Milkman Days #6: Garrett Cook

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Garrett Cook is a freelance editor. He runs bizarro workshops on occasion. He is an editor for the Imperial Youth Review. He is the author of Jimmy Plush: Teddy Bear Detective, Archelon Ranch, Murderland, and Time Pimp. Oh, and he’s the two time winner of the annual Ultimate Bizarro Showdown. Boom.

Garrett’s good for helping you to find your footing in the genre. He knows the people. He knows the books. If you’re unsure where you fit in with the bizarro scene, Garrett Cook just may be able to help you find your way.

For being such an integral part of the bizarro community, Garrett Cook is my sixth and final honorary milkman.

“Day of the Milkman is one of the weirdest damn things I’ve read. And I’m Garrett Cook.”

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Win a spot in Garrett Cook and J. David Osborne’s Online Bizarro Workshop

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If you’re plugged in to the Bizarro community, you might be aware that I’ve got my first book out in the 2012/13 New Bizarro Author Series. My book is called “House Hunter”, and it’s available right now on Amazon and various other online bookstores. You’re probably also familiar with the authors Garrett Cook and J. David Osborne.

To get things kicked off, I’m running a competition in which you can win a spot in Garrett Cook and J. David Osborne’s online Bizarro workshop. You might have already guessed that from the title.

A little bit of background into why I’m doing this competition:

The first draft of House Hunter came from the first workshop I did with Garrett, during his 10,000 word weekend challenge. I have also taken his workshop one time since then, co-run with Bradley Sands. The workshop was a fantastic experience, with interesting workshop exercises and great feedback. Garrett Cook doesn’t hold back with his criticisms. He wants you to do your best, so he will constantly point out your flaws and suggest ways for you to improve. If you haven’t done a workshop with Garrett in the past and you’re looking to work your way into the Bizarro community, or even if you’re looking to refine your Bizarro writing skills, a workshop like this can only be a good thing.

How to enter:

If you buy a copy of my book between now and December 7th (you have two weeks), you will enter the draw. If you write a review for the book in that time, I will put your name down again. And if you put the review up on multiple places (eg. Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, etc.) they will each qualify for another entry into the competition. To enter, just email me at shanecart9@gmail.com with some form of proof of purchase and/or links to reviews.

The workshop takes place in January, and I will announce the winner within the day and sort out the details with Garrett right away. This way, if you miss out and you’re still interested in enroling in the workshop, you will still have time to do so. I highly recommend it.

Thank you and good luck!

Two online workshops

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I’m sure quite a few people know this about me now, but for the sake of setting things up properly, I’ll say it again. I’ve been studying creative writing for the past three years. I’m just about done with my undergraduate degree, and in the second semester of this year I’ll most likely be doing creative writing honours for another year. But over the Summer holidays (Summer being December-February, for you northern hemisphere folks), I decided to try new things to build on my writing skills so I signed up for an online writing workshop in December, and then I signed up for another one in January-February.

The first workshop was run by Jeremy C. Shipp, author of Cursed, editor of the anthology, Aberrations, amongst other things I, admittedly, had not read going into the workshop. He also wrote the short story, the Sun Never Rises in the Big City, which I have read by now, and it is fantastic. Now, the workshop ran for four weeks, and it was rigidly structured to focus on a lot of small exercises, and a couple of large assignments that involve the efforts and contributions from the whole workshop group. What we wrote and what we learned in those four weeks weren’t revolutionary new secrets no one has ever thought of doing before. It was a really fundamental course that attacked creative writing from a head-on, practical perspective. It zeroed in on all the things we should be focusing on, but are things that easily slip by the wayside and let your standards drop considerably. By doing this, we were able to get some high quality stuff out of the workshop. The techniques and skills Shipp gives us really help us to write fresh, original, and entertaining stories, and there are also some great tips on getting our writing out into the creative writing community, finding a home for our writing, getting our writing careers off the ground. Because of this, the workshop is appropriate for pretty much any writer who doesn’t already have their books and short stories published about the place. It’s a great workshop for aspiring writers to fine tune their skills before they go out into the big scary world of publishers and editors and an endless sea of rejection.

The second workshop was run by Garrett Cook, author of Jimmy Plush, Archelon Ranch, and the Murderland Series. I’ve read Jimmy Plush, and a short story of Garrett’s from the Bizarro Starter Kit Purple, and I’ve got to say, his writing is fantastically outrageous. This workshop ran from about mid-January to about mid-February, and it wasn’t as formulaic as Shipp’s workshop, but that’s because the two workshops cater to two different markets and have two completely different goals. Garrett’s workshop is targeted towards writers looking to become more involved with bizarro fiction. Where Shipp focused on basic techniques, Garrett pretty much just gave us a starting point, a basic prompt for a bizarro story and threw us into the deep end. His prompts were good, although I found myself struggling to come up with things at times. For me, I found the most valuable thing about this workshop was the feedback. One thing I find about being a writer in general is that it’s important to learn when you’re doing something right and when you’re doing something wrong (although it’s rarely that black and white), and it’s a huge motivation when other (more experienced) writers can confirm your own suspicions. I knew my first couple of stories were a little off, and it was great to hear that, yeah, this isn’t working quite like it should, maybe try doing this differently or doing that. Garrett’s good with that stuff. And because it was a small workshop, Garrett spent the time getting to know what each of us wanted to get out of the workshop, and to help us achieve this. Part way through the workshop I decided to act on a piece of information he’d given the workshop group and started working on a novella. And because he knew that myself, and some of the other workshop members had the same goal, our last assignment was to let loose and work on that. I ended up finishing a 17,000 word draft during that workshop. At the end of Garrett’s workshop, I had a bunch of scrappy drafts of really cool ideas that are totally workable.

I’d like to extend a huge thanks to Jeremy and Garrett, and maybe I’ll come back and do another workshop run by you guys sometime (I’m certainly tempted to join Garrett’s next workshop, co-run with the fantastic Mr. Bradley Sands). While my creative writing studies at university have been very worthwhile, these two workshops have taught me things I never would have learned at uni. I got an overwhelming motivational boost from Jeremy C. Shipp, and some practically critical encouragement from Garrett Cook. If you’re an inspiring writer, or if you’re a bizarro (or both), these workshops are worth both your time and your money.