Super excited to announce that Ashley Hope Pérez and I will be teaching a workshop at The Highlights Foundation from June 14-17, 2018. CONNECTING SOURCE TO STORY: MINING THE WORLD FOR YOUR FICTION is all about moving from inspiration to narrative and using the world around you to deepen and complicate your existing fiction. There are so many places where the world can give writers a helping hand in developing richer, more compelling stories. Ashley and I (along with special guests Edith Campbell, Marilisa Jiménez, and editor Andrew Karre) are going to celebrate creativity with four days of prompts, tips, exercises, comradeship, and exploration. Ashley’s been calling it a 4-day “inspiration party”. Won’t you join us?
And, If you’ve never been to the Highlights Foundation, I suggest you check it out. It is one of the most beautiful, peaceful, inspiring, creative places I have ever had the good fortune to write. Nestled in the mountains of Pennsylvania, each writer stays in their own cabin on the rural campus, surrounded by 1300 acres of forest. There’s a creek, and trails (and even a dog you can borrow to walk with you!) and fantastic meals and snacks every day. Super supportive staff — everyone there is invested in your success. I’m convinced you can get a creative high just walking into the lodge and smelling the piney air.
Pleased to announce that my story “Absolute Pony” has just been published in Time Travel Tales, an anthology of short fiction edited by Zach Chapman and including tales by Sean Williams, Tony Pi, Robert Silverberg, and my fellow Writers of the Future winner, Brian Trent.
The volume features dinosaurs, temporal clones, intergalactic celebrity chefs, and of course ponies. Well, sort of ponies. You’ll have to read and see for yourself.
When Kaiden’s mom was on the second floor, a sudden silence fell upon the first floor that seemed unnatural to him. Yamiyo was fully booked—overbooked, even—for the first time since they took ownership. Every room had at least two people, if not four or five, jammed in to accommodate everyone in the film crew. There was no other ryokan, inn, or hotel in Kuroshi for them to stay.
And yet here, in the middle of the day, the whole place seemed lifeless.
Like those months and months it stood empty while they renovated it. The main floor was built almost 150 years ago, back in the Meiji period. Three years ago, Ojisan started adding on in an attempt to compete with hotels. Yamiyo’s booking rate had been declining for almost a decade and spending money on it was maybe not Ojisan’s best idea.
His parents made the mistake of finishing the renovations instead of selling the place and cutting their losses.
Blackness moved out of the edge of his eyes.
Kaiden straightened and turned down the hallway that led to the indoor hot springs and the only two guest rooms on the first floor. A creak from one of the doors drew him closer. The lights in the hallway shut off, plunging the whole floor in the faint hues of the fading evening sun. He froze as a dark blur shot out from the Gallery and into Yuu’s room.
What was going on? Why was someone running around?
How were they running so fast?
His eyes lingered on Yuu’s doorway—barely opened. He’d have to slide in on his side if he wanted to enter, so how did someone get in so quickly?
A stupid thought surfaced. The rumors that surrounded the ryokan’s past, the legend that gave the room its name. How Yuu died.
How his ghost might never have left.
No matter what anyone said, Kaiden was sure the place was not haunted. He’d lived there for almost a year and never saw a ghost. Sure, he’d heard the stories—they were the bait his family used to lure an international ghost hunting show there. If not for that episode, Kaiden doubted Baku Studios would’ve come, but that didn’t mean he believed in ghosts.
Some guests never experienced anything out of the norm, others heard murmurs from inside the walls, heartbeats below the floorboards, moans at midnight. Felt cold spots all around the ryokan. If you were unlucky, out of the corner of your eyes you might see Yuu’s ghost hanging from the ceiling, neck snapped from the noose around it.
At least, that was what people said.
—from When Darkness Comes
Kim Graff is a talented young writer who I suspect we are going to be hearing a lot more about in the future–especially if you enjoy horror. The manuscript of hers that I read at the Books with Bite workshop (It’s happening again this year. I can’t recommend it enough!) was a post-apocalyptic tale, so we concentrated on that for the interview, but as you can see from the excerpt above, she’s a versatile writer who will do whatever it takes to give you a chill.
What’s the appeal of the apocalypse?
A few of my favorite video games and books as a child had to do with the apocalypse in different ways. The Mist by Stephen King, Silent Hill, and Resident Evil were all favorites. I think that’s where my fascination began.
Other favorite movies or stories about life after the end of the world?
I grew up on horror. I’ve been watching it since I was five, so my scare-scale is pretty warped and not much gets to me. I deeply dislike the notion of something crawling under a person’s skin though, like what happens in Alien or those evil beetles in The Mummy franchise.
Also jellyfish. Jellyfish creep me out. After living in Australia for a bit, you either develop a healthy admiration and fear of jellyfish or you get stung. Plus, they are brainless lifeforms and that’s just weird.
Tips for writing scary for teens vs middle-grade vs adult?
This is actually a very timely question for me. I’m currently working on a YA horror and an MG horror. For adult and YA, in my opinion, anything goes. I don’t believe in censorship for YA in the least, and with horror in general I believe there needs to be a reason for any gore or fright. You can’t just have jump-scares or bloodshed for the shock value.
Overall, character development is vital. If readers don’t care about the characters, no one will care if something bad happens to them. I see this flaw in horror movies in particular.
But with MG, it’s different. There are more gatekeepers, and though I grew up on horror, I recognize MG-level readers might not all have the same tolerance for fright as I did at that age. It’s important to be engaging for MG-readers, since they need a quick read that has a pace that will keep them turning the pages. It’s still important to have worthwhile characters, but the fright factors and the villain (or whatever the Big Bad Thing is in the story) needs to be tailored to MG. There needs to be a valid justification for why you need to murder a character or have something spooky happen.
I’m still struggling with this concept of YA vs MG vs Adult. I think it might come down to this: YA and Adult can be scary. MG should be more on the spooky side.
The apocalypse has happened. You get to keep one piece of current technology to survive the bleak and brutal years to come. What do you choose?
Can my answer be an armor-covered, solar-powered RV?
If I have to go with something I already own, I would say my laptop with the magical ability to never die. So that I can still play around with my stories as I hide in a cabin somewhere away from all the hellishness of the apocalypse.
Kim Graff writes sinister and creepy children’s books in NYC. She works full-time in publishing, but also does occasional freelance editorial work at Wild Things Editing. Before settling in the big city, Kim called France, Australia, Montreal, and Kansas City home at one point or another. A life-long horror fan, Kim one day hopes to live in a haunted castle in Scotland with friendly ghosts and a whole lot of dogs.
The audio version of my story, “The Island of White Houses” is now available from Drabblecast. I’m really pleased with the recording. Narrator Norm Sherman makes the story feel darker and spookier than I usually think of it. His version is definitely ominous. Which is what’s great about podcasts: each telling of a story creates something new. I also love the artwork by artist Susan Reagel.
I spent a lot of time as a black-wearing mopey-shouldered teenager thinking how very strange I was. And then, you know, I grew up and got over myself. For the most part. Because it turns out everyone’s really weird. It’s part of being human.
Which is why when I came across this quote attributed to Frida Kahlo–while looking for cookie recipes, no less!–it went right to my heart. It made me remember, and I felt sad and comforted all at once.
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world, but then I thought: There are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
Very pleased to announce that my story, “The Night Farmers’ Museum” was chosen by judge Robert Coover as the runner-up for this year’s Italo Calvino prize, sponsored by the University of Louisville Creative Writing Program.
In keeping with the fabulist nature of the prize, I confess that I dreamed the title of this story earlier this year and then had to write the story to find out what it was about.
Thanks to all the judges and readers, and congratulations to 1st prize winner Micah Dean Hicks for his story, “Flight of the Crow Boys,” which I am very much looking forward to reading.
It’s been more than two years since the Clarion West class of 2011 crawled despondently out of that last-night puppy pile and scattered to the four winds, pens clutched in eager hands. We have not been idle! Read on for new publications, a new magazine, grants, prizes, and new formats!
Waylines Magazine, co-founded by David Rees-Thomas (CW ’11) and Darryl Knickrehm after a successful Kickstarter in late 2012, had an auspicious first year, publishing 6 issues, 14 pieces of short fiction, 18 short films, plus reviews and author interviews.
There’s no doubt that Clarion West provides a great foundation for writing. But sometimes, you just want more! More institutional living, more devastating critiques, more sleepless nights, and more sagacious advice from wizened wise pros. Jenny Moody and I attended the CSSF Novel Writers Workshop in Lawrence, KS this summer. Instructors Kij Johnson and Barbara J. Webb were amazing, and I definitely recommend this workshop for anyone thinking of tackling their first novel. Jeremy Sim attended Revenge of Clarion WestOdyssey Writing Workshop, another six-week residential course.
Everyone in my workshop is working on a YA novel. I’ve been reading the chapters, and we’ve got shape-shifters and parallel worlds, and strange and dangerous beasties. I met Mike Underwood at Wiscon last year (He’s a fellow CW alum & for a while we lived in the same town.) I heard him read from his debut novel, Geekomancy, and I think his sense of humor is right on target for the project I’m working on. Should be good fun.
How To Create When Life Isn’t Slowing Down For You
Writing the perfect novel or story is difficult while juggling a job, long-term relationships (spouses, children), and the constant interruptions that happen. However, as projects like NaNoWriMo show, it is possible to manage time effectively to create while still maintaining some semblance of life. Let’s talk about time and project management, organizing ideas, and using the dead time (waiting in lines, driving) to plan out projects.
“World Domination through Bake Sales!” That’s one of the slogans at Tiptree Juggernaut Headquarters. The Tiptree Award supports gender-bending SF/F, publishes, auctions, and loves chocolate chip cookies! A wide variety of cookies, breads, cakes, pies and delectables are baked and donated by Tiptree supporters.
I’ll be dishing out goodies from 11:30 – 1pm. I’m also bringing these:
Early this morning, author Marly Youmans invited the world to take part in a word-doodling in the form of a beau présent, a poem that contains only the letters in the recipient’s name, but using one’s own name.
I’ve been spending a lot of time doing serious, logical, ferrety work with a novel outline and I couldn’t resist the invitation to play with words in a whole different way. My name gives me a lot of vowels to wrangle, but once I started making word lists, I felt rather fond of the words I contain.
A Singing Alisa Alering beau présent
In rag lane,
grain is grail
sail is sea
In rag lane,
gill, gale, lens & rain
rage, sin, rail, & gain
In rag lane,
A girl, a sage, a sag-song gal
A leg, a leer, a rage-real nail
1. I can read and understand Hindi (speak, not so much) Not as well now as I did five years ago. But I can still write my name! This isn’t much of an accomplishment for someone from India, I realize, but in the US it qualifies as a “less commonly taught language.” When I sing along to myfavoritefilmisongs, I mostly know what I’m saying. (I regret that this knowledge does nothing for the quality of my singing).
2. Twenty years ago, an old woman in Spain thought I was a beggar and gave me money. She insisted I take it. I meant to save that coin for the rest of my life, because I felt guilty and because I didn’t really need it. I spent it a few days later.
3. One of my front teeth is completely turned around. The inside surface faces out, and what should be the front points back towards the inside of my mouth.
4. When I was in high school, I was a cheerleader. If you don’t know me, this isn’t an exciting revelation. But if you know me now, you never saw that one coming.
5. If I scratch a particular spot on my right rib, I feel a sharp twinge in my right elbow. Without fail.
6. When I was in high school, I used to work at a circus/amusement park/farm/petting zoo. I washed horses, braided manes, fed the pigs, got spat on by the llama, put the harness on the Clydesdale, and painted glitter on the unicorn’s hooves.