Pictured to the right are the attendees/students, instructors, and organizers of Paradise Lost 6, held in San Antonio, TX, from April 28 to May 1, 2016. I have been very slug-like in getting around to posting about it, in spite of the fact that it ended a week ago. But I’ve been busy. That’s my excuse.
That’s me on the left, peeking out from between Anna and Rosie. I loathe pictures of me, but everyone else looks fantastic, so I’ll allow it.
Paradise Lost is open to writers who have been to the Viable Paradise or Taos Toolbox writing workshops, or who are members of the online Codex writing group (which has membership requirements including juried workshops (such as Viable Paradise, Clarion, Taos Toolbox, Odyssey, etc.), or publication).
For reasons that remain opaque to most everyone who knows me, I decided to drive from Atlanta, GA to San Antonio, TX. It’s a 16-ish-hour drive, so, heeding advice from a good friend, I split it into two days and took it slightly easier. Both there and back.
Four other graduates from my year at Viable Paradise XVI (2012) were there. It was great to see them all again. I won’t do a lot of name-dropping here, because there were 20 others besides me there, and, frankly, it would take a long time to find and link all those sites. :)
The highlights: the lectures by the pros (one of which was an exercise about supply lines that actually made me think about something that needed to be thunk about in my novel, so yay!), the social times, the dramatic (some might say ‘melodramatic’) reading of Chuck Tingle’s Hugo Award Nominated Space Raptor Butt Invasion. It was . . . special. Very . . . special.
I pretty much can’t say enough positive things about this experience. If you have the means and the opportunity to go, do look into it. It’s four days of being around amazing people who are also all writers, story breaking, talking shop, drinking, playing games, playing music, dramatic readings of really bad erotica . . . I’m told there was even some actual writing that got done! :)
There are two “tracks”: a critique track and a retreat track. The critique track is just what it sounds like: you submit up to five thousand words of something you’ve written and (this year) two instructors/pro writers and six fellow workshoppers read and critique it. This year, the critiques for all seven manuscripts took place over two sessions (before and after lunch) on one day. The Milford method was used: the author stayed quiet while each of the critiquers got up to 3 minutes to hit their main points. It went in a circle, then the professionals each got . . . basically as long as they liked to make their points. There was a lot of dittoing and anti-dittoing. And bad puns. :) Then, at the end, if the author wished, s/he could briefly address any comments brought up during the critique. It’s a handy method, and one I’ve used before that works if everyone’s kind of on the same level, and there aren’t too many people in the group. :) As it was with seven authors per group, each person had to read and critique about 30,000 words in the two(ish) months leading up to the workshop. Not too bad.
The retreat track is there to just get away from all the big, hairy nonsense that interrupts their writing when they’re at home (kids, spouses, bills, work, laundry . . . life) and just write. I think next time, this is what I’m going to do. There was still puh-lenty of time to do all the social stuff and get writing done, or so I was told.
The best part for me was that two of my fellow Paradisians were able to give me some inside information on some things I need to know about aspects of my novel that I know nothing about: government and law enforcement. A bonus I’m over the top about, and which I was totally not expecting. This is why critique groups are so useful! People have a very particular set of skills, skills they have acquired over very long careers. Skills that make them a rainbow-farting unicorn-dream for people like me, who don’t have those skills, but need to sound convincing in my manuscripts. Or, as one instructor said, you have to do the research to know what you’re talking about before deliberately breaking the rules for the sake of story. (Paraphrased.)
Anywho, as I said, you should definitely give it a go if you can, and you write science fiction, fantasy, or horror. Or, to put it in Internet terms everyone will understand: A++++++++++++!!!!! Would attend again!!!!!!!
- Which means sixteen uninterrupted(ish) hours of podcasts I got to listen to. It barely made a dent in my backlog, but it was a nice start.
I hate my brain.
No, no. Don’t even try to defend that . . . that wrinkly, three-pound lump of fatty tissues! It and I are not talking at the moment.
On, you want to know why? Fine.
INT. GARY’S BATHROOM – NIGHT. BRIGHTLY LIT BY EIGHT (DOWN FROM TWELVE) CFT BULBS.
Gary brushes his teeth, then rinses his face and, especially, his eyes with warm, soothing water to relieve the slightly sandy, scratchy feeling. On Saturday, he tore his right cornea. On Sunday, his left. He has no patience for more cornea-tearing.
He applies copious amounts of the ointment he uses to prevent more-frequent cornea-ripping. He swirls his eyes around to spread the ointment, then makes his way across the bathroom, only able to make out bright and less-bright shapes. He makes it to the door of his bathroom, plots a path to his bed, then shuts off the bright bathroom light.
INT. GARY’S BEDROOM – NIGHT
Gary climbs into bed and spends several minutes getting comfortable. Pillows in just the right places. Blankie pulled up just to the right level. Breathing slows . . . he’s starting to drift off . . .
Gary snuggles into the pillow emphatically.
What do you mean, ‘no’? You don’t even know what I —
No! Whatever it is, it can wait until tomorrow. When I’ve had sleep. Remember ‘sleep’? You need sleep. My eyes need sleep. Otherwise, I’ll have a hard time staring at a computer screen tomorrow.
(in a disgustingly sing-song tone)
But you’re going to really liiiiike thiiiis!
Go. Away. I’m trying to sleep.
Brain vomits out the entirety of the remaining plot points of the novel Gary and Brain have been agonizing over for several months. In detail. With red herrings, false leads, and answers to all the difficult parts they’ve been butting against. With — BONUS! — motivations for the secondary protagonist.
Gary rolls over, opens eyes, stares blankly in the direction of the ceiling.
I loathe you. Why did you wait until — ?
Yeah, yeah. I love you, too.
Listen, you should probably write all that down.
Gary rolls over and closes his eyes, snuggling into the pillow once again.
I’ll remember it.
Gary gets out of bed, stumbles through blurry darkness to blurry slightly less-dark adjoining office. The night-light in the office is green, which casts eerie shadows on the walls. He moves the mouse on his PC. Immediately, bright light floods the office — and his bleary, blurry, ointment-filled eyes — with searing whiteness. He leans into the screen, locates the blurry outlines of the Evernote icon, clicks it. Types for about fifteen minutes, eyes closed, hoping he’s making some sort of sense.
You’ll thank me, later.
Gary makes his way back to bed. At least it’s still warm. He goes to sleep in less than five minutes.
So, yeah. My brain and I aren’t on speaking terms, today.
I know, I know. It sounds like I should be thanking my brain, doesn’t it? But, you see, what it did was, it waited until after I sent my first five thousand words off for critique at Paradise Lost 6 to supply me all this. Until after I wrote ten thousand or so words of the novel. Most of which now have to be rewritten. Or at least heavily edited.
Couldn’t it have done this . . . I don’t know, three months ago?