Interview with Elizabeth Monteleone about the Borderlands Boot Camp
EM: One day whilst Tom and I were reading the slush pile, I made the coment that so many of these writers could benefit from going to “something like a writers boot camp.” An intense weekend to get the kinks out–because so many of them are so close to being good writers, they just need to work out the kinks. Some people write good dialogue but stink at plot and vice versa etc.
He looked at me and said why don’t you do it?
CD: How do you decide which instructors to invite?
EM: I’m very fortunate to know many successful writers. I’ll send an e-mail and voila! I’ve got my instructors. I have people like the GREAT Richard Chizmar–he’ll be coming back soon–I have Elizabeth Massie, Jack Ketchum, Doug Clegg, David Morrell and of course the two writers that are not allowed to get burned out–Tom Monteleone and F. Paul Wilson. Being an instructor is a lot of work. They make notes on every story, and end up line-editing them as well.
CD: You have a very limited number of slots for participants. How do you determine whether an applicant is appropriate for the Boot Camp?
EM: This is a tough one because I’ve had some participants who have been published and have started to make a name for themselves. We accept these published “grunts” because I understand what it’s like to work in a room by yourself with no feedback. I watch my husband do it every day. In addition, I read for F. Paul Wilson and Tom Monteleone. If these guys need readers…the newer writers certainly do. Plus, the published grunts have more experience and really add to the critique sessions. The rest? Well that’s a little more intangible. Their stories have to make me react in some positive way. Basically, I accept applicants whom I think can be put on the right track with valid input and honest criticism. I don’t believe you can teach talent…but if you have it, this boot camp can develop it and make it grow.
CD: What kind of feedback have you received from participants?
EM: At the end of every boot camp I give the grunts an evaluation sheet. I want it to be anonymous because I want them to be completely honest. I don’t want anyone to worry about telling me the truth and fearing retribution and never being included in a Borderlands Book. (If you write a good story, we’ll buy it trust me–we buy stories from people we don’t like–more often than you’d imagine!)
We’ve now planned three and they’ve all been SPECTACULAR! Not one complaint about the program. Think about it….it’s very intense setting: small groups interacting with really experienced writers. They not only talk the talk, they walk the walk!
CD: Who are the instructors for the next Boot Camp?
EM: F. Paul Wilson, Doug Clegg, Tom Tessier, Steve Spruill, Thomas F. Monteleone, Doug Winter
CD: When is the next Boot Camp?
EM: August 5-7 at Towson State University in Towson, Maryland.
Each instructor will get his own classroom.
And although the experience gained at the Boot Camp is priceless . . . . we had to put a price on it: $500
The University has also made their “apartment” housing available. For an additional $50 per night, grunts get private accommodations and all meals. Much, much better deal than staying at a hotel, don’t you think?
CD: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
EM: Did I mention that the Winter Session is split into two tracks: Novel and Short Fiction? Well, it is–with 20 grunts in each group. The Summer Session is for 36 grunts–all Short Fiction.