Monday, June 21, 2010

Arrival and Ecstasy

If you've been reading along, you know I'm at the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, Washington, which is amazing and surreal and a bunch of other words that don't tell much. I will probably post irregularly, and I am beginning to understand why it is officially discouraged. There is far too much other activity and purpose here to spend it doing any writing other than fiction.

Having said that...

The house is like a palace on the bottom (where we eat and talk) and an institution on the top floors (where the writers sleep and work). The administrators are praise-worthy in the extreme. I already feel like I've known them a while, and they work hard to meet our every need (or demand). I nearly fell out of my chair this morning when they announced that there would be a massage therapist coming to the house at intervals to service our cramping shoulders and backs. The food is incredible and constantly available: I will probably gain back every pound I lost in May and then some.

The people, the other writers, are delightful. We're all very different but share that one intensity of purpose. It's sort of like being on a nerdy con panel but small, intimate and regular. So far I've seen work from nine of the eighteen, and they have serious chops. It's good company.

Our first instructor, Michael Bishop, has made me think more about narrative theory in seven or so hours than I've ever done before. Not everything we're discussing is new to me, but bringing it all into focus in one place, and then sitting down to write minutes later, has already produced writing of which I can be proud.

Description is inadequate to convey the experience. Suffice it to say, I'm having a blast though I miss my family, and today I ate a Vegemite sandwich for the first time ever.

Now, back to writing.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Journey's Beginning (Random Pre-flight Ramblings)

Up early and eager to go. I don't think I've mentioned before that I hate flying with a passion. If I could avoid it in a reasonable manner, I would, but I can't see traveling for days and days clear across the country for this workshop.

So, I'm packing my usual pile of flight survival drugs and earplugs and so on, in hopes that I won't get sick or have to endure excruciating ear pain.

The packing is almost complete, I just have to shuffle things around so my pillow will fit. I'm happy to report that I located a satchel in my closet that will accommodate my groovy but unnecessary doumbek, so now I can add one more parcel to the three I'll already be trying to manage.

Now I've just got to wake my boys so we can finish up and hit the road to the airport.

No Rest for the Weary

Can't sleep, must pack! And repack, fidget over loose ends and contemplate the prospect of fitting just ONE more thing into the suitcase.

I actually shopped today for a carrying case for my doumbek, but I couldn't find one, so I guess it stays at home. Why do I even think I need that?

Every time I really think about what I'm doing, I feel the urge to vomit. I may yet take some decongestant to knock me out so I don't lie awake for the rest of the night worrying about what I've forgotten to pack (relax, I have a cold, so it's not total drug misuse).

This time tomorrow I will be in Seattle. Terrifying, really.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Clarion West begins in five days. I tried (unsuccessfully) to avoid thinking about the whirlwind adventure waiting for me in Seattle, but now that the days are down to single digits, and friends are wishing me well, I feel pretty scared.

I'm still working through the instructor reading list; I've changed it up a bit from my original plan, and now it's on round two, where each author is going through my brain a second time with a second book. I've been absolutely blown away by Maureen McHugh. If you like Ursula K. Le Guin at all (and I adore her work), then McHugh is for you. I've also been impressed with the style of Ian McDonald, Nnedi Okorafor and Michael Bishop. Reading Graham Joyce's Requiem was a little unpleasant for me, but now that I'm into The Limits of Enchantment, I'm ready to give the author another chance to make a first impression. One more by Bishop and I reach my minimum goal.

Other than that, I've been trying to tie up loose ends and set other bits in motion, in hopes that those plates will still be spinning (how'dya like that mixed metaphor?) when I return from the workshop. A big challenge is figuring out what to pack, and although I've been making the list and assembling the collection of stuff for over a month, now that the time is really upon me, I'm struggling a bit. I realize yet again that I like to be in control of anything and everything that I can. This whole thing is outside my comfort zone, but the nervous part of me has been properly chided by the thrill-seeker and the aggressive self-promoter. I'm almost ready.

I'm not sure how much time I'll get to blog while I'm there; in fact, we are encouraged not to. Other participants have promised a daily update and fallen off halfway due to the demands of the workshop, so I'm not making any promises. But I do hope to document the experience a bit for myself and for future hopefuls because those who did blog gave me a window through which to look and dream.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

And then there was Pie (and sand)

I promised a photo! Thankfully, I took one because, as they say, a picture will last longer. It was GOOD pie. I confess that I ate almost half of the pie all by myself. So much for the low-carb diet.

The delay in posting of the promised pie photo is the result of my family's long-awaited trip to Anna Maria Island, which was incredibly beautiful. The sky was this gorgeous azure, and the water was perfectly clear and aquamarine. There was a moment when the beauty of the water was overwhelming and unreal to my eyes, a solid thing, like a delicately colored piece of plexiglass. Absurd, right?

Unexpectedly, I shed tears when I first touched the water. The oil spill is on the mind of every person along the coast, even though they pretend, like our innkeeper did, that everything is wonderful as usual. I said some prayers, and we had a lovely time for the most part. Mr. B ran himself ragged and fell into bed at 9 PM every single night we were there. I wish I could figure out how to exhaust him that way at home.

The sea turtles were nesting at night, which was something I would have dearly loved to witness, but I was too tired. We did go out each night in the early evening and walk in the twilight. Every night, when the sun touched the horizon, an interesting thing happened. Every person on the beach stopped (except Mr. B, who never stops moving unless he is unconscious) and stared at the sun as it appeared to grow smaller and smaller, and then wink out below the horizon line. It occurred so rapidly, and I found this unceasingly amazing. I mean, Florida is flat, but I rarely see the completion of a sunset because we live in a tree city. I was caught up every night in that motion, startled by it each time. It made me feel very small. It's easy to forget that we live on a enormous ball spinning in space, and then you glimpse it turning.

Blessed be, Gaia. Oshun. Yemaya.