Nicholas M. Stillman is a writer, teacher, and reluctant service worker living in the east bay in California. He received his MFA from Saint Mary’s College of California in 2018, where he currently teaches English. He desperately wants to live in the woods, raise crops, write eight hours a day, and play an unhealthy amount of PS4. He shares this impossible dream with his girlfriend, Sabrina, and their cats, Gnocchi and Fusilli, who all insisted on being part of this bio.
David Cleden is a British author. He hasn’t led a colourful life, doesn’t live in an exotic location and possesses little in the way of interesting hobbies, so he tries to make up for all this by writing speculative fiction.
Q: Do you use critique groups or other resources to polish your writing?
A: I’ve experienced a lot of different critique arrangements over time. When I was an undergrad, I started getting a group of people whose work I admired together outside of class to read, write and encourage each other with feedback for each others’ work. I have an MFA in Fiction from George Mason University, so I’ve also experienced a few dynamics when it comes to critiquing and being critiqued by mentors, professors, classmates and peers. I’m thankful for all of those experiences, because they really taught me how to take constructive criticism, disconnect the personal from the work, and offer clear, concise feedback in return. I’m not entirely comfortable with having twenty or thirty people involved in the early stages of a draft, though. It can be too much to synthesize when you have that many opinions to go through.
Now, I have a group of 3-4 people I tend to run work by for feedback once I get a first draft finished. These are people I’ve met at some point during my writing journey, either when I was getting my degree or from interactions in writing communities and retreats, and who write a diverse set of things. I’ve actually found it’s really helpful to have someone who doesn’t normally read or write speculative fiction take a look at a draft — they’ll see things that reviewers who are familiar with SF/F won’t, and often what they respond to is surprising. So I tend to send things to a few people I trust, and then see where the areas of overlap are when I move to editing.
I also love reading and responding to work, too. Reciprocating feedback is exciting. It helps me feel intimately connected to my personal writing community and recharges me on days when I’m having a hard time interacting with my own stories.
Phoenix Alexander is a queer, Greek-Cypriot scholar and writer of science fiction. Born in Cyprus, he was raised in England and has been moving steadily westward ever since. Initially training as fashion designer in London, he swiftly realized the error of his ways and has just completed a PhD in English and African American Studies at Yale University.
Q: Do you live near where you were born? Have you traveled much?
A: I was born in a city that no longer exists: West Berlin, during the Cold War. After the collapse of communist East Germany in 1989, Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall are just tourist attractions now. I like to revisit it as it once was by reading Len Deighton’s spy novels of the era. I grew up in the city of Kilkenny in Ireland, where I went to Jonathan Swift’s former school. Toronto’s my home now, but I still love to travel and have lots of places I want to go. And some special places I’d love to go back to, like Istanbul, the Indian city of Udaipur, and a tiny village in the foothills of the French Pyrénées.