Murphy’s Laws of Writing, In No Particular Order

It always takes twice as long as you think. The wireless will go down just when you need to know the title of that poem. If you have given only one bad review in your public life, that writer will find you, post flames on your blog, and do his or her level best to ensure that you never work in this town again. The unexpected immersion of one’s earphones in a glass of bourbon is a clear sign that it is time for bed. […]

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Blogging live from Viable Paradise

…where skunks are having sex outside my window. Yes. Skunks. So far this week has been both hearteningly familiar and inspiringly strange. My face has developed a permanent flush from all the blood feeding my brain. I have not thought so many thoughts all at once since university; nor have I laughed so hard so many times in a day. Our major writing assignment for the week has been a 5000-word dark fantasy story with an American Gothic theme. I have almost completed it and I’ve managed to grow it from a seed planted almost twenty years ago. Big Note to Self: Keep those seed files. And add to them more often. In addition to the length requirement and the theme, I was given a word that must be included in the title. Add to this my seed file idea; a conviction that all of this had something to do with Riley Child-rhymes with Hoosier Pictures, a book which I have not even seen since I was perhaps twelve years old; a few gestures toward Poe and Baudelaire, and the knowledge that the latter had a strange relationship with his mother. Behold: a story. My first genre story in twenty […]

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In which I sit myself down for a Talk

I am reading a book given to me by my boss. It’s entitled Getting Things Done. I have come to recognize that I am in need of such a book (and apparently, unfortunately, my boss has come to recognize the same thing). I am behind in all of my to-do lists. At work: fifty unactioned emails, a presentation due at the end of the week that I haven’t yet begun to write. In the house: the dinner dishes unwashed, the door of the study closed upon a mountain of clutter, and my mother is coming for dinner tomorrow. In my personal business: contact lenses about to expire and I haven’t even ordered the new ones yet, and the banking was late last month, and I haven’t done my expenses either. In my relationships: I owe someone a thank-you note, someone else a birthday call, someone else a reciprocal dinner invite. In my larger objectives: good God, I’m thirty-three years old and I haven’t even got an agent, let alone sold a book. This is rather new to me. I am beginning to get a sense of myself as a person who doesn’t always get things done. And yet I am […]

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Appropriate responses to criticism

I love John Scalzi. I think I love him more as a blogger than as a novelist. (I like his novels but I’m not sure I love them. In fact, his Old Man’s War is one of the books that spurred my earlier pondering about characters who are too lucky.) Why do I love Scalzi? Partly because I know he won’t mind if I don’t. As a writer not yet significantly published, and also as a narcissist craving attention, I am quite looking forward to having reviews, and I hereby pledge to post them, no matter what they say. (Unless there are too many to post, in which case, I will proceed to party like a rock star.) […]

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Metacognition

I know I’m not the only person to have found phonics a colossal waste of time. I think I was the only one in my third grade class to have worked ahead up to the end of the sixth grade syllabus, though, after which I was permitted to ignore the subject for several glorious years. Phonics bored and confused me–not the performance of the exercises, in which I excelled, but the whole subject itself. It seemed to me, at the time, to be about breaking up language into pieces small enough that they no longer had meaning. It wasn’t like derivations, which led you back through history to stranger and older words; it was only about sounds, grunting inelegant sounds without meanings of their own. I did not discover until well into adulthood that phonics was actually considered a mode of teaching reading. Why on earth would a person read by making sounds? Reading was much simpler than that, to me: the word wasn’t a picture of a sound, it was a picture of a concept (and since I’d been doing it since before I started school, I had never thought about reading as a thing that needed to be […]

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Hops-day: 23 Fructidor

Reading a whole slew of science fiction this summer, including many titles I wouldn’t have sought out for myself. A few are Community recommendations, and the rest are the informal syllabus for my upcoming writing workshop. I tend to read in patterns, usually by what feels like coincidence; for a month last year it was Tam Lin stories, and for the moment, it’s military coming-of-age stories featuring guys with excellent brains and more than their fair share of good luck. Would I notice these protagonists had been oversupplied with luck if I hadn’t read all of these books in short order? Yes. It’s a pet peeve, in fact. Things coming too easy, answers arriving in flashes of insight or coincidental conjunctions, tend to jar my suspension of disbelief. I can only be won back through a great deal of compensatory hardship for the protagonist. On examination, though, I find I have no grounds for finding this ease unbelievable. I possess, after all, the type of brain that makes connections without showing its work. Many of my good ideas feel as if they’ve arrived in my brain straight from the gods. It shouldn’t be a stretch for me to believe the […]

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New Year

Being the child of a teacher, and a long-time student, I have never yet shaken a feeling that September marks the turning of the year. Not January, not my birthday, nor any of the old holy days. To mark the turning, this year, I’m beginning this blog. My previous blog has now been deleted. It was a strange exercise: completely private in its way, because I never shared my username or URL with anyone, but the possibility of its becoming public ensured that I would do my best to make the entries coherent and relatively polished. At least that was the theory. The illusion of privacy was comforting, on the one hand, allowing me almost as much freedom as I have in my personal journals (those handwritten notebooks I’ve been keeping since I was thirteen or so: twenty of them now, at least, all stuffed in my filing cabinet). On the other hand, I found myself constrained by it: I could not use my blog ID to post anything more public without worrying that I would attract traffic to my blog and wreck its precious solitude. So: apparently the world grows smaller every day, or I grow bigger within it, […]

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