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“Recognizing Gabe” is up for Best PodCastle Story of 2012

“Recognizing Gabe: un cuento de hadas” is in the final round of audience polling for Best PodCastle Story of 2012.

I am astonished and utterly delighted.

Go vote! Listen to all the stories–they’re all good.

Wow.

I love the story, so to see it get love from other people is wonderful.

Best PodCastle of 2012 – FINAL

 

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Thanks, Jodie Foster: I’m a little less lonely. I hope you are, too.

I caught Jodie Foster’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille at the Golden Globes, and thought it was magnificent. It wasn’t perfect, but it was grandly eloquent, a bit righteous, and a lot truthful. It was a cri de cœur, wanting naught so much as to be understood.

In the following hours, a lot of the reaction has been confused, snarky, and mean. It has almost all entirely missed the point.

I replied to a comment on Facebook about it saying this:

“I think that’s missing the point of what she said and was doing. What she was angry about was the fact that any privacy at all that she’s had in her life–and remember, she’s been a working actor since she was three years old, well before she could have meaningfully consented, and was raised so entrenched in show business that it’s not like anything else was later really an option–was something that she had to stake out and claim and defend as viciously as possible all in order to keep herself as whole as possible. She mourned that even what privacy remains isn’t going to last, and that that is more than a bit fucked up. She reminded the audience that she, and all actors and celebrities don’t actually owe the audience anything except as good a performance as they can deliver. Her entire point was that her personal life is that: hers.

“What–and if–she shares of her personal life is up to her, and although sure, we can make the political argument that her public reticence is damaging or shameful or cowardly, it ignores the fact we cannot, in fact, demand that anyone be a hero for us. That’s not how it works. If she chooses–and that’s entirely her choice–to come out publicly, let’s recognize that it’s not exactly the same thing as when Jane Q. Lesbian from Schenectady does it. Therein lies its power and its weight, and again: it’s up to her to choose it or not.

“And besides the point, she’s lived her life honestly with everyone in it who actually matters to her, her family and her friends. She doesn’t owe the rest of us that. That she’s given it, that’s something to be honored. And yeah, it would have helped had she done it sooner, but still: she doesn’t owe us that.”

Ms. Foster used humor to address the issue, but I found her ire to be perfectly clear, too–and perfectly reasonable. As much as queer folks want–need–people to come out of the closet and be the best heroes they can be, we can’t actually demand that they do so. In a world where that’s a fraught choice for a private individual, and all the more so for one in the public eye, it is an incredibly important act to come out. To not do so is, in my opinion, in many ways morally questionable, but I can’t tell decide the worth of anyone else’s honor or conscience. I cannot demand that they be a hero. We can ask, we can plead, and in certain instances (as in self-defense against closeted politicians who work against equality) we can even force them to be honest–although not a hero. The onus of truth is individual.

That Jodie Foster speaks this part of her truth now–and let’s not be pedantic and stupidly coy and say that she’s not done so because she didn’t actually say, “Yep, I’m gay,” when she clearly identified her co-parent and former partner-in-love by name and gender–is something I, for one, am glad about. It’s a lovely gift.

Thanks, Ms. Foster. And thank you especially for speaking about how love, for your colleagues, your friends, your family, especially your sons, your former partner, and your mother, is your personal truth in the search to understand and be understood.

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Listening to people criticize your baby

Recognizing Gabe” has been up at PodCastle for over a week now, and so has its discussion thread in the PodCastle Forum.

As a writer, one of the things you want to know is whether people get your story or not. Do they understand what you’re saying? Do they think it has value? Did you do a good job? Did you move them? Hell, do they like it?

So, knowing that PodCastle has a forum for their listeners to comment on each episode of the podcast, I haven’t been able to keep away. I want to know the answers to the questions above, after all. I haven’t been obsessively checking the discussion, but I do stop by and take a peek now and again.

Other writers–and readers–have often said that only half of a story is on the page; the rest is in the reader’s mind. I think that’s true. As readers (or as in this case, listeners), we bring ourselves to the story and furnish it with our own imaginings. I doubt that any two listeners pictured Gabe in the same way, much less the same way that I imagined him, or even how I wrote him.

The audience catches many things; some you intended, others you didn’t. (Of course, if someone posits something awesome in your story, claim it whether you intended it or not!) They will also miss a lot of things, because sometimes no matter how well you thought you were conveying your point (and often no matter how well you in fact did convey it), someone is simply not going to get it. Or get it and not care. Or get it and think you did a bad/ambivalent/ineffective/irrelevant job.

Or they’ll be turned off by the subject matter. Or the prose style. Or the fact that it contains words in a language they don’t speak.

As a writer–hell, as a person–it’s hard to not get defensive at criticism. Especially at stupid criticism–because let’s be honest, not all criticism is actually good, or useful, or even cogent or on-topic. That defensive reaction is perfectly normal and all right. But, if you’ve got any sense at all, you don’t respond to it publicly. For crying out loud, it’s useful to remember that The Author Is Dead, even–no, especially if you’re the author.

Criticism is useful:  it gives you a parallax view on your work, and it helps answer all those questions I mentioned above. It can help you grow and make your writing sharper, clearer, and more effective. Forum discussions are sort of like a workshop critique session:  you get to listen as other people discuss (and sometimes tear apart) your work, and you note their useful points and ignore the rest.

I think that’s essential. When you’re playing God–and don’t believe any writer that tells you that they’re not–it’s really useful to have someone comment on your work, even if you wind up wishing them in hell.

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Recognizing Gabe up at PodCastle

PodCastle has reprinted “Recognizing Gabe:  un cuento de hadas” as a podcast.

I’m really excited that they decided to publish this as their Thanksgiving episode. I’m thankful for their support for the story.

Go listen! Leave them a comment and tell them what you think.

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in the midst of week five of the Write-a-thon, now with more irony

Okay, so at this point in the Write-a-thon I’m flagging.

I’ve gotten two of the three stories from last summer redrafted. Both can use another go, but that’ll be later. I’ve got work done on five chapters.

So, I’ve got one more story to redraft, and five chapters to work on.

I tackled the genocide-God-and-me story as the middle project, and that actually went surprisingly well. I do know that I’m going to want to revise it once more. It’s currently out to a few people for feedback. Yes, I’m hoping that someone will say something like, “You know that problem on page 16? Well, here’s a way how to fix it. Also, here’s what you need to do to make the throughline clearer…”

What?

Don’t tell me that you, as a writer, haven’t wished for all the infelicities in your work to just magically get fixed.

*sigh*

But still, I’ve gotten some critiques back, and they have been very helpful. No magic bullets, but frankly, that’s not actually what I expect. I mean, it might be nice…

This leaves my mannerpunk story about my coffinmaker. (And five more chapters. Why the hell did I say I wanted to work on ten new chapters? I mean, over the course of the entire summer, sure. But in six weeks?! What the hell was I thinking?)

It needs some problematizing, as well as some streamlining. I think it would help if I figured out the secondary protagonist’s motivations. Knowing things like that is usually a good idea.

Argh. Back to the salt mines.

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Clarion West Write-a-thon: Week Two

Week Two is over and sees me with work done on four chapters of my novel. That isn’t the same as four chapters done, but it’s definitely progress. The runaway royal bride has gotten to the running away part (political marriages can be so tricky, especially when you don’t actually want to marry the guy), the scheming assassin wannabe-prince is on his forced embassy to the wizards, our young wizard prodigy is about to have her life turned upside down, and a new schemer gets introduced.

Ayup, I like me some convolutions.

I use Scrivener as my writing software, and I have to say that I really enjoy how it facilitates me working in manageable chunks. Each scene is its own little file that I can view alone or as part of the whole manuscript. That really makes it easier for me to concentrate at just that part of the story that’s in front of me, and then to be able to see it as a whole with a click of a button. It certainly helps with the novel, as it is a braided story with multiple points of view. I can shift things around easily and at a glance, tell when So-and-So’s last chapter was, and when next they get another turn. I really quite love it as a tool.

I keep thinking about how to rewrite the two remaining stories from last summer. One I think mostly needs streamlining (I tend to preface when I’m better served by just starting 500 words later) and clarification of motives. It’s a sweet story, all mannered and arch, that I wrote my second week at Clarion West as an exercise in style and to play to what I knew at the time to be a strength:  I write pretty. I don’t think that there are any real surprises in the story–I don’t know that I mean there to be; it isn’t quite that kind of story–but I think it has a certain charm. Even so, dude:  the first draft telegraphs too much, too early, starting with the damn title! (Which my confrères deftly pointed out, thanks be.) So, fairly obvious issues, with fairly straightforward solutions. I’m thinking that I’ll get to it next week.

The other story is more complicated… as it stands, it’s too on-the-nose. That was a criticism that was made in very strong terms and for reasons that are very clear, and I completely agree. I mean, I’m taking on responding to the absence of God during a genocide, and I used an analog of the most notorious atrocity in modern history. Let’s just say that the story produced some strong reactions among my colleagues, yeah? I also know that I absolutely had to write the rough draft as I did in order to build the framework for what I wanted to say. I knew that I was going to have to layer and rework the story later. I needed–as my way of getting into the story–to get stuff down so uncomfortably close to the Shoah because, as our instructor that week, Minister Faust, pointed out in discussion with me:  it’s the Holocaust, and in Western society and discourse, it’s the genocide lens through which all other atrocities are viewed. Never mind the Conquista and Manifest Destiny, Rwanda, Armenia, slavery, Cambodia, and countless other horrors.

That never mind really pisses me off.

But having done that, I can now go ahead and finish writing the story that I want to tell. You know, the one that addresses the Shoah and the Conquista, the one that gives visibility to the millions of dead Natives as well the automated nightmares of the camps, the one that has a space–be it so much the fulfillment of a wish–for the agency of those whose who were consumed by fires too terrible to withstand.

And let me tell you:  it’s some hard work. I don’t know that I can succeed. And I really don’t know what market would publish it if I do. But I mean to try.

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One week down…

The Clarion West Write-a-thon has gotten off to a slow start for me.

I admit, I needed a few days of just vegetating and absorbing ridiculous television, post-finals. Then I drove 700 miles to visit my people in California. That’s where I’m writing now, while I see my family and friends for a couple of weeks. Not quite conducive to being productive.

And yet, needs must. So, I’ve gotten one of my CW stories rewritten. Now I just have to figure out the best market for it. Humor, a talking dog, Paris, divorce, a sex scene, 3,000 words. Any ideas?

Yeah, I’m not quite sure, either.

Next is some more work on the new novel chapters, while my hind-brain cogitates on how I’m going to make my other two stories work. Wish me luck.

If you haven’t yet, and are interested in supporting my campaign, please visit my Write-a-thon profile page. Any amount would be appreciated. (And please let me know if you’ve donated, so I can include you in my weekly update messages.)

Now, here’s a dog for you:

This is not the talking dog from the story.

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the Clarion West Write-a-thon

Clarion West was an amazing experience for me. It was, in all honesty, one of the best things I’ve ever done.

During the six weeks of the workshop, there’s a shadow event happening, one in which anyone can participate:  the Clarion West Write-a-thon.

It’s designed to do two major things:  bring in funds for the workshop, and provide an impetus for the writers who are participating to get more work done. I think that’s fantastic, because I would love to help give back to a program that has done so much for my craft, networking, and community, and because I really can use the external discipline of a coordinated effort.

So, as an alumnus one year out of Clarion West, I’m participating in my first Write-a-thon. I’m working on getting ten new chapters of The First Hour of Night written, and completing new drafts on my three remaining Clarion West stories. I hope to raise at least $100.

Now, here’s where I ask for your help:  if you are able, please contribute. Money is a lovely gift, and Clarion West is a 501 (c)(3) organization, so your contributions are tax-deductible. What also is a wonderful gift is your moral support, both in words of encouragement to me and the other participants, but also in spreading the word about the Write-a-thon.

Contributors to my campaign will receive weekly updates of my progress, complete with micro-short stories, bad poetry, or my random musings. You’ll also receive my profound thanks for your support.

You can see my Clarion West Write-a-thon page here.

You can donate in the name of all the participants, or make your especial choice(s), it’s up to you. Your help and support are appreciated!

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“Driving for Peanuts” on Toasted Cake podcast

A long while back, I asked friends for prompts for drabbles (very short short stories) as a writing exercise.

One replied, “18-wheeler drivers who are monkeys.”

And thus, “Driving for Peanuts” was born.

You can hear the inestimable Tina Connolly reading it here:  Toasted Cake #23

 

If you’d like to read it, too, here it is, “Driving for Peanuts”:

It took four of them to drive the rig, plus Bobo to steer.

Petey handled the clutch, Lulu was on brakes and gas, Jojo took care of shifting gears, and Alice ran relief for the other three and mostly told them what to do. Bobo steered, of course, since he had enough upper-body strength to turn the wheel, and with the booster seat could see over the dash. He was a chimp, but the rest of the crew tried not to hold it against him.

Alice worked her crew hard but fair. It kept everyone sharp and contributing. As long as they didn’t do fruit runs, everyone was well-behaved, and they could always count on their cuteness factor to help when they pulled into stations to fill up or buy some more nuts. Even human truckers who resented simian competition smiled and went all “aw, cute monkeys” when Lulu chittered at them and waved her tail flirtatiously, and before they knew it, they were helping the crew pump gas.

It helped that they usually only took short runs, all in-state and just a few hours long. It wasn’t big money, but it kept the truck running. The short runs were fun. Her crew could keep it together that long. Alice didn’t want a repeat of the fiasco that resulted from their only interstate haul. Bobo hadn’t even picked a stray nit off of them for weeks after that, and she didn’t blame him. Petey could be a shit sometimes, and it took almost as long to get the smell out of the cab, too.

She liked that the four of them, plus Bobo, could do this job. It beat working the circus gigs, and Alice still had nightmares about the lab they’d been in when they were babies. There was freedom now, and she ran a good crew.

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unexpected asskickings

Those of you who write have probably had this experience: you read a published story or novel and it makes you go, “I can write better than that.”

And if you’re honest with yourself about your talent and skill, it’s true. You can.

And if you’re me, you have to admit that whatever novel it is that you’ve just read has one shining virtue that yours doesn’t: it’s done.

And that, gentles, is something that can no longer stand.

I’ve had The First Hour of Night on the shelf since I got back from Viable Paradise XII. I’ve worked on it in little bits here and there since then, but to be honest, it’s been dead in the water. I excerpted the first thirty pages as my submission piece for VP, and for that submission I had to also include a synopsis of the rest of the novel. Which meant that I had to figure out how the story ended before I wrote it. This, for me, is not really a good thing. I write by the headlight method–imagine, if you would, that writing a story is like driving a car at night: you can only see so far ahead of you, but if you’re paying attention, that’s enough to get you home. I freely admit that this is probably the least efficient and messiest way to write, but frankly, it’s the way I know how, and the way that I know works for me. So outlining and synopsizing the novel pretty much took all the joy out of it for me: I mean, why bother finishing it if I already knew how it turned out?

And then last week, I read Ken Scholes’ Lamentation. Now, it’s not a bad first novel. It’s a bit hackneyed in places and the pacing is off, but it largely works. That said, I got thrown out of the story on the third paragraph of the first chapter and had to give it a moment before coming back to it. Oh, and why the fuck do medievaloid characters use the word “okay” in their frigging speech? Yes, I get that the author may be in fact implying that the world he’s showing us is our own in the far, far post-apocalypse-magic-is-sufficiently-advanced-science future, but really–“okay”? Also, what’s with giving me all the details about everyone’s meals? I mean, if it’s being used to advance the plot, yes, give it to me, and god knows I love me some food porn, but yeesh, man. Yeesh!

All this to say: Lamentation jumpstarted my interest in The First Hour of Night. I want to get it done. Okay, sure I know how it goes, but in the doing, it might surprise me. God knows, that always happens when I write a story–I think it’s going one way, doing this thing, and then it turns out that it’s actually doing this other thing, too, and oh, look, isn’t that shiny right over there?

So, thanks, Ken Scholes. I greatly appreciate the kick in the ass.

Now, back to the novel.

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