This month we welcome the return of the Reviewer Honor Roll to the newsletter. We'll be including all reviewers nominated before the newsletter deadline each month, as well as a link to the the Honor Roll and its nominations in their entirety. The Reviewer Honor Roll is a great way to pay back a reviewer for a really useful review. When you nominate a reviewer, we list the reviewer's name, the submission/author reviewed, and your explanation of what made the review so useful. The nomination appears the month after you submit it, and is listed in the Honor Roll area for a month. You can nominate reviewers of your own submissions or reviewers of other submissions, if you have learned from reading the review. Think of it as a structured, public "thank you" that gives credit where credit is due and helps direct other OWWers to useful reviewers and useful review skills.
But how do you nominate a reviewer, you ask? The answer is hidden deep in the wine-dark folds of the workshop, accessible only to OWW initiates. Not! Actually, at the end of every review is this little link:
Just click on that, fill out the form with your explanation of why the review deserves our honor, and you're done.
And where can the honor roll be perused, you ask? If you are a visual learner, consult last month's newsletter. If you are a verbal learner, read on: sign in to the workshop and use the secretly encoded text link at bottom left, camouflaged among the other text links. Decoded, it reads: REVIEWER HONOR ROLL
Moving on from reviews to the things being reviewed, everyone has been busy lately and we have the sales and announcements this month to prove it. I'd like to extend a special congratulations to our very own Resident Editor John Klima, whose Electric Velocipede won a Hugo for Best Fanzine. Congratulations, John!
As always, contact us if you have any questions, publication announcements, or ideas for improving the OWW Newsletter.
Maria Zannini, newsletter editor, and Ellen Harris-Braun
newsletter (at) onlinewritingworkshop.com
Ride a pale horse. There just aren't enough ghost stories out there, especially animal ghosts. Your challenge is to write about a ghost horse. He can be from legend or something more modern, but Flicka must be of the ethereal sort. Does he haunt the owner that abused him? Does he lead another to safety? Only you can tell us his story.
Remember: Challenges are supposed to be fun, but don't forget to stretch yourself. If you normally write fantasy, try SF. If you've never tried space opera, here's your chance. It doesn't have to be great. It's all about trying new things. There's no word limit, no time limit, no nothin'. Just have fun.
Challenges can be suggested by anyone and suggestions should be sent to Maria (newsletter (at) onlinewritingworkshop.com).
Query Help: Molli Nickell hosts The Query Club, offering advice and free membership. The club offers guidance on how to write the vital documents all writers need--query letter, synopsis, first page, and/or book proposal. For more information please visit The Query Club web site.
Live Writers' Workshop: If you're in Chicago on October 13-15, there will be a writers' workshop at Windycon.
New SF/F imprint: You may all know about this, but we liked the tag line in their press release: "Angry Robot is the new imprint from HarperCollins bringing you the best in new SF, F and WTF?!" More info: www.angryrobotbooks.com
The Editors' Choices are chosen from the submissions from the previous month that show the most potential or otherwise earn the admiration of our Resident Editors. Submissions in four categories--science fiction chapters, fantasy chapters, horror, and short stories -- receive a detailed review, meant to be educational for others as well as the author.
This issue's reviews are written by Resident Editors Jeanne Cavelos, John Klima, Karin Lowachee, and Karen Meisner. The last four months of Editors' Choices and their editorial reviews are archived on the workshop. Go to the "Read, Rate, Review" page and click on "Editors' Choices."
Congratulations to the current Editors' Choice authors!
LOVE SEX MAGIC Chapters 1-2, by Melissa Long
I'm of the opinion that books should be fun to read. I want to enjoy myself as I go along, rooting for the heroes, hissing at the villains, and in general moving through the roller-coaster ups and downs of the plot. (Aside: I am terrified of roller coasters.) That's not to say that a book can't be complicated, involve numerous plot lines, shift awkwardly through time, or incorporate riddles and mysteries. But all the same, when a book starts feeling like work, it becomes time to move onto something else. There are rare exceptions (Danielewski's House of Leaves or Hoftadters's Godel, Escher, Bach come to mind) but in general I want to have fun when reading.
Melissa Long's Love Sex Magic is fun. I wanted to keep reading and had to force myself to slow down and look at the chapter. Long creates a pair of memorable leads--Chai and her assistant Yasmine, both of whom the reader should love--and throws them immediately into an uncomfortable situation. There was something about the two of them that made me want to root for them from the start. Part of it is the situation and how unfair it is, but another part is how familiar the two feel.
You'll never go wrong creating characters at least partially based on people you know. Obviously you don't want to base your monstrous villain completely on your Aunt Bess (she's going to read your book, after all), but if there's an aspect of her you can use, it makes your character more real for the reader. Also, if your characters are inspired out of your reality, writing about them is easier--that's "write what you know"--since you won't have to think too hard to know how they'd react in a given situation.
Nonetheless, I ran into some difficulties with this chapter right off the bat. It kicks off with Chai at a gallery repeating "don't date the clients," which sounds like a reasonable thing to practice. We don't know what sort of clients Chai has, or what business she's in, but we know she has integrity. Except, as we read on, we learn that Chai is at the gallery to meet a client for a date. It seems that Chai finds mates and makes dates for the supernatural. The date in question is a tester date so that Chai can get to know the client better in order to match him to a potential mate.
As I said, it all seems reasonable. Except that Long keeps pushing it down the reader's throat that Chai doesn't date clients, even goes so far as to state that she doesn't even date potential clients. I realize that Chai is talking about getting into a relationship with clients, and that the test dates are a form of role-playing to learn more about the client than you could through interviews. I have a lot of trouble when the same word or phrase is meant to mean very different things. You can't whiplash the reader by saying "I don't date clients" and then "I'm here to date a client." The context may convey different meaning, and certainly the intention is different in the two instances; but you can't read intention, and context can be muddled.
Since it's unlikely that this test date comes up as an ongoing thing in the book, Long could refer to it as a test date, or a "date," or an immersive interview, or a field meeting, or something different. It would be awkward for Chai to constantly say "I don't get into relationships with clients," but that could be an option, too. Since this opening date/don't date confusion is used to set up Chai's history with Ethan, the vampire and former boyfriend who tricked Chai by posing as a potential client, it needs to be there, but I think the reader will appreciate it being clear.
This next part has one of my pet-peeve problems. Chai then finds out that a pairing she made for a werewolf clan has gone awry and she has to abruptly leave in order to attend to that problem. Chai asks her assistant to get some paperwork ready so that Chai can read it on the drive out to the werewolf estate. The paragraph after she leaves Ethan, Chai and Yasmine are in a car together driving out to the werewolves. Nowhere do we get to see the trip to her office where she picks up Yasmine who is now reading the werewolves files to Chai.
I hate it when one situation is set up-Chai reading the file herself--and then something different happens with no explanation as to the change. I find that it happens often with locational changes: one moment the characters are in their kitchen, the next they're across town in a park. Transitions are important. They help set your reader up for what's coming next.
In this case, it seemed Chai was going alone, since Yasmine has no supernatural ability and would likely be a hindrance. For some reason Yasmine is brought along. Why? The story certainly flows better with both women in the scenes, but either Yasmine should be a planned participant all the way along, or a quick scene should take place where Yasmine convinces Chai to take her along. I like more scenes with Yasmine, but it's up to Long to determine what the story needs.
Long has a great start to a book here: believable, fun characters, conflict, and an interesting premise. I had a lot of fun reading these chapters. I think she needs to take some care with the order of events, and this will be an even stronger piece of writing.
--John Klima, Editor, Electric Velocipede
PLATINUM DONKEYS, Chapter 1, by Remus Shepherd
This is a science fiction novel with, apparently, a serial killer as a protagonist. Where is this going? The author begins at an orbiting space station and establishes early the media-driven future through which we'll walk in the subsequent story. It's unusual enough, with snappy, spot-on dialogue and well-depicted characters, to immediately intrigue. The suppositions and adaptations of our own pervasive celebrity culture, transported to a future setting, are well worth a look.
The brief but effective descriptions of people and things give the prose a modern, breezy tone befitting the invented world. The dialogue is very sharp, the characters shown through their interactions to be that mix of slimy and gentrified that often exemplifies the circle of the rich and famous and those who support their lifestyle.For example:
"The Megasat Hour is not a local show. You can't -- Percy! Come here. Talk some sense into her!"
Great, Maggie thought, as the chubbiest man on Megasat walked up wearing a silver smoking jacket and raised eyebrows. She downed the rest of her drink and gave Percy her best 'fix this' glare.
He smiled back, making the blinking yen mark on his chin dimple. "Hi, sexy. Don't tell me my meal tickets are arguing, now."
"He wants to fuck with my script, Percy."
Watch, however, that this breezy and easy-to-read tone doesn't get scant. The chapter overall suffers from a scantiness that should be easily filled in without bogging down the narrative. All of the locations -- from the station orbiting Earth to Maggie's bedroom -- have the potential to be fleshed out, realized, to allow the reader to be lost in the exotic locale that the author wishes to depict. But what we get instead are glimmers, suggestions, very general brushstrokes when precision and detail could only add to the meat of the plot. Give the reader more visceral descriptions of the textures of this future world and it will enhance everything else. The characters will have to respond to their environment and so will the reader.
Another downfall to being too scant -- and I said this in last month's EC as well -- is that the characters become unanchored in the scene and it's difficult to track their movements and thus picture the action. When they move from room to room or level to level, where are they leaving from and where are they going to, specifically? While the characters may not notice this on an internal basis (they've been to these places many times so the writer might not want to suspend disbelief and have them notice workaday details), it's up to the writer to slip in telling details that still manage to not be intrusive to the logic of the point-of-view. For the neologisms and cool concepts introduced in this chapter it is done very well: the cloud of cameras, the web of stick fabric. Do this for even the more mundane details and the world will seem less blank slate.
Also when the environment details are too scant, sometimes the characters end up being given short shrift too. When Maggie becomes conscious after her night of murder (how she killed Vittor is so warped and cringe-worthy, but fitting for the story, and it only intrigues the reader more to find out doubleyoo-tee-eff is going on!) there seems to be little transition between her disorientation and her sudden lucidity and ability to identify her boss. Linger a little more on her confusion and balance that out by pacing the scene with more details of what the apartment is like and how the characters are moving through it (even the androids) as they attempt to dispose of the body.
The use of the androids is fascinating yet still familiar, and a great foreshadowing to the small "reveal" at the end of the chapter; there is definite intrigue. Be careful of just commonplace details: producers have more power than directors for shows like that (or any show) so it didn't make sense that Percy was pulling rank over Tom. Also, when actors veer away from their scripts it's called going "off book." Knowing even the minute details of a specific subculture will enhance believability, and it's up to the writer to cover as many bases as possible.
Logic details also have to be tracked. How can they cart Vittor's body out the front door and not be noticed? Are there special security protocols that haven't been explained? Be careful of the potential for melodrama, as it runs the risk of turning the story into something cartoony ("Find a way, damn it! She'll be my queen, and I her suitor. Our union is foreordained -- find a way to make it happen!") Don't fall into the easy SF cliché either -- shifting colors on a dress has been used in future fashion a million times. Considering the variety of high fashion in our modern times (where LED lights embedded in a couture gown have already been done), one can assume that anything in the future would be equally as diverse. But other details do work -- the fact that Maggie keeps mixing up Vittor's name and confused Ohio and Oahu added a realism to it all, thoughl they serve as indicators both of her personality and of her relationship to Earthbound things.
This is a great start, with immediate threat and questions and concepts to carry any reader through to the next chapter.
Author of THE GASLIGHT DOGS, BURNDIVE and CAGEBIRD
"Perhaps This is Kushi's Story" by Swapna Kishore
This is a subtle, gracefully written story within a story. It starts off in a village where two sisters are playing, watched by an old woman known as Tribemother. We have just enough time to observe the girls' contrasting natures, and to note that Younger Sister appears to be harboring some aggressive ambitions; then Tribemother begins to tell them a story. The tale she tells is about a young girl named Kushi, who prevented a vicious boy from becoming a leader of her tribe. After Kushi's story is finished -- or left unfinished -- we return to the frame story, where Younger Sister struggles to understand what lessons to take from the tale, and how to apply it to her own choices.
Tribespeople in this world are occasionally chosen to receive metal feathers which fall from the sky, and which carry the voices of gods instructing them on how to lead their people. However, the events of Tribemother's story reveal that the feathers sometimes give conflicting advice, and that the gods are fallible. (The feathers are really the most unique and startling element of the story, and I'm so curious to know more about them! Reading between the lines, we see indications that technologically advanced beings may be messing with these tribes, trying to alter the course of their cultural development; we can only guess at why. I wonder what it is about these tribes that make them so important to the "gods"?)
Though there's no definite conclusion to be drawn from Tribemother's story, the characters within it reflect aspects of Younger Sister's nature and potential in ways that inspire her to think about her options. There is Bataar, whose violent urges grow into monstrosity; Kushi, who can seize hold of fate to change it; and Bolormaa, a wiser guiding force who takes charge of the situation and uses power for the peaceful good of the tribe. Younger Sister, who has secretly received a feather urging her toward war, is left to decide for herself how to shape her future: whose story will her own be?
The fundamental structure here is well crafted and engaging. I love that both girls are given the chance to finish Tribemother's story as they think it ought to end. It's a wonderful way to reveal character, and to show how a story's shape and meaning can change depending on what the audience brings to it. The frame story also stops on an odd, intriguing note that doesn't provide conclusive satisfaction. Younger Sister rejects the feather's authority, but it's unclear how much of her warlike desires are innate to her temperament, so we have no guarantees that her own choices will be any better than what the feather would have urged her into. All that's really changed is that she's taking charge of her own destiny. It's a curiously ambiguous moment, and we readers, like the sisters, are left to imagine our own endings. The way this mirrors the effect of the nested story is delicately done, and works really well for me.
My main concern about Tribemother's story is that it runs too long and needs to be streamlined. It will have more impact if non-vital bits are cut; for example, Kushi's repeated attempts to warn adults about Bataar can be condensed to one or two instances, and the scene when Kushi joins the nomads can be trimmed to half the length. But I want to talk a little more about nested stories in general.
Tribemother is described as a master storyteller, in a culture with a strong oral tradition:
"Tribemother's stories are stickier than glue. When I was five and heard her story about a mountain bear, I smelled the raw flesh of its breath, and felt coarse paws on my arm. Its teeth were barely a hand-span away from my face when I blurted out that I would return Elder Sister's wooden doll to make it go away."
This passage builds up a happy expectation of some knock-out narrative, but when she begins to speak, her opening lines actually dull things down:
"'Once a small tribe lived across the mountains,' Tribemother says, 'in a valley where the land could be farmed. The people were hardworking and honest--at least, most of them. Men farmed. Women helped them, and cooked, and healed and stitched. Headman Yeshe managed trade and disputes with the help of a deputy, Nawang.'"
It's a generic beginning, which can set a comfortably familiar tone in actual oral storytelling, but in this context it only turns me off to the tale because it's less interesting than the frame story we've read so far.
Stories within stories can either spark more excitement or leach the life out of fiction. They have the potential to make things highly interesting, because the narrator is in conversation with the audience: she can speak in as dramatic or fanciful a voice as she likes, and anything can happen! It's human nature to love hearing stories told to us, and a good speaker develops rhythms that draw us in.
The flip side of the device is that it can distance us from our illusion that what we're reading is actually happening. It forces an awareness that we're receiving information secondhand; if the story even happened, it happened previously and elsewhere, to people we don't know, so the stakes are lowered. If the nested story doesn't grab us right away, it can lose us.
Think of the structure visually, as a picture within a frame: it works best if the picture doesn't blend into the frame, but stands out as distinct from it. If Tribemother can open her story in a strikingly new, more enticing spoken voice, the whole piece will pick up energy and interest. Her story contains some great vivid moments -- the strangeness of the feather's arrival, disturbing glimpses of Bataar's building psychosis -- but they leap out from a fairly bland setting. Let her come up with more visceral details; let her use images that grab the imagination. What if her story were to begin right away with its most compelling lines? "There was an orphan healer apprentice, Kushi. She was almost eight years old--that's a year younger than you girls--on the day the sky burst open." And then, having captured our attention, she could set the scene at a more leisurely pace.
Consider the effect in the Wizard of Oz movie, when Dorothy opens her monochrome door onto a view of technicolor Oz. To Younger Sister, Tribemother's stories are like that: doorways that open onto dazzling adventures. They give her that rush of colorful thrill. Tribemother's story can have a similar effect on us. When someone in a story starts telling me a new story, I want their first words to say: Listen. Come here. Listen.
--Karen Meisner, Editor, Strange Horizons
WHEN DEATH HURTS LESS THAN LIFE, Chapter 1, by Jeanne Haskin
This opening chapter introduces Rosa, a reporter diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia who is obsessed with the war in Bosnia. After pulling an all-nighter to complete an article for her boss, Rosa collapses, and he takes her home.
The chapter raises many intriguing questions that make me want to keep reading, which is exactly what a first chapter should do. I want to know whether the voices Rosa hears in her head are true symptoms of schizophrenia or signs of the supernatural. I want to know why she has such an obsession with the Bosnian war. I want to know why she's redecorated her apartment in such a severe, precise way. So far, the story feels original, and Rosa seems a compelling character.
I see weaknesses in three areas: plot, point of view, and style.
Plot: The plot contains two weaknesses common in the work of developing writers. First, the opening scene has too much exposition (background information). The chapter begins with the character alone, thinking about her life. This is generally a weak way to start. There are only four paragraphs set in the "present" of the story before you start to give us background information--about when she took her pills, what happened in Bosnia, her diagnosis, and so on. In the first scene, the only action that really occurs is Rosa prints out her article and goes to get it from the printer. The rest is all her thoughts about her nemesis Fishman, the Holocaust, and why she became a reporter.
An easy way to spot a problem like this is to write a plot summary of each scene after you write it. If you have a plot summary like, "She prints out her article and gets it from the printer," then you know that the scene lacks sufficient action in the present of the story. Ideally, you want each scene to provide a reversal or turn in a major value for the main character of that scene. I've discussed this in previous critiques, so I won't go into it here, but I did a recent blog post about it, if you want more information: http://odysseyworkshop.livejournal.com/17665.html
Obviously, you need to provide exposition about Rosa at some points in the novel, but it's best not to do this right at the opening, and it's best to break the exposition up into smaller pieces and spread them out, so no scene or chapter becomes dominated by exposition. You also want to reduce the background facts that you are giving us to the bare minimum necessary--what are the few key facts that the reader must know to understand and enjoy this novel? Figure out what those are, and then space them through the first half of your novel. Clever authors have come up with many tricky ways of working exposition into the text so that it doesn't disrupt the action and doesn't overwhelm the story. Study stories you enjoy to see how those authors worked in the exposition. One of the most important methods is to design action so that necessary information is revealed through the action (this also reflects the rule of show, don't tell). For example, if I want to establish that my main character, a priest, is intensely involved in counseling alcoholics, then I don't want to start with a scene of him sitting alone at church, thinking about how he is intensely involved in counseling alcoholics. Instead, I want to design a scene in which he is counseling an alcoholic, ideally an alcoholic who will play a major role in the story. In this case, if Rosa is obsessed with helping the Bosnians, then I'd like to see her running through a minefield to help a Bosnian; or if she is obsessed with silencing her nemesis Fishman, then I'd like to see her stalking him down a dark street and attacking him. What does she want to accomplish? See if you can design an opening scene that better shows that.
The other scenes in the chapter have less exposition and are more successful. Scene 3 has the strongest reversal, as Rosa goes from trying to leave alone to accepting help from her boss. The other scenes could use stronger reversals or turns.
The second weakness in the plot is that it's a hurt/comfort plot. That's a type of plot in which one character is suffering/injured and another character cares for her and nurses her back to health. That's what's going on for the bulk of the chapter, which is a problem, because the hurt character is usually not really struggling to achieve a goal, or if she is, she doesn't have a chance of achieving it because of the injury. That makes for a weak plot.
In this case, Rosa seems to have the modest goal of going home after writing her article. It's not clear to me why she has come in to write the article in the first place; that doesn't seem like something she would do. But as far as struggling to get home goes, she can barely keep her eyes open as the chapter begins, so there doesn't seem much hope of her achieving her goal. I don't feel her struggling much to achieve it; she seems more the victim than the protagonist, which is a dangerous thing. For us to relate to her, care about her, and root for her, we need to see her truly struggling to achieve a goal.
My advice is to find some different action to show us in the opening chapter, some action that allows Rosa to be struggling more to achieve a goal and that allows you to show us some of the things that you're currently telling us about in exposition, as discussed above.
For the rest of this review, visit the Editor's Choice area of the OWW site!
--Jeanne Cavelos, editor, author, director of Odyssey
After the amazing results we achieved with last month's crit marathon, we thought it might be a good idea to see what made the finalists so good at what they do.
I interviewed the first-, second-, and third-place finishers and asked them some questions. And then I interviewed Stelios Touchtidis, who organized and kept the contestants motivated throughout the contest.
I think you'll find their answers enlightening.
Our first place finisher was Gio Clairval, with a very close finish by Elizabeth Hull in second and Kendra Highley in third place. If you remember, this contest was one for the record books: our contestants contributed 1,297 reviews in 21 days!
What kept you motivated to do one more review during the crit marathon?
Gio Clairval: Apart from madness ;-)? When I start something, I usually finish it, and I like to stretch myself a bit. During the Marathon, I strived to review as I always do, without yielding to the temptation of writing shorter comments. I simply can't write quick reviews that are also substantial.
Elizabeth Hull: Several reasons kept me going. I have had a dry patch for the last while for a number of reasons and I wanted motivation to get myself out of the slump. For me, this means reviewing, and I just kept finding excellent stories on site and had to keep following them. And then there was the incredible encouragement from Stelios, who made the whole marathon such a lot of fun as well as doing an awesome job. I was quite surprised when I won something as I had been so wrapped up in enjoying the submissions. A big thank you to Kai, Joshua, and OWW for generously donating the prizes.
I was also looking for Flash Fiction as Flash Me Magazine is publishing an all-Fantasy issue in our next quarter. As Senior Managing Editor, I wanted to give some practical help to those guys, whether or not they subbed to us. (I generally find members of OWW are producing very good work, just in case anyone has a flash short they might feel like winging our way. This is a paying market, just so you know.)
Kendra Highley: I love reviewing and critique -- that's how we all improve. The marathon gave me the nudge to review different writers and all the wonderful and exciting new work kept me going.
What tips would you like to share with readers on how you go about writing a strong review?
Gio Clairval: Oh, I don't know whether my reviews are strong. All I can say is how I go about writing a review. The first pass is always a reader's reaction. I only highlight spots that jump up to me but I do not stop to write suggestions. Then I concentrate on the sentence/word level. By the end of the second pass, I have an idea of the general structure and I step back, for distance. In a review, I try to go beyond the "I like/don't like" song. I offer both levels: line-edits and comments on pacing and characterisation (commenting on plot is more difficult when you see one or two chapters in a month). Of course, some pieces inspire me more than others on the "big picture" level, meaning that I see what could be done to improve them more easily.
As for my reviewing philosophy, when I find passages that aren't clear, I try to put myself in the author's place and I ask myself, "What did she want to convey?" My goal is to be on the story's side, not to tell the author what the story should be. If there are problems, I point them out, and I offer solutions, but always in the story's spirit--as I understand it. And I love nitpicking for grammar, syntax and spelling meesteaks, but I don't rewrite sentences to my liking. I try to respect the author's voice.
Elizabeth Hull: I give the type of review I find most helpful for my own work. I like to know if someone has "got" it. If not, why not. Is there a plot hole? Is the time frame consistent? Are the characters fully three dimensional and do they have different voices? Is the plot believable? How is the pacing on this particular chapter? Can I see the setting and do I know who is talking? Is the engagement factor there? And, of course, any nits I might spot along the way.
Kendra Highley: Be honest while still being positive. Some of the best reviews I've gotten were encouraging -- and still made me rethink everything I did in that chapter. I've grown most when a reviewer told me something didn't work. My own method is to try to catch everything I can -- nits and big picture stuff. Nits may not seem important, but to an editor it can be the difference between getting a shot and not. I also look for and comment on things that I really like. I believe positive reinforcement is as important as the critique itself. That's what keeps us going. Finally, I like "voice." If someone has a unique voice, I try to tread carefully in my reviews so I don't edit out the character, because characterization is so dang important.
Do you prefer to write reviews or receive them? Why?
Gio Clairval: I love writing reviews that help (I know they're helpful when the author sends me an e-mail or crits back saying that my review helped). I have written around 750 OWW crits since March 2008, so I must be an addict. When my reviews help the author, a reviewing relationship begins, and I'm very happy.
I love receiving reviews as well. Of course, my favourites are the insightful reviews of long-haul critting partners. I am a loyal reviewer myself, and I'm happy to say that I have succeeded in building great partnerships on the 'Orkshop--that's why I came here... --but I also like the occasional reader's reaction. My current subs are late chapters, and the ones I just pulled reached 15/16 crits--a record, I think. Thank you, guys. I don't know what I'd do without your help.
Elizabeth Hull: I get a great deal of enjoyment from either. It is both fun and instructive to read and review other member's stories. I have found that over the years, my own work has improved as a direct consequence of reviewing.
Of course, it is a happy moment to receive a review and see how the chapter stacked up in the eyes of the reader and where I need to fix things. I would like to say how deeply grateful I am to all the people who have been kind enough to review my books since I first joined, back in the Del Rey days. I have made some deep and lasting friendships with some wonderful people.
Kendra Highley: A little of both, honestly. But, I really like writing reviews. Reviewing work for others allows me to see how stronger writers construct a story, and by trying to find room for improvement for a great writer (which, I must say, can be a real challenge!) I learn how to improve my own writing ten-fold.
Since Stelios Touchtidis was so instrumental in keeping the momentum going, I decided to ask him a few questions too.
What one suggestion would you give for keeping yourself (and others) motivated?
Stelios Touchtidis: I think the most motivating suggestion was: Think of how much this review is doing for others. Even if you don't win, even if you never get a mention, someone will get that review, someone will benefit, and meanwhile, you got to read another piece, you get to know another writer, you get a little more insight on how others succeed or stumble.
What one thing surprised you the most about running the marathon?
Stelios Touchtidis: How smoothly it went. How hard people worked. It was very rewarding to see that.
Would you do it again and if so, is there anything you would do differently?
Stelios Touchtidis: I don't know about doing it again. I think what worked this year might get stale the second time around. A different moderator personality may help keep the interest level up. As for woulda-coulda-shoulda's, I regret that one of my admonitions upset someone, although it had not been so intended. I should have been more sensitive.
Thanks to Stelios for managing the Crit Marathon this year, and congratulations to all the contributors! It was an exciting contest from beginning to end.
Brandon Barr says: "Hey friends. I'm pleased to announce that my short story 'The Kitterson Ranch Incident' has been published by Residential Aliens."
Aliette de Bodard is on a roll! She tells us: "I've sold 'As the Wheel Turns' to GUD for their issue 6 (Spring 2010). It was workshopped on OWW under the title 'Dai-Yu's Choice' where it received feedback from the usual suspects: Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Linda Steele (who was kind enough to crit it in tremendous detail), and Chris Kastensmidt (whose unshakable faith in that one proved right). Thanks everyone for helping me whip it into shape!"
And then this: "...Well, it turns out some clouds definitely have big silver linings, because among the people stuck with me in the hotel were John Berlyne and Marc Gascoigne. We started talking; nine months later, one of them is my agent, and one of them has offered me a deal for three books, starting with SERVANT OF THE UNDERWORLD, and going on to two sequels.
Publication date is Spring 2010 by new HarperCollins imprint Angry Robot." More info: http://angryrobotbooks.com/2009/08/an-author-a-publisher-and-an-agent-walk-into-a-bar/
And finally: "I've sold my Chinese alternate-history 'In the Time of Transcendence' to Asimov's (the title is going to change as soon as I can work out a decent one...). Many thanks to those OWWers who took a look at it: Christine Lucas, Tom Crosshill, Ilan Leman and Owen Kerr; and to Chris Kastensmidt for his comments."
Nancy Chenier announced: "'Night of the Fifth Sun' just got picked up by Severed Press for their 2012 anthology. Yay. Thanks to everyone who critted it: Kenneth Rapp, Matthew Herreshoff, and Cathy Freeze."
Maria Deira says: "This has been a good summer with sales to Kaleidotrope, Brain Harvest, and an acceptance from Verb Noire for my short story 'Los Pequeños' which was workshopped at the OWW. On August 10, my flash fiction piece 'Finisterre' was published by Strange Horizons. Yay!"
Nora Fleischer tells us: "Just wanted you to know that my novella, "Over Her Head," was published by Drollerie Press. This novella was workshopped through the OWW, and I'm so glad to see it in print! And I have another to add: my short story 'Self-Made Man' just appeared in The Town Drunk."
Stephen Gaskell says: "I've recently had news that my story 'The Offside Trap' sold to Things We Are Not, an anthology of queer speculative fiction from M-Brane SF. "The Offside Trap" was my Clarion week-five story, and an attempt to write something a little different from my usual high-concept, adventurous SF. I'm thankful to Kelly Link, Holly Black, and all my ‘06 classmates for their critiques and inspiration."
Hilary Goldstein shouted his news: "Hot damn. After about seven billion rejections (seriously, seven billion) and I'd say five years since being published, I got an acceptance. Huzzah. 'The Dream Eater' (workshopped in our very own OWW) will be appearing in next summer's issue of Gargoyle. Swank. Thanks to all who read and made suggestions. Just about all the revisions were based off OWW comments."
Jannette Johnson tells us: "I just found out my revised short story 'Echoes Of Deception' will be published by Bewildering Stories."
Carole Ann Moleti announces: "Oasis Journal 2009 has accepted 'Everything Must Go' for this year's anthology."
Jaime Lee Moyer says: "To my shock and my agent's delight, the novel I'm workshopping on OWW, DELIA'S SHADOW, has won the 2009 Columbus Literary Award for fiction, administered by Thurber House. I guess I won too, not just the book."
Tony Peak's 'Azazel's Journal' has been accepted by Necrotic Tissue for their April 2010 issue. "I workshopped the story here, and would like to thank Justin Parente, Elizabeth Hull, Gio Clairval, Hilary J. Nowack, and Jeanne Haskin for critiquing the story; their suggestions were of great help. This is my first sale, so thanks everyone!"
Elizabeth Schechter says: "I just heard from Ravenous Romance, who want to buy 'First of May'!"
The Reviewer Honor Roll is a great way to pay back a reviewer for a really useful review. When you nominate a reviewer, we list the reviewer's name, the submission/author reviewed, and your explanation of what made the review so useful. The nomination appears in the Honor Roll area of OWW the month after you submit it, and is listed for a month. You can nominate reviewers of your own submissions or reviewers of other submissions, if you have learned from reading the review. Think of it as a structured, public "thank you" that gives credit where credit is due and helps direct other OWWers to useful reviewers and useful review skills.
Visit the Reviewer Honor Roll page for a complete list of nominees and explanatory nominations.
August 2009 Nominees
Reviewer: Alan Frackelton
Submission: Bardo Boy, Chapter 2
Submitted by: Len McCawley
Reviewer: Joshua Allen
Submission: MOONBIRD QUERY & SYNOPSIS - REVISED
Submitted by: L. K. Pinaire
Reviewer: Peter Cooper
Submission: The Emperor's Edge, Chapter 1
Submitted by: Lindsay B
Reviewer: Boz Flamagin
Submission: Maiden of Killers Chap. 15 Revised
Submitted by: Steve Brady
Reviewer: Gio Clairval
Submission: Mundane Magic, Ch. 1
Submitted by: Jodi Meadows
Reviewer: Elizabeth Coley
Submission: Mundane Magic, Ch. 1
Submitted by: Jodi Meadows
Reviewer: elizabeth hull
Submission: When Death Hurts Less Than Life - Query
Submitted by: Jeanne Haskin
Reviewer: Christopher Montgomery
Submission: "Heir Quest"
Submitted by: Troy Leavitt
Reviewer: Elisa Collins
Submission: The Emperor's Edge, Chapter 2
Submitted by: Lindsay B
Reviewer: Renee A. Miller-Johnston
Submission: Priest of Staritti, Chapters 1-3
Submitted by: Jeanne Ayer
Reviewer: Kevin Sullivan
Submission: Sushi for Demons: Ch. 35, Ch. 36
Submitted by: Gio Clairval
Reviewer: Erin Stocks
Submission: Sushi for Demons: Chapter 37
Submitted by: Gio Clairval
Reviewer: Gio Clairval
Submission: Stone Lake Chapter 1
Submitted by: Erin Stocks
Reviewer: Ilan Lerman
Submission: Stone Lake Chapter 2
Submitted by: Erin Stocks
Reviewer: H. D. Jones
Submission: Marbles in the Void
Submitted by: Tony Peak
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