Sunday, July 24, 2005

Turkey City

So, I attended my first Turkey City Writer's Workshop yesterday.

The workshop was held at Lawrence Person's house. I live about ten minutes away, but I ran a little late and showed up at around 9:20 . . . which isn't that big of a deal, since 9:00-12:30 was officially reading and note-taking time. I, being the wide-eyed and bushy-tailed new meat of the workshop--and conveniently jobless for the summer months--had already read every story that would be critiqued at the workshop save Howard Waldrop's non-emailed, typewriter-produced, horrific, and utterly brilliant little fairy tale. It being the shortest piece at the workshop meant I had plenty of free time, so I ducked out to get a large coffee from a convenience store to power myself for what I imagined would be a grueling session to follow.

The rest of the morning was largely spent marveling at Lawrence's library--of which he is justifiably, and often vocally, proud. I'm a layman when it comes to book collecting, but even if these weren't largely first editions and signed copies, we're still talking about something in the ballpark of $50,000 worth of books in one room. I can't imagine their true value.

So who else was there? In addition to Lawrence and Howard (and myself), we had Chris Nakashima-Brown, Lou Antonelli, Mikal Trimm, Richard Butner, Steve Wilson, Stina Leicht, Jessica Reisman, Don Webb, and the special guest, Ted Chiang. I was not only the newest participant, but also wuite possibly the only one who has never sold a story. This shouldn't be surprising, given that I've only recently started taking writing seriously.

I am now taking it much more seriously.

The stories gone over at the workshop ranged from relatively hard science fiction through elf-magic fantasy through slipstream through mediapunk through vaudeville space opera. No two stories were even remotely alike, nor their styles, so there was a remarkably diverse cross section of genre writing represented. I am glad that I was "forced" to read them all, because I was exposed to a lot of things that I would generally skip over if I saw them in a magazine or anthology.

So how did my story go over? About like I expected. Most people seemed to think that I had a good idea going, and a relatively unique one. Ted said it seemed like I was trying to write a Greg Egan story, an "admirable goal," and I consider the comparison to be a compliment since Egan is a brilliant and creative writer. I know he was talking entirely about concept and certainly not execution, but at least that means my head is in the right place for what I'm trying to do. Lawrence said the story was very "Brucean" (appropriate, since it sprouted from a line in Sterling's Tomorrow Now) and that I should send it to him to get "ten deeper ways to think about the idea," which is something I'll do after a rewrite. Howard managed in one sentence to completely revolutionize the way I thought about the story and instantly transform it into something infinitely more complex, compelling, and moving. The rest of the commentary was equally valid and worthwhile, mostly dealing with how I handled (perhaps more accurately, mishandled) the characters.

I loved every minute of it. I am glad that most of the problems they pointed out were problems that I expected to be pointed out. It was a question of just how serious they were, and I'm glad that I know the answer. More importantly, I got suggestions that I would have never thought of, and inspiration for where to go from here. I hope I am able to attend many more Turkey City workshops in the future.

Now to keep writing.


  1. Don't worry, you'll actually get to read this one!

  2. Nothing beats a good workshop. I've been in so many bad ones, that I've almost forgotten what the good ones feel like. I think too often, people wind up holding their tongue for fear of sounding like they're being too harsh on someone. When I put up a story for workshopping, I want them to totally just let me have it. We don't improve as writers unless we know what we're doing "wrong."

  3. Dang! Now that you posted the picture, one thing is clear:


  4. What an incredibly cool experience early in a writing career. I'm duly jealous! I love to hear of people who want to be writers actually becoming writers!

  5. If workshopping with some of the best in the field were enough to actually make one a writer, I'd be all set!