Thursday, February 5, 2009

The “Aha” of the “Aha From a Science Fiction Writer’s Workshop”


A short while ago, I gave a writing workshop at the local library to an interesting group of writers. Participants ranged from budding writers interested in creating short stories to established writers of non-fiction. Entitled, “A Writer’s Toolkit”, I entertained them with my misadventures in the publishing industry and then launched into a “show and tell” using a bazillion examples, many of which appear in my latest writing guide, The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now! by Starfire World Syndicate.

For instance, one example in the book (in Chapter R under the heading “Something Worse Than Rejection”) relates the story about my multiple submission of the short story, Angel’s Promises. Here’s an excerpt:

Several years ago, when I was first submitting short stories everywhere, I was using several online market listings to find possible fits to my science fiction stories. I ended up submitting Angel’s Promises to Magazine A, among others (as part of a simultaneous submission, which is okay so long as you let them know) and I received a letter that the story was accepted and would appear in a particular issue. While I was waiting for Magazine A to publish my piece I got an acceptance from another publisher. I told them that it was appearing in Magazine A but they were welcome to second printing rights when they became available and the timing was right. Luckily, Magazine B was amenable. Why was I lucky, you ask? Because Magazine A never did publish my piece and when I finally got a look at their magazine, it turned out to be a stapled photocopy of newspaper clippings with a few hand-typed pieces. Luckily Magazine B was Dreams & Visions and my story went on to garner a nomination for the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Fountain Award and then was selected to appear in that publisher’s “Best of” Anthology. Lesson Learned: KNOW YOUR MARKET!

Another chapter from The Fiction Writer that I covered in the workshop was about The Hero’s Journey. It really resonated with one of my workshop participants, Colin Wiebe, a singer/songwriter and an accomplished writer himself (Colin wrote several books, his latest one being an inspirational guidebook entitled Advertise Yourself ). Colin is currently writing a screenplay and he recognized many aspects of the hero’s journey and archetypes I talked about that he’d already used intuitively. Colin writes a blog too and he blogged the very night of the workshop! Entitled, “The ‘aha’ From a Science Fiction Writer’s Workshop”, Colin described his own “aha” that he got from my discussion of the “Hero’s Journey” and from my own hero, Ray Bradbury, who I’d quoted.

“I am always curious to learn new tools, techniques to give me any advantage that might help my writing in general,” says Colin on his blog. “I rarely follow the rules, however Nina presented an overview of “The Hero’s Journey”…[whose] basic plot structure [is] in every Hollywood Blockbuster. I am writing a screenplay and I knew much of this structure intuitively (probably from reading too many “airplane” novels while on tour) however in the context that Nina described, the Hero’s Journey inspired me to ingest this ancient plot style and commit it to memory.” He also wisely bought my book! (Nina grins, rather self-pleased). “From fairytale myth to a Greek three act play,” Colin continues, “every Rocky movie and Indiana Jones film follows this incredible formula. Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and more recently, Christopher Vogler, have all expounded on this psychological elixir for humans.” Colin plans to “exploit this magical blueprint in as many devices as I can to practice the craft.”

That rascal even used it in the title of his blog post, which he says “draws the curious into my tepid plot, looking for the “aha” pay-off the writer has discovered.” Now, why didn’t I come up with that? Colin ends by thanking not just me but Ray Bradbury (after I’d reverently quoted something Bradbury had said in Palm Springs several years ago: “Every single word is important; everything is metaphor.”)

Thanks, Colin!

Colin Arthur Wiebe grew up in Victoria, British Columbia. Colin began his career by winning the prestigious American Song Festival with his song “Key To Your Heart”. Colin joined with Juno Award winning singer/songwriter Paul Janz in the 1980’s. In 1991 Colin joined with Canadian legend Randy Bachman (Bachman Turner Overdrive and The Guess Who) and has been singing all the Guess Who material and playing guitar and keyboards since. Colin is prominently featured on the new Randy Bachman “Every Song Tells Story DVD” and is currently touring Canada. Colin’s debut album, “Livin On Dreams” was produced by Randy Bachman and the single “They Grow Up So Fast” is still played on Soft Rock radio. And, yes, his music is COOL!





Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.


13 comments:

Bobbi said...

It sounds like you taught an interesting workshop - I wish I could have attended!

SF Girl said...

It WAS a lot of fun, Bobbi! I have a lot of misadventures to share! LOL! Of course, they are all entertaining (and instructive)... like my book! HAR!

I am giving workshops in a number of places in Canada and the US and may likely end up in your part of the world... :D

blackburn1 said...

I can imagine the world of publications and magazines is a deep and occasionally dark forest, full of weird and wonderful discoveries.

Great to also see Colin Wiebe mentioned!

By the way, looking for your appearances in the widget at right... which is blank at the moment. Am I missing something? Inquiring minds wish to see you! (at some point soon) ;]

SF Girl said...

LOL! Well, I'm working on finalizing some local Chapters signings. Don't suppose you make it to Georgia or Montreal or Toronto and Guelph in your travels, Blackburn?...

As for the dark forest of magazine publications... yes, I have lots of wonderfully entertaining stories to share... most at my expense! LOL! That's okay...my alien shoulders are big and I'm humble... :)

Keep checking the widget...

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I enjoyed your stories of Magazine A & B...two very different outlets!

SF Girl said...

Yes, they certainly were. Night and day... that's small press for you. It's all in dedication and professionality. I've certainly enjoyed the ride too... There's the story about the article I wrote about my cat that I sent to the same magazine twice by mistake and... well... but I'll save that for a workshop on submitting and marketing... later... later... ;)

Baby Brie said...

Limberger and I saw Colin Weibe playing with Randy Bachman at Malkin Bowl maybe three years ago! It truly is a small world!

celni said...

you are clearly very talented, a creative genius.

SF Girl said...

Ok.... who paid you to say that, Celni! ;) ... thanks for your very kind words... :D

...and Baby Brie... yes, it TRULY IS a small world, isn't it? And that Colin Wiebe is quite a talented guy, isn't he? Gotta love him (plus he bought my book!)

Princess Haiku said...

Thanks for sharing your story Nina, it gives me hope. I have written two prose novels and several picture books and haven't done much to get them published. I have gotten some encouraging letters from agents though but no deal. It's just so much easier and enjoyable to write something new. -Or to blog. lol

SF Girl said...

LOL! Yes, blogging is so much fun! And rewarding. But keep writing, Princess. Perseverence (and continued faith in oneself) is the most valuable item in the writer's toolkit...Check out my next post... :)

blackburn1 said...

"Well, I'm working on finalizing some local Chapters signings. Don't suppose you make it to Georgia or Montreal or Toronto and Guelph in your travels, Blackburn?..."

Uh... those are out past Chilliwack, right? ;] No worries... I can wait for Chapters. Meantime, more coffee.

SF Girl said...

LOL! Yes... more coffee... :D