Viable Paradise +5

Friday lecture – “Secret History of Publishing,” I think.

Social media reminded me that I flew from San Francisco to Boston five years this morning. I remember that I’d spent the night at an airport hotel, and had dinner with my family and a friend. The kids were going to have a sleepover, but they agreed to see me off before my “grown-up camp.” I might have called it a conference, but I don’t think so.

“Boot camp” is how I described it to my co-workers. “A writing workshop” to my parents.

It turned out to be all of those things, and more: a liminal journey. A rite of passage. An initiation into a cult. A gathering of the faithful.

It was the place where Shit Got Serious. But there was also Mandatory Fun.

I’ve written about the experience in other forums, so on this anniversary, I’ll highlight the main points.

  • After >10 years of marriage, my wife was tired of watching me fling myself against the wall with my writing. I had a process, and beta readers, but it wasn’t really working. I hadn’t sold a story in years. So she strongly encouraged me to apply.
  • I amputated the tip of the smallest finger on my left hand about a day or so before the flight, so one of the instructors surreptitiously checked my wound dressing for fresh blood in the morning. Also – all my lecture recordings feature the clacking my metal splint against the laptop.
  • My roommate was something of a ghost. We had completely different sleep patterns and schedules, and I found myself wandering about at night to debrief with my fellow writers.
  • I made friends who are still close to this day.
  • Smart instructors who called me on my shit, and encouraged me to stretch.
  • I learned a “metric fuck-ton” about the writing process, which made me realize I was damn ignorant and relying on ego rather than insight.
  • I wrote the fastest story of my life (to date) – a bit less than 12 hours. Finally sold that bugger, too.
  • I was the only passenger on the return commuter flight from Martha’s Vineyard to BOS. On the last flight of the day. I am forever indebted to that blue-collar pilot and her thermos of coffee, who took me on a leisurely tour of the island, politely ignoring my tears.

On this anniversary, I am working hard on two story deadlines, a pile of stories to review for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science fiction, and thinking about my next workshop.

There is an enormous value in finding your tribe, and taking the time to work on your art away from the distractions of mundane reality.

So raise a glass, VP XVI alums (“Fire Wombats!”), and recall fondly The Horror That is Thursday. I miss you.

Silly grin courtesy of sleep deprivation and overclocked frontal lobe.


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