Alpha Interview: Jameyanne Fuller

Here we are, the last Alpha interview. If you missed any, just click around this sentence. For more on Alpha, check out their website and the awesome Alpha blog and feel free to hit up the comments with questions.

The application deadline for Alpha is Sunday, so get going! That’s also when the fundraiser ends, but you can still donate after that.

JameyanneOur final Alphan is Jameyanne Fuller. She’s a junior at Kenyon College in Ohio, and she is majoring in creative writing and minoring in Italian. She works for the Kenyon Review and plays clarinet in the symphonic wind ensemble. As if that’s not enough awesome, she also runs a writing group where they critique each others’ work and hold mini workshop on specific topics. She writes mainly fantasy with some dabbling in scifi, horror, and literary fiction. That adorable dog in the picture is her Seeing Eye dog, Mopsy.

Why did you apply to Alpha?

This is a long and rather complicated story culminating in a mad dash.

First semester of my freshmen year, a biology teacher on campus who also writes science fiction had her editor visiting, and she invited a small group of students who wrote science fiction or fantasy to her house. I got picked because my english teacher knew I wrote fantasy. So lesson number 1: talk to people. For a long time, I found the idea of telling people that I wrote fantasy and that I was working on a novel to be pretentious, but since I’ve come to college, I’ve discovered that talking to people about what I like to do opens a lot of doors, just because they’re aware I might be interested in something.

Anyway, so this editor told us that we should really go to the big famous writing workshops like Clarion or Clarion West or Odyssey. So I applied to Odyssey, because it was closer to home for me. And then I sat back and waited and twitched. On February 28, a friend who was also at this meeting with the editor was still debating whether to apply to Clarion or not, and in his debate, he mentioned something on the website about a young writers SF workshop where Tamora Pierce taught. I know it’s kind of a cliché to say that I applied because Tammy was there, but that was my first impulse. I also knew nothing really about speculative fiction except that I’d read Tammy’s work and Harry Potter, and I was writing a fantasy novel. I’d never written a fantasy short story. I didn’t even know you could write short stories that weren’t literary. Oh how naïve I was in my pre-Alpha days. So I decided that I’d try it and see if I could learn something new. Mad dash to write a story ensued.

What would you say to any young writers that might be nervous about applying?

Like I said above, when I applied, I didn’t have a clue how to write a fantasy short story, but I found that when I sat down and tried to do it, it wasn’t that much different from a novel, just, well, a lot shorter. The thing is, Alpha will change your life, and if you apply, you could get in. But if you don’t apply, you definitely won’t. I think if you’re nervous about applying, you need to ask yourself why you’re nervous. Is it the idea of the applicaion? Or is it because of the workshop? If it’s the application, like I said, you should really just do it. The application itself is easy. If you’re nervous about the workshop itself, you should still apply. You can always back out, but you can also address your concerns before the workshop.

You wrote some great advice for procrastinators applying to Alpha. Any advice for if they get in and have to write a story in a week while surrounded by the awesome distractions of Alpha?

Alpha provides a lot of structured writing time and critique groups to help you get that short story done while you’re there, and that helps a lot. But I think the biggest advice I can give you is to have lots of ideas and have them as fleshed out as possible before you come to Alpha. They’ll probably change over the course of writing and discussing them, but the more clear your ideas are, the faster you’ll be able to write. The other advice I can give is to talk about your story with people while you’re there. Talk about the problems you’re having, the scenes you just loved writing. Listen to what people have to say about their stories and give them some advice. Beyond that, there is a certain amount of winging it that will happen in terms of when you’ll be able to get that writing done, because Alpha is really fun, and you really want to have as much fun as possible.

How does Alpha compare to other writing instruction that you’ve received?

I’ve received a lot of writing instruction, but Alpha was far and away the best. It was the most fun, and it taught me so much about writing. I went into Alpha not having any idea how to write a speculative fiction short story except for the one I wrote for my application, which had since spiraled into a trilogy in my mind, and I came away with a whole ton of ideas and advice. Other writing workshops I’ve taken have been a lot more focused on freewriting or turning out smaller pieces or critiquing, which of course was super valuable, but Alpha has this great mix of lots of fun and great teachers and great advice. Plus author guests, which was totally new to me, and it helped me realize that authors are people too, and if they can publish, so can I. I really feel like Alpha gave me the tools to do that more than any other workshop or class I’ve attended.

Alpha Interview: Rachel Grinti

I’ve briefly mentioned the Alpha SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers on this blog before. It’s a workshop that changed my life as a writer. I got the chance to work with amazing writers like Tamora Pierce, Holly Black, Timothy Zahn, and Sheila Williams, the editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction.

Tamora Pierce is at the workshop every year, and the 2013 Alphans will also get to work with Theodora Goss and Scott Westerfeld. Needless to say, I am jealous. The admissions deadline for Alpha is coming up on March 3rd, and in the meantime, Alpha alums are working on promoting the workshop and fundraising.

My part in this is that I’m one of two blogs that will be posting interviews with Alpha alumni both old and new over the next couple weeks. Go check out the blog of the brilliant Sarah Brand for the others. If you’re an eligible 14-19 year old writer, we hope to convince you to apply. If you’re not, we hope to convince you that Alpha is worth donating to and supporting.

rachelgrintiFor the first interview, I talked to Rachel Grinti. She attended Alpha in 2002 when she was 17. She later obtained her Masters in Library Information Sciences, and now runs a weekly writing group for 4th-6th graders at her library. She’s a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and has attended their regional writing conferences. Her debut novel, Claws, written with fellow Alpha alum Mike Grinti, came out in 2012 from Chicken House/Scholastic.

Why did you decide to apply to Alpha?

I’ve been making up stories my whole life, but when I was in high school, I started thinking about trying to get something published. I joined an online writing forum to meet other writers. I met Diane Turnshek, and found out she lived in Pittsburgh, too. A year or so later, she told me she was starting a writing workshop for teen writers. I’d get to meet other writers my age who were serious about writing genre fiction and learn from published authors. Sounded great to me!

What are your top three favorite Alpha memories?

The “ask me anything” Q&A with Tammy Pierce.

Staying up way too late writing and talking.

Finding out I really like critiquing.

How does Alpha compare to other writing instruction you’ve had?

Before Alpha, I hadn’t had any writing instruction. A few years later, I took a couple creative writing courses in college. Nothing in those college classes stuck with me. Every college writing course is different of course, but the ones I attended were not useful to me. At Alpha, we gave critiques and learned how to respond to constructive criticism. In my college writing classes, I risked Glares of Doom from the class at large if I criticized a story when it was time for feedback. Students at Alpha aren’t writing for a grade, they’re writing because it’s their passion. It was a big difference.

If you could give any advice to young writers going into Alpha, what would it be?

Hello future Alphan. You are a cool person, you will meet other cool people, you will have fun and learn things and it will be awesome. Don’t stress. Okay? Cool.

Be open to trying different things with your writing. The authors/editors/instructors at the workshop will all have, at least to some extent, different methods, different advice, some of which may be contradictory. And that’s okay. It’s good, in fact. Try everything, and figure out what works best for you.

Also, remember that you can learn as much or more about writing from giving critiques as you can from getting them.

How has Alpha continued to impact your life since attending?

Oh, in tons of ways. I volunteer to critique student’s application stories each year. I’d love to return as staff someday — I’d love to be a resource for young writers and a friend and source of support, just as people I met at Alpha were (and still are!) for me. I’m part of the workshop alumni Google group where former students I’ve met and many more I haven’t keep in contact, share news, and critique stories. I still keep in contact with people I met through the workshop. And I suppose I should mention I’m now married and co-authoring books with Mike, who eleven years ago was some kid I met at Alpha. (No, I’m not saying go because you’ll find True Love. But you’ll definitely find some true friends!)