Session 6 in Cat Rambo’s F&SF Workshop

All good things must come to an end.


Four days previous I submitted my first piece to a market (inspired, by the way, by Jeremy Tolbert’s Write Me A Story About This Tumblr). This isn’t something I ever contemplated doing; like many things where writing is concerned, I took this class for a lark (not ill-meant; it’s just how I roll, even for subjects I eventually take in all seriousness later). I know it’s not perfect, and rejection is far more likely than not, but I know it’s time to move on to the next story.

Something has been unblocked in me; old worlds that I thought dead have suddenly sprung back to life, and new ones are blossoming into existence.


Three days ago I finished my last critique for the class. I’m not a master of the critique by any measure, but through trial and error required by these past few weeks, I’ve learned that I analyze works best by retyping, I really do, ending up with in-depth annotations that, while still lacking in touching upon bigger concerns, are ones that I can say I was able to put serious thought into. Previously I’d only applied the retyping exercise to established works; this was my first foray into its applications for unpublished work, and I find the method not wanting except for its extended and sometimes painful duration.


Two days ago I scrolled out the first chapter, the very first one, of what I now recognize is an ongoing saga, something I never would have applied to Seal Tales if I could have helped it in the past. Part of this was because I simply have been growing as a writer even in these short few months, and very definitely in these short few weeks; and part of this is because I’m better at recognizing what is and what isn’t a short story. Additionally, because of the specific examples I’d chosen for my character exercise, I knew the main players better, and could see better how they’d developed from their old forms on the page.

I took the time to rewrite the first chapter. For the first time, it wasn’t a rewrite that lost its fire, but fanned it. I drew upon techniques and tools both explicitly taught and implicitly learned. Part of this, too, were the weekly writing assignments that forced us to look at writing at different angles, and in the later weeks, to experiment with different writing styles (after all, exercises aren’t completely serious commitments, not like stories or novels are). Timed writing exercises encouraged me to lay it all down on the page like fire, and tinker only afterwards—long afterwards, even, once I saw the value in letting a work lie until enough distance has been gained to revisit the text.

After the workshop, for better or for worse, I’ll likely be writing in omniscient “involved author” present tense. Not something that was pushed upon us, but something that I discovered I like where exercises are concerned. Later this may mutate, but for the time being, it’s a new way to roll.

These things I wouldn’t have figured out as easily without the workshop.


Yesterday, class ended. The best takeaway from the ending Q&A session was the following: that the writer should, first and foremost, take care of themself. All else follows—well, almost. We have a tendency to beat ourselves up over various items that, in hindsight, are quite silly.

And of course, there was a bunch of other stuff about the writing life, career, etc.

The workshop group is a good one; there’s something about the class offering that drew together a great bunch of folks who I would not be adverse in sharing my writerly victories and woes with. We’ve bonded, through the teachings and occasional mercilessness of Cat. >^.^<

And yet, there is a part of me that prefers to lone wolf this stuff (as I have done so for just about everything in my life, and writing very much in particular). I much appreciate this small taste of what Clarion must be like, to know for myself the workshop experience, even if ultimately I break away from the group for reasons of practicality and, frankly, personal temperament.

Yet who knows? Maybe for once I’ll have formed lasting writing relationships. There’s a first time for everything.


And where I go after this, I don’t quite know.

I’ll have Steering the Craft in one hand, Starve Better in the other, and Nascence balanced on my head. I will carry with me the knowledge I’ve gained in this class, from Cat, from my peers, from practice.

Today, though, I gotta finish up the Darcy extended storyline of Matches & Matrimony.


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