This book’s table of contents reads like an index to the last nine years of my life.
In 2012, I attended Clarion West, where I was told—among many things—that I might not be a writer, that I might become an editor instead.
Months earlier, at a small SF con called Potlatch, I met Tod McCoy. Later I would remember him for two things: 1) gleefully bidding up—and winning—a signed first edition at the benefit auction (Was it a Zelazny or a Delany?) and 2) going out of his way to welcome newcomers to the Seattle SF scene. Oh, and a third: he mentioned that he published books. (Also that weekend, I met Pocket Workshop’s cover artist, Cory Skerry, who likened novel writing to juggling, and who would soon be among my Clarion West cohort.)
Rewind another six months: Fall of 2011 saw me taking a one-day workshop from Nancy Kress and online classes from Cat Rambo. Nancy taught me about scenes and how (I’d been failing) to write them. Cat taught me everything. (And she told me that choosing not to write was perfectly valid… but that in her home, writers just f**king write.)
Jump forward again to Clarion West 2012—the summer workshop. It was finally happening. The long hours and late nights, the shared genius (real or imagined), the terror and delight at every written—every critiqued—story, the voices of instructors (which would continue speaking in my head thereafter (those of Stephen Graham Jones and Connie Willis included), and the emergence of a new family—a cohort of writers who know me better than anyone ought (two of their voices speak from these pages).
After the workshop, I returned for more, first as an assistant, then as workshop administrator, joys of which position included working with Neile Graham, witnessing students’ growth, and forging friendships with instructors (many of Pocket Workshop’s authors). I now serve on Clarion West’s board, and while I’ve loved the organization since first contact, its ongoing dedication to nurturing and promoting neglected, marginalized, and underheard voices, and to engaging with the social and literary interests of our community, make me ever happier to be counted among its number. Especially now, in the hate-drenched apocalyptic chaos of 2020 (and I’m writing this three months shy of year’s end).
Today I finished reading the 1997 Elizabeth Hand novel Glimmering. Global pandemic, environmental horror, social collapse: it felt too familiar—another morning’s trawl through Guardian headlines. I tend toward depression. It’s an effort to keep my brain from spiraling, and this year has put anti-spiraling tools to the test. Editing Pocket Workshop—reading these essays and corresponding with their authors, guzzling at the firehose of their wisdom—has helped. For me, it is one of a handful of bright foci scattered across darkness—another shining point in a vibrant constellation of hope, of future.
It’s a book for writers, yes. But also, it’s a book for people who live… now. And tomorrow.
- “Introduction” by Neile Graham
- “Being and Becoming a Writer” by Karen Lord
- “We All Have to Start Somewhere: Finding Your Process and Making it Work for You” by Tina Connolly and Caroline M. Yoachim
- “Setting the Scene” by Nancy Kress
- “Thickening the Plot” by Samuel R. Delany
- “Some Thoughts on Exposition” by Tobias Buckell
- “The Devil Is in the Details” by Connie Willis
- “Coincidentally . . .” by Stephen Graham Jones
- “Channeling Voices” by Andy Duncan
- “Status” by Helen Marshall
- “Neowise” by Paul Park
- “The Old Marvellous” by John Crowley
- “The Three Laws of Great Endings and My Two Shameless Hacks” by James Patrick Kelly
- “Diversity Plus: Diverse Story Forms, Not Just Diverse Faces” by Henry Lien
- “Researching Imaginary Worlds” by Ken MacLeod
- “Something to Cry About” by Nisi Shawl
- “The Narrative Gift as a Moral Conundrum” by Ursula K. Le Guin
- “Tapping the Source” by Elizabeth Hand
- “Feed Your Engine” by Jack Skillingstead
- “Congratulations on Learning to Juggle — Now Get on the Unicycle” by Daryl Gregory
- “Writing in the Age of Distraction” by Cory Doctorow
- “Going Through an Impasse: Evading Writer’s Block” by Eileen Gunn
- “On Mentors and Mentees” by Cat Rambo
- “Pitfalls of Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy: General Useful Information & Other Opinionated Comments” by Vonda N. McIntyre
- “Positive Obsession” by Octavia Butler
- “* Take As Needed” by Hiromi Goto
- “Matters of Life and Death” by Susan Palwick
- “Proverbs of Hell for Writers” by Ian McDonald