Summer Vacation: Spartanburg and Shared Worlds

Pardon the large gap between posts. I was occupied with AnimeKon Expo last weekend and spent a fair bit of time away from the computer. Tobias Buckell was with us again, and I had a great time hanging out with him and Robert Sandiford. I’ll cover that in another post which will appear after the summer-vacation series.

This post is about Spartanburg, the central point of my summer travels. I was Amazon Writer-in-Residence for the second week of the Shared Worlds teen writing camp at Wofford College. I can’t even begin to express how packed, intense, thrilling and completely worthwhile that week was. I am quite sure that a few years from now I will see some familiar names as new-minted authors on professional publications. I enjoyed my time with the students, discussing the different ways to tell and experience story, and finding their strengths in longer form or poetic expression, filmic approach or literary subtlety. If there’s one thing I took away from the range of work I saw, and one thing that I hope I conveyed to the students, it’s that SF is a very very large tent indeed, with all kinds of room for a variety of topics and styles.

Outside of the classroom, I set my switch to ‘extrovert’ and immersed myself in the excellent company of writers and thinkers. ‘I’ll sleep later,’ I kept saying as I mainlined conversation after conversation about the industry and the craft.

A couple of highlights. Ann VanderMeer asked me to help her demonstrate what it can feel like when an editor comments on your work.

WriterEditor

(Note how I am braced and unbroken!)

Early in the week, we read at Hub City, an independent bookstore in Spartanburg. Will Hindmarch enchanted me with his haiku. Kathe Koja devastated me with her short story. Jeff has a photo album of the event on his Facebook.

On Saturday, we said farewell to the students, and a group of us went to Raleigh NC for our last event together, a reading at Quail Ridge Books .

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Summer Vacation: Asheville

I spent a week in Asheville, and it was far too short a time. The next time I go there, I’m going with a car, hiking gear, and a friend who likes a bit of adventure, especially when it comes to the outdoors.

I still managed to pack in a lot. I met up with Jeff VanderMeer and Nathan Ballingrud for tapas and wine (mmm, so good), and then visited Asheville’s champagne bookstore. It is as it says, a bookstore that serves champagne and provides comfortable seating in cosy niches so that both champagne and literature can be properly appreciated.

I caught up on sleep and reading at a B&B which provided glorious three-course breakfasts. I met cool people and had interesting conversations and learned proper cartwheel technique from a pre-teen who had taken gymnastics (she, her sister and her mother are avid readers and we had a great time bonding).

I visited the River Arts District with Ann and Jeff VanderMeer near the end of my stay. It was like Albuquerque all over again, with all kinds of temptations from painters, potters and pastry cooks.

On the final day, we walked through downtown streets filled with people for the Bele Chere festival, and joined Nathan, Jeremy Jones, Robert Redick and Will Hindmarch at Malaprops for a multi-author event. Jeremy (director of Shared Worlds) did the intros and everyone else did a reading.

Special mention must go to Nathan, who read from his recently-published collection North American Lake Monsters, and that small excerpt from ‘The Good Husband’ left us speechless, chilled, and utterly in awe. Robert and I, who were scheduled to read after him, looked at each other in horror. How the hell do you follow that? Robert rose to the occasion with some brief and sincere words of appreciation for Nathan’s reading, and then held his own with a fascinating pair of excerpts from The Chathrand Voyage Quartet. Needless to say, I ended up buying both Nathan’s book and the first book of Robert’s quartet.

After the reading, we left for Spartanburg, and that, of course, is another post!