Tag Archives: workshop

Villa Diodati 12

Last week, I got back from the most recent Villa Diodati workshop, this time in southern Spain on the Costa del Sol.

Villa Diodati 12

It. Was. Amazing.

We were in a big, beautiful vacation home a 10 minutes walk from the ocean. The sun didn’t stop shining, except for one morning when it took a while for the haze to burn off. I added a day on the front and the back before the other workshop participants arrived and after they left, and I thoroughly enjoyed the amazing writing venue.

Writing in southern Spain

We talked.

We ate.

We drank.

We danced. No, really!

We even critiqued each other’s fiction. *g*

It might look like a party, which it was, but it was a writer party, where conversations continually revolved around writing projects, markets, marketing strategies, writing ideas, and words, words, words. I managed to finish the Big Fat Translation a couple of days before my flight, and the workshop was amazingly energizing. While I was there, Sylvia and I decided to take a shot at another collaborative story (during one of the many writing conversations), and since the workshop, I’ve gotten a big chunk of that done. I’ve also started analyzing the first draft of A Wasted Land and written a couple of new scenes. During the brainstorming session, I got some great ideas for the next book in the Glassmakers trilogy, and I started integrating those into my Scrivener file the next morning.

This workshop was a lot more informal than previous workshops. Normally, we critique in the mornings and do exercises in the afternoons. This time, we lazed around the pool or in the hot tub in the mornings, did our critiques in the afternoons, and had writing discussions in the evenings.

I put the first third of Recontact through the workshop, a collaborative novella I wrote with Jay Lake some time ago. While the feedback was largely positive, it has led me to the conclusion that I need to separate the prequel story and the novella proper after all. One of my beta readers also had problems with the change in style between what we had originally envisioned as the prequel story and the novella. And then during our marketing discussion, a number of markets were suggested for the novella that hadn’t existed when Jay and I first wrote it and sent it out to the few who would take 20,000+. All of which means I have a lot to think about regarding Recontact. 🙂

Naturally, we also played the Surreal / Surrealist Oracle, which has become something of a tradition at our workshop. (For instructions on how the game works, check out this blog post.)

A couple of interesting questions and answers from the Surreal Oracle:

Ruth: What’s your favorite orifice?
Sylvia: You really shouldn’t ask such a thing on a first date, ok?

Grayson: What would happen if GRRM found a small band of pygmies, all named Danyjon Targartron, camped in his back yard?
Jeff: The answer, as it is to most things, is hot chicks wearing styrofoam.

Steve: What’s the secret to a successful writing career?
Grayson: A bonfire will call the spirits, but you have to wear three pairs of underwear and shout “waha waha ooh” to get the bartenders to notice.

One of our evening writing sessions involved brainstorming a shared dystopian world that we all contributed story ideas to. I hope we’re able to follow through with it. I started my story (working title “Killing Twilight” and set in Forks, Washington) just after our first two members left us. Whether we will ever get around to doing the rest of the brainstorming, however, is another matter entirely. Now we are all back in our normal worlds, and there are many other things besides writing and writers clamoring for our attention.

But it was fun while it lasted. 🙂

Villa Diodati 11, Or: Why didn’t we get this organized earler???


The past (long) weekend, I was off in the Black Forest for another Villa Diodati workshop — the first one in over a year. The last workshop was in April 2012 in southern England. But with one thing and another (most of the anothers having to do with the fact that I’ve been too caught up in my indie career and haven’t been taking responsibility like a dictator should), we’ve missed two workshop dates. Until last year, the workshop met twice a year since its inception in 2007, at various places throughout Europe, organized each time by a different workshop member.

I will try to readjust my priorities so that won’t happen again. Meeting with crazy — er, helpful — fellow writers face to face is a wonderful thing, and the energy generated is amazing and stimulating and inspirational.

This time we met at Casa Cristina in Herrischried, about an hour from the Basel airport. The workshop began with multiple catastrophes. While I was still on the train to Basel, I got a call from Floris, the organizer this round — the flight he was on with two other workshop members had been canceled, as had Jeff’s flight from Nice. That amounted to two-thirds of the folks who were going to arrive on Friday.

At least the weather was absolutely unbelievable for Germany in late October, and I sat around in a park across the street from the Schopfheim train station until Jeff and Jeremy picked me up. Floris and Co. rented a car and drove down from Amsterdam, not arriving at Casa Cristina until after 9 pm.

The next morning, Christian joined us, and Sylvia went on a shopping spree — when their flight in Amsterdam was canceled, she hadn’t been able to claim her bag, since she was coming from England.

Normally we critique in the morning and do various writing exercises in the afternoon, but with all the complications this time around, we had to set the critique sessions in the afternoon. Given the amazing weather, we attempted to have it outside on the patio, but unfortunately, the wasps soon chased us back inside.


This year, we had two new members, Grayson Morris and Jeremy Sim, who provided both excellent stories and excellent critiques. I will be looking forward to reading more of their work in the future.

A bit of background: I originally organized the Villa Diodati workshop for expat writers of speculative fiction in Europe, since it’s difficult for us to find crit groups where we live. From the first workshop on, however, we also had non-native speakers who wrote in English. And when Stephen Gaskell joined our ranks, we had our first member who didn’t really need us, seeing as he has more immediate access to other writers writing in English. We’re obviously just too cool to resist. 🙂

Villa Diodati 10: On the joy of hanging out with other writers

Very late Wednesday, I got back from the most recent Villa Diodati workshop, a peer workshop for speculative fiction writers living all over Europe and writing in English.

Yet another dorky group shot

This time we met in Southern England at a “cottage” organized by Steve Gaskell, and I think it’s safe to say that it was one of the most productive workshops we have ever had. The first “exercise” we did after critiques and lunch on the first day was a two hour long writing challenge. In preparation, we sat around the generous kitchen table and each of us said what we intended to do during our writing time. It wasn’t a word sprint, although there were people whose goal was to get as many words as possible completed. I originally intended to do the same thing. But then Floris said his goal was to revise the story we critiqued in the morning and send it off during the course of the workshop. Now, in the last couple of years I have developed the very bad habit of 1) not getting my stories back out after they’ve come home, and 2) for the newer ones, not even doing the final revisions in the first place and never sending them out at all. So instead of jumping right back into Chameleon in a Mirror, I decided to change my goal and revise one of the stories I’d brought to a Villa Diodati workshop a couple of years before and send it out before the workshop was over, just like Floris.

Not only did I do that, the next day we also had a little submission party where we went around the table, described a story or two we needed to get back out into the market, and sent them out right there and then. I got four submissions done that way. Altogether, among the seven of us, we sent out a total of about thirty submissions and queries — and before the workshop was over, we had our first acceptance (not for me, unfortunately …)

In addition to the submissions, I completed over 5000 words on the new version of Chameleon in a Mirror. I also got excellent feedback from my fellow writers on the first chapter and synopsis, including some great ideas on how to make the main character’s goals more consistent.

It’s a good thing I got so much done during the workshop — my progress has come to a standstill since. This weekend, we’re babysitting the little ones while Son and Significant Other are off to Leipzig for a birthday party. Next week, my brother will also be visiting, so since I returned from Britain, I’ve been setting up the spare room as a children’s room / guest room. Originally we wanted to make it our bedroom and move lots of other stuff around, but goals change, as we know …

So right now, the granddaughters are sleeping next door, and I still haven’t gotten any more writing done since the workshop. But we had a lovely day in the garden, and the girls had a wonderful time digging in the dirt, climbing trees, and using heavy machinery. Today it was like summer in southern Germany, and I got the first color in my face. Might not be writing, but I’m a bit ahead of the game because of the workshop. 🙂

The first Villa Diodati was in the autumn of 2007, and we’ve been through a lot with each other since then, so much so, that it’s a bit like a secondary family. So thank you, my wonderful writer clan, for another inspiring workshop. Here’s to a couple more publications and awards to our collective names before we meet again.


Aliette de Bodard’s Villa Diodati 10 Report

Floris Kleijne’s workshop report

Villa Diodati Workshop Report

I meant to write this report some time ago, but life around were was crazy after I got back from the workshop and a short trip to Alsace.

Maison Pfister in Colmar

A bit of background first: the Villa Diodati Workshop is our “local” speculative fiction workshop — local here meaning Europe. What draws us together is that we all write science fiction and fantasy in English, whether that is our native language or not. The original idea was that those of us writing in English in the midst of a culture speaking another language don’t have real access to face-to-face workshops. But we are so awesome that we’ve also attracted a couple of people who live in Britain and don’t have that excuse to hang out with us twice a year for a long weekend of writing and critiquing.

At the end of November, we met for the second time at Hanebecks Hof in the Black Forest, a big two story vacation rental with room for up to 11 people — and lots of space to hide out and write. The first evening, we had a discussion of ebooks and writing (which reminds me, I still haven’t shared the links to my John Locke posts with the other participants, which I hereby do: 1 2).

Hanebecks Hof

At the Villa Diodati workshop, we try to balance critiquing with exercises, writing discussions and brainstorming. Each participant brings only one story or novel chapter / synopsis, which leaves us time for other activities. We have critique sessions in the morning and writing-related stuff in the afternoon. This year, besides the discussion of ebooks and self-publishing, here are some of the things we did:
– we had a brainstorming session where we took turns picking the group mind regarding a story problem or something new we want to work on. I ran my unfinished convicts on Callisto story past the brilliant bunch and got a lot of great ideas as to how I might be able to create the necessary complications.
– we traded story prompts and did a word sprint, starting a new story based on the things we pulled from the bowl. I started a silly piece about the Prince of Redondo Beach who has the hots for the Wizard of California and doesn’t even notice that there’s a revolution going on …

Jeff and John working hard at VD9

And of course, as usual, we ate very well, much too well, with an overabundance of French deli meats and cheeses, bought by John on the way to the workshop. We trade off cooking each night, and this year we had boudin noir, Texas style bbq chicken by yours truly, pork tenderloin with mushroom sauce and spätzle — and so many spätzle left over, that I made Käsespätzle (the German version of macaroni and cheese) the next day from the leftovers and some of the tons of cheese that had been dragged across the border from France.

Once again, a very fun and productive workshop. Thanks to all the Villa Diodatians!

Participants of VD9

Since things have calmed down here after Villa Diodati and Stuttgart Turkey Day, I’ve been concentrating on getting Yseult ready to bring out as an ebook, so no new fiction for now. I’m hoping to have Yseult up before Christmas, and that is my single most pressing writing goal at the moment.