lydamorehouse: (Default)
 ...than using up my leftover homemade French bread for bread pudding.  I don't know why, I probably should feel more like someone who lived through the Depression (Captain America?).  

For those following along, it's a bazillion degrees below zero here. Mason's school is cancelled AGAIN for tomorrow. As he pointed out, now the only day he will have school is Friday and then it will be the weekend again. He says, "It's going to feel less like going back to school and more like a break in my winter vacation."

It's been lovely to have both him and Shawn home. We've done a whole lot of nothing all day; none of us is out of our PJs and it's 5:37 pm.  I did some stamping, but mostly I've been cooking and eating... and napping. I really have to say that this cold weather is working for me. I'm also really glad that several local businesses have taken it upon themselves to close. My coffee shop closed. The postal workers didn't try to deliver. People who could, should stay home, inside, and warm.

In less lovely news, my Loft class was officially cancelled.  I was really looking forward to it, but alas. I only got 4 people interested. (Worse, we could have used the money. Ah well.)

On the other hand, Broad Universe is trying out a mentoring program, and I signed up to be a mentor. I've got myself a mentee, and we've started working together. By chance, she's written a fantasy novel involving the sidhe and Irish politics. Considering that I wrote something similar (my first novel, which got weirdly published via a pay-as-you-go outfit: https://tapas.io/series/sidhepromised), I'm VERY excited by her novel.  So, that's a yay. 

I am reading something, but I'm not enjoying it. I decided to try to pick up the books that are up for the Philip K. Dick award and I started Claire North's newest book 84K. I'm... not much liking the fact that she leaves sentences trailing off, unfinished, and there are a LOT of fragments and fragmented scenes. I'm not QUITE ready to give up on it, but, man. It's tough going.

What are you reading this fine Wednesday?

lydamorehouse: (Default)
 The lake weekend was wonderful. I spent a lot of time, unplugged, staring out at our friends' garden watching the hummingbirds.  I managed to get a good picture of one:

A hummingbird sitting still for a photo. NO. REALLY.


Now it's the regular week and I'm trying to get back into the groove of things.  Today I took Mason back to Washington; he had a robotics planning meeting.  They're starting to look forward to next year, and there is some talk of a demonstration and/or competition of some kind at the State Fair.  (I can only be as clear and detailed as my son was to me, so that means: not very.)

Tomorrow, we are headed to the DMV to see if Mason can pass the written test and get his learners' permit.  He just took an official practice test and got a 90%. So, fingers crossed he can repeat that under pressure.

Otherwise, I'm trying to decide if I want to catch any Fringe shows this year. Last year, I went to see my friend [personal profile] naomikritzer do her thing and so I am now on the Fringe's mailing list. A lot of the people I know in SF/F fandom are also theater geeks, so a number of people I know are involved one way or another in Fringe... and some of their shows seem pretty interesting. Plus, it was fun to hit a show last year and I'm wondering if I should pick one or two and do it again this year. Since my family isn't up for it, I've found it easiest to pick a late night show and go.  

One year, I'd love to invest in a VIP pass and go to as many as I can fit in, in the week.

Meanwhile, I've been catching up on correspondence and enjoying not having as crazy a work schedule as I did last month. Tonight, for instance, I was able to make pot stickers (a family favorite) and not have to dash out the door to go to Roseville or some other place.  I've been working a LOT of Monday nights this last month and it almost feels weird to be sitting at home.

I haven't been feeling like writing ANYTHING lately, but I suspect that will pass. I think my brain is just doing a little 'reset' post-class. I got my evaluations from the Loft. Most are glowing or non-descriptive, but I had one comment that's been haunting me. Someone wrote on the "things you wish there were more of in class" section. "There was no freedom." I have no idea what that means in this context.  I, of course, have been spending many waking hours trying to puzzle it out. The best I can figure is that I very much teach in lecture-style. It's possible that this student was hoping to get up and move more.  Or perhaps my structure was too repetitive?  I did have people write via prompts, but I always said that you could use any writing time as free writing, so....?

This will now be the mystery that occupies my life.
lydamorehouse: (Renji talking smack)
 I'll be doing light cosplay today at my Loft Class.

We made some off-hand comment about cosplay. When the students found out that I've cosplayed in the past, they were like "Do it! Bring it!" and we all know that if you agree to such a challenge, you really need to follow through to the best of your ability.

Particularly when dealing with teens.  

But, now I have arrived at class and realized that I have forgotten a critical part of my shinigmai uniform at home! The kosode!  I have a captain's haori, but gah! I'm wearing it anyway.

The other challenge of today is that it's a wrap-up day. As in, "let's talk about anything we didn't previously cover."  So, it's going to be the least prepared, by its nature.  But, I will be teaching it dressed as Aizen, so I will have all the narcissistic confidence of a GOD.
lydamorehouse: (ichigo freaked)
...which means I'm sitting at the coffee shop this morning, wondering exactly HOW I should structure the next three hours of my life, a.k.a, my Loft class.

Today's entry on the syllabus reads:

Day Four: Calling a Rabbit a Smeerp and Other Problems of World-Building

World-building is more than just giving things we already know weird-sounding names, because how annoying is it to be reading about something called a smeerp that looks and behaves exactly like a rabbit, even though it’s supposed to be the native life of the planet C-43? If the class is interested, we may pull out a few (and only a few, because, man, is that list extensive!) of Pat Wrede’s world-building questions to see what answers we would come up with—both as a reflection of the work we’re already doing or as story/world idea prompts. Beyond working with her thoughts, we’ll also discuss our own tricks and tips for building believable fantasy and alien worlds.
 

Sounds pretty good, but these students chew through material like hungry wolves.  

On the other hand, spending some time just talking about worlds that they love and why they love them--with this class--is often a gold mine.  I have to say that I've been extremely lucky. I have some of the most out-going students that I've had in a long time.  And, a really decent percentage of people who want to share. Even some of the people who won't read their writing out loud (which is... let's admit it, even *I* hate doing that from time to time) still contribute ideas to class.  

Yesterday went really very well, too. So fingers crossed that I can keep up this winning streak for another couple of days.

The last class is Friday and then I drive home, pick up my family, pack up the car, and we head to Siren, Wisconsin to hang out at a friend's cabin. Sounds like just in time, too. It's supposed to start getting warm again.

I have to say that I've been LOVING this cooler weather.  Good sleeping weather, and I think that's actually one of my concerns today. I actually got enough sleep last night and now I feel kind of... well, like I'd rather STILL be sleeping. And, my ability to roll with the class and lead them and teach, entirely depends on the energy I have to give. I got myself some food, though, and a coffee, so I should be okay.

Wish me luck again! It worked last time.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
I'm at the coffee shop early trying to prep for class, but I keep getting distracted by my review blog. (A couple of comments came in while I was sitting here).

I decided to go to a movie last night with friends (Ant-Man and the Wasp) and that was fun, but now I'm feeling a little crispy around the edges because I stayed up later than I normally would. I also feel wildly unprepared for class.

I probably haven't managed to mention this earlier (see above blog about how insanely busy July has been), but I've been teaching a week-long science fiction/fantasy class at the Loft called "Not Just the Zombie Apocalypse." It's part of their teen summer program. My attendance is once-again extremely healthy. I have 16 teenagers, all of whom are willing to show up for an 9 am class, and, on top of that, all of whom have been (crossing fingers that this trend continues) enthusiastic participants.  

BUT, because of said enthusiasm, I've been tearing through material in class.

I'm ahead of my synopsis by about a day--so I'm thinking today is going to have to cover stuff I hadn't planned on doing, so that we can match back up/get back on track. I think to that end, I'm going to loop back to character design/development. We touched on it only briefly earlier, so it's time to go back to that.

This means, of course, that I don't have writing prompts ready to roll and I'm doing that last-minute scramble to find fun ideas.

Sometimes I wonder how i survive.

In this case, I survive because it really takes almost nothing to get my class talking. In fact, I intend to start to day getting them to list some favorite/memorable characters. Then, we're going to do some deep thinking about why these characters stood out: was it just their story? Was it some unusual personality trait? Was it they way they "talked" (aka the narrative voice)? Was it a special ability we all wish we had (world's greatest detective/wizard/etc.)?

I think we'll do some thinking about how do you make characters distinct from one another. We'll talk about how important (or not) physical description is, naming, dialogue quirks, etc. I think maybe I'll ask them to do an exercise where they write dialogue between two characters without ANY dialogue tags or "blocking" with the express purpose of focusing on making voices distinct enough to be recognizable without the 'he said/she said tags." (And then we'll have to discuss why huge blocks of dialogue like that are actually a TERRIBLE idea in actual fiction. :-)

Okay, I'm feeling better.  I'm going to head out so I can get there early and settle in. 

Maybe I'll also grab a second cup of coffee for the road.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Today would have been a fine day to call a snow emergency (and maybe even cancel school), but alas, I spent the morning unburying my car and shoveling 6-8 inches (15 cm - 20 cm) of snow from my sidewalk--officially, they're saying we only got 5 inches (12.7 cm,) but they clearly did not measure *my* sidewalk.

They're predicting another big storm to roll through on Saturday night. Of course, we had been planning to have a "Silent Reading Party" on Sunday. I'm hoping we can still do this, as it's SUCH a great idea. Forbes has an article about them, but the concept is pretty straight forward. You get together with friends and read. Our particular take was going to be: Reading plus English High Tea.  We're going to make finger sandwiches, scones, maybe a sausage roll, and, of course, tea. We were inviting our friends to bring PJs or comfy clothes, blankets, pillows, etc., and basically have a pajama day with fancy snacks.

I think even if our friends can't make it, we're definitely going to be hunkered down and reading. Luckily, I have a LOT of books to chose from right now.  Should be fun, no matter what happens. Plus, this particular group of friends (Rosemary and her mom) are very outdoorsy. I wouldn't put it past them to ski over here if the roads are otherwise impassable.  

Today, in about fifteen minutes, I'm off to Claddagh. First, I'm meeting up with the Loft manuscript guy (the one I was reading FOREVER) to fulfill the last of my contractual obligation to him, and discuss his book.  Then, I'm going to hang out with my lady friends who always gather there and probably debrief a bit, as well as catch up on the gossip... er, "networking." 

Mason is at robotics until late again tonight. They're actually on break from robotics, since everything is bagged, but the robotics folks traditionally help set up for the LEGO tournament, which is happening at Washington tomorrow.  He'll be there until 5 pm. They might actually be going later, but he wants to be back home in time to watch his favorite professional Overwatch team play competitively.  This is one of those areas where I feel VERY OLD, as the idea of watching someone play video games competitively, like a sport, seems pretty alien to me. Mason is super into it, though. He's got a team he's rooting for, players he knows "stats" for, and all of that.

Okay, I should go find some warm socks if I'm going to brave the outside again....

Ja mata! (Later!)


lydamorehouse: (??!!)
A lot has actually happened in the intervening week that I failed to report. A dear friend of mine, Peg Ihinger (known to a lot of readers as pegkerr), lost her husband, Rob, to cancer. His memorial was last Friday. Rob's obit ran in the Star Tribune. His daughters did the most amazing eulogies that broke me down to tears, which, considering that I'm far close to Peg than I ever was to Rob, is something.

Funerals are always awful, though I really enjoyed the fannish wake that was held for Rob in MnStF style. It made me think that something like that is very much what I'd like for... well, I guess what's weird is that I would actually like it FOR ME, which is to say, I'd want something like that while I was grieving, and the only thing that's wrong with that idea is that Shawn, my wife (the one I'd likely be grieving--banish, banish, banish), is not at all fannish. And, throwing a party might seems weird, you know:, "I'm a widow! Party for me!! Bring out the Irish folk music!" No, no.... okay, NO. Upon deeper consideration this is a terrible idea for my family, but it was absolutely perfect for Rob and his.

In completely different news, a friend from Wales sent me a care package of tea (thank all the gods! I was back to drinking Earl Grey, which, I had previously considered OK tea and now realize the errors of my ways), jelly babies, and two sets of United Kingdom "Game of Thrones" themed postage stamps. I'm not the world's biggest GoT fan, and have not, in point of fact, even watched a single episode of the HBO series. However, these stamps were just too cool not to try to get copies of. My friend very kindly obliged... I mean, I made her go to the post office twice, which makes me feel rather badly, but I have offered to return any care package in kind, if we could ever figure out if there's anything America doesn't already import to the UK. (In the past, I've sent her things from the Asian markets around here, because those items were harder to find in small town Wales.)

I have also, speaking of reading, still been slogging my way through the manuscript I'm critiquing for the Loft. I have been working at it, steadily, nearly ever day since I got it... it's just slow going when you're reading at that deep a level, I guess. The good news is that I officially have six weeks to finish it, and I don't want it to be hanging around my neck that long. I'm going to keep pushing at it, and hopefully by this time next week I can report that not only did I finish my work, but I had my meeting with the author.

I also signed up for MarsCON programming, so if you're planning on being there, I will be, too.

Things I have read. I'm currently reading an actual novel that I picked off the most recent Locus Recommended Reading List called The Tropic of Kansas by Christopher Brown. I'm enjoying this one so far, despite the fact that it should give me nightmares as it's clearly a dystopian extrapolation of the politics of the current administration.

I've decided I'm going to try to read as many of the debut books listed as possible, so I also have on my TBR pile: The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss and The Guns Above by Robyn Benis.

Read a number of manga this week, of course, including:

Renai Crown / Crown of Love (Volume 1) by Kouga Yun, and
Haru ga Kita / Spring Has Come by Kome Mochino

My library has had a sale of manga that they've weeded from their collection and so I bought several dozen titles, which I will be reading and reviewing over the next week, no doubt. I picked up anything that had a first volume, so it should be interesting to see the range of things.  I suspect I'm going to be reading a lot more shoujo than I normally would have, but what the heck.  The price was right: 5 for a buck.

How about all y'all?


lydamorehouse: (??!!)
 Every time I teach teenagers, I take a moment to gather "market" information. I ask them what they're reading/watching/playing and what they wish they'd see more of.  For YA authors out there, here's what my Loft teens would like most of all:
  1. Assexual representation.  They want a character who is explicitly ace who DOES NOT FALL FOR SOMEONE BY THE END.  Please more GLBTQIA+ representation in general. Non-binary/Genderfluid/Genderqueer, too, please. (Ace comes up every year, by the way.) 
  2. Supernatural creatures who are *not* run of the mill vampires
  3. NO MORE ROMANCE.  Or, if there must be romance, can it please be something more than the tradition love triangle.  Better yet, let the triangle end in a poly arrangement (yes, my teenagers asked specifically for poly).  
  4. More dystopia, but no more Divergent rip-offs. How about a post-apocalypse that has nothing to do with the government dividing people by their skills/factions/what-have-yous?

Obviously, this sample size is small.  My class this year had twenty students, only four of them male-identified, one non-binary, and the rest using she/her pronouns. The majority of the class was female.  There were only two obvious PoCs. All of the students, except one that was there on a scholarship, came from families that could easily afford a $300+ class for their kids. Most were urban/suburban/Metro area, though some came from the 218 area code (I can't remember how many without checking my class list, but it was at least two. I remember because it surprised me.)  

The only other thing of note is that this is the first class where we've had to have a few discussions about the technical aspects of writing. Every year I teach, I try to have an opportunity for students to have their work critiqued. It's best when the whole class can participate and I can teach "how-to" peer critique, BUT with twenty kids it was strictly voluntary and I took their work home and typed up my response to their opening pages.  I bet half the class participated.  

Their abilities ranged wildly, but I was expecting that in a group of 13-17 year olds.  What I wasn't expecting was at least three students who seemed to have zero concept of paragraph breaks.  Their writing was otherwise good, it was just presented as a giant block of text.  I'm not sure where this comes from, and I had to take some time to remember how *I* was taught when a good paragraph break should come.  Of course, much of it comes from osmosis, from reading.  But I do remember someone requiring that we learn about what should be contained in a paragraph... I wonder which grade though?

Anyway, that was the only 'surprise.'  It's tempting to blame the lack of paragraph breaks on the internet.  But, I'm still not convinced that the Internet is ruining young writers. I suspect this lack of breaks comes from generally not being much of a reader.  (Voracious readers always have an obvious 'ear' for how stories are structured.) Or from reading things, like graphic novels or web comics, that come in a differently consumed format.

It was a weird year at the Loft this year, but, ultimately, the class was great.  My boss asked me to be sure to propose something similar for winter quarter.
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: http://panels.convergence-con.org."

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: (Renji 3/4ths profile)
 Who on earth thought it was a good idea to teach a class AT BEDTIME??!!

For those of you who don't know this about me, I've been a lifelong 'lark.' A morning lark is the opposite of a night owl.  Even when I was a teenager, I used to regularly get up an hour or so before my parents and make coffee, go for walks, and generally enjoy the solitude of the early hours. To be perfectly honest, in high school, I often used the extra hour or hours to do All the Make-Up and my hair. (Hard to even imagine now, isn't it?)  

These days I wake up a little earlier than I'd like. Mason's school starts at 7:10 am (first bell) and so our house is up starting anywhere between 5 and 5:30 am.  That's a bit early for me, and a lot of days I push it by pulling myself up long enough to brush teeth and get dressed and then I collapse back into bed until 6:00 am, which is much closer to my natural wake-up time.

I also typically really prefer to get 8 hours of sleep. So, staying up past 10 pm gets rough.

My Loft class **STARTS** at 7:30 am and goes until 9:30 pm. Yesterday was my first class and it went well--aided by a bit of caffeine from the coffee shop at Open Book.  I have an even dozen students, who all seem very smart and engaged. I think we're well-primed to have a good class in terms of discussion, etc.  For those of you who have taken classes from me (or, frankly, have seen me on panels at local conventions,) know that I put a LOT of energy into my teaching.  I'm also an extrovert, which means I leave class with INCREASED ENERGY.  Coming home and bouncing around until 10:30 pm = NOT GOOD COME 5 AM.

SUPER. NOT. GOOD.

I was Madame Cranky-Pants in my typical low point (--my biorhythm is such that even on good days I'm lackluster from about 2 pm - 4 pm.) I may or may not have shouted at my family, "I'm not passive-aggressive, I'm just aggressive! No, I'M JUST ANGRY." But, luckily, at this point Mason and I were lugging this ridiculously heavy kitty litter box out to the car and alternately yelling and laughing. Even so, I had been seriously bitchy previously.  

I'm NOT made for late nights.

And, yes, yes, you night owls are all laughing your heads off about how "early" this all is.  Just try to imagine having to teach a class at 6 am and you might understand.
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
For those of you just tuning in, I've been partnering with voice actor Jack Evans to record and produce audiobooks through ACX.com.  They've already produced Archangel Protocol and now they have just finished Fallen Host!  Because ACX is a subsidiary of both Audible and Amazon.com, you can buy my book exactly the same way in which you could buy any Audible book--on Amazon, on iTunes, or on Audible!  Here's a link to the Audible site: http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Fallen-Host-Audiobook/B01JQCXSW4.

What's cool about this particular project is that because it's just Jack and I and no middle-person/company, we're getting a royalty split similar to a self-published book. So, if you buy this audio version, Jack and I get the majority of the profits!  So, if you're looking for ways to support me more directly, this is definitely one of them.

In other news, Naomi Kritzer and I are teaching a class together at the Loft on short stories.  Don't worry, I'm not asking you to sign-up.  I've done my sales pitch for the blog.  We actually already had our first class on Saturday.  It's a LONG class: 3 hours and it's only two sessions. I feel like the class went very well, but I might be hallucinating because since the class started at 9 am and went until noon, I had nothing to eat but a WHOLE LOT OF COFFEE.  To say I was high energy during the class might be a slight understatement.

I think, too, my teaching style is.... okay, positive words would include: dynamic, flexible, and organic.  It worked pretty well to teach in tandem with Naomi because, as I told her beforehand (and the class, during,) that while I feel as though I'm a successful writer, I don't feel that short stories are necessarily an area of expertise for me.  I know a good one when it comes through my writers' group, but let's put that in perspective. I have Eleanor Arnason and Naomi Kritzer in my writing group, and between them they've had short stories nominated for and have won pretty much every short story award there *is.*  

So my job during class was to facilitate discussion.  To draw out ideas that Naomi has about writing short stories and to get the class to participate in ideas, etc.  Adult teaching, too, means making sure that adults leave class with a sense of having accomplished a specific goal. Adults like to leave class with something concrete in hand, so we had to structure the class in a way that provided students with some time to write and time to analyze the writing, etc.  And, despite the fact that the 3 hours slipped by much faster than we anticipated, we managed that.  The good news is that we have a second class to underscore the more important points, some of which we only skimmed over in the first class when we realized we were running out of time.

On the other hand, I'm a big believer in doing is learning, so the fact that all six of our students produced work they COULD take home and continue made me very optimistic that the second class is going to go as well as this one did and that all of them should be at least somewhat satisfied with their experience this last time.

Or I was high.

I could have been high.
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
I've been terribly neglectful of Tate's WIP on Wattpad. I updated today, finally, after a several month hiatus.

There a lot of reasons I let the work languish. The first and foremost is that I felt like the story had gone off the rails some time ago. It's super easy for that to happen when you're writing like this, out loud, as it were, in front of an audience. Normally, I tend to write everything away from the public eye, so, when I make mistakes or go down a rabbit hole, I can pull myself up and revise before anyone is the wiser (besides my writers' group, of course.) Not being able to do that this time stymied me. I knew it could, and, while I normally don't worry overly much about looking like an idiot in front of a crowd, this tangle fed into my general sense of failure.

Yeah, I know I'm not a failure, but as I said to someone who poked me for an update on Wattpad, Precinct 13 and its universe is a particular trigger for my... well, for lack of a better term, depression around writing. I've been on the verge of being clinically depressed, so I don't mean to use this term lightly. There should be a word for the behavior that mimics depression but isn't quite it... because that's how I sometimes get around my Tate projects. I _want_ to do them, but when I think about finishing Unjust Cause/writing an e-book or e-novella, and even when I work myself up into a bit of excitement around various ideas, when I finally sit down to write... my first impulse is to crawl under the covers and not come out.

It's very unlike me.

Normally, I'm very self-motivated. I would not have gotten as far as I have in writing if I weren't. So, I don't know why I have this block and, as I've said in numerous other posts, I've determined that this is the year I push past all that.

I wish I knew what worked. I started to type that it helps me when people ask after projects, but what's funny is that that kind of thing only works when it's STRANGERS (fans/readers/FB friends/casual acquaintances/con friends) asking. If you're my relative (or gods forbid, my wife) asking, I double-down into a weird, bitter resistance-- a very 'don't tell me what's good for me' kind of attitude.

Well, regardless, the plan is to get over THAT.

This weekend I had another sparsely attended Loft First Pages. This one was writing "fan fiction" and was supposed to be a teen event, though I ended up having an adult sit through it (I tried to tell the folks on my FB feed that they should come, even if they were grown-ups!) The First Pages are generally hard to do because the way they were explained to me, at least, you're meant to show up in a state of unprepared preparedness. The Loft wants the experience to be walk-in, drop-by, and flexible. So, while there is a general theme, I'm supposed to be ready to go whatever direction that the participants want. Luckily, I teach all the time, so I can lecture on a lot of writing-related subjects without too much prompting. However, I always end up feeling like I'm flailing around since, at least when I teach, I do quite a bit of prep work or at LEAST review some things other people have said on the topic. This time I knew I might have one student since a friend of mine told me her daughter was planning on coming, so I had done a bit of research into "common fan fiction mistakes." I based my rambling on that.

It still felt like rambling, though.

But at least I had people this time.

I also read all of MY REAL CHILDREN by Jo Walton over the weekend. I powered through that book, which is very unusual for me since I'm slightly dyslexic. It's a funny book because it's not action-packed in any stretch of the imagination, but I found it weirdly gripping. Maybe it's just because Jo Walton is such a good writer. I loved her Small Changes series and this is very similar in that there's a strong alternate history vibe going through it. Now, I'm on to THE BOOK OF STRANGE NEW THINGS by Michel Faber.

I also gardened in between the bouts of rain. Now we've got a forecast of FROST, if you can believe it.
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: (ichigo being adorbs)
This weekend, the only thing I had 'on' was a Loft "First Pages" at Maplewood Library at 2:00 pm on Saturday. I was meant to be facilitating "Novel Writing for Teens." At last count, they had seven students signed up.

And... it was so gorgeous outside that not a SINGLE SOUL showed up.

I would feel bad about it, but this is fairly typical for these Loft First Pages, in my experience. I don't know if other instructors have an easier time getting warm bodies to fill chairs, but I have had zero luck. I think the MOST successful one had, maybe, three students? Talking a little to the teen librarian at Maplewood, we decided that a big part of it is that it's generally hard to get teenagers to make a concerted effort to come to an event like this (which is to say, free and of unknown value,) especially given all the other choices available (or required, ala soccer or what-have-you.) Add on top of that one of the first truly spectacular days of spring?

Yeah, I'm not surprised no one came.

I get paid regardless. The whole idea of "First Pages," actually, is that they're meant to be drop-in and casual. I'm supposed to be ready to facilitate (notice my careful avoidance of the words teach or instruct) anywhere from ten to one participants. They specifically chose facilitators who are flexible and ready to offer any kind of help/lecture/prompts, etc. So, if I sit there for 90 minutes and chat with the librarian, so be it. The whole idea is that if someone wanders in with 3 minutes to spare, I give them whatever they might need in that time. The Loft only asks that I'm there and that I'm ready for whoever shows and whatever they want to talk about.

Plus, the librarian I chatted with on Saturday is THE person who is responsible for Maplewood's extraordinary graphic novel, comic book, and manga collection. So, we had things to natter on at each other about, no problem!

Then Sunday was gray and rainy and a perfect day to cuddle up and read. I finished a book I really enjoyed called A DARKLING SEA by James L. Cambias. I found this book on the Locus Award's long list in the debut author section. The story takes place on an alien planet where the life there is a lot like the things they've found here at the deep ocean depths--volcanic vents that support huge colonies of life. Human are there doing research and things go off the tracks pretty early and soon enough there's first contact with the natives *and* then the arrival of a third alien race that we'd previously made contact with who are unhappy with our "meddling."

It's a quick read, too.

Now I'm about a hundred pages into PEOPLE IN THE TREES by Hanya Yanagihara, which I'm also finding really gripping. This one is a written as though it's a biography of a famous scientist, complete with a forward and footnotes. I chose to read this one first because it's the one due back at the library soonest, plus it's also one of the ones that was up for a Kitschie and I seem to be going through those for Bitter Empire.

I also bounced out of LAGOON by Nnedi Okorafor after about 30 pages. In this book, Okorafor does a lot of what I'd call "head-hopping" (where the narrative switches p.o.v. without any obvious transition or other signaling, like a space break, etc.) and I got lost really quickly. Plus, I felt a little robbed when one of the major events (alien contact??) was glossed over and told in disjointed flashbacks (little one-liners from various p.o.v. characters). So I felt really unanchored, like I was just floating through the story without any sense of who I should care about or why. So, I set it aside. I might or might not give it another try later. It's probably just a style issue, but I've given up on other books in this challenge, some of them much further in, like Ann Leckie's ANCILLARY SWORD. (Interestingly, I bounced out of MOST of the books up for the Nebula this year.)

I'm not sure what to do about the books that I bounce out of, but since I'm doing this mostly for myself, I've been trying to give the books I read a "fair" chance to grip me. I arbitrarily decided to give most books 50 pages. I didn't quite make that with LAGOON, but I also gave up on GOBLIN EMPEROR after only about 20 or 25 pages (that one was just too high fantasy for me.)

Honestly? I feel a little guilty admitting to giving up on books, especially books I've challenged myself to try to read. But, the truth is, I'm actually a slow reader due to my dyslexia. Because it's hard for me to read, if I'm not INTO a book, I slow down exponentially. I COULD push my way through some of these books, but I think it would be at the detriment to how many books I'll be able to read and finish this year (and possibly massive library overdue fines!) I don't know that the number of books I get read is really all that important, but I also don't really intend to review anything I didn't finish.... so... I dunno.

Some of these books, I could return to. And maybe I will. But I might as well read the ones that grip me first. I feel like, at least, I'm getting a good sampling of what's out there and up for awards, and some books I gave a hundred or more pages--I gave up on both ANCILLARY SWORD and THREE-BODY PROBLEM well after 100 pages. I kept going with both of those because, particularly Leckie, is up for SO MANY awards and THREE-BODY PROBLEM is that book that everyone is talking about. (I dropped out of both those books, interestingly, because I just didn't care that much. The authors failed to give me a human/heart to hang on to, and I'm just not an idea-driven reader. I need to have some reason to care beyond 'whiz-bang.' And, I'm very fond of whiz-bang, as I read a lot of graphic novels/comic books/manga. But trust me, all the ones of those I love also have a human core--I don't need much, just something or someone whose story affects me.)

At any rate, I thought I'd confess all that here. Forgive me, Reader, for I have sinned...
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.

Teaching!

Mar. 11th, 2015 01:18 pm
lydamorehouse: (ichigo being adorbs)
I just got confirmation from the Loft that I'll be teaching my "Mars Needs Writer's" class, which starts in a couple of weeks (03/25/15–05/20/15 | Wednesday | 6:00-8:00 p.m.) If this suddenly looks like something you'd like to sign-up for, the class is by no means at full capacity.

This also means I should probably look at my syllabus and figure out what the heck I'm doing! But, hey, I have a little time to figure it out, which is good.

I'm at the hospital clinic right now hanging out while Shawn does her follow-up with her surgeon. She's feeling 100% better now that she's off all the drugs. Honestly, I think the worst part of all this was how SICK the medicines that were supposed to be helping with pain and nausea made her (which included the unmentionable gastrointestinal problem, which is, of course, a well known side-effect of narcotics.)

So, hooray for that.

Now that the weather is turning nice, my friend Naomi and are going for walks, ostensibly to exercise, but really we tend to walk to a coffee shop or otherwise hang out at a place like that afterwards. So, I won't be losing weight. However, Naomi took me out to Fort Snelling to walk around near the abandoned barracks and officers' housing. That place is amazing. As I was just telling a friend, it's easy to believe in fairies because you have to wonder how it is people don't really know about this place, despite the fact that it's a ghost town that's almost in the middle of the city. While we were wandering around imagining being billionaires who could turn this into an upscale boutique town, two deer came bounding out of the underbrush--a mama and her spotted baby.

Seriously, people: Fairy land.

I wish I'd brought my camera.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
I'm trying to decide whether or not to go to the TOTU benefit tonight at the Loft.

----
TOTU Benefit Reading / Launch Party

We will host a reading by some of our authors at the Loft Literary Center on March 31, 2010, from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM. The Loft is in Suite 200, Open Book, 1011 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55415.

Eleanor Arnason, Kelly McCullough, John Calvin Rezmerski, and Bryan Thao Worra will read from their respective works.

$5 will be collected at the door. Our current issue, back issues, and all will be discounted at this event. You can purchase the current issue for only $11, any of issues 2-19 for $2.50, a new or renewed subscription for $24, or a copy of everything, from #1 to the end of time for $199.

---------

It's normally a "sure thing" sort of deal for me, except that tomorrow is Shawn's birthday and that means that I'd have to abandon her with kid duty right before the big day. This is one of those relationship points questions I sometimes fail. So I left her a message: is this cool or if I go am I being a relationship dummy?

Even if I don't, you should go (if you're local, of course, that is.)
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Do you remember "The Church Lady" from SNL? I thought of her last night as I was watching the end of "Supernatural." (Any "Supernatural" fans out there?) Shawn and I used to watch the show regularly, but kind of fell out of the habit. Just by chance, we tuned in last night, and I was so EXCITED the moment Dean is face to face with the one who pulled him out of hell and identified itself as "an Angel of the Lord."

Could it be... Satan?

Shawn looked at me and shook her head sadly, and said, "Oh, honey. Don't get too excited; you know they won't go there."

Thing is, I'd be mighty happy either way. Of COURSE, I'd love it if this were actually the big bad guy, because, frankly, I could have written his dialogue right down to his baffled insistance that Dean needs more FAITH and that he (the angel) only does what God commands. But, honestly, I'd be perfectly okay if it were one of the "good guys," because he/it is certainly as scary, if not scarier, than the multitude of demons they've paraded around in that show (keeping in mind, of course, I've missed at least one entire season.) Scary angels make me happy. And of course, any time angels start talking about their "fearsome visage" it makes me smile (and he did. Seriously.)

But, in other less fannish news, I visited Mason's class today. I only stayed a couple of hours (until about 10:30 am) because they were starting to get into work where they needed to focus on individual projects, and it was pretty clear to me that I was a big distraction.

But my fears are mostly quelled. I say mostly because, admittedly, it would be difficult for anyone to live up to my extremely high standards. There *is* a lot of inistance on rule following, particularly this rather alien (to my mind anyway) idea that 5-to-6 year olds need to have "calm, quiet bodies." (Has she not read ANYTHING published in the past decade about the problems with educating boys in this country?) However, there were many, many things about the class routines that I liked. She does a rather nice greeting ritual where everyone goes around the circle shaking hands and taking turns saying "good morning, [name]," which I thought was a nice way to include every single student in a class of 28. I wasn't terribly excited to discover that Ms. D. seems to favor what I would call the "rote and busy-work" teaching methodology (a lot of copying and a LOT of repetition), it certainly has been proven to work -- though I always found it rather disengaging and boring as sin, especially if you're the type of student that catches on quickly.

But there weren't any red flags that jumped out at me watching her interaction with the class. I think her biggest fault -- which isn't anything she can control -- is that while she's perky and friendly, she doesn't seem to have a lot of natural charisma. She's very pretty and enthusiastic, but she doesn't have the ability to command attention. I found that the students crowded around me (even those that didn't know me) and seemed much more keen to follow *my* modeled behavior than Ms. D.'s. To that end, I did everything Ms. D. asked the students to do, including keeping my eyes "listening" (on her.)

So the jury is mostly still out, but I'm feeling like I have a better sense of Mason's day, at least.

In other news, I'm apparently teaching at the Loft on Wednesday nights now. I almost didn't go except for [livejournal.com profile] maggiedr's off hand comment on Wednesday's post about "see you in class tonight!" Thank god(dess), just by chance, I checked my e-mail at 6:30 pm, or, as I told the class, I'd have spent the night in my PJ's watching episodes of "The Closer" on DVD. Normally, I would chalk up my lack of preparedness on my own inner wackiness, but this time the Loft really did drop the ball. The last I'd heard about the class it was when someone from the Loft office e-mailed to tell me that the class would VERY LIKELY be cancelled because only 4 students had signed up. I was under the assumption they were going to call me/email me, if the class was a go... but I guess that's that whole line about asses and U Me.

Given that I was frantically printing up syllabuses a half hour before class, I think the first night went pretty well. As I told them, they got me at my MOST disorganized. It can only get better from here! (I hope.)

Well, since I haven't yet, I should write. I also heard from [livejournal.com profile] naomikritzer that she finally got the BSG DVDs from her sister, so I need to go collect those and catch up with this season.

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