nalohop's blog

Clarion write-a-thon double dipping

I confess I have a fair bit of loyalty for the Clarion workshops for budding writers of science fiction and fantasy. There's Clarion, and Clarion West. They are not franchises; more like colleagues that use the same teaching methods. They are not perfect. They make mistakes, sometimes bad ones. They try to learn from them. All in all, they do a lot of good. I am a 1995 graduate of Clarion (then called Clarion East, and housed at Michigan State U. Now called Clarion, and housed at the University of California San Diego). I had a great, challenging, sometimes terrifying six weeks there -- writing is *hard!* -- and left a better writer than I was when I entered.

I've now taught at both Clarion and Clarion West a number of times, as well as once at the late Clarion South in Brisbane, Australia. So when Nisi Shawl told me that this year's Clarion West Write-A-Thon fundraiser was up and running, I signed up immediately and started seeking out sponsors. Then today I noticed that the Clarion (UC San Diego) Write-a-Thon fundraiser was up. That's my alma mater! So I signed up for it, too. For the same project, because I'm not going to take on a separate project right now. Just consider this my open acknowledgement that I'm participating in both. Good thing about that is that if you want to sponsor me, you can do so for whichever Clarion you prefer to support, or for both of them. My plan is to post different excerpts from each day's writing on either site.

Don't look back

It's how I'm banging out the first, extremely rough draft of this new book; don't over-think, don't stop to edit or to do research. Onward, forward, don't step backward (down inna Babylon).

I'm also setting daily writing goals of time spent, not words written. Following the advice of writer Goldberry Long. She's right; it's less daunting to think of sitting and writing for a few minutes than it is tell yourself you need to produce 2,000 words. Of course, being of the size queen science fiction writer tribe, I can't resist doing a word count after I've made my time spent goal. Wrote for an hour yesterday, to the tune of 1,933 words. Forty minutes today produced 834 words. I'm mostly coming up with new characters and introducing myself to them by writing scenes with them in.

By the way: If you can, please consider sponsoring me in the Clarion West Write-a-Thon in support of Clarion West, an annual summer intensive workshop for budding writers of science fiction and fantasy.

Some of today's unedited words:

Father Cyril took the bills that Quashee held out and tucked them into a pocket in his cassock. The man smelled of old sweat and worry sweat, of rumbullion and of the boiled green banana he had been having for lunch when Quashee arrived. Quashee held his finger to the side of one nostril then the other, and blew his nose out onto the dirt to try to clear it of Father Cyril’s smell. Everything smelled. The last priest had promised Quashee that the baptism obeah would dull his ability to smell. He had been a liar. Quashee couldn’t abide a lying priest. That one hadn’t lived past Quashee’s first baptism day. But Quashee liked Prester Cyril. Something in the man’s face, white though it was, reminded Quashee of his brother Geraint.

Sister Mine on the Sunburst Award shortlist

That most recent book of mine took a little while to get her legs under her, but now it seems she's up and running. A Norton Award win a few weeks ago, and last week she was on the shortlist for Canada's Sunburst Award for Literature of the Fantastic. The jury says, Sister Mine is a novel that defies: defies categorization; defies convention; defies expectations. Deserving its place among the best books of the year, Sister Mine's nuanced forays into celestial heritage, sibling rivalry, and good old-fashioned sexual exploits of the deific variety (think ancient mythology) unfold with the genteel pace of classic oral tradition but the in-your-face sensibilities of post-punk modernism. A book that challenges, and in challenging, ignites.

The other books on the shortlist all look so good! Adding them to my quickly-growing summer reading list:

  • River of Stars, by Guy Gavriel Kay. Penguin Group Canada (ISBN: 9780670068401)
  • This Strange Way of Dying, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Exile Editions (ISBN: 9781550963540)
  • A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki. Penguin Group Canada (ISBN: 9780670067046)
  • The Demonologist, by Andrew Pyper. Simon & Schuster (ISBN: 9781451697520)
  • Young Adult

  • Sorrow's Knot, by Erin Bow. Scholastic Inc. (ISBN: 9780545166669)
  • The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, by Charles de Lint, illustrated by Charles Vess. Little Brown Books (ISBN: 9780316053570)
  • Homeland, by Cory Doctorow. Tom Doherty Associates (ISBN: 9780765333698)
  • The Path of Names, by Ari Goelman. Scholastic Inc. (ISBN: 9780545474306)
  • Urgle, by Meaghan McIsaac. Dancing Cat Books (ISBN: 9781770863088)
  • The jury felt that the following merited Honourable Mention:

    Oops, oh my

    Just accidentally met my easy level writing goal for the second time today.

    Working out

    Is it a workout if it only lasts ten minutes? (It's okay; I know the answer is yes, depending.) Turns out my stamina on my footbike at the moment is about the same as my current stamina for a writing sprint. Especially in rapidly climbing desert heat. But that was fun, brief as it was. Ester Dean's "Drop it Low" was the perfect rhythm (and exhortation) for the first part, and Stromae's "Formidable" worked pretty well for the slow, slightly uphill second part.

    Now, errands. Meds and painkillers to take, plants need watering, need to buy groceries for dinner for friend coming over tomorrow, need to do some laundry and tidying of this insanely messy apartment. Plus I have to mail away a mermaid to someone who just bought one from me. And permissions for/copies of a couple stories to be reprinted. And receipts for reimbursement for an event at which I worked.

    (This is one of the "Chubby Models" series by Casarotto.)

    Writing: goal-setting, goal scoring

    Huh. I like that. Thinking of writing goals as something you score, as in netball (which I played in high school), rather than something you meet, as in obligations. Cause really; which sounds like more fun?

    Writing, June 15, 2014

    Just shy of 1,000 raw new words today in the new novel.

    Gunsy was back, with the big cast iron frying pans this time. “Faster, I said.” He clanged the frying pans down into the water. Suds splashed onto Clara’s apron and into one eye. She fished a plate out of the sink. A glob of chewed gristle was stuck to it, floating in yellow grease beside two gnawed pork chop bones and an oil-logged, wadded-up admission ticket. She winged the plate at Gunsy. It caught him on the shoulder. He howled, grabbing for his injured arm. She smashed another three plates on the ground before two roustabouts and the World's Strongest Lady shoved her down to the ground and held her fast.

    Pistachio rose water ice cream (no lactose)

    I made ice cream! I adapted the recipe based on whim and the ingredients I had at home: half honey, half pureed dates; the eggs may or may not have been free range; our apartment building has rose hedges in bloom, so I added some fresh rose petals; didn't have saffron, but did have raw turmeric root, so I used that instead of saffron. I only had salted pistachios, so I rinsed them. It left a bit of salt in them, but you can't taste it in the ice cream. Turned out pretty well, except that the custard wouldn't thicken forever. Finally, I looked up some coconut milk custard recipes, and one of them suggested adding starch, so I used some tapioca starch I had. That did the trick. The serving in the pic went slightly soft under the light, and I was too excited at having actually made ice cream to put it back into the freezer and wait till it firmed up some more.

    Ice cream!

    Josephine Baker pin