Going Public

First, the big news. June 18th, Stories for All Seasons will be presenting Melanie Tem and her new novel, The Deceiver. In addition to reading, Melanie will introduce members of her writing group, who will answer questions and discuss the group dynamic in general. Some of the students will also read works inspired by assignments. I’m proud to announce that I will debut my short story, “Sphere of Falling.”

“Sphere” is the result of a class assignment to write something with a strong sense of place. As I thought about the topic, two different works came to mind: Spider Robinson’s Callahan Chronicles and the story “Shottle Bop” by Theodore Sturgeon. Though “Sphere” is only superficially like either of these works, if similar at all, I do feel that I owe Robinson and Sturgeon a note of thanks, along with Melanie, of course, for the inspiration. It’s a cute story, and could be the germ of a whole collection of stories, assuming I get my butt in gear and write them.

Of course, that’s always the trick, isn’t it?

Lately, I have felt much more like an editor than a writer, though. I participate in two writing groups actively, and I am on extended sabbatical from two other groups. In at least a couple of these groups, I have earned a reputation as a grammarian and editor. Deserved or not, people seem to think of me when it comes time to submit a story, and they often ask if they can run something by me before it hits the group. This reputation seems to extend beyond just writing groups, too. I’ve received editing requests from several people I know who aren’t in writing groups. I’m open to that; I’m happy to help people out, and it helps me improve my own writing.

However, I might be a little too open to it. In the last several months, I have found that I am proofreading manuscripts much more than reading for pleasure, and certainly more than writing my own material. One of my favorite annual short story anthologies has been collecting dust by my bedside for months. And one look at this website will tell you that I have done little to update it in the last half year.

I have started no new creative writing since October 2002, and the guilt is starting to wear me down. I think I’m going to have to finish my current queue of non-group manuscripts and then stop accepting outside manuscripts for critique. Unless I want to become a freelance editor, that is. I don’t think I want to do that, though. I have a hard enough time editing my own work; I think I would go insane if I only edited work by other people and didn’t start producing some of my own again.

In other news, Eight Inch Weeds, my band project, seems to have gone on indefinite hiatus. There are no hard feelings between any of us, but we are not currently a functioning unit. It is possible that I will get back together with a couple of the guys in another band, or perhaps a revamping of this band, but for now I am pursuing other musical projects. Currently, I am working with a couple of members of Dante on some acoustic trio material. Hopefully I will have some news to report in that department before too long.

Update (6/9/2004): I do have news to report about that project. I have been playing with Steel River Three for several months now, making the rounds of coffeehouse jams and playing occasional gigs. Check out the website to see where we are playing next!

Rules of Climbing

It’s been a busy week. The only really productive things I did included helping Kim hang a shell decoration from the ceiling in the stairwell and reformat a computer’s hard drive for a friend.

Hanging the shell decoration was bad enough. The ceiling in my stairwell is about 40 feet high — or at least that’s how it seemed while I was on the upper steps of the swaying aluminum ladder. I felt like the main character in my story “Sphere of Falling,” but without the magical protection that he had.

My fear of heights goes back half my life, to an afternoon of top-rope climbing on X Rock, north of Durango, Colorado. On the upper portion of the rock face, there’s a section with no hand or foot holds other than a large crack. This crack works great for hand jambs, but you have to have confidence in the hold and in yourself for the hold to work. My right hand was recovering from a nasty break, so I didn’t have the confidence that I needed. (Lesson Number I: Don’t climb with a bad hand.)

My hand slipped out of the hold as I was reaching further up the joint with my left hand, and I fell backwards. Normally, this would not have been a big deal because I was climbing roped. Unfortunately, the guy belaying me was paying more attention to his rolling papers than my rope, so I dropped about fifteen feet before he caught me. (Lesson Number II: Don’t climb with stoners.)

Occasionally, when I get high up on a rock face or ladder, that memory kicks in and my legs turn to rubber. Such was the case today on the ladder. Fortunately, my taller, lighter son was able to help me out and finish the job while I held the ladder. Thanks, kiddo.

At least I got the computer working without any problems.