Viable Paradise: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop



Christina Opalecky

Confessions of a Virgin Workshopper

By Christina Opalecky, VP 2000

Part I


Martha's Vineyard is an island a toss south of Boston. To get there, you have to take a ferry or, if you don't know any better, a plane.

I flew Cape Air.

Did you know that planes can go skew sideways? I didn't know that. Did you know they can drop 500 feet in less than a minute? I theoretically knew that, but had believed such an event usually presaged one's watery, plunging death.

Anyway, the flight, on a little (operative word: toy) ten-seater Cessna 402 prop plane was very spiritually uplifting. Presuming I lived, I resolved to be a better person and stop kicking puppies on alternate Thursdays. I wondered to myself, does Robert know that I want him to finish my novel for me? Did I permanently delete that one file I don't want anybody to ever see?

I arrived on Sunday afternoon. My luggage wanted to do some sight-seeing in Boston and arrived much later, hitching a ride to the hotel—with whom-I-dare-not-question.

But the pilot did bring us in to land and to the sweet and tiny two terminal airport. Dave Tamplin was waiting for me with a sign, just as he said he would be, and along with Cathy, who'd made the same mistake I had and taken the same flight in, we drove through the famous Martha's Vineyard.

(For those who are wondering, Martha's Vineyard is, it turns out, essentially a pile of sand with some trees on it. Pretty enough, quiet and peaceful, but not Manhattan.)

I was glad for Mr. Tamplin, as I had previously called the Island Inn requesting their address, that I might inform a cabbie when I got there. (My experience in New York had taught me that cabbies are a bit fussy about such things.) The Island Inn said they did not have an address, but that everybody knew where they were—oh, and that since the cabbies on the island were unregulated, to be careful. This was not the ideal juxtaposition of facts. But Dave was there, and the ride to the Island Inn was filled with very bad roads, sun dappled greens, and quaint houses—and didn't cost me a penny. This was my first taste of the sff community and its comfortable protection.

The ocean was calm, and—after noting the location of the closest liquor store—I occupied myself with staring at the ring-billed gulls and the dark-feathered, flocking juvenile herring gulls. (I kept my eyes open for an albatross; I had plans. Big plans.) Cathy and Dave quietly chatted. The buildings that fronted Beach Road, the last leg of our journey, were faced with the gray cedar shingling that looks like so much driftwood, or they were painted gaudy purples and russet reds. Busy and old in their architecture to our low-slung ranch houses, this was clearly not Texas anymore, Dorothy. If nothing else, our gulls are more the size of pigeons as opposed to these chicken-sized monstrosities that swooped and flapped about.

My room was waiting for me and was everything I hoped. One bed to put stuff on, one bed to sleep on. There was a kitchenette area where someone had made the interesting engineering decision of putting the electrical burners in the sink housing. There was a small refrigerator, and a private bathroom. Having no luggage to unpack, I bubbled out of my room immediately to SCOUT.

I found James D. Macdonald and Teresa Nielsen Hayden in the main conference area sorting through student papers. I tried not to bother them, but found myself immediately engaged in a two hour discussion of plagiarism issues, both intentional and inadvertent. It was fascinating. I was extremely nervous. It was about writing. I was talking shop with actual pros. I'd never met real-life pros before. Totally cool.

Did my luggage, carrying my revised manuscripts, arrive in time? What else did I discover on my scouting expedition? (Hint, it's big, wet and salty.) What were these 'real-life pros' actually like in real life? What was the meaning of the odd statement that the hotel did not have an address? Most importantly, what did I do for dinner? These questions, and more, in the next installment of Confessions of a Virgin Workshopper.

Part II

Part III

Part IV