I first met Dianna Sanchez through the extended network of the Clarion Workshop, and was thrilled to learn her novel was coming out soon from Dreaming Robot Press, a small press located in New Mexico (where I live and where I run my small press). I had the chance to chat with both Dianna and her editor last month at Bubonicon, Albuquerque's local science fiction convention.
If you're unfamiliar with the Clarion Workshop, it's a six-week intensive writing boot camp taught by some of the finest writers and editors in the field of science fiction and fantasy. It's a grueling experience of non-stop writing and critiquing, bad food, watergun fights, making lifelong friends, and questioning everything you ever thought you knew. I recommend it wholeheartedly. Dianna attended in 1995; I attended in 2014.
Dianna was nice enough to talk with me today about her new novel A WITCH'S KITCHEN, her path to publication, and her Clarion workshop experience.
Sarena Ulibarri: It was great to meet you this year at Bubonicon! How was your Bubonicon experience? Had you attended it in the past?
Dianna Sanchez: Despite having grown up in Albuquerque, I had never been to Bubonicon before. I didn't find out about the existence of science fiction conventions until I'd gone off to college in Boston, and even then, I didn't attend one until after I'd graduated. It seems downright absurd that I waited this long. Bubonicon is a pleasant, small, well-run con, with some good panels. I love that the gaming room is right in the thick of things, instead of shoved into a distant corner somewhere. I could just wander in and grab a pick-up game between panels.
SU: In a nutshell, what was the path from manuscript to publication for A WITCH’S KITCHEN?
DS: Nov. 2013 - Started writing what I thought would be a 10-page story as a Christmas present
Dec. 2013 - Three chapters later, realized it was a novel
Jan. - Feb. 2014 - Took an Odyssey Online course, Powerful Dialogue in Fantastic Fiction with Jeanne Cavelos
Mar. 2014 - Completed first draft
Summer 2014 - Joined Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
Jan. 2015 - Attended Arisia in Boston, did a pitch session with N.K. Jemison
Apr. 2015 - Attended the New England SCBWI conference in Springfield, MA. Won the Pitchapalooza.
May 2015 - Started up a critique group of folks I met at the conference
June 2015 - Started querying the novel, exchanging manuscripts with other SCBWI authors
Aug. 2015 - Dreaming Robot Press expressed serious interest. Called in my Pitchapalooza prize, an agent consult.
Sept. 2015 - Began revising per DRP's developmental editor's request
Fall 2015 - Took Writing MG/YA Novels with Holly Thompson, learned plot structure
Nov. 2015 - Committed to completed revision by January 31st
Jan. -Feb. 2016 - Took Odyssey Online course Getting the Big Picture (novel revision) with Barbara Ashford
Jan. 31, 2016 - Turned in the revision
Feb. 2016 - Met with Corie and Sean Weaver of Dreaming Robot Press in Albuquerque and negotiated contract. Signed a week later.
Mar. 2016 - Completed final revision (v.11.5)
April 2016 - DRP launched Kickstarter campaign for A Witch's Kitchen and The Demon Girl's Song by Susan Jane Bigelow. We funded the same day, in the middle of our Facebook author party.
June 2016 - Got the ARCs, started pushing for reviews, readings
Sept. 25, 2016 - Launch day!
SU: If you could go back in time and give young-Dianna one piece of writing advice, what would it be?
DS: Writing is not just a hobby. Writing is not less important than physics. Writing is what you love to do, and it's what you do best. Stop apologizing, to everyone else and to yourself, for spending so much time writing. Just write.
SU: What’s your favorite memory from the Clarion Workshop?
DS: Oh, man, that is so hard. It was such a blast from beginning to end. Was it playing Assumption (the card game from instructor Tim Powers' novel Last Call)? Watching Bruce Glassco playtest an early version of his board game Betrayal at House on the Hill? Boffer weapon battles with Lucy Snyder? Making an enchilada casserole in Chip Delany's oven? Congratulating Kelly Link on her first sale to Asimov's? Hmm... okay. I think it was shouting in the hall. We'd be up in our (totally not air conditioned) dorm rooms, pounding away on our stories, and someone would open their door and yell something like, "Hey, anyone know how long the day is on Mars?" Because it was 1995, and Google did not yet exist. AND SOMEONE WOULD KNOW. Every single time. I miss that so much, the collective gestalt of it, the marvelous feeling of being in my tribe.
SU: How many stories did you write at Clarion, and what became of them?
DS: I have it in my head (though my head is often wrong) that I wrote nine stories, and that this was a record at the time, promptly broken the following year. I think, though, that they were counting my submission stories, and I really only wrote seven during Clarion. And I also think that I may have actually written more and not submitted them all. I'm a quick writer; I can churn out 1000 words per hour. I learned at Clarion that some people just don't write that quickly, and we wouldn't always have three stories to critique the next day. So I took to just writing stories on the fly and then, if we didn't have enough stories, I'd pull one out. Mind you, most of them were complete and utter crap. I think that by the end of the workshop, people were ready to strangle me if I pulled out one more horrible story. Guys, I hope you've forgiven me by now. Alas, all the stories are in the Clarion archives. Only one, "A Recipe for Martian Enchiladas," eventually turned into a saleable story, "Weeds," which is appearing in the 2017 Young Explorers' Adventure Guide.
SU: Do you have any readings or signings coming up? Where can readers find you?
DS: I have two book launch parties coming up:
Sunday, September 25, 2-3pm
127 Essex St., Salem MA
A kid-friendly event with a costume contest, bad joke contest, and raffle! I will read from A WITCH'S KITCHEN and answer questions from the audience. THERE WILL BE COOKIES.
Saturday, October 1, 7-9pm
Pandemonium Books and Games
4 Pleasant St., Cambridge MA
Together with my Kickstarter buddy Susan Jane Bigelow. We will read from our novels, A WITCH'S KITCHEN and her YA fantasy THE DEMON GIRL'S SONG. No word yet on whether I can bring cookies. ; )
Readers can check my web site, diannasanchez.com for more appearances, subscribe to my newsletter, and contact me on Facebook or Twitter.
About the Author
Dianna Sanchez is the not-so-secret identity of Jenise Aminoff, whose superpower is cooking with small children. She is an MIT alumna, graduate of the 1995 Clarion Workshop and Odyssey Online, active member of SCBWI, and former editor at New Myths magazine. Aside from 18 years as a technical and science writer, she has taught science in Boston Public Schools, developed curricula for STEM education, and taught Preschool Chef, a cooking class for children ages 3-5. A Latina geek originally from New Mexico, she now lives in the Boston area with her husband and two daughters.