Les Semaines

June 26, 2005

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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First Week of Clarion West 2005

Jim complained that last week I didn't mention that he gave a reading at Jack Straw Productions as part of their alumni reading series. He did, and read four fine poems. A highly enjoyable time!

So this week Octavia Butler was the instructor for the workshop. She is such a powerful and perceptive presence. The week with her raced by for me, and I'm sure it did for the students, too. They seem to have settled in well. Several of them were already experienced critiquers and the class seems to have fallen into the format we use pretty easily. On Thursday they had five stories, one of which was 61 pages, so they started doing two minute critiques, and later agreed to stick with that. It means that some things get said a little too quickly, but there's always time for discussion after the instructor and author have had their say.

They seem well settled into the new sorority as well. The room we're using as a classroom is a little dark and not shaped particularly well, but the spaces are good, and there seem to be plenty of good corners for people to disappear into with their laptops and the stories to read. The instructor space is what is so much better -- this place has an annex where the senior girls usually live, and on the main floor it has a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and living room -- just perfect as an instructor apartment.

The house mother is doing the cooking, and she is going out of her way to make things easy for the students, which is wonderful. They cooked a group meal tonight, and it was good, though cold by the time I got through talking to Leslie about her comments on my novel.

We're still working out some of the kinks with the new location and some other changes. Tuesday was my nightmare day. Monday I had dropped off some stories to be copied, and two students were going to email their stories in, as we'd already given them Kinko's instructions on how we should do that. It got later and later and nothing arrived. I was getting more and more nervous, and discovered, on checking my work email, that a box had been delivered to the dean's off at the university, where a previously Kinko's delivery, that was supposed to have gone to my office, had arrived.

I raced down there to get it, hauled it to the classroom, checked what was in the box, and lo and behold, the emailed stories weren't there. So I phoned Kinko's and got the manager. He investigated and discovered that the stories were caught in their spam filter. He raced and got them copied, and brought them up to us himself. Unfortunately, in the rush we had several extra copies of a 61-page story; however, more than half of the copies were missing the last five pages. I talked to Octavia, and we decided that given the story was so long we'd hold it over to the next day to give people more of a chance to read it, especially given that night was the reading. I was kind of a mess by this point, stressing out about all this.

The reading was fun. It turned into an interview, and Leslie asked Octavia some wonderful questions, particularly about her new vampire novel, due out in October. It sounds really intriguing and fun; I'm definitely looking forward to reading it. Octavia enjoyed herself bouncing off Leslie's questions.

The rest of the classroom mechanics went more smoothly. I've discovered it's a good idea to phone Kinko's every morning to make certain they received everything. I hope I can remember to do that. I'm also responsible for sending an email letting them know what to expect. This works, as long as nothing changes while I'm away from the sign-up sheets on the days I'm not in the classroom. It also means on the days I'm not there and don't have to work (tomorrow's my last day until September) I'll have to be up to make that phone call by 9:00. I suppose that's good for me, right?

Sigh.

Anyway, the class seems like a great group. They got a strong foundation from the wonderful Octavia. We'll see how this adventure progresses. However, they started the very-late-night running-on-no-sleep stuff a little early. I hope none of them burn themselves out.

Speaking of which, as you'll see below, thanks to Saturday's session with Karen at Cafe Ladro and a quiet afternoon I did manage to make my first Write-a-thon goal.

Now it's 11:30, and I need to get some sleep before work tomorrow. I'm as bad as the students.

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

Listening

New Christine Fellows, Paper Anniversary. I haven't listened to it much yet, but it seems every bit as delightful as her two previous albums. She has such an artless way of singing and her songs seem simple, yet resonant. Quite a trick she pulls off, especially without ever sounding precious.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Jane Yolen and Robert Harris' young adult book Prince Across the Water is the story of a young Highland teenager who gets caught up in the events at Culloden and the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie. The tale is evocative and highly realistic about the period and place, and I found it fascinating for that. An interesting and bittersweet story, too.

Diane Wynne Jones' new Chrestomanci novel arrived in the mail this week, Conrad's Fate. I didn't have much reading time, but I inhaled it in the corners of time I could find. I think this means that I need to read it again sometime when I can appreciate the details better, because it full of fun moments. Conrad is a rather neglected child -- his father is dead, his mother locked in her study writing feminist tracks, his uncle running the bookstore that supports them, and his sister, who has been his mainstay and has kept the family going, leaves for university. Conrad himself wants to continue school, but he's left running the family, then when he's old enough, his uncle tells him he has a horrible fate and must kill someone or be killed. To this end he sends him to the mansion high on the hill to become a servant, giving him the spells he needs to dispatch his enemy, whoever he is. Poor Conrad arrives there meeting a strange young man called Christopher along the way, and the two of them start their training together in this strange world, teeming with magic and servants. Great fun.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

This week started off so crazily with the beginning of the workshop I was worried I wasn't going to make it, but with a good writing session on Saturday morning and then a quiet spot this afternoon, I did. Much relief. With the flow of the workshop schedule, Sunday night has to be my deadline day. Anyway, this is the message I sent to my Clarion West Write-a-thon sponsors:

Dear Write-a-thon sponsors--

Thanks for joining me on this adventure -- this is the first time I've ever consciously tried to produce a certain number of words per week. For the first draft of my first two efforts (the novel I just finished is really my second, but I don't know if I'll ever figure out what to do with my very first other than maybe leave it in my office drawer forever) I just wrote them. Every once in a while I would look at ho long they were, but it didn't really mean anything to me.

This feels both a little artificial to me, but also more real. That probably doesn't make any sense.

I did reach my 3,000 word goal this week. I'm hoping that in some weeks I'll be able to go significantly over that, but obviously this isn't one of those. Right now the novel stands at 7,468 words (for those who care, I'm using Word's inaccurate but easily accessed word count -- heck it's there constantly updating at the bottom of the screen) so I wrote 3,046 words.

The novel is currently the length of a fairly long short story. I wrote a brief short story's worth this week. Not bad, but I hope to do better in the future.

By the way, our heroine is caught in two layers of a web, and she's just located another prisoner. Or has she?

Thanks for taking this journey with me.

--Neile

P.S. If you have a PayPal account, and want to pay that way, Clarion West now has a link on the Write-a-thon page at http://clarionwest.org/website/cat_special_events.html

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

On hiatus until August, I think, unless I can get my act together a bit better.

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1974 people have wandered through this week with me