Tuesday, August 22, 2006

SF/F Blog Tour: Kathy Tyers - Day 2

Many years ago, back in the dark ages when writers still typed their manuscripts on typewriters, I joined the Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop, a nationwide group for SF/F writers to exchange manuscripts through the mail for critiquing. They also put out a monthly newsletter on different aspects of writing in the genre. At the time they were just getting started with the novel-critiquing part of the workshop, The Long Writers, and I volunteered to be the coordinator of that group. (Ed Willett, whose blog, Hassenpfeffer I referenced last week, was also a member of The Long Writers)

One day I received a letter from a young woman telling me she'd just completed her first science fiction novel, a YA space opera which had recently been turned down by Atheneum with a personal letter of encouragement and suggestions for improvement (this is a great milestone in the world of rejection letters -- a personal letter from an editor!). She had just finished incorporating the suggestions and was looking for someone to critique her manuscript. It sounded interesting to me so I wrote back, introducing myself and among other things, telling her that I was a Christian. Within a few days I received an answer. She was a Christian, too. We were about the same age, had both been married for the same length of time, each had one son, hers a year or so older than mine, and had degrees in the biological sciences (I was a double major in Wildlife Biology and Biology, she had a degree in Microbiology) -- we were both crazy about Star Wars, military stuff, SF/F (she's the one who persuaded me to read the Miles Vorkosigan books) and had a multitude of other areas of compatibility. Her name, of course, was Kathy Tyers.

Well, Kathy sent me her YA manuscript, which, as you may have guessed by now was the original version of Firebird. I loved it -- practically inhaled it -- and a little later I sent her what was then called The Shadow of Ghel, now (three rewrites and several decades later) The Light of Eidon. Kathy was a great critiquer -- insightful, discriminating, honest and very encouraging. We not only became critique partners but good friends. I think in those early days we exchanged letters on a once a week basis -- long ones. I'd get one from her and immediately be moved to respond, and from the turnaround, she did the same. This was all snail mail, mind you, hence the time lags.

Over time, Kathy, I and Ed, all of us Christians, developed our own round robin critiquing group within the Long Writers that continued after we'd all dropped out of the official group. Those two were just what I needed, not only as critiquers but as friends who can cheer you on and keep you going when the going gets rough. I'm very grateful the Lord sent them into my life.

We've all gotten published finally, Kathy first, Ed next, and me at long last. (Ed writes excellent Adult and YA science fiction and fantasy novels, and nonfiction on science topics) Life changes, the pressures and deadlines of publication and other factors contributed to the decline of our critiquing activities, but I shall always look back on those times fondly. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop continues on today, both online and off, and if you're interested in exploring it, just click on the links embedded in this post.