In which I am rejected: once again, kindly

“ToB” has come back to me. As with this story’s first outing, the polite and friendly editor has taken the time to write a personal note. In this case, he praised the style, and criticized the length and the finale. Like the first editor to have seen this story, he invited me to submit other work. I call that a pretty solid sophomore outing for this story. “Fail better,” I say to myself. Except I’m not actually sure there is a better type of rejection than this–one step up the ladder lies acceptance. (If only this wasn’t my best work! It quite outshines the other stories I’ve written since. I guess that’s where the “fail better” will have to come in.) […]

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It is not for nothing I have lived through this long day

The Godot story is complete, at last. It’s not very long: 3300 words. I said to my husband that it’s probably completely unsaleable, but as usual with these things, I wouldn’t have been happy if I had tried to leave it unfinished. I might still re-draft it; I shall need some readers, but I’m rather afraid it will only be intelligible to readers of Beckett, in which case I will be correct about the lack of commercial potential. It did do that thing in my brain, though. […]

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Monthly Progress Report

I suppose it is not exactly monthly, but it has been a month since the last one, give or take. In that month I have done a fair bit of work, notwithstanding a Hardware Fail and a great deal of other claims upon my time. novelsNot-a-Werewolf: 19,000 to date.Dickensian Fantasy, Draft 4: 26,000 to date. Yeah, I started on it. I don’t get real credit for all of those words, though, because a lot of them are cannibalized from Draft 3. stories in progressGodot: 2100, and only about 250 of them suck, which is a great improvement.Book of the Dead: 1200, all genius. Though this is a very difficult and dicey story for a number of reasons.Violence: 990, some of which were just transcribed from the handwritten draft, others of which were added yesterday.Talking Fish: no progress. stories completed since VPPie: ready to submit, need to pick a market.Belladonna: on submission. The discerning reader will note that despite all of this verbiage, I did not actually complete any stories in either December or January, although I did manage to touch up the Pie Story to the point of being ready for submission. I owe myself two past-due stories now, plus […]

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Saturdays, Bob Dylan, ashes

Bob Dylan was Saturday music. Often we had chores to do; I remember shoveling out the fireplace on an April day, working on a poem in my head, with “Tangled Up in Blue” coming from the living room. Things like that lay the groundwork for all the creative work you’re going to do later. You just don’t know it. You might try to plan it differently, if you knew; but there’s no way to predict what will be the triggers, what will lay down the pathways in your brain. You don’t even find out until much later, when you hear a song and you recognize something and it hands you the missing piece to a story. This is part of my father’s legacy to me: a childhood of music, and embedded in it, a library of sensory details and emotional states. […]

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Rejection!

I get such nice rejections. This one was a personal note telling me that my story, although not right for their publication, was beautifully done, and inviting me to submit others. Apart from acceptances of course, this is the best kind of letter to receive. (Even better than the ones from my grandmother containing money, in fact.) It gives me confidence that this story (which I myself also thought was beautifully done) will find a home in the near future, and it encourages me to continue with my other stories, one of which will surely find favour with the editor in question. I cannot imagine a kinder thing to do for a beginning writer. Thanks, editor! I am possibly anomalous among writers in that even form rejections are a pleasure for me to receive. Firstly, they relieve the anxiety that stems from having a piece on submission, if only for the few days it will take me to put it back in the mail to someone else. More importantly, though, they’re tangible evidence that I am taking steps in this, my profession. Real, businesslike steps. I’ve learned so much from my many failures in my other profession that I’ve stopped […]

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In which I receive a twenty-year-old hug

Today I got back the first of several rolls of film I found in my dad’s old cameras. Three rolls: one containing only a single shot (a tree); one from our holiday two summers ago, during which he was afflicted with extreme cold sensitivity due to chemo, and could not go in the lake, but photographed it from the porch; and the final one, which had apparently been kicking around the camera bag for twenty years. It was shot on our first hiking trip in Killarney. In the last two decades the film seems to have been rained on and x-rayed and liberally dusted with sand, so all of the shots are grainy and streaky and strange. But I’d recognize those white mountains anywhere. Halfway through the roll, I came upon myself: myself at twelve, in my green tunic and ponytails, sprawled grinning on the rock. From my outfit, I think it was taken the day we climbed Silver Peak. I remember that day as the first day I was self-aware, in the sense I am now. The first day I was something other than a child. I already knew my dad was watching–I have another image he took of […]

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In which we make people

Sarah Monette and Justine Larbalestier both posted about characterization recently. It’s always interesting to me to hear other writers describe their methods, because sometimes they are so different from mine, and sometimes very similar. Also–since these are real writers–it’s very, very helpful. I think of myself as a character writer. I usually begin work with an image of a person in a place, doing something. For example: a guy crossing a vacant lot, stopping to look at a caved-in jackolantern. The guy is maybe seventeen, he’s Caucasian and he’s carrying a backpack. He’s wearing running shoes and jeans. The vacant lot is stubbled with grass and the busted-up jackolantern has been there for some days. This image tells me a lot of things about my setting and my character, if I look at it long enough. The time of year must be November, because of the rotting jackolantern. That means the guy must be in the first semester of his senior year, because he doesn’t look quite old enough to be in college. That means his pack likely holds school books. He’s wearing running shoes: maybe he likes to run. Maybe he’s on the school track team. He stops to […]

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You get your transmissions at your front door and then you get old

I’ve spent a quiet morning reading the news. It was blissful at the time; and then I realized the whole thing had passed, and I hadn’t written a word, and I’d wasted hours of sunlight that I could have been pretending to be a working writer (or at least buying groceries). Self: do better! This is the year of striving. (As if all those other years were not. Still.) I have four more vacation days this winter, and–happy coincidence–four stories I owe myself by the first day of spring. Go forth! […]

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Gratitude

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions any more, due to (a) my own repeated failure to comply with the ones I felt were self-punitive and (b) my tendency to obviate all the less punitive ones by doing them anyway, upon the moment they occurred to me, instead of waiting until the New Year to implement them. I do, however, use the New Year as an occasion to think about my progress over the last twelve months (if any) and my intentions for the next twelve. This year a number of friends and acquaintances have positively humbled me with the things they’ve done for others. I’ve learned about the science fiction community’s ethos of paying forward. I’ve been welcomed by that community, along with a number of my peers, and blessed with everything from distilled knowledge to good humour to medical texts to a warm embrace against a chilly wind. I’ve watched my best friend vow, in memory of my own father, to avoid taking lives in her home, and instead transport bees and flies outdoors. I’ve witnessed the generous spirit of my mother’s small town, helping her out with everything from lawn care to baked goods, and I’ve witnessed […]

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