Les Semaines

July 29, 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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Last Two Weeks of Clarion West 2007

I'm shocked at how quickly these last two weeks slipped by. First Patrick Nielsen Hayden was here then suddenly Samuel R. Delany then suddenly it was graduation, we were packing up, and it was over. Busyness has its own speed: full steam ahead no time to think, just do.

This is the second time we've had Patrick Nielsen Hayden teach for us and he gets better every time: precise and clear. It's also the second time we've had Samuel R. Delany teach for us since I've been working with the workshop, and he is such a wonderful presence--a sharp intelligence and also a wonderful lively, kind person. Just delightful. So the students had a good end to the workshop.

We managed to pull everything together for graduation once again, party up, pack up tidy up, move, sad goodbyes, and done.

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

Listening

Not much listening other than to writers talking.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Justina Robson's fantasy/sf novels Keeping it Real and Selling Out follow the adventures of a half human/half cyborg woman in a world where a Quantum bomb has meant that humans now are aware of other realms of faery, elves, demons, elemental spirits, and death, who has recovered from a magical accident that should have killed her only to find herself half-machine. She has barely recovered, hardly knows her new powers when she is sent to be the bodyguard for a strange elf who, against all that his race holds dear, sings in a rock band. However light this set-up might sound, this is still Justina Robson writing it, so there are all kinds of angles and depths. It's a romp, but a romp with depth and corners and full of ideas and tough choices. Damn, she's good.

I also re-read books 5 & 6 of Harry Potter. I know a lot of people have complained about book 6 but I enjoyed it on re-reading, too.

While waiting for book 7 I decided to read the first three of Naomi Novik's Temeraire fantasy series, His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, and Black Powder War. This mixes dragons with the war against Napoleon, basically Patrick O'Brien with dragons. I had thought that this was a trilogy but it's a series, and while I loved His Majesty's Dragon and thought it very promising, readable and quick and absorbing, as the story went on it dragged a lot for me and got predictable. The part in the long boring sea journey where she threw in a sea monster attack for no particular reason and the long overland journey where there was the obligatory sand storm scene and the bandit attack scene were lows, and now there is a matching opposite enemy dragon with a powerful need for vengeance! Maybe these just aren't for me after all, though I do really like the themes she is exploring of the moral lines between duty and slavery and honourable treatment, the exigencies of war, etc.

Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely is a young adult fantasy about fairies but somehow she manages to make it fresh. Aislinn has a rare inherited gift and can see the fairies in all their nastiness. So far in her life they have ignored her--but suddenly they see her and one of them is pursuing her. I found this quite captivating and fun, though of course you can't think too hard about it.

Another book is served me well not to think too hard about is the final volume of the Harry Potter series. Jim and I read most of this aloud to each other, which was fun but brought out some of the infelicities of J.K. Rowling's writing and probably made the slow part of the book feel even slower. Still, I think she did a pretty good job of wrapping up the story lines and I loved how so many thing were set up in early books. I rather like Harry's character growth and pretty much ignored the plot holes friends pointed out. Overall I would say this was quite satisfying, and love how evern though it's quite a dark book, Rowling still managed to put in a lot of fun, light touches. It's perfect summer reading.

Ursula K. Le Guin is always a delight, and her children's novel Voices is no exception. Following in the same world as Gifts, this is the story of a young girl in a city that is under occupation by a desert people wich a strict religion who abhore books and the city's own faith. She herself is the child of the war and her mother's rape, though brought up in a house with secrets

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

Week 5

Dear Write-a-thon sponsors & supporters:

This was a complicated week because lots was happening at home. I managed to put out my back, and the only muscle relaxants were 2 of Jim's from 2002 (they still helped). Our older cat, Sophia, is having having serious issues accepting the kittens, and the kittens have fleas again. Sigh. Oh, and this week's workshop instructor was so highly allergic to cats that when I drove him anywhere the cat dander on my clothing was a real problem for him.

My back is getting some better, we have a vet appointment for Sophia (maybe kitty Prozac?) and will pick up more flea medication. We also have the 6th week instructor now.

For the fiction I took a few more steps up out of the hole, and while I'm still not certain what I'll find when I get out of there, I do now trust that I'm on my way out, and I'm ready to carry forward.

The topic for this week's poem came to me without me really thinking about it. When I was growing up we lived on Thunderbird Place, it has been muggy and we really could use a good storm to clear it all out, so I wrote a rather one-dimensional poem about Thunderbird. Still, I'm happy to even be able to write five first drafts in a row like this.

.....

Only one more week left in the write-a-thon (and the workshop). I can't believe it is going by so quickly. Thank you again for your support! --Neile


Week 6

Dear Write-a-thon sponsors & supporters:

Wow, we're done! I can't believe these six weeks have gone so quickly. Friday was the last day of the workshop, graduation, and the final party with Samuel R. Delany (who is brilliant and a total sweetheart), Saturday the students all moved out and we cleaned out the house and had a board meeting, and yesterday I completed my write-a-thon commitment.

For the fiction I worked a little on moving the story forward, then finally acknowledged my general exhaustion and went back to tinkering, this time working specifically on bringing the setting of the middle part of the novel into sharper focus.

For this week's poem I started thinking about what the people in both of the places I'm working with, the Northwest and Scotland, believed lived in the world around them, and realized that the common denominator was tricksters.

.....

I'm astonished that this is over, but am committed to getting the recently completed novel out, to continuing this one, and of course to continuing the work on the poems for my Canada Council grant. I really appreciate your support over these six weeks--being accountable to you kept me on track and kept me remembering that I'm a writer, too, and not only a workshop administrator for other writers.

Several of you trusted me enough to pay in advance. For the rest of you it's time to pay your pledge. You can pay by paypal at http://www.clarionwest.org/write-a-thon/home/neile_graham or send a check/money order/whatever made out to Clarion West for me to forward to them to:

Neile Graham
P.O. Box 30187
Seattle, WA 98113-0187

Thank you so much again, both from me and from Clarion West! It has been an amazing run.

--Neile

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

1658. Still Matter
July 11, 1993

Harold has just been and gone--visited last weekend from Friday --> Tuesday. Intense as ever. Reminded me why our friend has been so important to me. Taling about his novel about Merlin. Talking about his poems and our poems. Talking about what we're doing and trying to do, talking about what matters. It makes it still matter.

1659. Sheela-na-gig
July 11, 1993

I've sung the hard lines of love
the bitter opinions
the wrenching stripping of the veins
of one life from the flesh
of another. Very little of the gentle calling
of the comfort of long being two,
and nothing, nothing of this
something of love, this frank
and featureless mocking answer
to the question: where are we
going: where we come from.
The place is Kilpeck Church,
the setting a pastoral valley
with a history of war like most.
The form was a kind of red
sandstone. The character
undeniably femaile admist
the hunting dogs and beasts
as if she too were part
of the hunt, though predator
or prey I'd hardly dare guess
from her round bald pate, her encircled
eyes, her broad nose, her small mouth
shaped in a vee of hinted smile--comic,
seriously, mocking and deadly earnest-- those spindly legs
with har harms curled under,
her solid hands
her fingers bent inside and opening
the mouth of that cave,
holding its secrets open ot the world
but no less mysterious for all of its
blatancy, those fingers almost daring us
to go inside, go inside
to understand it all, where everything revealed
is also swallowed, where the opening
is clear but also a labyrinth,
no less for me who has labia of her own.
This figure, she has the comic
forbiddeness of the word cunt
the hard edged beginning and end
with the interior you could get lost in
All the giving of power adds to its power. All the insult and all of the envy
The welcoming toothless teeth
of such a passive victory,
the open beckonging mouth of
fate oepn before you, swallowing you whole
innocent of motive, weaponless,
penniless
owning it all.

1560. Story 2
JULY 11, 1993

So what of strangers
who made use of
my body and hands?
What could they say that
could buy more than use?

A simple exchange:
my this for your that
your money for my time
my mouth and hands
or a quick visit

to nothing of me.
It's the part I don't
inhabit, the part
just interior
to the outside me.

Note: Both of the poems wound up much revised in Blood Memory.

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