Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Restaurant Gar

09 October 2004

It’s tiring having to tell people all the time, “No, I can’t have that, it’s probably got wheat in it.” Bread they understand, pasta they sometimes do, but items such as Rice Dream (a rice milk), they’re less likely to. Nor do most people have any clue that soy sauce almost invariably contains wheat.

Friday night, I went to a restaurant and, after looking at the menu, asked if I could have lobster scampi served on potatoes. He said they only had french fries. I asked them if they cooked the fries separately from the fish and seafood they also served — they did. What else did they cook in that fryer? Only fries.

Fine, I said, I’ll take the scampi over fries.

“The chef said it wouldn’t be very good,” the waiter offered. “We could put it over pasta.”

“Look,” I said, “eating wheat causes internal bleeding and destroys my intestines. I’ll take it over fries.”

Waiter said OK, then went on to take the rest of the table’s order.

A few minutes later, he comes out, apologetic. Chef has refused to make said order because it “wouldn’t be any good.” Waiter says there’s a lot of other seafood they serve with fries, I could have some of that.

“It’s all battered in wheat. Eating wheat causes internal bleeding and destroys my intestines.” Repetition is sometimes necessary.

“Well, you could have steak tips.”

Right, at a seafood place. Not. (I’m glad I didn’t, it looked incredibly dull)

Instead, I had a shrimp appetizer after verifying that it wouldn’t contain any flour of any kind. I also ordered potato skins.

Despite the chef’s assertion about “it wouldn’t be any good,” the two of us who ordered potato skins found ours to be BLACK they were burned so badly.


But it took three go-arounds and about 5 minutes of interaction with the waitroid to even get that far. I’ve literally been brought to tears because I’ve been so frustrated about food (and so embarrassed by the problems food causes me).

If someone says they can’t have wheat: believe them. It doesn’t matter if they’re imagining it, chances are they’re not.

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VP: Wednesday

06 October 2004

Today’s group grope consisted of two shorts from Geoff. One of them I especially liked, despite the bobbles in the piece. It really had a mythic feel to it and I really liked the premise. Suffice to say it was a story that I read, thoroughly enjoyed, and only then my hindbrain went “wait a minute….”

Then the day’s lecture from Laura Mixon on The Care and Feeding of your Beast. After lunch, I had my one-on-one meeting with Laura, which was very productive. By the time I got there, I’d managed to come up with some ways to solve some of the problems I saw in the piece, so we discussed those, as well as some other issues no one had pointed out yet. Afterward, we discussed some elements of career strategy (based on a comment she’d made earlier and I wanted to follow up on).

Much of Wednesday was open for a mental break from the pressure, which was truly welcome at this point. I took a three-hour nap, then went to dinner at Lola’s, the southern seafood restaurant adjoining the Island Inn.

Afterward, I found the room too dingy (in lighting) and warm, so I went down to the class area, where I sat in front of a fan. Teresa Nielsen Hayden came in, wearing a bear mask, followed by a bunch of other people not wearing masks.

While they went on to play Thing and Mafia, I wanted to continue writing, so I didn’t join in.

I started working on a new story that Jim had encouraged me to write, as well as a different story I’d been intending to work on. When I say “started,” I mean the opening paragraph is written for each. Typically, I don’t change those much. I couldn’t find a place to be comfortable, so I moved around several times in the antechamber outside the main VP room.

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VP: Tuesday

06 October 2004

The morning started with a group grope: I was on the chopping block. My group consisted of Jim MacDonald, Valerie, and Anna Feruglio Dal Dan, who came all the way from Italy. She’d been out ever since Worldcon.

It was great having some people who weren’t familiar with my writing quirks read my work. One of the problems of having a writing group in Silicon Valley is the high average tech level of your typical crtique group member.

Then, the lecture on writing exposition by Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

A few choice quotes:

A book is balanced only when moving.

The audience made analogies to a bicycle, an airplane, and a shark.

The words that you write are not the book the reader experiences.

If readers are nitpicking your scenery, the story is moving too slowly.

She also described a manuscript with lots of odd names, many of which contained accents. “It looked like an explosion in a Selectric factory.”

And, finally, a quote from Ken MacLeod: “History is the trade secret of science fiction.”

After lunch, I was free until the Colloquium, which focused on writing scenes of sex and violence. The primary instructors were Teresa Nielsen Hayden and Jim MacDonald. Great fun and that’s my final answer. Why should I kiss and tell? 🙂

Later, the annual VP tradition of Beer with Billy, but I’m saving that for a separate entry.

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VP: First Official Day, Monday

05 October 2004

The first group of one-on-ones meets at 9:00 a.m., but fortunately someome had pity for this jet-lagged Californian. I got a reprieve until Jim’s lecture on plotting at 10 a.m. While it was substantively similar to the lecture I’d heard two years before, some of the bits I understood better with the different presentation.

The first time I heard the lecture, I realized some of the problems I’d seen in the vast quantity of unpublished stories I’d read over the years. Some of those stories happened to be mine.

I couldn’t possibly begin to replicate the lecture, but it’s one of the reasons to attend Viable Paradise, especially if you’re a plot-lover.

After lunch, I had my one-on-one with Steve Gould, who pointed out that I had a superfluous scene. I’ll have to look at how to accomplish the transformation, but I can definitely conflate information in that pair of scenes. At this early stage in the novel, though, I’m not sure that I’d like to eliminate the character viewpoint that was in one version of the duplicated information.

The final official class for the day was the Colloquium, where Laura Mixon discussed a lot of points about plot.

After that, we hung out. When I went upstairs for a bit, I discovered that a large group had gone off to see the moon jellyfish, even though Tuesday had been the appointed night for that. Darn.

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Mafia and Thing

05 October 2004

Sunday night, the night before the official start of Viable Paradise, there’s a large welcome dinner, a round of introductions, some idle time to chat, and then the ritual games of Mafia and/or Thing, designed to get people to remember each other.

During the idle chat phase of the evening, the knitters were discussing odd knitting.

“Have you seen the knitted uterus?” I asked.

At that very moment, an African-American couple approached the doorway. I looked over and the woman looked, well, surprised.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“Church of Christ?”


We then realized that there would be another group meeting in the same building all weekend. How fun for them. And what a great introduction to us!

After that, the Mafia games started. Alas, I needed to go to the grocery store for gluten-free food supplies, so I missed the two games, returning for the one Thing game. I prefer the Thing variant; it has significantly more interesting strategy.

During this game, Jim MacDonald was the most vocal accuser — until he turned into a Thing. Then it was Patrick Nielsen Hayden, then he got quiet when he became a Thing. Then I became the most vocal accuser and, naturally, I was turned into a Thing as well. By Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who immediately sacrificed me. Of course, I wanted to yell, “You set me up!”

In retrospect, I wish I had — the humans may have won had I done so. But TNH manipulated the voting masterfully, having been the one remaining Thing at one point, building the Things back up to the majority.

Second best quote of the evening: “You just want to see Steve suck on Laura’s neck again.”

After that, I was tired, but I dutifully went upstairs to read the work I’d need to critique the following day (Valerie’s) and get to sleep.

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Getting to Martha's Vineyard, part 2

04 October 2004

Fortunately, this trip was much less eventful than my previous escapade.

Having remembered the part about starving, I packed some gluten-free quiche (aka “Impossible Ham and Cheese Pie” from one of the Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour packages) inside a bag that contained some plastic ice cubes.

Naturally, when I went to the airport, they wanted to check everything, completely unpacking and repacking my carryon. I sure was glad I’d packed neatly.

The TSA lady said that most people were rude under the circumstance. I replied that I knew she was there for my safety and the safety of the plane, so I was completely OK with the search. She seemed to find that refreshing. She was almost apologetic.

She questioned me about my mirror, and it was noisy so I didn’t quite hear what she said.

“Pardon?” I replied, feeling like I’d missed something. Were small mirrors banned on flights these days?

“Walgreens?” she asked again.

I smiled. “Yeah, I think so.” I tried to remember where and when I’d bought it just in case this was a test. Oh, right, when I was having corneal scratches. “I can’t put in eye drops if I can’t see what I’m doing.” So I always keep the mirror with the drops.

She had a little mirror just like it, turns out, and she’d bought it at Walgreens.

I arrived to the gate for my flight early, sitting next to someone with a Louis Vuitton bag and some Gustav Klimt-patterned shoes. I complimented her on the shoes. LV bags, well, I’ve always thought they were overpriced and tacky. Given how old some of the ones I’ve seen must be, though, they must be well-made.

In a discussion, I realized these were the same brand of shoes that Leslie What favors, though I only saw Leslie’s Campbell Soup shoes.

The flight was uneventful and too long.

In the baggage claim area, I saw the lady with her husband. He had plain black luggage. All of hers was Louis Vuitton. I chuckled.

I waited for the bus, in part because the last Cape Air flight for the day departed ten minutes before I reached the counter. Well, I couldn’t have afforded it anyway.

When I got off the taxi, I saw a grizzled New Englander who looked like a poster child for the state of Maine. Two Irish guys were already in the cab, so I hopped in. We all talked about Ireland and Martha’s Vineyard. It turns out the cabbie had rented a room at the Island Inn years back, one in the same building I’d rented in before.

So I arrived at the Island Inn at about 11 p.m., happy to have finally arrived. I schlepped the luggage into the room and unpacked a la Val Kilmer in Real Genius.

I discovered that I could indeed connect via bluetooth through T-Mobile’s GPRS service, but the connectivity was poor in part because the signal strength wasn’t high. Despite that, I managed to get a bit done before going to bed.

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Getting to Martha's Vineyard

02 October 2004

When you attend Viable Paradise, the first trial may be the most difficult: getting there.

From California, I took a non-stop flight to Boston, which only left the issue of how to arrive on Martha’s Vineyard, an island. There’s three choices: flight on Cape Air (more about that later); Private Sedan to Woods Hole (or another ferry stop), then a ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard, followed by a cab ride to your destination — this option winds up costing about the same as the flight.

Then there’s the Bonanza Bus ride from Logan airport, which drops you off at the Woods Hole ferry stop, where you take the ferry, then a cab. Cabs in Martha’s Vineyard are the so-called “gypsy” style — they’re always shared (a la Super Shuttle). Like SS, they’re typically minivans rather than cars.

Last time I went to Viable Paradise (VP6), I took Cape Air round-trip from Providence, Rhode Island. In part, this was due to the fact that I was in a “state bagging” mood, where I wanted to fill in as many gaps as I could in the states I’d visited. While I’d been to all the surrounding states, I’d never been to Rhode Island.

When I asked at airport security where the Cape Air gate was, the guy said, “Never heard of it.” Nevertheless, I discovered it 2 or 3 gates down on the right, strictly by chance. The nice gate attendants took our luggage and gave us a number. Just after it was time to board, they called numbers 1-9 — but I wasn’t in that group.

Which, I discovered later, was something of a problem. You see, Cape Air is small enough that it flies 10-seater Cessnas. If there are more than nine passengers, they fly two flights. Furthermore, the planes are small enough that there is no carryon luggage space onboard. None. All your carryon items go into the wing. I think I had enough room for a paperback, but I didn’t get much reading done for reasons that shall soon become clear.

After I reluctantly shoved my laptop bag into the wing and boarded the aircraft, I realized how much I loved the tall clouds I was seeing.

Until the pilot turned around and said, “They’ve just closed the Martha’s Vineyard airport. Where would you like me to take you instead?”

Fortunately, one of the passengers was a local. “Trust me, you want to go to New Bedford. We can get a bus or a cab ride to the ferry — it’s the closest airport.” Several people whined about their ruined evening plans, but hey, it’s an island, live with the fact things don’t always go as planned. It’s just the way it is.

Within a few seconds, we all agreed that New Bedford sounded like a fine idea, so we landed there. When the plane was unloaded, it became clear that while we were on the later flight, for several of us, our luggage had gone on the earlier flight. Cape Air made some calls, but I still wasn’t sure how to get the rest of my luggage. While we waited, I raided the vending machines for pseudo-food that I could eat.

After not too long a wait, the airline then waved a magic wand and procured us a van to take us to the ferry terminal. We arrived about three hours later than we’d originally planned, but I was happy to arrive at the Island Inn (by the way, taxis were extremely easy to find at the ferry terminal, something I should have realized would be the case). Unfortunately, the Island Inn office had already closed, but they’d gotten word from the airline and left instructions for me at the office.

When I arrived in my room, I discovered that Cape Air had delivered my luggage and the Island Inn had put it in my room. I was ecstatic. I was so happy I just hugged that old L. L. Bean bag right then and there. The only place open within walking distance was Lola’s, the cajun restaurant at the entrance to the Island Inn. I was starving by that time and had a truly wonderful meal.

But that was then….

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Another day,

25 September 2004

…another rejection slip. Seriously, it was a piece I had great hopes for, because there was one logical market for that story. I’m hoping I’ll find another one soon.

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