Just returned from the Short Story Workshop taught by Kristine Kathryn Rusch with some guest appearances from Dean Wesley Smith.
It was a blast and god am I tired.
I wrote four short stories totalling about 16,000 words for the workshop, some 3,000 words in various character and setting excercises (there’s another two or three strong short story starts lurking there), and probably another 3,000 words in various assignments and anthologies of the other students’s work that I pulled together.
To make matters worse (better?) I had a scientific meeting right before the short story workshop which required me to read and write extensive reviews on perhaps 25,000 words of dense scientific writing, working late into the night before I arrived in Lincoln City, so I started the week worn out and ended it damn near dead in the ground.
But I survived, I didn’t embarass myself, and I feel like I have a lot more confidence in what I am trying to do as a result of the experience, as well as new knowledge and tools from the insights and feedback that I got from Kris and Dean.
Perhaps the highlight of the workshop for me was getting to listen to Dean read the opening of one of my assignments as a positive example of how to do setting. Given how I had an irrational fear that he’d tell me to retitle my story to “Sucks Beyond Belief” and then to put my cat in the witness protection program because editors get pissed off when you send them something like this, and the next thing you know… well, accidents happen, felines catch on fire…
But no, I actually did something right. I do have to admit, though, that even though he used my piece as a “good” example I still feel my fingers trembling a bit at the keyboard in the fear that fake details or a white-room setting might creep into the opening of my story when I’m not watching close enough, because Dean did rant a fair bit on setting before he huffed out of the workshop that night.
I’m pretty sure Dean made some students cry.
Another highlight was having Kris tell me that this strange and ridiculous story I’d come up with, when cornered and desperately searching for a mental rat-hole to escape into, was actually rather intriguing and that I should just mail it.
No edits. No revisions. No suggestions to fix this or that.
Did I hear that right?
Yep, Just mail it.
Go figure. Maybe there’s some hope for me as a writer of fiction after all.
Dean also thought the title of that particular story was a hoot.
It’s already been form-rejected by Clarkesworld, however, so no literary prizes to write about just yet. And despite Kris’s kind words, I’m still keeping a close eye on my cat.
Overall the workshop sure was fun and I hope to have the opportunity to do another with Kris’n’Dean in the future. Word from the old-timers who’ve done lots of these workshops is that the Character Voice workshop is the one to do.
It was also a real kick to meet all the other students, some of whom have already published multiple novels and been publishing professionally for years already, and see what everyone was up to. One of the things that really surprised me was that every student in the class wrote at least one story (and often more than one) that I just thought was great– or that made me like a genre or type of story, like trailer park zombies, that I never would have thought I would like.
And now I’m fired up to crank out stories and keep writing and see just how far I can push this thing.
After I sleep for night or two, that is, because lordy am I ever worn out.