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Scifi/fantasy Fiction Presenter Jason Sanford

Another of our faculty members at Retreat to the Springs! (October 26 to 28, 2018) is Jason Sanford. Let’s get to know him a little!

 

What were the first meaningful things you wrote?

I wrote a short story which won my high school’s writing contest. The story was a science fiction tale about two kids with special powers escaping from government control. In hindsight I realized the story had serious echoes of Escape to Witch Mountain, one of my favorite films as a child. But that story still taught me that I could write something which other people would want to read and enjoy. That meant so much to my development as a writer.

Do you read your stories after they’re published?

No, and yes. I reread and edit my stories prior to submission and publication, and I’m always willing to work on editorial suggestions to one of my stories (as should any author — if an editor you trust is willing to help improve your story, listen). But once a story is published I try not to reread it because I can’t make changes at that point. And every time I read my stories I find changes I want to make.

That said, I do occasionally reread published stories when they’re being reprinted. But in these cases I can make new edits and changes.

How do you feel about self-publishing? It has lost a lot of the stigma of “vanity” publishing.

Absolutely. Self-publishing today is nothing like the vanity publishing of decades ago. A number of authors have created viable careers and readerships through self-publishing. But that doesn’t mean the traditional publishing route isn’t also a path to possible success. Authors need to weigh the pros and cons of both approaches to publishing and find the one which is best for them.

What is your writing routine? Do you have one?

I write whenever I can. And when I’m not writing I’m thinking about stories to write. For me, the writing process never ends.

If you didn’t write in your genre, what would you be writing?

Interesting question. I’m honestly not sure. I love writing science fiction and fantasy because these genres provide the tools for me to explore fascinating subjects and ideas which I believe are extremely relevant to our world today.

For the last few decades humanity has experienced an unprecedented technological explosion, with data sharing, social media, and information technologies expanding and changing the ways humans interact with both each other and the universe. In such a rapidly changing world, science fiction and fantasy are two of the best literary genres for understanding what this change means for humanity.

Because of the world we live in, I can’t see writing any other types of stories at this point in time.

What was your harshest rejection? What was your best rejection?

One of my first professional publications was in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, a storied SF magazine with one of the largest readerships in the world. I’d been trying for years to be published in either Analog or its sister magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction.

After my Analog story came out I wrote a sequel to the story and submitted it. I was certain the story would be accepted, but nope. I was devastated and had no clue what to do with the story. I decided to submit it to Asimov’s and the magazine’s editor, Sheila Williams, accepted it, to my total surprise. That was my first publication in Asimov’s and opened the door to subsequent publications there.

That would be both my harshest and best rejection.

Where do you think your genre is going? What are the changes you’ve seen?

I think all literary genres are expanding their scope to reach new diverse audiences and points of views. A few decades ago the only way to succeed as an author was through traditional publishing and this, by the nature of any somewhat closed system, limited the types of stories which were being published. If you wrote a story which didn’t match what publishers and editors at publishing houses thought would sell, you’d have great difficulty finding an audience or even getting published.

But today there are multiple routes to finding an audience, from traditional publishing to self-publishing. Because of this more types of books and stories are being published than ever before, and many of these stories are reaching audiences which were frequently overlooked or ignored in previous years.

Everyone has a story to tell, and these days there are many ways to share those stories and find an audience.

Do you recommend getting an agent?

Again, that depends on the career path a writer wants to take. If you want to go the traditional book-publishing path, then yes, I’d recommending finding an agent. But if you want to self-publish your book, an agent isn’t needed.

If you write short fiction, as I do, an agent probably also won’t be needed because venues which publish short stories are well known for working directly with authors. And most short fiction markets are very open to works by new authors.

Anything else you’d like to add?

The best stories come from a love and passion for stories. To succeed as a writer you must first love reading stories. You must see the stories all around us every day. Then you take that love and write your own stories, and keep writing.

I can tell when an author wrote a story without this all-consuming love and passion. Even if the story is technically competent and well written, it will still be lacking. Life is short, so why would anyone want to waste their time reading a story by an author who lacks a love and passion for the very stories they write?

So reach out to your love and passion for stories, then find a way to write toward those emotions. If you do this there’s a good chance your stories will succeed.

wendybeckman3

Oct. 26 to 28, 2018 Yellow Springs OH

 

To register for Retreat to the Springs! workshop in Yellow Springs this fall, go here

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Enter my Goodreads Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The 8 Wonders of Cincinnati by Wendy Hart Beckman

The 8 Wonders of Cincinnati

by Wendy Hart Beckman

Giveaway ends November 18, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

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Full of Myself

Writer Lee Martin recently posted “Looking Back on the Follies of Youth” on his blog. He challenged the reader to do the same, examining something from the past through the eyes of the child at the time and the adults we’ve become. So I turned the microscope on myself.

I have gotten very comfortable, smug even, in my role as a 58-year-old tutor of high school students. I raised three boys and am a grandmother. I was a straight “A” student; my sons were not. I am ashamed to admit that I’m a know-it-all. I’ve seen it all: just ask me.

Every now and then, I sit across the table from a student, working pleasantly with him or her but thinking “Aren’t we full of ourselves?” Such a student has an aura about her that the expensive tutoring her parents have paid for is unnecessary and inconvenient. That I’m bothering her with my expertise gained through three college degrees, eight books, 38 years either attending or teaching at universities, and hundreds of articles published.

My first published piece was a poem, written when I was in third grade. It appeared in a national children’s publication called Golden Magazine. Riding on my early success, I then wrote my autobiography at the age of 12.

My mother said no one would buy it because I hadn’t done anything important yet.

Harsh words? Yes. Typical of my mother? Don’t get me started. But she taught me early about rejection, about criticism. However, my mother’s denigrating remarks were because she had high (and in all humility, not unrealistic) expectations of me. She was trying to challenge me to achieve my best. I understand that now; I didn’t understand that when I was a pre-teen, teenager, or 20-something. All I understood was that I was never good enough.

Then I became a mother. I had watched my siblings and in-laws with their kids and realized there are many ways to convey your expectations to your children. One way is my mother’s. I tried to avoid that. A sister-in-law told me about something she’d read in which some expert said to focus on how the child feels about something, then go from there. Other parents heap praise on their children for every accomplishment, every action, every “participation” trophy.

I think it is this last situation that creates children who end up with over-inflated ideas of their self-worth and their contributions to society. Many of my students take advanced placement and honors courses, but can’t take a given punctuation example and then apply that to another similar question.

So, as I have watched the students who think they know it all, I have thought how haughty people can seem. As if they’re all powerful. Then I am reminded of an incident in high school when my best friend had a difference of opinion with our chemistry teacher, who was the advisor of the school newspaper, Maroon Reflections. I’ve long forgotten what the disagreement was about. What I do remember, with some embarrassment, is how my friend, two other girls who were on staff of the paper, and I marched into the Chemistry Department office and confronted the teacher. The teacher looked at the four of us and said calmly, “Is this discussion between you and me, or do we need a whole army?” My friend said it was just the two of them, really, and glanced at the other three of us. Here’s my shining moment: as we filed out, I turned and said to my friend, “We’ll be right outside. Let us know if you need us.”

What did I think was going to happen? A fist fight? By the time this teacher could have gotten out of her chair, my friend could have run to the next county. But the bigger thing is that this was a teacher we all liked. I don’t think I ever heard her raise her voice. In retrospect, I think I just wanted to act important, “too big for my britches,” as my grandmother used to say. Maybe I wanted fodder for my autobiography.

So I sit with my students now and remind myself that the mission of most teenagers is to find purpose, to find worth. My job is to help them develop that sense of genuine worth. As a mother and a teacher, my responsibility is to give them roots and wings. Their responsibility is to flex those wings and soar.

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We won’t be meeting in May so that those who are mothers, have mothers, love mothers, or have something else to do on May 8 can gather with their loved ones. On June 12 we will be back at it, reading and critiquing!

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Just in case we aren’t messed up enough with the time change this weekend (move your clocks ahead Saturday night!), we are meeting an hour early on Sunday, March 13. So on the 13th, we will meet at 1 p.m. at Allyn’s Café on Columbia Parkway.

As always, bring seven minutes’ worth of work to read, $5.00 for the kitty, and your appetite! (Our stomachs will think it’s noon.)

See you Sunday!

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Well, the reviews are in and they’re great!

OK, I’ve actually had them for weeks, but I just remembered that I have to send them to Communiversity at UC. In April, I taught a one-day workshop called “Writing to Publish.” We had a great class, with lots of good questions about writing, formatting, and publishing your work.

Here are some of the highlights from the evaluations:

“You learn from a person who actually practices. Thank you. Loved it!”

“I learned exercises to help me unlock my writing blocks.”

“Fantastic! I truly learned so much about the writing market. [Would recommend this class to others] absolutely — so informative and so constructive. Very thorough, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Your next opportunity to hear my instruction on writing and publishing will be at my Capon Springs Nonfiction Writers’ Retreat. Even if fiction’s your thing, you’ll benefit from the beautiful surroundings and the instruction from Ann Hagedorn and me.

Registration deadline is August 15. Make your $50 deposit through PayPal to reserve your place.

Ready to go? Make your deposit with PayPal:
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We had a great May meeting at Allyn’s Cafe on May 17! We’ve been delighted to welcome new members to the last several meetings. A rowdy group sat a little too close to us, but they were riding the high after participating in a local fundraiser, so we can forgive their boisterousness. 😉

Our June meeting will be Sunday, June 14, at 2 p.m. (Don’t worry: Father’s Day is the following weekend.)

If you’re not ready to read your own material, feel free to just sit in and get your feet wet.

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