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Registration is open for the 2015 Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat

Registration is now open for the 2015 Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat.

For the last two years the event has had a very limited size, and as a result has sold out very quickly. For 2015 we have moved to a new venue, removed the attendance limit, and increased the amount of instructor interaction—all without raising the price.

The 2015 Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat will be held from September 20th through the 27th on the Independence of the Seas.

It’s a cruise ship.

[UPDATE: We have sold through our original block of rooms. The cruise has provided us with additional rooms, but the rate is higher for these. The updated rates are now reflected on the registration page, and in the numbers provided below]

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 four different Caribbean destinations. Attendees will also be invited to submit questions for some of the episodes of Writing Excuses which will be recorded while we’re at sea.

At sea. Seriously.

SEMINARS

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.

ADDITIONAL BREAKOUT SESSIONS

There will be a limited number of additional breakout sessions and one-on-one sessions with individual instructors.  There is no additional charge for these, but because of the size of the event they will be distributed by lottery. The first 100 attendees registering prior to January 15th, 2015, will be entered in the lottery.

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.

GUEST HOSTS

Nalo Hopkinson
Nalo Hopkinson. (Photo (c)2011 by David Findlay)

To give you an even bigger bang for your buck, we are inviting other authors and industry professionals to help teach classes and breakouts throughout the week. The number of additional hosts depends on the number of attendees.

Nalo Hopkinson is a professional writing teacher, and one of our favorite panelists to listen to at conventions—she’s personable, funny, and brilliant. She’s been nominated for the Philip K. Dick award, the Nebula award, and Aurora award, all multiple times; her short story collection “Skin Folk” won the World Fantasy award, and her novel The New Moon’s Arms won the Sunburst award. She’s a Jamaican-Canadian whose tap roots extend to Trinidad and Guyana. She is a professor of Creative Writing at the University of California Riverside. She has taught numerous times at both Clarion and Clarion West. Her short story collection Falling in Love With Hominids will appear from Tachyon Books in 2015. In short, she’s very good at what she does, and very good at teaching others how to do it. She’ll be an excellent addition to the workshop, and we’re excited to have her.

Delia Sherman was born in Tokyo, Japan, and brought up in New York City. Delia’s short fiction for adults has appeared most recently in the anthologies Naked City and Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells. Stories for teen readers have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Steampunk! and Under My Hat. “CATNYP,” a story of a magical New York Between, inspired her middle grade novels Changeling and The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen. The Freedom Maze, a time-travel fantasy set in Louisiana, was awarded the Norton Award, the Prometheus Award, and the Mythopoeic Award. Her recent collection of short fiction, Young Woman in a Garden, has appeared on PW’s list of Best SF of 2014. She has worked as a contributing editor for Tor Books and has co-edited the fantasy anthology The Horns of Elfland with Ellen Kushner and Donald G. Keller and The Essential Bordertown with Terri Windling, as well as two anthologies of Interstitial fiction, Interfictions 1, with Theodora Goss and Interfictions 2, with Christopher Barzak. She is Executive Editor of Interfictions Online: A Journal of Interstitial Arts. She has taught writing at Clarion, Odyssey, and in the MA program in Children’s Literature at Hollins University.

Ellen Kushner - Delia Sherman - 2014 - Melissa C Beckman
Ellen Kushner – Delia Sherman (Photo (c)2014 – Melissa C Beckman)

Ellen Kushner is the author of Thomas the Rhymer (World Fantasy and Mythopoeic awards), the interconnected novels Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword (Locus Award, Nebula nominee), and The Fall of the Kings (written with Delia Sherman). She narrated these as audiobooks for Neil Gaiman Presents (Audie Award). With Holly Black, she co-edited Welcome to Bordertown. A co-founder of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, Ellen Kushner was also the longtime host of the national public radio show Sound & Spirit. She has taught creative writing at Clarion, the Odyssey Workshop, and is an instructor at Hollins University’s Children’s Literature M.F.A. program. She lives in New York City with Delia Sherman and no cats whatsoever.

 

CRUISE ITINERARY

  • 20th Sept: Depart Ft. Lauderdale 4:00pm
  • 21st Sept: At Sea
  • 22nd Sept: Labedee, Haiti 8:00am to 5:00pm
  • 23rd Sept: Falmouth,Jamaica 10:30am to 7:00pm
  • 24th Sept: Georgetown, Grand Cayman 8:00am to 4:00pm
  • 25th Sept: Cozumel, Mexico 10:00am to 7:00pm
  • 26th Sept: At Sea
  • 27th Sept: Arrive Ft. Lauderdale 7:00am

ATTENDANCE REQUIREMENTS

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!

FAMILY RATES

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, it’s just $900 for a non-workshop stateroom berth, or $1,000 for a non-workshop balcony cabin. 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.

REFUND POLICY

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

FAQ:

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®.

Q. 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.

Q: How big is the event?
A: As of this writing (October 24, 2014), we have just over 100 attendees, including family members. As mentioned above, the podcasters and our guest hosts will be rotating tables at dinner, and participating in other activities in order to make ourselves accessible to each and every one of the attendees.

Play

Writing Excuses 9.27: Pre-writing

What’s pre-writing? Well, it’s a little bit like “pre-cooking,” in which something is cooked prior to being put in the final recipe, but in food terms it might also be like “cleaning the kitchen” or “grocery shopping.” Outlining is one kind of pre-writing, but so is the creation of that 5,000-word prologue you decide not to keep, but which informed the whole rest of your story.

We talk about the different things that each of us do prior to actually laying down lines of prose, and how our processes differ between projects, genres, and mediums.

Special Announcement: The first ever Writing Excuses anthology, SHADOWS BENEATH, is available now. This anthology features stories brainstormed and critiqued here on the podcast, and includes draft versions, related episode transcripts, and authorial commentaries as well. Let Brandon tell you more about it!

Our critiquing episodes will begin airing next week, so if you want to read ahead, now’s the time to pick up SHADOWS BENEATH. Oh, and if you order the hardcover, you get the ebook free of charge!

SHADOWS BENEATH launches this weekend at Westercon 67, where Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard are Guests of Honor alongside Cory Doctorow, Christopher Garcia, William Stout, and Bradley Voytek.

Loving That Cover Art? Us too! It’s the work of Julie Dillon, who is on the 2014 Hugo ballot for Best Artist. You can admire (and comment upon!) the unobstructed original here in her DeviantArt gallery.

Dave Farland’s Writing Workshops sponsored us for this episode! Both Brandon and Dan have studied under Dave, and we’re all happy to wholeheartedly recommend his workshops to you. If you can’t fly to his place, well, visit MyStoryDoctor.com and take the online course. The coupon code for your Writing Excuses discount is EXCUSES, but don’t think that means you actually HAVE any of those…

Play

Sapient smells. Odors that think. Scents with their own hopes, dreams, and passions. Go.

The “Out of Excuses” Seminar and Retreat Scholarship Recipient is…

The applications have been reviewed, re-reviewed, sorted, parsed, and very meticulously evaluated, and the time has come to announce the recipient of the 2014 scholarship for the Out of Excuses seminar and retreat.

Congratulations, Julie Rodriguez!

Julie has been notified by email and has accepted. We’re all looking forward to having her join us at this September’s event.

Thank you, applicants, for your interest. We’re honored (and perhaps a wee bit intimidated) to have so many high-quality writing samples to review. Speaking of which, we’re very grateful to the scholarship selection panel at the Carl Brandon society (Wesley Chu, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, John Lawson, and K. Tempest Bradford) for their help with the review and administration of the scholarship.

And thank you, all of you who have expressed interest in the Out of Excuses event itself. We recognize that the demand is currently far in excess of what the retreat facility can accommodate. We don’t have anything to announce on that front, be we are up to our elbows in the investigation of possible alternatives.

Venue options notwithstanding, we’ll definitely be holding seminars and retreats in the future.

A Midweek Writing Exercise: “Statement of Problem”

Howard here. Let me cut straight to the exercise:

Describe the problems you currently have with the Writing Excuses website, but do so without describing solutions to those problems. 

and then…

Describe things that work the best for you, or things that you enjoy the most at the Writing Excuses site, but do so without simply naming the feature.

We’re giving writingexcuses.com a redesign, an overhaul, and we need use-cases. From you!

In the world of web design (and in the larger world of software design, and the even larger world of product design) the engineering team will do the wrong thing when presented with a long list of instructions from end-users. What they need is a concise list of instructions from an architect, who has looked at the various use-cases in their correct contexts.

Here is one way you might respond to this exercise without having paid attention to the instructions:

“Use a bigger font, and make the buttons bigger, too.”

Okay, but will a bigger font actually solve the problem? Let’s reword this and see.

“I can’t read the site when I’m using my phone, and when I try to click on links or buttons I usually miss.”

Oh-ho! Now we know that what this user actually needs is a version of the site that comes up for mobile devices, and which is optimized for use there. (Note: yes, we know this! And we also hate when mobile sites don’t provide the full feature set. Both of these things are already in our requirements list. And we also know that even for laptop/tablet/PC/Mac users, the existing font is often too small.)

More examples:

I like the tag cloud.

Well, okay. Producer Jordo hates tag clouds, and I don’t like tagging things when I write episodes up, but we’ll go ahead and leave that alone, I guess.

I find episodes using the tag cloud, and sometimes I find super-helpful episodes that I didn’t expect would help.

Wait, you mean it works? Well, that changes things. I’m encouraged to keep tagging episodes as I create them, even though (confession time!) I don’t use the tag cloud myself, and I worry that it might not be useful. And hey, for some of you it might not be! That’s why this writing exercise is so important. One person’s solution or favorite feature may be another person’s problem, and unless we describe the problems and the functional use-cases, we won’t catch that.

Let’s do this one more time…

Don’t make the site all bloated and graphics-heavy! I hate sites that do that.

There’s no value assigned to “bloated” or “graphics-heavy.” Why do you hate sites like that? Are you offended by color? Is it a mobile phone issue? This totally ties our hands, because adding ANYTHING might be problematic here.

I like how quickly the site loads. Episodes take a while to stream, but the UI comes up fast.

This statement identifies load-time as the thing we need to not break. Taken in context of other problems and other successful use-cases, we can see exactly what we need to do.

This writing exercise is especially tricky the more you know about web site design and software design, because you probably already know the solution we’ll end up using. You want to save time and just jump ahead. If you’re passionate about the solution you’re offering, that’s yet another difficulty level. They stack! That means this is a great writing exercise for the engineers among you! It’s like “show, don’t tell,” only with more descriptions of eye-strain and less pre-formatted XML.

Producer Jordo and I interact with the site differently than you do, and Izzy and Tiffany (our development team) are even further disconnected. But if you give us the right information, we’ll give you a new, improved writingexcuses.com that will amaze you, and part of that amazement will be that we gave you good stuff without taking any of the old stuff away.

Unlike our writing prompts, this exercise goes into the comments. And we’ll actually read it! (No critiques, though.)

For your handy-dandy, below-the-fold reference, here is the exercise again:

Describe the problems you currently have with the existing Writing Excuses website, but do so without describing solutions to those problems. 

Describe things that work the best for you, or things that you enjoy the most at the Writing Excuses site, but do so without simply naming the feature.

Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat

WtO logo

If you wanted to register for the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat and didn’t get in, I’m hoping that you might be interested in the Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat.

It’s held at the same location, Mary Robinette Kowal’s parents’ house.

Mary will be joined by NY Times Best-selling author David Anthony Durham; Cynthia Ward and Nisi Shawl, the authors behind the book Writing the Other; and K. Tempest Bradford, author and activist.

On Writing Excuses, some of the most common questions come in as variations of “How do you write someone who isn’t like you.” Many authors struggle to write beyond what they know and write the other. While we tackle this on the podcast, fifteen minutes is not enough time to delve into this tricky and nuanced skill. The Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat is designed with lessons and conversations, paired with a retreat, to give participants an opportunity to work on making their characters and worldbuilding deeper and more thoughtful. And David, Cynthia, Nisi, and Tempest really are that smart.

I hope the same urge that makes you listen to Writing Excuses will allow you to consider attending this retreat.

Eventbrite - Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat

Announcing the Writing Excuses/Carl Brandon Scholarship

As we announced in November, we are holding the second annual Out of Excuses Retreat this year, September 29 through October 5. Last year’s retreat was a huge success, and we’re excited to be doing it again, and we’re especially excited to be offering another scholarship. Even better, this year’s scholarship has a twist: instead of just need and merit, we’re also looking for diversity.

Why diversity? Isn’t it enough to just look for the most qualified applicant, regardless of other factors? No it isn’t, and this is why: we make our choice based on merit, but we can only do that within the small, self-selecting group of people who feel comfortable applying. Out of last year’s thirty attendees, we had only one writer of color, which is not even close to a realistic representation of the speculative fiction market. This was a sign to us that something was wrong. Our ratio of men and women was about half and half, which was great; that meant that both men and women deemed our retreat a safe and welcoming environment. Our ratio of white writers to writers of color was a clear sign that some writers did not necessarily feel the same welcome, and we want to change that.

To that end, we are proud to partner with the Carl Brandon Society, an organization dedicated to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction. We hope that focusing our scholarship in this way will not only give a great opportunity to a worthy writer of color, but encourage other writers of color to sign up for the retreat as well. No matter who you are, we want you at our retreat! The scholarship applications will be reviewed by a selection panel from  the Carl Brandon Society, consisting of Wesley Chu, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, John Lawson, and Tempest Bradford.

Registration for the Out of Excuses Retreat opens on January 18, 2014, at 9am EST. As of this posting, that’s TOMORROW. If you can afford a full membership, don’t hold out for the scholarship because you won’t get it. If money is tight, though, the Carl Brandon Scholarship can offer you free registration to the retreat, a fully paid room in the nearby hotel, and up to $500 toward airfare. Note that the registration fee includes most of your food already, so this covers almost all of your expenses for the week. To apply for the scholarship, submit the following to retreat@writingexcuses.com by midnight, March 15, 2014:

  1. A brief example of your writing, consisting of 1-3 separate pieces and totaling no more than 10,000 words. These can be short stories or novel excerpts. Don’t feel obligated to fill the word count: if you can wow us in less, more power to you.
  2. A 450-700 word personal essay explaining why you are a good candidate for the scholarship. What makes you unique? What can you bring to our group that no one else can? Keep in mind that even as we focus on “need,” the panel will be reviewing your writing in terms of “merit” as well.
  3. Three brief letters of recommendation (no more than 300 words each) from people who are not your relatives. Friends, bosses, people from your writing group, anyone who can tell us exactly how awesome you are. While the fiction and the personal essay should be included in a single email, these letters can be emailed individually by the people who write them, just make sure they include your name in the subject line.

We anticipate a huge response to this scholarship, so please be aware that we will be culling the applications relentlessly, and those who don’t follow the rules will be the first to go—just like sending a manuscript to a publisher, submission guidelines matter. Send your fiction and essay all in the body of a single email (no attachments), with the subject line “Scholarship Application: [name].” Your three recommendation letters should go to the same address, with the same subject line, and they can be sent by you or directly by the people who wrote them. Follow the word limits exactly, make sure you’ve got all three items covered, and don’t miss the deadline: March 15, 2014. We will review the submissions and announce our decision on May 4, 2014, which should give you plenty of time to work out vacation time and babysitters and so on for the retreat in September.

We look forward to reading your submissions!