On Death and Coping

It has been a week since my friend and honors college roommate Melissa passed away. She loved books and wanted to be a librarian; it was on her way to visit the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station that she got killed in a car accident. When I woke up to the news, it hit me like a brick wall. Since then I’d been constantly thinking of mortality, how time flies and how our days are numbered. It’s easy to take for granted, especially when things aren’t going well, but we have to do our best to appreciate every day we’re given on Earth. We never know when our time will come, or when we will lose people we care about.

I won’t forget the many things Melissa and I have done together, all those times we shared our thoughts and big dreams, how we studied abroad in Oxford together, and how she had been the 1st beta reader to critique the 1st sci-fi short story I’d ever written, which went on to get Silver Honorable Mention in Writers of the Future. She will be missed, and I’ll keep her in my thoughts and prayers always.

Short Story Acceptance #10

Within a surprisingly quick 3-day turnaround, I found out that “In The Name of Science” was accepted for the Infurno: Nine Circles of Hell anthology edited by Thurston Howl. Dante’s Inferno is one of my favorite classical works, so I thought the anthology’s theme was absolutely amazing and just knew that I really wanted a piece in this. I wrote a historical fiction short story about Japan’s Unit 731: a biological warfare program also infamously known as the Asian Holocaust, for performing grisly and utterly inhumane experiments on entire ethnic groups. It’s told from the point of view of a young surgeon recruited to perform operations on prisoners of war. I’m so happy to be sharing this story sometime in December!

Short Story Rejection #25

24-day personal rejection from Escape Pod for “Diver:”

“Dear Allison,

Thank you for sending “Diver” to Escape Pod. We enjoyed this story, but unfortunately, it’s not quite right for us. We wish you the best in finding this a good home and look forward to your next submission.

This story was well-written, and full of delightfully unique ideas, but the swimming/Diving analogy felt too direct and literal for our tastes. We loved it as a metaphor, but the analogy stopped working for us when both tasks used the same skills and even the same swimsuits.”

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.