The Raconteur's (Ad)ventures

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Alex Dawson is a dear friend of Solar Studios, and one of the best kept secrets of the writing world. He has some very special plans coming up, and now's the time to get involved. Read on for information about creating your own fantasy worlds in Norway with him and expert mentors, how to help Kickstart his "Mad Max" meets enchanted library bookmobile, and how you can talk to famous authors from the comfort of your house.


[October 2021 Update: Due to the Delta strain of Covid, plans for the trip to Norway were modified tentatively to a trip to Iceland. This is also in the works, due to the currently unpredictable nature of global travel. We still hope this article gives you insight into the kind of talent the team has learned from. Please feel free to inquire to Alex Dawson for the latest news, attend any of the Writer's House events, and look out for the now fully funded Rac-On-Tour!]


Winter Is Coming! Write Fantasy In Norway 2022


Are you an amateur or veteran fantasy writer? Have you ever wanted to travel to inspiring locales to collaborate in a tight-knit group with acclaimed authors? Alex Dawson’s winter creative writing retreats are one of the best-kept secrets of the genre, and the next winter is coming.

Castle on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.

Dawson is a full-time Creative Writing professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the alma mater of four members of the team. Dawson has independently organized several adventures abroad to far-flung corners of Europe.


Past years have brought participants to workshops in the Scottish Highlands and on the Giant’s Causeway of Northern Ireland. A small group of authors hold up in cottages for more than a week, workshop their material, and explore the local culture and scenic views with the instructors. Highlights include spending many late nights in British pubs, trekking across the Isle of Skye, sightseeing around Game of Thrones filming locations, and reading finished pieces to packed local audiences on the final evenings of the trips.


I refined some of the earliest, most essential lore of Redsky’s universe during two of these trips, as well as workshopped prose for the upcoming Redsky novel, available for free early-access to all backers of the Kickstarter, with fellow writers who are now dear friends. The universe, quite frankly, would not be the same without it. Dawson and the lecturers are wonderful mentors who can take a writer’s most tentative draft and help them work towards its full potential. I've talked about how anyone can help shape Redsky's future with their own creativity already. It's about time your own project got the same feedback as the prose writing in Redsky, too.


The first piece of creative fiction to depict an Archivist was written during Dawson's 2018 retreat.

The Next Stop Is Norway!


For January 2022, (Covid permitting, of course), the next stop is Lofoten, Norway!


Lofoten, Norway

Want to research your own fiction's potential Norse influences at the source? Can't stop bingeing Vikings, or playing Skyrim, Assassin's Creed Valhalla, or Valheim? Well, the last few slots are still open. Hole up in a traditional rorbu cabin on an archipelago inside the Arctic Circle, where you’ll drink mead and watch the Northern Lights after full days of atmospheric writing time. The theme will naturally skew to Norse mythology, but all fantasy projects are fair game for workshopping. Tolkien was huge into Norse myth: Ljósálfar, trolls, the gods above. Here is Dawson's recent video of more than a hundred students and authors reading passages of The Hobbit.


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Lecturers and Guests


Whether they are key parts of the program or guests stopping by for an evening, the perspectives Dawson brings are top-tier. Past one-off speakers, dinner guests, and lecturers for the trips have included:


Image Source: Goodreads

Dave Rudden -- Rudden is the acclaimed Irish author of the YA fantasy Knights of the Borrowed Dark series. Rudden has recently released multiple books set in the universe of the BBC’s Doctor Who. He co-led the program during the 2019 Scotland and 2020 Ireland Workshops, and is slated to co-lead 2022 Norway. (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch.)









Image Source: Sunday Morning Herald

Lev Grossman -- Grossman is the former book critic for Time Magazine and #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Magicians trilogy, which was adapted into a top SyFy and Netflix television series. A new movie based off his short story and screenplay, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, has just been released on Amazon Prime. Grossman co-led the program during the 2018 Scotland Workshop. (Facebook, Twitter.)





Image Source: Internet Speculative Fiction Database

Michael Swanwick -- A legend of speculative fiction, Swanwick has won Five Hugo awards over a decades long career. Recently, his short story “Ice Age” was adapted into an episode of Netflix’s Love + Death + Robots. His latest novel is City Under the Stars, with the late great Gardner Dozois. Swanwick co-led the program during the 2019 Scotland Workshop. (Twitter.)





Image Source: The Irish Times


Deirdre Sullivan -- One of the shining stars of Irish YA literature and poetry, Sullivan’s Tangleweed and Brine won the 28th CBI Book of the Year Awards. Her latest novel is Savage Her Reply. Sullivan was the featured guest reader at the final event in 2020’s Ireland Workshop. (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.)






Image Source: Goodreads

Darren Shan -- With his Cirque Du Freak series beloved by millions in dozens of countries, Darren O'Shaughnessy is the prolific Irish writer of over fifty novels and numerous short stories. He held an informal masterclass over dinner and pints during the 2020 Ireland Workshop. (Facebook, Twitter.)








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Who knows who else might stop by or Zoom in for a talk in Norway! All of the latest information will be updated at https://www.facebook.com/events/580764335837180.


All questions should be referred to Alex Dawson at raconteurbooks@gmail.com.


Kickstart The Rac-On-Tour!

There won't be anything like it on Earth, in outer space, or across alternate dimensions.

But wait, it gets better! Think of the raconteur it takes to organize that many resources for writers. Now imagine what Dawson's passion projects are like. Here's the most exciting one, happening on May 11th. In Dawson's words:

What do you get when you cross a creative writing professor (and former bookseller) with a rat rod mechanic and the man who built the battered Iron Man Helmet in "Endgame"? The Rac-on-Tour: book mobile, medicine show, wunderkammer.

"There’s three of us. One dude for each syllable. Rac-On-Tour. There’s Julian Lance. A nationally ranked archer, a surfer and skateboarder, a brilliant writer and, most importantly, a rat rod mechanic. He’s in charge of the nuts and bolts, everything under the carriage and under the hood. There’s Dan Diana. He was a Special FX Artist/Prop Fabricator in Hollywood for seven years, working on mostly Marvel movies, like "Guardians of the Galaxy" & "The Avengers." He actually built the battered Iron Man Helmet in "Endgame". He'll be modifying the truck's bonnet and fabricating the box of wonder on the back. And, of course, there's me. I’ll be designing/building the truck with Dan, plus curating the stock and hosting the weekly events."

"We're buying and restoring an old farm truck, a Stovebolt Chevy, and building the bookstore box from the bed up. Think Old World mysticism meets Mad Max muscle. Part fairground pantechnicon, part medieval siege tower. When I was a kid, I had a picture up in my bedroom. A painting of a boy reading. By Rockwell. Or maybe Wyeth. Rising from the open book were tentacles, a periscope, a hot air balloon, a rocket nose, a pirate ship. The truck will take visual cues from all these things. Sketches (and a miniature replica) will be posted in advance of the build. Progress pictures will be posted once the build is underway."

You could help bring a one-of-a-kind experience to life on Kickstarter now. It promotes literacy, it brings wonder to the world, and it could out-ride any war wagon on the Fury Road!





Curious About the Man Behind the Scenes? His Bio Reads:

Source: Alex Dawson

Alex Dawson is full time faculty at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he teaches creative writing courses that veer toward weird fiction and fantasy. Until 2012, Dawson was the owner of The Raconteur, a now-defunct bookshop and performance venue hailed by The New York Times, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and The Star Ledger. His sci-fi/horror live show/podcast, Parker Highland Always Wins!, has been described as "Buffy by way of Buckaroo Banzai." His forthcoming novel, Welcome to White Hart, has been described as "Charlotte's Web meets Winter's Bone" and is due out next year.


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Check Out Inside The Writers House Now!


Want to participate in the fun sooner? Dawson also hosts Rutgers University’s Inside the Writers House, which are weekly talks with rising stars and storied guests.


While creators in all genres of writing and multimedia have been featured, multiple writers listed on Time Magazine's "The 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time" have casually shown Writers House attendees their writing nooks, introduced their pets, read excerpts, and offered loads of writing advice.


All events are free and open to the public. If ever there was a more laid-back way to talk to bestsellers and up-and-comers alike, it's with Dawson as the host. The Zoom links for Spring 2021's roster can be found here.

Image Source: Rutgers University - New Brunswick

Just a few Literary Fiction/Nonfiction and Genre Fiction guests of Writers Houses in recent years include:


Joe Abercrombie

Darcie Little Badger

Ken Liu

Yewande Omotoso

Eoin Colfer

R. F. Kuang

Alaya Dawn Johnson

Mariana Enriquez

Clay Macleod Chapman

Victor LaValle

Daniel Jose Older


The full list of hundreds of past and upcoming guests can be found here.





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