Les Semaines

July 18, 2004

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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Fourth Week of Clarion West 2004

This was a team teaching week with James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel. Both of them have taught several times (separately and together) at Clarion (East/Michigan) but this is the first time either of them has taught for us. They make an interesting team. Jim Kelly is full of energy and comes at thing very much from a practical in-the-mainstream-of-SF viewpoint, while John Kessel feels a little more academic and philosophical. They see things differently but in a complementary way. It made for interesting, lively critque sessions.

But it is the fourth week. A couple of students hit the wall with exhaustion, and so did I. I slept a lot, took lots of ibuprofen (which makes me sleepy), had a lot of trouble getting things done. It got better as the week went on, but I was dragging. At the Friday night party I found myself standing at the end of conversations without a word to say, and so I was glad when the group of students I had driven there wanted to head back home.

Saturday was the Bear's party, and by then I was a little livelier. It was nice to get out of the city, see everyone swimming and paddling. The conversation and food was great.

But you know? I'm still tired.

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

Listening

The new Fiery Furnaces, Blueberry Boat is complex. Not as immediately compelling as their first but definitely richer. It's going to take some time to absorb this one: exactly what I'm short of now.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

I love Meredith Ann Pierce's novels. Her Darkangel series is one of my all-time favourites and I really liked her recent Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood. In these I find there's someting magical even in the language she uses to create her stories. However, I did find her short story collection Waters Luminous and Deep disappointing. That may simply be my natural tendancy to appreciate novels more than short stories or my relative exhaustion, or some other prejudice of my small mind, but these just didn't have enough energy or magic for me. They were interesting to read, yes, but didn't come alive the way her novels do for me.

I also found Patricia Finney's Elizabethan political mystery Unicorn's Blood disappointing overall. It was full of terrific period details, intriguing characters, folly, religious mystery, politics, Queen Elizabeth, a midget, and all...and it just stayed flat on the page for me. I stuck with it because of these other things whereas in other circumstances I would have just bailed on it.

I love Kim Stanley Robinson's novels: they're a mix of interesting characters, contemporary science, extrapolated science, extreme situation, thoughtful politics, and philosophy. Forty Signs of Rain, though, strongly feels like only the beginning of something. I wonder a little if it isn't one of those novels forced to be chopped up by Barnes and Nobles' no non-bestselling books over $25 policy, though I thought Robinson was a best-seller or close to it. There is a kind of pause at the end of it, but more like the pause before the onslaught--things are just beginning. I hear a rumour that this is part of a trilogy. It has to be. It's a near-future story where global warming has continued on its current path and polar ice has melted further causing the beginnings of drastic weather changes. The main characters here are two scientists and a part-time science policy advisor (married to one of the scientists) for a powerful senator and is the main for his two sons. One scientist is a rock climber and skeptic; the other (married to the advisor) is a power in the NSF. Also involved is an embassy from a island country that is going to be drowned as sea-level rises. It's a sweltering summer in DC and there are signs of rain.... I liked it, but need the rest.

Sharon Shinn's The Safe-keeper's Secret is a delightful young adult fantasy novel. In it a young girl is sure she's going to follow her mother, a keep of secrets for the people in the village she lives in. She knows her mother has a powerful secret about her brother--the story goes that a richly dressed rider left him as a newborn infant at her mother's house just when she herself was being born. The two of them have grown up together. He's restless and unable to settle on things, while she is steadier and more serious. They look after each other, celebrate the seasons with their aunt, also a safe-keeper, and family friends, one a truth-teller and the other a Dream-Maker, the only one in the kingdom. Yes, it's contrived but it's also charming.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

My Dear Clarion West Shadow Workshop Write-a-thon sponsors:

The fourth week of the write-a-thon has ended, and while I did suffer a little from fourth-week syndrome (week four is notoriously the week before Clarion West students hit the wall because of the ongoing pressures of the workshop) I did complete my revisions of Chapter 8. It was tough going to start with, but I was saved by how the last section of the chapter actually was in pretty darn good shape, and what I needed to do to it wasn't hard rewriting, mostly just tweaking it into the new point of view. I do think that when I got to the end of this section of chapters (7-12), I'll be doing some re-shaping of this chunk of the novel, but for now this chapter is in good shape and I'm pleased with the work I did this week and even more pleased with the first draft here. My character is moving forward with reshaping her life, though there are complications.

This chapter was only 26 pages, significantly smaller than the preceding few but it feels whole despite that.

Now to start work on chapter 9.

Thanks again for your support.

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Retrospective: old journal

The Retrospective Journal is still on hiatus.

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