Les Semaines

July 1, 2007

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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Second Week of Clarion West 2007

Larissa Lai first taught for us a few years ago, and it has been delightful to have her back again. She was a wonderful follow-up to Nancy Kress, more interested in generative-type exercises, but also talked further about plot, character, etc. She comes from a little more more academic/literary point of view, and has very interesting things to say about genre writing because of that. I got a lot out of the week, and it seems the students did, too. I also loved her reading, and am bummed that she hasn't finished the new novel that she read an excerpt of--because I want to read it!

A few more bumps this week, with the house and such, but all seem to have worked themselves out. Even the rodent population.

Really, right now my life doesn't consist of much other than the workshop and the Write-a-thon. I know I should have more to say, but really I'm too tired to think of it now. I was going to show you a recent picture of the kittens, but now I can't find the cord to our digital camera, and I don't want to delay any longer. This is already late enough this week.

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Listening

New Raspustina! Oh Perilous World. Full of songs about the mini ice age at the start of the nineteenth century, the Bounty mutineers on Pitcairn Island, and so delightfully on.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Janine Cross's fantasy novel Shadowed by Wings is the sequel to her Touched by Venom. In it the long-suffering but finally succeeding Zarq continues to beat the odds in her strange dragon-loving and woman-hating highly heirarchical society. Interesting, imaginative reading, but not for the faint of heart.

Mette Evie Harrison's young adult fantasy, The Princess and the Hound, was a gentle, charming, unusual medieval-age romance. In it a dutiful prince who has inherited the outlawed animal magic from his deceased mother is bound to marry a princess from a neighbouring country that his has been fighting for many years. When he goes to meet her, he discovers the bound between her and her hound is most unusual--and the hound doesn't understand him when he talks to her in her own language. Nice details here and a sense of real personalities.

Robert J. Wiersema's Before I Wake is an odd mash-up of contemporary mainstream fiction and a horror novel about two-thousand-year-old forces fighting out an old, repeated battle. Set in Victoria (appealing to me), the novel begins when a woman is walking with her beloved and long-wanted three-year-old daughter when they are struck by a car. The daughter is in a coma, and they take her home only to discover that her caretaker's arthritis is cured, then her caretaker's sister's cancer... Meanwhile, the husband has gone to his mistress... All interesting fare. Less interesting is the sketchy battle between good and evil to allow miracles in the world--or not.

Jennifer Donnelly's young adult historical novel, A Northern Light, vividly depicts the life of a smart, ambitious girl from a family eking out a living on a farm in the Adirondack mountains. Her mother is dead, her eldest brother has run away, and she is left to take what care of the family that she and her sisters can. She's good in school. So good that her teachers thinks she can get into college. She takes a summer job to earn money at a local tourist hotel when a young woman hands her a packet of letters to burn, then goes boating with her boyfriend later to be found drowned, the apparent victim of a boating accident. How the mystery of what happened to the girl parallels Mattie's own decisions about her own future is neatly developed and not overplayed at all. Well worthy of the acclaim the book has received.

Maureen O'Brien's young adult novel, b-mother is the tale of a young girl whose elder brother is killed. A few years afterwards she fall for a rich and reckless young guy and finds herself pregnant. He won't help her keep the baby and neither will her parents, and so she goes to a Catholic home and does her best for her baby by choosing adoptive parents. Then, basically, she stops living for eighteen years, pining until she gets to meet her son. While this was well-written and heartfelt, parts of it really bugged me. Like the adoptive mother saying what a terrific and interesting person the birth mother was, when we don't get any sign that she's even particularly interesting, especially when she has no interests at all in life. The adoptive mother is so perfect. What about the adoptive father? He barely exists. Doesn't the birth mother gets tired of having no emotional life except for waiting to meet her son and pining for him? Obviously her brother's death still affects her. Everyone is so pretty, including the child. The gorgeous philandering guy who waits and waits for her and changes his ways for her. Why on earth? She's barely alive. I don't know, though there are some difficult things (they birth father, the brother's death, the mother's mourning) this just seemed to be missing a big layer of reality around the underlying situation.

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Writing

Dear Write-a-thon sponsors & supporters:

This week was much less painful than the first, and I'm ever so grateful.

The fiction hours went pretty well, though I find myself going over and over the same portions again and again, tweaking here, adding detailed there, trimming parts off entirely. I know I'm making it better each time, but I still which I could manage to just do it all at once. I suppose that's not possible.

I started the poem earlier this week, and it's one taking off from the last one--this time another poem about True Thomas, but this one is set on the Sunshine Coast of BC. I had a couple of stanzas by Sunday evening, and finished it then, this time by 11:10! Before midnight!

Now I've got to start thinking of where I'm going next...I think I may be True Thomased out.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

1650. Kittens
September 20, 1992

Found homes (though for two of them a barn) for the kittens we've been feeding for two months. I have, of course, gotten quite fond of them. They're sleeping cuddled together on the bark.
Mother, the wind's
a web of water,
the rain high tide. Your shadow form just a shadow
against thrown the rain throw against

the black rocks and black sea grey sea that lean
into grey sea. Mother,

[1]

1651. The Fisher's Daughter
September 22, 1992

Mother, the wind's a
web of water, the rain's
high tide. Your form's just
a shadow the storm
throws against black rock,

grey sea. Mother, you
lean to the ocean
as though your will could
change this roar into
the buzz of summer

insects in the long
grass, change the seals that
that push their way that ridge waves
that rise/ into your view
as they ride
the waves
into the forms of
them men you we wait for. [1]

1651. The Interrogation of Silence
September 29, 1992

Both cats on the electric blue mohair blanket (June's [2]) on my lap and legs, asleep. I'm at last awake and reading, loving Olga Broumas, Joseph Brodsky, George Mackay Brown. It's the week I read through the Bs.

It was a sunny day but already setting. The computer is the loudest noise in the room (that and the scratching of this pen). All this week it stormed and rained. Title a line from Brown.

Notes:
1. Both of these are early drafts of "The Fisher's Daughter" which appears in Blood Memory.
2. June was my grandmother (my mother's mother).

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