As related in part 1 of this blog, Sail to Success was a small group writer’s workshop with world class faculty, including Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress and Eric Flint, all leaders in the science fiction field. Advertised as a Unique Writer’s Workshop, it took place on the Norwegian Cruise Lines vessel Norwegian Sky, sailing the Bahamas. Each night we went to bed to wake up at a different island. Kind of like being in a hotel that changed cities during the night. What a cool scifi theme, reminiscent of Larry Niven’s transfer booths. Night two on the ship was much better than the first, when the seas were kind of rough, and walking was an adventure. Even standing still made one feel drunk. The ocean was much smoother, and the decks of the ship felt almost like dry land. So that night I slept well, my alarm set for 7:30 AM on a day when we were scheduled to arrive at 8 AM. I was woken by the sounds of the ship tying up at the dock, and I went to my balcony to get my first look at Nassau. This time and place the dock was right at the waterfront of the targt city, downtown Nassau. Later, looking at the map, I realized that Nassau island was really one big city, and there would be very few places anything could tie up where it wasn’t city. The dock looked like it could handle three ships, and there was another on the tie-up closest to the shore. Another large cruise ship, similar to ours, but different in many ways.
Again, I had breakfast on the rear deck of the ship where the buffet was served. Looking out on the water I was reminded of where I grew up in Florida. Beach houses, water everywhere, many boats on that water. One thing I noticed in my home town was the recent absence of seagulls. Well, they seemed to have all moved here, and I learned a lesson when I left my plate on the table to go and fetch some coffee. And the seagulls, like those in the movie, The Birds, descended on my food in a feeding frenzy. I tried to shoo them off to the laughter of the other diners. So, it was get another plate of food and a cup of coffee and guard it while eating.
As at Freeport, I went ashore with the intention of looking in a few shops and coming back to the ship. Instead, I was marked by a man who set up people with tours and next thing I knew I was waiting for a group to form. I had a meeting with Nancy Kress at noon, and I didn’t want to be late, so I asked several times when the tour would be over. Finally, we started out and headed across the bridge to the Atlantis Resort, where we were dropped off for a half an hour. After the tour started I again pestered the guide/driver to make sure I would be back at the ship on time, and was assured that we would be. So I sat back and tried to enjoy the tour of beautiful Nassau. Forts, old buildings, botanical wonders. It is a beautiful city, and I wish I had had more time to look it over. Still, it was a cool little tour, and I‘m surprised the guide didn’t drop me at the police station, since my writer’s brain was working on a storyline involving taking an island city by force. I was strong armed into buying a hat and shirt, and only got away when I ran out of cash. Despite asking questions like a spy, she dropped me off at the ship with fifteen minutes to spare, where I made my way to the buffet deck to wait for Ms. Kress. I finally saw her at 12:30, and was informed that we were supposed to meet in the library next to the meeting room. Unfortunately, I do tend to write sparse notes and depend on my failing memory to fill in the gaps, and I had only written Nancy at 12. She graciously set up a meeting at 3 PM during a break.
So we started our sessions at 1:30 PM, with some break time built in. I met with Nancy at 3, and we had coffee and talked for a half an hour. It was fun talking with the woman whose late husband had been such a great influence on me sticking to staying the course, as well as conversation with an award winning author in her own right. We talked about some of her stories, some of my career goals, just a comfortable chat to help me to learn from her perspective about the publishing industry. Yet one more cool thing about this cruise, sort of like the VIP dinner at Superstars.
Most of the day was taken up with panels, mostly dealing with professionalism, productivity, query letters and contracts, property rights, and working with agents, publishers and editors. All interesting topics, since I am interested in eventually pursuing a hybrid career of traditional and self-publishing, and I seem to have the self-publishing thing down pat. One of the most attractive things about this kind of learning environment is the honesty. No one there is trying to sell you on a certain publisher or editor. They will tell you of their experiences, good and bad, in an effort to keep the students from making the same mistakes. Again, similar to Superstars.
Dinner was accompanied by the ship leaving dock and heading out, and I sat for an hour on the rear deck watching the lights of the island recede into the distance. I could spend a week watching the island slowly move away as the ship was gently churning its way through the water. But time ticked on, and panels and sessions beckoned, and so I bid Nassau farewell and headed up to the meeting room.
Jim Mintz did the second half of his manuscript critique, which also included handing out a manuscript to the student that had been critiqued by Toni Weisskopf. This night was no stress, since both Jim and Nancy’s critiques of my manuscripts had been done on the first night of feedback. Still, there were things to learn, especially if you were interested in the opinions of people who either wrote award winning stories or have bought or rejected thousands of manuscripts through their career.
And then that day was over, and I staggered back to my room to shower and bed.
Next up: Part 3, Great Stirrup Cay, Miami and Wrapup.