2003

07.20


what I'm thinking and doing

what I'm listening to

what I'm reading

what I'm writing

retrospective: old journal


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Week Four of Clarion West 2003

I'm making up a little bit for the sketchiness of recent entries. Or maybe I just am not quite so exhausted for a moment.

This week China Miéville was the instructor for Clarion West. I felt some trepidation about this, as I really pushed him at the last minute during the committee's discussions about this year's instructor list, and the group went along with the suggestion, mostly on my recommendation, as few people knew his work well and his focus has been more on novels than short stories, which is what the workshop centers on. His visit to last year's class helped me have more confidence in my instincts about him, so I was really looking forward to having him here. He lived up to every bit of my expectations. His critiques got to the heart of each story, his talk about vision as opposed to technical ability was inspiring, and in his discussions of the details of prose and avoiding cliché also helped the students on the micro level. He gave a talk about worldbuilding that reminded me why secondary worlds are worth creating and reading about. And personally he was delightful--warm, smart, funny, charismatic but not ego-bound, and he gave 100% to the class. I have to admire him for that last thing alone. Even after four years of watching Clarion West teachers I was impressed with him. I also appreciated his final talk to the students as a class: reminding them that the workshop wasn't the be-all and end-all and may not be the right thing for everyone, and that what really matters is what they do afterwards. I stayed in the background while he was here, because I really wanted to talk and talk and talk--and he wasn't here for me. I did get to join Leslie and him for one dinner where we talked about the workshop.

This was an especially busy week. China's reading was wonderful--a rich section from his next novel. Leslie had me up with her and I mostly just stood there while she talked, but I did briefly talk about how Ellen Datlow had suggested we read King Rat and how my admiration for China's work had grown from there. Jim came to the reading, too, and went with us to the Allegro afterwards for drinks as has become the pattern for several of the class members after the readings. That was fun. One fan followed there, and China was gracious to him, as was the group. It must be so strange to have that kind of affect on people. While I've had a few strangers come up to me after readings or write me about how much they like my work, I've certainly never had anyone push my boundaries like that, and it happens to China often.

On Wednesday night, Ursula K. LeGuin came for a brief "surprise" Q&A with the students, which they seemed to enjoy. Afterwards, Leslie, Eileen, and China interview her for the upcoming Science Fiction Experience Museum (we've been doing this with all our instructors, but usually at the museum itself). The students (and I) got to watch this, and then a group of us and friends of Ursula's went out to a restaurant to sit and talk. Fun to see China as a fan himself. And amazing to be with Ursula, whose work I have loved for years. It's nothing to some of our board who know her well, but for me it was a real treat, too.

Friday night was our quick dinner with China before the party for him, which was a lot of fun, as I got a chance to catch up with Therese Littleton, whom over the last few years I've kept meeting in scattered times and places. We have a mutual friend, who when she first moved to Seattle sent her to one of my readings, and since them we've met at conventions and parties (finding we had other friends in common). Great fun.

Saturday was the annual party that Astrid and Greg Bear hold for the Clarion West students. This was a very full one, with a large crowd of people, lots of talk and sun. On the lovely lake and tours through the library, and Greg gave a short talk for the students. And goodbye to China and hello to Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

And I got to sleep in this morning. It's hot. We've been having a heat wave.

The other thing I forgot to mention was that we got DSL during those last couple of chaotic weeks. So nice not to be tying up the phone line when we're on line and not having to wait for dial up and disconnection and remembering to check our voice mail after being online. We couldn't afford both, so we gave up our TV cable for it, which isn't much of a sacrifice as we so very very rarely watch TV. Usually only when we're exhausted, and there are DVDs for that.  

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing

 

Listening

The long-awaited Daughter Darling disc just arrived. Sweet dark trip hop. I've had their samples fo this since last September. It's really lovely. Need to hear it more to talk about it, but it reminds Jim a lot of My Brilliant Beast.

Also have Edie's new interim ep, Crave, which sounds even more wonderful than her first disc. She's gone farther away from the early Lion & Cobra Sinead O'Connor sound she had in her first disc. This is even tougher.

 

last week's listening § next week's listening

 

Reading

Tracy Lynn's young adult novel, Snow, is an interesting combination of a teen novel and a fairy tale retelling of Snow White. It's the story of a duchess ignored by her father until he marries a woman who uses magical/alchemical scientific methods trying to conceive a son and heir--who is also obsessed with her beauty and with staying young. She uses her powers to ensnare a musician to be her servant during her experiments. She abuses her stepdaughter, until Snow runs away before being used for these experiments herself, and finds herself living with a group of half-animal humans in London. Interesting. Didn't quite have the emotional resonance it could have (the romance was particularly sketchy) but an intriguing take on the tale.

Majfull Axelsson's April Witch is the story of a woman isolated by cerebral palsy, who is progressively being damaged by epileptic fits. She had been institutionalized at birth during a time when the social system encouraged this, and had been treated as an idiot most of her life until finally people realized she was intelligent and she found the means to communicate. However, though she grew more physically incapacitated over time, she was an "april witch" and found herself able to send her mind into other creatures--bird and human--and compel them to act on her behalf. In this way she spies on, and begins to interfere with the lives of the three emotionally damaged women that her natural mother fostered after sending her away. An intriguing tale that ultimately fell a little flat for me.

 

last week's reading § next week's reading

 

Writing

Not yet--soon I hope. I barely managed to write this entry.

 

last week's writing § next week's writing

 

Retrospective: old journal

June 1990

1594. Days Gone
June 10, 1990

Months gone again--busy with editing mostly, and grants and bits and pieces of a hectic life.

1595. Asparagus Spring
June 10, 1990

Everything is green
and the flowers have been and gone
and still the rain fall.
Rain and wind and grey
over green colours the days.
Im' in the white kitchen
snapping the stalks off
the tender green spears,
flavour of spring, these stalks
of the rain's end at last, but still
pissing down. The cat sleeps
as though it's winter, dreams
on the quilt your mother
made. The days to summer
we could count go on forever
the days ragged with the brown
flowers falling into the soil. [1]

1596. Reading the Gs [2]
June 10, 1990

and fly. I was born that wayGallagher
Father brought his mother, bundled on my sledGalvin
And my legs slid down our eyes fanned
            by coloured winds
Gascoyne
change shape on the smoothed rockGlazner
blazing in darkness, all they wish to see
feathers
Glück
or the world, the young / woman / who is his wife, / and loved her, / and covered himself/ with blood,Graham
Grappled with eyes on spinning lathes under framesW.S. Graham
It is not she any more, but the pain itselfGregg
While loveliness lies in the sun and tansGustafson
The irreplaceable reconstitution
possible for us
She scorns young MacIvor
they've bandaged
or One of them holds/the delicate scissors / up into / the sky. How free / it is, below them, the tree, / the plotline,
along. How could it work,
and finally lost itself in wind.
on the Lagoon drift shreds of several from lanterned boats
They'd like
how your own blood grows toward the irreversible

1597. Summer at last
June 28, 1990

Finally I've finished with the worst of the projects I've been nursing along this winter and spring. So much went by the wayside for a lot of the time while I was editing the proceedings report. I worked on it afternoons, evenings, and weekends. I owe all of my friends letters, having written only two or three since Christmas. All kinds of business to take care of, the house to get clean again. Since January I've completed the first draft of Bryony's Needle, written four grant applications, had my first reading tour to Ottawa and Toronto and a good visit there, gone to the League meeting in Toronto, done three small editing jobs, and edited and desktop published the proceedings of Anne's master-planned communities conference (which seemed to take forever). I enjoyed being busy, but now that it's over I've been relaxing too hard--hard to get moving at all. Got caught up in the end of Lessing's Children of Violence series, which I've been using as a "bus book" for months, re-reading it after ten years. It is really amazing. Captivating as it gets denser. Also been obsessed by a cd of a group called Mazzy Starr that I heard by chance in a record store and bought on impulse. Right it's playing "Give You My Loving"--off hand and enchanting. Jim doesn't like it as much as I do--it has really caught me. Plays in my head. Zach's on the kitchen table (the other end as I write) blinking at me. Washer going behind me. Days to do sheets. Domesticity. Sleepy.


NOTES

1. No, never a poem.

2. Lines from our poetry collection. I was looking for inspiration.

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