Les Semaines

July 20, 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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Fourth Week of Clarion West 2008

I posted this on Thursday:

Live From the Front

...or literally the back--the back of the class, that is.

I type these words from the admin table at the back of the Clarion West classroom. I have a great view of the students and of Connie Willis' back, and today have had the benefit of hearing her talk about foreshadowing. She has given some amazing lectures about plot this week, all clear, concrete, immediately useful. It's a week full of things to put in your writer's toolbox.

And it's Connie, so it's smart, funny, point on.

Coming from the literary world, where plot is the last thing most young writers want to think about but after years of reading knowing how well the best stories use or break these techniques, I love this.

It's also fun listening to the class as they go around the circle, critiquing stories--they're smart and articulate, even during this, the fourth week, where exhaustion seem to take its deepest toll. They're weathering this exceptionally well. It's especially fun that several of them are trying humour while Connie's here, to get the benefit of this side of her expertise.

I feel exceptionally, sappily, lucky to be here.

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

Listening

Silence is lovely.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

I enjoyed Sarra Manning's young adult novel, Guitar Girl much more than the one I read last week. This is about Molly, who starts a pop-punk band with two friends and two guys who join them later on. A smooth manager comes along and gets them all to sign on to the whirlwind. The band catches on quickly, building a following with some catchy singles and Molly is suddenly upcoming-girl-of-the-moment. The story covers the range of it all--from the rush of the music and the audience to the deals and the touring life. Molly experiences it all and learns a lot about what she wants from life. I recommend this one.

Mary Hooper's young adult historical novels, At the Sign of the Sugared Plum and Petals in the Ashes, follow a young girl from the country who follows her sister to London to help her in her confectionary shop. The first volume covers the devastation of the plague in London and the second that of the Great Fire. There's wonderful historical detail here, from the confections the sisters make to the details of both disasters.

I tried a previous Jincy Willett book and bounced off it, but I persevered with The Writing Class because the idea of a story set in such a class intrigued me. This is a mystery: an extension writing class taught by a long-blocked novelist is stalked by a harrasser, one who is clearly a member of the class. Then a class member falls to his death, and murder seems a possibility. It was interesting, witty, and mean but really just isn't my type of book, and I found the ending a let-down.

Catherine Murdock's young adult fairy tale, Princess Ben begins when the princess's uncle (the king) and her mother are killed and her father disappears. Certain that it is the work of the neighboring kingdom, Ben's aunt, her regent, desperately tries to ready the reluctant Ben for her future role and to fend of their neighbors. Ben, meanwhile, rebels, discovers her inherited magic, and by mistake discovers more about their enemy and about her father's death and begins to grow up. A fun read.

Sally Gardner's young adult historical fantasy novel, The Red Necklace, takes place immediately before the French revolution. Yann is a gypsy raised by a dwarf, and the magician they work for is killed performing before the evil Count Kalliovski, who is not who he seems to be. Sido is the shy, lame, but beautiful daughter of a vain, Marquis who is selfish to the point of insanity and utterly under the Count's thumb. And the Revolution is beginning...a delightful melodrama.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

The Malahat Review accepted a poem from the new project for their upcoming B.C. and the Green Imagination issue. Hooray!

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

Not yet. Still.

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