Monday, July 29, 2013

Folly's First Cascade Writers Workshop

I've just returned from my first Cascade Writers Workshop and figured I'd throw out a few thoughts before stepping back into real life. This was my first workshop with Cascade Writers and it was pretty freakin' awesome -- to hit you with some fancy writerly terms.

My critique group consisted entirely of talented writers. The leader of our group was extremely generous with her time and expertise. I went to some interesting panels, and bonded with people on missions in search of food away from the hotel. The dessert/drinks jaunt to McMenamin's Kennedy School was a highlight, for sure. So many incredibly talented and funny people gathered around two old desks in the basement of a converted elementary school watching shuffleboard, discussing apoptosis (programmed cell death) and inventing sweet-dry vermouth.

But let's not kid ourselves. Really the star of the night was bread pudding.

If there's just one thing I'd suggest to the workshop organizers for next year, it would be this: figure out a way to extend the average length of a solar day on Earth.

Fifty hours should cover it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Inside my noggin

I'm probably not supposed to admit when I have doubts about myself--and exactly how much time and effort I waste on self-criticism. But here's a taste. I am a terrible newbie, but my boredom threshold is low so I am constantly on the lookout for new things to learn. I love the learning part, the challenging part, but hate not knowing something. Inevitably, I spend a lot of time wallowing in this internal conflict, waiting to become competent, and then once I'm competent, I rush off to sample the new shiny. Beating myself up the whole time.

I want to know and experience and learn everything, but I don't want to be vulnerable to it.

With writing fiction, for the first time, competence is not enough. I want to become a master.

As you might imagine, there are problems acknowledging this desire. For starters, it's kind of an obnoxious, self-indulgent goal to put out there. Besides, who's to say I can even master a thing like writing, no matter how hard I work or how much I want it? The best writers of fiction have talent and skill, craft, strategy, heart, the ability to make an audience feel something greater than themselves. Luck, persistence, perspective...

Only some of those qualities are even teachable.

A quick story--apologies if you've heard it before. Once I attempted to hike the trail up to Half Dome in Yosemite with friends. About three miles from the end, I was exhausted. Every muscle ached. Little kids kept passing me. My clothes were soaked with sweat and I just wanted to sit on a tree stump and not get up again for a long long time. Instead I focused on each step. Just one more step. One more. And forgot about the rest. In the end, I did not make it to the peak of Half Dome, but I made it farther than any out-of-shape person had a right to go. And I learned that big tasks are possible if I just focus on the next tiny bit and keep moving forward. Always forward. Speed doesn't matter.

And if all else fails, seek a new definition of success. (Internal, anyway. External definitions are usually pretty fixed.)

Not like I couldn't have learned those lessons from an Aesop's Fable, but in that one dehydrated moment, dragging my blistered feet up the side of a mountain, conscious of the dwindling weight of my CamelBak, it seemed like a revelation.

Small steps. Forward. Ignore the rest.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Submission Numbers

Since January 2013, I've sent out 40 short story/flash/poetry submissions, received 28 rejections, 3 acceptances, and had 2 short pieces published.

Since I started tracking in Excel in December 2011--although I started sending out stories around July/August 2011--I have recorded 81 submissions, 58 rejections, 11 acceptances, and 11 publications. The numbers are not exact because of the missing time period. For example, I have 4 acceptances that haven't been published yet, that aren't reflected in the current counts. And I have 13 published items listed on my fiction page, instead of the 11 I have in Excel.

So. Grain of salt.

Why do these numbers matter? Well, they tell me that half-way through 2013, I've already submitted as much work as I did in all of 2012 and part of 2011. I feel good about that.

Writing short fiction is such a mind game. Sometimes it helps to take a step back and just look at the numbers. It also reminds me that I should write some new stuff.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Acceptances to report

I'm excited to share that I've had two items accepted for publication recently:

  1. "The Hero Garden" is being reprinted in a dark superhero-themed anthology called Bad Company, coming out in October 2013.

  2. My poem "Shag" has been accepted by Kaleidotrope for publication in 2014.
I've also had a reprint of "Taking the Winds" accepted for the Write1Sub1 anthology--not sure of the timing on that--and a new short story called "The Man at the End of the Chain," which will be published in Jennifer Brozek's upcoming anthology, Beast Within 4: Gears and Growls. I don't think there's a date for that one yet either.

I might have mentioned some of these before, but this is the first time I've gathered all of the announcements in one post.

Now for the really hard part: being patient while I wait to share the stories!

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Locus Awards Weekend and More -- possibly my geekiest post ever

Space Needle, Blue Sky

Last weekend I went to the Locus Awards (science fiction/fantasy focused) plus writing workshops taught by Connie Willis and Paul Park. This all took place in the shadow of the Space Needle over an unseasonably warm few days. Here are some pictures from the panels:

Kim Stanley Robinson, Paul Park, Connie Willis

Greg Bear, Daniel Abraham, Gary K. Wolfe, Connie Willis

Paul Park, John Clute, Gary K. Wolfe, Elizabeth Hand, Kim Stanley Robinson

Not pictured: The Locus Awards banquet where everyone wore Hawaiian shirts. Oh wait...I do have these two pictures from last year's banquet that I never posted. This will give you an idea at least:

My friend, Nate, being shamed by Connie Willis for not wearing a Hawaiian shirt, July 2012.

A group shot of the best examples of Hawaiian garb, July 2012

The Locus Awards weekend ended and two of our friends from California came to stay for the week. First we went to the Seattle Aquarium:

Lionfish, Seattle Aquarium

Looking up at the sky through a fish window, Seattle Aquarium

Our lovely houseguests, Seattle Aquarium

Then I ditched everybody and went to the Neil Gaiman reading at Town Hall:

Town Hall is packed for the Neil Gaiman reading

Jason Webley opens for Neil Gaiman's reading

Neil Gaiman in a chair -- you'll just have to trust me

Later we took our houseguests to the Experience Music Project for the horror, fantasy, and science-fiction exhibits:

Me on the Iron Throne, er, Plastic Throne

Jer, same throne

Cool Shadow Monster/Puppet Theatre at the Experience Music Puppet, Horror Exhibit

Alien! Horror Exhibit, EMP

Me, Scream Booth, EMP--a photo booth for screaming

David Bowie's costume from Labyrinth, EMP Fantasy Exhibit

On our last night together, we went RC car shopping (at 3 places) and to the Redhook Brewery for dinner. Then we found this place in Redmond called The Airlock. For $4 per person per "ride," you can occupy a pod and pretend to be a giant mech and shoot your friends in the face. Then you get a detailed print-out recapping each "ride" and can watch the replay together. It was fun.

The Airlock, Redmond, WA--video games, pinball, and pods for mech fighting

At The Airlock you can pay to play in these pods and pretend to be a giant mech warrior and shoot your friends. Then watch the replay. Very fun.

Thus ends my very geeky week that involved getting my Mars trilogy books signed by Kim Stanley Robinson, drinking beer with fellow writers at Five Point, attending a writing class taught by two sci-fi giants, piloting a mech (it's just like a tank, Folly...But I've never driven a tank!), admiring David Bowie's tights, and buying a punch-out steel model of a windmill and a pirate ship (not pictured.) I also spent four hours playing a terrible side-scrolling D&D-type game on the PS3 and made/consumed a Kahlua/vodka Bundt cake.

My next nap is going to be epic.