Upcoming Event: Panel at NerdCon

I’m excited to announce that I will be presenting a panel at the first Rocket City NerdCon. I’ll share photographs and stories from my experiences at Clarion West and Kij Johnson’s Beginning Novel Workshop at the University of Kansas. I’ll discuss the benefits of residential writing workshops and compare them with the experience of getting an MFA.

Everyone who attends will get a resource sheet, some writing goodies, and I will do a giveaway for several awesome prizes! I’d love to see you there!

Here’s the panel description: 

When: Friday, October 24th, 7:30PM

Title: Residential Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshops

Description: What is it like to attend a writing workshop that lasts six weeks? Or even two? Clarion West graduate Jenni Moody will give a presentation on the benefits of residential writing workshops and will share stories about her time at one of the most prestigious genre workshops in the world.

Age group: Family

For more information about NerdCon, visit their Facebook page or buy your ticket on their website.


2011 Westies Anthologized

My Clarion West classmates have had a pretty rockin year so far with stories in anthologies and collections. If you are looking for some good short stories to read, I highly recommend checking these out.

First up is S.L. Gilbow’s new short story collection. I’ve been waiting for Gilbow to put out a collection of his own ever since I met him. His stories are amazing. They’re the kind that pull you in so close that they silence a loud room, and grip you so tightly that you ache for days. Elegant with a feeling of the best classic science fiction, these are stories that you’ll remember and want to share with others. There are five stories in this collection, each one beautifully crafted. I hope one day there’s a print edition, so that I can add Gilbow to my shelves with my other favorite authors. You can get your copy here.

Next up is an anthology with two of my classmates’ stories: Corinne Duyvis’ Week 6 story at Clarion West, “The Applause of Others,” and “Fisheye” by Maria Romasco-Moore. Corinne’s story is set in Amsterdam, full of lovely city details. If you haven’t read a story by Maria Romasco-Moore yet, you are missing out on some of the most beautiful and delightfully, wittily weird writing. In addition to Corinne and Maria’s stories, the line up is stellar. Check out the Table of Contents and then maybe get a copy
Jei D. Marcade’s story “Superhero Girl” is out in bookstores (like Barnes & Noble and such) in the anthology Super Heroes. Read this cool interview with Jei about the story that was originally published in Fantasy Magazine and learn the word for the storytelling technique you’ve probably been trying to pull off for years. Jei uses it seamlessly in this story. It is, in my mind, the textbook example (in addition to just being an all-around amazing story.) Go Jei! 
Alisa Alering was a winner of the Writers of the Future Contest this year. Her story “Everything You Have Seen” is in the newest compilation (Volume 29), out everywhere! This is a gorgeous, haunting story told in the lyric-crisp language that I love in all of Alisa’s stories. At the awards ceremony, dancers interpreted the story, in what I think was the best performance of the evening. Read her awesome story, then head over to her blog where she’s recounting the WOTF winner experience. 
The rest of my Westie friends are doing amazing things – managing magazines, starting novels, finishing novels, publishing short stories in magazines all over the place. I’ll do another check-in soon with some cool story pubs in journals and magazines. Go CAAMF! 🙂 

Walks at Clarion West

Unless you bring a car to Clarion West, you’ll probably do a lot of walking. Walk to buy groceries, go out to eat, go to the Tuesday readings, and just to get out of the house and mull over story ideas. 
The weather in Seattle in the summer is wonderful. Perfect for long walks. And there are sidewalks everywhere. Not the kind of sidewalks where a tiny bit of paved walkway is so close to the busy street that it isn’t safe. Big sidewalks. And if you take the residential route down to the shopping areas, it’s peppered with sculptural trees, 
bordered by beautiful houses, 
garnished with lovely bits of strangeness. 
I always took the residential route when going down to eat at Wayward Vegan Cafe. The roads were quieter (except for the one frat house that had a pool and basketball court in the front yard) and the walking helped me decompress after the morning crit sessions.
Walking every day became part of my writing routine, and when I came home from Clarion West I threaded it into my life. The workshop had an overwhelmingly positive impact on my writing, but it also yielded some unexpected benefits, like a healthy walking habit.  

The deadline to apply to the 2013 Clarion West Writers Workshop is March 1st. If you’re thinking of applying, I’d like to give you a friendly nudge. (Do it! Apply!! APPLY!!)

This workshop is amazing. You’ll come out the other side with so many writing friends, at least 5 new stories, a better understanding of your style, a good idea of your weaknesses and how to work on them, and the drive to keep on writing. Or at least, that’s a few of the things Clarion West gave to me.

The deadline is this Friday – go here and submit your best writing. Good luck!

Clarion West Class of 2011: Publications and Sales, 2012

This has been a wonderful year for my Clarion West class. Here’s a highlight of some of the big moments for my classmates, with a list of publications following.

Book Publication!

Corinne Duyvis sold her first book! Here’s the announcement: “Corinne Duyvis’s debut OTHERBOUND, where a seventeen-year-old boy finds that every time he closes his eyes, he is drawn into the body of a mute servant girl from another world — a world that is growing increasingly more dangerous, and where many things are not as they seem, to Maggie Lehrman at Amulet, by Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency (World English).”

Writers of the Future Amazingness!

2011 Westies also did stellar work in the Writers of the Future Contest. Nick Tramdack, Mark Pantoja, and Alisa Alering were all finalists, with Alisa Alering going on to win the 4th Quarter! She’ll be at the Writers of the Future workshop in LA with Nina Kiriki Hoffman this year, and is eligible for the grand prize. I’ll be watching the stream of the awards ceremony and cheering her on.

Editorial Prowess!

David Rees-Thomas co-founded Waylines: Speculative Fiction and Film. He and co-founder Darryl Knickrehm ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the magazine, and the first issue will be out in January 2013.

Anthology Power!

One of the instructors at Clarion West is almost always an editor. Our wonderful editor in residence was L. Timmel Duchamp of Aqueduct Press. During her week of teaching, she gave us all a call for submission to a new anthology she was editing and encouraged us to submit. The concept is really interesting, one that I think my fellow English composition teachers would like: it is a collection of the untold stories behind famous characters, presented in a Wikipedia-like format. All in all, stories by seven of the Clarion West class of 2011 will appear in this anthology: Missing Links and Secret Histories: A Selection of Wikipedia Entries Lost, Suppressed, or Misplaced in Time. Cheers to Jeremy, Anne, Jenni (me!), Alisa, John, Cassie and Nick!

Here’s a list of publications and other writing credits that have been sold or published in 2012. Check out these great stories! 

Alisa Alering

  • “Keith Crust’s Lucky Numbers.” Flash Fiction Online. Forthcoming 2013. 
  • “Madeline Usher Usher.” Missing Links and Secret Histories: A Selection of Wikipedia Entries Lost, Suppressed, or Misplaced in Time. Ed. L. Timmel Duchamp. Aqueduct Press. Forthcoming. 

Corinne Duyvis

S.L. Gilbow

Eliza Hirsch
  • “A Map of the Heart.” (Con)viction anthology. Forthcoming February 2013. 

Cassie Krahe

  • “Walking Home.” Daily Science Fiction. Forthcoming. 
    • Clarion West Submission Story

Jenni Moody

  • “Traffic Jam.” SpringGun. Issue 7. Forthcoming. 
  • “Peter Rabbit.” Missing Links and Secret Histories: A Selection of Wikipedia Entries Lost, Suppressed, or Misplaced in Time. Ed. L. Timmel Duchamp. Aqueduct Press. Forthcoming.

Jack Nicholls

Mark Pantoja

  • “The End.” Tales of World War Z: Fan Fiction and Stories of the Zombie Apocalypse. 4 July 2012. 
    • Clarion West Week 2 Story
  • “Houses.” Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast. 8 September 2012. 
    • Clarion West Week 4 Story

David Rees-Thomas

Maria Romasco-Moore

  • “The Great Loneliness.” Unstuck. Issue 2. December 2012.
    • Clarion West Submission Story
Jeremy Sim

  • “Fleep.” Waylines Magazine. Forthcoming. 
    • Clarion West Week 5 Story

Anne Toole

    • “The Red Bandit.” The Digital Wall. 2012
      • Reprint of “Night in the Library.” Originally published in Crossed Genres. Issue # 3. February 2009.

    Nick Tramdack

    • “Ligne Claire.” Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Issue 57. 2012.
      • Clarion West Week 1 Story
    • “Triple Bind.” New Myths. Issue 20. September 2012.
    • Cold Embrace.” Ray Gun Revival. Issue 14, Vol.2. 2012. 
      • Clarion West Week 4 Story

    Alberto Yanez

    • Driving for Peanuts.” Toasted Cake. Episode 23. 3 Jun 2012. 
      • Text version available here on Alberto’s website. 

    Congrats to all of my Clarion West classmates on a great year of writing! 

    Ready, Set, {Pause}, Workshop!

    In workshops where there are a large number of participants, the critique from each member most likely has a time limit. At Clarion West, we had seventeen people plus an instructor critique each story. To make sure everyone was able to speak about the story, each person was allowed a maximum of 3 minutes for feedback.

    As an incentive to keep within that time frame, we were each given four or so tickets at the beginning of the week. If you felt strongly about a story and wanted to keep going after the polite tap on the table (or awkward gong of a half-full aluminum water bottle), then you could rip up one of your tickets and keep going. But on Friday there were drawings for wonderful prizes, and your tickets were your chance to win.

    Three minutes can feel like a long time if you’re doing a presentation in front of a class. But if you’re speaking about a story and trying to articulate what did and didn’t work for you as a reader, then three minutes is never enough time.

    Our first full-story critiques happened in week two. The first day of workshop I tried to cram in as much information as I could during my 3 minutes. I had a list of bullet points and I rattled them off, not really going into detail on any one point. I also wanted to appear competent to my classmates and instructor, and I think this often happens to writers during the first critique session at any workshop.

    The critique room at Clarion West 2011

    Then it was my turn. My story was ripped apart. Not unkindly. Not without caring words for what was working in the story. And in many ways the critique I received during that first round of stories propelled me to try my hardest during each submission cycle at the workshop.

    But after the crit session had ended that day I didn’t go to lunch with my classmates. I felt bombarded with feedback. I escaped to my room and stayed there for an hour in the quiet. During that time I thought about what was important to me as a writer. Which feedback had been most useful.

    It wasn’t the laundry list of things to fix. It was the moments when a classmate took the time to explore an area or two of my story, to really dig in deep. Or when they responded to an idea brought up earlier in the critique session. During these types of critiques my classmates usually spoke more slowly. Without the pre-listed bullet points, the critiques were more conversational. They reached me in a way that a list of Dittos couldn’t.

    These types of critiques worked for me because I felt connected to my classmates. Oddly, I was able to separate my work from my self more easily when I felt like my classmate addressed me directly. Maybe because the sense of them wanting to help me succeed came through more clearly. Or maybe the whole experience just felt less overwhelming.

    So I decided to do something different with my responses. I still only had a few minutes for each critique, but each time I sacrificed a few of those precious moments to make a connection with the person whose story I was critiquing.

    “Hey Mark.”
    “Hey Alisa.”
    “Hey Jei.”

    I think some people may have thought it was silly, but after a while it caught on and other people started doing it, too. And in the end my critiques were the better for this moment of pause, of connection.

    Waylines Magazine: New Market for SF Stories and Films

    David Rees-Thomas was in my Clarion West class in 2011. He’s a wonderful fellow – a sharp reader, a lovely poet, and a good friend. He’s been a Managing Editor at Ideomancer for a while, and he’s decided to start his own magazine along with Darryl Knickrehm, whom I do not know but who has stellar design skills.

    The new magazine is called Waylines: Speculative Fiction and Film. They’re looking for submissions of short stories and short films. Their website is professional and easy to navigate, and they will pay $40 per story. It’s a great market, and I’m looking forward to reading the first issue. 
    There’s also a Kickstarter project, where you can get very cool postcards and such along with issues of the magazine. 
    Here’s their Kickstarter video. It’s short (under 3 minutes) and is really well-done. 

    I’m going to back this project on Kickstarter because as a writer I want to support great new venues for the fiction I love to read and write. And I know this is going to be a wonderful magazine.

    Here’s a quick peek at their Kickstarter progress, in case you’d like to contribute, too.

    A Name Against the Nothing

    Artax in the Swamp of Sadness, from The Neverending Story

    A few times at Clarion West, on the Sunday evenings when we met our instructor for the week, we would be asked to go around the table and describe the kinds of stories we wrote.

    Occasionally, I’d be asked the same question at the Friday night parties, and at other random moments, like when I went to the comic book store in search of a poster for my bare dorm room walls.

    “You’re a writer? Cool! What kind of stories do you write?”

    I was supposed to know this, right? Or at least be figuring it out.

    I started to have a bit of an identity crisis.

    “Fantasy,” I’d say. “But not like elves kind of fantasy. Other kind of fantasy.”

    Or I’d list my favorite authors. Kelly Link. Margo Lanagan. Elizabeth Hand. John Crowley.

    But it didn’t quite work. I needed a place on the grid, a way to plot myself among the writers I was learning from.

    I needed a name.

    On one of those Sunday evening roundtables, Alisa Alering gave a great description of her stories, which I now cannot remember word for word. But from her description, I embraced my own. I wrote stories where strange things happened to normal people.

    This helped, but it wasn’t until recently that I found a name that I am comfortable wearing.

    During my thesis defense, my advisor referenced the term “slipstream” often. I had heard of slipstream before, but it wasn’t something I had researched. So instead I talked about my stories moving back and forth between literary mainstream and science fiction. Sometimes I’d swing to one side, sometimes to the other. Overall, my stories were inching closer to some strange place in the middle. But the middle couldn’t have a name, right? It wasn’t really a place.

    The middle turned out to not be a swamp of sadness. In fact, it’s the place where most of my favorite authors hang out.

    This is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the late twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility. ~ Bruce Sterling

    Having a term I can use to describe my writing gives me guideposts. I don’t always have to stay on this path. Maybe ten years from now I’ll laugh at the idea that I once identified with slipstream. But for now, it is a way to navigate. It’s a name to fight against that terrible feeling of the Nothing closing in from all sides.

    After searching for a long time, all it took was a great writing friend to help me find a name.

    And, of course, a little luck.