Les Semaines

July 26, 2009

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


Fifth Week of Clarion West 2009

The editor's week is always tense. It's partly a matter of timing (getting near the end but not the end), partly ambition and worry (what will this person who actually buys stories think of my stories), and the workshop alchemy (all this stuff mixed together with weather, no sleep, deep bonds and irritations).

This actually was a great week. David Hartwell is a wonderful presence and it was a special pleasure to hear him share the width and depth of his knowledge about the field.

The students were great, too, and seem to be holding together well. Several of them turned in stories that were their most impressive work so far. For some of them it was when they hit the wall. This is the way it goes.

I did both this week. Luckily the latter before the former.

But Seattle now has an excessive heat warning in effect until 6 pm Thursday, so we'll see how everyone weathers the final week.

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


Smoke Fairies. They're like a mix of Mazzy Star and 16 Horsepower and occasionally a touch of Loreena McKennitt. Like. Like verily much.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Firebirds Soaring is Sharyn November's third anthology of young adult speculative fiction. I think this one is overall not quite as consistently powerful as the previous two, but it does have some strong stories. My favourite here was Nina Kiriki Hoffman's The ghosts of Strangers, but I don't think it's any coincidence that it was the longest story in the book—I think this only betrays my own preference for novels rather than short stories.

Justina Chen Headley's young adult novel, North of Beautiful, is the story of Terra, who strives to be perfect, knowing she can't be because her face as a large port-wine stain on her cheek. She and her whole family tiptoe around her angry, disappointed, and domineering father, while Terra just wants to graduate and get away. Then she and her mother attempt one more cure for the stain and she meets an intriguing Goth boy and soon she has to give up some things and strive for others. This is a richly drawn book with great characters and settings.

Cynthia Leitich Smith's young adult novel Rain is Not My Indian Name is about a young girl obsessed with photography who is dealing with major losses in her life: first her mother, then her best friend-almost-boyfriend. Rain felt real and how she dealt with her situation did, too. I also greatly enjoyed reading a novel about a Native American girl written by a Native American that made it so clear she was someone any girl could relate to. I'm sorry this book was published 8 years ago rather than now—it really should be getting the attention other young adults books are getting now.

I know I read Elizabeth Scott's young adult novel Something, Maybe a few months ago, but I have no record of it. I read it sometime when I was really stressed and busy, and I really like the strength of Elizabeth Scott's characterization so while at first I was re-reading it just to confirm that I had already read it, soon I was re-reading it just because I liked it. This is the story of a young woman whose mother makes a living doing live soft-core performances on the net and her father (her parents never married), a Hefner-like character, lives with young woman and cameras always around. Hannah works at a data center processing orders for the drive-through window of a burger chain. Also working at the center are Josh, the gorgeous brains and causes on my sleeve boy Hannah dreams of, and Finn, the boy who she can joke with and who is aware enough to help her when she needs it. Elizabeth Scott's novels are good.

last week's reading § next week's reading


Early in the week I kept to my house a day and made a little slow progress. Then finally about Thursday I realized that pretending I was going to have to go through the whole novel word by word was lying to myself, and I just had to buckle down and realize I was going to. So I worked pretty much every moment I could spare from the workshop and life and needing to take mental health breaks.

It will be rough to keep up this momentum next week because there's so much to do the final week of the workshop, but I'm going to do my best, or I'll never finish this revision, which, alas, is indeed a re-visioning and not just an edit. Heavy sigh and determination.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

Monday, June 16, 1997
Near Whauphill

This was my tired day. Probably mostly because I stayed up late finishing the book I was reading last night. Began by going to Mom's favourite castle, Cardoness, a tower with a lovely view of the water.

The view from Cardoness CastleThe view from Cardoness Castle.


There were lots of places to go off the main stairway, up to the top. Salt box by the fireplace. Whole and broken shells in the mortar, and I wanted badly to get one for Mom, since she likes the castle so well, but none had fallen out recently. I kept looking around even in the storerooms, sure I would find one, but it wasn't until we were leaving that I found one in the grass.

Then just a little way along to another tower house, this one a bit later, Carsluith. Its most interesting feature, besides its site in the midst of a farmyard, with a ferociously barking dog and a view of the water, was that it squeezed in an extra bedchamber at the top of a stair (the stair jogged over).

These tower houses are blurring a little in my mind now, but that's probably a good thing as I'll be better able to make Maddy's house of the bits and pieces of them all. Not sure what I'm doing for my poetry, though.

Forgot to mention that we got a slow start by going back to Kirkcudbright to a jeweler's we'd spied the day before and we all bought rings—Mom got one, I got two and another for Jim.

The towns are blurring, too—except the ones like Kirkcudbright.

We stopped in Newton Stewart to get more groceries and book a bed, and the went to Cairnholy I and II or perhaps that was the other way around. In any case, Cairnholy today, up a lovely dark road, but back out into open farmland for the cairns themselves. Cairnholy I didn't seem that dramatic to me, but II did with its flat stone on top and the one tall stone in front—despite the ugly metal barn behind it. Dad found me a pheasant feather.

Cairnholy ICairnholy I.


Cairnholy IICairnholy II.


Then winding through barer farmland to Torhouse Ring—a lovely ring of stones with a raised area in the middle (made me wonder if it had ever been excavated).

Torhouse RingTorhouse Ring.


The stones were short and thick. Nearby with cows a red stone, and across the road three small gray ones, barely distinguishable from the sheep cuddled amongst them.

Gorgeous sunny day.

We're out in the country again, but trees all around in a small country hotel called Jacob's Ladder. 1856.

Found dinner in a nearby town—steak & kidney pie. I've been enjoying the cider—my favourite so far is Strongbow.

I love the room I'm in in this house. High bed. Jacobean prints. It's only 9:00 and I can see the moon already from my window.

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