Les Semaines

June 29, 2008

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 2008

Damn, Paul Park is a great teacher, especially great as a first-week teacher for Clarion West. I know I've talked about this more than once before so I guess there's no point in repeating that, but it is still an amazing process to watch. It's powerful to watch people learn so much in such a short time.

Paul's Tuesday night reading was wonderful--he read from his most recent novel, The Hidden World, which I just read a couple of weeks ago, and new short story, which was also dark, smart, and delightful.

The students seem like a great group of people--Leslie and I have really been enjoying them inside and outside of class.

Friday night's party was fun, too, though as always I got a little into my ubiquitous tongue-tied party mode, which I really am getting sick of. When there are too many people to talk to, I find I can't talk. It didn't help that I was painfully tired.

Jim was up in Victoria this weekend visiting my parents (who are still suffering from their long home-rebuild project--it has been about three months now) and our friend John. I spent a lot of time reading and sleeping, both accompanied by cats in various configurations. I also sat down to watch The Buccaneers, thinking it was a movie and discovering that it was a five-part series. Could I turn it off to get some sleep? No, I couldn't. I did enjoy it, even though I was fighting to stay awake by the end. Silly me.

After all this lazing around, though, I did finally reach the end of the first draft of my new novel. Hooray!!!

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

Listening

The new Sigur Ros album seems quite lovely. I haven't heard it well yet, since it's mostly from a distance while I'm doing something else.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Runemarks is Joanne Harris (of Chocolat fame)'s children's fantasy novel. Based on Nordic myth, it follows Maddie Smith, a young girl who has a "ruin-mark" and can send the goblins in the innkeeper's cellar back to where they belong. When she discovers the peddler Old One-Eye also has magic powers, she harasses him until he agrees to train her. But events overtake her and she's traveling in the midst of a hill full of tunnels and goblins before she knows it, entangled in events that endanger herself, One-Eye, and her entire world. While I enjoyed reading this, I couldn't help but wish it were a little more sprightly; there's something too heavy about it that doesn't bear out for a "heavy" book, and yet it needs more light to really fly. Lots of people will love this, though.

Georgette Heyer's The Corinthian is another of her delightful romances. Not my favourite, this one seems a little familiar and a little Barbara Cartland-ish: a young Beau Brummel-type is being coerced to choose a bride. Just before he proposes to his family's choice, he runs into a waif--a young woman disguised as a boy--climbing out of a window, running away from a marriage her own family is forcing on her. Drunk, he takes on the task of escorting her, while she's disguised as a boy, to her childhood sweetheart, only to run across highwaymen and to discover her sweetheart has other plans.

Hey, I actually quite liked Julie Quinn's historical romance novel Romancing Mister Bridgerton. I've tried various romance authors, and while I do like Georgette Heyer, I mostly can't be bothered with others. This one I liked. Maybe because the story went beyond romance into issues of marital control and power. And it was about writing. And the author did well at impressing me with the supposedly good writing samples from Regency authors--unlike most attempts at this, I liked them. There's little I can say about the plot that isn't a spoiler, but I do recommend this: if you at all are interested in romance novels, try this one.

L.M. Montgomery (author of the Anne of Green Gables series and other's)'s novel The Blue Castle is the tale of a repressed woman in a conservative small town, she gets a letter from a doctor telling her that she has only a year to live. She decides to throw off the traces, and begins doing what she wants and telling her family just what she thinks, and de-camps to look after a young woman who is dying of consumption. There she meets the town bad boy, and convinces her to marry him. It's an improbable but sweet romance novel, with some gorgeous passages. I want a cabin and time in it like Valancy has!

Kevin Brockmeier's The Truth About Celia is quietly haunting. Supposedly it's a collection of pieces by SF novelist Christopher Brooks, whose seven-year-old daughter disappears from their yard one day, with no clues as to where she has gone. Not everyone will like this because it's a little meta and somewhat fragmented, but I loved the stories he tells and the portrait of grief and of the author that is painted here.

Elizabeth Scott's young adult novel Perfect You follows Kate Brown's horrible year. Her father has quit his job (causing financial problems for the family) to sell vitamins (using obnoxious sales techniques which embarrass her), she has to work at the mall for her father, her best friend has suddenly become popular and snubs her, her rich but annoying grandmother has come to stay with them, and she has a crush on a cute guy with a bad reputation who starts to act interested in her, so she's sure he's just looking for another conquest. Elizabeth Scott is above average as a teller of this kind of young adult tale.

E. Lockhart's young adult novel The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks tells how Frankie becomes the secret perpetrator of a series of pranks pulled off by the "secret" boys-only society at her exclusive at her prestigious prep school and learns some lessons--both positive and negative--along the way. Good and interesting fun.

David Almond's illustrated children's book, My Dad's a Birdman is a delight, and not just because of the charming illustrations by Polly Dunbar. David Almond is always quirky and this is a surprisingly fun read.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

I finished the first draft of my second ballad novel. Whoo! Now if I can just come up with a title for it. The Demon Lover is way too suggestive of a paranormal romance, but that's the ballad the seed of the story idea came from. I may call it Alakshihir, after the name of the made-up place most of the novel is set in. It's a Demon Lover/Persephone story with no pomegranate. Any ideas?

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

Not retrospective yet. Sometime I'll have time to pull the old journals out again.

last week's old journal § next week's old journal

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