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Sorry for the delay in my big, super exciting news. I wanted to wait to share until I had a better sense of how everything would shake out given COVID-19.

But now that I have some clarity …. /drumroll …. I was admitted to Clarion West this year!

For those who aren’t party of the speculative writing community, this is kind of a big deal. Clarion West and Clarion UCSD are the most prestigious speculative writing workshops in the US (and maybe even world?). Each year a panel of esteemed writers at each workshop evaluate applicants’ story samples (often 2+ short stories) and cover letter. Admittance rates apparently rival Harvard’s (though stats aren’t officially released).

This year was my fourth year applying (though not fourth year in a row — I haven’t applied when I wouldn’t be able to take the significant time off to attend). While I don’t think attending a Clarion workshop is required to be a successful speculative writer (most best-sellers and award-winners never attended one of these workshops), for anyone who has their heart set on going, I definitely encourage you to keep applying and don’t give up just because you’ve been rejected.

Being admitted to this workshop this year was hugely validating for me as I’ve been working on improving my writing for years and years with few successes. I don’t think writing fiction comes naturally to me, but I haven’t given up, and I will continue to improve. Clarion will likely be an important step in that journey, and I can’t wait.

Speaking of waiting though, it is still unclear if the workshop will actually be held this summer or not. Fortunately, Jae and Rashida (our excellent workshop administrator and coordinator, respectively) have shared a few different contingency plan options that are incredibly thoughtful, considerate, and generous given the uncertain nature of COVID-19. My new cohortmates and I could not be in better hands. But still TBD on what the future holds exactly (I’ll share when I have definitive answers).

Thoughts on Applying

I have no idea what actually lands someone a coveted spot at either Clarion, but I do remember how helpful other blog posts I’ve read from admitted Clarionites were in my preparing to apply. I want to be as forthcoming and helpful (?) as those others were for me. So in the spirit of transparency, I’m going to share the cover letter I submitted below as well as some thoughts on the story/stories submitted.

My Cover Letter:

For previous cover letters I submitted, I took a fairly serious tone. But I was starting to feel like how often can I express the same dreams, goals, heart’s desires, etc. without it sounding repetitive (remember this wasn’t my first time applying). So instead I went with a much more casual tone — honestly a more casual tone than I probably should have gone with. Having said that, I know other admitted students who wrote deeply personal, heart-wrenching letters who also had success. Long-winded way of saying: there is no one-size fits all with the cover letter. My recommendation: follow the instructions on the website, be your authentic self, and don’t try to guess what the staff wants to see.

Here’s my letter:

Hello Clarion West Faculty,

It’s Sydney again – taking one more swing at the Clarion West fences. I’ve had a hell of a year and feel more prepared than ever to attend your workshop, should I have the good fortune of being accepted.

Since my last application, I’ve made a ton of progress on the writing front:

  • I’ve sold three short stories at the SFWA pro-rate ($0.08/word). Two of these stories are due out to be published next month (January 2020) in Reckoning 4 and Flame Tree’s A Dying Planet. The third story sold to Apex Magazine, one of my dream publications. Sadly, a week after this sale Apex announced they were shutting down immediately, and my story wouldn’t be published. And so it goes.
  • Speaking of SFWA, these aforementioned sales qualified me for SFWA active membership status, one of my lifelong goals. I am incredibly excited and proud to be part of this organization that helps so many writers find their footing in the industry.
  • I also finished my latest novel. Clocking in at ~80,000 words, my novel <NAME IN PROGRESS> is a twisty murder mystery on a post-apocalyptic tech company campus. I’m pitching it as Six Wakes meets Westworld. The novel just came back from my beta readers last month (all writer friends I met when I attended Viable Paradise Writers Workshop in 2017) and they loved it … except for the entire last third (~100 pages). So right now I’m in revision mode and hoping to finish draft two by early Spring.

While progress still feels slow, I’ve really moved in the right direction with my writing this year. On reflection, I am especially proud of my progress given how busy I’ve been (a new marriage, a demanding job, baby Yoda, etc.). I just keep writing because it’s what I have to do and who I am. This year has really proven to me that no matter what I’ve got going on, I will never stop writing.

I’ve also read some incredible stories this year. These are my favorites and why:

  • “Why Aren’t Millennials Continuing Traditional Worship of the Elder Dark?” by Matt Dovey published in Diabolical Plots. This story is hilarious and really resonated with me given my own affliction of being one of those darned millennials who are ruining Everything.
  • “Dandelion” by Elly Bangs published in Clarkesworld. Bangs interweaves the lives of three generations of engineer/astronaut women in a truly haunting and touching story.
  • Jade War by Fonda Lee. Whoa! Can Lee land a sequel. I don’t think I’ve ever read a sequel I enjoyed more than the first book in a series. And multiple POVs is SO hard.
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. This book is beautifully written. I want to be Harrow when I grow up (even though I think technically I’m older than her … oops). The prose in this book is just utter perfection.
  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. Okay okay I know this isn’t fiction, but I felt weird putting together a best-reads list without including this one. DiAngelo really opened my eyes to how harmful it is that we aren’t comfortable openly discussing race and racism. I’m always striving to do and be better.

Reading these (and many other) amazing works makes me yearn to level up my own writing. My experience at Viable Paradise Writers Workshop back in 2017 and what I’ve learned about Clarion West from former instructors and alum lead me to believe that Clarion West can really help me improve my short fiction. I am desperate to get better and eager to submerge myself in Clarion West.

If you admit me, I promise to be fully committed to the Clarion West experience, support my fellow classmates, and give back as an alumnus. To prepare, I will read more (especially more works by the instructors), I will critique more (novels and shorts from my friends on Codex and fellow VP alums), and I will write more (this one is easy ;)). I have never felt more ready to dive in and, if you give me a chance, I know I can make you proud.

Enclosed is one fantasy short story: “Mishpokhe and Ash.” This story is deeply personal and is a fantasy retelling of my grandmother’s experience in WWII. A Jew living in the Hungarian countryside in March 1944 had a less than 10% chance of surviving the next 12 months. I hope this piece is worthy of her story.

Thank you so much for your consideration. Beam me up, Scotty.

Sydney Rossman-Reich

Now that I’m over dying of embarrassment from posting that, let me say again there is no one-size fits all. Who knows? Maybe this cover letter hurt me and my story is what carried me through? Speaking of which ….

The story

Again, I have no idea what anyone behind the scenes is looking for. But I will say, I’ve noticed some recurring themes across the stories submitted by accepted applicants. Take all this with a grain of salt. My unconfirmed thoughts:

  • Stories you love. If you’re planning to apply, I’m sure you will see this advice a lot. The writers I know who’ve been accepted to a Clarion seemed to have submitted stories they felt a strong connection to and really loved … whether or not those stories had been published / loved by editors or not. I will say this: I once applied with a story I sold to an incredible anthology and was rejected. The story I was accepted with at CW this year is still unpublished to this day.
  • Personal stories. This one is a little harder to nail down, but I’ve seen a bit of a pattern of accepted writers submitting stories they not only loved, but also had some deeper and specific link with their own history, background, experiences, etc. A friend of mine pointed out that this might just mean we writers poured more into the story and the application readers picked up on this. This very well may be the case. Whatever the cause and effect, might be worth considering…
  • The number of stories submitted doesn’t matter. I submitted one story to CW this year. I know someone admitted who submitted three stories to CW. I’ve seen folks agonize over this question given CW’s page limit maximum (with no minimum). Don’t fret. Submit the story or stories that feel right to you. I wouldn’t try to “game the system” and submit more or less because you think that’s what the readers want versus what story/stories feel right to you.

Anyway, what do I know? Hopefully though these thoughts are helpful. Either way, good luck applying, I’m rooting for you, and feel free to ping me if you have any other thoughts or questions (I may not have any answers, but if I can be helpful, I’m happy to be).

Also, I’ll probably make a post about my CW experience once I’ve graduated (even if it’s not for a very long time given the virus – TBD!)

April 8 – March 15

Yep – it’s been almost a year since I made a post. And a lot has happened in a year! Here are the highlights….

May-June 2019: London.

Ryan and I went on an amazing vacation to London to celebrate Lyn and Gaurav’s wedding. It was a fantastic trip. We did all the best touristy stuff (including tea at the palace, a visit to stonehenge, touring the Harry Potter studio, and seeing the Harry Potter play). Lyn and Gaurav’s big day was definitely the highlight, and I am so looking forward to seeing them again as well as doing more travel with Ryan.

June 2019: E3.

In June, I attended E3 for the first time with Facebook. Turns out the Exhibitor badge is the best VIP status – exhibitors got to (perhaps obviously) head into the conference space before anyone else. The whole experience was incredible.

September – October 2019: Safari.

But definite highlight of 2019 for me was our big family trip to Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. Ryan and I finally got to go on our dream honeymoon and Nancy, Kiki, and Alyssa joined us 🙂 We had an incredible experience (though most of the best pictures are not on my phone – used for pics below). We stayed at the Giraffe Manor just outside Nairobi, explored the Serengeti and Masai Mara, saw the great wildebeest migration, watched so many animals stalk and kill other animals (apparently it is pretty rare to see so many animal kills … and we saw a lot!), got charged by a mama elephant during breakfast, went cage-diving with Great White sharks, and enjoyed some of the best meals we’ve ever had (although you’d have to bug Ryan for those pictures :)). If you ever take a safari trip and want tips, hit me up. We had a fantastic time!

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December 2019 – January 2020: Moving.

At the end of this past year, I made the incredibly difficult decision to leave Facebook and move back to Orlando to work for my mom. It was the right move for me professionally and personally (and finally the right time), but it was very very hard to leave my team at Facebook. I’ve never left a job I enjoyed so much (the work, the people, the space, my mentors/managers). But the prospect of potentially leading my family’s business one day and helping to support and better the lives of all my cousins and siblings and our future children was too enticing to pass up. I am excited to learn more about real estate development and investing and to continue to build a future for my extended family that is financially secure. I want to make sure the next generation has the same opportunities my generation did.

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January 2020: Sundance.

And finally, the last big trip we took in the past year was to Sundance (the Film Festival). While our travel group has been to Park City a few times now for skiing, we’d never gone for the film festival. And wow was the festival fun! We certainly weren’t pros whatsoever, but we saw some very interesting films, enjoyed some quiet skiing, and definitely plan to be back.

Looking ahead, 2020 is going to be a year of learning and growth for me. I have a lot to ramp up on in my new job but I’m very excited to dive in and start building a new expertise.

On the Writing front, the last year has been slow but steady progress:

  • I finished my second novel and it is thisclose to being query-ready. I am hoping to start querying it with agents in the next few months. I really like this book (name still TBD AH!). The story is an ~80,000 word near-future science fiction novel set on a live-in tech company campus. When workers start mysteriously dying, a software engineer, a dev ops, a security guard, a data scientist, and the compound CEO must band together to solve the mystery before the death toll climbs. Still working on the pitch 😉 But I’d say it’s Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty meets the TV show Westworld.
  • I’ve made a few more short story sales! Reckoning 4, Flame Tree’s A Dying Planet anthology, and Hybrid Fiction have bought stories since my Apex Magazine sale. Unfortunately Apex Magazine had to suddenly shut down only a few weeks after my sale and so the story I sold them won’t be published there. This was a huge bummer as Apex was one of my dream publications (and published the Hugo-award winning stories of the last two years!), but so it goes. All I can do is keep writing and submitting.
  • BUT the aforementioned sales listed above were enough to bump me from Associate Member status with SFWA to Active Member – this is the highest tier of membership in SFWA for a writer. I’ve wanted to be a SFWA Active Member for as long as I’ve known SFWA existed and achieving this milestone is a huge accomplishment for me 🙂

I also have one really really big writing-related announcement to share, but I have to keep it secret for now. I’ll make a standalone post about this once I’m able to reveal it. I am so excited to finally shout this announcement from the rooftops!

Story Recs

I’ve read A LOT in the last year. Here are the standout stories, I’d recommend:

+“Why Aren’t Millennials Continuing Traditional Worship of the Elder Dark?” by Matt Dovey published in Diabolical Plots. This story is hilarious and really resonated with me given my own affliction of being one of those darned millennials who are ruining Everything.

+ “Dandelion” by Elly Bangs published in Clarkesworld. Bangs interweaves the lives of three generations of engineer/astronaut women in a truly haunting and touching story.

+ Jade War by Fonda Lee. Whoa! Can Lee land a sequel. I don’t think I’ve ever read a sequel I enjoyed more than the first book in a series. And multiple POVs is SO hard.

+ The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. This book is beautifully written. I want to be Harrow when I grow up (even though I think technically I’m older than her … oops). The prose in this book is just utter perfection.

+ White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. DiAngelo really opened my eyes to how harmful it is that we aren’t comfortable openly discussing race and racism. I’m always striving to do and be better.

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut. This book was incredible and poses the question: does doing something evil in the service of something good, make you evil or good? I haven’t read a book that’s made me think this much in a long time. Maybe one of my all-time favorites now.

As always let me know if there are any books, video games, comics, etc. I should be adding to me to-do list. Excited to share my good news in my next post! Stay safe out there.

October 18 – April 7

Wow it’s been awhile since I blogged – it feels like both a lot and a little have happened since I last checked in.

On the job front, work has definitely ramped up. I got the option in October to switch my focus within the team and man did that change my world. The amount of impact I was able to have on the new team was leaps and bounds above what I was able to do on my first team, but with this change in scope came a pretty significant change in responsibility. Months later I am still trying to figure out how to deliver on the impact I know I can have while not sacrificing my entire life to do it. Honestly, I’m still struggling with this one – as my work performance has trended up, my writing and health have definitely trended down. I’ve spent the last few months brainstorming how to permanently fix this problem in a long-term way. I am pretty sure I’ve landed on the answer, but won’t share more until the moves have been made 🙂 Stay tuned.

Travel-wise, the last few months have been packed! I headed to Cartagena in Colombia for Briggs’ 30th bday, back to Orlando for Alyssmas, Park City with the gang for New Years, and a bunch of places in Asia for work-related travel (can you figure out where based on the pics?).

 

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Ryan and I have also continued our adventures in cake-baking. The latest was a black forest cake for Stef’s bday (pro tip: whipped creme does NOT travel well – cake almost didn’t make the drive from San Mateo to SF)

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On the writing front, I actually have an exciting update. This past week, I sold a story to Apex Magazine ! Apex is a pro-market (meaning it is SFWA-recognized and pays at least $0.06 / word for accepted stories). Apex has also published several short stories that have won the Hugo Award in the last few years (including this past year). Making this sale is a pretty big deal for me for a couple reasons:

  1. I can now apply to be an Associate Member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). I’ve wanted to be a member of SFWA since I first started writing – the networking opportunities are enormous! If I sell 2 more stories to pro-markets, I can apply for Active Member status which would be even better, but Associate Members still get a lot of great perks. If you’re interested in the nitty gritty, check out this link.
  2. Once my Associate membership application goes through, I can say I am a member of SFWA on all future story submissions and novel queries – this plus noting my sale to Apex should help boost my work in slush piles. Readers will give my stories more consideration and a better chance to woo them. I’ll have a sense shortly of how much this does or does not matter.
  3. Apex is a really hard magazine to make a sale to. This is probably the first time ever I’ve felt like a real writer. 😀

I’ll share more about the story itself when it’s closer to its actual publication date (TBD) – and of course links to the magazine and links to the story once it’s made free online.

Story Recs

I’ve continued to read a lot, but honestly, not too many stories have been standouts for me lately 😦 Here are the few notables since my last post:

+ The Consuming Fire (The Interdependency, #2) by John Scalzi. Scalzi continues to impress with his new trilogy about a collapsing space empire. The second book stood up well against the first (even though my favorite character from book #1 was noticeably absent in this second go-around). Book #3 is supposed to come out in the next year (man Scalzi writes fast!)

+ Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. I picked up this book for a failed book club at work. It isn’t speculative at all and very much outside of my wheelhouse, but it was great. The stories about the different families struggling in a Mumbai slum were incredibly heart-wrenching and the twist at the end of the book bumped this one up to a 5/5 for me. Definitely recommend this one (and it’s a pretty fast read).

Again, no new video games that have really grabbed me. Though Ryan and I did buy a subscription to Nintendo Classic on his Switch and playing Super Mario Bros 3 has been nostalgically fun. Let me know if you are reading or playing anything good I should pick up 🙂

September 12 – October 17

The last month has been a blur as I’ve ramped up at Facebook. I’m really enjoying my team and what I’m working on, though I still think it will take some time for me to have the impact I want to have. Learning and growing is the name of the game 🙂

Outside of work, Ryan and I have been baking up a storm. We actually kind of need to stop as baking a three-tier cake and, between the two of us, finishing it in under a week cannot be healthy. C’est la vie.

Other than finding my footing at work, there haven’t been a ton of big life updates.

Writing Update

Okay, so actually I do have one semi-big update. I got my first story acceptance this month 🙂 My short story “The Shopkeeper’s Daughter” will be published in Stupefying Stories sometime over the next few months. Ironically, that is my only fantasy story (I mostly stick to scifi), but it is a story I really love. I’ll be sure to share the Amazon link to the issue with my story when it goes live. Hopefully, I can keep the momentum going. On the novel front, things have been slower. Beta-reading and slush-reading for friends is taking up too much free time. I’ll need to drop the ball on something, but still haven’t decided what yet.

Story Recs

I’ve been reading (aka listening to Audible) quite a bit in the last month. There have been a few standout stories for me:

+ The Poppy War by RF Kuang. This is a fantasy novel the closely follows Japan’s invasion of China in WWII. The story is about a young woman who grows up in times of war. It is graphic, but so so good. This is the first in a trilogy, so don’t jump in if you don’t like cliffhangers.

+ Circe by Madeline Miller. This book follows the life of Circe, famous Greek goddess and witch. She is probably best remembered as the woman who turned Odysseus’s men into pigs in the Odyssey. But her story offers so much more than that. It is about a woman finding her place among the gods and among men.

+ Dandelion by Elly Bangs. This short story appearing in Clarkesworld Magazine spans three generations of women scientists who discover and study an alien probe crash-landed on Earth. This was a poignant, thoughtful read – and it’s a quick one if you have 15 minutes to spare.

No amazing video game recs for now. I’ve been playing a few PC games, but nothing to phone home about. I am always looking for both story and game recs, so feel free to send some my way 🙂

February 6 – March 6

Not that much has happened in the last month. I visited Ryan – we celebrated our 3-year (O_O) anniversary and massively destroyed Overcooked. Chiberia continued to be freezing cold. My MMM capstone project (chili!) has taken over my life (one more week and I’m free). I managed to get almost none of the classes I wanted for my last quarter at school. And, though I’ve been writing a ton, getting out high-quality finished shorts has been a little more slow-going than I would like.

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Currently, I’m waiting to hear back from Clarion and Clarion West. I should know in the next 2 weeks, and I am about dying from all the stress. I want to go to Clarion or CW so so badly, but both are very difficult to get into (I’m trying to be real about that). SO I’ve decided as a consolation prize, I’ll use what I would have spent on tuition to go on some big trip should I be rejected – more on that hopefully never haha.

I am also pretty excited for spring break. Ryan and I are heading to Orlando to do wedding stuff with my family and his parents (who are joining us). I am also hoping I’ll get a lot of uninterrupted writing and reading time! Lately, I’ve been sprinting through the Nebula nom list, and I am excited to keep on pushing 🙂

January 5 – February 5

This past month has been very wedding and writing centric for me.

Wedding: Who knew planning weddings would be stressful? Oh wait – everyone who has ever planned one. I wish Ry and I had gone to city hall, but now it’s too late and we are definitely wedding-ing. Admittedly, I am looking forward to the celebrations (and hoping all my friends can attend), but I am not looking forward to the stress between now and then. I am so grateful for my mom and sister who are helping a ton. And (shockingly) the wedding diet is on track (I miss fried chicken).

Writing: I busted out one totally new short story in Jan (that I don’t actually hate – wahoo!) and I’ve finished the outline for a new novel (gasp). I also attended a conference in Michigan: ConFusion, where I got to pal around with some of my favorite VP friends (<3 Bex and Denise below; miss the rest of our family dearly). Bex has honestly been a godsend these last few months. They live near me and we’ve been writing in coffee shops 1-2x a week – it’s been insanely helpful for productivity. What am I going to do when I graduate 😦

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While my Kellogg friends probably don’t appreciate how unsocial I’ve become, I’m really excited to push forward with my writing. One other big milestone I reached this past month was getting my apps in for Clarion and Clarion West. This won’t be the first time I’ve applied, but I hope I get good news and am able to attend one of these workshops this summer. I’ll know by the end of March!

November 27 – January 4

This holiday season was filled with travel travel travel (and unfortunately not as much productivity on the writing front as I would have hoped).

First up: Back to Orlando for my birthday (28!) and more wedding planning (sarcastic yay). Turns out planning weddings are stressful – surprise! I consider myself pretty low maintenance, and I’ve already had at least 2 wedding meltdowns. For my single friends: I recommend town hall and a nice honeymoon. You’re welcome. Anyway, we officially have the date, venues, dress, invitations, photographer, videographer, invite lists, and are about to confirm menus. My latest project is the wedding website which apparently needs to be finished before we can send out the save-the-dates (gulp). Unsolicited advice for grooms (or the less ‘involved’ of any same-sex pairing): you are not doing your partner any favors by deferring all decisions to them – that just means they now have to do more work. Heaping more stress on someone is not a gift >_<

Venue spoiler:

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After that ‘fun’-filled week, I headed off to Telluride, CO for Kellogg ski-trip. Unfortunately, there was very little snow and not a whole lot else to do if binge-drinking isn’t your thing.

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I ended up bagging on the trip early to go spend some time with Ryan in San Jose before heading to Tokyo (but really I just wanted to see star wars). While hanging with him, I did get some good news on the writing front to wrap up the year: a story I wrote made it to a final round at Clarkesworld (something like 30-40 stories out of 1200 each month make it this far) – that felt like a pretty big win (though I’m still waiting to hear back on if it actually sold). Unfortunately, after sharing the story with Ryan post-this good news, we’ve discovered a few typos in the prose – whoops. Too late now. I also heard back from Odyssey Online (a writing organization that has online workshops in the winter). I was waitlisted for the class I applied to – which bummed me out for half a day, but I now consider a pretty big honor. I’m getting closer! The waitlist notification also included a couple book recommendations that I’ve started – so far these have been helpful!

Come Christmas, Ryan and I headed off to Tokyo. Needless to say, the food was wonderful and Japan remains one of my favorite countries to visit.

For New Years, we headed to Seoul to meet up with a few friends and explore the city. I was very impressed with the people of Seoul and enjoyed learning about South Korea’s history and culture. I definitely recommend a visit (particularly to the War Memorial Museum), but maybe schedule your trip for warmer months (at least Seoul prepared me for my return to Chicago!)

After such a long time away, I was excited to get back to the US and (finally!) work on some writing – so of course I got super sick and now am pretty down for the count. Still, I’ve thought up a new book idea I am pretty excited about and hope to get more subs out the door before starting back at Northwestern next week.

Hope everyone had a great New Years! Looking forward to 2018!

October 29 – November 26

Big news this month is Ryan finally proposed! With some help from Kiki and Alyssa, he popped the big question at a romantic and private lunch. “Will you marry me?” was written on custom plates (made by Kiki!) and revealed once we finished our meal. I love Ryan so much and am so excited to be marrying him! Labor Day Weekend 2018. Now for wedding planning….

Other than Thanksgiving and the big engagement, this past month has been filled with revisions revisions revisions. After VP and a weekend workshop with Mary Robinette Kowal, I’ve been revising 6ish stories and preparing for more submissions. In January, I’ll be applying to both Clarions (Clarion and Clarion West), so will need to pick my 2 submission stories for each (I have 3 stories in mind, but one is in serious need of revision). I am very anxious about these two workshops – going to one would be a dream come true: 6 weeks of focused writing instruction, critiquing, and drafting. But, as is the case with any “best of,” these two workshops are really freaking competitive to get into. I’ll know officially in March how I did!

Other than that, I’ve decided to switch my focus to a new novel post-applying-to-Clarions. I’ve had a few friends secure agents recently (nearly all of whom haven’t published a short story in a pro-market). As crazy as it sounds, I keep hearing that getting an agent for a novel is actually slightly easier than publishing a short story in a SFWA-qualifying magazine or webzine. Now all I have to do is think of a novel idea lol.

The next month is filled with tons of travel: 11/26 – 12/1 Chicago, 12/1 – 12/8 Orlando, 12/8 – 12/15 Telluride, 12/15 – 12/17 Bay Area, 12/17 – 12/28 Tokyo, 12/28 – 1/3 Seoul. Hopefully a lot of writing and reading will happen in there.

Here is Ryan and my sister’s new puppy, Gator:

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October 2 – October 28

Just got back from Viable Paradise Writers’ Workshop – and man was it incredible!

VP is a writing workshop for early career writers who are just at the brink of publication. Alumni include NK Jemisin, Fran Wilde, and Mur Lafferty (to name a few). To apply, writers have to submit either two short stories or the first few chapters + a synopsis of their novel. Applicants are selected based on the quality of their writing samples. While I’ve received a few nice, personalized rejection letters from the literary magazines I’ve submitted my short fiction to, I had never actually received a writing-related acceptance until that wonderful day in June when I was admitted to this year’s VP workshop.

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This year’s workshop was taught be an incredible set of faculty: Elizabeth Bear, Erin Black, Max Gladstone, Steven Gould, Daryl Gregory, Laura Mixon (also writes under MJ Locke), Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Sherwood Smith, Scott Lynch, and Patrick Nielsen Hayden. And the staff – the staff! was incredible. But my favorite people at the workshop were the amazing 23 other writers I met, wrote with, learned from, and graduated alongside – this cohort is sharp, talented, and incredibly generous. I feel lucky to have such a great new group of friends and colleagues.

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So what actually happens at VP? The week is filled with long days of lectures, critiquing, one-on-ones with instructors, writing new stories, and (sometimes very late at night) drunken music, laughter, and grilled cheese. There are a few secrets shared with only those who actually attend the workshop (the HORROR that is Thursday, luminescent jellyfish, the truth of publishing a novel – in picture-book-form, and much much more).

My greatest takeaway from VP was that I (and all my fellow VP21 grads) are writers. Prioritizing writing, putting your work out there, getting rejected – these things are hard, very hard. And many of us (if not most or all of us) faced even these things during our time at VP. But what makes us writers is deciding to push through, to continue, to keep struggling and trying. VP’s greatest strength is its community and support – showing each of us that, while the struggle is real, none of us are alone (at least not anymore).

 

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I am really proud of what each of us has accomplished and look forward to what I know each of us has yet to accomplish. My week at Viable Paradise was one of the best of my life (if not the best), and I am so grateful to have had a chance to experience a sliver of the island’s magic.

September 11 – October 1

Back to school! My last year at Kellogg is shaping up to be a great one so far. Not only do my classes seem more than manageable (at least as of now), I have huge gaps in my daily schedule which are perfect for writing and reading. While I haven’t written anything noteworthy in the last month, I have been marathoning through my reading list (mostly in preparation for Viable Paradise – two weeks away!)

My last first day of school:

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I’ve also officially signed my offer to return to Facebook, and I could not be more excited! I requested a bit of a late start date in order to free up my July / August for Clarion (which I will be applying to in December). My team approved the September start but for a date a little later than I wanted (9/17). When I mentioned this to Ry he suggested we use the few extra weeks to get married (<— yep, that’s how he said it).

So, even though we aren’t officially engaged yet, we’ve already started planning a Labor Day wedding. Honestly, the lack of romance doesn’t bother me – I really like the idea of getting married before starting work. That way we can just enjoy our time with family without me being a total stress pot. So far, wedding planning has been going like this:

Mom: Sydney, what do you think about X

Me: Okay.

Mom: And what about Y

Me: Okay.

Is there an opposite of a bridezilla?

Also, looks like the wedding will be in the same venue I had my Bat Mizvah – circle of life?

Last exciting update: Nancy and Kiki got a puppy! Excited to meet Gator over Thanksgiving!

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My next post will be after VP – can’t wait to share how the week goes!