More Clarion disappointment.

March 23, 2013

Late last night, I got an email from the Clarion West writer’s workshop. They thanked me for applying, and then “We are sorry to let you know that you have not been selected for our 2013 workshop.” I’m sorry too.

But I’m not sorry that I took the time (and the money) to apply for Clarion UCSD and Clarion West. I knew that they were both long shots; there were probably hundreds, if not at least a thousand writers applying to both workshop, and I don’t think either take on twenty students every summer. But going to either would be such an amazing experience that it was worth the try. (Especially with Neil Gaiman at Clarion West this year!) After all, if I was ready to get picked, but didn’t apply, I’d never have even known that I was good enough.

I’m still hopeful for the two workshops that I haven’t heard back from yet, especially Odyssey, since I got wait-listed back in 2011, and I know that I’ve improved a lot since then. But there’s no way to be sure about that but waiting.

If those options don’t work out, I’ve been reconsidering trying to go back to Kansas for the two-week short fiction critique circle workshop that I’ve attended the past two summers. I was thinking that I didn’t want to do that again for the third year straight, but now I’m not sure why not. I can certainly learn more from that workshop, and I’ll get to meet some interesting new people.

Of course, if I wait until I hear back from Odyssey before getting in touch with Chris M at Kansas, I might find out that there’s no room for any more critiquers. 😉

How do I revise a short story

December 6, 2012

Yes, I’m still in ‘glide mode’ today, but I’m trying to get a bit more elevation above crash territory. I spent some time on the bus ride home critiquing a new story, and I’ve been thinking about the short stories I want to work with this month.

One is a ‘Not-really-rewrite’ of “Project Fast Track” – I’m not really using the same characters, the same plotline, or the same theme as that little contest tale I wrote nearly a year ago, but I’m going to go back to that vision of the future, specifically to TimeBubble Inc. I’ve got a new plot in mind and an idea for a main character and what his story’s about. Hope to talk it over with somebody before starting the first draft – maybe this weekend.

I also want to do a new revision – this going to be the fourth draft I guess, of “The Storm Mirror.” Some of what I want to do with it has been in my head ever since I left Kansas this summer, and some of it began to come clear while I was writing “The Witches of Arion” in August. (Which takes place earlier in the same universe.)

I like the idea of trying to apply some of the processes from the Holly Lisle “How to Revise your Novel” course to this short story, but I haven’t actually started with that yet. I should probably just dive in – work the worksheets, print out a copy of the third draft and start marking it up with colored pens. Onward! I can do this! (Those are the Holly Lisle taglines that she finishes every lesson with.)

Workshop is drawing to a close…

July 4, 2012

How’d that happen? I feel like it was only yesterday that I showed up here at Krehbiel Scholarship Hall, dragging my suitcases behind me. It can’t have been a week and a half already!

I’ve learned a lot and had a blast, met some great new people, learned a lot about my craft and my stories, and I’ve started planning for the trip back to Canada – which is going to be a little bit crazy, since I need to get picked up by the airport shuttle at (gulp) 4:30 am on Friday.

And I’m both excited and daunted by the fact that I’ll be charging directly into the Polaris convention experience, instead of going home, once I return to Canada! 😉

Certainly getting my money’s worth on vacation days, at least.

How’s your summer going?

Don’t just kill your babies – let other babies eat the best bits.

June 26, 2012

Workshop update – today’s session went great. (So did yesterday’s, which I didn’t mention in yesterday’s post, since that was mostly written in the morning.) I got lots of great feedback and suggestions for ‘The Storm Mirror,’ including that old favorite that I seem to still be having trouble with – torture your characters more. 😉 I’m excited about the revision.

We’ve been talking quite a bit so far about ‘killing your babies’, which wasn’t advice that I got that I noticed – if a favorite element isn’t working for the story, you have to take it out; and maybe try to use it later. That reminds me of this favorite exchange on Stringing Words between myself and Elizabeth Twist:

Elizabeth: …Ultimately, this is helping me to let go of my older projects by allowing the new project to digest the juiciest bits.

Me: [That] prompted a very weird mental image in my head – something like you as a mother in a graveyard, saying goodbye to your ‘babies’ but smiling because a bizarre, chimera-like creature (your new book) is picking at the dead bodies. Fun. Grin

Elizabeth: Thanks, Chris–that’s an accurate image of my mental state right now. Except I’m wearing a tiara and cheering on my chimera. Whee!

So, that’s my little piece of writing advice to everybody who reads me today – feed your chimera!

Adjusting to Kansas once again.

June 25, 2012

So, I’ve been in Lawrence, Kansas for something like 18 hours now – arrived yesterday afternoon, in an airport shuttle with a very cool driver who’s a Science Fiction fan – we chatted about Doctor Who, Larry Niven, and Heinlein for the whole hour. 🙂 And I’m starting to get acclimatized.

Our housing for this year is definitely not like Templin, third floor – which looked very much the part of an institutional dorm residence – the soft pastel walls, the cheap prefab furniture, the open lounge space in the elevator lobby. This year we have Krehbiel hall to ourselves – the workshoppers and our writer in retreat. And parts of Krehbiel look like a rambling manor home than a dormitory – not the bedrooms themselves, but the downstairs lounge where Short Fiction will be doing our critique circle, and the hallways and stairs, the billiard table room, and a few other places. It’s weird but fun.

I’ve been up to the Kansas Union, and walked downtown a few times, and there’s really more interesting stuff within easy walking distance than last year. I can hardly wait.

I should be packing right now…

June 23, 2012

I’ll get back to work on it in just a few minutes, but I wanted to drop you guys a little note. So – packing has been one big focus of my attention since yesterday evening – ever since I did the math backwards from my flight time tomorrow and figured out that I should be leaving at seven AM. (Three hours at the airport for an international flight? Sigh… at least I’ll have videos to watch and can do writing or critiques on the netbook.)

I’ve written a little more for story #7 today – and I actually crossed the 16k line that was my minimum word count goal, but that doesn’t count for as much as getting eight stories finished. And we’ll see about getting the critiques done in advance too – I’m working on number sixteen out of twenty-four, which will be two rounds of stories out of three for each other author in the workshop. I’m already good for Monday to Thursday’s stories, for the first week, so that’s pretty good.

And I went to the Can’t Stop the Serenity screening in Toronto and had a great time, though I had a bit of a headache, (stress?) But I’m glad I came out to share in the fun – there was video of a really cool dramatic reading that Joss wrote, with three girls each telling one story of a troubled girl from a different part of the world, that Equality Now has helped personally and wants to be able to do more to prevent other girls from being badly treated in the same ways.

I left a few lots into the charity auction, after biding one up to the $45 cash I had with me, and being seriously outbid with a winning bid over $100 Canadian. I hope that everybody has a great time at the shindig, but the stuff I have to do here is more important today.

Only hours left until camp!

May 31, 2012

The June session of Camp Nanowrimo is set to start on June 1st, which is just under two and a half hours away by my local time. I’m really excited, and not quite sure what to expect.

Because I’m off to Kansas for the last week of June, I didn’t think that I was up to the 50k challenge, and plus, I’ve been wanting to concentrate more on writing short stories than novels. So, my rebel camp challenge is this: Write eight short stories, (that is, first drafts of new short stories,) in June, with a minimum of 2000 words each.

That isn’t a huge word count target – 16k total as opposed to 50k, but writing shorts is harder than getting into the novel groove, so I felt that this was a good place to set my goal. For one thing, it can be harder to be brief than to write at length, and if all of my stories end up stretching to an average of six thousand words – then I’d be at 48k. I’d be a bit frustrated if that happens, but finishing the count is the important thing.

I completed three shorts in May, along with a lot of other goals I was working on, but I was generally pretty focused on a short story if I had one on the go. “Tough Love” was finished over a two-day weekend, while  “A Prayer for Healing” and “Northward Ho” each took four consecutive days – for Northward, they were all weekdays, and ‘Prayer’ ended on a Saturday.

So… if I can manage to finish off a short every three days or so while I’m in Canada, then I’ll be almost finished when I leave for Kansas on the 24th, and will be able to squeeze in just a little time writing in between workshop sessions, or on Saturday the 30th.

Last August, I did the Camp Rebel thing, (and even gathered a group of like-minded rebels into a cabin, as I have done again this year,) but in terms of rebel progress, it was a pretty big failure. Part of it was that I had a very vague goal, “Rewrite this manuscript and change the character of Ereyu in this way…” and the Storywonk revision class that I was taking, although it was great and I learned a lot from it, wasn’t quite concrete enough to get me on the step by step path that I needed – in fact, my head was swimming with all of the stuff I learned but wasn’t quite sure how to put into practice, and it wasn’t until I discovered the other revision course, the Holly Lisle one, that I was able to find that path.

I thought about doing a rebel Camp session for Holly Lisle HTRYN classes, but figured that it might be tempting some bad juju to declare myself a rebel camp editor again – and anyway, I did plenty of that in March for NaNoEdMo. So June is about the journey of short stories.

Are you signed up for Camp Nanowrimo? If not, do you have other goals in mind for June?

And I’m back home.

July 11, 2011

It’s good to be back in Canada.

I’m still a bit tired from the trip and all the excitement of Kansas. Took me a while to get back into the swing of things with work – and it didn’t help that my Blackberry didn’t want to take any emails when I powered it up today.

My creative energy still isn’t really focused yet, but hopefully that won’t last too long. There’s lots of great new stuff sort of still swirling around in my head, but I’ve got projects that I committed to for July, and I don’t want to let them all slide. Tomorrow night is Hamilton Writer’s at Chester’s Beers of the world, so that should hopefully be fun. I’ve printed out copies of the scene assignment to read there.

On a sadder note, I left “The Prisoner of Azkaban” in the seat pocket of my Continental Airlines flight from Kansas City to Cleveland yesterday afternoon, so the Harry Potter posts may get delayed until I pick up a new copy.

Leaving Lawrence, Kansas

July 10, 2011

I’m leaving Lawrence, Kansas, at the age of thirty-five.
To chase down my own notion of the writer’s life.
With my netbook, my convention shirts, and Mom’s old suitcase bags.
If anybody can make it, then maybe I can too…

(With apologies to Sarah Buxton and Bob di Pero for “American Daughters.”)

I leave for the airport late this morning. It’s going to be weird leaving the workshop crowd behind and returning to everyday life. I’ve learned some great things here:

  • It’s not that hard to find good food at Mrs E’s cafeteria.
  • It takes a lot of work to come up with a good critique.
  • It can take even longer to figure out what to do with a critique of your own writing.
  • The main character needs to be proactive and overcome his own obstacles.
  • Be very careful about how much information you dump on the reader and where.
  • As Kathy put it, “Resist the urge to explain” what you’ve just described. (She had a tendency to hand our manuscripts back with just R U E marked on them where we were doing this.)
  • Don’t give the editor an excuse to say ‘no’ to your story at any point, especially at the beginning.
  • Keep working on every word, every sentence, every scene, every character. They all need to support the completed story.
  • A good sentence is one that makes you want to read the next one.
  • If you can get an editor to read all the way to the end of your story, you’ve got a good shot at an acceptance.
  • Every sentence ought to be worth reading. You shouldn’t get by with a sloppy sentence – though occasionally the rest of the story can carry it.
I’ll have more to say about what I learned here once I’m back in Ontario, I assume. That’s all for now!

Looks like I’m in Kansas now

June 27, 2011

So, let’s see. The flight from Charlotte to Kansas City went okay – had my carry-on bag taken as checked luggage because I was in a late zone to board and the lady at the gate desk thought there wouldn’t be space in the overhead compartments. Ended up switching to the aisle seat because a couple had booked seats that were on either side of my original spot, and that worked out pretty well. Kept reading workshop stories off the Kindle for most of the trip, except when the ‘no electronic devices’ sign was on, when I read Harry Potter.

I called the Ground Transport people while the plane was taxi-ing up the gate to let them know that I was arriving, but hung up while the guy was still looking up my details, because I didn’t want to spend more than one ‘roaming minute’ on the call – they’re pricy enough as they are! It turns out that someone tried to call me back, and I didn’t hear the phone buzzing, but more on that later.

So, I waited a bit impatiently for my chance to rush off the plane with my laptop bag, just because I was excited, even though I suspected that I’d be waiting for a long time at baggage claim, which I was.

But eventually the medium-sized Royal blue suitcase that I’d checked in Buffalo came out, and then the matching carry-on. I put on my sunglasses, dropped the glasses case with my regular glasses, picked it up again, headed out towards the door, and nearly passed a large African-American gentleman asking a woman, “Are you by any chance Chris?”

So I turned and introduced myself, and sure enough, he was my towncar driver, and led me over to where he’d had to park, a little ways from the baggage carousel. We got the bags in the trunk, me with the laptop case in the back seat, and I went to switch from the prescription sunglasses back to the ordinary glasses.

Uh-oh! Something wasn’t right with the glasses. It turned out that somehow the left lens had popped out without disturbing the frame, which was a new one on me. I tried to pop it in a few times during the hour-long drive to Lawrence, then gave it up, spent some time chatting with the driver, and read more from “Sergeant Chip” on the Kindle – that’s a professional story that we’re going to be reading and discussing on Friday.

The driver dropped me off right outside Templin Hall,  got my signature, and I brought the suitcases up to the doors. Some people who were hanging out in the lobby let me in, and I headed up to the third floor in the elevator, and found the welcome workshop party in full swing. Met the workshop leaders, a few of my fellow short fiction workshoppers, had pizza and a can of diet orange pop. At around that point, I decided that I should head over to Lewis Hall and get myself checked into the residence room.

That went well enough, the girl behind the desk found my name, gave me the little envelope with the key-card for the residence front doors and a room key. Once I’d got back to Templin, I’d stowed the envelope and forgotten the room number, but when I dug the envelope and checked the room number, it turned out to be for a room that was already fully occupied.

So a larger group of us headed back to Lewis – Chris M, the short fiction workshop leader, one of the people who’d already moved into the room, (it was a married couple, so the husband decided to come,) and a workshop alum who was hanging around as a facilitator this year. Chris M also called Lydia, who was the person who’d taken all the applications online and made all the room assignments, but wasn’t around working on a Sunday evening.

It took a while to sort that out, and I ended up sitting over in the Lewis lobby and talking with the facilitator guy, who’s also been a Nanowrimo participant. Eventually I got moved into a suite that could take four at a pinch and had only one British man in it so far, so now we’ve each got a bunk bed room to ourselves, and are sharing a bathroom.

So what else? I got unpacked, including the box that I mailed to myself weeks ago, found out that the sheets I bought at Zellers aren’t really the type I thought they were, but got them to work anyway. Registered and paid the high price for residence internet – tried to get my old wireless router to work, but I think that they’re not going to play nice together. One of the guys in our workshop was really counting on sharing wireless internet, especially having it available in our classroom, but I think I’m just as happy having the resnet via cable.

So I hung around a bit longer, listening to conversations more than participating, put myself to bed, woke up pretty early with the morning light outside my window. Now I’ve had some of the leftover pizza for breakfast, and showered, and the first full day is stretching before me.

I’m so excited – I can’t wait!

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