An Open Letter to Viable Paradise XVI

I really should address this as an open letter to XIV, XV, and XVI, but I didn’t get the idea to do it until this year. Whoops.


I know you’ve just had a wonderful week. Three years ago, this very week, I journeyed out to Martha’s Vineyard. I watched glow in the dark jellyfish and I walked blisters on my feet by the sea side. I sat up late at night, my stomach churning as I worried about what people would say about my work, even though my exterior was rippleless. I washed dishes unbidden; I sat at the feet of Buddha, and I came home with new wings on my ankles.

I met twenty-three other writers of promise, all of whom I’ve interviewed, and many of whom I see on a still regular basis. I continue to read their work, and they continue to impress upon me how good they are, and sometimes I even wonder how I became one of their number.

I met six wise instructors. My session with John Scalzi changed how I draft. When Dr. Doyle told me that she thought my story was just like an Edward Gorey story, I was delighted. Laura Mixon was also magical in my session. The lectures and the sessions enabled me to take my work seriously, and for the first time I stopped believing I wanted to be a writer, and I was a writer. And there were three counselors who underscored this belief at every opportunity.

Listen now. This is very important. Right now you are empowered. You probably feel you can go home and you can do anything. AND YOU CAN. What will happen after the euphoria wears off is that your life and its mundane demands will try to rub the new shiny glitter of your experience away.

You must not let that happen. You must talk to your classmates, talk to your teachers, talk to your writer buddies, the people you sweated with and listened to, that community of intimate writers you built. Don’t let that dwindle.

I found myself recently in the place of realizing that I wasn’t taking myself seriously as a writer. It’s not easy to stay in that place when so much of the world competes for your time. BUT you can do it. Remember: you are part of a writing community now. You’ve bonded. You never have to go it alone.

Welcome to something larger than yourself and as large as yourself. Your imagination. Your writing career as a spec fiction story teller. I’ll see you in the bar, and I look forward to hearing all about your time on the Vineyard, and the stories you publish.

Welcome to the family.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

7 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Viable Paradise XVI”

  1. Here here!

    Great post, Cath. Everyone who attends VP needs to know that they have the goods. They’re one story, one paragraph–hell–one word from greatness. But it will be forever elusive if they don’t put those words, paragraphs, and stories on the page.

  2. 100% true — I’m looking forward to meeting the XVI’s at convention meet-ups. The more the merrier!

  3. That’s why I had to do my write-up right away. I don’t want to lose this feeling to the wastes of memory faded.

    Thank you for writing us this letter!

  4. Thanks, Fran. I’m holding on to it as long as I can. I have the . . . “ITEM” . . . from Thursday night prominently displayed so that I might gaze upon it from time to time and remember.

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