Another Willamette Writers Adventure

Now that the Willamette Writers Conference has wrapped up, my writer friends new and old have scurried back to their hidey-holes, and my anxiety levels have stabilized at a comfortable medium-low, life is back to normal. I just finished a copyedit on another writer’s MS, and I’m addressing the final edits on Darkling Like Stars before sending it back to my editor for another pass.

I love the Willamette Writers Conference, it’s a great venue for creating community. It forces us quiet, lurking writers out of our comfy homes and packs us all into one building with very few hiding places and an abundance of coffee and sugary treats. It’s fun and awkward, some of us are less awkward than others, or they’re just better at hiding it. I’m not. So naturally, I thought it would be a grand idea to pitch a workshop to Willamette Writers. They’ll never say yes, I thought . . . until they did. But, I survived my talk, barely, and I’ll use the feedback from this time around to give it another go at Orycon in November. Maybe I’ll see you there?

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Seven Years Don’t Mean Shit

It’s been an interesting week full of, well, I’ll just say, surprises. Overall it’s been good. I’ve had time to think and re-imagine my life. In March I’ll be going back to school after almost 10 years off. Time sure creeps, huh? Aside from school, I’ll be focusing on writing, and hopefully, somehow, keeping food on my cat’s plate—because thats the most important thing, or so he tells me, and he only eats the primo shit. No Friskies for this cat.

I’ve been working on Bloodlife again, hopefully I will finish it for real this time. It’s hard to get started, mostly because I know the work that awaits within. Black pools of swamp that I must wade through, purify, and somehow polish into something that fits with the rest of the book. It shouldn’t be this hard, but I’ve been building it up in my head so it’s become this epic, looming mountain I must conquer.

I’m approaching it cautiously, bit by bit, and as I sink into the familiar narrative, I’m surprised to discover some of it isn’t all that bad. I won’t say it’s good, because what does that even mean? Good is subjective and whimsical. However, speaking of good…

I’ve been reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s, “Lathe of Heaven.” It’s amazing, and I can’t stop scribbling in her margins, micro-printed notes, hearts—little smiley faces. I’ve probably underlined a third of the book.

I love how she handles character, each with a their own unique tics, speech patterns, and styles of observation. I know this is something that is supposed to be standard in novels, but so often I feel it is something writers either ignore or do sloppily. I also really enjoy the way she peppers in backstory, unobtrusively with so many interesting and beautiful images and observations.

Another thing I found interesting, there have been a few places where I was jostled out of the story. Wait, you say, that’s a bad thing, right? You would think so, but no. It’s awesome. One example:

Early in the book, there’s a scene where one character, relaying a dream he’s had about his aunt Ethel, says: She was “usually disguised, the way people are in dreams sometimes; once she was a white cat, but I knew she was Ethel.”

It doesn’t seem like much, but upon reading that line, I laughed out loud and exclaimed, “SO TRUE!” (I also underlined it, and put a heart in the margin, in case you were wondering.) Why did I love this bit so much? Because it happens to me often. The strangest shit happens in dreams. I’ll have a dream where I’m doing something with my husband, but he’s also my sister, but at the same time he’s a parrot.

Until I read this book, I had never really thought about it, even though my dream diary is full of instances just like this. It never would have occurred to me to include something like this in my fiction. It’s details like these that make books fun. They draw parallels in our lives and add meaning—they create freakin’ connections. They add realism. In that moment it is real, and you and the character share a secret.

Anyway, that’s just one example, and not even the best one, and as I’ve said, it’s all subjective. Either way, go get a copy. It’s a great book, especially if you are a writer. Once I finish, I’m going to immediately read it again, there’s just so much to learn!

Haven’t read it yet? Please do, and after you’ve had your ‘conversations’ in Ursula Le Guin’s margins, please, tell me all about them!

Also, moderately interesting, I may have given Ursula Le Guin a fan letter last week. It was just like grade school: handwritten, folded into a little rectangle, complete with a smiley kitty face. I thrust it into her hands and ran, then I nervous cried the whole way home. *facepalm*

NANOWRIMO

Hello!! 
I’ve been busy! I finished a (verrrry rough) first draft of a short story. Right now it’s called Meat but I’m thinking about changing that. We’ll see what happens. It was fun to write and research. I learned how to field dress dead animals. Gross, right? Thanks, Myron and YouTube…I think?! I’m not going to say what Meat is about just yet because I’m going to be posting it here (!) once it’s finished, probably somewhere around January or February. I will say that it was inspired by a strange fantasy I used to (still?) entertain from high school. It involves dead stuff and gore, obviously, because I’m into that sort of thing.
What’s new? It’s November, so I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month. What am I writing? Well, you know that book I’ve been telling you about, Bloodlife? Well, *heavy sigh* I’m re-writing it AGAIN/some more with a new outline. I’m keeping the first two chapters and a few scenes, but the rest is going away. It’s super painful. I keep waking up in the middle of the night thinking, OH NO! That scene I really loved where ___ does ____ isn’t going to work anymore. But then I remember it’s going to be okay, there will be new scenes. Better scenes! I just need to get them out.
I’m hoping to have this new (and exciting!) first draft done by the end of the month, so if you’ve been texting/calling/emailing me, sorry! See you next month, though, I’ll probably continue my antisocial antics as next month I’ll be editing Meat, which should only take a few weeks, and working on a NEW book that’s full of gods, and deceit, and destruction! YES!
 
So, happy November, happy Tofurky day, and if you’re a writer too, I say let’s get freakin’ writing!