The 2013 Worry Thread

By | March 1, 2013

The deadline’s approaching fast, you might have your story in, you might not, you suddenly have to wait to find out. Use this thread to talk to each other. You can talk about your application stories too, if you want; I promise that the application committee will not read this.

Take a deep breath. Support each other. Write the next story.

132 thoughts on “The 2013 Worry Thread

  1. Rachel Grinti

    You are all making me feel very old, as I went to Alpha in 2002!

    Good luck to everyone who’s waiting to hear back! Speaking as someone who hates, hates, hates waiting, the best thing to do is to start a new story. That way you have a shiny new distraction.

  2. Noella

    Mooching off of my friend’s smartphone for my internet fix…
    Definetely started to panic a little when I saw there were 93 applicants… Trying to keep it together.

    @Abby if its the very old one named after the king and and queen of england that took over in the glorious revolution… That would be me. It would be great if we attend the same one, and if so we should totally meet up!

    I will respond to more of the conversations when im back at my computer.
    Dont stress guys.

  3. Abby

    @Noella, that would be the one, and I’d love to meet up sometime!

  4. Lauren

    I’m confirmed! At least that nail-biting is over…

  5. Noella

    @Abby if you look up my first name in the student directory, I should be the only one in there. You should definetly shoot me an email!

  6. Melissa M

    Gah. There are so many things I’m waiting for.
    1.) Alpha. Obviously. (*moans*)
    2.) A writing contest on (You can read my story if you want 🙂 It’s at: and it’s a story in which love is dangerous.)
    3.) Take it Outside, a state-wide art contest. (9 days)
    4.) My birthday. 16 in ten days and counting 🙂
    5.) (and this one is more dread) Opening night for my high school musical is this Friday.
    And more.
    This is too much stress for one girl.

  7. Natalie

    Wow, I sure am late to this, but I thought I’d drop in anyways just to contribute my worry to the thread. How’re you all holding up?

  8. Noella

    @Natalie I’m doing okay. I’ve done this twice before so I think I’ve adapted to not worrying so much, although in the last few days I’ve gotten kinda worked up over it. I had a bad dream last night related to not getting in and it wasn’t good.

    @Melissa Girl, you just gotta relax and focus on other things. Those things are all out of your hands (except for opening night). I hope it went well! 🙂 Also, I read your love is dangerous story and I really liked it!

    @Seth thank you for the encouragement! As someone who has been applying to Alpha a few years in a row, it’s definitely been worth it to keep trying.

    To start the conversation back up again… what sorts of points of view and different stylistic techniques do you guys like to use? I try to vary between different kinds of point of view, although tbh I have never really attempted second person and that can be tricky to pull off. This year with my application I went a little bit off the beat path (although only in small ways) with the style in terms of what I usually see in sf/f/h and what I usually write.

  9. Noah

    @Noella Well, I’m still at a point in which I’m incredibly, ridiculously sensitive to whichever author I’m currently reading. I discovered H.P. Lovecraft while reading The Scarlet Letter in High School. It was an interesting year, to say the least. I’m just trying to look at my stuff in retrospect and pick apart the ‘me’. I need to write more. I’ll always need to write more, haha.

    That being said, I love juxtaposing short/run-on sentences. Commas and I have a very special relationship.

  10. Noella

    @Noah I’ve heard of HP Lovecraft, although in the last few years I’ve been so busy with school that I haven’t had much time to read for fun.
    Have you ever seen this video? It’s written in the style of H.P. Lovecraft

    I definitely understand the search to find own personal style. Today I felt like reminiscing and looked at my old alpha application stories. Besides being glad at seeing how much I’ve improved since then, I definitely keep trying new styles. I feel like the style I worked with this year had a lot less flowery language, which can be a good thing. I also wrote it in first person present tense, which was interesting.

  11. Madison

    @Noella I tend to work mostly in third person, although my best stories tend to be in first, oddly enough. I like to work, though, from a point of view outside of the main protagonist, generally because I find it helps me from being too introspective. I also try and work in what I call ‘realistic fantasy,’ mixing the styles of realism and fantasy. With this story I was really inspired by Hemingway (particularly The Sun Also Rises), so I worked hard to keep any introspective down to a minimum.

  12. Natalie

    @Noella Oh no, that can’t have been pleasant! This is my first year applying, so I kind of feel like I’m still too new to the whole concept of this program to even comprehend my anxiety haha
    I tend to prefer third person, I guess, but I write a fair amount in first as well. Second person intrigues me but I’m doubtful I’d be able to pull it off. Also, I’m always really anal about dialogue and whether it is constant with the characters… so I end up with very little to none an unfortunate amount of the time :’)

  13. Noella

    @Madison that’s interesting. Why do you prefer to avoid introspection? I guess one thing about first person is that you get really into that character’s voice. I know my story this year is very character focused so it was very important that the reader understood how she was feeling the entire time.

    @Natalie haha I’ll be alright. It’s great that you applied to this program. It’s a really great opportunity. Dialogue can be really hard to get right, especially keeping speech patterns consistent between characters.

    I don’t know why, but I’ve started just really worrying about it more this year. I guess it’s because if I don’t get in this year I won’t be able to apply again.

  14. Madison

    @Noella It’s because I’m a very introspective person and I know if I don’t watch myself the entire story will be introspective and make the character incredibly narcissistic. I’ve written stories like that in the past. It’s a bit of checking myself before I wreck myself. Especially since this story I wrote from the male perspective, which I rarely do and means there is less introspective-ness in generally. I love the story, though, so I can’t complain too much. :3

  15. Noella

    @Madison I can understand that. It really depends on the story. If I recall correctly, this is the story about the female matador? If you don’t mind me asking, did you write it from a different character’s perspective who was male?

  16. Madison

    @Noella Yeah, from the prince’s view actually. His and/or his sister’s hand in marriage was offered for defeating the bull as well as the matador’s freedom. I almost felt as if I was writing a legend or a myth or something like that. What did you write about?

  17. Noella

    @Madison I wrote about a girl who is trying to become a supernatural creature by sucking the energy out of people by kissing them. A spirit is helping her but he actually manipulates her thru the entire story. The whole story is sort of a power-play between them, and talks a lot about feelings.

  18. Melissa M

    @Noella. I used to write in strictly third person past tense, but now I do a lot of first person present. It just feels weird to write in 3rd present or 1st past (I shudder to think of it.) I suppose I don’t really mind reading stuff that way, but my own writing style doesn’t flow like that. (Also, I admittedly tend to change style depending on what books I’m reading. But I think I’ve settled into one 🙂 )

    This may be a mistake to ask, but do any of you read/write fan fiction? (Some writers have an utter hatred for it, so it feels like I’m treading on thin ice here. But don’t be afraid to share your opinions.)

  19. Noella

    @Melissa That would be interesting to do 3rd person present, I’ve never tried that. 1st person past doesn’t seem that weird to me, though. I like fanfic, although I don’t read a lot as I used to. I think it’s a good way for people to connect with things they are excited about and can be a good way to develop writing skills. I wrote fanfic when I was a lot younger, but it was pretty bad. I guess with me, I would rather focus on writing my own stories, but some people can get a lot out of fanfic. As long as you don’t violate an author’s copyright, I think it’s good.

    If you think about it, many works that out now would be considered “fanfiction” if the work wasn’t in the public domain… like Wicked, for example. I can’t count on my hands the number of Wizard of Oz derivative works there are. And the Lion King was based off of Hamlet

  20. Melissa M

    @Noella. Fan Fiction is the reason I can write. I was, quite frankly, terrible before I started my fanfic for LBG (by Scott Westerfeld 🙂 ), and it ended up at around 90,000 words, 193 reviews (in the top ten for LBG stories), and thirty-ish chapters. I’ve definitely gotten a lot better through all of it.
    Ha! We’re just finishing up our Hamlet unit in Language Arts right now by writing an essay to compare the two!

  21. Noella

    @Melissa that’s cool! I love the Leviathan series, although I haven’t gotten around to reading Goliath. I’ve been saving it. I especially love the map of Europe in the first book. I love all the symbolism and metaphors of the books.

    Today, I started reading some stories on Strange Horizons and its awesome… So much good stuff.

  22. Melissa M

    @Noella. What? You haven’t read Goliath yet? It’s the best one! (In my opinion. I read it in a day [the first time around. 2nd run took about a week.]) I know. The map and all of Keith’s stuff is really awesome.
    Strange Horizons? I don’t know those books.

  23. Noella

    @Melissa I know, I know. I’ve been swamped with a lot of school work and I want to savor every word. I wanted to read Leviathan and Behemoth again before Goliath, so I’ve been waiting.

    Strange Horizons is an online speculative fiction magazine

  24. Melissa M

    @Noella. Ha, ha. Oops. Seems I *really* didn’t know what “Strange Horizons” was.

  25. Noella

    @Melissa No worries 😀 you should check out some of the stories on there.

  26. Melissa M

    I may do that. So you said your story was about someone who sucks out energy with kisses, trying to become a supernatural? Sounds neat.
    Mine was about this guy on an alien planet (humanity lives there now) who’s squad got blown up, and he was the only survivor. He almost dies, but is saved by someone of the indigenous species, which he believed were monsters but are actually super awesome. When he tries to go back home, he realizes he never belonged there anyway and then goes back to live with the other species. Sounds kind of lame like that, but I’ve never claimed to be good at synopses. It’s really just a Scifi version of the classic tale of finding where you truly belong.

  27. Diane

    After we decide on the top 20 stories, we always have a wait list with the next 6 people on it. Sometimes the wait list doesn’t move at all, but sometimes we need to go through all six people.

    One person who applied withdrew her Alpha application because she got in to Interlochen for the summer. Interlochen is 3 weeks, you have to wear uniforms, $4600.00, poetry, fiction and playwriting, but no genre emphasis, 2500 students in Northwest Michigan.

    All things Alpha is not. I’m not sure there’s anything that compares to Alpha.

  28. Noella

    @Melissa That’s cool. Did he do a lot of soul searching?

    @Diane I know someone who was on the waitlist but still didn’t get in; I guess it does depend from year to year. I went to the UVA young writer’s workshop last year, which is more similar to interlochen than Alpha in the way that it was more summer camp-y and was three weeks and had several genres. No uniforms though, which was a plus. No genre emphasis, but we could pretty much write whatever we wanted. I was in the poetry class and I wrote sf/f flavored poetry at times, and I taught an elective about dragons. Fun times. It was bigger than Alpha, but not as near as large as Interlochen (it had around 100 students I think).

    @Meghan I know… the number burns… although I’m doing study abroad this summer and the program costs more than that, although not that much more.

  29. Mallory

    @38, Melissa M: Oh, that was me (I go by Roxanne on the Westerblog)! It wasn’t a mob fight though, but a gang robbery.

    I was 15 last year when I attended Alpha. The cool thing about Alpha is, age doesn’t matter at all. Cassiel and I hung with all the 18-19 year old kids, and it was never a problem!

    This year I wrote about a girl who can talk to ghosts who get in her head, but opts to cut them out of her flesh instead. But then someone she knows dies and shit happens.
    I usually write 1st/3rd person. I TRY to write 3rd, but 1st is so much easier when it comes to pronouns (a one-on-one scene with two people of the same gender gets mighty confusing with the “his” and “shes”).

    Oh, I LOVE LBG!!! Amazing series!

  30. Noella

    @Mallory that’s cool! Age doesn’t matter that much… I’m in college, and once you get to know someone, it doesn’t really matter if they are 3-4 years older than you. That sounds like a really great story! How do the ghosts get into her head?

  31. Mallory

    @Noella: That’s cool. I’m usually the youngest person in a crowd, so age worries me constantly. I’m also really shocked whenever someone’s younger than me, which is probably really weird, lol.

    Are you trying to steal my story? Haha, just kidding! They have the ability to go into anyone’s head, but just Sarah (my MC) can hear them.
    What with the 6000 word limit, I didn’t have much room to explore her backstory and the limits of her “gift,” I was focused on solving the murder. (Lemme tell you, it’s hard to introduce red herrings and such within just 6000 words!)

  32. Noella

    @Mallory Never! 😛 I’m just interested! I definitely understand that word limit constraint. I think my story was around 5993 or so words… I didn’t really have time to do much more with it, although I really wanted to. I felt a little bit rushed at the end, although I hope I pulled it off.

    I remember feeling that way when I was younger, near the end of last year when I graduated from high school, and even now a little, I’m definitely one of the older people (especially in teen groups) and its really weird. Especially since I’m not quite ready to make the jump into all-adult groups; I still feel like I have more in common with a lot of teens, especially since I’ve been with some of those groups for a while.

  33. Melissa M

    @Noella (79) I tried to do some soul searching for him, and a lot of it is shown through flashbacks. I made references to footsteps a lot, and tied the ending into all that with some analogies and such. If it hadn’t been creeping closer and closer to midnight, I would have loved to develop that more throughout the story, but it is what it is.
    @Mallory (80) Oh, okay. Either way, it sounds pretty awesome.
    It’s good to know I wasn’t the only one pushing the word limit.

  34. Mallory

    I try not to let word-limits affect my story. I once did a contest with a 3500 limit, and the end got really cramped and rushed. I’ve learned to just write the story as is, and then make cut edits throughout the whole story until your within the limit, otherwise you have a nice, flowing story that suddenly gets really fast and botchy at the end.

    @Melissa M: Thanks!
    My story this year (the cutter ghost one) ended up being 5995 words (heavy editing for that = nightmare).

  35. Melissa M

    @Mallory. Yeah, that’s what I do. First draft ran me about 6,200 words, and after editing I ended up with 5,800-something. I have to admit, though, that I owe a lot of that to my sister, who proofread some of it for me.
    Honestly, the only part I can actually do is the writing. I’m a terrible plotter, really (thankfully I have a brother who is a ninja-magician at plotting and gives me lots of help), and the story I applied with’s original idea was from one of my friends (I had permission, I swear!). It probably sounds strange to say that all I can do is write (because it isn’t easy!), but there is sooo much more that goes into a good story, and I’m sure you all know that.

  36. Noel

    @Melissa. I think I can agree with you on being terrible at plotting and only being good at writing. It’s not that I can’t come up with good plots, because I can. I usually come up with these really creative or amazing ideas that I want to write about, and once I start writing it becomes difficult to understand where the story is going. I know how it’s going to start. I know how it’s going to end . . . but I don’t know about anything in the middle and that is exactly where the problem lies. I think that’s why it’s so difficult for me to write something short. I love to dive into writing something, like writing on a whim or writing in the spur of the moment when a miraculous idea comes up but I know that I can’t. I know that if I keep going on like this, I’m just going to continuously end up with unfinished stories that are just waiting for a conclusion. The problem is that I just don’t like plotting things down — or rather — I know that if I do, I’m going to go too in-depth in my plotting. It’s frustrating and it makes me both terrified and determined to write things at the same time.
    Following what @Noella said a while ago in this thread, I still think that applying to Alpha has been really good to me though. I completed a 5000 word short-story with a clear beginning, middle and end and although it’s not perfect, it’s done and I did it. I think in the end, that’s what really matters.

    Woah there, I’ve written a lot.

    But, I don’t know. I grew up with people telling me that creative writing or anything of the sort was “useless”, “easy”, and that “everyone can do it”. I never really believed them, and I still did it but they always told me to focus more on analytical and persuasive writing (or what I call “essay writing”). I guess in a sense you can call creative writing “easy”. But I never thought it was easy. To me, writing is frustrating, difficult and time-consuming . . . but it’s also the best thing that I’ve ever done or experienced. Does that make any sense? Probably not, but I’ve always wondered if anyone else felt the same way.

  37. Melissa M

    @Noel. Yes, yes, and yes! I can usually come up with my characters, a beginning, and an end to my stories, and then I take them to my brother for plotting help. I really do like to write out a plot, though, because then I have a solid idea of what needs to happen when, and it just doesn’t become a messy blob of plotless text.
    In a sense, creative writing could be easy. All you have to do is plop some words down on a page. But if you want to do well, really pull it off and make it good, it needs a great writer, interesting and believable characters, plots and settings, a fast pace, witty dialogue, and countless other things that are more difficult than the people who told you it isn’t could imagine. People who say essays and such are more difficult just don’t understand. Their minds are filled with cotton.

  38. Tess

    @Noel, I totally agree on both accounts. I have a 4 book series planned out, and each book has a beginning and end, but no middle. Frustrating…

  39. Mallory

    @Melissa M/Noel: I’m not really sure about how good at plotting I am. I guess attending Alpha suggests I’m pretty decent?!? 🙂 [Of course, I have no idea how good I am at long-term plots…]

    I think most people (<–absolutely NOT a statistic right there) have problems with the middle. The beginnings and endings are so exciting, but the middle is always just kind of there… I mean, it's obviously important to the finished product and not just filler, but at the idea stage I feel like lots of people don't really know what's gonna be there.
    That brings a question to mind: I always write my story chronologically, but has anyone ever written the beginning and end first, and then the middle (seems difficult to me)?

    I'm lucky that I've never had someone tell me that writing genre fiction is a waste of time and that I should focus on "essay writing," but I agree that they don't know what they're talking about. In no way is creative writing easy! I mean, sometimes you get into a passionate mood and the words just pour out of you, but it's never EASY.

    @Tess: That's better than me. I have a 6-book series planned, and just kind of a vague plot that stretches between them (of course, whenever I get around to seriously fleshing out this idea it'll probably be less books).

  40. Tess

    @Mallory I often write out of chronological order, just writing whatever scene comes to mind the strongest, then adding more to fill in the gaps between the different pieces.

  41. Noel

    @Tess. Same. I do this especially when I feel stuck at a certain scene, or when I feel I need to learn more about a certain character/setting.

  42. Erin

    It’s almost a month after the due date, so i realize it’s silly to be posting on this thread, but I’m freaking out.
    I sent in my story late and it was accepted, but I just realized that I’m not entirely sure whether I sent in the application fee or not.
    RIP me nice knowing all of you you’re all invited to my funeral

  43. Sarah Brand

    Hi Erin! Alpha alumna (and 2013 staff member) here. If you’re concerned about the status of your application, you can use the contact form on this very website and get in touch with John, who can help you out. (I don’t have access to application information myself, unfortunately.) Good luck!

  44. Melissa M

    Hey, everyone! I’m back 🙂
    @Mallory. I always write in chronological order. I build on so many details as a story goes along that I would have to totally scrap and rewrite the out-of-order scenes because they would not fit at all. And, hard as they are to write, middles are very, very important and sometimes fun to write simply because you have so much freedom. Once I get an idea of what I’m going to write in a chapter, then it’s fun 🙂
    @Erin. It’s not silly. I’m still freaking out, too. Fifteen days!

  45. Melissa M

    And I always have a beefy plot plan-thing that I add to as I go. (Pretend that was somewhere in my last comment.)

  46. Melissa M

    So. It’s been a while since anybody posted on here. And there’s less than a week until the 15th!

  47. Diane

    I’l check in with the judges and see how they’re coming along. I’m anxious, too!

  48. Marina G

    -nerves nerves nerves-

    I know I haven’t posted on here before. I was at Alpha last year, though, so I know exactly how awesome it is and how much I want to get in. SO MANY NERVES EVERYBODY.

    Dear self, do not look at your application story if you want to be useful for the rest of the week.

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