Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford, administrators of Writing the Other online classes, have announced that their scholarship program, initiated in 2016, is being retitled the Vonda N. McIntyre Sentient Squid Scholarship. The name change, in honor of the award-winning and beloved science fiction and fantasy novelist who passed away in April 2019, comes about not only because Vonda was a friend and mentor to both Shawl and Bradford, but also because without her there would be no scholarship fund.
In 2016 Vonda offered to pay for a registration in an upcoming Writing the Other class so writers who couldn’t afford to take it could benefit. When announced, her donation–which she insisted should be anonymous to the public–inspired others to donate as well, covering all or part of the enrollment fees for two additional students. Enough donations came in afterwards that Writing the Other was able to establish a small scholarship fund. Though Vonda didn’t want public credit, Nisi suggested naming the scholarship “Sentient Squid” in secret honor of a character in her Starfarer book series, the “squidmoth” Nemo.
“Donating anonymously was very Vonda-like,” Nisi Shawl said. “I’ve called her a ‘behind-the-scenes powerhouse’ because those who knew her mainly as the author of five Star Trek novels aren’t automatically aware that she founded the Clarion West Writers Workshop as well as Book View Café. She was generous with her funds and donated money in support of many feminist and other social-justice causes: the James Tiptree Jr. literary awards; the Octavia E. Butler Scholarship Fund; the ACLU; Planned Parenthood.”
“When she offered to pay for a registration in our classes, she did so unprompted,” K. Tempest Bradford said. “She was part of a conversation on Facebook where I talked about balancing the affordability of our classes with our need to make a living. I had never considered asking others to help out with this, and then Vonda just did it. In doing so she opened up the possibility to me that other people would be willing to contribute as well.”
Over the years Vonda gave to the scholarship fund on multiple occasions, always without wanting credit, and promoted the program whenever there was a fundraising drive. Because of her support and example, Writing the Other has been able to offer scholarship spots in every course and make classes more financially accessible. To date, the Sentient Squid Scholarship has provided over $15,000 in financial aid to a wide range of deserving applicants. Approximately 20% of alumni have benefited directly from scholarship funds. Because of how vital she was to making all this happen, Shawl and Bradford decided that renaming the scholarship was one of the best ways they could honor her memory.
Currently, the Vonda N. McIntyre Sentient Squid Scholarship provides both full and partial scholarships for students in all Writing the Other online courses, including Core Classes, Master Classes, and Workshops. For 2020 offerings, Shawl and Bradford hope to reach $10,000 in direct donations or $1,200 a month in support via Patreon so that they can set aside at least a quarter of spots in their classes for writers who need financial aid. Donors can visit http://writingtheother.com/donate-scholarship/ to contribute, learn more, or to contact Writing the Other for more information.
Receiving the Sentient Squid Scholarship both instilled further confidence in me as a writer and enabled me to grow in ways I wouldn’t have been able to without taking the Description Deep Dive class. Receiving the scholarship has had long-term effects on my writing that I wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise.
— James Henry Feeman
The Sentient Squid scholarship allowed me to take my first ever writing workshop. I’m an older working mom who’s managing various health challenges–both my own & my kids. Until I won this scholarship, I thought writing workshops were just a dream for me. A “one day” thing. Now I’m aware of accessible options available.
As a financially struggling trans man, I don’t have the means to attend classes for professional development, despite how much I want to and how much I know it would improve my work. I was lucky enough to receive a Sentient Squid Scholarship which removed that financial burden. The course changed the way I look at world building and the scholarship gave me the space I needed to expand my knowledge and grow as a writer.
— Luke Tolvaj
The Sentient Squid Scholarship was a unique opportunity for me, and I’m thankful for it. I’m from Brazil, and we don’t have many creative writing classes here and classes about “writing the other” are nonexistent. It gave me the chance to learn how to write better and to rethink the way I write, while it also taught me how to tell my own experience better.
About Writing the Other: Writing the Other offers online and in-person classes that draw on the work of Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, authors of the acclaimed reference Writing the Other: A Practical Approach. Through live courses and on-demand webinars, Shawl and co-administrator author K. Tempest Bradford, along with a deep bench of guest instructors, hope to help writers and creators from all backgrounds develop the skill and sensitivity to portray difference in fiction, games, and other media as well as allay anxieties about getting it wrong.
The impetus for the original book came during Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward’s attendance at the 1992 Clarion West writing workshop, when one of their classmates announced that it is a mistake to write about people of backgrounds different from your own because you might get it wrong, and so it is better to not even try. This opinion, commonplace among published as well as aspiring writers, struck Nisi as taking the easy way out and spurred her to write an essay addressing the problem of how to write about characters marked by racial and ethnic differences. She then collaborated with Ward to develop a workshop to address these problems, which became the basis for the book.
[Based on a press release.]