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O | The Online Writing Workshop for SF, F & H Newsletter, March 2007
W |
W | Become a better writer!

| - - CONTENTS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - |

- Workshop News:
      April writing challenge
      Market news
      Oddysey workshop 2007
      Membership payment information
- Editors' Choices for February 2007 submissions
- Reviewer Honor Roll
- Publication Announcements
- Workshop Statistics
- Tips & Feedback

| - - WORKSHOP NEWS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - |

Earlier this month, the Online Writing Workshop celebrated its eighth
year online.  (A very few people were part of the beta-testing, which
began in the fall of 1998.)  Originally sponsored by Del Rey, the
workshop attracted talented writers from the beginning.  Jim Butcher
won one of the first Editor's Choice awards for a Harry Dresden story
that he had written as an exercise in plotting, and within months he
had sold the first three books to Ace.  Cecilia Dart-Thornton sold her
Bitterbynde trilogy the next year, and soon after that Karin Lowachee
won the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest.

But those first success stories seemed few and far between, and there
were months without any sales announcements at all.  Now it's hard to
find any place in the genre that OWW and its alumni can't be found.  A
Campbell Award winner, two Writers of the Future Grand Prize winners,
plus Hugo and Nebula and Campbell and Sidewise finalists, plus
familiar names in the ToCs of almost every Year's Best collection,
with books from almost every publisher in the genre, with first
publication and translations in a variety of world markets, and
stories in all the pro and semi-pro magazines, and members who are
still waiting to make their names as writers have made names for
themselves as editors in the meantime.

In some ways, OWW has worked just as we expected, as an incubator
for new talent, where writers learn from each other while everyone
improves.  In other ways, it's succeeded beyond our boldest
expectations, with more sales and publications than ever seemed
possible those first couple of years.

Ellen, Eric, and Charlie -- the folks who run OWW -- want to salute
all the members who've made this success possible: the pro writers who
keep giving crits and the new writers just learning the ropes, the
people who've been here for years and those just giving it a trial.
We understand that careers in writing come with no guarantees, no
promise of success, and yet we're confident we'll see new successes
this year.  We can't wait to find out who it will be.


Getting From Here to There:  One of the most difficult skills a writer
has to learn is transitions, how to move from one piece of the story
to another.  Often times it's easiest to insert a scene break with a #
and go on to the next scene.  But every scene break is a chance for
the reader to put your story or book down, and sometimes, following a
section of exposition or lower tension, it's better to flow smoothly
into the next scene without a break.

There are tricks for creating effective transitions.  In conversation,
for example, there's the use of the non sequitur -- one character
brings up something important to them that's outside the conversation
to that point, changing its course and direction.  Physical action can
work the same -- Raymond Chandler's body-through-the-skylight theory.
Knowing when to tell instead of show can work the same way:
summarizing a transition for the characters in a sentence or
paragraph, ripe with one or more telling details, can create an
effective transition.   It's even possible to create seamless
transitions without breaks in tight third POV by having one character
focus on an external object, moving through a neutral paragraph about
that object, and having the second character pick up on the same
thing, then moving into their head (Maureen McHugh, for example, does
this in one of the climatic chapters of HALF THE DAY IS NIGHT).

Your challenge this month is to write a story or chapter this month
involving several different modes (set piece, exposition, action),
physical scenes, or POVs with smooth transitions and no scene breaks.
There are bonus points if you use the technique in a way that's
integral to the meaning of the story, or in a way that increases
tension and pacing.  More bonus points for using more than one of the
techniques above or for finding your own ways of making transitions.

Stretch yourself this time. And don't be afraid to fail -- it's better
to fail spectacularly and learn something useful, than to play it safe
and never grow.  Please don't post your challenge pieces to the
workshop until APRIL first. Include "April Challenge" in your title so
you can show off how fancy you are to all your friends.

For more details on the challenges, check the OWW Writer Space at:


Since its inception in 1996, Odyssey has earned a place as one of the
most respected workshops for science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
Forty-six percent of Odyssey graduates go on to professional
publication. The six-weeek program is held every summer on Saint
Anselm College's beautiful campus in Manchester, NH. Odyssey's
founder, director, and primary instructor is OWW Resident Editor
Jeanne Cavelos, a best-selling author and former senior editor at
Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing, where she won a World Fantasy Award
for her work.

This year's Writer-in-Residence is Nina Kiriki Hoffman, author of
novels, juvenile and media tie-in books, short story collections, and
more than 200 short stories. Her works have been finalists for the
Nebula, World Fantasy, Sturgeon, and Endeavour awards. Guest lecturers
include Michael A. Burstein, Rodman Philbrick, Michael A. Arnzen,
Elizabeth Hand, John Clute, and George Scithers.

The workshop runs from June 11th to July 20th, 2007. The Odyssey
website ( offers writing and publishing
tips, a class syllabus, and articles by graduates about their Odyssey
experiences. Information about the new Odyssey Critique Service is
also available on the website. Prospective students, aged eighteen and
up, apply from all over the world. Those interested in applying to the
workshop should visit the website, phone/fax (603) 673-6234, or e-mail The application deadline is April 13th.


How to pay: In the U.S., you can pay by PayPal or send us a check or
money order. Outside of the U.S., you can pay via PayPal (though
international memberships incur a small set-up fee); pay via Kagi
( for non-U.S. people); send us a check in U.S.
dollars drawn on a U.S. bank (many banks can do this for you for a
fee); or send us an international money order (available at some banks
and some post offices).  If none of those options work for you, you
can send us U.S. dollars through the mail if you choose, or contact us
about barter if you have interesting goods to barter (not services).

Scholarship fund and gift memberships: you can give a gift membership
for another member; just send us a payment by whatever method you
like, noting who the membership is for and specifying whether the gift
is anonymous or not.  We will acknowledge receipt to you and the
member.  Or you can donate to our scholarship fund, which we use to
fully or partially cover the costs of an initial paying membership for
certain active, review-contributing members whose situations do not
allow them to pay the full membership fee themselves.

Bonus payments: The workshop costs only 94 cents per week, but we know
that many members feel that it's worth much more to them.  So here's
your chance to award us with a bonus on top of your membership fee.
For example, is the workshop worth five dollars a month to you? Award
us a $11 bonus along with your $49 membership fee. 25% of any bonus
payments we receive will go to our support staff, sort of like a tip
for good personal service. The rest will be tucked away to lengthen
the shoestring that is our budget and keep us running!

For more information:
Bonus payments and information about our company:
Price comparisons:

| - - EDITORS' CHOICES - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - |

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 -- SF, F,
horror, and short stories -- receive a detailed review, meant to be
educational for others as well as the author.

This month's reviews are written by our Resident Editors, Jeanne
Cavelos, John Klima, Karin Lowachee, and Kelly Link. 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!

Editor's Choice, February, Fantasy Chapter/Partial Chapter:

I like that Janice Smith's cross-genre chapter "Gateway to Eternity"
starts in media res like any good epic story.  Instead of spending a
lot of time setting up her world and its characters, the reader is
thrust immediately into the action of a car chase and is left gasping
for breath.  This type of beginning works very well in fast-paced
novels with a lot of action by grabbing the reader's attention and
pulling them along through the story.

The problem here is that after a fast beginning, Smith slows the tempo
down by going backstage at a rock concert.  There is a lot of tension
backstage as the band is waiting for the band member -- Lilli, who was
involved in the opening chase scene -- to arrive, but there is little
in the way of action.  I think Smith has packed too much into this
opening chapter.  Expanding the car chase scene -- perhaps starting a
little earlier by describing the scene of Lilli noticing the gentleman
watching her instead of telling the reader about it -- might be a
better use of the opening chapter and a way to keep the action at a
higher level throughout.  Then, Smith can move backstage at the rock
concert in the next chapter.  This gives the reader a chance to catch
his/her breath and start to learn about the story.

Smith gives rich, powerful descriptions of her character and settings.
Here's an extended description of Zhara's costume:

	The silver headpiece that fit snug against her head covered masses
	of blond hair that matched her brother's thick tresses. When it
	caught the overhead light and reflected it back, the silver flames
	etched on her headpiece seemed to flicker and flare as if they
	were alive.

	Keiko shuddered. She'd seen them alive once. She'd expected them
	to devour the singer. They hadn't, but it was only a miracle that
	had saved them that time.

The description gives a physical sense of what the character looks
like and a piece of the characters' history at the same time.  This is
true throughout the chapter: in addition to giving the reader a sense
of what things look like, Smith's descriptions work to develop the
tension between the characters and their situation.  Each character is
concerned about the whereabouts of Lilli as they wait to start their
concert, but it manifests in different ways.  Early on, Smith is
working to develop these characters in the mind of the reader.  With
each character, there is a little hint of the history of the group and
their lives outside of the music scene.

As it was, I had some trouble keeping the characters straight in my
head.  I had a lot of trouble keeping the characters straight.  The
characters all had similar descriptions.  Perhaps this was due to the
fact that the characters dress in costume to perform as a band, but it
seemed like more than that.  I also kept imagining the band KISS in my
head from what the costumes sounded like, but I think that was me
projecting onto Smith's writing, and not Smith's intention.

I realize this is only an initial chapter, and more description is to
come, but it felt like a lot of information at once.  I don't know if
all the people who make up the band that Lilli is in will be just as
important as she is, but if so, they should almost each get their own
chapter.  This way Smith can have the reader spend some time with each
character and learn about them.  This wouldn't necessarily need to be
a series of chapters about each character to start the novel.  Think
about how the television show "Lost" works.  Even without using the
flashbacks that "Lost" uses, Smith could weave in chapters about
individual characters without disrupting the flow of the story.  Of
course, if Lilli is to be the main character, then all of this is

I'm not a big fan of depictions of music performances in fiction.
Often it doesn't feel real to me.  Smith doesn't spend a lot of time
giving a detailed description of the concert, and that's a good thing
in my opinion.  I think unless you're describing an existing piece
that readers would have access to in some fashion (i.e., the Mona
Lisa, a specific recording, etc.) the interpretation the reader draws
from your description most likely won't be the interpretation you
want.  If you have a fictional artist, or writer, or musician, it's
better to leave more to the reader's imagination than less.  As a
writer, you won't be able to convey the image of the artist in your
head to the reader in the way that you want, so it's best to let the
reader create their own interpretation.

Even though I think the chapter would be served better to be expanded
and spilt into two separate chapters, I like that the chapter comes
full circle.  The reader starts with Lilli being tailed while she
tries to drive to the concert and the reader ends with the man who was
tailing her showing up at the concert to watch Lilli perform.  This
way the reader doesn't get wrapped up in the description of the
concert and all its trappings and forget where the story started.  It
was obviously important that Lilli was being followed, and just as
important that the person following her knew that she was different,
so the ending of the chapter serves as a solid reminder to that fact.

Smith's chapter starts with engaging action and moves into compelling
characters with an interesting history.  The reader is given just
enough information to want to know more about these people and what
they're doing.  Even so, don't try to put as much information as
possible, and instead spend a little more time developing the people
and places with which the reader will be interacting.

--John Klima
Editor of _Electric Velocipede_ and the forthcoming LOGORRHEA

Editor's Choice, February, SF Chapter/Partial Chapter:
ASHES CHAPTER 6B - PASSENGERS by Treize Aramistedian

Though this month's choice is part-way through a novel, it stood very
well on its own as an example of coherent, often exquisite writing.
The imagery of the Italian villa was not overpowering but effectively
evoked both ruins and grandeur, and the two characters -- Kuze and
Urbino -- rang true:

	The man, wings of gray at his temples while his bald pate shone in
	the moonlight, tucked his hands in the pockets of his overalls,
	his sandals slapping his feet quietly as he shuffled along the
	cobblestones of the pathway. A pungent scent of wine surrounded
	him, and when he scratched the back of his head in that
	surprisingly disarming gesture of his, Kuze could see the traces
	of smashed grapes on the man's fingers. The same could be seen
	along his ankles, even in the evening.

Dialogue flowed well in this first scene; the sense of history and
regard between these men is self-evident.  Considering I've come into
the book in the middle, being able to execute that through consciously
placed hints and a certain ease of interaction speaks well of the
writing. Setting description conjured an exotic place and even time --
this future:

	The land smelled of grapes and tulips, and the dirt road wound a
	twisting pathway through cornfields into a gate formed by tall fir
	trees. But in between the leaves, Kuze could see the houses of the
	villa that the trees protected. Stormclouds hurried the dying sun
	under the horizon, but with its last rays, the sun touched the
	sloping tiled rooftops and reached tentatively towards the spire
	of the local cathedral.

Be mindful of repetition of words or phrases, and the too-easy route
of cliche in order to convey an image or emotion, as here: "With a
flick of a light switch, the back porch was suddenly flooded with
light, an island glowing in a sea of twilight." The numerous uses of
"light" could be pared back. In addition, "Bits and pieces of memory,
like shards of broken glass," is a common simile. Don't dilute the
original, striking imagery with throwaway lines.

This leads into the main issue of consideration for the author: the
scene between Sibyl and Kuze. This entire section read as overwrought,
melodramatic, and highlights one of the trickier aspects of writing
novels or any fiction that relies on character interaction as dramatic
turning points: how to convey strong emotion without going overboard.
As a general rule of thumb, less tends to be more. Beware of grand
sweeping statements like this:

	"Sibyl," he whispered. He felt Urbino and the Sister who had
	opened the gate fade away into the shadows, leaving Kuze with a
	woman he had loved and abandoned a long time ago.

Or exaggerated feelings like this:  "You are welcome, Prelate." The
ice in her voice stung like no physical wound he had ever endured.

Nearly every other line utilized rather overused images or
overdramatic feelings. Even if the relationship was profound and
dramatic to the characters, the reader should not get a sense of it
being overwrought. The restraint or bitterness or hurt could be mostly
conveyed through non-verbal or more subtle markers, by stating perhaps
how far they might be standing from each other, or if they do not look
at each other, or by the things he says which might be the opposite of
how he truly feels. There is no way for me to itemize it all line by
line, but be conscious of how much you are outright telling the reader
and how much is implied. Implication tends to be more powerful in
heavy emotional scenes; this way the reader draws their own
conclusions without being hit over the head with them, and thus the
scene becomes more realistic and effective.

Coming from a far more subtle interaction between Kruze and Urbino,
this scene with Sister Sibyl rang too loud and clashing, too obvious.
All in all, however, the chapter did move things along rather well,
had a great pace to it as far as action and dialogue, and introduced a
new direction to the plot, for as much as I could tell, with the
recruiting of Urbino for this new 'cause.' The characters and their
situations are definitely interesting enough to keep a reader going.

--Karin Lowachee

Editor's Choice, February, Short Story:
"Twinklers" by Swapna Kishore

This is a solid draft of a story set in modern-day India about family,
faith, and the ways in which life can change -- forgive the pun -- in
the twinkling of an eye. The elements that are already working here --
character, setting, the sense of the main character's estrangement --
are also the same elements that need to be strengthened in the next
draft. In other words, you're on the right track: do exactly what
you're doing, but do more of it.

In "Twinklers," Deepali, who has recently lost her husband, must
decide whether or not to let herself be changed by an otherworldly
presence which manifests as small, floating colored dots. Those who
accept the dots appear to be in communication with some kind of alien
mind and they warn Deepali, repeatedly, that those who do not choose
the dots will die on a day which is fast approaching. As Deepali
hesitates, waiting until the very last moment to make up her mind,
spending her time keeping a diary, both her mother and her son choose
to be changed. And when, in the end, Deepali refuses the dot one more
time, her mother and her son seem to be preparing to kill her and
Deepali flees into the night.

The reader is never told how they should think of the twinklers. Their
motivations are never discussed, and Deepali never asks her mother or
her son much of anything. Deepali, when she tries to research them,
discovers that all newsstories, etc, have been pulled from online, or
altered. As a reader, the map that fits closest for most readers will
probably be the religious one: Deepali is being offered a choice. She
can choose the little twinkling dots, which offer knowledge, shared
purpose with other humans, and communication with a higher power, or
she can refuse the dots and salvation. This fits pretty closely to the
standard Christian model of how salvation works, but it probably works
just as well with most religions, possibly even with most sports
teams. Even the family dynamics fit onto a religious framework --
unless Deepali chooses the twinklers, her family will no longer be her
family. Shared belief matters more than blood ties. And yet this story
doesn't, at the moment, have much religion in it. We don't know what
kinds of things, religious or otherwise, Deepali might have believed
in, up until now. At the very end, Deepali is running away from some
kind of new and powerful experience that most of the rest of the human
race has embraced. So we need to know what Deepali has faith in. Her
job? Her family? Good books?

We don't know much about the tensions or connections between Deepali
and her mother, and Deepali and her son, except that just as her
mother and her son give up on Deepali once they've got the dots,
Deepali also gives up on them. And the ease with which Deepali accepts
that her mother and son are lost to her are a problem here. Why
doesn't she try to wash the dots off of her son? Or something equally
useless, but which a desperate mother might attempt anyway. Why
doesn't she try to keep some kind of connection to him? Why does she
seem more interested in keeping a journal of her past life than in
trying to understand what's happened to her son? What does she fear
for him? What does she hope? The same is true of the relationship
between Deepali and her mother -- we need either to understand why
Deepali accepts the estrangement, or that she might already have had
some sort of estrangement from her mother. For example, both Deepali
and her mother have lost a spouse, and Deepali's mother may not
understand the ways in which her daughter's ways of coping are
different. Perhaps Deepali has been distant from both her son and her
mother, or perhaps she has clung to them while her son has grown

In any case, we need to see more of these family dynamics so that when
Deepali loses the rest of her family, there's an emotional weight to
the loss. Give us more complicated scenes -- more dialogue, more sense
of history, more telling detail -- between Deepali and her family so
we can see them, and through them, her, more clearly. Too much of the
dialogue at the moment only advances plot without showing character,
or filling in history or relationships.

One large question: why is it that Deepali resists the dots, while
everyone else we meet in the story succumbs to them? What is it in her
character or history that makes her wait so long, and then, in the
end, decide that death and separation from her family is preferable to
assimilation? We need to know her better to understand her choice, and
even once we understand her choice, we still need to see whether or
not she is devastated by the loss of her mother and son, or whether it
is almost a relief to her to lose the last ties she once had to her
old life.

A couple of smaller suggestions: Arjun, a secondary character and
friend of Deepali's, should either be more important in the story, in
terms of friendship or history, or else gotten rid of. At the moment,
he seems more like a plot device than a human being, and not a very
useful plot device at that. Secondly, although I like the hierarchy of
colored dots, I'm not quite convinced by the climactic scene in which
the green dot explains/shows to Deepali that she will be a leader,
admired by her family. I'd be happier if she reads theories about the
meanings of various colors in online discussion groups, where green
ones are supposed to be leadership dots, reserved for people who have
shown an intelligent sort of caution, and then gets a green one in her
room -- or even a color which no one has ever described seeing before.
Make the choice more complicated. Also: consider having the
twinkleheads do something more significant than just falling into
trances, although the trances are nicely spooky. Maybe they could be
collecting certain, apparently meaningless things, or building odd
structures, or behaving in ways that non-twinkleheads find absurd as
well as ominous?

As far as the prose goes, some of the dialogue falls flat. For
example, when Deepali is explaining to her mother about the twinklers,
her mother says, "That sounds confusing. What do you mean by trances?"

There's not even a speech tag. Dialogue should never just be doing one
thing -- it should advance plot, but it should also suggest character,
or voice, or show us something about how Deepali and her mother relate
to each other. There are more than a few places where pronouns are
unclear. As a general rule, especially early on, use your viewpoint
character's name rather than a pronoun at least two or three times so
that the reader has a chance to get acquainted. When you have a scene
with more than one character in it, if you jump from one character's
name to a pronoun that refers to another character, you may be in
danger of losing the reader -- even, sometimes, when the genders are
different. And don't try to pack in description too tightly. For

	[Deepali] relaxes as she finds the usual quaint jumble of
	functional furniture and appliances and intricate ivory boxes,
	miniature paintings, and patchwork cushions.

When I read this, I wonder what Deepali was expecting to find in her
mother's house. "Relax" is a very odd verb choice. Why not just pause
and describe the room instead of forcing a tension that isn't really
present in the scene? And, when doing so, pick more telling details
than "functional furniture" and "appliances".

And finally, let's take a look at that opening paragraph:

	Deepali's sitting in the autorickshaw, clutching her handbag and
	portfolio of sketches. The wind's blowing her hair wild; she's
	always loved this dried-leaves smell and the profusion of pink
	bougainvillea, but today she's not noticing any of it, or even
	listening to the driver's grumble about Bangalore traffic. She's
	remembering the way Bordoloi's face changed during the meeting --
	the blank look that replaced his usually bright eyes, the jaw
	slackening and that small dribble making its way down his chin.

First of all, there's a lot of information here, which isn't
necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that the reader is already
working hard. Almost immediately there's sensory detail, which could
be a good thing, except that there's wind and then there's a smell AND
there are flowers. Too much, too fast, and the connections between
these things is still a bit sloppy. But then we find out that Deepali
isn't actually noticing any of the things we've just taken in. So
whose POV are we in? And why are we being told all of this, if the
main point is that none of it matters? Here's the thing -- this
technique could be effective, only it has to be done extremely well --
much better than, say, a simpler approach to setting the scene. And,
by the way, keep on setting the scene. Give us more description
throughout. Think about how _where_ something happens makes a story
different just as _who_ a story happens to makes that story unique.
That way, when Deepali flees at the ending, the reader will have some
idea of the landscape and culture that she is either escaping into, or
else running away from. Good luck with this. I enjoyed it a great

--Kelly Link
Editor of TRAMPOLINE and co-editor of YEAR'S BEST FANTASY & HORROR

Editor's Choice, February, Horror:
"Singing the Round" by Krista Hutley

In this story, Cassie discovers a garbage bag with dead kittens in the
lake, and this triggers a worsening of her insanity, leading her to
attempt to kill a neighbor and eventually to kill herself.

The plot builds some strong suspense by raising questions in the
reader's mind and offering little clues along the way -- about what
caused Cassie's insanity, about what happened to her son -- that keep
the reader engaged in the story, trying to figure out the answers. In
that way, the story functions in part as a mystery. The description of
the kittens' ghosts is another strength. Since they're invisible,
these ghosts are a great challenge to describe, and Krista, you do a
wonderful job of it. Their purring and romping and biting come through
vividly. For me, this was the most enjoyable element in the story. I'm
teaching Poe's "The Black Cat" in my Literature of the Fantastic
course right now, and I really liked the echoes of Poe's story in this
piece. I think you were very wise to write this in third person
limited, for several reasons, one of which is that it keeps your story
clearly distinct from Poe's.

I understand that you wanted this story to tread the line where the
reader isn't sure whether supernatural events are truly occurring or
if the point of view character is simply insane. Some of my favorite
stories do that. For me, this story was clearly in the camp of the
insane narrator. I never believed the ghosts of the kittens were truly
haunting her, or that her dead son was singing to her. I don't feel
this is a weakness in the story, though. I enjoyed reading about the
kittens' ghosts as hallucinations, and I wanted to see where her
insanity would take her.

The main weaknesses I see in the story are the ending and some
awkwardness in the writing. The climax and denouement are the test of
a story -- it's here that either all the elements come together with a
powerful impact, or they don't. When I read the stories of developing
writers, they often have strong openings and exciting middles, but
very few have powerful ends.

The ending of this story needs to show her insanity reaching its full
expression, and it needs to provide satisfying answers to the
questions that have been raised. I don't feel that everything in the
story leads to her swimming out into the lake to kill herself. This
feels sort of like a "placeholder" ending. I call an element in a
story a placeholder when it doesn't quite seem to be the right
element. Often, the author knows that something needs to go in a spot,
but doesn't know exactly what, so she puts in something to hold the
spot, a placeholder. A placeholder might be a character, an event, a
setting, a scene, or pretty much anything. The problem is that usually
the author isn't aware that she's put in a placeholder; she thinks
this is the right element. That's why it's important to question
yourself about every element in your story -- is this the best
possible character/event/setting/scene for this story? Or is it a

Let's first look at the mysteries you've created and the answers
you've offered. We've wondered throughout the story how Cassie's son
died. Gradually we learn that he died in the lake, seemingly by
reaching for something in the water and capsizing the boat. The end of
the story suggests that he went out on the boat by himself, that
Cassie wasn't fast enough to go with him. This is not a satisfying
answer to the mystery. It seems a rather random circumstance, and it
puts the blame on the son, whom we don't know. The idea of singing
"Row row row your boat" is interesting but never seems to tie to the
other pieces of the story. Another mystery is who killed the kittens.
We don't receive any answer to that. It also seems there should be
some connection between the kittens and her son; otherwise, it's just
a plot convenience that dead kittens are in the lake. All these
elements need to come together to create a unified, satisfying story.

How could you do this? One possibility would be that her son killed
the kittens. Perhaps he is a mean boy, and Cassie is in denial about
that. She finds him with the dead kittens and flips out, decides they
have to hide the bodies in the lake. While they're in the boat, he
tries to open the garbage bag, so he can throw the individual kittens
in the water to see if they'll float. She fights with him, the boat
capsizes, and they both go in. He dies.

Or perhaps Cassie kills the kittens. Perhaps she and her son find them
and start to feed and care for them. Her son loves them and plays with
them all the time, and Cassie is jealous. So she kills them and hides
the bodies in the lake. Her son catches her doing this and swims out
after the kittens, thinking they are still alive in the bag, and he
drowns in the attempt to rescue them.

Or the link between the kittens and the son may be more subtle.
Perhaps both have been discarded by guardians who didn't want the
responsibility, or were irritated by them. In that case, we may never
know who killed the kittens, but we learn that Cassie found her son
too much responsibility, or demanding too much attention, or crying
too much, so she gave him a sleeping pill, put him in a garbage bag,
and dropped him in the lake.

There are many possibilities; you have to choose the one that carries
the themes you want the story to reveal. But the end of the story,
whatever it is, should reveal a striking and horrifying truth, one
that feels both surprising and inevitable, and that ties together all
the pieces of the story.

Regarding the awkward sentences, I'll just give one example of a
problem I saw several times in the story:

	She'd been canoeing for at least twenty minutes, feeling the burn
	in her arms that she never used to feel before when she went out
	regularly, when the oar, on the up draft, caught on something and
	dragged it to the surface.

This is an example of a sentence that encompasses more than one idea.
A sentence should be one idea. It may be a simple idea or a complex
idea, but it should be only one unified idea. This sentence has three
ideas: (1) she's been canoeing for 20 minutes and her arms are burning
,(2) her arms didn't used to burn when she canoed more often, and (3)
her oar catches on something. This should be broken into three
sentences to reflect the three ideas. The last one is the most
important, and it gets lost because the sentence is so confused.
Here's a possible way to rewrite it:

	She'd been canoeing for at least twenty minutes, feeling the burn
	in her arms. She used to be able to row all the way across and
	back with no pain.  Now, though, each stroke was an effort. She
	dug the oar into the water and felt sudden resistance. The paddle
	caught on something, dragged it to the surface.

I added sentence 3 as a transition between the ideas before it and
after it.  And I expanded the discovery of the garbage bag into two
sentences to give more emphasis to that key event.

Krista, you say this is one of the first stories you've written; for
that, it's really an incredible and impressive piece of work. I hope
my comments are helpful. I'll be interested to see the 20th story you

--Jeanne Cavelos

| - - REVIEWER HONOR ROLL - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - |

The Reviewer Honor Roll area of the workshop recognizes members who
have given useful, insightful reviews.  After all, that's what makes
the workshop go, so we want to give great reviewers a little
well-earned recognition!

If you got a really useful review and would like to add the reviewer
to the Reviewer Honor Roll, use our online honor-roll nomination form
-- log in and link to it from the bottom of the Reviewer Honor Roll
page at Your
nomination will appear on the first day of the next calendar month.

The Honor Roll will show all March nominations beginning April 1.
Meanwhile, here are two advance highlights from this month:

Reviewer: Sylvia Volk
Submission: The Filigree - Chapter 1 by Victoria Kerrigan
Submitted by: Victoria Kerrigan
Nominator's Comments: What makes a review stand out for me is whether
I learn something from it; not just about the mistakes I've made in
that particular piece but about writing in general. Sylvia's comments
about the rhythm within sentence structure were an AHA moment for me.
Great work, Sylvia.

Reviewer: Ruth Burroughs
Submission: REBELS Chapter 1: Fall of the Empire by David Beltran
Submitted by: David Beltran
Nominator's Comments: Ruth spent a great deal of time actually
tackling the mechanics of my work, a job many reviewers don't do too
often. I have to admit, I love being taken back to school, and Ruth
did just that. Not only did she do an exceptional job focusing on the
weaknesses in my writing, but she also suggested and showed ways that
I can go about improving my work. Heh, she even went as far as
pointing out additional reading material for me to review. Reviews
such as these are priceless, and though I would not ask each reader to
be as thorough as she was, it is of more value to the author when the
reviewer is. I'd like to personally thank her for her efforts, and
will definitely work out the time to return the favor. Here's hoping
she makes the honor roll! Regards, David Beltran.

Reviewers nominated to the honor roll during February include: David
Cummings, Ruv Draba (2), E E, Victoria Kerrigan, Michael Keyton, Mary
E Tyler, Marianne Van Gelder.

We congratulate them all for their excellent reviews. All nominations
received in February can be still found through March 31 at:

| - - PUBLICATION ANNOUNCEMENTS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - |

We can't announce them if you don't let us know! So drop Charlie a
line at whenever you have good
news to share.

OWW Member Sales and Publications:

Ilona Gordon, writing as Ilona Andrews, will see her first novel MAGIC
BITES, published by Ace, available in stores March 27. Ilona says,
"Thank you once again to everyone who believed in the  manuscript and
offered their advice, critique, and support: Charles Coleman Finlay,
Ellen Key Harris-Braun, Jenni Smith-Gaynor, Hannah Wolf Bowen, Jeff
Stanley, Larry Payne, Nora Fleischer, Mark Jones, Del Whetter, Steve
Orr, A.  Wheat, Betty Foreman, Catherine Emery, Elizabeth Hull, Susan
Curnow, Richard C. Rogers, Aaron Brown, David Emanuel, Jodi Meadows,
Christiana Ellis, Kyri  Freeman, Elizabeth Bear, and Mary Davis.
Without you, the manuscript would  not have made it into print.  I owe
you more than I can express."

Angela Boord's story "Evergreen" was chosen for BEST NEW ROMANTIC
FANTASY, edited by Paula Guran.

Amanda Downum's story "Smoke & Mirrors" was chosen for BEST NEW
ROMANTIC FANTASY, edited by Paula Guran.

Mark Fewell sold his story "Return Of The Troll-slayer" to _Sorcerous
Signals_ (

Way Jeng, who was part of the OWW group at Clarion in 2006, has his
second and third pro sales, with "Second Banana" sold to _Baen's
Universe_ and "Time Tells All" to _Realms of Fantasy_.

Sandra McDonald's "The Mountains of Key West" was chosen for BEST NEW
ROMANTIC FANTASY, edited by Paula Guran.

Bill McKinley is pleased to tell us that issue 27 of _Andromeda
Spaceways Inflight Magazine_ (
includes his short story "The Return of the Queen," which the workshop
helped him polish in 2005.

Joshua Palmatier's first novel, THE SKEWED THRONE, is one of the four
finalists for the Baltimore Science Fiction Society's Compton
Crook/Stephen Tall Memorial Award for best first novel of 2006.

Sarah Prineas's "Jane: A Story of Manners, Magic, and Romance" was
chosen for BEST NEW ROMANTIC FANTASY, edited by Paula Guran.  (Is
anyone else starting to notice a pattern here?)  She also sold the
German rights for her forthcoming trilogy in an auction to Bertlesman,
with a release date in 2009 just like her American editions.  This
follows the sale of world Dutch rights, in a pre-empt, to Gottmer
(Netherlands), Danish language rights, in an auction, to Borgen
(Denmark), and world Spanish rights, in a pre-empt, to Random House
Mondadori (Spain, with divisions in Mexico plus South America).  Can
you say "Wow?"

David Reagan sold his story "One Choice, No Decisions" to _Renard's
Menagerie_.  He sends "thanks to the folks who critted it in November
of 2004: Wade White, Gregory Clifford, Maria Zannini, Daniel
Sackinger, and Zvi Zaks."

| - - WORKSHOP STATISTICS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - |

Number of members as of 3/19:  578 paying, 53 trial
Number of submissions currently online: 380
Percent of submissions with 3 or more reviews:  72.63%
Percent of submissions with zero reviews:  4.47%

Average reviews per submission (all submissions): 4.84
Estimated average review word count (all submissions):  677.40

Number of submissions in February: 236
Number of reviews in February: 956
Ratio of reviews/submissions in February: 4.05
Estimated average word count per review in February: 834.26

Number of submissions in March to date: 142
Number of reviews in March to date: 608
Ratio of reviews/submissions in March to date: 4.28
Estimated average word count per review in March to date: 761.62

Total number of under-reviewed submissions: 51 (13.4%)
Number over 3 days old with 0 reviews: 5
Number over 1 week old with under 2 reviews: 13
Number over 2 weeks old with under 3 reviews: 33

| - - FEEDBACK - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - |

Got a helpful tip for your fellow members?  A trick or hint for
submitting or reviewing, for what to put in your author's comments,
for getting good reviews, or for formatting or titling your
submission?  Share it with us and we'll publish it in the next
newsletter.  Just send it to and
we'll do the rest.

Until next month -- just write!

The Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror

| - - Copyright 2007 Online Writing Workshops - - - - - - - - - - - |

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