Saturday, February 18, 2012

Alpha, guys. Get out your applications.

My love for Tamora Pierce is well documented. She's one of my idols; without her books, I never would have dove so vicariously into writing. Without her characters, I don't think I ever would have understood so much about feminism, friendship, or love. My freshman year of high school, I was able to exchange several messages with her via YA for Obama; it was a time when writing had gone to the wayside, and that correspondence brought me back to the world I loved. A year passed. Inkpop happened. I got into debate. I figured out my hair and learned how to give myself a really good manicure. Basically, life happened.
Then, late March of my sophomore year of high school, my mother came up to me and told me about a camp in which Tamora Pierce took part as a mentor. That camp was -- and is -- called Alpha. She'd seen mention of it on John Scalzi's blog. Immediately, I went to the site -- 
and they had already closed admissions.

It looked like heaven. It was a writing camp, a selective and international writing camp, that's held in Pittsburgh. It's based primarily on short stories, but the camp goes over everything. World building. Characters. Feminism, racism, religion. It's like heaven, except with much less sleep and way more junk food, and the wings we talked about were just as often made of metal or scales as they were of feathers. Ahem.

Life happened again. I bookmarked the page. Months passed. January of last year rolled around, and I realized that soon, I could apply to Alpha. I wrote a short story. I promptly deleted that short story. I wrote it again. I pulled out my hair, cried and ate ice cream maturely realized that it was horrible, that this was a normal growing experience, and so tarted anew. I was closing in on the deadline. I wrote yet another short story, frantically forced Maggie to edit and read it, and rewrote again. I'd never written short stories. It was jarring, weird, and unpleasant to force myself to do something new, but at the end, I had a decent twelve pages of -- ahem -- a story in which a genetically altered teenager ended up on an alien planet and then sided with the aliens. (Shut up. I like genetically altered rebels, okay?) (For those of you who don't get it, this was the story that won Inkpop:
...Yeah, yeah.)
But. I applied. I waited. And then I got in. In July of 2011, I attended Alpha.
I don't have words for how glad I am that I did.
The people are amazing. The help is divine. The mentors -- Tamora Pierce! -- are so, so helpful. It's funny and really, really worth it. I can't express in enough words what a great time it was. A published horror author -- Scott Johnson -- told us stories in a grave yard. We played Oregon Trail and discussed philosophy. We read really bad stories out loud, gossiped about authors, and made towers out of waffles and brownies. We sang Disney songs and waged paper airplane wars. There's writing advice and signed books and publication discussions. It's the most real writing has ever felt for me. I've always loved it, but being around people that loved it just as much was eye opening and truly wonderful.

The video before was made by the lovely Lale and shows just a little bit of Alpha as it was last year. (The man in the starting clip is Robert Sawyer,) (The chick with the messy and heavily chlorinated hair in the corner of the screen would be yours truly.)

Anyway. If you can, I suggest you apply. I plan on it. Check out the page. It's worth your time. If you have any questions, I'll gladly answer them.

It's worth it, guys. I have pictures with the person that made me want to write. I have friends from all over the country, and even from across the world. I learned about writing and so much more, and I suggest heavily that you check it out.