Viable Paradise Writing Workshop With Absolute Write Bullies. What Could Be More Fun?

Big Ominous Minds Pondering The Use of  "Angrily"

As we have seen in posts below, Hapisofi ranks as one of the worst cyber bullies on Absolute Write, and as of today, Old Hack has been voted the absolute worst cyber bully on Absolute Write. But here, in this rare vintage photo taken at the Viable Paradise Writing Workshop, we have Old Hack (Debra Doyle) and Hapisofi (Teresa Nielsen-Hayden) holding sway over the assembled science fiction writers. This is the only photo of its kind that we know of and thought to share it so that you can begin to put a face on the people who spend the greater part of their lives unfairly exercising power over others using bullying tactics. It's a wonder for some that these women are adults, not vicious foolish teens on Twitter or Facebook, but for those of us who have been scarred by them, who have had to answer for their lies, who have been banned and humiliated for daring to disagree with anything they say, it's no wonder at all. And by the way, they actually believe they are entitled to do what they do. That makes them all the more, dare we say, evil? Perhaps that is too strong of word, for some.

Anyway, some time ago, a friend known to us posted a brave note about the bullies on Absolute Write, including one about Hapisofi on AgentQuery.Com and he wrote to tell us he heard the post was going to be taken down by an AQ mod who was friendly with Lisa Spangenberg (see our posts below) on Goodreads. He made a copy of the posts which began as a post by a writer confounded by the high cost of the Viable Paradise Writing Workshop. As it turns out, he was right. The entire thread was removed because it was critical of Absolute Write, the Viable Paradise workshop, and the Nielsen-Haydens, including Teresa's husband, Patrick, a managing editor at Tor. Here it is, the bully workshop for science fiction writers, as presented in this post that once existed on AQ:

Apples or Snakes? Leaders of Paradise
I am debating the huge cost and potential red flag issues associated with Viable Paradise Writing Workshops in science fiction. I am going to be in the Martha's Vineyard area in fall and was considering the Viable Paradise Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop, but given the enormous cost of $2000.00+ which does not include any transportation or incidentals or the separate application fee which I found a bit unusual, I put on the brakes and thought to ask around to make certain I wasn't tossing over two thousand to the winds. I am hoping someone here has had direct experience with the workshops. First, I followed their link to writers who have published since attending the Viable Paradise writer workshop. The clear marketing implication is that all of the writers on this list, and there are scores, would not have been published in these many online journals (many of which are ridiculous) if it had not been for the lessons learned at Viable Paradise. As someone who once dabbled in marketing departments, I found this to be transparently sleazy, and I was further put off when I read some of the work by these writers and found it to be amateurish, not at all the quality one should find in a national SF/F publication. I thought, if these are the cream of the crop from Viable Paradise, what kind of instructors did they have? OMG! Viable Paradise can't possibly be responsible for every bad story that gets published after someone attends their workshop, but best not to advertise it!

After I checked on the credentials of the instructors, I found these to be hit and miss also. I looked on Amazon.Com and found many reviews of the Viable Paradise faculty work, especially James D. Macdonald, to be negative. The reviewers were universal in their review of the senior SF faculty member's work,
James D. Macdonald as mediocre and unimaginative--and has a co-writer working with him. What is he writing then? The worst parts or the "best" parts of the work? And I've heard strange rumors re a female instructor, one Teresa Nielsen-Hayden (a link to her really bad writing), who was formerly a Tor editor who I understand was let go for reasons of health, and who now works in a book/convenience store in Brooklyn, but I am not going to repeat the details because it is hearsay and could be sour grapes of some kind. I was not there, but it is true I found that many of the faculty live on an Internet chat board called Absolute Write--famous for biting off heads on a daily basis. Everyone is so afraid of them. I've been told the Viable Paradise faculty have several pseudos each on Absolute Write? Could it be true? It all sounds crazy, but I am sure though that some of the instructors at these workshops are not bad people or involved in malicious flame wars against others. It doesn't make sense that all of the faculty would be involved. Who has the time anyway?

I am generally leaning against not attending; perhaps too many red flags for this
Viable Paradise Writer's Workshop, but I am waiting here for someone to tell me differently. If anyone has been there and learned how to write fantasy or science fiction and can demonstrate it helped them, I am willing to listen. I really do want help and it would be convenient to attend the workshops in the fall. If I could focus on those members of the faculty who are useful and avoid the crazies, it might be fun and productive. I just don't want my head bitten off by former Tor editors because I questioned their opinion on something. And it anyone there really a decent writer? If so, who? Is there any proof?

Btw, did anyone ever have their book published by Tor or any other major SF publisher as a result of networking and studying at Viable Paradise? I can't find any evidence.


Margaret Spengler


  1. They skim a few writers from the applications and for all that money provide them with a Writer 101 class. Together with the hooplah and the gross exaggeration of several of the faculty's credentials, the ripped off writers arrive in a state of wonder and bliss. The biggest scam is their alumni page where they keep track of ex-attendees who have gone on to publish in various places. Many of the publications are awful and amateurish, and no where can you find a direct link between Viable Paradise and their publications. Where are the quotes from authors who have books with major publishers? I don't see any.

    All in all, for that huge amount of money, it's a scam in my book.

  2. Viable Paradise was one of the best experiences of my life, well worth the $1100 ($1075+$25 application fee) I paid for it. The faculty were all supportive, the staff a pleasure, and in my fellow students I met people who became fast friends. If you're thinking of attending VP, ask people who've been there-not the lying little cowards who operate this blog and others.

  3. One could almost believe you except for the final invective that no average alumnus of the workshop would have added. You need a full gallon of hate gasoline for "lying little cowards." This marks you as one of the organizers, or at least a member of the Absolute Write inner circle, or perhaps just one of the minions out to earn his or her stripes.

    Also, you wisely neglected to mention that lodging is not included in the above cost, and that runs $155 to $178 per for six nights, thus substantially raising the cost of Viable Paradise Writing Workshop to an amount that is difficult to digest considering the poor quality of a faculty headed up by the likes of Old Hack Doyle, James. D. Macdonald, and Teresa Nielsen-Hayden of Hapisofi infamy.

    I concur that only naive new writers could fall for this as a worthwhile learning experience. However, if you go from nothing to something, perhaps it is worthwhile after all. Teresa's husband Patrick is a genuine article and an influential editor, unlike his overbearing wife. If he were to lead the workshop with a few of the better authors at Tor, and minus the baggage above, I would reconsider my opinion.

  4. "the enormous cost of $2000.00+ which does not include any transportation or incidentals or the separate application fee which I found a bit unusual"

    This is what is colloquially known as a “lie.” Phrasing it this way makes it sound like the tuition fee is two thousand, outside of room & board. Application fees are standard for writing workshops. VP's costs are in line with its peers, such as Taos Toolbox ($3100-$3500 for two weeks, room & board not included) and Clarion ($4957 for six weeks, room & board included).

    “If he were to lead the workshop with a few of the better authors at Tor, and minus the baggage above, I would reconsider my opinion.”

    The VP faculty includes Patrick, NYT-bestselling authors Scott Lynch and Steven Brust, and multiple-Hugo-winner Elizabeth Bear, the latter two Tor authors. I would think that fulfills your condition.

    If I resort to blunt language like “lying little coward,” it is because Mac and Teresa have been very kind to me and to many, and I resent seeing them abused by people not worthy to lick their shoes.

    Dozens of VP alumni have blogged glowing testimonials to the power of the VP experience. Can you find one-one solitary example-of somebody who felt ripped off? PROSPECTIVE VP APPLICANTS: Google “viable paradise experience.” Study the links. Look for the independent blog posts, the ones that my fellow alums wrote purely out of enthusiasm and love. Listen to people who were actually there, not the nattering of those who have demonstrated they have no idea what they're talking about.

  5. I presume you are including me in the honored company of those accused of being "lying little cowards" not fit to "lick the shoes" of Mac or Teresa. For that, I thank you. I believe there are several hundred of us on record and ten times that number too fearful to speak up for the simple reason they do not wish their careers, jobs, and lives to be threatened by Absolute Write's uncanny ability to eviscerate while rating high in google searches.

    Now, back to the Viable Paradise Writing Workshop. Lodging is part of "the cost" of the workshop and there is no lie here, only your attempt to mislead. Now for your part in potential lying, here is the link to the Taos Toolbox. It clearly states that lodging and most meals are included in the total cost. Also, the Toolbox is two weeks long. At an early bird cost of $3100, that is $1550 in cost for one week. Viable Paradise Writing Workshop cost, naturally including lodging, is $2000.00 and up for six days, and no meals are included. Perhaps you failed to read the website properly?

    The VP faculty includes these authors you note, but not all the time or all at once. This is misleading. An excursion to the Viable Paradise website will clearly show James D. Macdonald, Terersa Nielsen-Hayden, and the Deborah Doyle leading most of the workshop. This is Macdonald's workshop, his baby so to speak, so it is only natural that he and his partner, Deborah Doyle take leading roles.

    As for Mac and Teresa, Mac does not exist. There is no person named Macallister Stone, and you know that. Macallister Stone is a sockpuppet name for Melodi Sherman, the real owner at Absolute Write. The evidence for that is incontrovertible. Her cyberbullying is a matter of public record and easily verified. Teresa is also an infamous cyberbully known througout the Internet from Boing Boing to Absolute Write and beyond. On Absolute Write she operates under the pseudonym, Hapisofi, among others. Her record is also there for verfication. In addition, she pretends to be an acquisition editor at a major publishing house. She is nothing of the kind. This has also been proved.

    In summary, I would advise potential applicants to take the Taos Toolbox, Clarion, or something else, especially after the very insulting defense presented here. This variety of misleading speech coupled with falsehoods and insulting invective is typical of Absolute Write tactics. If I didn't know better, I would think you are Melodi Sherman, or Lisa Spangenberg. They utter things like this all the time.

  6. “Perhaps you failed to read the website properly?

    I did misremember the Taos fees. So go to Taos! Taos is awesome. Many Taos people go to VP, and vice versa. I first learned of VP from a dear friend who went to Taos. I had intended to go the following year, but he told me about this VP workshop that several people in his class had been talking about, and when I looked into, I decided it was a better fit.

    Just for the record: officially, VP students get dinner included in the basic fee. Unofficially, you could go to the staff room any time of the day and get fed, which most of us did.

    “This is Macdonald's workshop, his baby so to speak, so it is only natural that he and his partner, Deborah Doyle take leading roles. “

    Jim and Dr Doyle did found VP. That's why we call him Uncle Jim. But that was 17 years ago, and the workshop is much bigger now. My personal, non-lecture study occasions with VP faculty were: Elizabeth Bear and Teresa Nielsen Hayden critted my submission piece, and I had one-on-one meetings with Steven Brust and Patrick Nielsen Hayden. This was a typical experience of VP. Let the objective reader judge.

    “Macallister Stone is a sockpuppet name for Melodi Sherman, the real owner at Absolute Write. “

    No, Mac Stone is a pseudonym. To save you a trip to the dictionary, a pseudonym is a name a person adopts for public work. You might take a pseudonym because it's more marketable, because it's more unique, or because there are deranged people out to get you on the Internet. “Sock puppeting” is when one creates more than one online persona in order to give the illusion of more broad-based support. Let me throw out a purely hypothetical example: let's say there was a website titled “The Write Agenda,” dedicated to getting revenge for lunatic con artists against the honest people who exposed them. Said lunatics might create other blogs, maybe one titled “Write Absolute Review of Bully Boards,” in order to make it look like they were a movement, and not just grubs squirming because the late A. C. Crispin & others moved the rock. It sounds outlandish, I know, but these things actually happen.

    This my last post here. I've spoke my peace.

    1. Bullshit. PW is right. You're just a flying monkey for Mac, else you wouldn't have gone right to the insults and the phony Write Agenda insinuation in the last paragraph. This is classic Mac and Spangenberg, classic Absolute Write!

      How many insults have you leveled just in the space of a few posts. If you were not giving in to your Mac Spangenberg nature, you might have posed as genuine and concerned former student of Viable Paradise, and all the negativity would never have happened.

      It's funny and childish. Hundreds of posters and a score of websites are all simply one or two people who run The Write Agenda. What rational person would actually fall for this?

      Bullshit dodge!

  7. Everyone knows the Uncle Jim character runs the workshop, along with Doyle. After reading his bio on this website and his puerile 25 steps to writing a novel, you have to wonder at the professionalism of the entire Viable Paradise Writing Workshop.

    I was at Boing Boing when Teresa Nielsen-Hayden ruled, and let me tell you, it started out okay, but then she devolved into some monstrous form of entity who deleted, banned, and disemvoweled everyone who appeared to share an opinion on anything that differed from her opinion, and she would insult them. She literally became a fascist. You can get a sense of that in this post regarding her actions.

    I would be terrified to take a workshop with her. I wouldn't be able to stop trembling and would have to head nod at everything she said no matter how stupid or mean it was.

  8. Amen! She would turn me into a squirming grub and then, like lunatic con man, I would have to lie about it.

  9. I would rather choke on my own vomit than pay for a workshop with Hack and Beast Hayden.

  10. "Just for the record: officially, VP students get dinner included in the basic fee. Unofficially, you could go to the staff room any time of the day and get fed, which most of us did."

    This is another lie by this person. Also, Doyle and Macdonald run the workshop while the Haydens lord it over everyone. A couple of guest appearances by one or two other writers who do their thing then leave. As PublisherW said above, just look at the schedule!

    Only a couple hours for two guest writers and 90% left is the shit wind crew of bullies from AW. It was only two years after this workshop that I learned the truth about these people and their ongoing racket of luring people into AW with nastiness and conflict.

    I was a naive kid in the Viable Paradise workshop. That's my excuse. And btw, not a single person from our workshop has ever received a novel contract. Those people praising them on the blogs are their cronies from AW all trying to earn their supper.

    1. Here you go: Whose names are at the top or first on all pages? The Absolute Write Bully Brigade, of course.

      Case rested.

    2. Note to everyone. We have not been able to confirm if the former student of Viable Paradise Writing Workshop is who he says he is. It is possible that people got fed in the manner described in this thread.

  11. This interview with good old Uncle Jim confirms the obvious for us regarding who leads the workshop at Viable Paradise despite the efforts of cronies to cloud the issue:

    - In 1997, you and Debra Doyle were two of Viable Paradise I’s three instructors. And you’ve been teaching at Viable Paradise ever since.

    UNCLE JIM: Yes. Many years ago, there was a woman named Rae Montor who lived on Martha’s Vineyard who wanted to put on a convention. She thought it would be cool to attach a workshop to a convention and invited Elizabeth Moon, Doyle, and me. That year, there was a 1:1 student teacher ratio – three students, three instructors. Ms. Moon did the first half of week. Doyle and I did Wednesday through Friday. We weren’t there for the entire thing, but we were there.

    This workshop was such a success that Rae decided to do it the next year, adding Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden and Lawrence Watt-Evans to the mix. That made four instructors (Elizabeth Moon didn’t return, and Patrick and Teresa teamed up as one teacher), and six students. It worked well.

  12. I attended the Viable Paradise workshop in 2009. The instructors were nice enough. Teresa slept now and then, and we were warned she would due to her narcolepsy, but when she was awake she talked to us about editing and writing fiction. I learned a lot. Debra Doyle was sharp with me but I deserved it for not listening. Uncle Jim was like a big teddy bear man. I didn't care how qualified he was. I tried to read his book, The Price of Stars.

  13. Amazing, since Teresa Nielsen Hayden isn't a fiction author, writer, or a developmental editor or acquiring editor for a major publisher. Best to triple check whatever you "learned" from this person. Talk to someone who has actually acquired and developed SF/F books, or an agent who acquires and develops novel manuscripts. And try to read much better SF than books written by Sage and Hack.

  14. Old Hack is not Debra Doyle. Hack lives in England, Doyle in America. Check your facts.

  15. Does anyone else find it weird that they recently got rid of the classes? I was reading STGRB, and turns out the reason there are no classes now is because they had gotten rid of them. Why is that I wonder?

  16. Better check this out before signing up.

    Teresa Nielsen Hayden Fired From Tor Books

  17. It just kills me with laughter to see that Macalister Stone, one of the most infamous leaders of arguably one of THE worst cyberbully mobs on Internet, is none other than the enforcer of verbal harassment rules at Viable Paradise:

    This is what the Mac'ster will be on the prowl for:

    "Harassment can take many forms. It may be, but is not limited to, the following: words, signs, jokes, pranks, intimidation, physical contact, or violence. Harassment does not have to be sexual in nature. Sexual harassment may include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature when such contact creates an intimidating environment or prevents an individual from effectively performing the duties of his or her position, or when such conduct is made a condition of employment or compensation either implicitly or explicitly. It is not the intent of the behavior by the offender that determines if harassment has occurred but whether the behavior is welcome by the receiver."

    Can't you just see her, walking quietly around the room day after day, her ears pricking for possible words or jokes or signs or pranks she might disapprove of?