Podyssey

Jeanne Cavelos, a World Fantasy Award winning editor and writer, runs the Odyssey writing workshop in Manchester, New Hampshire. Odyssey is a six week intensive workshop with a 50% publishing rate for its graduates.

While I was unemployed in 2005, I briefly entertained notions of attending Odyssey; if I had still been jobless in June of the following year, and if I had been able to (somehow) get the money together for the tuition, I would have applied for the 2006 workshop. As it was, I landed a job with IBM, and my small flame of hope for attending the workshop flickered out. (Alas, paying the mortgage and eating is a higher priority than attending a writing workshop. Even this one.)

Jeanne, however, has done a brilliant thing; she is releasing podcasts of past lectures by visiting Odyssey instructors. The first three podcasts are lectures by Charles L. Grant, whom we lost last year (R.I.P., Charlie), Jeff VanderMeer, and Gardner Dozois. Future podcasts may include lectures by Steve and Melanie Tem and Bruce Holland Rogers, as well.

I’m psyched. I can’t wait to listen to these podcasts, especially since my chances of attending Odyssey are slim right now. Because of what Jeanne is doing, people who are unable to attend now have a chance to experience a small slice of the Odyssey experience and gain valuable information from successful instructors in the process.

Thanks, Jeanne!

Word Work and Humility

One thing that I am noticing about this Creativity Journal is that it is helping me to follow through on small projects. I said yesterday that I would finish the Word Work review today, and I did. Part of the point of making this a public journal is to push me to finish the work that I start, so it seems to be working in that respect. I also updated a couple of these journals; I was a few days behind. Lately, I’ve been taking notes about what I want to cover in the journal entries so I can update them when I get time. As I’ve said before, it’s not completely live, but it is accurate by day.

This journal is also getting me more web traffic. Thanks to those of you who are visiting; I hope the journal is doing more than just giving people a glimpse into the not-so-disciplined life of an aspiring writer. I hope it is also introducing people to new writers and music that they have not encountered before.

A glance through my website statistics shows a few interesting things. First, it drives home the point that I am doing people (and the Carvin musical instrument company) a serious injustice by not completing my Carvin Bolt Kit review. More people are driven to my site when searching on Carvin related terms than any other combination.

The most intriguing thing that I saw in the stats, though, was a search engine referral. Someone found my website by typing the exact phrase “people who brag about their intelligence” into a search engine. I choose to take this incident as a reminder of the importance of humility.

Forward and Backward

I learned today that Dr. Robert L. Forward passed on over the weekend. I have read a few of Dr. Forward’s books, and enjoyed Dragon’s Egg very much as a young man. I wrote a brief review of Starquake for this website years ago, and in reading it over, I wish I had said more positive things about the novel. It is a good novel, but my review is nit-picky, and concentrates primarily on a disdain for some of the name choices rather than on the true strengths and weaknesses of the novel. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve learned a bit about critiquing since then, but I would have to go back and re-read the novel to give it a fair critique

I still stand by my assertion in the review that Dragon’s Egg is a better book, and that I’m not sure Starquake really needed to be written. The premise was covered nicely in the first book, and the Starquake story seemed, to me, to be superfluous.

All that aside, I will miss the gravitational waves generated by Dr. Forward in the realm of hard science fiction. My story “Half-Lives of Quiet Desperation” is inspired partially by the ideas Dr. Forward presented in Dragon’s Egg, and though I don’t have the science background that he did, I know the importance of research in making a hard science fiction story ring true. I hope I can attain some level of his skill in presenting my own hard SF work.

At lunch today, I wrote part of my review of Word Work, by Bruce Holland Rogers on my handheld computer. At home I transferred and finished the review and was polishing it up when I decided to check my e-mail. Outlook locked up (Outlock? Hmmm …) and my computer displayed the dreaded BSOD. (I’m gathering more and more reasons to leave Windows 98 behind and move to Windows 2000 Professional.) I had not saved the review, and I had already erased it from my handheld and synchronized after copying it to the desktop computer. “Crap” is the appropriate term here, but, being an aspiring writer, I chose a stronger word when I realized what had happened.

I will rewrite the review tomorrow.

Jammed

I’m jammed right now.

I’m sitting in front of my computer, trying to work on “Chesterfield Gray,” and Pig Won’t (as Bruce Holland Rogers calls the inertia we have to overcome in order to write) is doing everything he can to get me to stop. He’s distracting me with e-mails, sounds, thirst, games, and a sore butt. Some of these are easy to combat; the e-mails don’t come if Outlook isn’t open, the thirst trick works only once, and the sore butt is less sore after getting up to get the drink.

It pisses me off that I have lots of energy to spend on writing and thinking about writing except when I’m in front of the screen. Just opening Front Page to work on this journal entry was a battle of laziness vs. stubbornness. In this case, Pig Will won out, and I’m at least writing something. Maybe if I write enough of this, it will kick start the desire to move ahead on the story, the first draft of which I want to have done by the end of Wednesday night.

I don’t want to talk about the story itself too much in this blog. The parasitic nature of the ‘Net keeps me from wanting to say too much about the stories I’m writing. That probably comes across as a tease to those of you reading, and I apologize. However, this open journal is still, first and foremost, for my learning purposes. Its entertainment value for you, unfortunately, is a side benefit.

I suppose I can say that I’m at a point in the construction of the story where I need to figure out what the characters are going to do next. I need to figure out how the female character is going to crack the shell of the main male character. Then I need to justify his brusque behavior by getting a bit into his history. A central event will involve all the characters toward the end, and I will need to show their reactions to it, but I will only be able to get inside the head of one of the characters.

It’s interesting how this is coming out, because the overall viewpoint is limited omniscient; we get in the head of only one character — a sideline character, in fact — but we know what the other characters are doing. So far, that seems to be working, but I may need to revise it as the story progresses.

Okay, it feels like the juices are flowing a bit, so I’m going to switch gears and leave the journal entry for now. One quick note; I found out today that I won’t be able to attend Mile Hi Con like I was hoping to this year. I will be in Key West that weekend on business.

Later — I was able to get some work done on the story. I cleared up a few fuzzy areas and wrote three more pages. I’m glad I was able to beat back Pig Won’t this time. I’ll have to remember that directly addressing the issue by writing about it seems to take some of Pig Won’t’s power away. (Believe it or not, that’s a correct construction of a possessive proper noun, in this case!)

Thinking About Writing

I didn’t write today. I did do a helluva lot of thinking about writing, but I didn’t write. The thinking started in the shower this morning. Unconsciously using techniques from Bruce Holland RogersWord Work, I imagined myself reading poetry to an enthusiastic crowd at an open mic. I imagined which poems I would read, how I would read them, and how they were received by the audience. When I left the shower, I was wide awake and bounding with enthusiasm for writing, which I couldn’t do because I had to go to work. Grrr ….

After work, I stopped by Old Possum’s Book Store and spoke with Jeff, the owner, for a while. We discussed writing groups, manuscript submission, writing and publishing conventions, and how different authors (particularly Ed Bryant) can be so inspirational and encouraging to us fledgling writers. Rogers discusses this in Word Work, as well, and it’s interesting to note that he also lists Ed Bryant as one of his primary mentors. The man is certainly the hub of SF and horror writing in the Denver area; I don’t know how he finds the energy to do it, but I’m thankful that he does. I wish he had a website so I could direct some traffic his way, but the closest I can get is the Wormhole Books website. Go there. Buy books. Now.

I did finish Word Work today, and I will post a review tomorrow if I can get it done. It’s a great book, and I hope I can use it to sustain the commitment I must make to my writing. When I finished it, I felt a pang of sadness; a miniature post-partum depression, if I can get away with saying that. Or maybe it was more like the feeling young adults get when their parents say, “Okay, you have to move out now. You need to support yourself.” It’s kind of a rejection, but at the same time, it’s an affirmation of belief in their ability to survive and learn about the world.