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Sci-fi, fantasy writers descend on Flagstaff

Sci-fi, fantasy writers descend on Flagstaff

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Science fiction and fantasy writers from around the country will be meeting in Flagstaff through Friday for a workshop called Starry Heaven.

While the writers are in town, they will take breaks from critiquing each other's work to attend a "Meet the Authors" event today at the Wine Loft between 6 and 7 p.m.

"Twelve of us are going to get together and hang out (for 'Meet the Authors'). If nobody shows up, we'll just drink," said Greg Van Eekhout, author of Norse Code.

The invitation-only retreat for published authors was organized by local writer and geologist Sarah Kelly, who writes under the pseudonym Sarah K. Castle.

"Giving and receiving critiques can be intense," Kelly said. "Being in a beautiful place like Flagstaff during the process makes the work less stressful.

The twelve writers attending the workshop are Kelly, Prineas, Van Eekhout, Sandra McDonald, D. Lynn Smith, William Shunn, E.C. Meyers, Brad Beaulieu, Jon Hansen, Rob Ziegler, Gary Shockley and Deb Coates.

Kelly said northern Arizona has a lot to offer to inspire writers.

"The landscape around Flagstaff is widely varied and stunningly beautiful," Kelly said. "The San Francisco volcanic field, the red rock canyons of Sedona and the Grand Canyon all provide great jumping-off points for imaging fantastic new worlds for either fantasy or science fiction stories."

Van Eekhout, who now lives in San Diego, lived in Phoenix for 14 years and is a frequent visitor to Flagstaff.

"If you're a science fiction writer, it's really interesting to be near something like a meteor crater or the lava fields at Sunset Canyon or the Indian ruins," Van Eekhout said. "These are things you don't find anywhere else in such a tight concentration. There really is something sort of otherwordly about Flagstaff. Personally, it seems like it has sort of a creative vibe. The downtown area almost has sort of a Ray Bradbury, nostalgic feel for it. Walking around those sort of historic buildings, those quiet streets, it's transporting in a way."

The unique environment of the area can be a muse in helping to make what Van Eekhout said is necessary for good writing in the genres.

"Specifically in science fiction and fantasy, you're looking for really good credible and detailed world-building," Van Eekhout said. "You want a sense that the writer has created a place that feels real, will feel real to the reader. A lot of times in science fiction and fantasy, it's a world that the reader is going to want to inhabit for three to four hundred pages and it has to be an interesting environment as well."

In writing Kelly is inspired by Flagstaff and in arranging Starry Heaven, it was the established Blue Heaven workshop in Ohio, which organizer and writer C.C. Finlay warned he might not be able to put it on this year.

"Once we heard that, Sarah Kelly kind of went, 'Oh, no, we've got to have some kind of workshop.' so we organized Starry Heaven as an alternative," Van Eekhout said.

As it turns out there is going to be a Blue Heaven this year, but Starry Heaven stuck. Van Eekhout said branching out was imminent because interest has grown and now hundreds want to get into the 12 spots.

"People are starting to look at Blue Heaven as kind of one of these things that if you want to be successful, you should go," Van Eekhout said.

"I think you're going to see more things like Starry Heaven that are natural outgrowths of success breeding success. Maybe in 10 years there are going to be people that are imitating Starry Heaven instead of Blue Heaven."

Kelly said she hopes to make Starry Heaven an annual event.


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