Les Semaines


what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout


Third Week of Clarion

I spent much of Sunday sleeping and then also playing catch up, and trying to get my second laptop computer working enough to loan to Nalo Hopkinson, who is teaching Clarion this week. And so I missed Dixielynn's birthday. Darn. At least I did get the computer to pretend to be functional. Then went to the regular Sunday meeting where the students introduced themselves, saying a bit this time about what they were working on in terms of improving their writing. Nalo suggested to them that they think about the second subplot strand of their stories, as a way of helping their stories rise above vignettes.

Then the students had a group dinner, cooked mostly by one of the students originally from Haiti and it was a range of wonderful Caribbean foods. Then Leslie and I talked and I headed home.

Monday was my first real day without work. Hooray! Having that extra bit less of responsibility made me feel so much freer, which was good as it was quite an intense week with the workshop. Monday itself disappeared--I'm not even sure where it went though I do know I worked in my study to tidy it (it looked as though several hurricanes had passed through). Oh, yes, and I got my hair trimmed--nearly four inches taken off, though at the length my hair is right now it's barely noticeable. From there I went and got new tires for Suki, as when I'd had the hole plugged a few weeks back the people who did the work commented on how while the tires didn't have all that much tread wear they did have dry rot. I looked in my records, and these were the original, now 13-year-old, tires so it was about time. Though it's hard to find places that carry that small a size of tires these days. And they broke off a lug and had to replace it so overall it took several hours. I wandered through a place where they collect bits and pieces from old houses for resale. And liked a couple of too-expensive lampshades. Sigh. And looked at vent covers just in case I could find one that would fit the missing one in the living room.

Tuesday I was in class with Leslie, and Nalo gave her Elliott Bay reading that night. She read a section of her as-yet-unfinished novel, and it was a beautifully dramatic presentation full of lovely dialect and made me wish the novel were available. I've liked both of her previous novels quite a lot (my comments about her Robber Queen appear in my April 30, 2000 entry) and think this one will be even better.

On Wednesday we held class despite the Fourth of July U.S. holiday, but because the building we regularly hold class it was closed we moved to a classroom on the same floor of the dorm that the students live in. The room was small, but had a wonderful view of downtown and I got to watch a bank of fog thicken up on the Sound then get burned off all the space of a half hour. And to start the class off Nalo gave a brief but good lecture on including sex scenes in writing--their functions and things to think about when writing them. Kindly, one of the workshop volunteers came in and helped by taking the photocopying to be done as our local place was closed for the day and the closest open branch was quite far, and our other volunteer for the day doesn't drive. (Yay, Paulette!)

Our friend Art (an American living in Vancouver) came down to spend the night with us before an early flight out of SeaTac, and so we gave him a very American Fourth of July, grilling burgers on the barbecue and store-bought potato salad and a huge lettuce salad (of iceberg lettuce but that his stepsons call "The GOOD lettuce" that we ended up not eating at all, though Jim and I polished it off in the next couple of days) and corn-on-the-cob that Art made a lovely simple marinade for. We talked music and he showed us some of his gorgeous recent wood-turning projects (he was on his way to a convention for wood artists) and we watched fireworks on TV and fell asleep to the sound of the neighbourhood ones.

Thursday was rather a tense day as the sleep deprivation is starting to take its emotional toll on the class and the critiques are getting sharper and some situations are starting to get felt more keenly as relationships get more complex over time. It reminds me very strongly of what I and my classmates went through, but perhaps not so early in the game.

Because of that, and because Nalo was going to be opening the class with a talk about including multiple races and cultures in stories, I decided to go to the beginning of Friday's class, a day I'm usually not in the classroom. I'm glad I did, as the regular classroom volunteer had transportation problems and I was able to get the stories in to be copied early and got to hear as Nalo made some cogent points about the unreality of monocultural imagined worlds and about how reversing the role of oppressors and oppressed really doesn't teach us very much, as it demonizes the oppressed rather than helping us learn more about them or revealing anything about them. There was more to it than that of course, but those are the two ideas that impressed themselves on me the most.

I'm jumping ahead, because Thursday was also errand day, and I had to stay after class to talk to students, do some extra photocopying, arrange for a TV and VCR for Tuesday's class, go to the Clarion office, the grocery store, the bank, and go home exhausted enough that Jim kindly did my last errand and took the box of manuscripts to mail to Ellen Datlow to the post office for me. After a slow evening, Jim and I went out to Northgate Mall, feeling very out of our element, to look at leather jackets for him as I'd promised him one as a birthday present as his old one (second-hand in the first place) had just gone through at the elbows. Not exactly the season for looking at leather jackets but we found a couple to keep in mind.

Friday was Jim's birthday, and so (though I went to the classroom as I mentioned and then later made a brief appearance at the party for Nalo) I devoted that day to him, which was quite lovely as he'd taken both Thursday and Friday off work. We meandered through the day, picking raspberries in our yard, napping, taking a lovely long walk along the stream through Carkeek Park (though we didn't go as far as the beach since I had a blister), having a take out Thai dinner and getting a not-so-terrific cake from a grocery store bakery (you would think I'd know better than that). Still, was a sweet day.

Saturday we reluctantly admitted we needed to go and look at more leather jackets, and so we piled off in the car and headed over to Hellevue (Bellevue) where we went mall hopping. First to a clothing store that actually had very little menswear and no jackets at all, but next door there was a discount shoe place where Jim got new runners, then another mall where we found little of interest but I got some bath stuff, then to Hellevue Mall where we found several expensive (one reduced to $750 from $1250) but not-right ones, and then back to Northgate, where we'd started on Thursday, and we bought one at the first store we'd gone to originally. Of course. But the journey made us certain (well, me at least) that it was the right one. It just looks right, even though it's a heavy monster.

We had time for a bit of a rest before going to Red Mill to pick up burgers and take them to Tamar's for dinner where we talked and listened to music (great to hear old favourites like Led Zepplin's second album and Kate Bush's Never Forever) and the miscellaneous songs as Jim played disc jockey for a while. And Tamar had made him a yummy strawberry and caramel ice cream cake (which made up some for the lame cake I'd bought him on his birthday).

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Just that little bit mentioned above while visiting with friends.

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Marion Zimmer Bradley and Diana L. Paxson's The Priestess of Avalon is a retelling of the story of Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, retold imagining her as Elian,coming from the tradition of the women of Avalon, as told in The Mists of Avalon. Elian/Helena here is the daughter of a union between a priestess and the land's king, King Cole, who is brought up at first by her father, then by the women of Avalon. Her aunt, the high priestess, hates her because her birth killed her mother. But Helena is powerful and prevails until she substitutes herself in the ritual between a Roman and a priestess, and she is cast out of Avalon and lives as the man's wife--a man who eventually becomes Constantius, and their child is Constantine. From then on the novel is the tale of the myriad political battles between people jockeying for position in the Empire and the skirmishes between the Roman Empire and the rising Christian church and Constantius is eventually made Caesar, and must marry one of the current joint-Emperor's daughters, and so Helena must be set aside. When her son Constantine finally rises to power (he is the first Christian Roman emperor) she becomes worshipped as part of his family. The tale covers so many years and events that it must be episodic, skipping over Elian/Helena's life like a stone skipping over the water, only dipping into her life periodically. As such it doesn't feel particularly deep or captivating, and certainly nowhere approaches the magic of The Mists of Avalon, but more closely resembles its other, lesser, siblings (Lady of Avalon, The Forest House). One idea particularly resonates with me, though: "...if there is only one Divinity to be worshipped, it must be addressed in many ways, as Man and God and Mother, as pure Spirit...." The idea that if there is only one God it must be all of these.

Jane Yolen's Boots and The Seven Leaguers is a children's "rock-and-troll novel" set in faerie where a young troll and his pooka friend want to see the performance of the great troll rock group Boots and the Seven Leaguers but they don't have the money to do it. The troll's clever younger brother suggests that they magically bulk themselves up and try to sign on as roadies, and so they do, but in the course of it the young brother gets kidnapped, and they must chase after and brave the dangers of the New Forest to save him. This is really a lot of fun, a charming novel.

Georgette Heyer's Cotillion is the second novel of hers I've read as an adult (for my comments on A Civil Contract see my March 19 entry). Again this is set in the Regency period and concerns a young destitute woman who has been adopted and raised by a rather crotchety rich though miserly old man who has decided to leave his money to her if she will marry one of his several great-nephews. He has a favourite and she has had a crush on the young man but when he doesn't show up at his great-uncle's demand when he invites the nephews to make the announcement, she decides to trick him by a sham engagement with another of the nephews, who agrees to help her. This nephew is well-off, and doesn't need the money but is persuaded to help her. She desperately wants to see London, where she has never been, and see what life there is like and so he arranges for her to stay with his pregnant sister while her husband is off to China. This is a delightful story--I greatly enjoyed the portrayal of the diverse characters and especially of their milieu. These novels of Georgette Heyer's are probably the closest thing to the experience of reading Jane Austen. A pleasure.

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Back to slowly working on Chapter Four of Bryony's Needle and going back to make changes to the earlier chapters: a juggling act that is keeping me and my tired mind quite busy. It's hard to go back and forth. A sudden opening in our writing group schedule forced my hand and so I finished the revision early and sent it off to the group only to have someone else, who hadn't been critiqued as regularly as I have been for the last few sessions, ask for the spot and so I yielded it. Overall it was a good thing, since now I'm a little ahead and can concentrate on the back revisions.

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Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

January 1980

1101. Imagine a room / Where you are home
January 24, 1980

Graham again in "Imagine a forest." This room, where I am home, where I am, yes, home. I don't like to stay home, but it is where I return to, where I like to wake up where I like to watch the night from my bed. My room is like a womb, a cliché womb. It is where I am most me, where I write and dream, where my books are.
     Tonight I decided I needed a change, and couldn't think what, so I went to my sister's and she talked to me and cut my hair all off. Eight inches off. It is now on the short side of long, or the long side of short. My head feels lighter.
     Maybe the outside change will spark an inner one. maybe I will gain my will back, stop dreaming weak and tired dreams, dream of the war and power, those magical powers. I want to write another, the best yet poem. I want to stockpile good poems, to send them out. I want questions and answers.
     In my room my plants are not particularly happy. One entirely withered in the space of a day, but is recovering now. The others all grow awkwardly without any floric grace. Achilles is not particularly happy either. He's bored and claws the carpets and we all have to fly after him, yelling. He finds a place to sleep and someone will disturb him. Outside it's boring enough to drive him inside, inside it's boring enough to drive him out. "Imagine a forest / a real forest."

1102. I can't play Lady Godiva anymore
January 25th 1980

Today when I woke up I realized that I didn't have long hair anymore. I ran upstairs and Mother told me that I should attempt to graft the pieces back on. I washed my hair, hoping it would stretch (it shrank). I curled it, hoping the weight and heat of the curlers would stretch it out (I just had shorter curls). I wandered around the house, saying "I have short hair." Just to get used to the sound of it. I am no longer Nancy with the long ratty hair--unbrushed and knotted. I wonder what everyone will think. Mom said she found a long brown hair attached to her trousers. I said it couldn't be mine because I have short brown hair.
     Tonight I went to see that high school friend again, and had a very boring night until the last ten minutes when we started talking. Then I went home to find that Randy had called, so I called him back and we talked for an hour like we used to before we did that foolish thing called falling in love. We had things to say to each other. We are in total disagreement about just about everything that matters (especially faith) but it's all right. We have agreed to disagree and to enjoy our disagreement. I will sit and fret about my short hair, half-loving it.

1103. Dazed
January 26, 1980

Quite a windy wind, last night and today, after little sleeping, blowing Buglet all the way to work at 7:00 am, and the sun was showing hints of rising and Buglet was showing hints of skipping across four lanes of raging traffic. The sun's out, and it snowed a little yesterday here, and there's ice about, watch out. Morning shift, and I'm dozing through it, dazing through it trying to pretend I have eight inches more hair. (After so many years I can't get used to it.) It's 12:10 pm and I want lunch. This is suddenly the last page in this book. I'd better send the growing stack of papers off to you, before it weighs parcel post rates. Today the margin on the typewriter broke and wouldn't ring anymore. Randy phoned to say hi, he was off work, and was going to sleep. Mother phoned to say Achilles, in his might hunter role, brought a rat to show off last night. He's trying to make up for clawing carpets, to prove to Mom & Dad that he does have his uses, and isn't just an eater, sleeper, clawer, inner, outer. Achilles the might Achaian warrior and all that, keeping up the image, stiff upper paw and a purr in the night.

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