Les Semaines

July 8, 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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Third Week of Clarion West 2007

This is the first time Graham Joyce has taught for us, but we'll definitely be inviting him back when we can. He gave the students a lot of smarts and energy. Good brief lectures and clear, pointed, helpful critiques, that took them yet another big step on the journey that the workshop is.

For his reading he read the bombing of Coventry section from my favourite of his novels (that I've read so far, The Facts of Life. Powerful, powerful stuff, and gorgeously written. He had the audience in the palm of his hand.

To add complications to this week, it was Jim's birthday, so we had a small family party for this Friday night with sushii take out from a good nearby restaurant and his favourite cake from Simply Desserts (the while chocolate strawberry), and Devin and Tamar over to share it.

More pieces of cake at Karen and Barry's after our writing retreat.

It felt like a very busy, tiring week, though I'm not sure why. I think I'm fighting a cold. I refuse to succumb.

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Listening

Not much time for listening, but right now Jim is playing the new Fairport Convention live at the BBC box set I bought for Mom and Dad to give him for his birthday. Great stuff. Right now "Tam Lin" is playing, but someone other than Sandy Denny is singing. The seems very strange. Not a bad version, though!

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Juliet Marillier's novels have been up and down for me, and a couple I've liked quite a lot, so I thought I would give her new young adult fantasy, Wildwood Dancing, a chance. This is set in medieval Romania, and is a mix of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, the Frog Prince, and seelie-unseelie fairy court stories. Oh, and a vampire analogue, as the story is set in Transylvania at a castle called Piscul Dracului. Jena is the second of a family of five daughters (oh, and mix in a little Pride and Prejudice into the daughter's stories, just a little). When she was a child palying with her two male cousins, one of the drowned, and now the Wildwoods around their house are feared more than even. For years, every full moon, they've been able to go through a portal to dance the night away with the fairies. Just when their wealthy merchant father goes away for the winter to recover from an illness, the Night People arrive in the fairy court, and the eldest sister falls in love with one of them. Jena's remaining cousin begins to take the reins of both the family business and the his cousins, and swears to destroy the Wildwood and its denizens. Then a local girl is found dead, drained of blood, and Jena fears that through one of her conversations she has caused this. I found this a very pleasant read.

The Plain Janes is a young adult graphic novel about a girl named Jane whose family has long lived in Metro City. After she is is hurt in a bombing, much to her dismay her family moved to suburbia. At her new school, though, she finds a group of girls and they start a secret club called P.L.A.I.N.--People Loving Art in Neighborhood and begin a series of guerrilla art projects. But the neighbourhood thinks they're art attacks are really attacks. A fun, quick read.

Martine Leavitt's Keturah and Lord Death tells the story of clever, beautiful Keturah, who gets lost in the woods and encounters Lord Death. When he comes to take her away, she tells him the beginning of a story, then says she won't tell him the rest until the following evening when if she has met and married her true love, he promises to let her live. This is a lovely fairy tale, set in medieval England.

I'd heard enough about Patrick Rothfuss's fantasy novel The Name of the Wind to try to track it down, but looking at it I wasn't immediately drawn to open it--another beginning of a pre-technological society epic tale. Yawn. However, the instant I began reading I was caught by this and had trouble putting it down. In it, a young man with a complicated history begins telling his life story. The tale is carefully woven, with piles of hints of complications to come, and it is powerfully compelling. He's the usual remarkable young man from a humble background (relatively this time) who shows extraordinary abailities. He's heroic, but also obviously flawed and human. It's mostly in the writing that this just would not let me go. I'll be grabbing the subsequent volumes as soon as they're available.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

This is the third (half-way mark!) of the Write-a-thon. Here's my message to my sponsors.

Dear Write-a-thon sponsors & supporters:

This week was a productive week, especially for the fiction as this was the weekend of our monthly writing retreat when we hole up for a day with friends and all we do all day is write. We work in 45-minute sessions, take a 15-minute break, then dive in again. I'm surprised that with the workshop running I managed to pull off getting the whole day clear, but I did, even with celebrating Jim's birthday the day before.

I continued going over the previous sections of my novel, revising, tweaking, cutting and deepening as I went. At the very end of the day I got to the very end of what I'd written, so from now on I'll be creating first draft. Believe me, I'm scared. Mostly because I'm not sure where this one is going. I ended it with a yes or no question which wasn't answered because I myself don't know the answer. I just haven't decided which way to jump with this one. I need to decide starting tomorrow. There's something to chew on.

I decided early on this week the topic I was interested in pursuing for this week's poem, but didn't actually start putting words anywhere, paper or computer, until Sunday. Yes, I find deadlines motivating. This is a poem about the bean nighe (pronounced something like ben NEE-yeh).

.....

Halfway through the write-a-thon (and the workshop) already. Thank you so much again for your support!

--Neile

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

1653. Getting Older
October 4, 1992

Soon I'll be older than Jim again, very soon. It's October, yesterday storm and rain, today clear, thin sun. What's left of the leaves shifting and the lawns green again. We're allowed to water them again but no need as there have been rains enough to leave the world damp today.

This morning I brought in the herbs from the planters in the back yard. Washed them, tied them in bunches: thyme and sage hang over the windows, oregano next to them, basil in the corner across. The kitchen smells lovely.

1654. My love out riding

Sister, I met my love out riding
on a He slid from the back of his
great bay mare to let her drink
from the stream. I was down
there to cool my feet after walking
all the way to town
. He said I froze
like a deer there on the rock
dangling my left feet in the water
He stretched a hand and lifted me
to the bank beside him, then
kissed the rough chill of my palm all scratched the warmth of his lips
and moving in my veins.
Sister, today he showed me a robin's
nest in the hedge, four blue eggs
the colour of magic, his blue
eyes. Then we walked through
the woods for no one to see.
I showed him the fox's lair.
Sister I met my love out riding
he lifted me onto his great bay mare
and we rode out together
through the forest, ducking together
under the outstretched arms
of the old oaks. There's a place
now where the earth of and bracken
smells of our bodies' warmth
And after we sat for hours,
talking, touching, his gentle hands
easing the tangles we'd made
from my hair.
Sister, I met my love out riding
he kissed my father's stripes--
on my back, my swollen eyes,
made no foolish promises
said to marry Tom if I want
or not. I said even Tom won't
have me like this. A fool, he said.
and laughed my tears away. [1]

Notes:
1. Early draft of "My Love Out Riding" which appears in Blood Memory.

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