Reasons I’m Not Writing A Story Right Now

  1. I’m writing this blog post.
  2. I’d rather check my email.
  3. I’d rather write an email.
  4. I’d rather war with myself about how I shouldn’t write the email I want to write because I’ve written enough emails and the story is more important.
  5. I’d rather wallow in actual, perceived, and imagined rejection.
  6. I’d rather check Facebook.
  7. And Twitter.
  8. Oooh… what’s Oculus Rift?
  9. Why is Mississippi executing a woman who (in all likelihood) didn’t actually do anything except try to help her son?
  10. Is it because they can?
  11. I should read some Karen Joy Fowler.
  12. Reading Karen Joy Fowler makes me feel inadequate.
  13. I should do more research.
  14. Research gets me discombobulated.
  15. I really like the story.  I like the idea of it and the themes I want to play with.
  16. I don’t think I’m capable of writing the story as well as I wish I could write it.
  17. Every time I try to write a story, it’s like teaching myself to ride a bicycle. I know I can do it. I have done it. There are familiar rhythms and I’ll fall into them.  But I don’t know how long it will take to reach that point, and right now I feel like I’m standing at the edge of the cliff and I’m waiting for someone to push me off.
  18. This Starbucks is cold.
  19. This Starbucks is playing a really interesting cover of the Buddy Holly song Words of Love.
  20. I should look it up on Youtube.
  21. There are other songs on Youtube too. Like Lazarus by Sophie Solomon.
  22. I wonder what music I have in my iTunes that I could listen to while writing…
  23. I wonder if it would interfere with the Starbucks music…
  24. People keep opening the door and the newspapers flutter and I feel cold and irritated at strangers.
  25. I’m irritated at many things.  Mostly myself.  For many reasons, some of which are related to how I’m not writing this story, and some of which are related to other things.
  26. I feel like I should end this list on a prime number.
  27. 17 would’ve been a good one, but that was ten items ago.
  28. I’m still not writing the story, and probably won’t until the night before it’s due.  Because that’s just the way I am, and I hate it, but it’s the way I am.
  29. This is why I’ll never manage to write a novel.

The Spark Writing Contest

Apparently all my blog posts lately have been on dates ending in 5.  I was sad this afternoon because I couldn’t think of anything to write about, and then realized I forgot to mention this:  I’ve been named as a guest judge for Spark’s latest contest, the theme of which is “Fables.”  You can find more information here.  The contest is for both poetry and prose, and there is no fee to enter.  Grand prize is $500 plus publication in Spark: Volume VI.

In Which I Do Not Review a Story

The January/February issue of Black Static contains the story “Passion Play” by Malcolm Devlin (aka Vince Haig).

I first read this story during the third week of Clarion West and fell in love with it pretty much instantly.  I loved it so much I even didn’t care that the re-enactment of a missing person’s last moments for the press made absolutely no sense to me as that’s not something people do in the United States.

I loved it because it was a ghost story.  I loved it because it was delicate and fragile.  I loved it because of the nuns.  I loved it because it was about a friendship between two girls that fell apart.  I loved it because of the ending.  I loved it because it was beautiful and perfect and strange.

I loved it despite the title (which I still hate).

I loved it despite the fact it was 6900 words.

The story is a little longer now.  And a few things have been changed here and there, particularly the ending (not the last few lines, which were gloriously perfect and remain so, but the final scene).  But the most important thing is it is published.  It is in print.  It is now and forever on my bookcase.

And I love it just as much now as when I first read it.  And I know you will too.

The Dark

Issue 3 of The Dark has been released on Weightless Books.  Don’t know when the stories will be put up on the website but my guess is soon.

Burial” is the first story I wrote after coming back from Clarion West.  I cheated a little by relying on a first paragraph I had written beforehand (and it really is cheating considering the story only has about 8 paragraphs in total).  It’s an odd little thing.  My workshop wanted me to try to expand on it and make it a bit more logical, but ultimately it is what it is.

Edit: The story is now online at The Dark

Lois Tilton reviewed The Dark and recommended my story as well as “Zeraquesh in Absentia” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew.

Formalism, Humanism, Failism

On the first day of Workshop this spring, John Kessel introduced me to a new framework of examining stories: the Formalist approach (where technique is all that matters) vs the Humanist approach (responsibility of content).  He was discussing it in the context of novels such as Lolita which a Formalist would praise due to its craft, whereas a Humanist would be bothered by the fact that it’s about a pedophile and doesn’t do enough to condemn him.  Having never read Lolita, I can’t really wade into that particular debate, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about off and on since then.  Which is more important: telling a good story, or telling a story that supports good values.  Obviously the easy answer is ‘do both’ but I think I generally fall on the Humanist side of the equation as a reader.  I’m more interested in reading things which challenge sexism and racism, than a story that is technically flawless, but seems to support a world view which I find abhorrent.
Continue reading

Where do you start? Where does it end?

On a writing forum I saw the following question:

Suppose someone brand new to publishing wants to start submitting short stories, where do you suggest starting?

I had a cheat. When I started writing fiction, I went to Orson Scott Card’s Bootcamp.  While the workshop was useful in a few respects, the best thing I got out of it was my friend Oliver. I knew nothing.  Oliver, it seemed, knew everything.  He told me about Speculations and the Black Hole (the Duotrope of its day).  He (metaphorically) held my hand as I revised stories and considered sending them for publication.  He also hinted that I shouldn’t send that one story off to Realms of Fantasy (my first fiction submission).  He was right in the sense that it was unpublishable, but wrong in the sense that it would be years before I would write anything publishable, and holding off on submitting stories until I was ready would’ve meant I didn’t learn as much in the intervening years.

But you don’t have an Oliver.  So here’s what you need to know: Continue reading

Why You Don’t Want to Apply to Clarion West/Clarion UCSD.

The application season for Clarion West and other Clarion (UCSD) has begun.  I’ve already seen posts on twitter from past alums encouraging people to apply and telling the world what wonderful, glorious experiences they had.

I’m not going to do that.  I’m going to tell you not to apply.  To not go.  And here are my reasons:

1. At the Clarions you will meet bright, smart, wonderful people. Continue reading

Nebula / Hugo / Campbell

I am shamefully, SHAMEFULLY behind on my reading for the past year.  Part of it is because I went to Clarion West, then I restarted grad school, then I ended up in the hospital (twice) and so… blargh.

And the rest of it is because I fail at life.

As such, I feel a little weird writing a Recommended Reading list for the various awards, but I there were *some* stories that I read this year and I feel bad *not* recommending them just because they’re part of a small select group of ‘I saw you, I started you, I liked you enough to finish, and you’re still on my mind months later.’  So while I can’t definitively say that these are the BEST stories of the entire year, I can definitively say that I really, really liked them.  And I think you would too.

(And maybe as I read more in the next few months, I can expand my list and rank them and things like that)

The Ballad of Marisol Brook by Sarah Grey — I liked this story for its lyricism as well as the way it dealt with (literally) the objectification of women.

The Penitent by M. Bennardo — I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this story since I read it.  It’s definitely a story story… I wouldn’t call it a political or particularly artsy piece… it’s just… unsettling.  And weird.  And flawlessly written.

In Another Life by Kelly Sandoval — A story about love and obsession and letting go and holding on.  Lovely and sad.  Just the way I like it.

The Revelation of Morgan Stern by Christie Yant — It’s hard to decide which I like better: the story or the story behind the story.  But only one could be nominated, so I’ll just link to the story (edited because I recently discovered it’s on Drabblecast… originally appeared in Shimmer 16).

Ghost Days by Ken Liu (novelette) — If you’re familiar with Ken’s other stories, I would peg this as more in line with ‘The Paper Menagerie’ than say ‘Good Hunting’ or ‘The Waves’.  There’s a scene between a character Fred who is Chinese-American and the (white) father of Fred’s date which is just chilling.  And creepy.  And fantastic.  And brilliant.

Also, though I don’t have a Hugo membership and can’t vote for the Campbell, I would like to throw in my vicarious vote for Brooke Bolander.  I’ve also heard good things about Benjanun Sriduangkaew, and of course you should check out the Campbell Anthology that David Blake puts together since I know there are many more promising writers out there that I simply haven’t come across yet.

Some other posts written by people who read more than I did this year:

Aliette de Bodard’s Recommended Reading List

Ken Liu’s List

Fran Wilde on the Campbell Award