Clarion Journal, 2003

Sunday, June 15, 2003
Not quite a week one wrapup yet, but I am feeling much better - my tummy has almost stopped complaining when I try to give it food.

I did not get much done yesterday but resting and reading, not much for the past two days really. I have been letting a bunch of story ideas percolate and the one that jumped to the top of the heap was the mushroom story - I'm calling it "Hunting the Hare" and it's at about a 1000-word draft right now, complete, but in need of expanding and such. It was pretty liberally inspired by M. Rickert's "Leda" and "The Machine" (*hugs Mary*) It's a myhtology in a modern settingish type tale. Not sure how well it works.

I've also been fleshing out my idea that I want to submit to the Van Helsing anthology, and also a biotech story that I'm currently calling "Iceland Discovers the Finite Universe" (ok, i stole the title from a chapter title in Kurlansky's Cod, but whatever.)

I still need to read half the stories for tomorrow, and I'd like to get my draft done and submitted tomorrow, unless everyone and their brother subs stories tomorrow, then I might as well hold off until Tuesday and give the story another go round.

rewrites? what's that? you all are getting to read my first drafts, baby. mwahahaha!

posted by chance 1:14 PM
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Well, I finished a draft of "Hunting the Hare" (double triple points for anyone who knows where the title comes from) It's around 1500 words so far, and I kind of like it. There's sort of a subplotty thought that really doesn't need to be there, but I think I shall leave it in for now.

I haven't decided if I want to submit it tomorrrow or wait until Tuesday (probably Tuesday, since it sounds like there are a whole bunch of manuscripts going in for tomorrow anyway. I haven't quite finished my crits for two of the stories that are for tomorrow, though I've read them both.

We all ordered pizza for dinner - it was very bad pizza and there is plenty left over in the lounge if you'd like some. We were all jawing in the lounge when Nalo stopped by - she's great. Before she had shown up, Rob read the introduction to a story in Skin Folk where she explains the way she got over her Clarion writer's block (beer). She also told us about how her mom used to call her every week to tell her how much she liked all the stories - right until the week she hit the erotica story - then there was mysterious silence. *grins*

we also discussed the relative merits of wllaim shatner and leonard nemoy, their singing careers, I mean. (note for future blackmail - Nalo owns the Nemoy album)

OK - time to finish up those last two crits and then maybe a bit more work on Hunting.

posted by chance 9:54 PM
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crap. I forgot to mention about when Nalo told the snail sex story.

awww you guys don't want to hear about that, anyway. you're way above that ...

posted by chance 10:24 PM
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It's the Week One Wrapup! eee!

Because it's all about the numbers -

Stories written - 2 (in draft form, anyway)
Stories abandoned -1 - poor selkie story didn't have the gumption to go all the way
Words written - around 4500
Stories ideas in the queue - 3 (these are new I mean since I got here, thought two may fold into one, not sure yet)
stories critiqued - 13 (15 total, but two were mine), 4 more are in the hopper for tomorrow and better be done before bed.

I think Howard makes a really great first week teacher - he sure can make you feel like you were secretly being clever, even though you have no idea what your story was really about.

so things we have learned (other than when Howard says "you know what I mean?" chances are you don't)

1. Writing is hard (though apparently Nalo has a corralary where writing is beer, which is much more to my tastes. And perhaps it isn't that the writing is hard so much as understanding what you really are writing about, what the story should be.

2. The deer better be dead before the story begins, and not dead at the end. Which is just Howard saying that if a character sets off to do something, and then doesn't he damn well better have gone through something that changed his character between those points in the story.

3. You can't tell as story in less than 3000 words. ok i confess that every time he mentioned this, I never understood it, and then when he did his reading he told a story in less than 3000 words,, so my basic understanding is that it is really difficult to tell a complete story with a full arc in less than 3k. (on the first day, he told me that I almost told one, and that he admired my ambition for trying) Of course, Nalo promptly disagreed with him this evening sooooo....

Howard was a great teacher, and had some amazing insights into our stories, especially points that bothered people and we had no idea why.

He talked about the concept of resonance a bit, and that definitely has me thinking of ways I want to incorporate it into my stories.

And yes, I'm sure there was a lot more, but those were the points that stuck out. (plus I am too lazy/tired to go walk the five feet to dig out my notes)

Oh, except that the world of the tabloid weird is where the SF and fantasy worlds intersect

So, revolutionary changes in the way I look at writing and reading, etc? well, the truth is, not yet. some good learning experiences, and it sure is plenty of work, but that's all I am going to commit to so far ...

posted by chance 11:02 PM
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Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Today was our first day with Nalo, and it was really fun. She had a much less professorial teaching style that Howard - not that I felt like I learned any less, but Howard just felt more teacher like (probably in part because Nalo is much closer to my age than Howard is) She put a couple of quotes by Samuel Delany on the chalkboard. I loved the one which basically said if your sotry starts with an ordinary person doing something unremarkable, then I'm not going to read any further. Which is so very right.

After class they were taking pictures of the group, dramatic recreation of the actual workshop, but we were all starving starving and grumpy. so we were pretty happy when that was over. We had seven stories in the box this morning, which gives us lots to work with for the next couple of days - the four we had for tomorrow were pretty interesting.

I finished up my story to submit tomorrow. I've been told that it is pretty incomprehensible - readable, but the one person who's read it already didn't much get what was going on.

So I've got that going for me.

We'll see if I am destined to be the girl who writes incomprehensible stories at Clarion. Before I came, one of the best pieces of advice I got was not to worry about what kind of stories you produce, just assume that you will write six horribly flawed, unsalavageable stories, the thing is to stretch yourself and try something new, even if you fail miserably every single time.

And this was definitely a stretch for me. So, even if I get 16 or 17 people who end up hating it in a day or two, I still think it was a success. I'll post it to the workshop after it gets critiqued here (you lucky dogs - horribly flawed stories for your reading pleasure!)

Ok. yeah, a not so small part of me still wants everyone to like it. Or at the very least see something interesting in it. That's probably the hardest part about writing - shoving all those shiny and not so shiny bits of yourself out into the public and letting other folk - folk who don't know the least bit about you - judge them. And still not be afraid to fall flat on your ass. or face. or if you are afraid, you got to do it anyway. Because, in some ways it would be so easy to produce nice safe, bland fiction that is the milquetoast of the fiction world.

sigh. what did Howard say? writing is hard.

but he should add a corrallary - 'cause it sure beats a day job.

Oh yes, I read "The Specialist's Hat" right before bed last night, and really, that story should not be let out without a leash - woke up in the middle of the night scared half to death. Kelly Link owes me one good night's sleep. *add item to bill for submitting in two weeks*

posted by chance 12:07 AM
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I had an awful time sleeping last night. I'd have said I had the caffeine jitters, except I didn't have any caffeine after lunchtime yesterday. I didn't all asleep until 2 am, woke up at 6, woke up again at 7 and then finally crawled from bed at 7.30.

Bleh. I am tired.

I was thinking about some of the stories that were critiqued yesterday, and I have a couple more comments that I want to writeup and sub to the authors (that's rtight - you aren't safe even after your story has gone)

we played once upon a story ... last night. And for writers, we all suck. Of course we were all too obsessed with winning to even try to make a good story. (It's all about the interrupt cards, baby ...) Steph got that look Tammy gets sometimes when we're playing one of her games - the "It's not supposed to be this way ..." But we all had a great time, and that's what's important.

I'm turning in my story today, so this afternoon I am going to get cracking on research for either the Van Helsing story or the Iceland one, perhaps both. I seem to remember reading somewhere that everyone in Iceland has had their DNA tested as part of some genetic study - I wish I could recall where.

Doug floated the idea yesterday about trying a collaboration for the Van Helsing antho - but we are both admitted control freaks, so I'm not sure how that would work. Still, it would be interesting to try.

posted by chance 8:17 AM
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On one of the writing lists that I belong to there has been some discussion of Howard's rule that a complete story can't be told in under 3k, and I thought I'd post my response to the original question here, because it seems that every journal has been glossing over what I think he meant by this particular piece of advice. Anyway, here goes my thoughts on the topic:

Howard did in fact say this, he said Terry Bisson had done it once, Then on his reading night, he read us a 3k story that he said was a complete story. The original comment was made as part his critique of one of my submission stories, which he claimed was incomplete because the internal story did not properly resolve into the framing story. (a fair criticism) He said I came close, and that with some work he thought I'd be able to fix that.

One thing to note is the word complete - he readily acknowledged that there are lots of stories that should be less than 3000 words - frex in my conference we discussed a story I had written that is essentially a parable - 1000 words long and one of the things he told me was that he thought it was the proper length. During the week, (hell the story we critiqued right after mine was only 2000 words and he told the author it needs cutting) there were a number of under 3k stories that he thought needed cutting, but because they were never "complete" ideas to begin with. (generally they were of the humorous type where the idea won't really support that much in the way of character development, because they will get bogged down in the weight of it)

So what is a complete story? well, as near as I can explain, once with full character development, worldbuilding, a well developed plot arc that resolves into a satisfying ending. If you think about it, that really does take some doing and some really tight writing, and a satisfying story arc that isn't merely a vignette that resolves in under 3000 words is a pretty nice achievement.

*grins* of course, Nalo disagreed with him her first day here.

posted by chance 5:24 PM
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On the Clock

Well, we had been going without timing the critiques, and that was an utter failure - we were running so long we wouldn't start the fourth story before noon. Well, Tammy and Will staged a revolution and now Tammy is the evil time mistress. Of course that doesn't apply to me, because it's all about me, me, me!

What? ok, maybe I'm just one of the worst time offenders, and because I didn't know we were going to timing, I hadn't even tried to organize my notes in priority of points I wanted to make. I do plan to be be better tomorrow and not be a time hog. ok, not as much of a time hog.

Managed to confuse a whole bunch of people with "Hunting the Hare," so we shall see if it gets the nod as most confusing story ever tomorrow.

Kiel is my music twin, because he has a copy of Lucacentric too. He also shepherrd me over to the library today like a good egg, otherwise I'd still be wandering around campus. (Kiel, Jonathan and I went - didn't hit the special collection to see the old Clarion stories yet, but I will soon) Of course, he's not all good, he did tell me about this evil time sink site. Most likely part of his plan to keep us from getting any writing done.

Hugs and smoochies to Jaime - got her package today full of cool stuff. And much props to Jer for finding me the website about the genetic testing of Icelandirs.

Thanks to Jonathan for this link, because I am all about the glitter these days.

Went down to the cafeteria for dinner, because I figured it would take less time than going out for dinner, but then ended up yapping so much that I didn't even save any time - should have gone for the tastier food.

Played hearts with Jonathan, Jamie and Ryan - Jonathan won by less than 50 points, so really it's like he hardly even beat us. Really, I'm not sure he's even good enough to kick our ass any more.

I think we've been getting some really interesting stories in for critiques lately - I'm impressed at the way some folks are trying to stretch their writing abilities.

eee! two more crits to finish and it's already after ten - time to get cracking!

posted by chance 10:19 PM
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Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Computer Tragedies!!!

The display on my laptop almost completely crapped out today. It had done a little flickering in the past, but now it is just completely ugh ugh ugh. I can just barely make things out.

But Amelia is a goddess and hooked me up with a loaner computer, so I will be able to write and other good stuff while my computer is getting repaired or replaced or whatever. I called the insurance company frantic to get the claim forms and stuff sent to me. I'm going to run a backup and then drag my laptop over to the computer center tomorrow to get an estimate and all that stuff.

Today at lunch we were playing "find the Gladius" (our code for find the phallic symbol) in everyone's story with Nalo (we also talked about "I love my life moments" and how can that not be?) Though when Ben said "girth" five times in a row, well I'm not so sure. *grins*

"Hunting the Hare" got critiqued today - the general consensus was that it was confusing, but pretty. (I'll post it up on the workshop later, so if you don't belong, you are totally missing out)

I also had my conference with Nalo today and it totally rocked - she was so unbelievably helpful for helping me focus on what I was trying to say in the story, and where I wanted to go with it. I am really excited to rewrite this story now.

posted by chance 5:21 PM
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Thursday, June 19, 2003
quick entry today - dropped my computer off to get the estimate for repairs - I'm hoping it will be enough that they will make the replace decision rather than a repair decision - It's going to be monday probably before they take it apart and look at it anyway - to get it repaired will take probably another week.

Which also means I'm going to have to write on the loaner computer they gave me - much better than nothing, but I didn't bring the adapter for the keyboard I have, so I imagine it isn't going to work, so I will have to use the crappy regular one.

We were a little punchy during crits today - we did 5 stories and we started to lose a bit of focus at the end - I'm going to have to work pretty much all weekend on my story - so not even close to done with the Iceland research, although I am learning some interesting stuff.

Amelia got the ethernet stuff working on the loaner laptop, and of course, once I got it back to my room - nothing.

Oh, and I forgot to mention yesterday when we did the critique of my story, Nalo said it reminded her of "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose" by Kelly Link. EEEEEEE! I was so totally stoked.

OK, must run to do many crits before dinner and Nalo's reading tonight.

posted by chance 3:01 PM
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yay! got the ethernet connection working - i am fully interneticized again! (which is very very good since I have to wait until monday before i can even get the estimate for the laptop

posted by chance 3:34 PM
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Quick post reading update. (no, really, I so believe it ...)

Dinner was at Charlie Kang's and I think the way I'd describe the food is non-offensive. Not really good, but not bad either.

The reading, on the other hand, was, if it is at all possible, better than Howard's (ok, maybe it was a tie) But it was totally phenominal.

She read a story "Delicious Monster" which was about the god Vishnu and the Garudu, and in a weird coincidence (or perhaps not) we had read a story about them at the workshop this morning. The thing about this story that impressed me the most was the way she used details to indicate character and to really bring the story alive - wonderful stuff. (This story was published in Queer Fear 2, a Canadian Anthology).

She also read us a bit from her forthcoming book, which was really cruel (did you catch the part where the book was still forthcoming) Alas, I shall have to wait to see what happens.

I did pick up a copy of Skin Folk, her short story collection. I'm particularly interested in reading the story she wrote here at Clarion.

The only bad part about the readings on Thursday, is that it also seems to be the day when folks turn in the longest stories - I have two 10K stories to read, and two others that are both a good bit above 5k.

Oh, and did you ever get a picture in your head, and every time you looked at a person, or certain persons, it would flash back - well, Sean, Ryan, Matt - I'm still thinking about IT. bastards.

posted by chance 9:03 PM
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oh, I fixed Matt's name - it's FITZ, in case any of you all were planning on stalking Chris ....I mean Eric .... I mean Matt

posted by chance 9:16 PM
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I forgot to mention that in class the other day, Nalo handed us all out SF tropes to use as part of a writing exercise - basically to write the story beyond the cliche.

I got (cue the spooky music ....)

The Mechanical Man (bum bump bummm)

I was thinking I might try to work it into the Van Helsing story.

I also refuse to another Kelly Linkesque story for another teached (especially since it means I would turn in a SF story to her, most likely)

I can't hear you LALALALALA.

stupid yappy story ideas.

posted by chance 11:03 PM
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Friday, June 20, 2003
The Very Tired Day

So I did really well reading and critting the first couple of stories last night - I started with the long ones, but then around 11 ish, I got sucked by the sound of laughter into Steph's room and didn't leave until 3 am - oops!

We had lots of fun just laughing and dishing, but it is really clear that we are getting a bit overtired and punchy. We did have a bit of our first Clarion moment, where we were feeling a little complainy and cranky about some stuff.

Not too bad, and I think it was good that we let off a bit of steam. But still, I do think our class gets along really quite well, and I want that to continue, so I very much do not want there to be factions or anything like that.

So that's just about enough of that *cleansing breath*

Today was Nalo's last day, and she totally rocks. We're having a barbeque tomorrow where we are going to give her her presents and such. I think it's going to be really fun - and much kudos to Tammy for setting it up.

I think I said at the beginning of the week Howard felt more like a teacher than Nalo did, and I still definitely agree with that thought. But I also think Howard was a bit more of "here's how to make the story into what I think it should be" and Nalo was more of "here's how to make the story I think you were writing better", and that approach works much better for me.

(Not that I necessarily take that approach in my critiques - I'm a bit too opinionated like that, frex, I suggested that one guy should make his redemption story into an unreliable narrator story.) And not that she would pull punches, if she thought your story didn't work, she would tell you.

heh, and I actually used the phrase today "don't listen to everyone else, you should listen to me, me, me" *grins* of course they were telling him (different story from the one mentioned above) to cut out my favorite part of the story, and I so didn't want him to.

In Nalo's end of the week wrap up, she mentioned that she didn't think we were quite being brutal enough in our critiques. Not sure. I feel I'm always pretty honest, and I never say I like things when I don't - but like Steph, I think it is important not to forget about the positive, because flawed stories definitely get bought all the time, hell they win awards, too.

The point of a critique, to me is to help make a story as good as it can possibly be - maximize all the things it does right, so it is important to let people know what works for you, or else they might cut it out.

I crashed really hard after class today - grabbed lunch and then straight into bed for a good two hour nap. I had some really weird dreams - all the clarion folk were in it. One person died, and Kiel was the master of disguise. He was explaining how he had been hiding in everyone's rooms to figure out who the killer was, but I woke up before that was revealed. alas.

Matt and I did a solo dinner tonight - folks went for ethiopian and that is not really my favorite, so he and I went for some yummy Chinese food and dished a bit.

A bunch of people went off to go bowling, but I stayed home, ostentiably to get some work done, but then I spent the next hour in the hall chatting with Tammy and Matt and various other folk as they wandered through.

posted by chance 10:04 PM
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