The first thing I learned about Viable Paradise, is that they were not joking about sleep. There is NO sleeping at VP. For about 3 – 4 hours each night, I fell into bed only to be woken by an alarm bleeping at me that I should definitely not be sleeping. As you might be aware, it takes only three days to turn a behavior into a habit, so by the time Friday night rolled around and I decided to go to bed early, I tossed and turned all night.
Prior to the workshop, I had been conducting a series of self examinations. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the workshop aside from the hope of learning a few things. I definitely learned; there were lectures, group critiques, writing challenges, and one-on-one sessions with the instructors where my writing was broken down, defined, and summed up. The biggest thing was that the instructors provided feedback on both a macro and micro level, the content of which I never would have gotten from a critique group. I also learned that my faith in my writing and myself are legitimate; I can write a good story. But it isn’t enough to write a good story. I need to sharpen my tools to make those stories amazing. I have the tools, but the instructors and my classmates have give me a flashlight so I can see properly to sharpen those tools. I can work in a specific direction instead of guessing and proceeding like a woman blinded by darkness.
I never had an “OMG” moment, but I had lots of “oh, that’s right” and then a moment of bewilderment of “why have I never seen that before?”. A cumulative feeling for the week is more along the lines of an amazing series of events and knowledge gathering, the forging by fire of new friendships, and the knowledge that I belong somewhere. I belong in speculative fiction. I am a writer. I am a good writer. And I’m in good company.
The magic of Viable Paradise is the experience of learning, combined with the feedback, combined with meeting people as skilled as you (or more!). It’s the silencing of the real world for days on end and focusing on nothing but writing.
Viable Paradise is not the Easy Button that will get you automatically published. It’s one of those things that depends on how open your mind is, how willing you are to accept someone else’s assessment of your work, how willing you are to try a new direction and break your own expectations.
I have a strategy for the next few months to work on short fiction instead of my novel. I learned way too much to put into fixing my current novel. I will get back to it, but I don’t want to shut my brain down while trying to fix something that’s slightly beyond my capability at this moment. Instead, I’m writing new short stories and will be submitting those (till hell won’t have ’em). I’m playing with my new tools and having fun with them. Later, after some practice, it’ll be novel time again.
Who would I recommend to apply to Viable Paradise? If you’re a speculative fiction writer, if you want to improve your craft, if you want to know what glowing jellyfish look like, if you want to know what it’s like to have your brain turn to jelly and ooze out your ears, Viable Paradise is for you.
I’ll have more to say later as I digest all I’ve learned this past week. In the meantime, I have a story to write.