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Uncle Orson’s boot

June 4, 2009

After my anticlimactic fumble at the goal line of Clarion West, I spent some time wondering what to do this summer to improve my writing.  Write; that was the first thing.  Read, critique, join OWW, fraternize, and submit were also on the list.  But, golly, did I want that workshop.  Face time with pros, some gut-wrenching time for Scott-the -Writer.

Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card

So I thought about other options.  It was too late for most; others were too expensive.  I spent a lot of time thinking about Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp.  Card is one of my favorite authors and has a very good reputation as a teacher.  His characters ae painted on the page the way they might be emblazoned on the ceiling of a chapel.  Not cheap, mind you, but some of his time and attention could be really inspiring.

I did some procrastinating that masqueraded as thinking and very nearly missed the deadline.  I mailed my application and writing sample on Tuesday; the deadline is Friday (tomorrow).  I should hear one way or the other by next Friday.

I’m not sure what my chances are.  The website suggests applying early.  Ha!  Strike one.  The only writing sample they ask for is the first page of a finished short story.  Yep, the first page.  It makes sense.  How many editors, or even slush readers, get past that point before stuffing a rejection in the SASE and shipping it back.  But gosh, it sure put some pressure on my page one.

I cheated a bit, something I hope doesn’t come back to bite me for being “unprofessional”.  You know that big space you’re supposed to leave in the top half of your manuscript, the one for editor’s comments or instructions to the typesetter or whatever?  Yeah, mine was a little smaller than it should have been, squeezing a bit more writing onto that first page.  *gulp*

The story I sent was “Glow Baby”, the story I sent to Clarion SD that did not go to CW.  (I wasn’t even waitlisted at CSD, so maybe that was a mistake, but the first page was less pulpy than “Leech Run”‘s opening.)  I stretched to get the end of a paragraph onto the page, really only two or three lines more than normal.  We’ll see how that plays for me.  I looked at several stories before settling on that one; the descriptions just rang truer for me than the others.  “Glow Baby” is the first story I wrote where the setting was based on a real place, a place I was intimately familiar with in memory and emotionally tied to.  If the story has a weakness, it’s probably the ending.  The pace is slow, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.  I don’t think either of those potential concerns will be evident in the first page.

“Glow Baby” is my second quarter submission to WotF, too.  I have not yet heard back from them (a good sign, yes?), but it was a bit of a late entry.  The speculative aspect of the story really doesn’t show up until page 4, so it may be a hard sell to the contest.  I did write in some foreshadowing (eerie pink light emanating from the window) toward the end of the first page or beginning of the second.  Maybe that was enough to pull me through.  We’ll see.

A big month for “Glow Baby” any way you look at it.  Keep your nubs crossed.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 5, 2009 12:47 am

    Good luck! First page is brutal, but much like the editing world I suppose.

    I thought about applying, but realized that I’ll be in Montreal at Worldcon. Guess next year will be my workshop year? Maybe? 🙂

  2. June 8, 2009 9:30 am

    First page, I like that! That’s where the decision is made, the impression is formed. Why not just be upfront about it?

    On the other hand, while I’ve enjoyed some of Orson Scott Card’s fiction, his political views disturb me (hopefully this does not offend, if your views are similar). I’m not sure if I would feel entirely comfortable in a workshop with him where political discussion might crop up.

    About WotF, somewhere Jordan says it’s good if speculative elements don’t show up right away. I could be wrong about that, but it may actually help you.

  3. osomuerte permalink
    June 8, 2009 11:09 am


    Card’s political and religious views are no more a factor for me than Hubbard’s. I don’t enter WotF to become a Scientologist, I won’t be going to Uncle Orson’s Boot Camp to become a Mormon or for political guidance. I’m looking to become a better writer. Heck, I’m a fairly liberal guy living in small town Tennessee; I’m used to being surrounded by conflicting political views.

    As for the speculative elements and WotF, it’s one of the things K D Wentworth (head judge) says will make her pass your story by. I’m counting on good writing to pull her just a little deeper for me.

    I’ve done a few OWW reviews, but I’m yet to submit a story. I want to send the one I’m working on today. Hopefully I’ll finally end my first draft. Let me know when you join.


  4. June 8, 2009 3:04 pm

    You are very gracious! I should stop reading the stuff people send me about Card’s latest diatribes.

    I felt a little uneasy about the WotF backers, too, but hey, if they don’t mind giving out $$, I don’t mind receiving. That is, if I ever apply.

    See, I want to join OWW, but I don’t want to get bogged down with lots of crits right now. I know helping others helps the reader, but I want to get a solid discipline under my belt first.

    • osomuerte permalink
      June 8, 2009 4:12 pm

      The nice thing about OWW is that you don’t have to maintain a review count like you do with Critters. You can stay at zero until you’re ready to submit. If you want to get reviews on a short story or a chapter, it only takes 4 points (four reviews or two if you pick stories with zero reviews). You may have to critique others to get them to critique yours, but that’s a different story.

      I fully understand your desire to ride your momentum for a while. Heck, why pay to join the group if you aren’t ready to participate?


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