It’s been one week, and I’ve been working on an existing short. It’s been kinda sloggy writing-wise because I’m super-busy at work this time of year, and I have the death of a thousand paper cuts with errands and details before the trip begins.
Also, it’s been incredibly hot this weekend. Yesterday, it was 102 and today it was 96 — and we don’t have air conditioning. Right now, it’s 88 degrees inside and it’s 8 pm. Sigh.
But I have written, every day.
You can sponsor me here.
Every year, the Clarion workshop at UCSD has a fundraiser where they encourage alumni (and, well, anyone) to participate in the annual write-a-thon as a fundraiser. The dates of the write-a-thon overlap the workshop itself, reminding us how crazy we were to do nothing but write, edit, and critique for six weeks.
I’ll be participating, thought it’s going to be interesting to see how much writing I’ll actually get done given that I’ll have an epic case of jetlag most of the time the workshop is running. In other words, it’ll be just like 2002 all over again!
Because the write-a-thon formally ends before my return, it won’t literally be an around-the-world write-a-thon trip.
You can sponsor me here.
Keffy also has a great post and is totally worth sponsoring too.
Of this year’s faculty, I went to grad school with Nalo Hopkinson, and she taught a couple of workshops I was in. Karen Joy Fowler was one of my Clarion instructors.
Last night, I went to go see my Clarion classmate, Catherine Holm read from her collection, My Heart Is a Mountain and talk about yoga practices in writing. Karen Joy Fowler , one of our Clarion instructors, was also there, as well as Cat’s brother Paul Dybiec, who is a clothing designer for maternity clothing maker Japanese Weekend, so we all went out for coffee afterward.
I got to East West early , so I was noodling in a notebook about Disbelievers and got some good ideas. One of my standard noodling ideas is: Imagine what 100 cool things in this universe might be and write them down. You likely won’t use all 100, but the goal is to get a few new ideas that will help you. In this case, I realized what a big tentpole scene about 3/4 of the way through the book will be. It is something that’ll create an aftermath, and it’s the big scene that forces the climax.
Catherine’s stories are often about relationship with the land and environment, living as she does on a farm in northern Minnesota. They reminded me of the Vermont writers I’d heard speak on similar topics. She read a wonderful piece about a woman being taken away from her farm into community housing.
There’s something about these stories, though, that always make me feel like the weird child. Don’t get me wrong, I am the weird child, but most of the time my life feels normal to me.
Back when I was in college, we had a group writing session where we sat around a conference table and wrote on the topic of “my mother’s cooking.” We then read our entries out loud to each other. I came near the end, so I got to hear everyone’s tales of white galley kitchens and sizzling poultry, and canning.
My piece was titled “Pounding Abalone.” Here’s an excerpt.
The few times mom and I collaborated on a meal were usually on a boat working in cramped quarters. Mom and Bill [my stepfather] were avid scuba divers; I preferred to snorkel. I remember sitting up on deck while the others sought food, sitting under a light blanket (to reduce glare) while reading a book. Once, a shadow of a lobster caught my attention under the blanket, startling me. It turns out that the lobster had crawled up the blanket about four feet before I noticed it. I got my revenge though —- I boiled him.
Mom would make a great bouillabaisse, simmering the sauce all day while out catching the fish for the soup. We usually had mostly shellfish—lobster, abalone bits, tiny shrimp—rather than fish.
By far my favorite sea dish was the one I usually got to prepare -— abalone. Abalone clings very hard to rocks and has to be pried not only off the rock but out of its shell. Once out, it doesn’t have the decency to just sit there and behave. No, it has to crawl all over. Abalone is inherently tough, so I would pound it with a meat tenderizer as it crawled across the cutting board. I’d stop wailing on it with the metal tenderizer and watch it to see if it had stopped moving, but it would curl up its edges and slide away.
When we were getting ready to cook, I’d cut the abalone up, but even that didn’t prevent it crawling. It would move in my hands as I rolled it in the batter mom made. Then, when she put it on the sizzling pan, only then would it stop moving.
Since the last time mom and I went out boating together, I’ve never had abalone properly prepared. I’m not sure if it was my pounding or her cooking, but perhaps it was simply the magic of shared experience.
I think everyone was horrified, but then I never heard tales of plucking chickens….
One of the people at the reading was a licensed therapist who asked some interesting questions. She specifically asked about ego in writing. I can’t remember the exact question she asked because my mind was already racing with the question’s implications, but it made me realize what it was that bothered me about the “thou shalt outline” writers: they’re ego and super-ego writers. I’m an id writer. I describe my writing as backing into a story with blinders: I can only see where I’ve been — at least until the story catches, and at many points thereafter. That is, by definition, id writing. It’s also why my first drafts can be so craptastic.
This is, btw, one of two reasons I dropped out of James Gunn’s workshop: it simply wasn’t compatible with my process.
Also, one of the writers who’s been on an e-mail list of women writers said that, for years, people were discussing craft issues. About a year ago, this flipped, and now most of the discussions were about marketing. This has depressed me as well; I’ve been noticing it more and more.
 A big thank you to Shweta Narayan. When I was having a rough emotional time a couple of years ago, I asked her for recommendations for a light book to help me through, and she recommended Karen’s Wit’s End. It was perfect, just exactly what I needed, and it was really nice to be able to tell Karen that.
 Due to a short in a power strip that tripped the circuit breaker to my office. Great.
I noticed that Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop has announced its workshop leaders for 2005 and Cory Doctorow will be there. Not only that, so will Leslie What, who was a lot of fun at Clarion 2002.
Woke up early today. The beginning of Chapter 20 has some especially stupid dialogue, but I’m leaving it for now.
I’m really making some great novel progress and some headway into post-Clarion life. Today is a “sort stuff out” day, to deal with all the little pieces of paper that need to be filed and stuff like that. Not my favorite activity, but something that needs doing.
Well, I’ve been chugging along and happy with my progress. My secondary character has taken to complicating the plot unduly, which is always wonderful (tends to happen in my work about 2/3 of the way through, so he’s right on schedule). In my case, I learn about my characters by writing about them — eventually they come around and talk on their own accord. I think it’s a bit like people being camera-shy at first when they’re being filmed all the time. Eventually, they get over it.
Up to 31 pages on the novel. Am going out to breakfast in a few minutes as a reward for progress. Yay.
It’s not me struggling either — I have genuinely built up more steam and enthusiasm now that I’m 75k into the work.
I woke up this morning, believing I had jury duty, but I’d checked the information for the wrong courthouse. So I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go.