Save the Date Writing Butterflies, This Year’s Armadillocon Writing Workshop is Friday, August 3!

 Crack your knuckles and warm up your keyboards, it’s time to polish up your short story or first chapter for the annual Armadillocon Writing Workshop!

 Submissions are DUE Friday June 15, 2018

This is an excellent, low-cost workshop for writers who want to:

 Work with professional writers and editors familiar with speculative fiction, science fiction, and fantasy. 

  • Learn how to give and receive critique in a small-group, face-to-face setting
  • Find out if workshops and in-person critique groups are useful to their writing progress
  • Find their tribe and make connections with others that will serve their writing year round.
  • Take their writing to the next level.

The workshop will be Friday, August 3, 2018 

We will spend the morning in panels on the craft and business of writing and doing a writing exercise or two. Then, lunch with the professional writers and fellow students in your breakout critique group. The afternoon will be spent in in-depth, collaborative critique sessions where you will be both giving and receiving critique. 

Just $90 gets you the full-day workshop and a full convention membership to attend all of the activities for the entire weekend. ArmadilloCon is an excellent regional literary convention, which means there will be lots of great panels about writing, reading, and the state of the genre (there are also panels about movies, tv shows, gaming, and everything geek). 

Sponsored seats for writers of color!

We are committed to promoting diversity and access for all workshop attendees. Writing in a genre centered on exploration and encountering the Other must include voices and visions from writers and readers of all kinds. The Workshop actively seeks to include students, faculty, visiting scholars, and volunteers from a variety of backgrounds including, but not limited to race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, and ability. 

To that purpose we are offering a limited number of sponsored seats to the workshop for writers of color. To apply for a seat, follow the link on the workshop page.

 If are interested in sponsoring a seat for a writer of color, contact me at armadilloconwritersworkshop@gmail.com

Pick up your pens, it’s time to start thinking about the ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop!

When I told a writer friend that I would be coordinating the ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop this year, he asked me if I’d lost a bet? I laughed and said, no. I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to give back to a workshop that has given me so much! Excited and a little nervous. Lucky for me I have the support of the previous coordinators Marshall Ryan Maresca and Stina Leicht. With their help I’m looking forward to making this year’s workshop the best experience it can be!

When I returned to writing fiction after my children were born, I did not have the option either financially or time-wise to travel to the big name workshops like Clarion, Odyssey, or Viable Paradise. When my kids were small, even the idea of jetting out of town for a weekend seemed financially onerous and physically exhausting. There are a lot of great online workshops, but many of them are also costly. What I really needed at the beginning, was to find out if workshopping was going to be useful to me. Looking at where I am now, it’s clear that a good writing workshop is a valuable asset. As a student of the ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop I received one-on-one input on my work from amazing writers and editors including Paolo Bacigalupi, Lou Anders, Cat Rambo, and Liz Gorinsky. I moved on to volunteering for the workshop as both a first reader and instructor, and it’s been no less inspiring to be on the other side of the table teaching with hard-working talent such as Ken Liu, Jacob Weisman of Tachyon publications, James Morrow and Timmel Duchamp of Aqueduct Press.

Just $90 gets you the full-day workshop and a convention membership to attend all of the activities for the entire weekend. ArmadilloCon is known as an excellent regional literary convention, which means there will be lots of great panels about writing, reading, and the state of the genre (there are also panels about movies, tv shows, gaming, and everything geek). This is a great gateway workshop. If you think you might enjoy writing in general and genre in particular, this is a great low cost way to check out a workshop. This is the place to learn how to give and receive critique and to get instruction that will help take your writing to the next level. At least as important, is that the workshop and weekend are an opportunity to meet other writers. To find your tribe and make connections that will serve your writing year round. 

I’ll finish by saying that we are committed to promoting diversity and access for all workshop attendees. Writing in a genre centered on exploration and encountering the Other must include voices and visions from writers, readers and thinkers of all kinds. The Workshop actively seeks to include students, faculty, visiting scholars, and volunteers from a variety of backgrounds including, but not limited to race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, and ability. 

As far as instructors, so far we have: 

Nisi Shawl (Guest of Honor)  
Trevor Quachri  (Editor Guest) 
Martha Wells 
Don Webb (Toastmaster) 
Nicky Drayden 
D. L. Young 

I will be booking instructors throughout the spring, so check the workshop page for updates. 

Check back here for posts about workshopping in general and how to prepare for the ArmadilloCon’s workshop in particular. 

Now it’s your turn: The first order of business is to start writing, so fire up your laptops, grab your pens and let’s get started!

Armadillocon 37 Report

First things first, one of my favorite flash fiction storiesis currently up at the wonderful Flash Fiction Online. Even if you’ve already read it, be sure to stop by and check out all the other fabulous stories featured at this excellent venue!

I’ve spent this week resting up and catching up after a wonderful Armadillocon 37. This is a small literary con, which makes it extra friendly as you keep seeing the same faces at panels, readings, in the audiences, and passing each other in the hallways. The guests, James Morrow and Ken Liu, were super friendly and fun to talk with, which really set the tone for the weekend. The programming was excellent this year, and I had to make a lot of tough choices. Here’s what my con looked like.
THE WRITERS’ WORKSHOP
The Writers’ Workshop went well. We spent the morning in two in-depth panels (the topic varies every year).  First we discussed how to structure your work. Questions and comments covered works of all different lengths and types. Later we talked about how to go about assessing what you’re working on, with larger thoughts about managing projects and the writing life. Between these two panels, the workshop attendees broke out into small groups for a quick and quite entertaining writing exercise.
We broke out into our assigned critique groups for lunch, so that we could get to know each other a little better before diving into the critiques. Martha Wells and I had five bright new writers, all with interesting stories or first chapters. Even the newbies did well, both giving and taking critique like pros! Covering five manuscripts in three hours is a tad exhausting, but so rewarding.
Another big benefit for workshop participants is that they get so spend early Friday forming connections with their fellow workshop attendees, so they already have a couple dozen familiar faces going into the rest of the weekend.
I think the concom’s commitment to this workshop, which feels like an integral part of Armadillocon (and not just a tacked on event as it can at other cons), is one of the reasons that Armadillocon continues to have a well-deserved reputation as an excellent literary/writerly con.
THE PANELS
The hard part about being on programming is that I now have commitments, and can’t get around to see all the panels that are scheduled at the same time as the ones that I’m on!

I was a little nervous about my first panel, “The Work of James Morrow.” While I have loved everything of his that I’ve read, I have only read a fraction of his books! Luckily, I was in the company of some great minds such as Jacob Weisman, Chris Brown, and Claude Lalumiere. As with all good panels, it became a conversation that covered Morrow’s works and their universal themes of human nature, theology and philosophy. James Morrow and his wife attended the panel, and were darlings, heartily rooting our conversation on! It was a delightful hour and such a pleasure to meet the man whose works I’m so enjoying!

I attended the “Silkpunk: Asian themes and influences in SF/F” panel. Ken Liu, Jake Kerr, Wesley Chu, and Justin Landon among others discussed the use of Asian themes, and the nature of cultural difference between east and west as we might see it through genre literature. The take away was that we are all more alike then we might assume, though there are some interesting differences between story forms and the expression of common themes via fable and various mythologies.

Ken Liu also gave a fascinating talk about the nature of translating literature titled “Betrayal With Integrity: Conformance and Estrangement in Translating Chinese SF.” As the title suggests it was full of thinky thinks. As someone only tangentially interested in the nuts and bolts of translation, I was completely fascinated and gained insights that will forever change how I view translated texts.
I thoroughly enjoyed the panel I was on titled “How Would the Discovery of Alien Life Affect Us?” moderated by the lively Aaron de Orive, with William Ledbetter and Patrice Sarath among others. We discussed the effect of confirmed contact with alien life might have on international geopolitical scene, then tracked back to talk about the problem of recognizing alien life and communicating withbeings that may very well be unimaginably different from us.
Then it was on to an excellent panel on the hot button topic, “The Hugo Award’s Struggle for Relevance” expertly moderated by Michelle Muenzler, with Lou Antonelli, Justin Landon, Marguerite Reed and Jacob Weisman. This curated discussion about the Hugos, slate voting, and the Sad Puppies. The discussion was both passionate and illuminating.
Then I was up for “SF as a Survival Guide.” (Personally, it was more about me surviving in a conscious state for a 10:00 p.m. panel!) We discussed a variety of different apocalypses featured in popular media, including Zombies, nuclear war, and natural disasters. We also covered Kaiju  (e.g. Godzilla); stay out of urban centers was the take-away there. Long-term survival would look pretty pastoral, and we agreed that this might be part of the appeal of these kinds of stories – a chance to hit the reset button.
My last panel of the con was “Short Fiction You Should Have Read Last Year” with K. B. Rylander, Eugene Fischer and myself. After discussing our favorite stories, and stories that made a splash this year, we talked about great venues to find, read, and listen to great short fiction. I will post a list as soon as I locate my scrawled notes from Sunday morning.
MISCELLANY

I heard Patrick Sullivan read a fantasy story of magic, love and zoomorphic calligraphy. I also listened to a suspenseful excerpt from Patrice Sarath Bandit Girls novel.
Jacob Weisman, founder of Tachyon Press was back with his usual selection of great books. When not at panels or readings, I spent some time chatting with him in the buyers’ room. He’s another very approachable pro with lots of good insight into the business. I love that Tachyon publishes short stand-alone novels (call them long novellas if you prefer), as that’s my favorite reading niche. I picked up Shambling Toward Hiroshima by James Morrow, and We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory. In the buyers room, I also finally got my hands on a copy of Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor, a book I’ve been waiting to read for a while now. Hopefully, one day I’ll see her on ArmadilloCon’s guest roster!

The ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop is just around the corner!

I have participated in the wonderful ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop for several years, last year I volunteered, and this year I’ll be sitting on the other side of the table as a pro! I’m so excited to be giving back to the Workshop, as it has been a staple of my progress as a writer.
ArmadilloCon has always been a writers’ convention, and through the years both the con and the workshop have hosted a variety of excellent writers. I’ve personally benefited from the advice and wisdom of writers such as, Paolo Bacigalupi, Lou Anders, Cat Rambo, Ian McDonald, and StinaLeicht. This year’s workshop pros will include Ken Liu and James Morrow, and Marshall Ryan Maresca.
But, the Workshop isn’t just about the big names. The pros contributing their time to the workshop represent today’s diversity in writing and publishing. These are men and women writing across a variety of styles, formats and genres. There are writers who are traditionally published, and writers who successfully self-publish, and everything in between.
The all-day workshop costs $79.50, which includes lunch and a full (3-day) Con membership.  The ratio of pros to workshop attendees is excellent (usually two pros per three to five attendees), so it’s a true small-group workshop experience.
The workshop isn’t only about collecting critiques on your brilliant work of genius. It’s participatory. Once you sign up and turn in your piece you will be placed in a group of fellow workshop attendees and receive your group-mates brilliant works of genius to read and critique.
If you are new to workshopping, learning to assess someone else’s work is an excellent way to develop your own writing. I’ve learned at least as much from putting together a coherent, constructive critique of someone else’s work as getting feedback on my own . Putting together your thoughts about your workshop mates stories can also take the edge off waiting to hear how your own piece went over. In the end you’ll go home with written and verbal critiques by the other writers in your group along with critiques by at least two of the attending workshop pros.
I enjoy group critiques. I regularly participate in online and in-person critique groups, but it is not for everyone. Some people do better with, say, a single beta reader, some people do just fine without any critique of their works-in-progress at all. The ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop is a great way to experience a group critique situation at a fraction of the cost of some of the big genre workshops like Viable Paradise, Odyssey, or Clarion.
So, dust off that story that isn’t quite working or get cracking on something brand new. The deadline to submit a short story or first chapter is June 15. The maximum word count is 5,000 words firm (i.e. they mean it). Go here to check out the specifics.
The Writers’ Workshop will be on Friday July 24th, ArmadilloCon 37 runs from July 24th through the 26th
Watch for my next post: Workshop Survival Guide…

ArmadilloCon 36

Now that my local Science Fiction and Fantasy convention has become an annual tradition, it’s becoming harder and harder to divide my time between all the interesting panels and readings, and visiting with writerly friends old and new. ArmadilloCon has become something between a con and a reunion.


I am naturally pretty outgoing, and writing is a very solitary endeavor so a good con can be a real inspiration. I invariably end the weekend exhausted, but also energized — ready to write ALL the things!

This year was an embarrassment of riches with two guests: Guest of Honor, Ted Chiang, a fascinating writer of deep and thoughtful stories; and Special Guest of Honor, Ian McDonald, who writes expansive novels set all over the world (India, Turkey, Brazil) and beyond (Mars).

Mario Acevedo came down from Denver to be the toastmaster. Funny and full of interesting stories, he was the right man for the job. He writes books about an ex solder who is now a vampire and a private detective. Here’s his character’s tagline: Felix Gomez went to Iraq a soldier. He came back a vampire. Nice! I don’t usually read books with vampires in them, but his take has me interested.

The editor Guest of Honor was Jacob Weisman from Tachyon Publications. Of the books he had in the dealers’ room, I already own quite a few (Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by Triptree, Feeling Very Strange: The Slipsream Anthology, The Dog Said Bow Wow by Swanwick). Still, I managed to find a couple to add to add to my library (a copy of Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia McKillip and The Madonna and the Starship by James Morrow).


This year I volunteered for the Writer’s Workshop. It was fascinating to have a peek behind the curtain and see how Marshall Ryan Maresca and Stina Leicht pull this great workshop together. I’ll definitely be back to help again next year.

I got to hang out with my local author buddies Patrice Sarath, K. G. Jewell, Nicky Drayden, and D. L. Young. I also met Cassandra Rose Clarke and picked up her YA book The Wizard’s Promise. By the time I met Skyler White, my book buying budget was running low, so I decided to put The Incrementalists, which she co wrote with Stephen Brust, on my short list to acquire and read soon.

I heard Michelle Muenzler read a couple wonderful stories and Rachel Acks read her excellent They Tell Me There Will Be No Pain, soon to be available in Lightspeed’s Women Destroy Science Fiction anthology.

This year’s con was just the right mix of good friends and new faces. 

I’m inspired and ready to tackle my very own novel!

Emerging from the Vortex that was WorldCon 2013

So, the WiFi in the lobby was was not great and my phone’s battery is also not great, so instead of tweeting and blogging throughout the con as I’d hoped, I simply gave in and experienced WorldCon live and in real time. 

Before I recap last Friday, I want to note the interesting – and important – discussion about diversity in the genre that’s sprung up on various social networks. This is because of the often glaring lack of diversity at these events in both the attitudes of some panelists (no panels that I attended), and too often in the demographic of attendees. WorldCon did skew old, white, and male. This is a worthy conversation and I have some thinky-thinks I may blog about in the near future, but for now I’m just going to talk about the experience of my first WorldCon. Being constrained both financially and by my delightful family life (Seriously, it’s hard to abandon my husband, daughters, dog and chickens!), there aren’t many big cons I’ll be able to attend. So, by way of “loving the one you’re with,” I really did have a fabulous time.

Friday was my first full day at the con and I started it out by meeting one of Short Story heroes, Kij Johnson, in the hallway of our hotel. We had a wonderful chat in the elevator and on the walk over to the Convention Center. She was genuine and gracious and even went so far as to ask the people at the registration desk for a “First WorldCon” ribbon for me.
 
I only made it to a couple panels. The first one, Graphic Novels You Should be Reading,
was more nostalgic than I expected with a fair amount of discussion about some of the greats of the 1960s and 70s, especially the Europeans. I started reading comics much later and am not familiar with most of the books they brought up, so I have more to add to my reading list like the Blueberry comics and Onward Toward Our Noble Deaths. 

The next panel, The Things They Never Tell You About Getting Published the First Time, was a nice mix of informationa and anecdotes about both novel and short story publishing. Vylar Kaftan pointed out that, especially in the short story market, new venues often have poor contracts because they don’t know any better. The panelists also agreed that you shouldn’t put too much importance on reviews. What really matters for a story to get traction is readership from the venue. In other words, getting the work out there in front of eyeballs can trump the opinions of reviewers. Words of comfort indeed!

I sat in for half of the Editors and Writers panel before I had to leave for my Writers’ Workshop.
This one had some heavy hitters: James Patrick Kelly, Gardner Dozios, Janet Harriet of Apex, Lou Anders of Pyr Books, and Shelia Williams of Asimov’s.

Gardner Dozios told an anecdote – and others agreed that they’d had the same experience – about writers who have had a story accepted then withdrawn it to revise or workshop it. I couldn’t believe anyone would even think of doing this with a SOLD story. I can’t believe any editor would even agree to it (which just goes to show that editors can be nice to a fault). They all agreed that the stories they got back weren’t what they wanted, i.e. what they had originally BOUGHT! Chasing perfection can lead you down some dark paths. Don’t go there!

Shelia Williams said that, in the short story market, she is always looking for writers who can reliably (every other month or so) send her good stories, reminding me again just how important it is to produce consistently! She also mentioned that she loves novellas. Good to hear since I’m working on a couple.

I hated to leave that panel, but it was time to be off to my Writers’ Workshop. There were just three writers and two pros. Our pros were John A. Pitts, a novelst at Tor and Alex Shavartsman (read his con recap here), a short story writer and publisher of the Unidentified Funny Objects anthologies.

I brought a slightly older story, but one that isn’t selling, and got some great feedback. After their comments I could see some missing pieces in this story and now have some ideas about what I can change to really make this story pop (and sell)!

After the workshop, I had lunch with Alex and another workshop attendee. Sure I missed some panels, but that’s what conventions are all about — making connections, renewing old friendships and forming new ones. And, spending every day from dawn to well after midnight talking about writing!

After that, I perused the Dealer’s room, took a catnap, grabbed some dinner, then off to make the party rounds with Patrice, my partner in crime. We checked out the Helsinki Bid party, The Tor Party and the Dell Party. I saw Marshal Ryan Maresca and Stina Leicht, who I know from ArmadilloCon. I met Keffy Kehrli (Shimmer) and Lynne M. Thomas (Apex) and continued my conversation with Alex about how hard it is to write humor and the difficulties of translating fiction.

I opened far too many conversations with “You rejected me!” Even pitched in thrilled fan-girl voice, really, it’s a terrible line. Everyone was awesome and fun to talk to. It was great to get to know the human face behind the genre that I love.

Here I am with Alex Shavartsman at the Dell party