All posts by Mary Robinette Kowal

Registration is open for the next Writing Excuses workshop

The Writing Excuses Master class and retreat. It's a writing workshop... on horseback? with Mary Robinette Kowal and Dan Wells | Bear Lake, Utah May 8th-13th

Attention writers! Registration is now open for the Writing Excuses Horse Retreat at Bear Lake aka “Riding Excuses.”This four-day workshop, led by bestselling authors Dan Wells and Mary Robinette Kowal, is designed to help you improve your writing skills and take your craft to the next level.

In addition to participating in writing exercises and workshops with Dan and Mary Robinette, you’ll also have the opportunity to work with horses as a way to explore and enhance your creative process. The horse component of the retreat is facilitated by experienced professionals and is suitable for all levels of experience, including those with no prior horse experience.

Dan Wells is the author of the popular John Cleaver series and a Bram Stoker award-winning author. Mary Robinette Kowal is a Hugo and Nebula award-winning author and an audiobook narrator. Together, they bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the retreat. Both Dan and Mary Robinette are also two of the hosts of the Writing Excuses podcast, a fast-paced, informative, and entertaining look at the craft of writing.

Held at the beautiful Bear Lake, this retreat offers a chance to get away from distractions and focus on your writing in a supportive and inspiring environment. You’ll also have the opportunity to receive feedback on your work and network with other writers.

The retreat is open to writers of all levels, from beginners to experienced professionals. Don’t miss this chance to improve your skills, try something new, and make progress on your writing goals.

Register now

We look forward to seeing you at the Riding Excuses Horse Retreat!

Writing Excuses – Job Description – Freelance Podcast Producer

Hello, long-time listeners. We’re ready to level up the podcast and to that end, we are looking for a producer.

Who We Are:
Writing Excuses is a fast-paced, educational podcast for writers, by writers. It airs weekly. Episodes vary in length from fifteen to twenty-five minutes but are usually less than twenty minutes long.

The goal of the show is to help listeners become better writers. Whether they write for fun or for profit, whether they’re new to the domain or old hands, Writing Excuses has something to offer.

Your Role:
We’re looking for a creative producer who has an interest in teaching the craft of writing AND has the chops to produce a great podcast. You should be well-organized and detail-oriented. You should be able to thrive working independently.

Location: Remote

Position Responsibility:

  • Manage host and staff schedules for tapings, and team meetings
  • Coordinate tapings through the production process
  • Ensure content shelf stays relevant and timely.
  • Delivering final cuts to network partner
  • Coordinating and working with additional staff, including those at our retreat branch and in charge of communications
  • Effectively managing and delegating tasks to a team.

Required Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities:

  • Experience working on a show or podcast
  • Ability to prioritize among competing tasks.
  • High editorial and audio standards.
  • Production experience in digital audio or radio.
  • Resourcefulness and ability to problem-solve.
  • Independence, positive attitude, initiative, and excellent judgment.
  • Strong organizational and communication skills.

$40-$60 per hour with a six-week trial

Time commitment: Part-time and variable. We batch episodes so there will be busy times and lulls. We can work together to adjust the schedule.

Women of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ are especially encouraged to apply.

Apply by Friday, January 20, midnight PDT. Email: Subject line: WX producer application: [your name]

Ask us questions for next year’s Season Fifteen!

For our Fifteenth Season, in 2020, we’re trying something different.

We’re going to let you guide our conversation.

Rather than waiting to ask your questions, ask them now and we’ll use those questions to structure the season in 2020.

Use this form to tell us what you’ve been struggling with, or what you wish we would talk about. Ask us about things that you are curious about. Hit us with the thorny theoretical question that you keep chewing around in your head.

WXR 2019 Cyber Monday/Tuesday Sale!

Today only! Get $100 off your ticket to WXR 19 with the code CyberMonday. (Yes, it’s Tuesday.) This code is good until 11:59pm Central on Tues, Nov 27, because that’s how we roll.

Looking for a holiday gift for your writer? Or yourself? How about a writing workshop and retreat wrapped inside a Caribbean vacation?

The 2019 Writing Excuses Conference and Retreat is now open! WXR19 will be from Fri, Sep 13 to Sun, Sep 22. We’ll leave out of Galveston, TX on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, and we’ll travel to Cozumel, Georgetown, and Falmouth before returning home. Come join us!


Writing Excuses Conference and Retreat 2019

2019 will be our seventh Writing Excuses Retreat:

Join us for a cruise in the Caribbean, September 13th-22nd, 2019!

Liberty of the Seas Cruise Ship

Registration is now open with early bird pricing! Prices go up Jan 31st, so book soon!

The full details are available on the registration page, but here’s a quick overview:

What is this thing?

If you’ve never done one of our cruises before, they’re a kind of magical mix of class time, writing time, and screwing-around-in-a-cool-place time. We don’t know how it works, but it does, and you’ll love it. We did the math, and doing this on a cruise ship is really the least expensive way for us to give you a full week workshop. Plus, you get writing views like this.

A margarita in a restaurant, looking out at the ocean
This is from the writing date in Cozumel. We are definitely going back here.

We will board in Galveston, TX, and spend a week at sea, stopping for excursions in Cozumel, Georgetown, and Falmouth. The event actually begins two days before we board, in a Houston hotel, where we’ll register and get to know each other, and have a few classes.

We’ll have one or two classes a day, taught by our amazing guest instructors, as well as live Writing Excuses episodes with the hosts of the show. Brandon Sanderson will teach a class in Houston, and we’ll be joined by Piper Drake, Kathy Chung, K Tempest Bradford, DongWon Song, and more to be announced later. And of course, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard.

You said excursions?

For each stop, we’ll pick three “official” Writing Excuses shore excursions and announce them this Spring. You can sign up with us for one of those and know that you’ll be with our same group of awesome writers and instructors. If you want to do an excursion that’s not one of our official picks, you can arrange it directly with the cruise.

How does the pricing work?

Prices are Double Occupancy, which means you’ll share your room with another person. If you bring your own roommate, awesome! If not, we’ll put you with another writer from our group. Spouses and significant others who want to come with you but are not writers will get a discounted rate. Children get a hugely discounted rate. Imaginary friends are FREE.

As before, we will have a number of scholarships available. The application process will be announced in January.

I have a registration question. Should I leave a comment here?

The best way to contact us for WXR 2019 purposes is to use the “Contact Writing Excuses” link at the bottom of the Registration page. Scroll all the way down to “Contact the Organizer”. We’d have linked it directly here, but it’s an embedded thingy. You can also email questions to

I’ve already been on your cruise thingie. Why should I come again?

First off, I’m suspicious of your claim. Folks who HAVE been before are eager to come back, in large part because the single biggest benefit of WXR are the connections you make with the other attendees. But since you asked:

    • Family Punch Card: Anyone with a family ticket will get a punch card that will allow them to attend 3 classes with their writers. These classes are normally for writers only, but we’ve found that having a common language can help both writers and family members, and this is a good way to build that language.
    • Two nights at the hotel: We have added an extra day on the front end, which lets us do stuff like have a class with Brandon at the hotel, have the option to tour NASA with Mary Robinette, and other secret awesome stuff that I can’t tell you about yet, cause all the details aren’t worked out. Mwah ha ha!
    • Costume Karaoke: The theme for the costume party this year is Costume Karaoke. As always, this is a very loose theme. Maybe your costume is from a musical! Maybe it’s Karaoke related! Maybe it just comes with an excellent theme song! Whatever the case, we have the Karaoke bar on board reserved for our use after dinner on Costume night, and we’ll be curating a list of the kinds of songs YOU want to sing. In costume. (Neither signing or dressing up is required, but if that’s your jam, bring it on!)
    • Other Exciting Announcements to come: We’ve got some new stuff in the works, and it’s going to be quite excellent. We’ll announce as soon as we can.

I’m an introvert who doesn’t do well in big groups of people. Will I survive an event like this?

One Of Us! One Of Us! Honestly, most of our attendees are introverts too, including all of the hosts and most of the guest instructors. Some of us are better at faking it than others, but we know where you’re coming from, and we feel your pain. We’ll make sure to have lots of quiet little hidey-holes all over the ship where you can go when it all gets too much. It’s not called a “retreat” for nothing.

You keep saying it, but will I really have time to actually write while on this cruise?

You will definitely have time, but it’s up to you how to use it. We give prizes every year for the Most Words Written, and last year the winner had more than 40,000. We also have a proud history of board game nights, dancing, karaoke, and impromptu martial arts demonstrations. Whatever you want to do with your free time, you can probably do it at this event.

What level of writing expertise should I have attained prior to attending?

Level of expertise” is far less important than your desire to improve. The workshop is structured to be accessible and useful for new writers with a passion for learning, and to be challenging and rewarding for seasoned professionals looking for refinement, or additional perspectives. Different classes will be designed for different levels of experience.

Come join us!

Writing the Other masterclasses

Some of the most frequently asked questions that we get on Writing Excuses revolve around how to Write the Other. In order to answer that need, which takes more than 15 minutes, we’ve partnered with Tempest Bradford and Nisi Shawl (who literally wrote the book Writing the Other) to bring you a series of masterclasses on just this subject.

And not just the general “other” but also a bunch of very specific and detailed classes such as, Writing Native American Characters: How Not To Do A Rowling, Writing Deaf and Blind Characters, and Writing the Other: Comics and Graphic Novels

Plus for Writing Excuses Patreon supporters, there’s a $25 discount on every class.

You’re out of excuses, now go register…

(P.S. from Mary: I’m registered for the Writing for Trans and Non-Binary Narratives. I’ve co-taught with Tempest and Nisi and these workshops are highly, highly recommended.)

Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner will be instructors on the WXR 2015 Workshop and Cruise!

One of the things that we’ve liked about the Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreats in the past has been that we’ve had a small student teacher ratio. When we were setting up the cruise, and decided to remove the membership cap, we knew that we wanted to try to preserve that intimate student experience. We brought Nalo Hopkinson on board immediately.

Our plan was to add additional teachers as the size of the membership grew. We have 110 students and 36 additional family members cruising with us.

It’s time to add more teachers.

Allow me to introduce Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, who will be joining us for the cruise.

Ellen Kushner - Delia Sherman - 2014 - Melissa C Beckman


You might remember them from their appearance on the show talking about Interstitial Fiction. But here are their formal bios which tells you a little bit about how very cool they are.

Delia Sherman was born in Tokyo, Japan, and brought up in New York City. Delia’s short fiction for adults has appeared most recently in the anthologies Naked City and Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells. Stories for teen readers have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Steampunk! and Under My Hat. “CATNYP,” a story of a magical New York Between, inspired her middle grade novels Changeling and The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen. The Freedom Maze, a time-travel fantasy set in Louisiana, was awarded the Norton Award, the Prometheus Award, and the Mythopoeic Award. Her recent collection of short fiction, Young Woman in a Garden, has appeared on PW’s list of Best SF of 2014. She has worked as a contributing editor for Tor Books and has co-edited the fantasy anthology The Horns of Elfland with Ellen Kushner and Donald G. Keller and The Essential Bordertown with Terri Windling, as well as two anthologies of Interstitial fiction, Interfictions 1, with Theodora Goss and Interfictions 2, with Christopher Barzak. She is Executive Editor of Interfictions Online: A Journal of Interstitial Arts.  She has taught writing at Clarion, Odyssey, and in the MA program in Children’s Literature at Hollins University.

Ellen Kushner is the author of Thomas the Rhymer (World Fantasy and Mythopoeic awards), the interconnected novels Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword (Locus Award, Nebula nominee), and The Fall of the Kings (written with Delia Sherman). She narrated these as audiobooks for Neil Gaiman Presents (Audie Award). With Holly Black, she co-edited Welcome to Bordertown. A co-founder of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, Ellen Kushner was also the longtime host of the national public radio show Sound & Spirit. She has taught creative writing at Clarion, the Odyssey Workshop, and is an instructor at Hollins University’s Children’s Literature M.F.A. program.  She lives in New York City with Delia Sherman and no cats whatsoever.

Besides being two of my favorite writers, they are also two of my favorite people. Warm, generous, and boundlessly enthusiastic about the arts and fiction and the interstices between them.

In short, we shall have such fun and learn so much at the 2015 Writing Excuses Retreat and Cruise.

Also, just a reminder that the window for submitting scholarship applications is still open.


Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat

WtO logo

If you wanted to register for the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat and didn’t get in, I’m hoping that you might be interested in the Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat.

It’s held at the same location, Mary Robinette Kowal’s parents’ house.

Mary will be joined by NY Times Best-selling author David Anthony Durham; Cynthia Ward and Nisi Shawl, the authors behind the book Writing the Other; and K. Tempest Bradford, author and activist.

On Writing Excuses, some of the most common questions come in as variations of “How do you write someone who isn’t like you.” Many authors struggle to write beyond what they know and write the other. While we tackle this on the podcast, fifteen minutes is not enough time to delve into this tricky and nuanced skill. The Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat is designed with lessons and conversations, paired with a retreat, to give participants an opportunity to work on making their characters and worldbuilding deeper and more thoughtful. And David, Cynthia, Nisi, and Tempest really are that smart.

I hope the same urge that makes you listen to Writing Excuses will allow you to consider attending this retreat.

Eventbrite - Writing the Other Workshop and Retreat