Omens, Free Association and Writing

Yesterday, before the bad news, I went into a used bookstore to drop off some posters for a local concert. I happened to be waiting in line at the counter just long enough for my eyes to drift over the rack containing film novelizations (which I generally look down upon, bleh). The very top and left book happened to be The Affair of the Necklace, written by Elizabeth Hand, a Clarion workshop leader. Was it a sign? Not a good one, as it turned out, but I did receive news just a short time later. However, it should not surprise me to see an author’s name, on a book, in a book store.

The day before that, I was in the bath, trying to relax and stop obssessing about acceptance/rejection, when the shampoo lather floating in the tub formed into the shapes of two fish. The smaller had a wide-open mouth poised to consume the larger. A sign? I don’t even know of what, but I was distressed and dashed it away.

As a child (and even then I was an aspiring writer), I used to think that writerly work was mythically channeled from some great source, that the ideas burned writers up from the inside until they were let out. The whole notion was that writing is always passionate and exciting, and that great writers were like half-mad artists. When I was a kid, I wanted to be that. Of course, now I’m actually writing, and although at least one story kinda burned its way out, the work I’m doing now has more to do with craft. The difference is that writing craft is taught and learned and shared (and requires time-consuming self-discipline); it’s not wild talent that madly creates in an isolated trance. Ideas come from everywhere, especially for speculative fiction, and random word association can springboard the writer into exciting new directions. All this has something to do with omens (random signs and symbols that are assigned meaning) that I’m not expressing very well here. Maybe you get the point.

Now that my summer has been freed up, I am hard at work on new writing, with the goal of two fresh subs before June in mind.

The current project, tentatively titled “In Like the Lion,” is a short story I started during the wait. It began with a phrase of simple word association, and at the time, I thought of it as very goofy, but at least diverting from the stress of waiting. Now, it seems to be taking on a life of its own, as stories tend to do, and the characters want to go places and see new people. And there it goes, with me in tow.

I’m also shopping around for good online writing workshops to join, if anyone has suggestions.

3 thoughts on “Omens, Free Association and Writing”

  1. Two thoughts on your workshop question.

    1) I’ve had good success as a member of Critters. Writing critiques is a lot more rewarding than getting my own stuff critiqued, but the members have a way of pointing out things I missed. I have a post about some of this on my blog.

    2) Maybe a bunch of us Clarion also-rans should get together and join the same group. I don’t necessarily think we should form an exclusive group, but all pile into an existing group together. We can help each other out as well as working with the people already there. It could be extra cool to find a group of Clarion grads and this year’s attendees all together in one nauseating bunch.

    There are some dangers to number two. We might make our styles too similar and get some of us passed on next year due to too-many-just-like-that. Or we could grow to dislike each other in ways we shouldn’t until halfway through the workshop. Or…

    But it would keep us in touch. Those are my thoughts, for what they’re worth.


  2. I’ve had similar thoughts. Joining a group together sounds like a very good idea, in spite of risks. I’m not sure that Clarion grads would welcome the also-rans, but some advice from grads would be very appreciated. Maybe E.J. will weigh in on this. Hopefully, we would be able to join the ranks of the alumni next year!

    I have heard good things about one called SFF Online Writing workshop (, and even though there is a cost involved, it’s not much. It also seems very active.

    We should definitely do something here. Let me know what you think. I will check out Critters.

  3. SFF Online Writing Workshop looks like a step up from Critters. The first month free could give a nice trial period to get a feel for it. I know Critters works, but the critiques often miss major flaws that the members (myself oft included) aren’t sophisticated enough to notice or articulate. I’ll think about it an research it a bit more.

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