PirateDyerAuthorPhoto2011

Wednesday Writers: Thoraiya Dyer

While I was wandering the floor of the dealer’s area at Worldcon (and it was massive – I could have spent more money on books and paraphernalia than I spent on alcohol and that is saying something) I was handed a brochure for what looked like any writer’s dream – a cruise of the Bahamas that doubled as an ongoing writer’s workshop with some of the big names in the field. Anyone who knows me has probably realised I am big fan of anything to do with boats so I was immediately in love with the idea. It didn’t hurt that the brochure was filled with short stories by the instructors and demonstrated their eligibility to be teaching writing in the most definitive of manners.

Sadly, it was not to be, but the concept is amazing! So, I was extremely intrigued – and jealous – to hear that Thoraiya had gone on the cruise and immediately asked her if she wanted to write about it for the Wednesday Writers segment. I was hoping that I might get it sometime next year, but by the next day I had something in my inbox! But, that is Thoraiya – she does not muck around. I first met her at my first con as a writer – the Natcon in Perth where she won the Ditmar for Best New Talent. I haven’t been around long enough to know if the Ditmars are like the various sporting clubs I have been involved in, where winning Best New Talent usually dooms you to either fading into obscurity or under achieving in the following year. If so, Thoraiya has certainly bucked that trend, as she has continued to establish herself as one of Australia’s best with increasing international recognition of her incredible talent.

Despite her achievements, Thoraiya remains one of the kindest and most humble people you can imagine. Her first thought when invited to the Aussie Snapshot, for example,  was to ensure that others she felt were deserving of notice were being included. So, it’s hard to hate her too much for getting to go on this amazing cruise! This is the last Wednesday Writer for the year, so as the segment sails off into the sunset of 2012 please enjoy (and envy) Thoraiya’s account of her adventure!

Cruisers of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Colombian Emeralds

Workshops for SFF writers come in all shapes and sizes, from two-hour sessions at a local convention to the formidable six-week boot camp of Clarion. As the author of ‘The Company Articles of Edward Teach,’ though, how could I resist Arc Manor’s inaugural Sail to Success  workshop, an intense week of writing and publishing knowledge-bombardment aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean?

Earlier in the year, fellow Aussie writer Cat Sparks went to Key West to get critiqued by her idol, The Atwood, and chow down on Key Lime Pie. I got very excited at the thought of going to the Bahamas to get critiqued by one of my idols, Nancy Kress, and then washing away the potential pain of my ineptitude with conch fritters and rum cake, long before it became a financial possibility (thank you, amazing, supportive husband!)

And there was no pain, but I dragged my new friends across Freeport and Nassau in search of conch, anyway (thank you Eva, Jeff, Gama and Francesca!)

We boarded the ship in Miami on a Monday afternoon, and classes started that evening with the retreating city lights still glittering on the western horizon. Norwegian Sky was scheduled to visit three of the Bahamas’ seven hundred islands, but our timetables had us in the Hawaiian-themed conference rooms every morning at 8am, and not finishing until 11pm. The sea-caves of New Providence, the Garden of the Groves in Freeport and the white, palm-speckled sands of Great Stirrup Cay as seen from parasailing altitude, I experienced only in my imagination, so on the one hand I approve of the fact that Arc Manor is considering a longer cruise for next year’s workshop.

Junkanoo_Museum_Francesca_Me_Jeff

On the other hand, I’m glad *not* to have skipped any classes. In 2008 at the Brisvegas Writer’s Festival, Kevin J Anderson and Rebecca Moesta advised a crowd of eager hopefuls to always consider the source; that is, only take writing advice from people you actually want to be like.

I considered the sources aboard the Norwegian Sky to be exemplary. Do I want to write like Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress? Have Rebecca’s business smarts and Kevin’s productivity? Hone a sharp editing mind like Toni Weisskopf’s? Be able to perfectly match fiction with markets like Eleanor Wood? Maintain Jack Skillingstead’s humility and common sense, pay homage like Paul Cook to the writers that came before me, and bubble up with creativity and enthusiasm like Francesca Myman and Shahid Mahmud?

Yes, yes, yes. And if you answered yes, too, then next year’s cruise may be for you.

Now I’m back in Australia with not just one professionally dissected piece of writing, but two – the opening of my *other* novel-in-progress having been slapped into shape by Toni. I also return with a new critique circle of fellow students, our unbreakable bonds forged by the shared pain of Norwegian Sky’s PA system, with the loathed and feared Game Master extolling, day and night, the virtues of bingo, limbo and the detection of fake Colombian emeralds.

Although our time in the Bahamas was limited, there were snatches of it I’ll never forget. Brown pelicans and blue-within-blue Caribbean water. Children holding hands to walk home from school, traffic jams, decrepit, fenced buildings and a lone, wandering dog. Bleachers set up by the side of the road, all ready for Junkanoo. The best grilled snapper I’ve ever tasted, with plantains on the side. Sea-grapes growing in coral grit and the gleam of a gold doubloon on the sea-bed, yellow fish-schools spiralled around it.

Me_In_Nassau

I’m sure a Bahamian story idea is waiting to pounce on me when I least expect it. In the meantime, I have a story in December’s Clarkesworld and my Twelfth Planet is coming out early next year. Life is good! Now excuse me while I go eat my rum cake (I had to throw out two pairs of dirty socks and all my toiletries to fit souvenirs in my luggage, bwahaha) and if you want to find out which member of our party ended up eating a conch penis, you’ll just have to keep an eye on Locus :-)

Thoraiya Dyer’s work has appeared in Apex magazine, Cosmos, Nature and Redstone SF. Her fantasy story, “Fruit of the Pipal Tree,” was the winner of the 2011 Aurealis Award in its category. An original collection of her short fiction, “Asymmetry,” will be published in 2013 as part of Twelfth Planet Press’ Twelve Planets Series. You can find her website here.

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