Write-a-thon Update

keep calmIt’s week 3 of the Write-a-thon, and I’m making slow but steady progress.

I’ve met my first goal, which was to revise and resubmit a story my writing group loved (two prior rejections), even though the story scares the hell out of me. I’m waiting to hear back about that. I also felt motivated to put some other, older work out there, and I’m pleased to say that Lakeside Circus has accepted “Jaguar Woman,” a free-verse speculative poem that I wrote at Clarion West during week 1! (see EDIT note below).

I met my second goal this past weekend (while hanging out with members of my amazing writing group at our retreat), which was to complete a particular story I started a few months ago at my son’s request. He routinely gives me “writing challenges, ” including the idea behind my recent publication in Interzone. If you’ve read “A Doll is Not a Dumpling,” it may amuse you to know that the challenge for that story was ” a robot that makes dumplings, featuring a talking dog, an owl and a ninja who steals the dumplings.” The new challenge: “a story about an alien that has to eat and drink at the same time.” I’m not sure what he’ll think about where the draft ended up, but I completed the rough draft on Saturday at the retreat.

Now, I’ve got three weeks left to meet my last Write-a-thon goal, to write one complete story from start-to-finish set in the world of my current novel-in-progress, in time for my writing group meeting at the end of July. I’ve promised to tuckerize my first sponsor, and so I’m happy to say that I’ve begun work on an outline and don’t even have think too hard about what to name the protagonist.

I’m feeling a bit more like a working writer lately, a change for me from the spare-time-eke-out approach I’d taken in the past. I think these goals have helped with that, along with the encouragement and professionalism of my writing peers.

So, if you’ve thought about donating to the Write-a-thon, there’s still time! Plus, I still have a prize for my next sponsor.

EDIT: As a result of some creative differences, that work will not be appearing in LC.

Write-a-thon Time!

It’s that time of year again! I’m hoping folks will consider supporting the Clarion West Writers Workshop on my behalf.

You can sponsor me here. Every bit helps!

My goals for this write-a-thon are:

1) to revise and resubmit a story my writing group loved, even though the story scares me
2) to complete a story I started at my son’s request (he gives me the best ideas!)
3) to write one complete story from start-to-finish set in the world of my current novel-in-progress, in time for my writing group meeting in July

The first person to sponsor me will be Tuckerized in my new story (see #3 goal) and receive a digital copy of the story itself. The second person will receive a free copy of The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. Any sponsors after that, well, I will think of something! But you’ll certainly have my gratitude.

What I’m thinking now

The Thinker and Death, by Bel17b (Deviant Artist). Image used under Creative Commons.
The Thinker and Death by Bel17b (Deviant Artist). Image used under Creative Commons.

Drawing, which I’m not doing.

Writing, which I AM doing, no matter how gross or stolen (or sometimes perfect) those moments feel.

Heteropatriarchy and the damage it does every day.

Women Destroy Science -Fiction, which is practically the best thing ever.

My third, most recent Interzone sale, which I will say more about later.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Ursula K. Le Guin and the hermeneutics of love.

Clarion West, which is four years ago for me and right around the corner for others.

The desert, Trickster mythology and motorcycles.

Changing my name.

Clarion West Write-a-thon Wrap-up, 2013

This year marks my second year of participation in the Clarion West Write-a-thon! The fundraiser means a great deal to me, as the anniversary of my own CW experience in 2010, and as a way to pay it forward in gratitude for this life-changing experience.

My report
I’m excited to say that while I did not meet my wordcount goal for the 6-week period, I made significant progress on my novel! This madcap narrative began as a story seed last summer and then grew into a novella project for the 2012 fundraiser. Now it wants to be a book. I also finally completed an emotionally challenging short story during a dry spot in the novelizing.

The sponsors who generously donated to CW gave me a boost of confidence. The money is for the workshop, but gratifying FEELS occur when other writers give in your name. So, thank you. If you’d like to hear about the project itself, read further. If not, please accept my heartfelt gratitude for your support of Clarion West.

About the book
Since Clarion West 2013, I’ve sold a number of short stories, and I’ve been ducking the long form. But this one kept bugging me until I let it in. I’ve kept fairly quiet about it so far, because it’s my first long form attempt (other than a manic dalliance with NaNoWriMo). However, it’s picking up steam and overcoming some of its shyness. A measure of that steam comes from the extraordinary generosity of Mark Teppo, who offered to listen to my pitch back in March at the Rainforest Writers Retreat 2013 and gave me useful, hard-hitting feedback about structure and believability.

He also gave a cool talk called “Nuns With Guns,” in which he asked, “Are characters fighting you because they know the scene they’re in rings false? Ask yourself if there’s a simpler way. What if they fail? How badly could it go? Are you having fun?”

Well, yes, I’m having fun.

The Pitch
Myths to Live By is a post-Event novel that follows the travels of Bailey, a dedicated scientist and Asema, an increasingly dangerous woman she’s sworn to protect, through an apocalyptic landscape populated by motorcycle stuntwomen, talking animals, hippies, wasteland demagogues and tree-dwelling Amazons. Between the two of them, Bailey and Asema hold the power to save the world or utterly destroy it.

Would you read that? I kinda think I would.

Where did THAT come from?
At Clarion West, one of my instructors was the formidable Maureen McHugh, who advised us to write our obsessions. I think it’s a fair representation to say that she credits the success of her award-winning novel China Mountain Zhang to this principle. Rather than trying to guess what publishing markets want, go with the story that only you can tell, the one that’s eating at you and incorporates subjects about which you care the most. A combination of two of McHugh’s obsessions formed the basis of her novel and created space for risk-taking and invention, producing a unique and exciting narrative.

My obsessions, apparently, are tricksters, nanotech, intentional community, sex, and motorcycles. But it started with “trickster plus nanotech.” It grew and shifted as influences other than these folded into the early novella and gradually the novel outline.

When I’m in the thick of creative process, my writer-brain does a katamari thing, and everything I roll past sticks to the story I working on. Sometimes I fight the katamari impulse, and other times it’s serendipitous. I was reading Joseph Campbell’s Myths to Live By when I started the project. The book is classic but problematic; I purposefully distanced myself from it by giving my ragged paperback (purchased at a used bookstore in Seattle during my stint at Clarion West) to a high school student who expressed growing interest in Campbell’s work. I read Fight Club for the first time, and found Palahniuk’s eye for violence and its motives, satisfactions and consequences intriguing. I fell headfirst into Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World, and began to see connections between aspects of characterization I’d been struggling with in the novella. The main characters, who had felt flat and resistant, like they do when they’re bored with shouldering the weight of the author’s obsessions, sprang upright. They pushed off the packs they’d been carrying for me and began intruding into my thoughts when I wasn’t writing. They started arguing with each other. It was exhilarating.

The Outcome
Now, I’d be lying if I tried to claim this all happened during the Write-a-thon; it didn’t. I’ve been wrestling with this story all year. Writers I trust told me to keep going when I fretted about my novel “jumping the shark” right in front of my eyes. A few folks even said, ah, yes, that’s it.

So, here I go, off into the wasteland. Thank you for all your support, and wish me luck!




Ah, New Time Travel, Plus More CW Success

Check out Damien Broderick’s new “Time Considered as a Series of Thermite Burns in No Particular Order,” now up at Tor.com, providing a fun little romp, some saving of the world and a nod to Samuel Delany all in one go.

And, new at Lightspeed, my Clarion West classmate K.C. Ball, kickin’ butt and taking names with the complex, fabulous yarn, “Snapshots I Brought Back From the Black Hole.”

The Clarion West class of 2010 is certainly making a good showing of late!

Read K.C.’s thoughts on the piece at A Moving Line.

A Story Sale Tale Part 2

The seed of this story did not begin with a superhero. At Clarion West last summer, I leaped headfirst into the opportunity to explore my long-time fascination with history of the women of Ravensbruck, a Nazi labor camp. The amazing women who survived until the camp’s liberation have been largely responsible for compiling and keeping alive the stories and artifacts of the camp, which include those traveling as an exhibit I visited at the University of Central Florida when I was an undergraduate.

The strength and courage of the women of Ravenbruck was fortified, according to their stories, by small gifts they made for one another, books smuggled in, and a choir formed to keep their spirits up. The sharing of these humanizing tokens and activities may have been an important factor that kept some of the women alive in the face of brutal treatment and poor nutrition.

Inserting a character of my own (not to mention a speculative element) into their story seemed risky. I want to honor the memory of the survivors of a concentration camp because these women are heroes in their own right; they rescued themselves, and others, at great personal cost. If in my story a time traveler visited the camp to save a particular person, how could that be accomplished, and at what risk to the legitimacy of the narrative?

I decided the story was about an otherwise ordinary woman from the future and a book that would offer hope. That’s all. The visitor would suffer just as the other women suffered and strive to accomplish her goal of encouraging someone else’s survival.

The story is about taking risks, about being a hero even when no one else is watching, and it’s a story that waited in the back of my brain for many years. I’m glad I took the risk and let it out into the world.

World Fantasy Convention 2010

Here is what I hope is a pithy little post about this exciting event, as I am still recovering.

This gal is as pleased as can be to have attended her very first World Fantasy Convention this past week in Columbus, Ohio. Highlights: I reconnected with good friends from Clarion West, made some good contacts, and enjoyed fun facetime with writers and editors I’d only previously met online (or not at all), and attended some interesting panels and readings.

WFC lessons learned:

  • Kij Johnson’s readings are NOT to be missed.
  • If your Twitter pic actually resembles you, people may recognize you!
  • Everyone should buy and read the anthology The Way of the Wizard (the one edited by John Joseph Adams, not that thing by Deepak Chopra).
  • Columbus as a city is not as dreary as I’d been led to believe (well, not quite).
  • In October, an old leather jacket is not warm enough for a skinny girl from Florida.
  • Everyone (or at least those who like zombies) should buy and read the collection Rigor Amortis.
  • Ted Chiang apparently always looks dapper, and is too shy to talk to fangirls in the elevator.
  • Chicks in chain mail are ridiculous (see photo), but hilarious to intoxicated people.
  • Brian Lumley really just wants a cigarette,  if you have one.

I saw why this con is recommended for writers above conventions that support writer activity but remain focused on fans, costuming and entertainment/media. This is primarily an publishing industry con. This is where writers want to be to network with folks from Tor, Del Rey, Nightshade, Edge Publishing, and the like. Pro and semi-pro publishers were represented, and a surprising mix of people mingle at after-parties which seem to be what the con is really all about. Oh, and the World Fantasy awards are handed out.

I’m being a tiny bit flip about the experience, but it truly was worthwhile. I handed out as well as collected a number of business cards (sort of a party game, and not without very real etiquette and papercut hazards) and made useful and stimulating connections. I learned more about the lively industry that is sci-fi and fantasy publishing. I came home exhausted and probably with more information than I can ever process.

I’m already scheming to attend the 2011 convention.

Ideation (Making Narrative Happen)

A while back, before I considered myself a writer, I thought, “if only I had some good ideas.” Now, I have an over-abundance of ideas, and I’m thinking a great deal more about process, where ideas come from and how they are developed. To my mind, ideas come in two basic forms:

The Ah-ha: this comes to mind in dreams or due to random encounters, or seemingly from nowhere at all. When I get these, I leap up and grab a pen, or quickly make a voice memo, before the idea slips away. These ideas apparently can’t tolerate the distractions of real life. Someone really should conduct a study wherein electrodes are attached to writers (kinda like research on meditating Buddhist monks) to see what is going on when this happens.

The What-if: a seed that is consciously pursued. I sit down and ask specific questions meant to generate possible ideas for use. I make a list of concepts or items. Maybe a useful notion comes out of this, and maybe not. The key here, I think, is to throttle your inner editor and entertain anything that comes to mind, no matter how absurd it seems. It may be that the more absurd the idea appears, the better.

At Clarion West, I worked concepts from both categories into narratives, and if I got stuck, I did something that my pre-CW self may have thought unthinkable. I went to the nearest library (I was lucky to be within walking distance of the absolutely gorgeous and inspiring reading room in the Suzzallo Library at the U of Washington), and grabbed a random book from the shelf. Historical events, animals, gender theory, poetry, or any topic at all might serve to spark linkage in a story, give me setting details or provide background for a character.

A new short in progress enjoyed a similar boost yesterday when I happened upon a book full of disturbing images of collectible dolls from the turn of the century.

Elements for ideation can come from random sources; it’s what you do with them that makes narrative happen.

On Veganism

During my recent stint at the Clarion West Writers Workshop, I decided to return to veganism. I passed several years as a vegan in the late nineties (which feels odd to refer to as a distinct and past decade), during which time I carried a child to term, worked a stressful job where I barely had time to eat let alone cook, and found myself surrounded by unsympathetic friends and family. To top it off, I lived in a small town where few resources for vegetarians existed, let alone shops and restaurants for individuals living a vegan lifestyle. The internet wasn’t a big part of my life then either, as far as that now-ubiquitous resource is concerned.

At that time in my life, I chose veganism as a strictly ethical consideration. I didn’t wear leather and would essentially go without eating or eat junk to avoid eating animal products.

With all these factors working against me, I eventually gave up veganism and even the less-strict vegetarian path.

So, why go back? Several reasons compel me.

  • I’ve been inspired by fellow Clarionite Lauren Dixon, who is a long-time committed vegan and a positive, upbeat proponent of this choice. I watched her struggle with the controlled setting of the workshop with grace and patience (meals were provided for us, but eventually, several of us opted for local cuisine instead).
  • Living in Seattle made it easy to be vegan because of the easy availability of food choices. I was able to transition back with relative simplicity in that environment.
  • My family and friends are supportive now. Some of this has to do with the fact that I have better friends than before, and the rest has to do with desire on the part of family members to eat healthier.
  • It feels right, physically. I ate a lot of meat in the first week or so of the workshop because it was constantly provided, and my health suffered. When I switched, that changed. I just plain feel better.
  • And lastly, I’ve returned to veganism because I can. I live in the same dinky town, but resources have expanded. I’ve educated myself more, and I’m more responsible about my health than before (ie, I’m not trying to live off of fries and candy anymore).

Overall, it feels like the right thing to do, and I’m glad I made that choice. The hold-out, but not a deal-breaker, is Mr. B, whose penchant for mac and cheese has yet to be tamed by non-dairy options. But I’m working on it.

You can follow my vegan exploits, along with a those of a few buds of mine, on Twitter. Sometimes, there are even pictures.

The Single Best Thing

One of my Clarion West buds just sent me a critique of my latest effort at a short story. A really solid crit. And that may be the Single Best Thing to come out of the CW experience.

Not only do I have great friends who keep in touch and tweet pictures of their lunches to me, who chat with me about theology and life and finding fulfillment, but we are also lending generous hands to each other in our continuing work.

Even better, we’ll get a chance to further that effort when we meet up again at events like World Fantasy Con.

Thanks, peeps! You made my day.