The fourth annual Out of Excuses Retreat will be bigger and better than ever, and at this point that’s saying a lot. Last year’s retreat was a crazy experiment—could we actually do this on a cruise ship?—but it worked so well that the students wanted to pay it forward so that even more people could participate. They organized themselves, collected donations, and literally doubled the amount of scholarship money we are able to offer. With that introduction, we are proud to offer four full scholarships to the 2016 retreat: two Out of Excuses Scholarships for writers who can’t afford the cruise on their own, and two Carl Brandon Society Scholarships for writers of color .
Information and Entry Rules
Each scholarship offers full tuition, a bed in a double occupancy room, and up to $500 of travel expenses to and from our departure port in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Because the food on the cruise is free, this covers essentially all of your expenses for the week. You may apply to either scholarship, but only to one of them (even if you qualify for both).
These scholarships are very popular, and get a lot of applicants, so this year we’ve streamlined the process a little to help handle the volume. Please read the instructions carefully, and follow them exactly: Incomplete applications will be disqualified.
To apply, please prepare the following scholarship package as a Word document, and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: “Scholarship Application: [name of scholarship].” Please copy and paste the cover sheet to the main body of the email, and also include it as the first page in the package.
1) This cover sheet, filled out completely:
Phone Number: [number]
Scholarship: [“Carl Brandon Society” or “Out of Excuses”]
I confirm that my scholarship is complete, including: a personal essay, three letters of recommendation, and a writing sample.
Personal Essay word count (between 450-700 words): [insert word count here]
Letter of Recommendation 1: [Name of recommender]
Letter of Recommendation 2: [Name of recommender]
Letter of Recommendation 3: [Name of recommender]
Writing Sample total word count (1-3 pieces, limited to 10,000 total words): [insert word count here]
2) A single attachment, saved as [Name of Scholarship_Your Name]
We will accept the following three file formats.
Out of Excuses Scholarship_Jane Doe.doc
Carl Brandon Scholarship_Jane Doe.doc
The attachment should contain all of the following, in the following order:
Cover Sheet, as described above.
Personal Essay: A 450-700 word personal essay explaining why you are a good candidate for the scholarship. What makes you unique? What can you bring to our group that no one else can? Keep in mind that even as we focus on “need,” the panel will also be reviewing your writing in terms of “merit.”
Letters of Recommendation: Three brief letters of recommendation (no more than 300 words each) from people who are not your relatives: friends, bosses, people from your writing group, anyone who can tell us exactly how awesome you are. Please note that we would like all three letters to be included in the scholarship package, and not to be emailed individually; we’ve had too many letters go astray, and we want to give you the chance to personally make sure every aspect of your scholarship package is complete before submitting it. If you have a concern with this, please contact Kenna Blaylock at email@example.com.
Writing Sample: A brief example of your writing, consisting of 1-3 separate pieces and totaling no more than 10,000 words. These can be short stories or novel excerpts. Don’t feel obligated to fill the word count: if you can wow us in less, more power to you.
Again: make sure to send everything in one email or your application will be disqualified!
Please review it several times, or have a friend or family member review it for you, because we will reject applications on technicalities, just like an editor or publisher would. We would much prefer to read your awesome writing and give you a scholarship.
The application period for both scholarships opens on January 15, 2016, at 9am EST, and closes at midnight EST, March 15. We will contact the winners in May, and announce them officially the morning of May 15.
A: Think of this like a college entry application letter. Have your friend answer “Why are you the best candidate for the scholarship?” The one writing the letter can point out what they think might be relevant to the decision that the committee would otherwise not know. The letters help us round out the picture for each candidate.
Ellen Kushner joins us for the last episode of Season 10. Per the title, folks, it’s time to be done.
What does “done” mean? How do you go about declaring a project “finished” when you know there are still things wrong with it? How do you clear your head, your work space, and your life for the next thing you need to do?
The scholarship jury at The Carl Brandon Society selected Shveta Thakrar as the recipient of this year’s Writing Excuses Scholarship. Shveta has accepted, and we all look forward to meeting her in person at the Out of Excuses event in September.
The Carl Brandon Society jury members were:
K.T. Bradford (Chair)
As we congratulate Shveta and welcome her to the event, we also extend our thanks to Nisi, Chesya, Lisa, and Tempest for their work in reviewing the applications and the submitted works. Their volunteered efforts make this scholarship possible, and we appreciate their willingness to work with us.
With the second scholarship announced, our only remaining announcement is that registration will close on July 1st. The prices have gone up since our original bloc sold out, but there are still slots available… for another 26 days, or thereabouts. Registration can be found here, at Eventbrite.
For the last two years the event has had a very limited size, and as a result has sold out very quickly. For 2015 we have moved to a new venue, removed the attendance limit, and increased the amount of instructor interaction—all without raising the price.
The 2015 Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat will be held from September 20th through the 27th on the Independence of the Seas.
It’s a cruise ship.
[UPDATE: We have sold through our original block of rooms. The cruise has provided us with additional rooms, but the rate is higher for these. The updated rates are now reflected on the registration page, and in the numbers provided below]
The base price of $1300 covers the full week of intensive seminars, writing exercises, and free writing time, plus meals, double-occupancy lodging, and a cruise to four different Caribbean destinations. Attendees will also be invited to submit questions for some of the episodes of Writing Excuses which will be recorded while we’re at sea.
At sea. Seriously.
Each seminar will include writing exercises and Q&A time with the instructor. Topics will include:
… and much more.
ADDITIONAL BREAKOUT SESSIONS
There will be a limited number of additional breakout sessions and one-on-one sessions with individual instructors. There is no additional charge for these, but because of the size of the event they will be distributed by lottery. The first 100 attendees registering prior to January 15th, 2015, will be entered in the lottery.
These breakout sessions include:
6-member novel critique groups: Members will submit excerpts up to 5000 words for critique by the group as well as one of the podcasters. (Please note that this means you are committing to critique the stories of the other group members.)
6-member short story critique groups: Members will submit short stories up to 5000 words for critique by the group as well as one of the podcasters. (Please note that this means you are committing to critique the stories of the other group members.)
6-member outlining sessions: Each person must come prepared with a story idea, including an ending. The host will help each attendee turn that into a working outline, ready for them to begin writing.
One-on-one Q&As: This is a 15-minute one-on-one session with one of the hosts, and you decide how that time will be spent. We can critique the first five pages of a manuscript, drill down on a worldbuilding conundrum, answer specific questions, or offer general advice.
To give you an even bigger bang for your buck, we are inviting other authors and industry professionals to help teach classes and breakouts throughout the week. The number of additional hosts depends on the number of attendees.
Nalo Hopkinson is a professional writing teacher, and one of our favorite panelists to listen to at conventions—she’s personable, funny, and brilliant. She’s been nominated for the Philip K. Dick award, the Nebula award, and Aurora award, all multiple times; her short story collection “Skin Folk” won the World Fantasy award, and her novel The New Moon’s Arms won the Sunburst award. She’s a Jamaican-Canadian whose tap roots extend to Trinidad and Guyana. She is a professor of Creative Writing at the University of California Riverside. She has taught numerous times at both Clarion and Clarion West. Her short story collection Falling in Love With Hominids will appear from Tachyon Books in 2015. In short, she’s very good at what she does, and very good at teaching others how to do it. She’ll be an excellent addition to the workshop, and we’re excited to have her.
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.
20th Sept: Depart Ft. Lauderdale 4:00pm
21st Sept: At Sea
22nd Sept: Labedee, Haiti 8:00am to 5:00pm
23rd Sept: Falmouth,Jamaica 10:30am to 7:00pm
24th Sept: Georgetown, Grand Cayman 8:00am to 4:00pm
25th Sept: Cozumel, Mexico 10:00am to 7:00pm
26th Sept: At Sea
27th Sept: Arrive Ft. Lauderdale 7:00am
All Out of Excuses seminar attendees must be 18 years of age or older. Children from the ages of 12 to 17 may attend if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
Children aged 11 and under are welcome aboard ship, but cannot attend the Out of Excuses seminars. Child care and age-appropriate curriculum is available through Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean® youth program.
All attendees, attendee guests, and accompanied minors must have a valid passport. Getting onto the ship? You need a passport!
There are plenty of things to do on the cruise ship besides attend the Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat. If you’d like to bring a significant other or family member, it’s just $900 for a non-workshop stateroom berth, or $1,000 for a non-workshop balcony cabin. And if the family member is between the ages of 12 and 17, and has an interest in writing, they can pay that reduced price and still attend the seminars with you.
If you want to bring more than three family members, we’ll put you in touch with Lisa Harding, our cruise manager, who can help you with pricing and any other arrangements.
If you need to cancel your registration for any reason, your registration fee will be refunded based on the date of your cancellation:
Full refund until June 1st
75% refund until July 1st
50% refund until August 1st
25% refund until September 1st
No refunds after September 1st
Q: What does “double-occupancy” mean?
A: It means that the price is for half of a room. You’ll have a roommate. This can be a friend that you arrange to room with ahead of time, it can be a family member, or it can be another Out of Excuses attendee.
Q: Can I get a private room?
A: Yes, but it will cost more. When you register, at the bottom of the form select “Single Occupancy” from the “additional items.”
Private room prices:
Standard Interior Stateroom: $1300 + $600 = $1900
Promenade Stateroom: $1400 + $650 = $2050
Oceanview Stateroom: $1500 + $800 = $2300
Oceanview with Balcony: $1750 + $900 = $2650
Q: What level of writing expertise should I have attained prior to attending? A: “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.
Q. Will you have a scholarship again this year?
A. Yes! We will be partnering with the Carl Brandon Society again this year.
Q: How big is the ship?
A: The Independence of the Seas holds 3000 guests, of which we’ll be a small percentage. The Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat has its own dedicated spaces, ours alone 24 hours a day, for classes, writing time, impromptu discussions, or other activities (like, say, a Magic draft with Brandon). We’ll also have our own area of the dining room, and the podcasters will rotate tables each night to sit with different guests. While the ship is large, it will be similar to being at a convention in a very nice hotel. You’ll know your tribe, you’ll know where to find them, and you’ll have places to hide from all the scary non-writer people.
Q: How big is the event? A: As of this writing (October 24, 2014), we have just over 100 attendees, including family members. As mentioned above, the podcasters and our guest hosts will be rotating tables at dinner, and participating in other activities in order to make ourselves accessible to each and every one of the attendees.
This is the third of our SHADOWS BENEATH story critique episodes. This episode’s story, “A Fire in the Heavens,” is available as part of the aforementioned Writing Excuses anthology, pictured there on the right, which includes the the draft we critiqued in this episode along with the final version.
Mary runs this session like she runs her own critique groups using what’s often called the Milford method in which we each take two minutes to run through our thoughts on the story. We do that for the first half of the episode. During the second half Mary asks us questions, sometimes for clarification about what we said, and sometimes for suggestions.
Rip-Off! Written by: John Scalzi, Jack Campbell, Mike Resnick, Allen Steele, Lavie Tidhar, Nancy Kress, Gardner Dozois (editor)
Narrated by: Wil Wheaton, Scott Brick, Christian Rummel, Jonathan Davis, Stefan Rudnicki, L. J. Ganser, Khristine Hvam
This is the second of our story critique episodes. The story, “Sixth of the Dusk,” is available as part of SHADOWS BENEATH, the Writing Excuses anthology, which includes the finished story (obviously) and the version we critiqued in this episode. SHADOWS BENEATH also includes the stories we’ll be critiquing for the rest of July’s episodes, and some other pretty cool stuff that you can read about here. If you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the ebook at no additional charge.
Can you get a lot out of this episode without having done the reading? Yes! But we don’t know what those things will be. Can you get a lot out of this episode without having listened to Part 1? Probably, but here’s a link to it in case you have doubts.
Having covered the stuff we loved in Part 1, this episode is the big downer where we just focus on the problems we found. But hey, that’s how stories get to be better! We start with the big ones, and then work our way back up to the little things.
We recorded this episode live at last year’s Out of Excuses Seminar and Retreat. Our audience of awesome attendees can be heard cheering when we finally slay the [SPOILERS REDACTED] with our collected powers of [REDACTED AGAIN.]
This is the first of our DANGER SPOILERS AHEAD story critique episodes. The story, “Sixth of the Dusk,” is available as part of SHADOWS BENEATH, the Writing Excuses anthology, which includes the finished story (obviously) and the version we critiqued in this episode. SHADOWS BENEATH also includes the stories we’ll be critiquing for the rest of July’s episodes, and some other pretty cool stuff that you can read about here. Oh, and if you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the ebook at no additional charge.
Sure, you can totally listen to this episode without having done the reading. We cannot stop you! Howard looked around for a full hour, but there’s no “stop playback for people who have not done the homework” button anywhere here.
This is also the first half of a two-part episode. We spent about 40 minutes hammering on Brandon’s story, and that’s just too much Writing Excuses for one week. Oh, and we recorded this episode live at last year’s Out of Excuses Seminar and Retreat. You’ll hear our audience of awesome attendees responding to us.
We run this session like Brandon runs his critique group — we begin by talking about what we liked, so that the writer knows what not to accidentally remove during revisions. Then we drill down on the things we have problems with, and you know what? There were a bunch of those things! Like most writers, Brandon’s first drafts are imperfect things that have problems in them.
We also run this session in a way that we don’t actually suggest you run your critique groups, at least not until you’ve put a bunch of critique sessions under your belt.
That Thing Howard Said to Brandon Between Sessions has been lost to time. Or repressed memory. Sorry.
We are thrilled to announce Out of Excuses II: the second annual Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat! Our event last year was a resounding success, so we’ve polished our microphones and carved out our schedules and we’re raring to go. And we want you to join us!
What is Out of Excuses?
One full week of classes, workshops, and open writing time, all with the (Hugo award-winning!) cast of Writing Excuses: Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells. We’ll teach you, we’ll talk to you, we’ll hang out, we’ll record live podcasts, we’ll even make you dinner. Imagine waking up to a character class with Mary Robinette; writing all afternoon and then getting advice from Brandon about the chapter you just wrote; eating a delicious dinner artfully grilled by Howard while you talk through your plot outline with Dan. That lucky writer could be you!
September 29 through October 5, 2014: Out of Excuses II
And now, the pertinent details…
Registration opens January 18, and will likely close on January 18th as well. Last year we sold out in 9 minutes, and this year we’re reducing the number of memberships from 30 to 24, so expect the retreat to fill up fast. Memberships will cost $750 per person plus housing (around $500 at the hotel around the corner; more if you want one of the rooms on campus, less if you can arrange your own housing somehow). You will need to arrange your own means of travel. Watch this space, and listen to the podcast, for more details on how to register.
Scholarship: One of those 24 memberships will be reserved for a scholarship recipient. This will be based on merit, need, and diversity, and we expect the competition to be fierce. If you can afford the normal retreat price, please don’t wait and hope you’ll get the scholarship, because you won’t. The scholarship will pay for a membership, a slot in the hotel, and up to $500 for gas or airfare. We’ll provide more information before registration opens.
The 2014 Out of Excuses Writing Retreat runs from September 29 through October 5. There will be three days of writing classes and workshops, followed by three days of blissful writing time, capped off by a closing half-day filled with wonder and amazement. All meals will be provided, and every night you’ll have the chance to sit in as we record live episodes of the podcast. The retreat will be held in Tennessee, at the Kowal family estate, which is even more gorgeous and wonderful than you can imagine. Last year we watched Jaws, played a crocquet LARP, and chatted with a few surprise guests. What will we do this year? You’ll have to come and find out.
Attendees can fly into Chattanooga, or can fly into Atlanta and catch a shuttle to Chattanooga. Hopefully this provides you with enough information to determine your travel budget. Once you get to Chattanooga, we’ll handle getting you to the event.
Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart.