In my position as SFWA President, sometimes I have to confer with fictional characters.
I talked to some folk about this at the Nebulas, and I finally figured I need to just go ahead and start making it happen.
So starting May 30, every two weeks I’ll host a SFWA Chat Hour that will be broadcast live via Google Hangouts. Each session will feature 4-5 SFWA officials, staff, and volunteers, along with the occasional special guest. During it, we’ll talk about what SFWA is doing at the moment, efforts that will be appearing, recent accomplishments and/or problems, and the F&SF industry overall. You’ll be able to watch live or catch it later on the SFWA Youtube channel.
This first one will include SFWA Vice President M.C.A. Hogarth, our Operations Director Kate Baker, SFWA CFO Bud Sparhawk, and possibly a couple of others. We’ll talk about the Nebulas, the Bulletin, our calendar, and more.
We’ll also answer questions. Feel free to e-mail or message them to me or leave them here in the comments.
I have several maxims that I have developed over the course of my writing career. One of them is, “If Kris Rusch invites you into a project, you say yes.” Because Kris is one of the people who understands independent publishing and its possibilities, and she is a savvy, savvy marketer.
When Kris came and asked about including my book Creating an Online Presence in a Storybundle, I was thrilled and also a little panicked, because I knew it had to be updated before it went in there. Too much had happened on the Internet in the two and a half years since I’d first put it up. I was also flattered that she thought the book was worth including, because I value her opinion.
And the truth is, if you’re a writer, you do need to at least think about this stuff enough to make an informed decision. If you’re being traditionally published, your publisher will probably expect you to be helping out with the marketing in the form of social media or other Internet efforts. Every book launch, for example, seems to involve a slew of guest blog posts and similar promotions.
If you’re small press published, again the publisher will probably expect you to be helping out with the marketing and I would regard a lack of such expectations as a possible danger sign.
And if you’re going indie, there’s no way around it. You’re going to have to think about this stuff, and the more you do, the more it will pay off — IF you are writing good stuff and making that the focus, not the marketing.
The world is changing rapidly in many aspects; publishing is definitely part of that change. Writers must stay informed of that if they want to make a living at it. Look at this Storybundle. E-bundles are easy to do and even easier to download. Storybundle and Humblebundle have both been making big strides in this area. Kobo lets you bundle your books, I found out in talking to Mark Lefebvre from Kobo last weekend at the Nebulas.
Here’s what you get beside the brand new version of Creating an Online Presence:
The Rational Writer, Nuts and Bolts by Mindy Klasky
Weinberg on Writing – The Fieldstone Method by Gerald M. Weinberg
How to Make a Living With Your Writing by Joanna Penn
Heinlein’s Rules – Five Simple Business Rules For Writing by Dean Wesley Smith
How to Negotiate Anything – Freelancer’s Survivor Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Stages of a Fiction Writer by Dean Wesley Smith
Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel by Lawrence Block
Business For Breakfast Vol 2.: The Beginning Professional Publisher by Leah Cutter
The Writer’s Business Plan: A Plain English Guidebook by Tonya D. Price, MBA
Part of the success of such bundles is using online marketing like this very blog post. So please — help me out by spreading the word of this excellent bundle (which might make a great graduation gift for a new writer) and its contents.
Almost a decade ago I was part of a terrific workshop run by Walter John Williams and Connie Willis in the Taos Ski Valley. It was a talented group, and the two week session was a happy blur of lots of writing, lots of critiquing, and lots and lots of shop talk, plus assorted movies and a lot of wine.
One of the participants mentioned that he planned to start a literary fantasy online magazine. Since he happened to like the stuff I was workshopping, I figured that would be a surefire sale. So as soon as he opened up the magazine, I fired off a submission.
And he rejected it, because he didn’t feel it had the right flavor for his magazine. Continue reading →
Here’s what’s coming up in June and July, which is also the last round of classes for 2016. I am taking the rest of the year off from teaching (other than maybe a co-taught class or two) in order to focus on writing and SFWA and because I am traveling all over the place, which is awesome but exhausting. The newsletter will continue and is the best way to know about classes before they are publicly announced.
Writing Class Scholarships
Going forward, each class has one slot that is the Plunkett slot, which is reserved for someone who couldn’t otherwise pay for the class. To apply for a Plunkett, mail me at catrambo AT gmail.com with the subject line Plunkett Application (class name/date). In the email, provide a brief statement regarding you want to take the class. Plunkett eligibility is self-determined and covers the cost of the class in full; it is based on whether or not you can afford to take the class otherwise. If you can’t but feel it would be helpful to you, I encourage you to apply. The name of the recipient remains private. I particularly welcome QUILTBAG and PoC participants. The Plunkett scholarships are named for Edward Plunkett, who wrote as Lord Dunsany.
Why am I calling them the Plunkett scholarships? Because it amuses me, and because that’s the name I gave the little press I’m using to self-publish some story collections. There’s some interesting class-based tensions coiled inside the Plunkett/Dunsany name and I figured that made it a good name for a scholarship whose criteria are economic.
Why am I doing it? Recently Keffy R.M. Kehrli paid for one of my classes for a student and it got me to thinking about it. F&SF has a rich tradition of paying it forward, and while I’m trying to do some of that with the SFWA Presidency, this is another way to help ensure a rich range of new voices in the field. I want these folks around to write wonderful fiction for me to read. So yep, this is a purely selfish move on my part.
New Class on Linguistics with Juliette Wade
I’m excited to be co-teaching a class on Linguistics for Writers with Juliette Wade on July 10th. While linguistics and worldbuilding is something workshops often explore, this one will also cover linguistics at the sentence and word choice level. If you’re curious about my co-teacher, you can find her website here. An on-demand version of the class is also in the works.
Writing F&SF Stories Workshop (six sessions)
Wednesdays 5-7 PM June 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, July 6
Advanced Workshop (six sessions)
(prerequisite: Writing F&SF Stories workshop)
Tuesdays 5-7 PM May 31, June 7, 14, 21, 28, July 5
June Single Session Classes, 9:30-11:30 AM
June 4 (Sat) Writing Your Way Into Your Novel
June 5 (Sun) Moving from Idea to Finished Draft
June 11 (Sat) Creating an Online Presence for Writers
June 12 (Sun) First Pages with Caren Gussoff
June 18 (Sat) Flash Fiction Workshop
June 19 (Sat) Literary Techniques for Genre Writers Part I
June 25 (Sat) Character Building Workshop
June 26 (Sat) Literary Techniques for Genre Writers Part II (prerequisite, Lit Tech I)
July Single Session Classes, 9:30-11:30 AM
July 9 (Sat) Moving from Idea to Finished Draft
July 10 (Sun) Linguistics for Genre Writers (with Juliette Wade)
July 16 (Sat) Writing Your Way Into Your Novel
July 17 (Sun) Creating an Online Presence for Writers
July 23 (Sat) Description and Delivering Information
July 24 (Sun) Rewriting and Revising
July 30 (Sat) Literary Techniques for Genre Writers Part I
July 31 (Sun) Character Building Workshop
How to Register
To register for a class, mail me with the name of the class, the date, and whether you prefer to pay via Paypal or some other means. If you are a new student signing up for multiple classes, you may apply the former student discount to every class after the first one.
Most of the last couple of months has been focused on one of several things: finishing the beta draft of Hearts of Tabat, finishing up the second edition of Creating an Online Presence for Writers, sorting through details for the release of Altered America: Steampunk Stories, or SFWA’s Nebulas Conference, which took place midmonth in Chicago, and which I blogged about last week.
So here’s some highlights of my summer schedulee.
Tomorrow I’ll post the list of classes for June and July, which includes a round of the Writing F&SF Stories workshop (Wednesday evenings) as well as the Advanced Workshop (Tuesday evenings). I’m not 100% sure, but I think that’s the last round of classes for 2016, aside from a workshop I am doing for Clarion West this fall and maybe a co-taught one every once in a while. I’ve got a lot of travel coming up in the latter half of the year and I’d like to be able to focus on writing and SFWA as well. Whether or not I decide to run for office again next year depends in part on how much I can manage to get done this year.
In answer to several people asking about the difference between the two multi-session workshops — I created the Advanced one for people who took the first F&SF one and wanted more. If you haven’t taken the first, you should do that rather than the Advanced Workshop, regardless of skill level, because it lays out my theories of storytelling in a coherent way while the second ranges wildly all over the place.
June 10 is the release of Altered America, which is a compilation of all my steampunk stories. Patreon supporters at the $5 level and above will get a free electronic copy ten days in advance. This has ten stories in it altogether, a number of which were published on Patreon. I hope to do a similar mini-collection of near-future SF by the end of the year, which will also go to Patreon supporters beforehand.
Bud Sparhawk and I wrote a novelette together, “Haunted,” that should appear in July’s Abyss and Apex. It’s space fantasy. I think. We had a lot of fun with it,but it’s definitely not a comedy.
July 5th will feature the release of both the class and book version of Moving from Idea to Draft. You’ll see several other classes appearing in the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, including classes from Rachel Swirsky, Juliette Wade, and a couple of other folks.
Summer conventions include the Locus Awards weekend, Westercon, GenCon, Worldcon, and Dragoncon. After that I am off to Beijing for the Chinese Nebulas and will spend several weeks in China. Following that, Griffcon in Indiana, the Surrey Writers Conference, Orycon, and maybe WFC. (I’m not sure about that last. It’s been a travel-heavy year, and WFC isn’t my favorite convention. It always feels very anxious and unwelcoming, no matter what city I experience it in.)
Writing wise, I am completing the currently half-drafted YA novel based on “Circus in the Bloodwarm Rain,” which is currently laboring under the working titleConflagration and starting to flesh out the outline for the next Tabat book, Exiles of Tabat, which is the third of the quartet.
As always, plenty of stories are flowing and currently floating around in forms ranging from inchoate to semi-final draft. Right now I’m completing the Wizards of West Seattle story and realizing the concept’s going to end up becoming an ongoing series that probably will go out once a month or so on Patreon. I’m also thinking about a RPG supplement based on the copious notes I’ve been accumulating.
In SFWA areas, I’m focusing on a new committee that I’ll be working with, the Membership Retention Committee, whose job will be to look at the new member experience for SFWA members as well as how to keep the organization useful for members. (If you’re interested in volunteering with that, feel free to drop me a line.) Other efforts include a) working with SFWA fundraising, b) a small musical endeavor that I just prodded someone about and which involves Tom Lehrer (yes, that Tom Lehrer), and c) helping out where I can with some of M.C.A. Hogarth’s amazing efforts, such as this mysterious thing here lurking under a tarp that I am not at liberty to discuss. *mouths the words “SFWA University” then is dragged away by the SFWA honey badgers while shouting something about a guidebook*
Three other important SFWA things:
I’ll be watching the results of our decision to admit game writers with keen interest. I can tell you that the initial set is criteria is being voted on right now and I expect to see it announced soon.
An effort is in the works that I think will prove a lovely tribute to longtime SFWA volunteer Bud Webster and which will, in the longtime SFWA tradition, provide a benefit for professional writers at every level of their careers.
And we’ll (finally) be announcing some of the partnerships we’ve been making — you saw reps from Amazon, Audible, BookBub, Draft2Digital, Kickstarter, Kobo and Patreon at the Nebulas and those relationships are going to extend beyond the weekend and give our members special resources and relationships at all of those companies — and others, including one that I am super-stoked to have facilitated.
What was it like? Like getting to co-host at one of the most awesome weekend-long parties ever, but one with all sorts of interesting conversations full of stuff that was genuinely useful to my career interspersed at intervals.
I write this amid a welter of notes, business cards, and obligations/opportunities acquired over the course of what was, for me, the best Nebula weekend I have ever attended. Part of that was the number of attendees who came up to express their appreciation of the programming, the award ceremony, the events, the overflowing book bags, the volunteers, the Nebulas issue of the Bulletin, the volunteer breakfast, and even with the way that they think SFWA has been going over the course of the last year. That is, to put it mildly, most gratifying, and is among the reasons I returned from Chicago renewed, refreshed, and re-enthused. A little under a year of my two-year presidential term lies behind me; I’m curious to see how much can be achieved in the next year.
Thank you to everyone who attended, both in person or virtually by spreading the word and retweeting. It was a weekend that was full of wonderful community and a chance to connect with new and old friends. There were so many moments that will live in my heart, including:
Acceptance speeches that made me weepy, such as Sarah Pinsker’s assertion that “this is the best of all possible timelines.” I agree.
Amazing alternate universe acceptance speeches from the other nominees that showed the sort of camaraderie and sportsmanship that inspires us all. I particularly loved Eugene Fischer’s speech, made from deep in the underground warrens, urging us all to believe with him that someday we would see the sun again.
Getting to give a SFWA Grandmaster Award to C.J. Cherryh. I mean. Holy smokes. Holy. Smokes. I’ll be thrilled all my life for that.
Jane Fancher, C. J. Cherryh’s partner, with tiny Bren.
While I greatly enjoyed all of the works on the ballot, I will admit I had some favorites, and getting to talk to authors Naomi Kritzer, Tamsyn Muir, and Martin J. Shoemaker was very special.
The stellar programming assembled by Mary Robinette Kowal and her team. I enjoyed all the panels that I was on or attended, and really appreciated all the “Ask an Expert” panels and chances to network with other industry professionals. While we can still improve, every piece of criticism was offered in a lovely “this was awesome, here’s how it could be even better” spirit that was refreshing in these sometimes acrimonious times.
The SFWA volunteer breakfast. The volunteers are what keeps the organization going, and it was very important to me that the board and staff get a chance to acknowledge some of you in person. Thank you so much for all you have done and continue to do.
Cards by Walter Day.
Getting to hear John Hodgman say, among many other funny things, “Thank goodness the Storm Trooper showed up.” Also watching him almost give SFWA Operations Director Kate Baker a heart attack by pretending he was going to drop his globe.
The Radio SFWA synchronized dancing, written, choreographed, and organized by the lovely and talented Henry Lien. So. Much. Fun. Also now everyone else gets to share the earworm.
Everyone who took the time to sit down with me and talk about the organization and what they want to see over the coming years.
The Autographing Session, where we had an amazing total of 86 (!) authors signing.
The fabulous receptions sponsored by our wonderful sponsors, who included Daw, Kobo, Saga, and Tor.
The lovely trading cards created by Walter Day, which came in the jam-packed swag bags. I also freely pillaged the book swap table, to the point where I shipped my bag home via UPS rather than try to take it on the plane. Extra books were sent to literacy organization Project Outreach (I believe that was the name I was told, but that may not be right.)
One of the the three book swap tables. Yow!
Getting to hear the game writing vote results announced by the ever-awesome Fran Wilde, whose book Updraft just happened to take the Norton Award Home.
Seeing the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award gong to Sir Terry Pratchett.
Getting a copy of the new SFWA Bulletin’s Nebula issue. I saw several people using these as autograph books for the autographing session on Saturday night.
All the beautiful outfits on awards night, although Alyssa Wong absolutely took the overall prize for sheer glittering fabulosity.
Meeting so many SFWA members, both new and old, and getting to hear that overall, you guys think we’re doing pretty well. Thank you for the feedback and the many generous offers of assistance. I will indeed be in touch with all of you.
For me, so much of the weekend was a reaffirmation of joy in our genre and the worlds that we love, worlds created by some of the best and brightest. Opportunity to talk with so many talented, kind, and outstanding members of the industry. A chance to stand by one of my heroes, someone whose work I’ve read most of my life and who has been one of my role models, and see her body of work recognized. A chance to be in a place where people treated each other with respect as peers and took pride in each other’s accomplishments, where there weren’t the sort of meanspiritness and petty behaviors that belong on the playground rather than among fellow professionals. A chance to tell people some of what SFWA’s been working hard at in the past year, and some of what’s coming down the pike.
Having finished up the big April projects, one of the main things I want to get accomplished this month is getting the on-demand version of the Moving From Idea to Draft online writing class up along with the existing on-demand classes.
This has proven a somewhat monumental task, because the needs of the on-demand version are very different than those of the live class. In the live workshops, which are limited to eight students, everyone comes in with a two-three sentence description of their idea, and we work from there, adapting the material to what they’ve brought into class.
For the on-demand version, I started by trying to identify all the different ways there are into a story, a number that fluctuates in the realm of two dozen, depending on how finely I want to draw distinctions.
What I’ve done with each possible path is identify what it is, what it gives you as a starting point, things you will want to consider, possible pitfalls, next steps for fleshing it out, and a set of exercises (with basic and overachievers’ versions) to help explore the starting point. I finish, in what I am still worried may be an excessively egotistic move, by providing a story of mine that started in that way and some notes on its development from the starting point. Continue reading →
Being the apprentice for one of West Seattle’s main wizards – probably the main wizard, many thought – was not at all what Albert thought it should be. He’d been installed in the position two weeks ago and so far, all May Hua had asked him to do was walk her dogs, two elderly but still energetic Shih Tzus, three times each day. The rest of the time he studied in the workshop, but it was a self-appointed path and it made him itch, knowing that he could have moved so much faster if she’d been willing to guide him along it.
He said this – not for the first time – to Penny as they walked along. Penny was the housekeeper for Hua’s household, but like Albert, she was frequently at loose ends and so accompanied him on many of the walks. At first he’d been worried she was attracted to him, but it became clear soon that she was bored and he was a fresh novelty. “It’s been a while since May took an apprentice,” she said. She was appreciative of Albert’s presence, particularly since he praised her cooking vociferously. He’d learned a few things since his first, disastrous stint as an apprentice.
And that disastrous stint was what made him reluctant to speak up about his frustration. The closest he came was to ask May at breakfast, “What do you think I should be focusing on?”
She put down her fork and gazed at him. “Appearances,” she said briefly, and went back to her meal with no sign of desire to explain further.
“Oh,” he’d said, and returned to his own meal.
He grumbled to Penny now as they went down the slope at California Avenue’s northern end Seattle a distant postcard to their left. “Magic’s set up weird over here. There’s this screwy street system. At least back in Redmond they had genuine territories with boundaries, not this thing with a wizard for each of the main streets.”
“Not all of them,” she said. “It’s a pretty short list. California, Admiral, Alaska, the pretender of Avalon, Fauntleroy, and Mortie. And the allegiance system’s pretty much territories. Just territories with a lot of special exceptions and loopholes.” She shrugged amiably.
“Not Mortie any more,” he said.
“Therein lies the rub,” she said. “You’re complaining about a lack of action right now, but just wait. They’re still figuring out how to divvy up his sovereignty, that whole long stretch along the shore.”
“Not replace him?” Albert said, surprised.
The Shih Tzus pranced as they waited to cross Alki Avenue. “As I said, just wait.”
Today I finished Hearts of Tabat. Sure, I’ll go back and do some smoothing before sending it off to beta readers on Monday, but the book is done, the scenes are there, and (roughly) in the order they should be. The last scene took a lot of circling — I went out and walked five miles, came back, poked at it, went into the other room and made some notes, came back and kept pecking away.
I felt resistant to getting that last scene down on paper — I know that after a year and half with this book I am simultaneously exultant that it is, finally, done and sense has been wrestled from the seething mass of incoherence, and at the same time reluctant to let go of what has occupied a substantial part of my head for quite some time.
It’s an odd floaty but incomplete feeling. I feel as though I’m not sure what I should be doing, and a little anxious yet jubilant. There is a certain fear that beta readers will get something and go, “this is not a book”. Particularly when I’m trying something a bit adventurous with the structure, which I’ll save talk of for another time. I think they’ll like it; it’s as rich in Tabatian flavor as the first book and considerably more things happen in this one, to address the main criticism of that first.
Since I haven’t posted any stories on Patreon this month, I put up the first three chapters, but only for patrons. I figure they make the writing of the novels possible by supporting the stories. If you’re a patron, I look forward to hearing what you think.
I know that I need to read through the draft at least once and make sure all the names are correct; they shifted around a lot during the writing and most of the characters have gone through at least two permutations (Ariadne/Adelina, Skilto/Sebastiano, Crocofissia/Serafina) as have some of the surnames. There’s also some scraps of notes I’ve jotted down: loose ends to tuck into the narrative here and there.
But it feels as though there are a lot fewer redundant passages in Hearts than in Beasts, mainly because this manuscript hasn’t, like its poor counterpart, had multiple editors and agents leave their mark on it.
I’m also reassured that being SFWA President will not destroy my career; I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish a book while in office, but here you go. I promised Wayne if I didn’t get two done this year I wouldn’t run again; now I’m halfway.
At seven, I’ve got a Mandarin lesson via Skype, but I’d rather play Fallout. However, I will be good, and make poor Grace listen to my vowels and exhort me to “practiss, more practiss” before I will go indulge. Tomorrow I will plunge in the other big project due at the end of the month and frantically plow through that, but for the rest of the night, I get to play video games and not feel a gram of guilt for doing so.
May is for getting the YA novel finished; it’s currently about half written. I finally figured out the title, which is Conflagration.
My instagram features household cats Raven and Taco plus downstairs restaurant cat Maggie. This is Taco.
Still working frantically on the update for the Creating an Online Presence for Writers book, plus prepping for this weekend’s online class. One big change since the last version is Instagram‘s rocket upward in popularity. Here in 2016, it is the number two social media network in number of users, second only after Facebook.
It lets you post pictures, often with some sort of caption, and see what other people are posting. Unlike Facebook, it doesn’t play fast and loose with what you see, but gives you a stream composed of everyone you’re following.
Instagram features a number of filters as well as some basic editing tools that can be applied to uploaded photos. You can add extra filters with the 100 Cameras in 1 app or if you would like to edit the image extensively, try Pixlr-o-matic (http://pixlr.com/).
Random thrift store objects make great Instagram pictures.
For me, the two major advantages to Instagram are that a) it’s accessible via my cell phone, which I have with me far more often than my computer, plus b ) it connects with several other social networks, so I can grab a picture at an event, post it to Instagram, and have it autopost in turn to Facebook and Twitter. Similarly, I use it in the kitchen or at restaurant to snap pictures of food.
What do I post overall? Here’s a breakdown of the last 100 Instagram photos on my stream. Only five categories (event, books, and writing process photos) might be considered promotional; you’ll note those pictures occur roughly one in five times; even there, none of them directly sell a book, just mention it, and many are focused on other people and/or their work.
things that amused or delighted me: 17
food I’ve cooked: 12
the cats: 10
miscellaneous travel photos: 7
miscellaneous household photos: 7
miscellaneous event photos: 6
my writing process: 5
photos from the cat calendar Aunt Nona gave us for Christmas with sundry amusing handwritten additions: 3
refrigerator poems: 3
restaurant food: 3
dioramas constructed of household objects: 2
my shoes: 2
the foam on top of my latte, hashtagged #seattle: 2