Viable Paradise is an intense week of writing discussions and critique.
So what does that actually mean? For some students, VP is their first exposure to having their work workshopped. For others, it can be a very different workshop experience to those they may have had elsewhere.
Every Viable Paradise class lasts from Sunday night through the following Friday, and is composed of 24 students. Each student has gone through the same application process you have, and has submitted short stories or a novel to be workshopped. That means that your classmates are going to be reading and critiquing your work, and you’re going to be reading and critiquing theirs (but not until the workshop starts!).
The workshop process is facilitated by the Viable Paradise Instructors — eight of the best writers, editors, and teachers working in the field of science fiction and fantasy. The instructors have read your work, and they’ll be discussing it with you in formal and informal sessions, in groups, and one on one.
In addition to these discussions, the instructors also give lectures and host discussions. These lectures and discussions might be focused on craft, or the business of writing, or some aspect of the writing life. What makes Viable Paradise unique is that most of these lectures and discussions involve every one of the VP Instructors, and often many of our writers-in-residence. This enriches every conversation with multiple experienced perspectives, helping you to determine what works best for your approach and goals.
The Viable Paradise experience is composed of:
- Group Sessions. During each group session, two students have their application materials workshopped by a selection of their classmates and by two of the Viable Paradise Instructors. The group session format is generally consistent with what’s called the “Milford Method” — the student whose work is being critiqued listens silently while each of the other participants offers a timed critique of their work. Then the student whose work is being critiqued can offer a short response to answer questions or engage in (limited! we’re on a clock) Q&A with their readers. Viable Paradise is all about constructive criticism — we do not “workshop for blood.” We encourage students to discuss why something works or doesn’t work for them as a reader. Knowing “why” is the part that helps you learn.
- One-on-One Sessions. Each student will have the opportunity to have 45-minute one-on-one conversations with two of the Viable Paradise Instructors. These one-on-one sessions are by their very nature free-flowing. Sometimes the discussion might focus on the manuscript you submitted. Other times it might be a more general discussion about writing craft or the business of writing. The one-on-one sessions are a great opportunity to have a very focused, in-depth conversation with an expert in the field – who is now familiar with at least some of your work. While each student receives scheduled one-on-one sessions with two instructors, many of the other instructors and even some of the writers-in-residence may offer “off-schedule” one-on-one sessions for other students. Viable Paradise is all about giving you the chance to hear multiple perspectives.
- Group Lectures. During the week, there are eight lectures offered by the VP Instructors. Each lecture will be on a different topic, possibly relating to writing craft, the writing life, or the science fiction and fantasy industry. These lectures are usually presented as fairly standard lectures; however, there is ample opportunity for Q&A and discussion. And since many of the instructors attend their colleagues’ lectures, you’ll often get to hear multiple perspectives on the subject at hand.
- Group Discussion. There will be a series of group discussions, each hosted by a different Instructor. These group discussions might have a general topic or focus area, but they are meant to be free-flowing discussions between instructors and students. Many of the instructors will participate in these discussions, even when they’re not the official hosts — which again, prsents multiple perspectives.
- Writing. What would a writing workshop be without . . . writing? While you’ll learn all the details at the workshop, you will be given writing assignments that need to be completed while you’re on the island.
- Guest Sessions. The workshop is often fortunate in having writers-in-residence or other industry professionals who agree to provide a special session to VP students. This session may take the form of a particular workshopping exercise, a Q&A session, a lecture — it depends entirely on the speaker. These guest sessions are generally optional, but we encourage students to take advantage of them. In years past, we have had guest speakers like author/ecologist Sarah Goslee and author/bookseller Lauren Roy (both also VP alums).
Fun at Viable Paradise
If all of that sounds like an intense week, that’s because it is. However, one of the best aspects of the workshop is that it gives you a chance to form a lifelong bond with your peers — writers who share your love of science fiction and fantasy, and who are eager to deepen their knowledge of craft and industry. Whether it’s enjoying our communal meals with the students and instructors, hanging out in the evening and making music with your classmates and instructors, or exploring the starlit shores of Martha’s Vineyard, Viable Paradise offers plenty of opportunity to have some relaxing fun.