Les Semaines

June 28, 2009

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal


First Week of Clarion West 2009

Fastest, most-packed two weeks ever. (Maybe, but don't I say this every year?) The class of Clarion West 2009 is here and moved in the house, have survived orientation and their first week, and I'm sure they already feel like they've lived here forever.

John Kessel was their first week's instructor, and he had some terrific exercises for them and lots of information about telling details and most especially about plot. He's a wonderful teacher and I really enjoyed seeing him in the classroom. I think it made for a great start for the students.

This is a terrific and smart class, who have wisely made some great agreements about dealing with workshop pressures, and have a lot invested in making the workshop work for all of them. So far they describe themselves simply as hardworking--we'll see what they add to that over time. It's amazing to see a group of talented individuals start to become a class, a group of people with this experience in common.

Preparing for the workshop was combined with wrapping up things for the year at my UW job, moving the Clarion West office, Devin having ACL surgery (she's doing really well), her father (Jim's brother) visiting to help her during the first bit of recovery and it being his birthday and father's day. Then this first week of the workshop combined with another niece having a brain tumour discovered and operated on (things look good as far as we can tell, and she's recovering really well) and starting the write-a-thon, with the weekend packed with the Locus Awards and Science Fiction Hall of Fame induction.


Sorry I've been so bad about keeping up to date here. The state of the Neile is way too busy and not coping with it so very well, I'm afraid.

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


Regina Spektor has a new one, far, that I really want to like but so far it hasn't got it hooks in me, which is disappointing as her work usually pulls me in.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Finally set aside the ongoing slew of library books to read Justina Robson's third book in her Quantum Gravity series, Going Under. It's difficult to describe these without spoiling earlier volumes, but I can say this involves the cyborg and her crew entering a unique, dark, yet playful version of fairyland. The book's cover blurb from Locus describes it well: "the work of a smart and sexy novelist having smart and sexy fun." This is a fascinating world and both it and the characters have hooked me right in.

Cindy Pon's young adult fantasy Silver Phoenix is a great debut. Ai Ling is of an age to marry--but her betrothal doesn't work out and her father suddenly has to leave for the royal city, leaving her and her mother vulnerable to a local merchant who wants Ai Ling for this but whom she does not want. At the same time she discovers that she has powers she doesn't understand. Panicked, she decides to go to her father, to try to sort everything out. On the way she meets a fascinating young man who is part foreign and they have a series of adventures, complicated by beings attracted by her powers, by the immortals, and by the source of Ai Ling's powers and the mysterious sorcerer who wants them. A very enjoyable adventure.

Ellen Raskin's comic children's novel, The Westing Game is about a seemingly disconnected group of people drawn to live in an apartment block, all of whom must vie to be the heirs of the Westing fortune. Amusing.

Laurie Halse Anderson's young adult novel Wintergirls is a sharp, realistic view of the world as seen through the eyes of Lia, whose means to control her life is to be the thinnest girl in the class. Her divorced parents have already tried to get her help, but Lia doesn't want it--she wants control. Her best friend, Cassie, has died and Lia wants to know what happened. Lia's ability to hide her self-starvation and her cutting is alarming--but her parents don't really see her. Powerful and intriguing.

Reading Patricia C. Wrede's young adult alternate history/fantasy is a difficult thing. It's set in an alternate North America ("Columbia"), where the settlers are trying to move west but are held back by the predations of powerful creatures (mastodons, winged dragons, wild destructive weasels)--the only thing holding them back is a barrier set up by magicians. Eff and Lan are twins--Lan is the powerful seventh son of a seventh son, and thus great things are expected of him. Eff, however, is the thirteenth child, and some expect only evil of her--which end up by driving her family out to the border country. I really enjoyed the story of Eff and her struggles with life, prejudice, and magic, as well as the story of the settlers' trials in the new world, but I deeply wish that the author had decided to shape the background of Eff's story another way. Here the absence of the North American Native population is so very much like a repetition of the original real-world settlers' effect on North America: this race of people were in the way so we actively removed them. It makes this a painful read, and I felt that not only did it undermine the story but it utterly undermined my ability to fully appreciate the story.

last week's reading § next week's reading


My write-a-thon commitment was to unplug myself from distractions (meaning, the Internet) and write for at least an hour a day. While I am still struggling with this drastic cutting process, I did manage to keep this commitment except for on Sundays when I never seem to manage to sit down for an hour. I have been doing two hours each on Thursdays and Saturdays, so can that make up for it please?

I have to say, though, that trying to carve out a third of the novel and re-knit the remaining shreds is kicking my ass from here to eternity. This is fucking hard. I have no doubt to its necessity, but I frequently despair about my ability to do it. Enough so that I daily stall out. Hence the importance of the write-a-thon this year to keep me going.

See my write-a-thon page here, and the list of officially participating writers (there are quite a few unofficial participants as well) here.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

Friday, June 13th, 1997

A day of looking for things and not finding them. First went to Safeway and got good, then were headed out of Hawick when I saw a bookstore and we stopped, and found nothing there or at the music store across the street, then went farther and we all bought sweaters along the way, including one for Jim.

Then we were looking for a 15th C. cross, but the directions didn't work. Then went toward a stone circle that took us through a whole series of back roads, and the instructions there weren't much good either--sent us out of town on a road that didn't go through that town.

We stopped and had lunch anyway, then wandered our way back to SW, passing through all kinds of tree plantations, sheep farms, bare grassy hills on a narrow road. passed the inn where Scott & the Ettrick shepherd met for the last time. Then to St. Mary's Loch, where the rain finally lightened.

We stopped at the Grey Mare's tail, a lovely waterfall.

Grey Mare's tailThe Grey Mare's Tail.


Then on to Moffat, where we're staying in a small hotel with a view of the hills.

Lovely dinner, with great cider. Quiet evening.

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