Les Semaines

August 2, 2009

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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Sixth Week of Clarion West 2009

The last week is always so intense for the students and for us. All the work and with the anticipation of saying goodbye. Trying to make all the last stuff count. And each day there are so many this-is-the-lasts. No matter how ready everyone is for it to be over, the end is hard and always comes sooner than anyone expects. I always feel on the edge of forgetting something crucial, something that will cause a crisis, and I know it's the result of just too many little things to do in a short time that has suddenly come upon me, but yikes. I remember how that felt when I was a part of the class myself.

This was a fun week for the students, which they needed after five intense weeks. Not that this wasn't intense, but Rudy Rucker is also a playful instructor, which added relief to the exhaustion and hard work, and got us through Seattle's record-breaking heatwave, as did the air conditioner one of the students had brought in. It sat around for most of the workshop. We had no idea how much we were going to need it.

No more new stories. No more everyone spread all around the house critiquing. No more playing Thing. No more Joni-cooked meals. No more spontaneous squid songs about Tentacle Longing. No more weekly readings or parties. No more Mystery Muses. No more Write-a-thon-ing. Damn. I miss it all.

Now everyone's gone. The doors are closed. We're missing all these people we had just started to allow ourselves to get to know (we try to interfere as little as we can with the group).

It's all over, and I'm in recovery mode. Actually, that's not quite true. Instead of doing nothing and sleeping all day as I sometimes do after the workshop, I got up the next morning and started vacuuming. I've been playing catch up the last few days, digging through the stacks of paper on my desk. Completing the write-a-thon. Paying bills. Getting Stuff Done, which may be a reaction to the fact that it's no longer 103 outside.

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

Listening

Still enjoying the Smoke Fairies, but didn't have much time to listen.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Christopher Moore's novel, Fool is a darkly comic retelling of what is possibly my favourite play in Shakespeare, King Lear--in a great part it's my favourite because of the characters of the fool. Moore's characterization, then, had its up and downs for me. There are times when I found it delightful but also times when its humour just missed me (sometimes it seemed just a little too adolescent boyish). That said, overall I don't think it suffers too much in comparison with the classic novel, Pär Lagerkvist's The Dwarf--it's clever and very much about power and the manipulation of it. And it certainly think it's a better re-take on Lear than the dreadfully earnest and turgid A Thousand Acres. At least Fool truly is funny.

Rebecca Stead's young adult fantasy First Light is one of the few novels I have read in a while with a sense of excitement. It had a wonderful touch of magic to it. It's about two teens: one lives in New York and travels to Greenland on his father's expedition to measure climate change; the other grew up in a civilization that has lived under Greenland's ice-cap for generations in exile after suffering persecution in the outside world. There is magic, and they are destined to meet. A charming book.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

Sunday was the last day of the 2009 write-a-thon for me. Throughout the write-a-thon I did pretty well at sticking to my schedule despite the demands of running the workshop while trying to keep up with the write-a-thon commitment [writing at least one hour per day unplugged from the Internet]. Toward the end, when I suddenly decided to stop fighting doing it this way and just revise the damn thing sentence by sentence, I also started working more (extra) hours and feeling productive and pleased with the work I was doing. [At least until Thursday and the end of the workshop arrived when it all went pear-shaped and I didn't have any writing time again until Sunday.]

Overall, I'm really happy with what I got done. I'm especially pleased that I've come to accept the kind of word-by-word work cutting this novel down to size is and just do it. With good results: I hadn't been keeping careful track of how much I was cutting at the beginning of the write-a-thon, but in the last two-three weeks I've had the previous version of the section side-by-side with the version I'm cutting and realized today that in just that time alone I've cut 50 pages. 50 pages!

If anyone would still like to support me with a donation to Clarion West, I will still send a copy of my now home-made poetry reading CD for any donation $6 and up. This contains poems selected from all my books, including the one I'm marketing now, plus a bonus poem from the Canada Council-sponsored collection that I'm still working on. You can donate by PayPal at the address at the first link there, or you can mail a check to:

Clarion West
P.O. Box 31264
Seattle, WA 98103-1264
U.S.A.

[If you write a check, please note on it that it's to support me and let me know, as I won't find out for a while when they send the final write-a-thon report and thus your CD will be delayed.]

I have to say, unplugging myself from the Internet was key for me. Sad to learn at the age of 50 that you will still let easy entertainment take you from the Real Work. Sigh. But now that I know that just by unplugging the modem I'll get more work done, you can be damn sure I'll be doing it regularly.

Also, if you'd rather support other people, or more people, there's a long list of wonderful participants at The Write-a-thon page.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

Back at it next week, okay?

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

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1030 people have wandered through this week with me