Birthdays

Posted by ON in Dear Diary

I get a little sick of hearing myself say how much life has changed. I swear I’ve said it like three times in the last two years. I mean, okay, it’s true, but then again it’s probably true for everyone. Maybe it’s more that we all learn new things and then move on to new things.

My birthday’s in a few days, which brings to mind last year’s birthday. Everything had changed then too. I started my huge journey around the world and everything was different, stuff with Jai, my life in Eugene, everything. I’d thought I had a path, and I did, maybe with some bad information and some bad choices, but with a lot of possibilities and dreams.

There was awesome stuff on the trip. In the last year I discovered I love Istanbul and London and Edinburgh and Paris. I learned a lot about myself and what I want from life.

And sure, it was confusing and hard at times. Part of me wants to say it was a distraction from the important things, but I don’t think I could have gotten here if I hadn’t done it all.

On my birthday last year, I had specific ideas about my money-making life, my love life, ideas of living in another country. It was a possible path, none of it turned out the way I thought it would. Some of it sucked, but whatever, it was kinda perfect.

I went through a painful transition a couple days ago. It’s not worth going into, but there are a couple of points worth remarking on: One is that I’d been through nearly this exact same … well, drama a bunch of times. Every time it had torn me up for weeks, sometimes months.

This time I was down for a day or two, but have mostly moved on. The other thing I realized is that — and this sounds like a cliche — I’d been living in a fantasy, waiting for potential and possibility and ignoring what was in front of me. I’ll take clarity any day.

Anyway, yeah, not exactly fun stuff, but it’s weird, I expected to feel more depressed, and for longer …

… but I don’t. I think getting out of a bad situation, and realizing that whatever happens in the next year, (or five, or ten) largely depends on me and my decisions … it sorta forces me to realize that all I really need to do is pay attention and keep at it.

Anyway, I’m excited about this birthday, and cautiously excited about this new stage of my life. I’m sure I still have stuff to work out, emotions to feel, but I come into this birthday feeling unencumbered and hopeful.

Anyway, thanks for reading. If you have a second, wish me a happy birthday!

The current novel …

So I was invited to the Wellspring Novel Workshop, which … whew … is an honor … and frankly slightly overwhelming. Wellspring takes the place of Starry Heaven this year, which is on hiatus. Starry Heaven is a spin-off of Blue Heaven. Anyway, they’re all cool high-end workshops and some pretty serious novels have come out of them. (Including Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl” and Brenda Cooper’s “Reading The Wind.”)

And it’s great that I got invited, but of course that means needing a novel to workshop.

Now, technically I have a lot of novels. A number of years ago I wrote Never Trust A Hippie, then Dog Heaven, and then Losing Candyland. The first two were a total mess and I trunked them. I decided the third was worth re-writing and spent a year working on it. When everything was said and done …

… well, I’d learned a ton about novels and had spent a entire year on something that was still frankly a bit of a mess, and I hadn’t written any new short fiction and … it was all a bit depressing.

I sent it out anyway, but after a while (and not a few rejections) I decided Losing Candyland hadn’t really come together as a book. Actually, one agent said he liked it a lot and asked to see my next book. Losing Candyland is still waiting with a few agents, but I’m not super hopeful of it going anywhere.

So, Wellspring.

I decided I needed a new book, rather than trying to clean up Candyland again. I had about 1200 words written on a YA novel (currently called Good is a Bad Word) I’m still excited about so … here we are.

I’m trying a new process with this book. I largely wrote Losing Candyland off the cuff … and it shows. I spent some time while in Paris working out an outline and have been going back and rewriting every five or six scenes before moving on to new ones. It’s made the writing go slow, but now I have a pretty solid first fifty pages and a decent idea of where it’s going. I’ve picked out a few initial readers who I’m feeding 5K chunks to and using the feedback in the rolling rewrite.

Slow but steady, so far, so good.

Anyway, this is all to say that novel writing is still a giant headache, but I at least have a good start. The first fifty pages are due at the end of April, and I already have something for that. I’m hoping to have the rest of the manuscript done (in rolling re-write fashion) in the first week of April, get it to my second readers and hopefully get another full rewrite in before the end of April deadline.

Expect updates on word-count and general whining about pain and torture that is writing.

And … 1, 2, 3, GO!

What did I learn from Clarion?

The Clarion Writing Workshop was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had. A lot of it was explicitly positive, some of it was positive eventually (or may still be gestating) but was really hard at the time or for the months … *ahem* years … after.

Both the Clarion Writers workshops http://clarion.ucsd.edu/ and http://www.clarionwest.org/ are now taking applications. One of my instructors, Jim Kelly asks, “How about sharing five things you learned at Clarion?”

Ok.

  1. There’s a fine line between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to write stuff that doesn’t excite you.
  2. Great writing has energy. Sure, get the mechanics down, but in the end it’s theme and emotion that drive the most powerful stories.
  3. Always be innovating. Every story start is sexy and fun and full of new relationship energy, full of riffing and whatever clever thing comes out of the id, but then the plotting and rewriting can feel like a drudge. That’s the time to bring the innovative mindset to finding connections and problem-solving. We can choose to be clever in every part of the writing process.
  4. Put as much work into your life as your writing. Yes, most of us need to lock ourselves away to learn the craft and find our voice, but it’s equally important to learn how to present and interact with each other. Skillful social awareness can help our career just as much as excellent prose.
  5. Writing is not a competition. Someone else’s genius doesn’t make you less genius. We analyze each other’s fiction so we see what works and doesn’t, both to point out to others and for ourselves. When this turns into a wash of negativity, we’re not helping anyone. The more we support each other as writer’s the stronger we all become.

 

If you write and you want to see what you are capable of, Clarion is well worth the time and money.

Apply to Clarion – Apply to Clarion West

*herm* …

Posted by ON in Dear Diary

I woke up at five am this morning feeling awful. Partially because i’m on day three of a painful stress-induced neck lockup, but also a sore throat and my sinuses full of junk. I’m feeling nervous because people have been throwing around the word pneumonia a lot lately.

I’d been invited last night to an all-night study/writing session by Elina, but i had the gut feeling that … well, my guts weren’t in very good shape.

Course, the thing is i have this shiny new job and accompanying shiny new health-care, so i should have a reasonable course of action. But i’ve been so caught up in work / relationship / writing / life stress that … i’ve been completely lame and not taken care of it (also said health-care provider has made it extremely difficult to secure a doctor.)

Also also, i’m supposed to get on a plane for Istanbul in six days (and later a plane for Paris) and i’m finding myself having a terribly human argument in my head between “not going to miss this trip” and “don’t really want to die.”

The truly ridiculous thing is that my real stress is that i feel puffy and ugly and i’m getting my picture taken today for work marketing materials.

Yes, my major stress in the face of pain and possibly life-threatening illness is, “Do i still look hot?”

Aesthetics and beauty and houses i seriously can’t afford.

Posted by ON in Dear Diary

I’m getting a little ridiculous about aesthetics; possibly because i’m doing so much design lately.

This is primarily manifesting in my personal life as a strong desire to create my own beautiful space. I’ve been trolling diy, craft and living-space design blogs, thinking about what would make a room look beautiful to me.

Decor8Apartment TherapyDesign SpongeRecyclartDudecraft

And, y’know, now that i’m making consistent income i’m also jonesing for a beautiful house. Someplace i love and care for. A place i could leverage into a space for writers and friends and, i dunno, just a place that’s beautiful and inspiring and can serve many purposes.

I keep looking at these outrageously expensive Victorian homes in Portland … cause i’m crazy … and possibly stupid. I think maybe i got infected with the awesomeness of Neil‘s house. I keep thinking, “yeah, i could do that.”

The main house i’m crazy about is: http://www.bnb4sale.com/sale/oregon/the_lion_and_the_rose.html

I keep racking my brain for ways to finance this ludicrous plan. I’m having fantasies about writer’s retreats and workshops and and and … If i don’t get over this obsession soon, there could possibly be a call for crowd-sourcing.

WANT.