I know I've been absent for a while now, but there's a good reason! I was at the Alpha Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror workshop for speculative fiction writers between the ages of 14 and 19, where I had an absolute blast.
Alpha is a 10 day writing workshop for teens geared specifically towards speculative fiction writers. Students attend lectures on everything from dialogue to tone given by a variety of staff and guest lecturers. Admission is based solely on the strength of the 2000-6000 word short story you apply with, and while you're there, you work on another short story, which you get critiqued and then revise for submission to publications. At the end of the program, you go to Confluence, a sci-fi convention in Pittsburgh.
Now that I've gotten the basics out of the way, I can tell you why it was so much fun.
For starters, I got to hang out with incredibly cool people- where else can you discuss philosophy one minute and die of typhoid on the Oregon trail the next? The writing community is filled with kind, smart, easygoing, fun and talented people who will make you squee inside from feelings of oh-my-gosh-I've-known-these-people-for-five-minutes-but-they-totally-get-me and also keep you up chatting until four in the morning. I know I've made some lifelong friends.
Another awesome thing about alpha is the staff, who treat you like adults and dispense writerly wisdom (and humor) left right and center. Did I mention that they're just great people in general? Alpha also hosts a slew of distinguished author guests, and I was lucky enough to meet David Levine, Scott Johnson, Ellen Kushner and Tamora Pierce (whose books were the inspiration behind my Girl Power Bookfest!).
I think one of the most valuable things about the workshop is the intense yet relaxed and fun atmosphere- the focus on pure writing, specifically in relation to short fiction, is very strong. There's also a huge emphasis on writing for publication, with a lot of discussion about saleability, markets, and the publishing industry. It's a welcome and thorough introduction to the real world, especially if you're considering writing as a career!
Alpha really is unique among workshops, and anyone who's serious about writing genre fiction should consider applying. If you're interested in learning more, check out the website (which also has a great writing blog!) and feel free to email me for more information. Diane Turnshek, who founded and directs the workshop, is a very approachable person- don't be scared about emailing her with questions!
What have you all been doing with your summers? Let me know in the comments!