What I Did This Summer, Part 2: Writing for the Educational Market Workshop

[Read Part 1: The Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop]
A big (big, BIG) part of freelance life is the hustle, and a hearty chunk of that hustle is exploring new opportunities in your chosen field (or fields). For example, the educational writing market has always intrigued me–a distant glow shimmering on the horizon at dusk, calling me forth into the wilderness, but… I’m getting carried away with this metaphor. Suffice it to say, I’ve long been interested in expanding my freelance and work-for-hire writing to include educational publishing. But even after researching the market online, I wasn’t really sure where and how to begin. Which markets were legit? Which ones used freelancers? Which ones paid those freelancers in a timely manner? Which ones forced their freelancers to hire a flashy (but free!) legal team to chase down overdue invoices? There are hundreds of educational publishers and companies out there, which is great–lots of opportunities. But trial-and-error exploration of those opportunities could be costly both in money and time (which is money, so in money-money and time-money).

Flash-forward to early 2017, when I saw that Paula Morrow  and Jan Fields would again be offering their popular “Writing for the Educational Market” workshop in June. Reader, I jumped on board and I’m so glad I did. Not only did I gain loads of valuable advice and information on breaking into and succeeding in this market, I also discovered I’d found an additional outlet for utilizing and applying my Launch Pad experience.

Paula and Jan were engaging and knowledgeable as they shared their experience, expertise, and advice across a wide range of interests and specialties in the educational market. They, along with their teaching assistants, Sandra Athans and Julia Garstecki, and guest editors Cindy Kane (Six Red Marbles) and Karl Jones (Penguin Workshop) were extremely generous with their time, both in and out of the workshop sessions. We also laughed as much as we learned—which is a rare but wonderful way to impart knowledge and speaks volume to the faculty’s collective gift for teaching.

Julia, Jan, Paula, and Sandra.

My fellow attendees came from a variety of backgrounds and brought a wealth of experience to the workshop, further deepening and enriching the program. (One of the side benefits of attending this workshop is that I also gained a wonderful and supportive network of impressive professionals that continues to guide me long after our last class session ended.)

An exceptionally smart (and fun) group of humans.

I’ve been writing on the trade side for many years , but prior to attending this workshop I felt lost regarding the ins and outs of approaching the educational market. After spending the week with Jan, Paula, and my talented fellow attendees, I walked away with a real, concrete, and actionable plan for breaking into, and (hopefully) finding success in, educational writing.

If this is an area that interests you, I can’t recommend Paula and Jan’s workshop enough. It doesn’t look like a 2018 “Writing for the Educational Market” workshop has been scheduled yet, but you can sign up for updates on the Highlights website. (I’ll also update with a link if/when I see it.)

What I Did This Summer, Part 1: The Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop

This summer I had the pleasure and honor of attending the 2017 Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop. Organized by University of Wyoming professor (and SFF author) Michael S. Brotherton, PhD. (who founded the program) and astronomer Christian Ready, Launch Pad is hosted at University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming.

Mike and Christian at WIRO.

The Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop’s tagline is “Improving science literacy through words and media.” As Mike and Christian explained on the first day of the workshop, many people obtain their science through fiction and media. If the science is wrong in the fiction they’re reading (or watching), they won’t know and will walk away at best misinformed, at worst with a radically incorrect view of how the universe operates.

Creators have a responsibility to the story, absolutely, but they also have a responsibility to their audience. If creators do their best to keep the science accurate and plausible in their works, the audience gets a little bit of knowledge along with their rollicking space battle scene and may be inspired to learn more, or even apply what they’ve learned to their own creations, thus spreading knowledge instead of misinformation. The Launch Pad site sums this up nicely:

“Our primary goal is to teach writers, editors, and creative professionals about modern science, specifically astronomy, and in turn reach their large and diverse audiences. We hope to both educate the public and inspire the next generation of scientists.”

On Day One, Mike and Christian warned us they’d be compressing a lot of information into just one week (I believe the term “fire-hosing” was bandied about). Now, I implore you to imagine how impossible a feat it is to further compress that week into a singularity single blog post. So this will be a highlights-only post–and in a week packed with literally nothing but highlights, it will inevitably fall short of even that modest goal.

Classroom sessions were super full days–from 10 a.m. to about 5 p.m.–packed with a science-tsunami (not a real term) of engaging lectures and presentations from Mike and Christian, as well as special guest lectures and lab activities. The “Kirchhoff’s Laws and Spectra” lab with the affable Jim Verlay, PhD. seemed to especially delight the class. All the instructors, especially Mike and Christian, excelled at making the covered material accessible to a wide range of comprehension levels.

Training montage, BYO Rocky music.

After dinner, we kept going with observation sessions, a planetarium show, and several guided discussions about “Science Fiction Science,” wherein Mike walked us through examples of science and astronomy as portrayed in fiction (TV, film, and books), covering who got it right and who got it wrong (in some cases, hilariously wrong, see: Armageddon). These discussions yielded some of my favorite (and funniest) moments of the week.

On our penultimate evening, Launch Pad organized a trip to the Wyoming Infrared Observatory (WIRO), where we got to tour the facility, be jealous of the students studying there, and take in the stunning views from the top of Mt. Jelm at 9656 ft. (Much props to our T.A., Doug Farren, who navigated a rental van through some ridiculous switchbacks to get our group up the mountain. Also, for his patience while we all jammed our phones out the windows in an attempt to capture the incredible sunset that night.)

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Phillip Jeffries. (Okay, no, it’s WIRO…probably…)

Let me pause a moment to rave about my wonderful co-attendees–what a talented, inspiring, and kind group of humans with whom to share this experience (see the full list of names under 2017 Attendees on the Launch Pad site). Between them, I think they’ve covered every genre and subgenre of science fiction and fantasy; so definitely go check out their books and stories.

2017 Attendees, all super-bleeping-awesome.

In addition to a cubic shit ton (not a real measurement) of information, Launch Pad also provides room and board–we stayed at the gorgeous Honors House, where we enjoyed private dorm rooms bigger than most NYC apartments. Also, the lucky (and hardworking) students that stay there during the school year have a huge rec room (and a laundry room!!! and a dishwasher!!!–can you tell New York has warped me?). The staff and volunteers at the University of Wyoming were equally impressive. I can’t speak for all attendees’ experiences, but everyone I interacted with seemed exceptionally warm and friendly. The campus and buildings were gorgeous, and as for Wyoming itself—wow…

Moon over Wyoming, from Mt. Jelm/WIRO.
(If you squint you can just make out Jerry Horne bashing his binoculars.)

Just. Gorgeous. Actual rolling prairies! Actual snow capped mountains! Actual pronghorns and buffalo and camels (idk, but they were there)! Blue skies for miles. Sunsets that you wouldn’t believe. Absolutely breathtaking. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a lot of incredibly beautiful places in the world, and Wyoming ranks  up there (altitude* pun!) with the best of them.

*Speaking of altitude: As a life-long New Yorker I’ve always lived at (or, occasionally below) sea level. I didn’t really think about this until the first “Hydrate or Die” emails started zipping through my inbox in advance of our arrival. Hogwash! I thought. Surely I’d been at a similar altitude before! But no, Fake News! The startling truth was that I’d never even visited a place higher than about 2,000 ft. above sea level. So I arrived in Laramie more than a little nervous about altitude sickness, but it turned out to be just fine. Better than fine actually. There may be less oxygen in Laramie (elevation: approx 8,000 ft.) but the quality of that oxygen is apparently much, much better (no surprise) than here in NYC. Also, as advised, I hydrated like a m-er f-er. And as such, I saw just about every bathroom on the UW campus—all lovely. Five stars. Would visit again.

I am so grateful for this incredible once-in-a-lifetime** experience. Not only did I gain valuable material for a series I’m currently writing; I also walked away with a notebook filled with story ideas that will probably take me several lifetimes to complete. (But I’ll still try to get though them all in this one.) So huge thanks to Mike and Christian, my co-attendees, the sponsors (see below), and everyone at Launch Pad for providing a week of education and inspiration that I’ll never forget.

**Unless…Alumni workshop? Just saying…

NOTES:
Launch Pad is a funded workshop, generously sponsored by Space Telescope Science Institute and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). If you are an author/editor/creative professional who is interested in attending, the application period for the 2018 workshop should open sometime in Spring 2018.

If you are interested in helping support this excellent program, please donate via the Launch Pad fundraising page.

Out Today: It came from Metaphorosis…

Metaphorosis runs an innovative and fascinating regular feature called, “It came from…,” wherein they allow their authors talk a bit about the origins of their recently published stories. Today they posted “It came from N. R. Lambert,” where I discuss my near-future sci-fi story, “Business As Usual.”

Please take a look and if you’re inspired to read the story itself, you can find that on Metaphorosis as well. Please consider supporting Metaphorosis on Patreon or donating to Everytown via link at the bottom of the story page.

On Stands Now! Entertainment Weekly: The Ultimate Guide to Wonder Woman

My Princesses Were Warriors

There’s a pattern to the characters that I gravitated toward in childhood. My princesses—Leia, She-Ra, and Wonder Woman—were all warriors. (My princes were the Goblin King and Dr. Frank-N-Furter*—I liked my men in glitter and my women in charge. But that’s a post for another day.) No shade on swooning, dancing, enchanted-sleeping princesses, they had their place and time. But my princesses, the ones I idolized, the ones I pretended to be, aspired to be—they didn’t wait to be rescued, they did the rescuing. They were smart, strong, and yes, occasionally rocked some bitchin’ sparkly headwear. First among these, both in time and in my heart, is Wonder Woman. (Having grown up with the 70s television show, for me, Wonder Woman was, is, and forever shall be, Lynda Carter. Amen.)

Carter’s Wonder Woman was both kind and fierce; and often that kindness would nearly lead to her undoing. But she never let the fight break her humanity—she stayed true to herself. As a kid, especially as a girl, that was a powerful message. You can be strong, fight back, push up, and still have compassion for others, even your enemies, and especially yourself. It was a bit of a My First nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

That ain't no filter, I am as old as the brown linoleum beneath me.

These pictures capture my complete adoration of Wonder Woman. Look at my face! I’ve spent decades trying to regain this girl’s pure, fearless, unabashed confidence.

All this to say, you can imagine how quickly I jumped at the opportunity to write about Wonder Woman for Entertainment Weekly’s The Ultimate Guide to Wonder Woman. If the internet was actually a series of tubes (remember the halcyon days when that was the dumbest thing a senator might say?), my email reply would have left burning tire tracks à la Back to the Future.

Re-watching the old Wonder Woman episodes for these pieces was a trip. Let’s talk about how hour-long episodes of television in the 70s were pretty much a FULL HOUR of programming. Gather round kiddos while I boggle your mind with my tales of a time before commercials gobbled up 1/3 of any given time slot. Also, the pacing on the old episodes was so much slower than the non-stop, quick-cut action scenes we get today. Long shots lazily panning over miles of landscape, extended close-ups of characters thinking. It was jarring to jump back in to modern television pacing after spending a couple of weeks back in the 70s.

Some of the plots were completely bonkers (I got to rank a few of them in this issue). Season 1 was set in the 40s, so lots of WWII themes. But seasons 2 and 3 were polyester-packed and disco-riffic in all their 70s glory. Diana Prince’s wardrobe? Amazing. I still aspire to rock a sleek ponytail and big glasses the way she did.

Despite the many ways the show is dated, Carter’s Wonder Woman still stands up and I’m so grateful I had her as a childhood hero. I hope the new movie can bring that same inspiration to a whole new generation of kids.
 
 
*Forever bless the babysitter who let me watch RHPS when I was nine—most of it went right over my head; Tim Curry did not.

Entertainment Weekly: The Ultimate Guide to Wonder Woman is available at magazine stands, in bookstores, and online.

Up Next: My Nebula Schedule

A super quick post (that I should have published weeks ago, but deadlines, you know…) to say
how excited I am to be participating in SFWA’s Nebula Conference this weekend. My schedule is as follows:

Flash Talks
Thursday, 5/18
3:30 p.m.
Marquis A
Marvel, as I double triple my heart rate speaking in the company of Pablo Defendini, K.M. Szpara, Diane Turnshek, Shanna Swendson, Ken Chiacchia, Jessi Cole Jackson, Bishop O’Connell, Sally Wiener Grotta, and David D. Levine.

Office Hours
Friday, 5/19
11:00 a.m.
Grand Ballroom
My listed topics are “Copywriting, Freelancing, and Cats.” But someone else also listed “Cats” as a discussion topic, so be prepared for this to rapidly spiral out into a #catsofSFWA slideshow.

Panel: Work-for-Hire
Sunday, 5/21
10:00 a.m.
Marquis C
Liz Argall, Ken Chiacchia, Jody Lynn Nye and I discuss work-for-hire writing.

If you’re at the Nebula Conference this weekend, please stop by and say hello!

Out Today! The Powerpuff Girls: Superhero Crime-Fighting Games & Activities

9780399542732-1This was such a fun project! When I started working on
The Powerpuff Girls: Superhero Crime-Fighting Games & Activities, only the very earliest roughs of the reboot were available for research/reference. Animation is a world that’s always fascinated me, so it was pretty cool to see how those shows come together from a behind-the-scenes POV. Also, even without the final art, the episodes were FUNNY (“Painbow” was my favorite)–a testament to good comedy writing.

Most of the activity books I’ve worked on have been much more about coming up with puzzles and games and less about writing. (No shade on puzzle and game creation–I love that part, too.) But with the Powerpuff Girls, I was delighted that there was room for a bit of story to run throughout, packed with as many puns as punches. The art and design is gorgeous (of course), props–as always–to the art team.

A bit more from the Penguin Random House site:

The Powerpuff Girls are back, and even better than before!

Play along with Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup in this action-packed, full-color Powerpuff Girls activity book with stickers! Help Blossom read maps, color in crime-fighting scenes with Bubbles, and play silly games with Buttercup. Saving the day with the Powerpuff Girls has never been so much fun!

The Powerpuff Girls: Superhero Crime-Fighting Games & Activities is available in stores and online:
Northshire Bookstore
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
IndieBound