Next Sunday I will be participating in the Vcon writers’ workshop as a Pro (there is something odd about using that word) anyway, I’ve done this for many years now. I used to run the writers’ workshops for Vcon. I did that for many years until I handed it over to a skinny little blond haired boy named Don DeBrandt, who said he wanted to be a writer!! If you haven’t heard of him then maybe you know him as Donn Cortez or DD Barant, Google the man.
For those of you coming into the workshops as new authors you should know that I used to be a participant in these workshops, oh, so long ago. I remember Michael Coney giving a critique of our stories, in a imperious and hilarious style that only he could achieve. He accused all of us of not having written a single story in the bunch, but that he really enjoyed my story because it had alien sex in it! That comment kept me going. However, I stopped writing about alien sex, because it felt strange to be singled out for that particular quality! But I decided that if I could catch his attention with that then I could catch an editor’s attention with my writing, eventually. Anyway, kids, those were the good old days when we used to walk to school bare foot in nine feet of snow, or in Vancouver’s case, wade to school in nine feet of water.
It was in the humble beginnings of the Vcon workshops that I got my start. I remember being told about Vcon workshops by a young woman named Susan Wood. I believe she was an English prof out of UBC whose writer workshop I’d participated in. I was a terrible writer in those days, but I kept at it. Through her I met Eileen Kernaghan and Bill Gibson, who did a few writerly things together. I remember Susan Wood told me to go to Vcon and attend the reading of Bill Gibson because she knew him through UBC. So, I went to Vcon and listened to him read one of his short stories in the lobby of the venue. There were a few of us sitting around, listening, as Bill awkwardly flipped through his typed up pages. At that time Eileen and Bill were possibly the only two people in Vancouver having any success as fantasy and science fiction writers.
From there I’d heard of Clarion East and wanted desperately to go, but the east was another land and I couldn’t figure out the money or the time, much less write a story well enough to get in. Time went by. I kept writing and Clarion West popped up. I applied, never expecting to get in, but I did…after that I sold my first short story to Judith Merril for the first ever Tesseracts anthology and my second story immediately sold to Phyllis Gotlieb for the second Tesseracts anthology. My esteemed instructors at Clarion were: Norman Spinrad, Suzy McKee Charnas, Vonda McIntyre, Arthur Byron Cover, David Hartwell and Terry Carr. Can you believe that line up! I appreciate it more today, I think, then I did at that time. Now I’ve come full circle and all though many of those folks are gone, they are not forgotten. I completed my MFA in creative Writing at UBC last year (it’s only taken me a life time to get there) and here I am, back in the writers’ workshops again! Can’t wait to see the newbies 🙂
We’ve come a long way baby.