So, school is back in next week and I’ve been at work already for a week. Amazing how energy-draining the day job can be. However, it’s the weekend now and the day I’ve been waiting for. Back to the novel!
Still, it makes me think . . . how much money does a person really need to live on? A friend who is a highly successful Tor author quite deliberately works during the day at a job that is NOT energy-draining. She is very careful with how she spends her money. And, I am continually amazed at how inexpensively my daughter, a university student, lives. True, when her room and board are free (she lives with me) it helps a lot. Still, she is dedicated to travel to certain cons and to maintain her motorcycle; but clothing, entertainment expenses — she doesn’t have a cell or any of the electronic devices to which most young people are tied — she very simply does without.
Every year, my main writers’ group, IFWA (Imaginative Fiction Writer’s Association) runs a Clarion-style writing workshop for two days in conjunction with the local convention, often sharing a guest author with the con. In the past, we have had Edo Von Belkom, Mike Resnick, Joe Haldeman, Patrick and Honna Swensen, Rob Sawyer, James Allan Gardener, Dave Wolverton and Rebecca Bradley. Having the chance to work for two days in a small group (maximum twelve participants) with such stellar authors had been invaluable–not to mention the information about the business of writing that we have been able to pick up over lunch.
This year, our guest was Randy Schroeder who writes under a number of pen names (I have a collection of short stories, “Crooked Timber,” under the name, A. M. Arruin) as well as teaching Science Fiction at Mount Royal College. The two days were awesome. Each participant had a short story or novel submission (3 chapters and an outline) critiqued by the group. Randy grouped our stories to illustrate writing points and followed each story up with an exercise to practice the points covered. It was great. I got a real “aha” moment for my specific story, as well as picking up a number of points that I will want to mull over as I consider my writing.
We spent some time contrasting the processes of right and left brain writing, affirming the need for both and looking at ways of developing both craft and “godfire.” Of course, each writer has to develop her own self-awareness of what types of craft she needs to work on, and that self-understanding needs to change as her writing improves. One note I wrote from this workshop was, “once you reach a certain level of craft, the challenge you have to overcome is your own patterns and internal barriers.” To me, that said a lot. Craft can be developed systematically, and I feel my craft level has developed well. But godfire? How do you stimulate that? More difficult, but one way that Randy suggested (and on reflection I realized it is something I have found successful in the past–though I was never conscious of using it) is to set barriers for yourself. One he gave us, was “brainstorm how you might write a time travel story in which no one actually travels through time.” You get the idea.
The IFWA Players put on their annual musical last Friday night and it turned out great. No one messed up on their lines or songs and the lighting didn’t cut out on us like it did last year. The audience laughed in all the right places — it was great! My husband showed up to film us and arrived a few minutes before we started while my daughter, Holly and I were rehearsing a song. We were both wearing wigs with different hairstyle and colour from our own and he didn’t recognize us until we waved and said “Hi!” It has been very cool, rehearsing, sewing costumes and doing this project with Holly.
Another highlight of Conversion was that my other daughter, Heather, came in second in the Robin Herrington Memorial Short Story Contest. Yay, Heather! I read her story and it is pretty incredible, so now I have to read the other finalists to see what the field was like.
I have friends who don’t write, who are invariably amused when I brag, “I got an excellent rejection letter!” People who don’t write don’t realize, I think, how hard we work for a personalized rejection, and what it can mean: the editor actually read the submission and liked it enough to take their time to be encouraging. In this competitive business, that is really awesome. And, as in my first sale to Asimov’s, an initial rejection can lead to a sale.
So, I’ve been yakking about science fiction writing, and didn’t mention that I belong to more than one writers’ group. Kensington Writers Group is a non-genre group that is quite small, but highly successful, and includes not only writers of genre, novels and short stories, but YA, non-fiction and poetry as well. As much as I value my connection to IFWA and the expertise they possess in SF, I have learned a lot about writing by working with people from a wide range of backgrounds.
One member of my group, Jan Markley, has just received a very positive rejection from a Canadian publisher for her YA novel, “Dead Frogs on the Porch.” The editor wrote her almost a page of critique, praising the novel on a number of levels and suggesting Jan look at just a little tension-tightening (and who can’t benefit from that?). She’s doing re-writes for another submission and we’re all on the edge of our seats, waiting to see what happens (okay, we may be on the edge of our seats for a few months)!! Jan’s novel is funny, gripping, unique, and has great characters with distinctive voices. I would not be surprised if she doesn’t wind up with a sale on her hands.
So, just got back from Denvention yesterday and my next con starts Friday, here in Calgary: Conversion. Actually, I will miss most of it because I’ll be to flying to Toronto for my father-in-law’s 80th birthday!! That will be fun. Of course, I will miss the short story judging which will be too bad because my daughter has an awesome story in it. However, I will be there Friday night for IFWA Players’ Armageddon Idol. last year, as you may know, I directed The Phantom of the Space Opera, which was a ton of fun and turned out really well (we got invited to Vulcan for their con, where we performed for Eugene Roddenberry, who suggested we might like to bring the show to Las Vegas). This year, though, I get to act: I am one of 3 judges of the singing competition between Heaven and Hell for all the souls at the end of the world. The judges sing a really funny song filked from “Why Can’t the English Learn to Speak” from the musical, My Fair Lady. Our song is called, “Why Can’t Celestials Learn to Sing?” If you’re in Calgary, you have to come to the show. It’s free as long as you are a member of the con.