lydamorehouse: (nic & coffee)
Feels like that, anyway.

As class ended last week, one of my students asked me if I "do" CONvergences and I was all flippant and said, "Of course, of course..." and might even have SOMEHOW managed to let slip that I'm a former GoH. He takes all this in stride and says, "Yeah, I'm hoping to actually be on programming for the first time this year," and starts making it sound like he's already getting his schedule. Suddenly, my heart is in my throat and I think, "!" and I think, "!!" and then, "!!!" and then: "OH GOD, DID I EVER EVEN ACTUALLY TELL THE GUEST LIASON THAT I WANTED TO COME THIS YEAR??

CONvergence should not have been that far from my mind. My BFF Naomi is going to be one of the literary GoHs and I was asked to write her bio. Mason, my son, has only been having crafternoons with his cosplay buddies for the last several weeks, building their costumes for CON. So, it's not like I could possibly have forgotten that CONvergence was coming, but somehow I FORGOT THAT CONVERGENCE WAS COMING.

In an utter panic on Tuesday night at like 10:30pm, I dug up the email asking if I was coming to con. (Thank you, Gmail, for never making me delete anything, ever!) There is was, FROM JANUARY, very politely asking if I could please let them know my attendance for 2017. I hit reply so hard and typed out a desperate, apologetic, OMG PLEASE STILL TAKE ME I AM SO ASHAMED I AM REPLYING 4 MONTHS LATER message. Thank goodness the CONvergence folks are flexible and professional and accommodating even to pathetically forgetful old ladies like me. So I will have a badge! *whew!*

That settled, my next freak out was about paneling. The way my student was talking I was half-convinced final schedules were going out and that panels were all already filled. Plus, a couple of my twitter peeps were talking about the annual midnight slash panel in a way that ALSO made it sound like maybe it was already scheduled and my panic level kept rising. I was fairly convinced I had MISSED THE BOAT. COMPLETELY. So, I shot off an email to programming, who were very nice but a little confused at my panic and wrote (paraphrasing here), "Uh, we only just opened it? Here's a link:"

Deep breath.

I am happy to say that I've since filled out my programming form and should be set. I got the little acknowledgment email, so unless the universe conspires against me, I should be in the programming matrix somewhere. That is good enough for me. At least I didn't miss the deadline. I really was convinced I had.

So yeah, class. I have to say I have always been tremendously lucky when it comes to my Loft classes. I can really only think of one, very early group, that I would have categorized as 'meh.' That was the class that, when I asked them what their favorite science fiction or fantasy novel was, told me, almost to a person, that they didn't have time to read and/or "weren't big readers." After that group, I started making sure to have at least one part of my lecture series entitled, "So you want to write? THEN YOU'D BETTER F*CKING READ."

I also started assigning readings after that class. With the Loft, I can't actually _assign_ anything. I put it on the syllabus and I *strongly* encourage people to read the stories if they have time, but the majority of my students work full-time (and have families, etc.) This year I have one student (besides myself) who is faithfully reading the stories. We're going through some of the Nebula nominees right now, so we've read, ‘‘Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station│Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0’’, Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed 3/16) and ‘‘This Is Not a Wardrobe Door’’, A. Merc Rustad (Fireside Magazine 1/16).  I actually highly recommend LISTENING to the podcast of "Welcome..." It's a kind of a chose-your-own adventure and the narrator pauses in a way that, I think, makes it a little easier to parse? I'm not sure, but, the point is, I really enjoyed it as an audio story.  The structure of it makes me think it'd be harder to read, I guess. (Though, admittedly, I did not try.)

it's interesting that one of my students (one who had to dropout, actually,) was talking about how difficult it is to sell portal fantasy. I think that's still true for novels, perhaps, but there are two stories on the Nebula ballot that are portal fantasy related, Rustad's and Seanan McGuire's "Every Heart a Doorway" (novella). I see that I can listen to McGuire's... hmmm, I might have to consider that option. Naomi was telling me about the plot of that one and it sounds like... well, it sounds like parts were problematic, but that it's still a good read.

At any rate, the point is my class is great. I love teaching the advance class though I have not quite hit my stride with lectures. Usually, by this point (this was the third class) I've had a talk where I thought, "yes, that was good information. I have given them INSTRUCTION!" That has not happened yet for this class. I think, in some ways, it's because they're all active writers and therefor, my peers. I feel less beholden to pass on INSTRUCTION! to my peers, you know? And I think that sense creeps in when I start to stand in front of them. Last time, in fact, I was supposed to talk about character building but instead ended up asking each of them about their process--where they started, what hit them first.  I think this next time I'm just going to have to confess that this class has turned into a round-table.  :-)

If we weren't doing a lot of critique, I think my evaluations would suck this time around.  But, luckily, the majority of class is critique and that's like high-intensity learning that covers All The Topics.
lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
That's how much science I told my students they needed to know. (Also your magic needs rules).

That pretty much summed up class. We have come to the point where it has dawned on my students that the true value of the class is in the last hour of instructor/peer critique. In fact, I'm certain they figured it out because the ones who had never volunteered previously all asked me suddenly if there was a way to slip them in to the schedule (now that we're literally at the half way point). And, the answer is, of course, yes: I will lecture less and we will critique more.

My insights into writing are just that: mine. And we all know that there are as many ways to write properly as there are writers writing.

It's so much more valuable to have people talking to you, directly, about your work and helping you do what it is you're trying to do. So much more. I'm super glad they all twigged to that. Of course, if anything, this means I'm going to be working HARDER--because critique is time consuming when done as instruction. But, I think the students are all going to come away very satisfied and feeling like class was time (and money) was well spent.

So, yay. And they all behaved admirably again too. Only once did I need to say, "Okay, but you need to say something you liked about the piece. It's part of the structure of how we do critique and one of the rules."

The problem wasn't that there weren't nice things to say to the student being critiqued last time, as I told him after class, the problem was that his prose was at such a high level that it became invisible to the reader. They fell, head first, into his story, and so they wanted to nitpick the EVENTS of the story, and had a hard time remembering that the amazing thing was that the story captured them SO PROFOUNDLY (even as they ran up against things they didn't like.) Adorably, he looked at me and asked, "So I don't suck?" I was like, "Oh, honey, no. So much no. You're writing at at a professional level." He blinked, "You mean it? I could sell this?" I said, "Yes, some day, you WILL."

I don't say this lightly. I have been wrong, of course. But, I've also been right.

Speaking of being wrong, I really didn't expect to enjoy Jeff VanderMeer's ANNIHILATION as much as I did. As I was telling Mason, it kind of reads like Myst come to life...only weirder. Normally, I'd have told you that this book reminds me of some of those trippy movies where it turns out in the end that the "hero" is a psych ward patient, but a) that's not at ALL what happens and b) while it does have that style, which I normally don't like at all, coming off PEOPLE IN THE TREES (which I hated), I found this really awesome, refreshing, and clever.

As an aside, I've noticed that women writers rarely forget women's periods, but men, even ones writing in a female p.o.v., always do. There was actually no reason for the author of THE PEOPLE IN THE TREES who was writing a faux memoir from a guy's point of view to ever mention the one female explorer's period, but she finds a way. Our doctor "hero" manages to come across the female explorer's unburied, bloodied feminine supplies and is horrified by the fact that they're just laying there, destroying the pristine jungle's greenness with their awful white and blood-red. He doesn't much like her anyway, but this kind of seals the deal.

Meanwhile, though, TBF, it's only a matter of weeks that the events of ANNIHILATION takes place in, our heroine, never even worries about what she'll do when that time comes. She doesn't even think about what supplies she might need, even though she's in the middle of an (alien) wilderness. Despite the fact, also, that the entire crew is female, periods never come up. Which only struck me because there is, in fact, a lot of discussion about supplies. A similar packing-for-a-possibly-suicidal-adventure scene in THE GIRL IN THE ROAD is all about, "I wonder how many periods I'll have, and what I should use when I have them?" Similarly, THE BOOK OF THE UNNAMED MIDWIFE could be subtitled, "F*ck, I still have to deal with my period in the apocalypse (and worse, while I'm trying to pass as a dude)." The heroine in that is always scouting for a pharmacy, not only for medicine, but also for tampons.

To be complete, periods never once came up in MEMORY OF WATER or Cherie Priest's MAPLECROFT DISPATCHES. So, it's not all women, all the time... and I'm certainly not implying that *not* mentioning a women's period is some kind of sin of omission. Certainly, I don't think about mine all the time (and I'd rather not think about yours, thank you very much, especially when there's something more interesting to talk about... which is pretty much anything.) But, I don't know. I guess I might expect it to come up when planning a trip or thinking about surviving in an unknown wilderness where there are no pharmacies to restock from... and maybe if these other women hadn't mentioned it, I wouldn't notice when it's not there.

It certainly isn't this important, but I will tell you I'll be looking for it other places, gods help me. :-)
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
Some time yesterday afternoon, the rumbling in my guts finally stopped... just in time for me to get ready to teach my Loft SF/F writing class.

I can't say my lecture was terribly coherent or useful, but we had our first critique and my students are all 100% amazing, no kidding. Not only was everyone intelligent and civil, but they also all hit the same notes as I had. So, I feel very in sync with these folks. And, honestly, I suspect, for them, the class just paid for itself, because there is no bigger boost to your writing skills, IMHO, than getting real, helpful critique from peers and a mentor (and learning how to look at work with a critical eye.)

But, as promised, I'm going to try to reconstruct a more cogent version of my lecture for them here, on my blog. We were discussing characters and how you create them. I've talked about this a bit before: "What's My Motivation? Creating Character Through Narrative Voice.", "Narrative Voice (An Epiphany about Adjectives)" and then I apparently once had a grammar aneurysm over Omniscient Point of View: Grammar GeekFest and More About Bob

As I flailed around in class, I hit a lot of things that I talked about in these blog posts, so go ahead and read through them if you like, since apparently much of what I think is true about writing hasn't much changed over the intervening years.

I did manage to pass on that other tidbit that I probably wrote about at some point, too, which is the idea that EVERYTHING, absolutely EVERYTHING you write should be in service to plot. In terms of character, I specifically mentioned the idea that an author should cultivate a narrative voice that creates atmosphere and mood, something that hooks the readers into the FEEL of the plot (sometimes without their conscious knowledge). Literary writers, what with all their focus on word choice, are trained to do this better than genre writers are, but I think we're certainly capable of it to one degree or another.


Oh dear. It seems my brain isn't very coherent this morning, either. Well, I'll keep pondering this until next class and if I have other thoughts on character, I'll post them.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
 Though I may possibly be the most annoying student in the history of students.  TBF, I'm the kind of student I love to have.  I'm engaged, willing to interrupt, ask lots of questions, and am generally 110% present and participating. HOWEVER, this tends to result in moments like last night....

Shimano-sensei: We have two words for the number four in Japanese yon, and shi.  But we rarely say shi because it's extremely unlucky.
Class: baffled silence, waiting for more information.
Me:  You should tell them why.
Shimano-sensei: (looking vaguely shocked) Yes.  Shi is the same sound as death.
Me: (to my neighbor, there are only eight people in the class): Also don't give gifts of things that are in the number of 4, like 4 plates."
Shimano-sensei: Oh yes, that would be VERY bad.
My desk neighbor: Really?  Wow.

The almost identical conversation hits when we reach number nine: kyū/ku (only difference is, of course, that this one means agony/suffering.)

Our instructor was born in Japan, but has lived here since college.  So, I don't know if he was building up dramatic pause before revealing or just not going to tell us.  But, we're a bunch of impatient Americans, so you know... I AM THE NAIL THAT STICKS UP THAT WILL BE HAMMERED DOWN.

Also?  Who says fan fic teaches you nothing!????!!!

But, as annoying as I am, I can not be as bad as Nancy-san who basically told Shimano-sensei not to try to explain Japanese language in terms of English, because clearly we don't actually say things the way he thinks we do.


BUT, I totally bulled Shimano-sensei into letting Mason audit the class. So my aggressive personality for the win.

lydamorehouse: (Default)
The fence got a bit of paint. I really only had an hour, so I did one panel out of, I don't know, a dozen? So.... it's getting done.

That's not really the news I wanted to share. I just happened to go looking at the Loft page to see if there was a class that Eleanor wanted to take, and I noticed that the winter catalogue is now up and registration is open.

Which means.... My fan fic writing class is now open for registration! Come, get your geek on with Rachel and me:

Whether you write fanfic purely for fun or are working on original work as well, fanfic is a wonderful training ground that allows you to work on elements of craft in a playful setting. In this class, we’ll use fanfic to improve your ability to write dialogue, craft sentences and paragraph, come up with exciting plot twists, and play with point of view. We’ll explore the way that fanfic allows us to open up our creative process and write with joy—and how to maintain that over time. Fanfic is also an access to understanding how to write for online readers, and we’ll look at how computers are changing the way we write, how to be successful in the online world, interacting with fan communities, and opportunities to sell fanfiction or turn your fanfiction loves into an original manuscript.

Sound interesting?  Sign-up!  Make my fan writing legit!  :-)

lydamorehouse: (more renji art)
Whelp, that was it. My last class. Man, it sounds weird, but I'm going to miss my students. They were an incredibly awesome group. Perhaps it was the law of averages. With seventeen souls in class there were bound to be some good ones, but honestly, I think I got far, far more than my fair share. Maybe the people who are likely to sign up for a science fiction and fantasy writing class called, "More Than Just the Zombie Apocalypse" are just going to already be the kinds of geeks, nerds, and otaku I can relate to.

Today, since it was the last day, and my syllabus said "free for all Q & A" we started with critique. On that note I also have to say that I don't know what people are worried about. Language is not going to die out, just because the kids today have smart phones. Perhaps these worries I hear about are from teachers with a less selective group. Maybe the general population of a freshman class is scarier. I'd believe that. Like I said, my students were already likely to be bright, high-achiever types. Because to a person the stories that were handed out were well-written, original, and, on occasion, surprisingly good.

Of course, I'm not the kind of teacher that tends to fuss much about picky grammar. That'd be the height of irony as I often fail spelling and comma usage and I'm overly fond of the parenthetical sentence. So maybe another teacher would have clucked his or her tongue through these stories.

But that teacher would have missed the awesome.

There was a lot of it. One thing I love about young writers is that their internal editors are still set on "wouldn't it be cool if...?" rather than "I can't have an alien be besties with a unicorn, no one would buy that..." I actually hope that these kids never loose that. They probably will to some extent, because we all do (and sometimes that's not a bad thing. If I hadn't lost some of that I'd still name characters things like Flint Dreamwalker.) But I feel like sometimes, as adults, we don't acknowledge our inner Flints.

So, at any rate, I did manage some accidental teaching again, I think. Beyond the critiques, the things we talked about yesterday and today are (in chronological order) world-building and foreshadowing. World-building was, in my opinion, my weakest lecture. I'd brought along a few of the parts of Pat Wrede's World-Building Questionnaire, but that proved less exciting than Orson Scott Card's idea of "the price of magic." In his book in writing SF/F, he talks about how everything has a price, not just literally, but also figurative. Your world can have electricity, but if it does, then houses need to be wired. Power needs to be generated somehow, etc. In magic, he feels (and I agree), the same sorts of rules should apply. Even in Harry Potter's world where magic seems limitless, you do need to learn it (and pronounce it properly) in order to use it. So, for Harry, the price of magic is you have to go to school to learn it. But, you could have a magical system where the price of magic is money. Then you get to ask yourself what this does to your society if only the rich have access to magic...? I once started a story where the price of magic was that you could use it once, but then the user teleported somewhere randomly. So, the magicians ride out into the field, cast their one fireball spell, and BAM! You lose them. 2/3rds of them end up in water (as this was basically an alternate Earth), and the other 1/3 are scattered across the globe. Of course, the story fell apart because it was kind of silly price for magic. But, other people suggested really interesting/creepy ones: what if the price of magic was magic (once you used a spell it disappeared from use)? What if the price of magic were your memories? What if the price of magic was your soul? What if the price of magic was empathy? What if the price of magic was someone else's life, and what if you had to choose?

But when we switched over to science fiction that price of technology wasn't as easy to talk about, since it's depressing (the price of technology is global warming..., etc.) But we did sort of touch on the idea of creating an alien world that's not homogenous--that, like Earth, has warring factions, different races, etc. We talked about using science and scientific possibility as starting points, to find your what-ifs or future ways of communicating.

Today's open ended Q&A ended up really mostly tackling the idea of foreshadowing. Two separate people wanted to know how to keep (or reveal) secrets that the main character should know. My snarky answer was: very carefully, but the real answer involved atmosphere (word choices when describing a scene or a person), internal dialogue (a main character who prompts the reader to pay attention to something by focusing on it themselves, or by actually just asking themselves the questions the author wants the reader to be thinking of), and clues (actual bits of detail layered in that are NOT commented on, but there for the reader to hang their own questions on.) All of these can work and you can use them together or on their own.

There were more specific things talked about with that, but that was the gist of it.

Even though I never feel like I'm making much sense, I was especially pleased by how many people came up to thank me. I'm sure that these are just polite young people, but they seemed sincere. One young lady told me I'd prompted a story idea for her and she was now deep into something new and exciting. That, I told her, right there. That's why I teach.
lydamorehouse: (more renji art)
I never managed to write up yesterday class because: HEAT.

Our house is over a hundred years old and let's just say that a/c wasn't standard in 1911. We have a window unit, but we only have one. Choosing to put it in, means everyone crams into a tiny bedroom. We probably should have considered it this week, but at this point the effort to get it installed might melt us.

So, it's early morning and I thought I should at least recap a little. First of all, a young lady from my class came up afterwards to tell me about this: A whale who, apparently due to an accident at birth, sings at a frequency (52 hertz) that others of her kind can't hear. She's been alone her whole life and growing despondent. Just thinking about her makes me cry, but, as this student pointed out, it's another whale fact that could wrap into the my story seed.

After the great involvement of the cliché discussion I was anticipating a bit of what I call the "Bejeweled Blitz" phenomenon. The Blitz phenomenon is this: I used to play this iPad game that I could occasionally, through a combination of practice and luck, score crazy high scores on. I'd hit one awesome one, and the next one was not only never as good, but so bad it was almost embarrassing.

Class wasn't that bad, in fact, because I've finally gotten the students willing to just talk to me (teenagers, think about this miracle, people!) we managed to wrestle out some thoughts about plot. Plot, according to them, is what they struggle with more than anything. So, we talked some basics. I reminded them that, while people like to say so, plot is NOT "the action of the story." If that were true there'd be no such thing as a "gratuitous fight scene." Yet we've all read them. Plot is forward motion ON THEME. Plot has to answer the story's question, the what if? Or the 'will the alien invasion/zombie apocalypse be successful?

Plot isn't always big. It isn't always the wham-bam action. Sometimes it's the idea that hits our heroine while she's brushing her teeth THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING.

So, while I'm not sure I left my students with any tools to achieve that, I also explained that pacing and plot are so intertwined that it's almost impossible to separate them. If your pacing is off, it means your characters aren't addressing plot. Yes, they need sleep and downtime, but that doesn't mean plot isn't happening. You can create plot with the sense of the shoe ready to drop. If your readers have the plot question hanging over their heads (with worry!) and the scenes you write expand on theme, your pacing will never lag, even if, as a writer, you're sure it is.

My friend [ profile] empty_mirrors and I talk about this all the time, because sometimes you have to slow down a story to explain a part of world-building in order for the action to make sense. The trick to those moments is remembering what the reader is worried about and putting in reminders that you haven't forgotten either. The thing that's looming (will anyone notice that our hero has slipped out into the night... coupled with I'm worried as a reader, since the consequences for being caught are so huge...) you can do your travel logging or whatever needs explaining. Especially if (and this is heavy handed but a fine example) our hero occasionally checks the time and does a risk analysis, ie. "I can spend ten more minutes, can't I?" Because the reader, if you've laid your groundwork should be shouting at the screen/page, "NO YOU CAN'T, YOU MORON, HE'S RIGHT ON YOUR HEELS!!" and thus tension, plot and pacing are created.

At least that's one theory.

The majority of the class was taken up by critique, because I'm insane... no, the thing is I truly believe in the power of peer review. It's important for the authority figure (me) to doll out praise and advice, but it's rewarding, IMHO, for the students who are critiquing to hear how their opinions might differ from the teachers and for the student being critiqued to hear patterns--because when everyone to a person says, "needs more description here," most people figure out that's a good indication that more description is needed there.

My students made me proud by being civil and communicative. I've decided that everything people say about teenagers is a lie. Or maybe nerd/geek/otaku kids are just my people, no matter what age.
lydamorehouse: (more renji art)
I had my second class at the Loft today, and what I told Shawn after she asked about how it went: you never can tell what's going to hit.

Our official topic was "Where Do You Get Your Crazy Ideas?" but, luckily, while I was gathering things up for class and looking for a print-out of Neil Gaiman's Idea essay, it occurred to me that, when I was fifteen, ideas were NOT the problem. So, impulsively, I grabbed my trusty list of science fiction and fantasy clichés, thinking that we could segue into that, if necessary. I also grabbed some index cards in case we had time to play an idea-generating game.

But, trying to stay faithful to what I'd promised to talk about, I started out by reading Neil's essay. I adore this. If you've never read it, you should: It's charming and brilliant, and it set a good tone for the class.

I tried after we read that to engage people in a discussion about where THEIR ideas came from. My little zombie sullen youth stared blankly back at me. So, I switched tracks. I told them about an idea "seed" of mine that's never, EVER worked. What it is, is a collection of cool facts. Certain whale songs (humpback) get longer every year. My "what if?" is: What if this is the mythic retelling of how whales chose to return to the water, despite having lived on land long enough to develop lungs. It gets longer every year, because it's a kind of folk tale that gets retold and embellished. Fact number two: there used to be a whale that attempted to swim up-river in Sacramento every year, and had to be driven back to the safety of salt water. Are these events connected? Is there a whale prophet/explorer, attempting to return to the mythical land of her/his ancestors?

That's the gist of it. I've had this story in my head for DECADES and have never pulled anything useful out of it, so I asked for their help (while sneakily discussing elements you need to consider when you start to flesh out a story.) So, I asked them, who can tell this tale? A whale, probably, but a whale a good narrator? My problem has always been that a whale narrator is FAR too alien. Whales, if you think about it, live in an environment hostile to them, in which they can't breathe and are in constant danger of drowning. To breathe and survive, they have to stick their heads out of their environment into an utterly baffling, strange OTHER PLACE, where they catch glimpses of creatures with wings, boats, and... land.

I've always maintained that to write well from a whale's perspective, you'd end up having to invent so much world-building, culture and backstory that the whales would not be relatable any more. So who else could tell the tale?

Then, we discussed whether or not, if I chose a woman who was descendant from a whale who chose to stay on land and thus could telepathically talk to whales, this was enough to have a story? No, we decided it needed to be about something. Something needed to happen. I jumped on my favorite set of story questions which generate, often, the conflict of the story (which I always maintain must be two-fold: external AND internal) which is: What's at stake for the main character? What are they risking? What do they have to lose?

Now, I would have thought this was the meat of the class. I did manage to get some buy-in, but when I saw eyes starting to glaze I switched over to SF/F clichés. OH MY GOD, this was the thing that got everybody hopping. My theory is that at 15 - 17 is when you really begin to develop taste as a reader. Mason, right now, devours everything in sight. He doesn't really filter for quality or story telling expertise. It just has to be in his hands. I think by the age of my class, people are really starting to form serious, informed decisions about plot and character and storytelling as a craft. So the idea of clichés in the books that bugged them, really got some serious involvement. I also related the idea of clichés back to our discussion of story generation. Is it okay to use clichés? It is. If you know what you're using and use it wisely. You can even generate story ideas by INTENTIONALLY SUBVERTING CLICHES.

So, a good class. We got so wound up shouting out different clichés that we never played our story game. I have no idea if my students will find a game like the one I was planning helpful or groan-worthy. Given that it's basically set up for adults who need idea prompts, probably the latter.

Since today went so well, I totally expect tomorrow to be a monumental fail...


Jul. 15th, 2013 09:38 am
lydamorehouse: (more renji art)
Today, in about an hour and fifteen minutes, I'm going to be teaching "More than Just the Zombie Apocalypse: Writing SF/F" to 17 15-17 year olds at the Loft as part of their Teen Summer Workshop series.

I'll be teaching there this whole week, Monday through Friday, from 10:45 am to 12:15 pm.

I have to admit that, though I've taught countless adult classes and cartooning for very young children, this will be only my second time in front of young adults/teenagers. The first was an auditorium lecture/workshop that was part of another Young Adult Writers' Conference through the Loft. It was that workshop, actually, that led to this gig. I had 40 students show up to that! So, the Loft figured that maybe there was interest in SF/F, and apparently, my evaluations didn't suck, so they offered me a chance to propose a couple of classes. I'm teaching this one, and, if I get enough people signed up, another one in two weeks about writing fanfic.

I have no idea if it's auspicious or not that today is Ichigo Kurosaki's birthday, my favorite animated 15-17 year old.

For those of you who don't know me terribly well, I love to teach. I'm not an especially good lecturer, since my mind rambles as much as my 'talking points,' but I ADORE structured conversations, dialogues and debates. This why, IMHO, I tend to have really positive feedback when students experience me "live," and why, I'd guess, my on-line courses haven't really been as popular. On-line, I do much better one-on-one. My blog posts aren't nearly as charming as I can be bubbling/bumbling around in person, you know? Bumbling blog posts tend to look like the rantings of an insane woman (which is why I tend to not to like to do them for publicity, because I think sometimes I do more harm than good when I try to make a point. Whereas, in person, I get to it eventually. If not, we can all laugh about it, you know?)

So I'm nervous, but looking forward to that.

In other news, today is also Mason's first day of after-school fencing class! He also has it for a week. I loved fencing when I did it in college. Of course, that might have been helped along by the fact that I, like so, so many girls in the class, along with, I'm sure, a few of the boys, had a HUGE rush on the fencing instructor. He was a Spanish-American hottie named Ro, something or other, and he managed to look smokin' in the goofy whites, and, you know, it might have been competence porn for me because Ro was an Olympic medalist. So he knew his sh*t. Mason, however, is in it for the slashing and parrying and the clashing of STEEL! En garde! Have at ye! I hope he has a blast.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
..Cuz Shawn and I are off for a "couples massage" at Sactuary Spa! Should be fun (and probably a little weird), but I bought Shawn this package for Christmas last year and we've finally gotten around to scheduling it. Speaking of fat and happy, we're probably going to be going out to breakfast beforehand and everything. (Breakfast out is my all time favorite luxury.)

Tonight we're going to carve pumpkins, and finish any last minute Halloween prep. Mason has abandoned the idea of going as Medusa this year (bummer, I had it all planned out and everything), in favor of DARTH VADER. He's really excited to be Darth, however. He finally watched all of "Empire Strikes Back" and decided it wasn't too scary after all. "Return of the Jedi" still seems a little spooky, though, so he's been waiting on that.

Halloween should be fun. Our plan is to his Sargeant Avenue in St. Paul again. If you haven't heard of this, you should check it out. There's one block of Sargeant just east of Cretin where every house on the block goes all out for Halloween. It's fairly awesome. Last year Mason loved it (and ended up getting his picture in the paper, as you might remember.)

Class last night was fun. We ended up doing a writing excercise suggested by Zach, one of my students. I posted the results over at Tate's blog. I think I'd like to write the stories that go with the lines: "Her boyfriend had an "in" with the guys at the organ market; she could get hearts for cheap," and "He realized there was a problem when his mother, glazed eyes, crumbled dried worms into the children's salads." Though, not in the same story, as they end up here.

Happy almost Halloween. Since I won't blog on the day: Happy Samhain.
lydamorehouse: (more cap)
I decided that the long walk that Mason and I have planned at the Minnesota River Valley Wildlife Preserve today is the same as jumping around at the gym for an hour this morning, so I decided to skip the whole gym thing. Besides, I'm getting disheartened. I can't seem to shed a single pound of fat. I've been eating really carefully and excercising like a fiend and the scale stays the same. I mean, I gave up drinking pop entirely. I eat my veggies. I cook from scratch nearly everything we eat. I feel like I've done about all I'm willing to do. Give up my high-calorie coffee drink? Screw that. I have to have one vice. And, besides, I have one cafe Vienna a day. It's not like I guzzle sixteen frappacinos a day.


In other news, I just printed out the story I'm going to pass out at class tonight: "On Venus, Have We Got a Rabbi" (William Tenn) which is one of my all time favorites. It's the longest story I hand out, but it's also one of the most humorous. I think I may break with my syallabus and hand out "World Well Lost" by Theodore Sturgeon after that, since I'm kind of on my politically/ethnically themed stories right now. We're still having a semi-lively debate/discussion about race in SF/F on SF Novelists. A woman who identifies as a European African who grew up in South Africa during Apartheid has really moving response. We must have been posting at the same time, because I didn't see hers when I posted mine. Anyway, I think she's absolutely right. "Stock-standard" races and cultures have had their day in SF (and hopefully in American politics.)

Speaking of, I'm still incredibly nervous about the upcoming election. I even saved the ACLU's "protect our vote" phone number into my cell phone. I can't imagine that anything dire is going to happen here in Minnesota where we have paper ballots and a history of strong voter turn out, but... I don't know. This is such an important election. The good guys HAVE to win. It all makes me bite my nails.

In other news, Mason has been complaining of a stomach ache a lot at school. I don't know what to make of that. His teacher says it comes on after lunch and she's sent him to the nurse a number of times (although recently because he cried so hard he made himself hot... he apparently took a bite of snack before he was supposed to and completely freaked out -- he is desperate not to be a "bad" kid or get into trouble.) Which makes me wonder if it's stress. He never, ever complains of a stomach ache at home, and though he did get that stomach flu that went around, it seemed to pass (no joke intended) in a day. Of course, Shawn found an article in the New York Times about kids and kidney stones, which has me worried about that now. This is less hysterical than it might seem. Mason was born with a condition called "hydronephrosis," which is a fancy way of saying one of his kidneys doesn't drain properly. Stomach aches are something we need to worry about and kidney stones would be a real problem for him, particularly if they occured in his good kidney.

So... we're going to make a doctor's appointment for him, probably for some time early next week.

I'm off to go write now. Hey, for those of you who care... my plan to work as Tate one day, and as Lyda the next seems to be working out (knock on wood.) I'm making progress! Whoot.
lydamorehouse: (battlestar galatica)

…which is good since I’m scheduled to moderate a panel on whether or not BSG is feminist or not for WisCON.  I’m trying really hard not to decide the answer to this question since I’m officially supposed to be on the fence, but I can’t help but pay attention as I watch these last final episodes in the season (I’m catching up via a friend’s friend’s TiVo  [thanks Naomi!]– I don’t have cable.) 


Anyway, I just watched “Maelstrom,” which leaves me only three until the big finale. 


My favorite episode, so far, is “Dirty Jobs,” which is the one in which the Chief helps the refinery workers go on strike.  I’m a sucker for union/union organizing stories, probably because I’m one of those “academic class” people who grew up in a household that sang Wobbly songs on car trips.  My grandfather worked on the factory line at Trane Company until his retirement.  My father was the first in his family to go to college (although later his older sister did, as well – she’s been the president of the Wisconsin teacher’s union for years.)  The point is, even though I’ve only ever belonged to a couple of unions in my life – the commercial food unions, ASFME, and later, the National Writers Union – I’ve always had a soft spot for union and union heroes. 


The moment in “Dirty Jobs” when the Chief pulls the lever to stop production on the factory ship nearly brought tears to my eyes.  Plus, I loved that, though they didn’t drag out union negotiations (like they would have in real life), there were arrests and threats and all that jack that happens when the military and unions clash. 


Plus, it’s science fiction.  How often does class come up in SF?  More in written SF than in media, I think.  There was one episode of Babylon 5 in which there’s some talk about unions on strike on Mars (and maybe more, but my memory fails me.)  But, this episode on BSG had a class issue under the surface (yet overtly discussed by characters.)  I suspect they’ll drop whole class deal on BSG, like they do a lot of their storylines, but I’m going to hold out hope that they continue it.  Especially since I’m still deeply distressed how WHITE they are… we briefly had a black pilot, but he seems to have gone AWOL.  (And if memory serves, there’s even a black cylon, but he was only on the episode where Starbuck is impregnated.)  And, yes, yes, there’s Dee – but, shout if you will about tokenism, but one (communications officer no less, have we EVER seen that before?) doesn’t impress me much – especially given the preponderance of brown and black faces on the “Black Market” episode.  Seems when they need an underbelly for their future society they can hire a few actors of color.


But, I’m back on my BSG race rant, and I really meant to praise Caesar, not bury him.

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