Friday, May 21, 2010


Hey everyone! In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been around in a while. No Hump Day Surprises – nothing! Why? Well, life has been interesting.

The reasons for my hiatus are wide and varied. To start with, there was all kinds of day job interference. Then there was planning for vacation, vacation, and… something else. What was it? Let's see … oh yeah! I was canned from my day job last week. Yep, fired. Shown the door. Tossed out on my – ahem.

Being canned has been a mixed blessing. Like most writers with a day job, I've always dreamed of having an extended period of time to work on my book. I can't tell you how many times I’ve sat at work, wishing I was at home working on my book instead of whatever it was I was doing. When I was canned, one of the first thoughts that went through my head was, ‘Fine! At least I'll be able to go write!’

So that's exactly what I've been doing.

I've always had the notion that if I ever had a solid block of writing time I would really crank things out but this is the first such opportunity I've been given.  The results have been astonishing. In the past two weeks I have completed somewhere between two to three months worth of work on my WIP. It's truly amazing.

Kicking ass on my WIP isn't the only nice thing about being unemployed. The weather here in Minnesota is absolutely fantastic right now. I’ve been eating my lunch out on the deck, opening the windows to hear the birds sing and – gasp – I’ve actually had the time to read something other than comic books! It has been blissful. The only thing that could make it better would be if I could walk over to the money tree and pull off a 10 spot to pay for the martini I’m was thinking about making later this afternoon.

You see where this is going, right?

The other experience that unemployment has given me is an appreciation for my day job. Don't get me wrong, I would be more than happy to sit home all day and write, do the grocery shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, you name it, but that particular job pays for shit. Even if, say, nine months to a year down the road I actually get published, it’s extremely likely that job would still pay for shit. And in the meantime? My not working would mean no comics, books, or music, not to mention what it would do to the budget for everything else.

So, like it or not, I'll be going back to work as soon as I can find a job. It will be hard to go back to snatching an hour here and there to work on my WIP, but that’s just the way it will have to be. And, in a way, I’m ok with that, because life wouldn't be any fun without comics, or books, or music, or nights out on the town with my lovely wife.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wiscon and Philosophy

Two weeks from now, I will be in Madison for Wiscon, the Feminist Science Fiction Conference. Going to readings and getting writing tips from the pros. Selling my freaky woolen creatures (hopefully). Staying with my best friend, which means learning new hooping tricks and playing (losing) endless geeky girl strategy games. Yup: my own version of heaven. And it's within driving distance.

One of the things I'm excited for this year is the free writing workshop Wiscon offers. I'll be getting my first 10,000 words critiqued by a small group of fellow as-of-yet-unpublished writers and an author. I've done this once before, two years ago. Here's where I was in the writing process at that time: I'd taken a Loft Children/Young Adult writing class; had a complete draft, with at least one full revision done; I'd gotten positive responses from my fellow classmates and instructor; my mom loved my story (cue flashing red warning lights.) I was ready to send my baby out to the world of agents. She was so cute, who wouldn't snap her up for a nice cuddle?

I sent out four queries.

All rejected within a couple days.

And then I went to Wiscon, and discovered the novel was not, in fact, ready for mass consumption. My pacing was off and, lo and behold, I wasn't writing for Young Adults like I'd thought. I was writing for Middle Graders. I got lots of great advise from the other writers, and the professional. And I've taken that advice and run with it. Plus, I've also taken another Loft class since then, this one focusing on Science Fiction, and I've improved the novel through two sets of revisions with my fancy schmancy super duper writing group. I know it's better. Much, much better.

So, I've been feeling the urge to start looking up agents again. But, this time, I'm going to wait until after Wiscon to send off any queries. Hopefully, I'll get feedback that assures me that it's just about time. And if not, well, I'll most certainly like the novel even more once I'm done working through whatever suggestions I'm given.

One last tidbit, to tie in with my last post. In the previous Wiscon writing workshop, the pro (again, who gave me tremendously useful advice overall) wondered if I needed the philosophy. Couldn't I tell the story without three teenaged pseudo-reincarnations of Plato, Thomas Hobbes, and Simone de Beauvoir? Maybe I can. But at this point, I still think the story is richer with the philosophical elements. I'm curious about any Wiscon feedback I'll get on this point.

Stay tuned.

Friday, May 7, 2010

This Sucks

"Don't say stinks, darling. If absolutely necessary, smells. But only if absolutely necessary." - Margaret Lord, The Philadelphia Story

Have you noticed how, on the Interwebbies, if you’re not fond of a film or book or song that someone else loves, you are a “moron,” and if someone else hates something you love, that thing “sucks?” (I’m using the most polite versions of the terms one stumbles across). What ever happened to celebrating variances in taste? What ever happened to the art of the thoughtful critique?

When we’re younger, sure, things we like are universally “amazing” and things we don’t like “blow.” Not only that, but when I was younger, I was mocked mercilessly for enjoying anything that was too popular (with the exception of those certain cultural tent poles that everyone MUST love, like Star Wars or Monty Python), or too cheesy, without being ironically so. I therefore kept my bourgeois opinions to myself, and instead touted the brilliance of your Akira Kurosawas and David Foster Wallaces. Also, I didn’t dare say I was bored, turned off or unimpressed with anything that had reached culty cool status, like the movie Blue Velvet or the graphic novel Watchmen.

What set me free: The band U2. I don’t like the band U2. There’s something about the repetitive thrum of guitar in the background and Bono’s wailing voice that sets my teeth on edge. Nearly every person (okay: male person) of my generation likes-to-WORSHIPS U2. In my early 20s, whenever I would tentatively state that I disliked the band, I was more often than not told I was an idiot, that I didn’t understand, that I was wrong. Like most people in their early 20’s I took this hard, until I had an epiphany: I started telling people that I fully understand that, yes, U2 is a band for the ages, but, well, gosh, I just don’t like them personally, and then I would proceed to explain why I felt this way. You know: I strove for a little more eloquence than "your band blows." This tact confused young U2philes, angered them, and then eventually shut them up. Also, it’s completely honest. There are bands out there that are truly terrible, and U2 is not one of them.

Likewise, in my old age wisdom, I proudly (and in some cases, sheepishly), proclaim my right to take pleasure in things that are geeky, cheesy, flawed, or, heaven forefend, insanely popular. I enjoy me some John Denver. I adore the movie Joe Vs. the Volcano. The Harry Potter series ranks amongst my favorite things in the universe. Whew. There. That was liberating. Liking these things doesn't make me stupid or tacky or a Philistine (okay, maybe a little with the John Denver); I simply now allow myself to enjoy some stuff that the little intellectual hipster voices in my head have heretofore pooh-poohed.

Fill up my senses like a night in the forest, baby.

That’s not to say I don’t think there’s a place in the world, or on the Internet, for criticism. As much as we writers often hate or fear it, it’s an essential part of art. Without a critical observer, what is art? It’s a whole tree/forest thing, to be sure. I welcome critique, of my opinions, and yes, even my own creations. Without my writing group, the Scribblerati, my novel wouldn’t be coming along nearly as well as it is. Thank you, gentle critic friends.

It’s the personal attack aspect that gets me down, and the black-and-whiteness of it all. I read the first Twilight book, and I pretty much detested it, but I know plenty of intelligent, well-adjusted women who find the series to be a terrific fantasy escape. They don’t “suck” for liking the books, but folks on the Intertubes might tell them as much.

So, maybe this “you suck for liking, or for not liking that” attitude floating around out there is due to the fact that most people leaving comments on the Internet are young, or perhaps it’s worse than that, perhaps anonymity is the death of graciousness. Whichever: It just makes me appreciate the rare insightful, fleshed out and civil critique all the more.