Because science into life doesn't go

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Villa Diodati and One Hundred Subs

Clones, demons, and the undead descend on rural France

The last couple of weeks have seen a couple of significant events in my writing life.

Firstly, after missing the inaugural workshop of the Villa Diodati Writers Group last autumn, I managed to get my act together and attend the group's second meeting in the small village of Jaulzy, France last week. Villa Diodati was formed to allow speculative-fiction writers living in Europe to meet-up and discuss their work, the genre, the markets etc. while enjoying good food and company. And I'm happy to report that's exactly what happened last week.

Every spec-fic workshop should be held in sight of a church and accompanying cemetery!

Writers (or authors!) resident in England, Spain, France and Germany (Ruth Nestvold, Nancy Fulda, John Olson, Aliette de Bodard, Sara Genge, Jeff Spock, Floris Kleijne, and myself) flew, drove, and ferried themselves to a small village sixty km north-east of Paris for several days of critique circles, brainstorming sessions, writing marathons, and epic meals.

Jeff roleplays a psychiatric patient

The house and garden were beautiful, if a little cramped when it came to sleeping all eight of us -- the first night, after drinking beer, wine, cassis, calvados, and champagne (we were celebrating Nancy and Ruth's birthday, nothing to do with nerves!) I eventually collapsed on the living room sofa and spent the night twisting and turning as I tried to fit my 5'9" frame onto the 5' long sofa. I wasn't alone in my sleeping difficulties -- Aliette slept in an alcove-like hallway next to the upstairs toilet and bathroom, and Ruth had to contend with the dawn light pouring through the window in the sloped roof immediately above her bed! By the second night I'd managed to combine the chaise-longue with the sofa to form an unbeatable sleeping arrangement -- so much so that I slept late and forced all the awake members of the household to congregate in the bedroom adjacent to the living room until I got up. I wish I'd got a picture of all those I found on the double bed, laptops perched in their laps, typing away!

Sara and John grab a dose of reality

The stories we critiqued were as diverse as the daytime jobs of the writers involved, but I think everyone came away from those sessions with the potential of making good stories even better. The feedback I got on my historical ghost story set in nineteenth century Viet Nam -- adding authenticity, colour, and tension -- will certainly make it more saleable. In other sessions we helped one another develop story seeds, threw out settings, devices, or first lines, and brainstormed solutions to common problems. These sessions really re-energised my creative batteries, and I came away from the workshop -- not only with fine French wines and cheeses -- but also with a renewed desire to fix up old stories and begin new ones. I'm sure the workshop will be the origin of many many sales for its members.

Even pink blossoms can't stop Jeff from crying as the workshop comes to an end

After the workshop ended and I got back home with this new inspiration, a flurry of submissions took me past my first hundred submissions. In the time-honoured tradition, my stats for this first tonne (a hundred runs in cricket):

4 sales (in audio, print, and online formats)
1 withdrawal
2 closed markets
4 outstanding
89 rejections

Longest rejection: 320 days (MechMuse)

Quickest rejection: 1 day (Lone Star Stories)

Nicest worded rejection: "I've read your story. I've even shown it to X, seeking a second opinion. And I'm afraid I have to say no. And I hate to do that, because the story has much to recommend it. The quality of writing is outstanding, better than some I've published in fact."

Happiest words to read: "We have been going through the past year's finalist stories and wanted to know if you would want your 1st quarter 2006 story, "By the Waters of the Ganga" to be included in the upcoming anthology. You would partake in the Writers of the Future workshop and Awards ceremony this summer, all expenses paid, and you would receive royalties for your story with the sale of the book."

Number of markets: 48

Signed rejection letters from editors: 2 (Stanley Schmidt, Shelia Williams)

Markets with 100% sales record: 2 (Nature and Cosmos Magazine)

Market with most rejections: Strange Horizons (7 and counting!)

Biggest jerk as editor: As if I'd tell you that! I'm trying to a be a pro . . .

Onwards and upwards!


Anonymous Jeff said...

Excellent summary, Steve. However, I do not recall role playing a psychiatric patient. This worries me somewhat...

9:18 AM

Blogger Steve said...

That's because we hypnotised you first, Jeff!

1:03 PM


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