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Month: February 2010



I just did quite a bit of overhauling to the website content. This may mean that you RSS readers might either a) lose your feed, or b) get the last ten posts in your feed again. I’m not really sure which. I do know that the actual RSS link on the site now works, which is good news, because it didn’t before.

Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

So, that happened

So, that happened

There must be a blog post in me somewhere about this. For some reason I’m having a hard time drumming it up.

I know! I’ll include visual aids.


These books were given to me by my paternal grandmother when I was four. They date from the 30s. I don’t know where the rest of the set is; I have found them online and eventually I will replace the missing ones. But the important one–the one that I always loved best–is the one on top here, Through Fairy Halls. Volume six of twelve.

This book is where I learned to love fairy tales. From it I learned what a fairy tale is, that they are found in all countries of the world, and are complex little realities unto themselves. Which is what that story I just sold was about.

Right. I sold a story. It is my first. It’s the sort of thing that I’ve imagined repeatedly over the years, and it did not go down at all how I thought it would. Instead of a month or two of sitting in a slush pile and then getting some kind of formal business-like response, I submitted it ridiculously late at night, and a very personal and complimentary email was in my inbox when I woke up the following morning. I was still in bed, actually, one eye open, reading blearily. Then apparently I hit “Archive” accidentally and the email disappeared. I actually thought “oh, I’m still asleep, that makes more sense,” but when I was a little more restored to myself I searched for it and voila, there it was.

I had expected to be elated. I’ve been working at this for seven years, almost eight, working very hard to learn the craft. I’ve flirted with giving up once or twice, but my tenacious streak always won out, and it seemed like that first sale would be a very emotional culmination of those years of trying. Instead of the kind of chest-bursting joy I had always imagined I would feel, I was just kind of dazed all day. I don’t know how many times I reread the email, checking to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood, that it really said what I thought it said.

When I told my daughter it was hard to even say the words–it felt like a lie. She had to be elated for me that day. That was Monday. On Tuesday I kept getting hit by waves of anxiety, and I had to just put my head down and work to avoid thinking about it. (Being busy is great for that sort of thing.) Yesterday, Wednesday, I finally told the rest of my family and friends, and they, too, were elated for me.

I’ve been trying to take apart what it is that is holding me back from really being as excited as I always figured I would have a right to be, and I think it’s this: the work isn’t done. It’s a milestone, yes, but it is also entirely possible that I will never have a story come together the way that one did ever again. As many kind things as the editor had to say about it, I keep thinking “yes, but so much of that wasn’t even there until the final draft.” It took so long to get it there.

I learned a lot writing that story. I finally figured out some things about voice, and structure, and tension. And that’s great, but now I have to go apply those things to something else, because right now it feels like a fluke. There’s still so much more to learn.

A friend asked me whether I’ll revisit my novels now that I’ve kind of cracked this short story thing. The answer is no, I need to prove to myself that I really have cracked it. I think I’m sticking with short stories for a while yet. I’d like to learn to get those critical elements in much sooner than I did on this one. I want to play with different structures.

So I did what we do: I started working on the next thing. The new story is now steeping in my head, and I’m making notes and planning the way I’m going to structure it. The last one was ambitious; this one is more so. It’s about this guy, who I find super-creepy and fascinating. It’ll be interesting to have him living in my head for a while:


Going to do my best to pull it off. Here’s hoping.

If you were one of the many people who either critiqued TALS or offered their congratulations, thank you so much. <3

I suppose this deserves a blog entry

I suppose this deserves a blog entry

So I applied to Clarion today. I finished editing my second story early this afternoon, paid my application fee, proof-read my essay, and did it. It was absurdly stressful.

I’m not anxious about getting in–I assume I won’t, and even if I do I’m still not sure I could go because of the expense and the very narrow window they give you to come up with tuition. This wasn’t about getting in. It was about applying, because applying was something I’ve wanted to do for years.

Getting into Clarion is a long-term goal. It’s on my five-year list. My short-term goal was getting a couple of stories together that I believe are my best work, making them as good as I can get them, and clicking the damn button.

So. That’s done then.

I’m going to go eat a steak, open a Bogle Petite Syrah, and watch Star Trek.

Thank you to all of my awesome writing friends and Twitter acquaintances who critiqued these stories and encouraged me to do this. You guys are the best.

Going larval

Going larval

I keep starting blog posts and then discarding them. I can’t seem to find the right way to talk about what’s going on.

January was quite a ride–thrilling, exhilarating, inspiring. February is much the same, except that it just dawned on me that I can’t see the track ahead. I thought I was boarding the Jungle Cruise, full of sights and sounds and laughs, and found myself on Space Mountain instead. It’s dark in here, and I’m pulling some serious Gs, but there are lots of twinkly stars and day-glo asteroids to look at*, and the comforting presence of someone who has been on this ride before and knows we’re not going to die. I’m just living in the moment, not knowing whether I’m about to turn or climb or dive, and taking whatever comes next in stride as best I can.

Which is my oblique way of saying that things are changing.

Honest to Crom, I work all the time now. After the day job I intern for the podcast, I read slush for a magazine, and I’m doing some other unrelated stuff for an editor, which it’s easiest for me to think of as another internship. I’ve put in almost 20 hours on those things this week, and I’ve loved every minute of it.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I haven’t loved every minute. But every minute was worth spending, every task worth doing. I have asked for all of it, and when I’m done I ask for more, so I do not get to complain. I am human, and sometimes I get tired, sometimes I wish I were working on something of my own, but I’m starting to find a balance there.

Other things are changing, too. I started working from home for the day job, and that meant making some changes to the household structure and also to my day. It became more important than ever that I get out to the gym and use my body, because I now sit at one desk for eight hours, and then go to another room and sit at a different desk for four more. That didn’t strike me as healthy, so I stuck the gym in between.

Another side effect is that alcohol is much less a part of my life than it was. Some of the stuff I’m doing requires intense focus, and ultimately it’s someone else’s name and reputation at stake, so there is no room for carelessness. It’s one thing to sit down with a glass of wine and edit my own stuff, or try to bang out some new words, but I can’t do that when the product is for someone else.

I am healthier and happier, and have a lot more energy than I did a couple of months ago. I laugh a lot these days. And with all the intensity of my commitments I find that my time off matters more, and the time I do spend on my own projects is more focused. That time has become minimal, though, and most of the time I don’t miss it.

That part is honestly a little bit alarming.

Someone recently commended me on “taking full advantage of an opportunity,” and cited his own experience with volunteering and where it led for him. For a moment I was taken aback and felt misunderstood–the words “taking advantage” really hit me hard, because there can be a negative connotation to that. I don’t want to take advantage of anybody.

I did not take any of this on with an outcome in mind. I saw it all as an opportunity, yes, but an opportunity to help. The happiest, most fulfilled times of my life I have spent in a support role, supporting the success of someone I deeply respected and truly believed in. I’m lucky10 enough to find myself in that position again now.

It only took me a moment to realize that wasn’t at all what the guy meant, and then also realize that it’s not actually a bad thing to look at it in terms of what I’m getting out of it all, or where it could lead. It’s not particularly comfortable for me, but thinking about it doesn’t make me a bad person.

In the 90s (and probably still today) in the programming world there was a process by which a novice programmer (or Linux user) became proficient. They would cut themselves off from the world for a time, and do nothing but eat, sleep and breathe the new language or operating system. After a little while they would emerge changed, the process complete, the goal accomplished–they were a full-fledged wizard. In the Hacker’s Dictionary this is known as the “larval stage.”

I think that’s what I’ve done. In raising my hand for these assignments I effectively went larval. The metaphor doesn’t include the pupa stage, which to me feels more accurate. I’m in my chrysalis of commitments and words.

I’m morphing in here. My priorities are changing. I went in a writer–but I’m beginning to suspect that in time I may emerge as something completely different, something that I never even knew I wanted to be.

* I have not been on the rebooted version of Space Mountain. This is how it was in its first incarnation.