A Year Later

For many U.S. citizens, the most tragic news to report on September 11, 2002 is that Johnny Unitas has died of a heart attack at age 69. However, I think many more U.S. citizens are breathing a collective sigh of relief that the anniversary date has come and gone without a significant terrorist event taking place. At work today, a few people with ties to the east coast were understandably emotional. Aside from that, it was a pretty normal day for me, and I’m thankful.

The Writer’s Circle group met this evening at a member’s home in the mountains. Rain fell the entire time, and a significant thunderstorm developed; it was wonderful. It was also a bit synchronistic; two of the stories we critiqued dealt with rain and lightning themes. I committed to having a story ready for next month’s meeting, which means I need to finish “Chesterfield Gray” in the next couple of weeks. It’s not a genre story, but the group is willing to read it anyway. As Ed jokes, “Sure, you can submit a non-genre story. It just has to be twice as good!”

One of our members is making significant strides in publishing, with several different white-hot irons in the fire. I won’t go into more detail than that, because it’s not my place to do so, as Brian Plante has ably demonstrated with his Chronicles of the Garden Variety Writers. But I will say that it is inspiring to see one of our own climbing the rungs. It’s also clear that he’s working very hard at it — much harder than I am. It’s probably not fair to compare our situations, because we have completely different schedules and family requirements, but it does make me look at my time and efficiency, as well as my commitment level.

Yes, I think it’s safe to say that I will be a published writer someday. But the examples have made it clear that this won’t happen at my current level of quality or output. I need more practice, and I need to lick some stamps.

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.

Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card made an appearance at a Borders book store today. The store was on the geographically opposite end of Denver from me, but I wanted to make the trek anyway and get a copy of his latest Ender book, Shadow Puppets. In order to justify the journey, I decided that I had to make sure I got some trim painting done on the house. Kim and I worked on that until almost too late, then hurriedly took showers and jumped in the car.

I took copies of Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead for him to sign, as well as two copies of Analog from 1978 that featured his stories. I also took along a copy of a 1977 Analog containing the story “Particle Theory” for Ed Bryant to sign, since he was handling the introductions for Scott. We were late, so I missed Ed’s introduction, but caught most of Scott’s question and answer session. The man is a very good speaker.

After the session, while waiting at the tail end of the line for Scott to autograph the books, I had a great conversation with Gary Jonas. We discussed writing groups, stories, and publishing strategies. Kim joined us, and brought up my story “Half-Lives of Quiet Desperation.” I mentioned that the story needed a lot of trimming, because it was too long for submission to most magazine markets for a first-time writer. Gary suggested that maybe the story needed to be expanded, rather than trimmed, and marketed as a novel. Of course, Gary hasn’t read the story, and might have a different opinion if he did, but this is not the first time someone has told me that. The story’s at about 9500 words already, so I could, conceivably, turn it into a novel. I don’t know if I’m up for that, though. If I did expand the story, the hinted romance between the main character and a secondary character would be the first subplot on which I would concentrate. Several people have told me that their romantic history needs to be flushed out more, but I can’t do that and keep the story short. I’ve flirted with the idea of taking their romantic tension out of the story — or better yet, leaving the tension, but not really acknowledging it. I have to admit that the idea of expanding appeals to me, though. Almost as much as it frightens me.

No matter what, I need to get some fiction writing done. I’ve been doing some musical things, and I’ve been getting lots of important housework done, but I really need to get my butt in gear and write. Then I need to stay in gear and start sending out the submissions and tracking them. Gary and I made an interesting observation: It’s much harder to get published when you aren’t sending stories out to editors.

Broaband, Bryant, and Band

I’ve been waiting to hear the words for over three years, now. “Yes sir, broadband Internet is now available in your area. Would you like to place an order?”

I felt like Fred Sanford. “It’s the big one, Elizabeth! I’m comin’ to join you honey!”

I’ve been trying to get DSL or some kind of broadband service since I before I moved into this town home. Unfortunately, I’m too far away from the closest CO (22,000 + feet) to get anything but IDSL, and with the vaporization of the DSL providers, no one will bring IDSL to a residence without charging double what ISDN would cost for nearly the same bandwidth.

But AT&T Broadband has come to my rescue. The cable upgrade in my neighborhood is finally complete, and I will be getting my cable modem Tuesday. It’s not the best alternative; I would much rather have DSL with a static IP, but I’ll take what I can get. I hesitate to leave my excellent ISP, id Communications, but there’s no way they can get me broadband at this time. At least I will lose some spam when I change e-mail addresses, though.

Ed Bryant’s birthday celebration at Stories for All Seasons was wonderful. A spate of writers showed up, including Connie Willis, Steve and Melanie Tem, Wil McCarthy, Terry Wright and Gary Jonas, to name a few. Connie introduced Ed using a “retro Powerpoint demonstration” (Ed’s words) that consisted of hand decorated poster boards, held up to spoof the milestones in Ed’s career.

Ed’s gift to the guests consisted of a raffle. The winner was awarded the dubious honor of having a character named after him or her in a future story by Ed. No one responded to the first number drawn, but we’re not sure if that was an act of self-censorship, wisdom, or if the person had actually left. At any rate, the second number called was my son’s, and I don’t think there could have been a more enthusiastic winner. He respects and likes Ed very much, and is excited that he will be appearing in one of Ed’s stories. Here’s a picture of the odd couple.

Brad the Drummer is playing with Dante Spumante again Friday and Saturday. His regular band is off this weekend, so he can make a little extra scratch. We will probably go to see them play Friday.

I revamped this Creativity Journal, in case you haven’t noticed. I hope the new format will be less daunting and have more of a journal feel. E-mail me with comments if you wish; any feedback is welcome.

Blogs, Bryant and Bands

I’ve been reading bluejack’s blog daily since I first heard about it. The more I read it, the more impressed I am by his page design. I’m considering altering this journal to a format more like his, with one daily entry per page and a link to recent entries. I’ll contact him today to see if he is okay with that. I’ll probably make some changes anyway, so if you see any links that aren’t working, please consider them to be works in progress.

Today is the Stories for All Seasons celebration of Ed Bryant’s 50-mumbleth birthday. Keith and I will be going there tonight to listen to him read stories from his (still) forthcoming collection, Flirting With Death, and he’s hinted in his Mathom newsletter that he will read a new science fiction story. That’s a treat, because he has been writing primarily horror for quite some time now.

I also heard from Brad the Drummer today that Dante Spumante may have gotten a Friday gig at Cricket on the Hill based on their (our?) performance on the 13th. I hope they call me to fill in again; I enjoyed playing that gig very much. I don’t know if this will be an original set or a cover set, but I’m hoping for an original set or a mix. That will increase my chances of getting a phone call from John.

John and Theresa from Dante Spumante will be playing at the Singer/Songwriter showcase at this year’s Taste of Colorado, on Sunday, September 1 at 2:00 PM. Go see them if you get the chance.

I also found out that Willy Porter, one of the most talented singer/songwriter/guitarists I’ve ever seen, will be playing in Ft. Collins and Denver on September 20th and 21st. Check his website for details. The Denver show will be at the Soiled Dove, downtown, which should be a great intimate venue for his music. I’m there. I hope I get to meet him.

This morning, I actually got up and exercised, then did some work on the computer for a little while. I’m trying to get into the routine that I told myself I would get into when I got the office set up. With my son starting school again next week, I have even more incentive, because we have to arrange our showering schedules. (That’s probably more information than any of you wanted to know!) The point is, I’m getting closer to writing in the mornings, like I wanted to do. I may make these entries part of that morning ritual, too.

At lunch today, I read some more of Sophie’s World, and passed a critical juncture in the story. The plot has thickened, as the saying goes. It’s pretty cool when I can say anything about plot in a novel that’s primarily a survey course in philosophy.