Tips On (Maybe) Getting Into Viable Paradise

Disclaimer: I have no inside information on how the staff and instructors judge and evaluate the submissions. There’s no magic formula or shortcut for admission. Instead I’ll tell you what I did to get in, and hopefully that helps a bit.

Apply early.
I heard you have better chances when you turn in your sample well in advance before the deadline, to give more time for your piece to be thought over. Take this with a grain of salt, though. I submitted in February, months before the June deadline. I mainly did that so I could pay only $25 for the fee, rather than $50 that comes with skirting the deadline.

Submit something you’re close to and proud of.
Of course every work you create is precious, though some you hold close to more than others. It’s natural for writers to impart their experience into their works to some degree, more or less. For VP I submitted a 4k-word slipstream short: my weirdest, most experimental and personal one yet. And I don’t really read or write weird fiction. Apparently there’s a sort of stigma with first-person present-tense…oh well I did it for this story, anyway. I played around with the story’s theme and structure, how far I could stretch myself with language and sexual content, which I read and use sparingly. I relied on a strange combination of allusions to the 70s song “American Pie” and Dante’s epic poem Inferno as structural and thematic framework for my story. It felt somewhat like a dare, and I felt somewhat vulnerable in sending that story, though I’m glad I took that bold step.

Don’t try catering to the instructors’ tastes in hopes to get a leg up. Look instead into yourself, and send a story that best reflects your interests and writing abilities, if possible. I’m told that the cover letter doesn’t matter so much as the writing sample. Use that opportunity to put yourself in the story, in however way you want, through the protagonist’s voice, character(s), setting or situation.

You are free to submit a novel excerpt; in that case it’ll work a lot like the novel query process. Personally I thought it would be better for me to show how I can start and end a story in its entirety.

Submit something you’re willing to set aside and do nothing with until rejection, or October (if you’re accepted):
Once it’s off your hands, don’t touch it! Work on something else to take your mind off the submitted piece. Take it from me: I confess that I’ve made a few revisions to my story following the submission, and after acceptance I was told by one of the staff that I’m not allowed to present a newer version of my submission for critique, since the instructors have already looked over and commented on the version I had sent.

Don’t give up!
It’s very common for people to get in after many tries. Persistence is the true judge of a writer’s character. If you really want something that badly, get up, dust yourself off, and jump back into the game. I know it’s really hard, but try not to take a rejection personally. There are way more applications than spots in a workshop, especially for big ones like Clarion, Odyssey and Viable Paradise; that makes for lots of hard decisions and close calls on the staff’s end. If money and time for workshops don’t end up working out, don’t feel like you’re less of a writer because you didn’t get into or graduate from one. I know plenty of absolutely amazing writers who never attended a single workshop.

In the end, there are lots of factors beyond an applicant’s control, but I hope these pointers help you put together your application and think over some things.

Viable Paradise 2017/VP21

On the afternoon of July 6, when I woke up from my nap I’d take before my 6 PM-4 AM night owl shift at the ER, I got a notice that I’ve been accepted to Viable Paradise/VP21:

“On behalf of the staff and instructors, we’d like to welcome you as a student to Viable Paradise, and say congratulations!”

Read more

Short Story Rejection #23

I submitted “A Study In Twins” to the Species: Foxes anthology, which was declined after 8 days:

“Hello,

Thank you again so much for submitting to SPECIES: Foxes. We certainly got a large number of submissions this year, moreso than our usual volume. That has made this volume exceptionally difficult to make decisions, and even stories that were particularly strong were not accepted due to fit and theme. I am sorry to inform you that we have decided to decline your work at this time. It was truly not an easy decision, and we encourage you to submit to future anthologies.

NOTE: I loved this story so much! Just wasn’t a fit for S:F. But definitely one of the best pieces I’ve read from you.
Howl”
Furry anthologies are nowhere near as selective as markets and magazines for speculative fiction, but rejection can still happen. I’m consoled by the fact that my submission was declined only because it was not a fit for the anthology, not because of the poor quality of the story. I suppose it wasn’t “foxy” enough. Now I need to figure out where I can send this story next, which will be somewhat of a challenge considering that it carved in more of a niche than my other stories.

Short Story Rejection #22

24-day form rejection from Uncanny for “Diver:”

Dear Allison,

Thank you for submitting “Diver” to Uncanny Magazine for consideration. Unfortunately, we’re going to pass on this one. It’s not what we’re looking for right now.

We look forward to reading further submissions from you.

Best,
The Uncanny Magazine Editors
Jaime O. Mayer
Submissions Editor
Uncanny Magazine”

Ehh not much to read into here. I’m just glad that, like with Fireside, I was able to submit to Uncanny after trimming down my story. I hadn’t been able to submit for their last period because I was over the word limit. I thought “Diver” would have been a good fit for this magazine, but I guess not.

Short Story Rejection #21

After waiting for 70 days with bated breath, a rejection from Fireside came for me at the end of June:

“Dear Allison,

Thank you for sending us “Malebolge”. Your story reached the highest level of consideration, but we’ve decided not to accept it. We’d love to see more stories from you in the future.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this.

Sincerely,
Fireside Fiction Company ”

Not exactly what I had in mind to end the month. I know we writers flounder in the sea of rejection all the time, and all you can do is suck it up and keep going…but not gonna lie, this one hit pretty hard. I had my hopes up, a side effect of the long wait. “Malebolge” is an Own Voices story, so it couldn’t help feeling personal. What takes the sting out of this a bit was that I didn’t do too shabby for a 1st time submitter to Fireside, I suppose. Landing a pro sale from Fireside would have been a really awesome milestone, though at least I fulfilled my goal of getting a story within their 4k word limit: a big challenge for me, considering most of my work runs over that. Can’t mix up my goals and milestones! I’m grateful for my friends and followers on Twitter for supporting me and soothing my bruised feels after this news.

I keep getting these second round/close call rejections, those “we really like this because of x, but…” and I’m trying to figure out just what is that push to get me from a no to a yes.

I won’t give up on this story; I’m quite proud of it and though I haven’t written original stories for that long, I feel that this is my best to date. I’m excited to see what other stories I can come up with, hopefully ones I’d feel good about like with “Malebolge.”

Short Story Acceptance #9

I will be making another appearance in Wolf Warriors IV: the latest volume in a series of wolf-themed charity anthologies. For this year’s theme (wolves of light and shadow), I contributed one short story “The Same Within” and a loosely related illustration titled “Black Wolf, White Bone”, both accepted.

Here’s a preview of my art:

Black Wolf White Bone (2)

Short Story Rejection #20

57-day personal rejection from Lackington’s for “Malebolge:”

“Hi Allison
Thanks for sending this story in, which we enjoyed reading. We love the concept of whispering micro-organisms, and the lab culture you portray, very much here. However, with regret, we must pass on your tale as our Table of Contents takes shape. We wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere.
Warm regards,
Ranylt Richildis

Lackington’s Magazine”