Alpha, the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Workshop for Young Writers (alpha.spellcaster.org) is a summer workshop held every July-August. This genre residency young writers workshop is set in Western Pennsylvania, in the USA. Attendees are selected based on a written submission.
It is an amazing experience, and if you are fortunate to be selected twice as one young member of WhyToRead was, it will be an absolute highlight of your teen years.
Applications typically open around March/April. Dont wait till applications open to start writing. Get busy now.
Alpha is an absolute powerhouse of writing talent, from young teen students, author guests to talented staff members. (some who are ex-students).
Here’s a look at a few of the best of the best books to have been published by Alpha authors.
Who is Lara? Dressing the part in stylish suits and dapper fedoras. Living the part in the reaches of New York City where jazz was king. Researching back through time to an early 20th century that never was to make believers of us all. Lara is a former student and now a staff member at Alpha.
Amberlough is real. Reading about it is like coming home, if your idea of home includes absinthe, espionage, burlesque and live music round the clock in a city that is bustling night and day. Amberlough is a state of mind. When lovers who find they are on different sides in the upcoming coup secretly try to help each other, comedy and intrigue are king. Cyril DePaul is a government agent. Aristide Makricosta is a smuggler. Throw an outrageous burlesque queen from the seedy side of town between them and you have a stage set for cabaret and thrill. The writing is lush and will challenge you. The characters will defy expectation and make you fall in love with them, flawed as they are. And when the book cover closes, you will want more.
With his background in psychology, could we expect anything less from Seth than a thriller that explores the inner workings of the human mind? Seth started as an Alpha student, but now is on board as an instructor.
Follow the money. Who would think a book written about an accountant would be so engaging? Baru is a savant. She manipulates numbers and people, can scry evolving shapes in shipping and financial records of a country well enough to find traitors to her high, faceless masters at the Empire of Masks. Baru’s idyllic childhood powers her goal of protecting that way of life. What she does with the information she gathers through her spy network will cause you to never again doubt the power that comes from understanding the way wealth moves.
From a quiet, wooded retreat in Ontario Canada, Karina Sumner-Smith rebelliously ignores the trends in YA literature. She is as fierce as any of her powerful, determined protagonists when defending her right to publish without including the standard, tired tropes. It’s refreshing to get to the end of a novel and realize that the tale told was truly unique.
Upon finishing this book, readers will feel radiant. It is an uplifting tale of overcoming vast differences to find commonalities and friendship. It may be a debut novel, but the Nebula-nominated author was already many rungs up on the craft ladder and with each project reaches new heights. Xhea has no magic in a land and sky full of it. Floating cities harbor the gifted magic users and to the Lower City fall the dregs, its people living the best they can in a harsh environment. Completely non-magical people are unheard of, but Xhea has one gift that stands between her and starvation: she can see ghosts. The gritty, harsh reality of her young life would overcome most, but she’s developed a distinctive toughness to compensate and somehow survive. The breathe-of-spring, living ghost Shea enters her life with devastating consequences and the unfolding story of their friendship sings. Highly recommended. The only complaint? Their names seemed too closely related and could cause some confusion: Xhea and Shai.
Reading these books in order is recommended – the world is too complex, the situations too nuanced and the characters too jump-off-the-page real to start mid-story. Xhea and Shai, after being hunted by the Upper City’s assassins, are now dealing with the physical injuries Xhea sustained while escaping. Shai stays in the Lower City to help, only to see her shattered life through new eyes and gain a perspective that she can neither accept nor change. While Defiant is an immersive, well-built, unique, second-world fantasy, the human story is authentic and poignant.
A rousing conclusion to the trilogy – not to be missed. Rich. Inspiring. Exceptional. Xhea comes into her own and, after a long struggle to deal with her injury, learns a measure of control over the magical forces streaming into the Lower City. Will it be enough? Trust comes hard for her, but she must overcome her fears and open her heart or the war of the haves and have-nots will devastate her people. Xhea and Shai, pledged to fight together to the end, still have surprises in store. Trilogy endings that feel this good should be illegal.
Tammy has come to Alpha every single year, since the very first workshop in 2002.
She is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, heralded as a fantasy writer who empowers girls. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1954 to a poor, proud family of hillbillies (coal stove for heat, outhouse, a water from a well, regularly beat up and bullied at school for looking like a “refugee from a rag bag”). Tammy has published about thirty books and a dozen short stories. Her books are a departure from decades of male-dominated science fiction and fantasy. They explore the range of human diversity and show young girls of all types realistically growing into powerful women, leaders and fighters, with heart. Her female protagonists (frequently knights and warriors) wrestle with the pain of coming-of-age. Many thousands of dedicated fans adore Tammy for changing their lives.
In the magical medieval realm of Tortall, a tough young girl joins the Provost’s elite guard called the Dogs. Beka Cooper’s puppy status as the newest member of the team ruffles some fur, but she keeps at it, magically seeking out just the news needed to forestall an underlord power struggle. Told in journal style, the book allows readers to see Beka’s writing skills blossom in tandem with her maturity and sense of belonging. The page-turning action continues in the sequels, which pick up the story line almost immediately.
Beka has made the leap to first-year Provost’s Dog, replacing her novice puppy status in Terrier, and has a new partner and her very own four-legged dog companion. Together, they travel outside Totall’s capital city to Port Caynn to attempt to stop a counterfeit coin smuggling ring. It’s one hard choice after another for Beka, who struggles with differentiating between the letter and spirit of the law. She trusts her magical ability to hear voices of the dead more than she trusts her new-found friends. We read the coming-of-age action played out in the straightforward delivery written down in Beka’s diary. Kudos to Tamora, who has crafted this traditionally-difficult style with mastery, lending the story immediacy and high tension.
While each of these books (as well as the final one, Mastiff ) can be read as standalone novels, they are much richer if read in chronological order, especially with the help of the appendix of characters and a glossary.
That’s only a few of the novels coming out of Alpha students, staff and guests. Here’s hoping more Alpha novels will be forthcoming – WhyToRead.com will definitely be reviewing more in the upcoming years. Be on the lookout.