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Slithytove at Clarion

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Farewell to all that [20 Jul 2004|03:31pm]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Final thoughts about Clarion and writing:

1. It's hard to have ideas, strange ideas, exciting ideas, novel ideas.

2. It is even harder to write good prose than to have good ideas.

3. It is hardest of all to tell a good story. Story—the mysterious alchemy of plot arc, character arc, thematic integration, atmosphere, and all the other story-like values—is very, very difficult. It may be the most difficult part of writing to learn and perform successfully. At Clarion, lack of story was the most common flaw I saw. Lots of folks had great ideas. Lots of them could write prose that was smooth, exciting or even both at the same time. But the commonest failing I saw was lack of conflict, excitement, tension, suspense, risk, or the failure of these at some point. Writers, as Nancy Kress said, can't be reluctant to *hurt* their characters. You don't have to have physical conflict, or physical risk. But your characters have to have something at stake, something the reader must care about. It's *tough* to tell a compelling story.

All the instructors said I wrote well on the sentence level. My problems are with story. They may not be insurmountable problems. All the instructors were quite positive. But storytelling is what I have to work on.

That having been said, I can *still* write better prose than I am writing, and have better ideas. There are no laurels to rest on.


Learned just before I left that one of Amelia Beamer's stories in particular was smiled on by Kelly Link, who suggested sending it to Major Market, with Kelly's blessing to Big Name Editor. Yay! I haven't seen the story, it was written pre-Clarion, but Amelia writes some very good prose, about big ideas and edgy themes, and I'd love to see something of hers in print.


And that, folks, is that. Last post to the Clarion blog. If I have anything more to say about Clarion (and I probably will) I'll post it as slithytove, my usual LJ. st_at_clarion will remain up indefinitely, but probably receive no more posts.

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Clarion, Day 42: So long, and thanks for all the caterpillar sushi [17 Jul 2004|09:29pm]
[ mood | lonely ]

Dinner tonight with the gang at Omi, a sushi/other Japanese place within easy walking distance of the KKG house. I had caterpillar sushi, which I had never had before, and which is both beautiful and delicious. Also octopus with shoyu and sesame oil, likewise delicious. Came home, packed as much as I could tonight. Tomorrow I should be able to get out of here in an hour or so. Plan is to leave at 7 a.m., to be home by 6 p.m.

From the conversation at dinner, everyone else is feeling pretty much as I do: very sad, with a tremendous sense of loss. If I had one misconception about Clarion before coming here, it was this: I didn't realize how all-consuming it would become, or how much the other students would become a part of my life, the elemental components of my world.

Six weeks of Clarion is about right. More would be too much, less would not be enough. Clarion must end, I know that, we all know that.

But damn, it's painful.

This is probably my last post from East Lansing. I'll post some summing-up stuff after I arrive home, get unpacked and reorganized.

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Clarion, Day 42: I've got no expectations to pass through here again [17 Jul 2004|03:54pm]
[ mood | crushed ]

Reading by Kelly and Jeff at the Archive Bookstore two nights ago. Kelly read part of a story about a cheerleader and Satan going backward in time, and it was wonderful, but I didn't catch the title or where it had (or was going to) appear. Jeff read "Creation," the first story in his The Fantasy Writer's Assistant collection. Books were bought and signed. A good time was had by all.

Last crits were on done on Friday. Lots of Mafia played and movies watched over the last 24 hours. Nikki coordinated the making of an impromptu chapbook as a going-away present for Kelly Link; everyone got a copy and there was a mad signing party over pizza. Clarion 2004 T-shirts showed up. When I have a little time I'll transcribe the quotes from the back. The keynote quote, from the front, reads, "How can I get my word choices more better?"

Six of us have left already, two more are leaving this evening. Jeff Ford left this afternoon. Most of the rest of us are leaving tomorrow, Grace, Peter and (of course) Amelia are hanging on until Tuesday.

I am feeling inexpressibly sad. It is an almost physical sensation in my chest, and a weakness of my limbs.

I wandered into the crit room -- the Kappa house's formal living room -- this morning, stood, and looked around. The circle of chairs was still there, empty. No more crits, ever. No more group, no more voices offering praise, correction, encouragement, hesitation, voices of other writers, who think my thoughts, have my dreams, struggle with my problems. Whatever happens to us now, Clarion is over, forever. Brynna, Al and Tenea came in. We just looked at each other for a while.

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Clarion, Day 42: Kelly and Gavin on pulishing/small press publishing [17 Jul 2004|03:14pm]
[ mood | cheerful ]

Cory Doctorow, The Idiot's Guide to Publishing Science Fiction
Few houses take unagented fiction; Tor does.
It can take up to three years to hear back from Tor; they are known occasionally to lose manuscripts.
Usual advance for first novel US$4K to $10K;
Typically takes 18 months for novel to publish; beware of shorter time frames, 6 months is not sufficient time adequately to design, edit, and typeset a book.
Many editors nowadays tend not to do much editing; your book may be published pretty much as submitted.
Author increasingly expected to help with the marketing; author may be responsible for getting blurb quotes from other writers.
Gavin: for folks at our level, focus on writing better, not on publishing. [This was pretty much Jeffrey Ford's line, too.] Subscription to Locus is a good idea.
Bookstores typically keep new novels on the shelf 90 days, then strip them.
Gavin: advises against self-publishing, iUniverse, etc. "iUniverse is good for your aunt's memoirs."
Gavin: Chapbooks are acceptable, even though they sort of edge towards self-publishing.
Year's Best Fantasy and Horror may be useful source in looking for markets and publishers.
In small presses, besides Small Beer, of course, recommend Golden Griffin (although tends for some reason to be a boy's club), Nightshade.
Distributors, such as Ingram, typically take up to 2/3 of the cost of the book (40% is passed on to the bookstore).
Advertising budget for publisher is typically US$1 per copy printed. I.e., print run of 5000 will have ad budget of $5000.
Kelly: even the best proofreaders miss about 25% of errors in manuscripts.
Kelly: SMF, SMF, SMF. If you want to say you went to Clarion, do it in the cover letter, not the ms.
Kelly and Gavin: LCRW likes self-stickum-no-lick envelopes (like Carina at RoF).
Gavin: chapbooks are inexpensive to make, and nice to give out at readings. Along the same micro-micro-publishing lines: bookmarks with tiny stories on them.

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Clarion, Day 42: Conference with Kelly Link [17 Jul 2004|02:02pm]
[ mood | hopeful ]

Had my conference with Kelly Link on Monday.

She talked a good deal about the stories I'd written here; she's read them all. One of them she offered to buy for LCRW outright, but also seemed to think I should shop it around to professional markets first, including non-genre markets. She mentioned 3rd Bed, a publication I had been unaware of, as well as McSweeney's, New Yorker, Penthouse (is Penthouse the new Playboy for sophisticado genre fiction with a soupçon of sex?). She also generally likes Polyphony and Alchemy as outlets for fiction.

Reading suggestions:
George Saunders
Robert Reed
William Browning Spencer, Resume with Monsters
Stacey Richter, My Date with Satan
Jane Hamilton, Disobedience: A Novel
Anne Pratchett, Bel Canto
M.T. Anderson, Thirsty (The author is associated with 3rd Bed, mentioned above
Holly Black, Tithe : A Modern Faerie Tale

She offered to introduce me to a writers' group near Philly. (!)

She gave me two books. (Kelly is noted for giving out books to students at her Clarion conferences). For me, it was David Quammen's The Flight of the Iguana and Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds Thanks, Kelly!

Final, no shit, really truly the last teaching session right now, with Kelly and Gavin, on small presses and publishing, must go, more later.

7/22/04: Update/correction. Kelly Link informs me that she was recommending Tin House magazine, not Penthouse. Oops. Slip of the ear on my part.

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Clarion, Day 42: Conference with Jeffrey Ford [17 Jul 2004|01:34pm]
[ mood | melancholy ]

This is a catch-up post.

Had my conferences with Jeffrey Ford and Kelly Link on Monday. Jeff's basic advice was to keep writing. He believes that at this point, I need more writing time, not workshops. He has limited patience for non-standard narration: "Cut the narrative tricks, just tell the story." In fact, that's been one of his watchwords in the workshop in general. His going-away gift was a wooden paddle, signed by all of us, with the motto on the back, "Just tell me a damned story."

He thought that if I kept developing as a writer, I should be expect to be published professionally within a year or so.

Other advice: "The writer should write as the reader reads: from point A to point B. The writer should *discover* the story in the same way the reader discovers it." He doesn't like titles that are literary/philosophical name-dropping (case in point, the title of one of my Clarion-written stories, "Tabula Rasa.") He says the title should not give anything away.

He had a number of suggestions for changes in the stories of mine he had read, and suggestions for markets, including Polyphony, Argosy, Leviathan (a roughly biennial anthology), Third Alternative, and the Say... series.

Jeff Ford's recommended reading (for me):
Aristotle's Poetics
John Gardner's The Art of Fiction
Steven Millhauser's short fiction.
Raymond Carver, especially "The Knife Thrower."

Because I asked him specifically for any tips about character development, he recommended these authors:
Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle, for character development
Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars books
Laurie Colwin's Goodbye Without Leaving
Stephen Bury (pseudonym of Neal Stephenson), The Cobweb

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Clarion, Day 40: In which we watch zombie movies and have adventures in the kitchen [15 Jul 2004|03:10pm]
[ mood | melancholy ]

Lunch was excellent, left-over coq au vin over toast, to soak up the scrumptious au vin. I cooked dinner for the crew last night, from this recipe for coq au vin. Also made carrot cake, for the second time, and both were well-received.

While cooking dinner, something exciting happened.

V frg gur fgbir ba sver.

Jr'er abg fhccbfrq gb or hfvat gur fgbir, nf cneg bs bhe nterrzrag jvgu gur fbebevgl jubfr ubhfr jr'er fgnlvat va. Ohg vg'f orra uryy qbvat nyy bhe pbbxvat ba gur tevyy bhgfvqr be gur gbnfgre bira. Fb va zvq-jrrx 5, nf cneg bs Wrss naq Xryyl'f rssbeg gb pher bhe znynvfr, ohea-bhg, rkunhfgvba naq ovggrearff, gurl gbyq hf jr pbhyq hfr gur fgbir.

Fb. Cneg bs znxvat gur pbd nh iva vf gb qbhfr jvgu pbatnp naq synzr. V qvq fb. Gur synzrf vtavgrq bar bs gur ternfl ubbq svygref, naq yb, jr unq n fgbir sver. "Bu, fuvg," Avxxv fnvq, "gur fgbir'f ba sver." Tbfu, fur'f n cebsrffvbany pbbx, V gubhtug fur'q xabj jung gb qb. "Trg gur sver rkgvathvfuref," fur fnvq. Fb crbcyr jrag ehaavat sbe gur sver rkgvathvfuref. V jbaqrerq ubj ybat vg jbhyq gnxr gur sver gb fcernq sebz gur fgbir gb gur erfg bs gur ohvyqvat. Crbcyr sebz gur cngvb fgernzrq va, orpnhfr gurl unq abgvprq oynpx fzbxvat cbhevat sebz gur irag. Avxxv fnvq gb fuhg gur ubbq rkunhfg bss, orpnhfr vg jnf snaavat gur synzrf, bs pbhefr, fb jr qvq. V jbaqrerq ubj ybat vg jbhyq or orsber gur sbnz sver rkgvathvfure phg ba. Svyyvat gur xvgpura hc jvgu sbnz vf hapbby.

Ohg fb vf frggvat gur ohvyqvat ba sver. Ybbx, vs gung unccrarq, ab bayl jbhyq gur fbebevgl arire yrg hf hfr gur ohvyqvat ntnva -- juvpu jnf tbvat gb unccra naljnl -- ohg vg'f yvxryl AB BAR jbhyq yrg hf hfr NAL ohvyqvat ntnva, naljurer. Artbgvngvbaf gb gnxr Pynevba gb FHAL jbhyq snyy guebhtu, orphnfr jub jnagf n cebtenz gung abg bayl oernxf gurve pbagenpgf, OHG FRGF OHVYQVATF BA SVER?!?!

Fvatyrunaqrqyl, V unq qbbzrq Pynevba. Whfg ol synzvat. gur. shpxvat. pbd. nh. iva.

Fb, guvf jnf jung jnf tbvat guebhtu zl zvaq.

V jnf gelvat gb trg gur synzvat ubbq svygre bhg bs gur ubbq, gb guebj vg vagb gur fvax, jura vg jrag bhg ol vgfrys. Naq gung jnf gung. Ab zber sver. "V arrq n fzbxr," Avxxv fnvq, naq ehfurq bhg. Ng guvf cbvag sbhe crbcyr ehfurq va jvgu sver rkgvathvfuref, naq V gbyq gurz gb tb njnl, gunaxf ohg vg'f nyy bire, abguvat gb frr urer, sbyxf. V frnerq gur arkg ongpu bs puvpxra, ohg synzrq vg jryy njnl sebz gur ubbq.

A classic Clarion experience.

Bu, lrnu, jr'er oernxvat bhe pbagenpg va bgure jnlf, gbb. Yvxr, 'ab nypbuby'. Uru. Uru.^2 Fb sne, ab bar unf ebyyre fxngrq va gur ubhfr, gubhtu. Znlor jr pna znantr gb qb gung orsber jr yrnir.

Last night many of us watched Dead Alive, the canonical zombie movie. Remarkable. Stomach-turning. Several people had to leave in the middle. Two word's: Chekhov's lawnmower.

Post too long. More later.

5:05 pm: if you want to share this with someone, please do so by private email, not in the comments.

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Clarion, Day 40: In which my critting abilities crash and burn [15 Jul 2004|12:33pm]
[ mood | shocked ]

Keats, dying of tuberculosis in Rome, spoke of his 'posthumous existence'. I'm having the same feeling about Clarion. 2 days to go. Actually, I've been feeling this way since Tuesday, 7/13. And I've been starting to preemptively miss my fellow Clarionites for the past week and a half. We critted a story this morning that Kelly Link suggested was an end-of-Clarion story: it was about separation and loss.

I turned in my seventh and final Clarion story, "Lives of the Saints," Monday and it got critted Tuesday. People either liked it until page 13 or until page 20. The Taoist assassin chick picking up the hero in a AH-1W Super Cobra just broke the suspension of disbelief for many. Either that or the talky philosophical discussion at the end. Jeff didn't like the non-standard narrative technique, Kelly liked it and wanted to see more of it. Universal agreement, including me, that the story needs major revisions/rethinking.

This morning I had a bit of a shock that I'm not over yet. We critted a story that I thought had interesting ideas, but significant story-telling problems. Most of the rest of class agreed. Jeff and Kelly absolutely loved it. Kelly suggested SCIFICTION, that it was the kind of thing Ellen Datlow is looking for.

This is a real problem for me, in that it challenges my idea that I know what is successful fiction. Even if the would-be writer can't write as well as he'd like, he *has* to be able to distinguish what fiction is successful and saleable from what isn't, if he is ever to improve his own writing. How do you know what to write if you can't tell good from bad? Up until this point, I thought I had a fairly good idea of *what* worked and what didn't, what an editor would buy and what they probably wouldn't, even I didn't understand fully *how* it worked, how a story achieved its effects. After that story this morning, I'm no longer sure I can even tell good from bad fiction. This is very distressing.

I'm still worried about this.

Also hungry. More after lunch.

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Clarion, Day 38: Stuff costs [13 Jul 2004|10:50am]
[ mood | determined ]

Sometimes I remember important advice that one of our instructors gave us that for some reason didn't make it into this blog. Here's one: stuff costs.

That was Nancy Kress's line. "Remember, people: stuff costs!" By which she meant: happy endings are not free. Your characters come out okay if you like, but if you want your reader to buy it, if you want your ending to feel right, your cast has to pay a price for what they get.

Stuff costs, people. Remember: stuff costs.

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Clarion, Day 37 [12 Jul 2004|12:53pm]
[ mood | working ]

Temp: 80.4. Humidity: 74%. Fan: on. Shirt: off

Jeffrey Ford from crit circle this morning: "A story about a specific death is a story about a specific life." I.e., if you kill off a character, we must know how their life connected to their death, or we won't care about them, and their death won't mean anything.

Both Jeff and Kelly Link are also adamant (Jeff more vocally, but I think Kelly feels the same way) that the writer should write the damn story, and let the reader find the meaning in it. Don't beat the reader over the head with your meaning.

One of the stories we critted this morning was Kelly's. OMGWTF. Working title, "Some Zombie Contingency Plans." Very cool and creepy story, unmistakably Kelly Link, and that's all I'm going to say about it. It will see publication some day, after a couple of more revisions. This was about draft 2.

No post yesterday, but not much happened. I did about 1900 words on my current wip, working title, "Lives of the Saints." I hope to have in the mss. box by tomorrow morning, so it can go up for crits by Wednesday, before the final rush. Watched most of Underworld with the gang. This movie is all about Kate Beckinsale in full-body PVC. Oh, yeah, and werewolves with AK-47's. And vampires.

Now I go write.

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Clarion, Day 35: Attack of the sexually ambiguous bird-goddess [10 Jul 2004|09:12pm]
[ mood | groggy ]

[originally posted around noon, but eaten by LJ]

Story about killing saints is underway, about 600 words written, and the scantiest of plot outlines. But I think I know now what the story is about, what the theme is, what the general world of it feels like, I've got a lot of major incidents sketched out, and so on. I plan to work on it all of today and tomorrow, hoping to get it done by Tuesday at the latest, before the final rush of stories. I've written myself in on the list to cook for the gang on Wednesday. Plan is Coq au Vin and carrot cake again. Nikki cooked for us last night. Absolutely. Superb. Friday is our last official day here. Probably some sort of dinner Saturday night, and I'll leave Sunday 7/18. That'll be it for Clarion, for me, forever. I feel rather like a man whose doctor has given him a week to live. Please straighten your affairs, sir.

There was a party last night. There was much dancing and mirth-making. Crossdressing happened. Tenea lent me a sundress, and Kelly Link lent me a necklace, ring, and clogs, Marjorie lent me a big floppy colorful hat. Tenea got my blue blazer, a button-down shirt and tie. Marjorie made me up, green and purple eye shadow and some glitter on the cheeks. Mascara. I wanted some boobage, but the sundress was too tight. Many photographs were taken. None will be released. For now. We all swore a terrible oath that the first to publish in SCIFICTION... something about Locus... damn, I forget the details. Stupid alcohol. Will someone remind me of the details of our terrible oath about the crossdressing photographs? Thanks.

Some guys look excellent crossdressed, some... don't. Peter had a very convincing David Bowie/Annie Lennox thing going on. On the distaff side, Amelia was very, very hot in a three-piece wool suit and tie. Literally hot, too. The temps were probably in the 80's, as they usually are, so the wool got lost pretty quickly. I was told I looked like someone's mom. Uh, thanks, guys, I was going for the Jackie Kennedy late-1960's look, so, like, crap. Grace was all shiny in PVC, and is reported by reliable sources to have done an exemplary cage dance within an upended bed, however, it was brief, and I missed it.

About halfway through the evening I acquired a black half-mask from Rebecca, somewhat in the style of Pantalone in the Commedia dell'arte. I wore this for the rest of the evening, not speaking, communicating solely by making bird-like motions with my head. This completely creeped out everyone else. Hopefully few photographs of the sexually ambiguous bird-goddess of Clarion exist, and hopefully anyone I hit on while in this condition will have an alcoholic blackout about it.

This morning I am less hung-over than expected.

I now go to lunch, then write-write.

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[10 Jul 2004|08:50pm]
[ mood | pissed off ]

This journal is on Chef cluster 8, which is totally hosed. A day of entries is (or was, a few hours ago), only visible on friends lists, not on the main page. LJ released a tool to restore these posts; instead it restored other posts which had not been missing, and the missing posts are still missing. Several of the comments in the 'restored' posts are now gone, probably forever.

Right now, I'm just afraid to post anything.

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Public Service Announcement [09 Jul 2004|03:50pm]
[ mood | ecstatic ]

Relics of Santa Claus are for sale on eBay.

It's unclear what body part or body fluid is present. The vial of the relics of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in Lycia (present-day Turkey), the person known to us as Santa Claus, appears to contain dust.

Some day we'll be able to recreate saints from their relics, sort of like the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. I'd call it "Apostolic Park." I propose first to reanimate St. Christina the Astonishing, who, at her funeral, flew up out of her coffin and sat in the church's rafters.

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Clarion, Day 34: In which our slide into actual polymorphous perversity accelerates [09 Jul 2004|12:42am]
[ mood | worried ]

1. Our 900 word stories were read aloud in crit circle today. Not much per-story feedback, although we discussed the process a little, afterward. Jeff suggests that if you're blocked on a story, one technique is to try to write it as a short-short. When you've done that, then decide whether you want to keep it that way. Even if you don't you may have gained insight into a story that will help you when you write it to its proper size. There was some more discussion of the nature of the paragraph, and how it is critical to get paragraph breaks right. The end of a paragraph is a power position: what goes there has high impact on the reader.

Some other emphasis by Jeff and Kelly that beginning writers tend to tell too much, because they're afraid the reader won't get it. Let your readers do some of the work. They're smarter than you think. Kelly says that not nailing down the meaning of your story is helpful in expanding your potential pool of readers: different readers may get different things out of the story, including things the writer may not have intended. That's okay.

Hm. I'm getting echoes of the 'texts have no fixed meaning' stuff here.

My own 900 word story? I don't like it. It feels stale, both in the situation and the sciffy element. I probably should have done something else.

2. I am but an egg.

3. There is a party tonight. Nikki is organizing it. There will be mandatory crossdressing.

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Scandinavian robots [09 Jul 2004|12:40am]
One of the fine points of writing sff that a couple of our instructors have made is that in this field you have to be especially careful with figures of speech. If you write, "A glorious sunset exploded across the western sky," in a romance novel, it will be taken as a figure of speech. But in an sff novel, your reader may be knocked out of your narrative by the thought that the sun really is exploding.

I remembered this a minute ago when I wrote, "The family room had been designed by Scandinavian robots." Um, wait a minute. This is a ghost story, there aren't any robots in it, but the reader doesn't know that yet...

"The family room appeared to have been designed by Scandinavian robots..."
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Clarion, Day 33: She's mafia, I know she is! [08 Jul 2004|01:37pm]
[ mood | chipper ]

In the original ending of the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee got married.

The story I had been working on is now, sadly, on hold. I loved the voice, but I don't know enough about gender issues or transsexuals. I still want to do it, but research will take time, and can't realistically be done at Clarion. Another story is in the works. Oh, wait, it's also on hold.

Kelly and Jeff called us together Wednesday night, early, and asked us for feedback on Clarion. How did we feel? How were we doing? Is there something we would like them to do differently?

There's definitely some frustration and burnout going on. K & J detected it in Wednesday morning's crit session, which was palpably too harsh and tense. Therefore: today's stories were critted more lightly, everyone's wip stories were put on hold, and a 900-word writing assignment was given for tomorrow. Folks were also told to concentrate on producing one more *finished* story. Part of the problem is that everyone has been trying to produce the canonical story-a-week, with the results that a lot of stories seem to be coming to the crit circle at draft 1.0 or 1.5. The writer knows there are problems, but wants to get the story in that week. Then the writer is frustrated by the crit circle telling him all those things wrong with the story that he already knows are wrong because it's draft 1.0 or 1.5.

Our other solution was to go out drinking. Then we all came home drunk[1] Kelly taught us to play "Mafia" and "Thing". This was followed by a watergun battle, after which I went to bed, and I deny all knowledge of any shenanigans which happened thereafter.

Mafia and Thing are classic Clarion games. Tons of fun. I had never played them before, but I loved them. They're very subversive, and very game theory-like: best play depends on the actions of others, and others' play depends on yours, in an near-infinite feedback loop. Charles and Tenea in particular proved to be very good players.

And now I go to write my 900-word story for tomorrow.

Oh, thanks to the folks who responded to my cri du cour of two days ago. I'm feeling better now.

[1] This is slightly different than what actually happened, but details have been altered to protect someone or something, and that's all I'm sayin' about that.

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[07 Jul 2004|02:35pm]
Because fluffhouse.org.uk is totally friendly-fire DDoS'ed, that's why.
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Clarion, Day 31 [06 Jul 2004|01:49pm]
[ mood | depressed ]

My steampunk time-travel romance got beaten up pretty badly in crit circle this morning.

I went down to the St. James Infirmary
Saw my story there
She stretched out in the Kappa House crit room
So cold, so sweet, so fair
Most of the problems mentioned I was aware of, some are solvable, some may be insolvable. Gordon has been banging on the grounding thing, so I grounded the story hard in the first two paragraphs, and virtually everyone, including Gordon hated it. Okay, so I overdid it. I grounded it so hard it never got airborne and crashed into the grove of trees at the end of the runway.

One problem I had not anticipated was the language, which many people didn't like. It's fairly formal. To me, the language is part of the voice and tone of this story, and any other diction would just feel wrong. *fret*

Nikki Kimberling had a great idea of how to deal with a particular character problem by condensing two characters into one, several others agreed, and I thought it was an excellent idea myself, then Kelly Link said she'd prefer to keep the second character, she liked his quirkiness. Groan. Now what?

Right now I'm just feeling suicidally depressed about the story, about writing in general, Clarion, and the future of human life on earth.


Kelly Link handed out free copies of Lady Churchill's No. 13 this morning in crit circle. 1/8 of the contributors are mutual LJ friends, and one made the front cover. Eek!


Conference with Gordon Van Gelder last night. Reviewed my stories. He had read them all, my two submission stories, and the four I had written at Clarion. Wow. Thanks! No, he didn't want to buy any of them. He thinks all the genitalia in a couple of the Clarion-written stories may be a problem, in terms of finding a market. He was the toughest of any critic so far on "Du Bist Der Lenz", and no, he doesn't think foreign language titles usually work, either. Interestingly, he thought 1) they were all genre (even the surreal postal delivery story and the horny-bonobos-in-the-boardroom story), and 2) they all sounded like me. I've been saying 'I haven't found my voice yet' to a lot of people, and I *thought* I had written a bunch of very different-sounding stories. Maybe I've found my voice after all. Or maybe I should just stop caring about finding my voice, and just write what I want to write.


Watched The Big Tease with the gang last night. Funny movie, a Spinal Tap-like mock documentary about a Scottish hairdresser who comes to LA.
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Clarion, Day 30: Publishing stuff with Gordon and the gang [05 Jul 2004|02:58pm]
[ mood | bouncy ]

Only two, rather short, stories to crit this morning, so the gang spent a couple of hours talking about publishing. It was a free-for-all between Gordon Van Gelder, Kelly Link, Gavin Grant, and Jeffrey Ford, who arrived in the middle of the story crits.

I took the following notes during the session, and haven't made any attempt to turn them into a coherent narrative. I didn't bother to include a lot of stuff that should be familiar to everyone reading this already: if you get an email rejection, DON'T try to get into an email discussion with the editor; the shorter the cover letter the better; include an SASE; use Courier; use pound signs to separate ms. sections, not little unicorns; etc.

Gordon Van Gelder: F&FS publishes 1.2% of received submissions.
Perseverance is critical.
Breaking in: every one does it differently. "There are nine and sixty ways..."
You may find an editor you connect with, and not others: not all editors like all authors.
Do your homework: use Standard Manuscript Format, do not staple mss., follow guidelines, etc.
Know your market: do not submit stories to inappropriate markets. Read the mags you are submitting to. Address your envelope to the current editor, not one who retired in 1963 (this really happened recently).
Kelly Link and Jeffrey Ford: submit not just to top markets, but to a market which is in sympathy with what you are doing. Look at where writers you admire have published their work. "I want my work to be part of this conversation that is going on now."
Gordon appreciates letters which acknowledge that the author had read a book Gordon edited, and thought his story was similar in some way to the stories Gordon liked.
KL: include in your cover letter that you have included an SASE (so if it goes missing, the editor knows you at least tried), that you have attended Clarion (may be of *slight* help), and recent sales to equal or one-tier-below markets. Do NOT include that you are a member of SFWA.
KL: keep in mind that the slush reader is usually pissed off, and looking for excuse to put down the manuscript. But she is also, thinking on some level, "Please, please give me something good."
GVG: you generally need an agent to sell a book.
Jeffrey Ford: advises writing short stories first, before you start your novel.
GVG: agree and disagree with that. Kate Wilhelm: the novel is more forgiving form. Additionally, different writers are stronger at different lengths. Gardner Dozois formula: sell a dozen mind-blowing stories to top markets, *then* write your novel. [Me: damn, why didn't I think of that? *slaps forehead*] GVG believes that the unforgiving nature of short stories is the best way to learn the craft of writing. GVG says he is occasionally contacted by an agent who has read a short story, been very impressed by it, and wants to know if Gordon knows if the writer is working on a novel: another reason to try to place short stories first.
GVG: find a writer who you admire, see if they acknowledge their agent in their foreword, then contact that agent.
GVG: Do NOT approach an editor with a marketing hook of your own invention. Your job is to write the book, not market it.
JF & KL: Do not expect to make a living as a writer.
KL: A bad agent is worse than no agent. Check the resources on the SFWA site.
GVG: It's helpful for a new writer to use a more experienced writer's career as a model. It's reassuring to find out that Ursula LeGuin didn't sell her first story until she was 29, and that Raymond Chandler didn't even start writing until he was in his late 30's. Tiptree didn't start writing fiction until she was in her 50's (Me: thankyouthankyouthankyou...).
GVG: Chief occupational hazard of a writer is jealousy.
JF: Ignore all this information about publishing, what you want to concentrate on is writing a good story.
Everyone: For god's sake, don't do simultaneous submissions unless the editor says it's okay in their guidelines. You will be found out, every editor will hate you, and in worst case, will never accept anything from you again.
KL: Simultaneous submissions to non-paying academic literary magazines that hold mss. for the better part of a year may be more acceptable.
KL: consider Penthouse Tin House [corrected 8/7/04], McSweeney's, 3rd Bed, Conjunctions, Zoetrope (especially on-line version), which publish spec-fic but don't like to call it that.
GVG: Don't forget anthologies. Ralan and Speculations keep up with which ones are accepting.
KL: Young Adult is one of the few hot areas right now, and is very accepting of themes that have not been accepted before: sex, violence, suicide.
KL: Most series tie-in fiction, Star Wars, Star Trek books, are almost entirely invitational. Unless you are already known to publishers, you will have a hard time breaking in.
GVG: Longer stories are harder to sell. Over 15K is especially difficult. The longer the story is, the more GVG has to like it to buy it.
GVG: If you are writing in the field, you must keep current. You can't base your writing on what was written thirty years ago, no matter how much you liked it. Or even what was written ten years ago. "Stories about child abuse feel so 1991."
JF: "Never run with the pack or you'll be left behind." Says he doesn't read much in the genre. Reads what he wants to read, writes what he wants to write.

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Clarion, Day 29 [04 Jul 2004|11:27pm]
[ mood | tired ]

Happy 4th!

Andy Duncan left today, and Kelly Link and Gavin Grant arrived, but I haven't done more than say hello to them yet. They caught me shirtless in my room, eek. 4th of July barbecue at Lister's. Was good. We taught Grace, who is from Australia, how to make smores. She wasn't impressed. I think Njihia was slightly more impressed, but still not especially.

Lots of butt-in-chair time today. Finished my current story, tentatively titled 'Moving the Sun'. Total 7200 words, woof. Longest story I've written at Clarion so far. Wordcount in the past 24 hours: 1900 words. Ouch. Last half is still fairly first-drafty, but I really want to get it in tomorrow for crits Tuesday. Plan is to sleep on it tonight, review it in the morning before crit circle, make last minute revisions, and print it out.

Now I go to do my crits for tomorrow.

Temp: 80.4. Humidity: 63%. Fan: on. Shirt: off. Stuff going on outside: intermittent rain.

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