Clarion


I’m alive! Probably more than my seventeen other classmates, as we have four stories to macro/micro critique tonight, and since the one I turned in was the longest, (meaning one less for me to read), I’ll probably get to bed the soonest.

Today was rough for me – the first day when wow-I-can’t-write-shit-like-that-other-guy-and-that-one-too sank in far too deeply (I’d been resisting it quite well up until now) and then stuck, and I couldn’t scrape it off for the life of me. Plus, this is the longest I’ve been away from John for nearly 3 years, well, since we’ve met, and I miss the dogs and cat terribly. But not the heat. Right now, it’s probably 65 degrees here. Just amazing.

The backspace key on my laptop squeaks.

I have written 2 out of the 6 stories I am planning to write while I’m here. The first needs a great deal more work, although I had a blast with it, and the one I turned in today is far more complete, while quite ambitious, and I’m greatly insecure as well as proud of it – we’ll see tomorrow what my classmates have to say.

This week is John Scalzi, which is a completely different vibe than Nina Kiriki Hoffman; it’s a lovely contrast, actually, which gives an interesting variety and keeps us on our toes.

I grow empty, very quickly; I must find new ways of nourishing the well. The new Sirenia Digest (Caitlyn R. Kiernan) came in my email, though, just an hour ago, and I think I shall immerse myself in that the rest of the night.

This is exactly where I want to be.

I must take some pictures. But for now, Skype with the Husband! More soon.

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I’m too keyed up to write much of anything. I’ve been pretty much useless at work, and useless at home, pacing about and counting out every…moment…that…ticks…by. Plus, there’s the acquisition of our first house, and all the tedious little details that must be taken care of before it’s OURS. Soon, hopefully. As soon as I come back to real life in August.

This is what my next six weeks will look like:

8:00am – 9:00am Breakfast
9:00am – 1:00pm Class (typically 3-4 stories are discussed)
1:00pm – 2:00pm Lunch
3:00pm – 5:00pm Individual Instructor/Author conferences
6:00pm  – deadline to distribute following day stories
6:00pm – 7:00pm Dinner
Evening: Reading and critiquing following day’s stories / writing / additional activities organized by Instructors or Students

Perfect.

I’ve made myself a list of topics I eventually want to write stories about, as well as happening to find this week 4k words of a post-apocalypse/alien tale that I hadn’t been expecting. We’ll see what happens with that.

In the meantime, I came across an old blogpost of Neil Gaiman’s on free speech, specifically addressing a topic that most people shrink away from. Eloquent and something worth thinking about, especially if you want to be challenged on what you think and why.

And I’m off!

The new SF short is going by the title of “Sarscon 8,” for now. I’d intended it to be a Lovecraft ode, but it’s turned out more of a Caitlín R. Kiernan ode, which is more my preference (and perhaps renders it unsuitable for the market I’d written it for). It’s been an unusual story for me – typically, I start a story with the relationships between characters, the emotion one (or more) feels in a certain environment/after an event, and the story unfolds from there. But “Sarscon 8” has been different. It started with the alien, the reactions to its behavior, the off-world life, and now that I’ve got it all written down and mostly fleshed out, I’m stuck on the main relationship. The soul, the core of the story, isn’t there. And it’s driving me mad, because I can’t force it to work. I can’t hammer something out to fill in the space because it’s not a hammering out kind of thing, the way you can toss in some worldbuilding and/or plot elements and clear them up later.

Without its core, I’m not certain it’s worth pushing out to my crit partners, because they’ll miss the heart of the story, too. It’s a bit of a bummer, to know the best thing to do is wait and let it come to me when it’s ready. On the other hand, could a new perspective help? Help me find the ending that’s not quite there, or the emotional core that I normally get from the beginning?

And then there’s consistency factor. I read a phenomenal story today in the Lightspeed slush that made me think yes yes yes yes for nearly 3/4ths of it, and then I thought what? What just happened? To be so very close, and then just drop the reader. It’s tricky, this emotional game played by the writer, the balance he or she creates for the reader in the unfolding of events. And that’s the reason why I love short stories so much – the reader expects an experience in the brief amount of words, and when they’re really taken for a ride, how exciting that is!

Which leads me to…30 days until Clarion!

We have a private blog for the Clarion class of 2011, where we’ve gotten to know a little more about each other as well as the instructors. Karen Joy Fowler, current president of the Clarion Foundation (and author of the unbelievable story “The Pelican Bar” in the tremendous anthology Eclipse 3, which every short story lover should own; it happens to be my favorite of the Eclipse anthos, too, by the way) has written several motivating and encouraging posts, including one with the following paragraph:

You have to find ways to protect the joy of writing, those things that first gave you pleasure and made you want to do it again. Anytime you feel yourself losing that, it’s worth taking a long hard look at what can be done. Because something must be done! I don’t mean that every day you love it. But the overall trend should be toward continuing to feel the things that made you want to be a writer in the first place.

And so I’ll brainstorm “Sarscon 8” a while longer.

>In the short amount of time I have today, I have two really exciting things to share. I wanted to do a large post about it, but yeah, the time factor, so this will have to do. Plus, “Parasite” needs to get submitted again (meaning I need to glance over it), as I received a kind, personal rejection from Abyss & Apex the other day. Hopefully I can find the right home for that story soon.

First, Clarion accepted me for the class of 2011!! I’m so happy about this. Thrilled to death. And, today I’ve worked out the financial details, so I’m even happier than when I got the acceptance email about two weeks ago and then had to sit on the news. This is really going to happen!

Second, I just stumbled upon a review Cat Rambo did of Destination: Future. I respect Cat’s work a lot (I loved her “Amid the Words of War” for Lightspeed), and she says some really nice things:

Erin E. Stocks’ “The Light Stones,” moves in fantasy-ish direction, slightly flavored with Vance or Leiber-like overtones. Like so many of the other stories, it delights and provokes thought.

Yay!

Oh, AND, I finally found yellow split peas at the most gorgeous Whole Foods I’ve ever seen in my entire life last weekend in Chicago. Now I can make more of those vegan recipes I’ve been waiting to do (from Appetite for Reduction, naturally), since Moskowitz uses the yellow split peas as a thickener or replacement for flour.

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