Thursday, June 30

I almost peed my pants...

So in an effort to lift my gloomy countenance, Taz sent me the funniest thing I have seen all week. I haven't laughed so hard in DAYS. Clarionites are looking at me very strangely right now.
I suppose you might be wondering if I'm still holding it together. Or maybe you'd like to see me go totally off the deep end, if only for entertainment value. Having just finished my draft of "Matter FOR Life and Death" (very important swap there) I am at an opportune time to play catchup.

Yesterday was a bad day. They are bound to happen. Even the wonderful experience that is Clarion can't keep them at bay entirely. But its just one day, and I promise everything's gonna be alright :0)

Today we had sun for the first time in a couple of days, it was warm too! Whoopie. Crits sailed by -- only three -- in spite of the fact that we had a few sticky subjects that came up. It always amazes me how the group really comes together to work things out, even if we don't agree. That part in the Clarion booklet about respecting your classmates is really, really important. So far, so good.

I spent a long time at lunch, just talking to people. Then a group of us headed into town to get started on Andy's assignment. I've had something similar before, but it was nice to return to. I'd forgotten how well I liked this exercise -- even if I have to work really hard to hear people talking -- and not get caught. It does add an edge of danger though... hehehe...I wandered up and down university, scouting for a likely location. Being the slow post lunch hour nothing looked like it would be an easy mark, so I found a little indy coffee house (across the street from Starbucks) and hunkered down.

Americans have this weird personal space thing. That is, we require a lot of it. I got too close to the first group and they wierded out a bit. So I read a few of my stories for tomorrow crit and made out some postcards. When they left about an hour or so later, giving me nothing substantial, I moved to the couch area, ordered a second iced tea and made camp.


Next thing I know I'm in the middle of two conversations and I can hardly keep them straight. Hilarious. I stayed there far too long, but it was so great I couldn't help myself. I can't wait till the reading tomorrow (ah, later tonight)

then I stopped at Bulldog and went crazy in the magazine section (which is pretty much the whole store). I picked up all the necessary Sci-fi/fantasy mags for review, Locus and then two mags just to tickle my fancy: an outdoor lifestyle magazine and the latest issue of Canoe and Kayak -- which happened to be a special whitewater edition -- featuring profiles of seven top female kayakers and boat reviews. Yipee.

I'll try to get in a review of C&K on the Diary of a River Rat but suffice it to say the only thing that really bugs me about the mag (and lots of paddling reads actually) is how blatantly sexist they can come off (Comparing creekboats to spouses and playboats to mistresses, oh come on!), in spite of saying they want to promote women in the sport ("7 'girls' who rip harder than you") Its just such a huge double standard (what ever happened to practice what you preach?) Am I surprised? Not really. It is a pretty male dominated crowd. One thing I can say, is that on an individual level, every male paddler I have met has largely been chill and welcoming. So take that C&K.

I digress. I have to say today was one of those interesting conversation days. I really made an effort to get out and talk to other Clarionites, feeling that some of my bad day was really just a feeling of isolation. Just talking to them reminds me what smart, amazing, funny and interesting people I'm living with -- and not to take that for granted.

Subjects discussed, in no particular order:
MFA programs
race and sci-fi
female orgasms
black tea
kayaking and rivers
arachnids, snakes and other creepy crawlies
predatory birds
pornography and sexual fetishes
mandatory sexual offender reporting systems
the writer and the romantic relationship
having children
raising children alone
class and awareness of class issues
slang and language variations

Incredible. My mind has switched gears so many times I feel like an 18wheeler. And this was just this afternoon. One more thing, future clarionites. Be prepared to talk, share and think with your classmates. Don't miss the opportunity to pick the brains of some very wonderful intelligent people with thoughts both alike and different from yours by being ignorant of the world around your or closed minded. These conversations will inform my writing just as much as anything that goes on in morning crits.

Since then I've been hammering out "Life and Death." I have to say, with first draft complete its definitely not what I expected, even though I knew the beginning, middle and end when I started out. I meant this as a sort of pessimistic meditation on the futlilty of existence. HA!

I may actually have to tone down some of the sentimentality in my crash edit/revise. What happened? Life. Which is exactly the point. Between here and there life happened to the writer and I happened to the story. I also got a real strong sense of my narrator and she was not who I thought she was, starting out. I kept trying to push her and she just pushed back until I let her be who she was.

We'll see how it goes over, but I'm pretty interested in this piece now. It feels good. I wanna hear what people think about it.

Tomorrow night after we take turns reading our overheard conversations I'm gonna head over to UW for a slide show of Josh's kayaking trip to BC. "Life and Death" will be in the hopper for Crit Friday and I hate roaming around the house knowing people are reading my stuff. Its a good time for me to be out. Plus I get to feed some of my paddling jonesin even if vicariously.

No, all of relationship issues have not been neatly wrapped up(but we did have a nice conversation this morning) and I am still down on sleep and feeling a bit nervous (as always) about submitting my story to the group. But that's not all that I am, and today definitely reinforced that. It's all good.

And I've got 10 bucks that says William Gibson takes all in a Stephenson/Sterling/Gibson duke it fest. (See Question 4 for Stephenson's prediction) any takers?

Tuesday, June 28

Warning: Trainwreck ahead... (God I hate the emo-coaster)

Ugh. I guess nothing has been patently evil about today, but a collection of all the little things combined with a general feeling of dis-ease is snowballing into Bad Day.

Combining factors, FYI: (in some semblance of an order)
  1. Lack of sleep. Take note, future Clarionites (as I am now certain there are other people out there besides my kin and folks who can bear me-- a kinda creepily wonderful sensation) Sleep is very important. It affects how well you think, write and most importantly communicate with others.
  2. No yoga. I had to get up early to print my crits (after reading them once to make sure they made any sense)
  3. No Aunt Wobbie on her birthday. In fact, yesterday was so crazy I don't even get to talk to her until today. All it did was make me miss home even more. Now I am definitely people- sick for those who know me inside and out. Yes, Echo is a people too.
  4. Long morning crit session. Octavia definitely spoiled us. I don't mind the longer crits, we are having great conversation, but somebody remind me tomorrow to bring a pillow to stuff between my back and the chair. Plus my tummy gets talking if lunch comes late and breakfast was thin.
  5. Behind on work. I started "Crazie Annie" then hit a wall - in spite of Amy's coaching on things that make AIs fail. So I put that in the stew pot, especially following some of the nice convo around race and sci-fi that I had with the girls at 1am this morning. Now I'm working on a smaller, quieter piece for this week -- tentatively titled "A Matter of Life and Death." I know, I know. It sounds worse than it is, trust me. It might actually be a comedy. Ha Ha.
  6. Afternoon naps are a necessary evil. I instantly revert to 5 years old on waking up until I can get to the bathroom and forage for food. When T called, rousing me from slumber, I was less than chipper but playing it off well. Till I found out he is NOT coming to visit me and my 'I miss yer crazy self' remark was dropped off the face of the planet (nevermind echoed by a sweet 'you too babe.') Then I wanted to lay on the floor and roll around like -- well, a 5 year old. Act your age would have NOT been good advice.
  7. Note to future Clarionites: Relationship drama from home while you're at CW sux. Get things straight. Are you together, not together, taking a break, orbiting planets, competing carniverous species, a symbiotic relationship gone awry, WHAT? Sorting this out over crappy cell phone connections and email does not a healthy relationship make. You will hang up with an inane lack of clarity. My situation is partially self inflicted. I don't know why I need an edge of agony to produce -- the torture of exposed nerves constantly rubbed raw by miscommunication. Consider this a cautionary tale. I have loosened the teethers on this to a friendship with affectionate tendencies hereby releasing either party from previously hinted at mentioned stronger bonds. For sanity's sake.
  8. Dreaming. I am dreaming WAY to obviously. Before the phone rang, (Tori Amos belting out "Sleeps with Butterflies" has got to go. As of this minute.) I was dreaming I was driving clarionites and admin around Seattle and my car was LABORING up this ridiculous hill AND MAKING CLUNKING NOISES. Go head, analyze away. Christ. A few nights before I dreamed that T's sister wouldn't hug me full on, and literally -- gave me the shoulder when I tried to put my arms around her. UG. Now all I need is to dream I'm naked at morning Crits with my fellow clarionites speaking another language and my manuscript out of order with NO PAGE NUMBERS. Then life would be complete. No peace when awake. Why the hell should I expect to get any peace sleeping?
All and all, any one or two of these things alone wouldn't wreck me like this. In combo "I am the Hindenburg Descending in Flames" This is utterly ridiculous. Avoid this at all costs, those of you who will follow me. When they say "get your life in order" look at everything, not just the finances. And quit shaking your head at my folly. I am blogging my tortured soul for your own good.


"Life or Death" is going to be Dark. Very, very dark. Hopefully a revise will cure that before due date on Thursday. Otherwise people just might stone me. Or certainly, take away my bottle of whine. Yes, my whine is definitely in jeopardy.

And one last question. Why am I writing THIS and not working?

Cheap Therapy. Thanks for playing along. Back to ye olde grindstone.

D, where are you? I can't get my IM to work here (probably a good thing) and your cell is funked up. I need a good dose of "I told you so."

Monday, June 27

Holee Shit...War of the Worlds tix

I love CW Admin!

Apparently word came down we might get a chance to catch the the sneak peak of War of the Worlds. I am secretly dying to see this movie, why?

I hate Tom Cruise. Okay hate is a strong word. I think is annoying and has big teeth -- which some people might say also describes yours truly, but he has other character traits that grate on my nerves. (can Katie Holmes be considered a character trait -- I mean she's cute but...)

So he did okay in Interview with the Vamp and I do have a soft, sticky spot for Legend.

Half of me is rooting for the movie to turn out to be a terrible, overproduced Hollywood blunder mobile so I can wag my finger in someone's face about how Hollywood can NOT keep redoing old movies and literature if they're gonna keep screwing things up. ( like I have any say) At least this way I will not have lost several bucks at the theater if it does, indeed, suck.

The quiet half is secretly hoping the movie is great. The same way I hoped for I, Robot, Paycheck, Daredevil, Elektra and for that matter, Blade Runner to also -- not suck. Unfortunately they did. So that part is staying really quiet in case it happens to be wrong.

The big mouth has no problem with making retractions as loudly as it made the original statement...The quiet one hates to be disappointed.

I am going to finish my first read through, nap and maybe join another Clarionite on the early busride over to the theatre. He's gonna get crits done while we wait in line. Sounds like a good way to kill a few birds with one stone (sorry Bro Crow, its a figure of speech man) and get a little entertainment on top of all.

One thing I like about Andy D is how often he makes cinematic references, and not just sci-fi. I have been feeling a bit guilty about being a bit of a cine-phile. Thinking maybe at this level the hard core crowd would thumb their noses at my craving for celluloid. Its not like I don't recognize that so many of the movies are flawed, or all and out suck...its just that I always have hope, if only a thin shred, that something in the construction and execution might be worth my time and energy. Or at least provide gristle for the writing machine that is my grey matter.

Now I don't feel like such a weirdo. Thanks Andy.

A murder of crows

This morning the murder woke me, having a conversation sitting on the telephone lines accross from my window. They were as loud as the frat kids at a game of bball in the alley.

It was 6am.

Hey brother crow -- I'm thinkin -- good morning to you too, could you keep it down out there?

It started to sound like an argument when a third and a fourth voice joined in. Soon they were all chatting it up about god only knows what in raucous voices. I was wishing for my pea shooter.

Shit, I roll over and try to cram the pillow into my ears enough to close my eyes for ten more minutes my cell phone turned alarm clock goes off. Hit snooze button, call out to crows to be quiet and continue to cram pillow around head. Crows are loud. Their voices pierce pillowcases, fiber down imitation fill and fleece blankets.

Brother crows, please! I'm trying to get some fucking sleep!

Damnit. I'm up now. Toss off blankets and remember I promised to join Amy for yoga at 6:30. I peak out the window at the two crows still sitting on the line, the rest of the party has since dispersed.

Thanks, I needed to get up anyway.

It was nice to look bright eyed and bushy tailed when Amy peaked into my room to make sure I was still coming down.

Yuppers! I'm up with the crack of dawn and ready for action (thanks Bro crow)

Downstairs is cool and quiet. Glad I wore a thermal under my tee and a sweatshirt for warmup. We are joined by two other Clarionites. Furniture is moved, space is made, Enya is cued on my new cost-co stereo. We work out who is tense where, what warmups we need, where everybody's practice is at and get crackin.

Sun Salutations
Half Moon
(We are writers. Backs, shoulders and necks are an issue)

Some look relieved when we get to the floor postures. I leave out most of the standing series and triangle/warrior poses, no point making people run screaming from the room on the first day.

Reclining Spinal twist
Half Locust
Wind Removing

I am sure this is no routine I've ever seen, but I'm going with it. Checking in on everybody, seeing what people need. Dialogue comes too easy for me, I'm hoping I'm not boring or irritating everyone with posture talk. This is fun.

child's pose
Seated Forehead to knee (three variations)
"Final Spinal" Twist
Khalabhati (sp?) breathing
Final savasana...ahhhh

For some, relaxation. Amy does more stretching. I throw in a headstand against the wall, careful not to put my feet through the window. Blood rushes to my head and my toes tingle. I feel my being alive this morning. Not just in my head. In my whole body. Must try to do this again tomorrow.

Breakfast and chatting, brief shower then on to crits. Andy D is a great teacher and funny as hell but crits go long. I am hungry and sleepy when we finally break. Three more stories to read today and I feel giddy to get to them. I have one to write too, bubbling up in the back of my head trying to tell me something about itself.

Last night mom and I touched bases about the computer and she read me a quote:

"Good novels are written by people who are not frightened" George Orwell

I am thinking about this today. Forget novels George, good writing period. I think how often I have said to people:

"Sometimes I write about the future because I am afraid of what is happening today."

That's what makes Strange so wonderful for me. Its the first story I've written in a while without it being based on a fear I have, a concern deep in me. Sure there are places for those stories. But I must also remember to write the joy and the things that make me happy, excited and eager to see every new day.

Its afternoon. The frat boys and visiting girls are finally up, getting in their cars across the alley, turning up the music and heading off to lunch and the grey day outside.

Incubus is on the stereo now, Morning View -- which is older stuff, but makes me feel mellow with the right amount of hard guitar and bass. It also has my favorite Inc song, "Wish you were here," which I think of often when I feel homesick. In some ways its not the home and the place that I'm missing. Its the presence of those I love and the opportunity to share the experiences.

Of course, some things, one must experience "alone" and that's the part that feels achy and lonely and free all at once. I am so grateful to be here, RIGHT NOW.

Thanks for the wakeup call, Brother Crow.

(I'm going to try to revise the opening to Strange this week and post it here so you can see what I'm working on while I'm among these cool folks -- I have another story due on Thursday so we'll see if I can get to it before then. Otherwise be sure to check back in on Friday. I should have it up by Friday for sure. Love to you all, thanks for the thoughts, comments and support --E)

Happy Birthday Aunt Wobbie

So my family has always had an original writer. And that ain't me.

Before I ever picked up a pen Aunt Robin paved the way for scribblers in the family. Today is her birthday. Happy Day Auntie Wobbie. Love you. Thanks :-)

Sunday, June 26

My First Clarion Party

I actually got caught on film (rather, digi)...gasp..

I was going for California cowgirl party casual -- note hat from BJ and dress from my days as a Lola girl -- in honor of Small Strange Town, of course..

(not pictured: my ubiquitous black Reef flip flops)

jewelry and nametag by my Clarionites #3 and 12. Nails by Amy. Photo courtesy of Clarionite #5.

Other photos as follows:

Look, its the inspiration cloud. Saw this amazing formation on the road to Portland. Is it a arrowhead? Is it a ship? Is it a whale's tail? Dunno but it gets ME thinkin...

This is, for all intents and purposes my favorite writing area so far. Lots of light, its usually quieter than the main living room but still in the thick of things.

This is my room. Note Grenada flag and as one fellow Clarionite described, my "cheery striped blanket." Note yoga mat crumpled on the floor from serving as a butt cushion while I did crits. I also use it for sun salutations in the morning, and some hip openers. Not enuf though. My legs are tight from bike riding.

Apparently this works for some people. For me it indicates CHEAP SHITTY BEER... and you thought $1 PBR night at The Shanty was bad

Saturday, June 25

Howdy Stranger

Well, I guess since the Clarion 05 Blog network is officially up (see links at left for blogs from my fabulous classmates) I suppose I aught to start behaving myself and doing more than making lists and taking ridiculous statistics...

on second thought, nah.

The fun part is how different each blog is -- Cat's talking lots about what we're learning (somebody has to be paying attention in class); Heather is making wry, pee-your-pants-funny statements on life and late nights; Amy has "Advice to Future Clarionites" under control, and me?

I'm making lists and taking ridiculous statistics. To be fair I am also doing a substantial amount of complaining, hand wringing and effusing over how great my classmates are. In run on sentences. Lots.

Well, someone has to be the oversensitive one with a Franzia sized box of whine and a bizarre sense of humor (okay so maybe the pea gun was a little much....) You wanna talk writing, see statements of Facts and Fiction, you want a pre-Clarion nugget of knowledge visit the Fuschia Velvet Buddha; to pee yer pants (its worth it, believe me) that's Random Jane.

So on to what you're here for...Ridiculous statistics:

Day at Clarion:6
Number of bike rides taken: 2 (sunset on Washington loop was amazing!)
Number of All nighters pulled: 1
Number of vitamins taken: Lots (see mommy, I'm takin care of myself!)
Number of photos taken: Lots more, just ask a fellow Clarionite for whom I did a dust jacket cover shoot for at Friday nite's shindig.
Number of times I've stressed over a boy, human or canine: 2
Most frequently used word: "Psycho" (usually used in reference to some that either "makes me go.." or "then I went..." hmm, no wonder I'm getting strange looks at dinner)
What I'm listening to: Norah Jones (don't worry, the night is young)
Amount of time spent lost in downtown Seattle driving around with the Buddha talking about crazy AIs (artificial intelligence), boys and road trips: hours, it was phenomenal.
Movie I fell asleep drooling in front of: An Ideal Husband (I love that movie, Julianne Moore is such a biatch, she's great!)
Greek casualties in the alley behind my room: Zero (okay there was that big puddle of blood yesterday morning but I had NOTHING to do with that. They were playing basketball and he slipped...I swear...)

Andy D arrived tonight and we had the first of many games (I hope) of "The Thing" -- Talk about hi- steryical... its a combination of poker, heads up 7 up and tag. And scientists. Don't forget the scientists. Watch the pointing fingers fly and guilty faces try to misdirect suspicion...I neither got picked to be a Thing nor was seriously suspect at any point but I laughed my myself silly...

Gotta do some reading, then off to bed. I'm aiming for sleep by 2. I've got three crits on the hopper and some ideas for my crazy AI story (which I may put on hold as I think I have something else I'd like to present for Andy's crit on Friday --hmmm, now if I can just get the darn thing nailed down by Monday) I MIGHT sleep in again tomorrow. That felt nice. Didn't get much done today, but felt good to relax. The wheel starts turning again tomorrow at 6. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 24

First Week Report

I guess technically the first week ends on Sunday but for all intents and purposes, since this was Octavia's last day with us and aside from working on our Monday crits and any stories in the pipeline we are free to roam about the cabin for two days, I'm calling it.

Tonight we party. Some local writer is offering to open their home for this wild wacky bunch of renegade writers to party down. Thank YOU, whoever you are. Octavia will join us, apparently a group photo will be taken. Merriment will be made. I am driving a 4Runner load over, so I will have to behave with restraint (probably a good thing) and depending on how late this goes, I may just want to crawl into bed a relatively reasonable hour. Say before 2 am. I'm aiming for 12, but I'm not stupid. Parties happen.

Its been a long week, but time for a recap.

Stories I've read/critiqued: 18. Yes I did cried my own. Ouch.
Stories I've bled to write: 1
3am college "greek life" commentary sessions: 1
Movies watched while hammering away at story: 1
Phone calls to mom: Okay that's almost embarrassing. Nevermind. I love you mommy!
Phone Calls home: 4 I finally got hold of BJ on the 4th. We talked for way too long. It was great. I love that girl.
Googly messages left for dog on home answering machine: 1
Tears Cried in private: a few or was that just my eyes trying to blink after being awake for 24 hours?
Tears cried in public: actually it was more snot dribbling, but there might have been a tear or two mixed in. (Its a long story. Suffice it to say all is well. I am just emotional and wacky due to lack of sleep)

The week's best: Octavia Butler. Every fucking minute of Octavia Butler. WOW. I have enough OB to keep me writing for years.

The week's worst: Arrival day. I felt absolutely unkempt, verklempt and silly.

The week's wackiest: sitting on the floor in the living room next to the printer hammering out wildly obnoxious replies to postings on the listerve while giggling inanely. Did I mention it was 2:30 in the morning?
Fun Out of the House adventure: Archie McPhee's! One part Wishing Well, one part party store, one part wacky stuff you will never find anywhere else. Have to make a return trip. Look out for postcards.

Solo Adventure: Riding my bike down to Lake Washington and watching the sun go down. Even though I got lost looking for two yoga studios, went the wrong way down a one way street and bent the front fender on my bike (cheap plastic piece of crap)

The clarion "I am so spoiled moment of the week:" Tie! The dinner four nights a week that became two hot breakfasts, four lunches AND four AMAZING dinners four nights a week PLUS free rein over the fridge contents over the weekend. When Joni left for the weekend I almost wept. How will I survive without that woman? I shall waste away to nothing until Monday. Thank good two souls brought me Jack in the Box this afternoon. I didn't have the strength to go down to the basement, fish two garden burgers out of the fridge, cook them and eat them. If I had died of hunger down there, would anyone have found me?
And...the NAPS. Oh what a lovely thing -- to sleep at 3 in the afternoon, wake up, eat and get down to writing. Sheesh, I am ruined for life!

So its been a pretty good week, I am pleased and sad to wave it goodbye. There were, however, some hang ups, screw ups and fuck follows:

Things I forgot:
laundry soap
body lotion
tape (argghhh!)
desk lamp -- thank goodness for the Clarion freebie pile. I found a nice flexy one for my bed instead.
a trash can of some kind...even a few bags from the bathroom would have been great.
film -- now I have to go hunt down a camera shop and pay 9% sales tax for my ilford Black and White (damn Washington!)
Magazines. Its amazing how much I really want to know how Angelina and Brad are doing post Jen and what the best way to wear purple eyeshadow is after straining my brain doing real thinking. My kingdom for some escapist bullshit magazine!
Shorts. Who knew it would be so freaking hot here?
Earrings. Why does this drive me crazy?
My rice bag eye pillow for headaches. I am taking out stock in Advil after this week.
A masseuse. Is it too much to ask for clarion west to hire someone to work the tension out of my shoulders once in a while. Okay I guess the food really is spoiling me. I'll shut up now.
A pea shooter. Nothing like scaring the crap out of overdressed sorority girls on spike heels staggering down the alley below my room talking at the top of their lungs at 2 am. Having a bb gun would probably get me in trouble.
A car alarm. Every time those boys get bouncing that GD basketball and throwing each other around said alley (where my car is also parked) I fear dents, dings and broken windows. I watched one of them take most of the paint off one side of his white Suby by scraping it along the telephone pole when he was trying to park. Or back out. Who knows what he THOUGHT he was doing. He looked pretty wasted. SIGH.

I made a gently chiding remark at breakfast and heard about it at dinner. SIGH. For future Clarionites. Keep your mouth shut until you are certain people know you well enough to know you're not to be taken seriously. Save yourself the pain in the ass of extracting foot from mouth while you're trying to eat dinner so you can get back to your pile of crits.

Most of that is all minutiae, at the moment I am exhausted, happy and basking in the window with the late afternoon sun peaking through the space between frat houses on the other side of the alley. Its warm and soft, life is so good and sweet at this moment its almost too much to bear. Gotta throw down some clothes for the shindig-- will consult fellow ladies on dress attire for the evening. I have everything from a sari to my domanatrix corset suit. I may have overpacked and forgot half the stuff on my list. But the other half is kickin...

Thursday, June 23

Post Critique Report

In short, I survived.

At length:

Well, I was prepared for arrows and rotten tomatoes. What I got was a lot of praise for the concept (which is the dearest part of the story to my own heart) and some really good input, reaction and advice for where to go next. I am constantly amazed by my fellow Clarionites -- generous, forgiving and very smart readers/writers. Every single one of them came up with something that will shape Small Strange Town (the title was a winner, apparently) in rewrite -- to its improvement, no matter how small.

I am immensely grateful for the input -- even if some of it contradicted others, and everyone missed at least one thing I WANTED them to notice (a big clue for me more than anything), and everyone commented on the crappy formatting and lack of page numbers (sorry guys)

This story has been rolling around in my head for some time now, building momentum.
First it was a retelling of the Psyche and Eros Myth, with Ben as Psyche and Strange +inhabitants as Eros. Then it was was this kind of Steinbeck-esqe ode to the dying small California town. Then it was a horror piece. Once it became this smarmy romance (I was single at the time) and finally it just sat, like someone had purchased the options to make a movie and never went thru with it. Somehow the timing was never right.

It just happened to be the first thing I reached for when I stumbled into this 24 hour story thing. Indeed, I decided when I turned it in to kinkos -- late -- that it was a bit ambitious considering my outline to this short story was two full pages of 10 characters, 5 POVs and trying to tease out the town's BIG SECRET.

(Word to the WISE: don't be late submitting to Kinkos, the Admin will not be happy. They will be nice to you, but not happy.)

Lets face it, I bit off more than I could chew. SO I cheated. I went the easy route with Ben and Mara -- I made them a writer and a horsewoman -- which some might find self indulgent but was really away for me to create to realistic people based on careers I knew, rather than having to do research. I also made it a town like the many I drive by on my way to and from Sacramento. I squashed characters, made Manny 1stperson and "told on" the town secret early... The story has 3 POV's -- Ben (the outsider), Mara (the horsetrainer and town matriarch of sorts) and Manny (Her adopted 8 year old son)

So technically its not a romance. Ben and Mara don't wind up riding across the browned out California central valley hills. Although they do, shall we say --consummate-- a mutual attraction born out of initial suspicion.

This was my first major pitfall -- cause it was about 5 am when I got to this point in the story so I was rushed AND tired. I knew this was going to get some ire. Which it did, and taught me the importance of not doing that when I actually have the time to be better. Also, at the end I descended into telling the rest of the story, rather than showing it. Okay I knew that was gonna happen, and I got some superb ideas on how to SHOW this.

OKAY so what you will undoubtedly think is the most important part -- WHAT DID OCTAVIA SAY?

I honestly thought she might give it the big axe. Its nothing like SHE writes. Silly me. She actually had some great things to say about concept and characters. I do really love Ben, Mara, Manny, Martinez and the rest. The best part was when she indicated that usually multiple POV's in a short story is tricky but "Strange" actually worked well. YIPEEEEEEEEEEEE...

About 4 pm I met one on one with her. In brief. Octavia is warm, funny, brilliant, a great listener and wise. She is also wonderfully human. Not only do I no longer worship her (stupidly) I really respect and admire her as a human being and a writer. She recommended a few books that might appeal -- and actually took a recommendation from me (!Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet) -- and the most valuable thing:
She took me seriously.

WOW. It sounds so silly. Most of you have taken me seriously forever (of which I am enormously grateful) and will continue to do so in spite of my ceaseless babbling, hopefully. There's nothing like sitting next to the writer you always wanted to be like and having her ask you why you're not submitting yet (?!?!) I feel giggly and serious and studious and humbled and proud all at once. We chatted a bit about shyness and insecurity and then my half hour was over.
It was dreamlike. I wrote down everything I could remember right away, I have a few quotes that will be printed on cards above my writing space as long as I live and will tide me through rejection letters for years to come.

I am so filled with gratitude right now - to Octavia, to my fellows and to myself for being gutsy enough to attempt my own personal impossible, right out of the gate.

I can't WAIT to get to my next piece. What a way to start the workshop. Even if I fall on my face on every story that follows Strange, I will consider this a success. This workshop just made itself worth the cost, the time away from home, the disruption from life, computer drama, lack of sleep and the constant "information overload" headache I've had for the last three days all in one fell swoop.

And the bestest part that makes me feel like a little kid again-- when it was all done, and I was utterly exhausted and starving and braindead -- dinner was waiting. Joani the Magnificent, Amazing, Incredible House Mom Extraordinare had worked up salmon, rice, veggies, salad and home baked snickerdoodles. It smelled so good I could have cried. I did I think, after almost serving myself a pound of fish. We talked about dogs (I miss Echo SO MUCH!) and she even told me about some places to go paddling. I love this woman.

DAMN these sorority girls are fucking lucky -- I hope they appreciate it. I know I sure do.

Between the incredible mansionlike house (we are never under each others keyboards) with ideal cushy places to write and great food -- correction, GREAT FOOD --I know this Clarion has to be the most spoiled class EVER. Now if I could just get more than 5 hours of sleep...

Wednesday, June 22

Oh yeah, I forgot to give you some important facts...

My Whopper is tenatively titled "Small Strange Town"
No, it is not about Eureka ;-)

It is about a small town where everything rearranges itself overnight. Main characters: a black horsewoman, a big city free lance journalist and the town itself, Strange.

It is full of telling not necessarily showing (big no no)

It usually takes me about a week or more to write a full short story semi polished first draft that I feel is ready for critique.

I am doomed.

30 hours and counting...

So I have officially been awake for more than 30 hours, with about hour long naps at 3 pm yesterday and six am this morning. Why, you might ask.

I foolishly (er...bravely) rose to the challenge of turning in a piece for critique on Thursday which meant I had to have it done by this morning at 9 am. I am now officially crabby, bitchy and tired and have sequestered myself in my room to avoid subjecting anyone else to my presence. My next goal, get down to lunch while being nice, friendly and congenial.

The last three days I have been running on pure Clarion induced adrenaline. This group has seen me perky, happy, bright and utterly energetic. I actually got a comment on how LA I am. Which is alarming to say the least. Brought on in part no doubt by the fact that I tend to "valley speak" when excited -- which I have been non stop. I think they may be in for a surprise.

Today during the last story crit I just sagged. Which was unfortunate cause it was a story I really liked. But I think it actually was a more effective crit, and maybe taken more seriously. Will have to make a mental note of that.

I am unfortunately agonizing over the story I submitted. TO be honest I volunteered only because Octavia specifically asked me if I could submit something beside my Clarion submission story. Uh-oh. Until then I was happily coasting along this week thinking my submission story would be the one.

So in about 20 hours, between naps, computer drama (thanks mom for coming to the rescue on that one) , three story crits and Octavia's reading at the SF museum I hammered out my first 24 hour short story. At about 30 pages its a whopper, and I'm not sure I pulled anything off well except proving that I could write fiction on demand like I write News Alerts at work. Its one that's been circling my head for a while, and I just couldn't get a bead on it. Still not sure I like what came out, but I had a definite start, conflict and ending, so that officially makes it a Clarion fiction piece via Octavia Butler.

Tomorrow, the crit. I need to eat and get sleep, recharge my batteries and strap on my thick tough writer skin -- SHE WHO FEARS NO REJECTION --

Tuesday, June 21

Day 2...Barely

Phew. The last few days are a whirlwind of people, stuff and emotion. I am taking a much needed break from my second round of critique stories. All I can say is wow -- great group, great house, great stories.

I will spare you my "eddie's-grand-appearance-just-in-the-nick-of-time-and-reeking-of-gasoline" (trust me its a doozy and I'm only giving myself a ten minute break here I still have two stories to go tonight -- er, this morning) suffice it to say I was the LAST one to arrive and just before Ms. Butler herself appeared.

One thing I can recommend. Move heaven and earth to get here early. I needed the good night's sleep in Portland -- kept me from totally cracking up on Sunday's drive into Seattle -- but it sucks arriving to the "LIFE CHANGING" Clarion West late, flustered and with all your stuff still in bags in the car. DO yourself a favor. Saturday. Get here Saturday. Or feel like a schmuck and play catchup the first 48 hours.

eg. Yours truly.

ok so stuff you want to know (in brief):

Seattle is incredible. Green, lush, beautiful. The house is on a tree lined street near the university and -- aside from the noisy frat boys playing b-ball outside my bedroom window -- way too nice for a bunch of starving artists (not that I'm complaining) Like Octavia says, you get what you expect. Shite, if we keep going like this, I'm gonna need to write ALL best sellers to keep up this lifestyle :-)

We have a cook most weeknights and lunches. She is is awesome. I love her already. Food is good. Real good. Especially when you skip breakfast and lunch because your computer is throwing a shit fit about going wireless. A stick of memory and some sweet talking and I am cruising the superhighway --sans wires. Ah life is good. Word to the wise: get your computer shit in gear before you get here. Sign away your firstborn child to Dell, Gateway, Imac or whoever, if need be. This will contribute to your general sense of "catch up"

eg. Yours truly.

Make yourself comfy. I was worried about too much stuff. PHAW...With the help of my very wonderful, strong and generous Clarionites my car was unloaded lickety split (urban kayaking a la Tolley and all) My room, now set up is a cozy blue lined den, mini yoga studio and the center of my known universe at this point. I may need a map to find it in this cavernous house, but I'll get there when it comes time to sleep, relax or just be alone.

Seattle is warmer than expected. Pack for everything! Thank goodness I packed a fan AND a space heater...

Clarionites are great. Sure its only day two-ish but these folks are AWESOME. Every group is entirely its own, but these cats have to be the absolute best ever. I have never been in a more stimulating critique session where everyone was on point as they were today (yesterday) morning. Went for a lovely spring outing with two of my fellow students. We checked out UWash and some of the district. Found two excellent used book stores and some restaurants to explore when we're on our own for meals.

Oh poop. Ten minutes is up. Dunno when I get back to this -- got to start a story of my own sometime soon and the crits keep comin! Whoo-hooo!

next...some seattle pics? Ms. Butler's reading? The Sci Fi Museum?

Sunday, June 19

Morning in Portland

Well... not quite in Seattle YET.

In a move that caused me some anxiety last night but I am actually quite grateful for we stopped in Portland for the night. Some problems with hooking up the next leg in Tolleywog's voyage to Idaho. My fellow Clarionites went on ahead and I hung out in Portland for the night. I needed a break anway -- had a blistering headache from driving on a freshly rained on road -- with sun glinting off pavement.

Had a nice chat with Clarionites. I found myself simultaniously intimidated and intrigued by both. We chatted a bit about the workshop-- mostly about travel and home life. I botched the opportunity to describe Outrider beyond basic story elements though. SIGH. Nerves.

Any who, spent the night in a sweet little house in NE Portland (thanks Noah and Lisa -- congratulations!) and we walked the dog up to the neighborhood trendy coffee house this morning and talked about what's next -- looks like he'll be continuing on to Seattle proper with me.

Can I say relief? To deal with someone else's travel problems takes my mind off the fact that in less than four hours I will be on Planet Clarion. I called admin to let them know I would be cruising in just in time. Tolley is re loading the car. Better go make myself useful...

Friday, June 17

Yes I am still HERE...

Steadily packing. Yikes.

Good news! Thanks to my fairy goodfriend I have in my possession a digital point and shoot. Will make posting pictures vastly easier. Yipee!

(I will still bring some black and white film and my Pentax. Just to be contrary!)

I begged out of showing my two fellow Clarionites (who arrived today) rainy miserable Eureka because today's computer mayhem set me so far back in Clarion preparedness. Not much to see in all this rain anyway. And 8am will arrive all to soon. They (the one that I talked to) didn't seem too upset.

I need to sleep, but you'd probably have to knock me over the head for that to happen. Listening to India.Arie instead. And Packing. Did I mention that?

24 hours from now...

I will be coasting up the Pacific Northwest headed toward Seattle. We're caravaning, most likely with my beast as the "gear boat." They arrive in Eureka this evening, and we may or may not have dinner and chat, depending on how the drive has treated them so far. Tomorrow morning I meet them at the hotel and off we go.

Coincidentally, Tolley is also on his way to Idaho, so I offered him the co-pilot spot to Seattle. It'll be nice to have his company on the drive; he's pretty good at "eddy hopping"* both on and off river and can keep me from wallowing in my anxieties. At this point I'm way more excited than anything, but I know my mental cycles pretty well by now. Probably about Portland I'll decide I'm ready to turn around and go home. Its at that point that I'll make him to drive. :-)

So far nothing is officially packed -- I have bags, I have boxes, and I have piles (the "going," the "staying," and the "dirty") I have my kayaking gear, riding boots and bike all in one general area. I picked up these huge rubbermaid storage bins for transporting said "Stuff" and Klaatu still has my computer -- windows updates and security patches galore. I need to run to the co-op for healthy goodies and pick up my giant comforter from the cleaners.

I have re-read the pre-Clarion packet for the umpteeth time (you know the one that discourages "online journaling," encourages the making of mistakes and advises use of the phrase "ditto" instead of endless repetition of the same comment during critiques, hereafter known as CRITS) I am repacking my CD's for the drive, making last minute mixes of music to write by and am fully aware that I will forget many things I intended to bring.

Which is why I'm glad I'm spending six weeks in Seattle instead of on the far side of the moon -- there are probably more stores in UDistrict than in Eureka/Arcata altogether. I still feel the need to bring everything I own.

Last night I STARTED packing, then got "stuck" in a folder of story ideas and beginnings that have not found middles or endings (and an ending or two that has nowhere to start, how'jda like that?) Some of it was promising, some ridiculous, some just made me smile at the way my writing has progressed since I was filling up notebooks with 100s of pages of college rule paper full of multi colored scribble.

I even found the original handwritten manuscript for "The Archangel and The Windwitch" (now Daughter of Heaven) which was absolutely delightful to see how two rewrites later my first novel has leaped forward without any guidance but my own progression as a writer. Still needs work (a lot), but hopefully I can come back from Clarion and look at all my writing with new eyes. I am resisting the temptation to bring already worked on stuff. I want to start fresh, put myself under that little bit of pressure of not having anything cooking. Who knows what I can do if I can let go of what's already done -- if only temporarily. Another step in the journey begins tomorrow.

I am SO READY for this.

I think.

*the practice of getting through a series of complex rapids by hopping from eddy (the still circulating water outside the rapid) between each one.

Thursday, June 16

Ever have one of those conversations... know where all of the things that you've been really needing to talk about but would have had no idea how to consciously grapple with just kind of decides to unfold itself in the most unexpected place/time?

Klaatuand I had lunch today at the Big Blue. Its my new favorite restaurant: affordable, casual, charming (huge clunky palm tree iced tea glasses) and with the best energy -- its just one of those places I walk in and immediately feel at home. Ever generous, Klaatu agreed to look at what it would take to make my laptop wireless compatible (no small task for my six year old turtle-osaur, Mz. TO-Shiba) So I happily picked up lunch. I digress...

So we got started talking and Outrider came up. All of a sudden we're talking about insecurity, having the "answers" and finding your voice: ever feel like someone reaches in your brain and plucks out the kernel of truth that sprouts the entire web of tangled thoughts and lays it bare. Instead of hacking at the peripheral shadows you're facing the real dragon. Then what happens?

One of the books I am periodically re-reading is Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. This sticks every time:

"...perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us."

Lunch was great. The conversation, better. Thanks Klaatu-- I'm giving my dragon a hug, how's that wireless coming?

Tuesday, June 14

What this blog is, and isn't (or should that be "will and won't be")

Okay so you came here one of a few ways:
  1. You're a member of my family and/or a friend who is in one way or another supporting me through this process. You know exactly how much this means to me and what can come of it. Thanks for playing along!
  2. You are a fellow Clarionite wanting to see what dirt I will dish on you (see #2 below)
  3. You are a Clarion potential who somehow found this site and want the dirt. (see #2 below)
  4. You are hopelessly lost in blog land and blogspot spat you out on my doorstep. (sorry!)
Now that I've sent you the address, or you stumbled in, let's take a moment to consider what this blog is. Since this is bound to come up at the workshop and I want to be totally proactive and honest about my blogging addiction. I also want you to know what my purpose is in keeping this blog and what you can and cannot expect if you drop in to see what I'm up to in Seattle.
  1. Regularity - I am going to Seattle for six weeks to write so I have NO idea how much time I have after writing, crits, meeting people, rubbing elbows with seventeen other aspiring pros and the visiting pros that will guide us. I will do my best.
  2. Dirt - Not here! I don't know my fellow Clarionites or the real people behind the incredible lineup of author/teacher names yet. Being human (I think) I'm sure I will love and loathe them in turns. Doesn't mean you'll get to hear about every shift. Without having met a single one of them in person I admire them all for having the gutsies to go through with this. We will be trapped in a house together for six weeks. Drama, BS, Junk and Crap are bound to occur. I will also not mis-quote authors, bitch back at unfavorable crits or vent at pros. Reality TV this is NOT. I MAY (with permission) post a pic now and again.
  3. Its all about me, baby - You will get a lot of my innner chatter and reflections on the whole Clarion "experience" as it happens. I'll share things I learn about writing, working with other writers, constant critique, steady writing, techical writing issues, victories and details about being a writer that may be interesting to you. Also whatever I do to kill the spare time will probably appear, as well as my Seattle explorations. I will probably be inane and insightful in turns (if lucky) -- I may also be (gasp!) boring as hell. Take your chances. Calculated risk...Wanna get inside my head?
What can you do about all of this? In short, nothing. Unless you are in a severely small inner circle of folks that occasionally act as my padded room venting session you will not hear how so-and-so "stole my idea" "was way too harsh" "smells funny" "has no idea what he/she is talking about" or "irritates the hell out of me." Don't ask. Don't beg. You'll only feel foolish being denied.

When it comes to #3, there ARE things you can do.
  1. Leave a comment - Cheer me on, correct my incorrectness, say hi, give me an idea you had, tell me a joke or a story, hold my virtual hand and/or laugh your ass off.
  2. Send an email - Same as above
  3. Send me a letter - I love "real" mail! If you have been entrusted with the secret Clarion "bat cave" coordinants you can send cards, letters, photos, music, good looking men who like to rub feet and/or small unmarked bills (kidding on those last three -- okay so not much the last one)
  4. Call me - If you know the digits you can use them -- just not between 9-12am. I am not going to be the one embarrassed when her cell phone goes off in the middle of crits. If you do this, I may not call you back. EVER. Unless this is an absolute emergency this law abides. I also have daytime minute limits, so bear in mind.
  5. Be Patient - Remember, I am not always brilliant, amazing, confident, smart, funny or sane. In Seattle I will be one of 18 wanna-be pros. Please encourage, but don't wag your finger at me.
So those are the ground rules, this is my blog...Welcome to the inside of my head and Clarion West 2005 -- see you in Seattle...

Sunday, June 12

On second thought...

After an illuminating chat with a published author friend I have changed my mind...

I actually really DO want Mz Butler to take a crack at Outrider. Even if she shreds it -- actually I hope she would at least pick it apart -- it woudl be great. What a better start to working on the elements in my writing I need to spend six weeks working on than having my most admired author work on the kinks in my story.

That would, in fact, be an incredible jump start. The closer Clarion gets, the less it feels like six looonnnnggg luxuuuuurrrrious weeks writing and more like ONLY SIX WEEKS?! I need to maximize the time I'll have.

Saturday, June 11

Look! I'm in the Reporter

So we sent out this press release about my getting in to Clarion -- a chance to dust off the old J-grad schkills.

Dusty they were.

Thanks to Janna for swooping in with a major rewrite -- why is it so hard to write about MYSELF? -- I actually had a local reporter from the Eureka Reporter do a story on my acceptance. Some of the quotes are a little mangled (so more than a little) but it was fun to read and she exerpted Outrider!

Not a bad picture either...

Friday, June 10

Como se dice, PANIC, en espanol?

Yesterday I find out that some of our application stories have been chosen by Ms Butler to be critiqued in the first two sessions. Not only is this like having homework assigned the first day of the new semester but it means OCTAVIA BUTLER WILL BE CRITIQUING OUR APPLICATION STORIES IN THE FIRST TWO SESSIONS (can I underline that?)

This brings up a few considerations:
  1. The "to be chosen/not to be chosen" debate: Do I want to have my story crit that soon in the workshop or would I rather make friends first before being thrown to the wolves? Do I want Outrider to introduce me to Mz Butler or am I praying I get a chance to work something BETTER? If she picks Outrider is it for good point or a bad point to be highlighted? Will I be crushed if Outrider doesn't get selected?
  2. Its OCTAVIA BUTLER: lets face it. I will be crushed if she doesn't choose it. I will also be crushed if she doesn't like it. Which leads to # 3
  3. Crushed fallout: Will the crushing demoralize my summer or provide inspiration, determination and drive to do better?
  4. The "Mikey likes it" factor: I do NOT want to establish myself as a teacher's pet in the first week. Almost hoping she doesn't like it, or at least finds significant parts to pick at so that I can be comfortably situated in anxiety land with the rest of my classmates. I am a teacher's kid. I have been the teacher's pet all my stinking life. I know how this pet thing works. It sucks. Ego is a fragile creature that thinks far too much of itself -- don't put it on a tightrope.
  5. Isn't this what I came for in the first place? Okay so that's self explanatory. I just didn't think it would happen so SOON.
But the simple fact is that I don't have TIME to ponder any of these things. I have sh*t to pack, a new house to look at, finances to arrange, work to settle, time to be spent with BJ, Echo and Tolley (YOU saw the to-do list!) Crikey. No time to get mired in what if's. No time to blog for that matter.

We leave for Seattle Saturday morning. Plenty to do between here and there.

Wednesday, June 8

Last minute scrambling pre Clarion

Things to do:

Get to the Dr's office: need to refill my asthma inhaler (that's right you now know my weakness)
New contacts? These old ones are buggin and my eyes hurt at the computer
Set things up at the vet/doggy daycare for Echo
Yard Sale (rummage in my honor)
Get oil changed and car safety check
Set up earthlink account
notify NW paddling groups of my imminent arrival. Find paddling buddies
Charge laptop battery
Check cel phone roaming (no extra charges please)
Pick up plastic tubs at Target (cheap luggage!)
Get in my last HOO-RAh in town before I leave (why don't people believe me when I say I'll be back in SIX WEEKS?)
(Find) clean my riding boots/helmet ect. Wonder if my breeches fit?

Grocery list:

(Yeah so they feed us in the mornings and most dinners, but sometimes I'm gonna have to fend for myself -- and one can't eat out ALL the time. So here's the stuff I can't live without)

Sushi components - nori, rice, carrots, wasabe, cucs, onion and more... (its cheap, its easy, you can make a boatload all at once)
Goddess Dressing
Top Ramen (ye old stand by quickie meal)
Beer (a girl cannot survive on water alone)
Rice and Beans (same as Sushi)
Odwalla Superfood (a girl could live off of this alone)
Chocolate (trust me its for your own safety)
Paper/Printer ink

The goal for this trip is not to spend a lot of money doing ordinary stuff like feeding myself but do the fun extraordinary stuff like check out Seattle's night life, paddle a bit and put gas in the car for weekend trips. Keep it simple. Plus I may be partially responsible for a group meal or two so I'd better have some large portion feeding tricks up my sleeve. Fresh fruit/veggies and fish can be purchased in Seattle. There is also a great Whole Foods store there, to substitute my great Co-Op here. I will survive. Pinkie Swear.

You think this is bad, wait till you see my packing list.

Monday, June 6

11 Days and Counting

I'd like to think I could be an adult about this -- or at least a mature individual. That I could be patient, thoughtful and appreciating every minute of agony leading up to my departure. As you might have guessed from the end of that last sentence, its NOT going to happen. I am giddy, excited, moody, nervous, anxious, eager and nauseous (or is that nauseated) in equal turns. Why?

In 11 days I leave my life in northern California for six weeks of utter insanity called Clarion West. Picture this, 18 writers, picked to live in a house together, write together, agonize together, all under the tutelage of six amazing published speculative fiction writers. No, its not the Real World, but its gonna get really interesting.

How did I get to this point? Well anyone who's known me long enough knows I've been a writer since I figured out how to string a sentence together. My first word: hotdog. Immediately followed by (thanks Grandma) : damn-ant.

Since then I've logged more words on more pages in more notebooks than anyone person should probably have access to. Now I'm a writer. A published author, well that's an altogether different story. Which is where Clarion comes in. SO its not a guarantee, but when names like Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, Harlan Ellison, Connie Willis, and Charles DeLint (to skim the surface of a mind boggling list) are associated with ONE workshop...Yeah getting in is as close to the #1 of a top ten "you might be on your way to publication if..." list you're gonna get.

Last night my dear friends (sisters, co-workers and the family you make) threw me a benefit party. I think I could not love a group of people more than I love the friends and family that have risen to the occasion on this one and are making sure I get to this workshop. One way or the other. Without you I am just a writer. Now I am a Clarionite!

You have my heart (and the dedication in my first book) pinkie swear.

In 11 days this writer leaves for Clarion with a car full of stuff, her laptop and a whole lotta dreams (some good story ideas too) -- and you get to come along :-)

Week One:Octavia Butler (can I scream and roll around on the floor with delight for just a minute please)

But FIRST: classmates that I already love (sight unseen), the packing list, music that must come along, leaving Echo and BJ behind, caravaning with boys, and how this grrl stays focused on her job for two weeks when she really wants to camp out on the lawn in Seattle until move in day.