothes are great (especially Alek’s leather trousers). Painter can paint.
Love the Leviathan itself. True to the book, but it glows in a way that only this color medium can produce.
The person in front with the Big Object in the background is kind of a theme of the books. That is, the struggles of the characters are foregrounded, but the scale of background events (and creatures and machines) is always huge and within view. Keith was very careful that the illustrations always alternated between close-ups to pulled-out images, from faces to Big Stuff. It’s nice to see both scales represented here on all three covers.
Well done, Eksmo.
ALSO: If you’ve never read this book I wrote called Uglies before, you can do so now for free on PulseIt, but you have to join up to do so.