Out of Excuses 2016

Registration is now open for the 2016 Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat.

The 2016 Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat will be held from September 17th through the 24th on a cruise ship, back by popular demand.

The base price of $1300 covers the full week of intensive seminars, writing exercises, and free writing time, plus meals, double-occupancy lodging, and a cruise to three different Caribbean destinations.


Each seminar will include writing exercises and Q&A time with the instructor. Topics will include:

  • Outlining
  • Revision
  • Pacing
  • Suspense
  • Humor
  • Worldbuilding
  • Character creation
  • … and much more.


Participants will also be able to sign up for a limited number of additional breakout sessions or one-on-one sessions with individual instructors. There is no additional charge for these, but because of the size of the event we may not be able to accommodate everyone with their first choice.

These breakout sessions include:

6-member novel critique groups: Members will submit excerpts up to 5000 words for critique by the group as well as one of the podcasters. (Please note that this means you are committing to critique the stories of the other group members.)

6-member short story critique groups: Members will submit short stories up to 5000 words for critique by the group as well as one of the podcasters. (Please note that this means you are committing to critique the stories of the other group members.)

6-member outlining sessions: Each person must come prepared with a story idea, including an ending. The host will help each attendee turn that into a working outline, ready for them to begin writing.

One-on-one Q&As: This is a 15-minute one-on-one session with one of the hosts, and you decide how that time will be spent. We can critique the first five pages of a manuscript, drill down on a worldbuilding conundrum, answer specific questions, or offer general advice.


Steven Barnes – The novelist, screenwriter, writing instructor and life coach has published more than 25 science fiction, fantasy and horror novels, written New York Times bestsellers and won an NAACP Image Award. He has been nominated for Hugo, Nebula and Cable Ace Awards. His modern classic “A Stitch in Time” episode of Showtime’s The Outer Limits won an Emmy. He has also has written for “The New Twilight Zone,” “StarGate,” Andromeda,” “Ben 10,” “The Wizard” and “The Real Ghost Busters.” His solo novels include StreetlethalThe Kundalini EquationGorgon ChildFiredanceBlood BrothersFar Beyond the StarsCharisma and his highly acclaimed Lion’s Blood and Zulu Heart.
Once a nationally ranked karate competitor, he now makes his home in Southern California with his wife, American Book Award winner Tananarive Due, and his son, Jason. His daughter Nicki graduated from UC Irvine in 2009 and is currently doing theater in Central California.

Desiree Burch is a writer, comedian actress and New York to London transplant. Her full-length solo shows, 52 Man Pickup and Tar Baby have toured NY, L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans, London, Amsterdam and Edinburgh. Tar Babyreceived a Fringe First Award for new writing at the 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and was shortlisted for an Amnesty International Freedom of Expression award. Desiree is also the 2015 Funny Women Awards Stage Award Winner, and her stand-up and solo work have been featured at places like Carolines, Joe’s Pub, P.S. 122, 59E59, LaMama, the New Museum and WNYC’s The Greene Space, as well as on VH1, MTV and E4. She was a founding member of the New York Neo-Futurists and her work has been profoundly influenced by her experiences as a creator/performer in their long-running show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. She is also a performer in Young Jean Lee’s Untitled Feminist Show and is the voice of former Mayor Pamela Winchell on the top-five podcast Welcome to Night Vale. She has worked regionally and nationally as an arts educator (American Place Theater, Perry-Mansfield) and speaker (TEDx), and was an Artist-in-Residence of Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn where she hosted the cult storytelling and performance show SMUT. Desiree received her B.A. in Theater Studies from Yale University. www.desireeburch.com

Tananarive Due is an author, screenwriter and educator who is a leading voice in black speculative fiction. Her short fiction has appeared in best-of-the-year anthologies of science fiction and fantasy. She is the former Chair in the Humanities at Spelman College (2012-2014) and teaches Afrofuturism at UCLA. She also teaches in the creative writing MFA program at Antioch University Los Angeles. Due has a B.S. in journalism from Northwestern University and an M.A. in English literature from the University of Leeds, England. The American Book Award winner and NAACP Image Award recipient is the author of twelve novels and a civil rights memoir. In 2010, she was inducted into the Medill School of Journalism’s Hall of Achievement at Northwestern University. She also received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
Due collaborates on the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series with her husband, author Steven Barnes, in partnership with actor Blair Underwood. Due and Barnes also collaborate on a young adult horror/science fiction series including the novels Devil’s Wake and Domino Falls.
She and her husband live in Southern California with their son, Jason. www.tananarivedue.wordpress.com.


Claudia Gray is the pseudonym or pen name of a bestselling, Chicago-based novelist. She is perhaps best known for her four-book Evernight series, which follows a girl named Bianca, who is sent to Evernight Academy, a boarding school for vampires. Not knowing the school’s true nature, Bianca is subsequently thrust into the middle of a conflict between supernatural forces beyond her understanding.

Gray has also published Balthazar, a spin-off of the Evernight series about Bianca’s vampire friend, and a stand-alone novel entitled Fateful, the tale of a young serving woman aboard the doomed ship Titanic, and a dark stranger who is pursued by werewolves. Gray’s short stories have been featured in anthologies such as Immortal, Enthralled, and Vacations from Hell.

Before working as a full-time novelist, Gray worked as a lawyer, a disc jockey, a journalist, and a waitress (a terrible one by her reckoning). She enjoys hiking, traveling, reading, and listening to music, but says she loves writing best of all.

Founders of Zola books.
Founders of Zola books.

DongWon Song is an agent at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency representing science fiction, fantasy, YA, science, food, and pop-culture. Previously, he was an editor with Orbit where he launched multiple New York Times bestselling series including FEED by Mira Grant and THE EXPANSE by James S.A. Corey. He has also worked as a digital bookseller for ebook startup Zola Books where he was the head of product for the ecommerce and ebook apps. He lives in Portland, Oregon where it does not rain nearly as much as people say.

Lynne M. Thomas – Three-time Hugo Award winner Lynne M. Thomas is the Co-Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Uncanny Magazine with her husband, Michael Damian Thomas. She was the co-editor of the Hugo Award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords with Tara O’Shea, Whedonistas with Deborah Stanish, the Hugo Award-finalist Chicks Dig Comics with Sigrid Ellis, and the anthologyGlitter & Mayhem with Michael Damian Thomas and John Klima. Lynne is the former Editor-in-Chief of the Hugo Award-finalist Apex Magazine. She moderates the Hugo Award-winning SF Squeecast, a monthly podcast (with Elizabeth Bear, Paul Cornell, Seanan McGuire, Michael Damian Thomas and Catherynne M. Valente) in which a group of SF/F professionals get excited about stuff they like, and contributes to the Verity! Podcast (with Erika Ensign, L.M. Myles, Katrina Griffiths, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Deborah Stanish), where a bunch of smart women talk about Doctor Who.
Lynne is also the Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL, where she is responsible for the literary papers of over 70 SF/F authors and the official archives of SFWA.


Michael Damian Thomas is the Co-Publisher and Co-Editor-in-Chief of Uncanny Magazine with his wife, Lynne M. Thomas. He was a two-time Hugo Award finalist as the former Managing Editor of Apex Magazine, co-edited the Hugo-nominatedQueers Dig Time Lords with Sigrid Ellis, and co-edited Glitter & Mayhem with John Klima and Lynne M. Thomas. Michael is a member of theDown and Safe Blake’s 7 podcast with Amal El-Mohtar, L.M. Myles, and Scott Lynch.
Michael lives in DeKalb with his wife Lynne, their daughter Caitlin, and a cat named Marie. Caitlin has a rare congenital disorder called Aicardi syndrome, and Michael works as her primary caregiver.

Navah Wolfe is an editor at Saga Press, Simon & Schuster’s science fiction and fantasy imprint, where she has edited critically-acclaimed novels such as Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke and Persona by Genevieve Valentine. She is also the co-editor, along with Dominik Parisien, of The Starlit Wood, an anthology of cross-genre fairy tale retellings, coming next year from Saga Press. She was previously an editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, where she worked on many bestselling books, including some that have won awards such as the Printz Honor, the Pura Belpré Award, the Pen/Faulkner Award, the Stonewall Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Schneider Family Award. She has previously worked as a bookseller, a rock climbing wall manager, and a veterinary intern at a zoo. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two young children. She can be found online at sagapress.com andtwitter.com/navahw.



All Out of Excuses seminar attendees must be 18 years of age or older. Children from the ages of 12 to 17 may attend if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Children aged 11 and under are welcome aboard ship, but cannot attend the Out of Excuses seminars. Child care and age-appropriate curriculum is available  through Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean® youth program.

All attendees, attendee guests, and accompanied minors must have a valid passport. Getting onto the ship? You need a passport!


There are plenty of things to do on the cruise ship besides attend the Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat. If you’d like to bring a significant other or family member of any age, it’s between $1100 and $1300, depending on cabin type. And if the family member is between the ages of 12 and 17, and has an interest in writing, they can pay that reduced price and still attend the seminars with you.If you want to bring more than three family members, we’ll put you in touch with Lisa Harding, our cruise manager, who can help you with pricing and any other arrangements.


We picked Royal Carribean because their ships are designed to accommodate all of our guests, including people with mobility, hearing and visual disabilities. Read more about the accomadations that are available. In addition, when you fill out the registration form, please let the WX staff know about any special needs you may have.


If you need to cancel your registration for any reason, your registration fee will be refunded based on the date of your cancellation:

  • Full refund until June 1st
  • 75% refund until July 1st
  • 50% refund until August 1st
  • 25% refund until September 1st
  • No refunds after September 1st


Q: What does “double-occupancy” mean?
A: It means that the price is for half of a room. You’ll have a roommate. This can be a friend that you arrange to room with ahead of time, it can be a family member, or it can be another Out of Excuses attendee.

Q: Can I get a private room?

A: Yes, but it will cost more. When you register, at the bottom of the form select “Single Occupancy” from the “additional items.”
Private room prices:

  • Standard Interior Stateroom: $1300 + $600 = $1900
  • Promenade Stateroom: $1400 + $650 = $2050
  • Oceanview Stateroom: $1500 + $800 = $2300
  • Oceanview with Balcony: $1750 + $900 = $2650

Q: What level of writing expertise should I have attained prior to attending?
A: “Level of expertise” is far less important than your desire to improve. The workshop is structured to be accessible and useful for new writers with a passion for learning, and to be challenging and rewarding for seasoned professionals looking for refinement, or additional perspectives. Different classes will be designed for different levels of experience.

Q: Can young children attend?

A: Children aged 11 and younger are welcome aboard the ship, but cannot attend the Out of Excuses seminars. Royal Caribbean has an excellent youth program which includes child care. Follow this link for more details about Adventure Ocean®.

  1. Will you have a scholarship again this year?
    A. Yes! We will be partnering with the Carl Brandon Society again this year.

Q: How big is the ship?
A: The Independence of the Seas holds 3000 guests, of which we’ll be a small percentage. The Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat has its own dedicated spaces, ours alone 24 hours a day, for classes, writing time, impromptu discussions, or other activities (like, say, a Magic draft with Brandon). We’ll also have our own area of the dining room, and the podcasters will rotate tables each night to sit with different guests. While the ship is large, it will be similar to being at a convention in a very nice hotel. You’ll know your tribe, you’ll know where to find them, and you’ll have places to hide from all the scary non-writer people.