Monday, June 28, 2010

The hallmark of a good conference

I'm told the hallmark of a good conference is that you leave wishing you had attended every single one of the panels. That was certainly the case with Fourth Street. But I found that the panels I attended had so much information and so many ideas that there just wasn't room for anything else in my head.

Next year they are talking about have a writers workshop the week before Fourth Street, but I wish instead that they'd have it the week after. It's frustrating the get all these ideas and inspiration at the convention and have no time to use them when you get home and go back to work.

Of course, for quite a few people at Fourth Street, their work is writing fiction. Mine is writing non-fiction, and I'm getting ready to start my first non-fiction book project (as a writer rather than a contributor or editor). I'm not nervous or worried, but I am determined to clear the decks of small projects for the next two months — which means I won't be writing much fiction.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hail in Minneapolis

Last night, as a bunch of us sat down to dinner, we realized that the sky outside the hotel's cathedral-style atrium had turned green, and water was gushing across the skylights. Some of us went out through the lobby doors to witness golf-ball size hail bouncing along in the parking lot. It went on for at least 30 minutes and was pretty spectacular. Unless your car was parked in the back parking lot, which flooded.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Getting away from it all

I'm a notoriously cranky packer but a great traveler. The second I walk through the doors into Sea-Tac, all thoughts of garden-watering schedules, feline demands, last-minute clothing repairs, and my clients' supposed emergencies vaporize.

I'm on vacation!

I don't know if it's this mindset that makes magical things happen, or if it's just that the mindset makes a lot of what happens seem magical, but travel is fun. (And it helps that I'm traveling with The Scholarly Gentleman.)

The plane to Minneapolis got cancelled, but miraculously replaced, so the four-hour delay was only 40 minutes, and we got to Minneapolis roughly on time. Delta's avaricious baggage checking fees meant that TSG took a roll-aboard suitcase (filled more with books and flyers than clothes) and wore his brown Victorian top hat.

It got some looks, but none more startled that the look from the slim young woman in Arrivals at Minneapolis who was also wearing a brown Victorian top hat. Hers was theatrically outsized, and had an orange wig attached. That, and her Steampunk clothing, indicated she was for some reason channeling Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter from the recent Alice in Wonderland film.

I read Kim Newman's Anno Dracula on the plane, a clever, name-dropping Victorian vampire/Ripper/mystery novel (it mentioned Dodgson aka Lewis Caroll) that seemed to me like a novella that got bundled up in a lot of back and forth extra details. But, then, I think that almost all Ripper books are better at novella length. The ending, however, was great.

Fourth Street doesn't officially start until today, but we got off to a grand start last night with 30 or so of the early birds doing the premiere reading of Jo Walton's comedy "Three Shouts on a Hill." I got to play King Lugh, which involved a lot of stern bellowing.

This morning got off to a very slow start. I sat down at the hotel room desk and wrote a customer profile (as a result of finally chasing down the interview subject, by phone, yesterday evening). It felt great to get that sent off.

The Clarion West Write-a-thon is underway, and I just saw the list of last week's donors to my Write-a-thon page. I was touched, surprised, charmed, mystified — you name it — by the folks who donated to support my work and the Clarion West Writers Workshop. More than 70 of us — Clarion West graduates, board members, and friends of Clarion West — have created Write-a-thon pages with excerpts from our fiction writing and descriptions of our writing goals for the six weeks of the Write-a-thon. (It runs in parallel with the summer workshop, at which the students, many of them able to attend Clarion West only through our scholarship support, are having the writing experiences of their lives.)

In my case, the Write-a-thon is a "submit-a-thon." I've got three or four finished pieces that need me to stop polishing them and send them out to editors of magazines. I was greatly encouraged last week by an award-winning speculative fiction writer who said the reason a story doesn't have to be perfect is that editors like to find some flaw in it that they can analyze and tell you to fix. I'm not sure that's true, but it is encouraging.

Please donate. If my page has brought in $250 in total donations by the end of July, I've promised to match my supporters' gifts with an additional $250 — which about the amount I'll make if one of the stories I submit gets purchased.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Positively 4th Street

We're off to the 4th Street Fantasy Convention this weekend. It's a science fiction literary convention that emphasizes contemporary fantasy (Neil Gaiman, Steven Brust, Jo Walton, etc.) and draws a number of editors from the New York publishing world. It also attracts the sort of folks who are interested in gourmet chocolates, arcane teas, folk music jams, and late-night discussions.

It's held at a convention hotel that didn't do much for me last year, but which is now adjoined by a fabulous new mall with ethnic restaurants and high-end shops. And it's near a couple of Vinyasa yoga studios.

I am expecting to like the trip.

As usual, it's extremely difficult to get out of town. We're coordinating the professional cat sitter who comes in the evenings with the neighbors who come in to feed the cats in the morning and the other neighbors who are leaving Saturday and whose cats I'll be caring for as soon as we return on Monday. (That meant I had to tell our cat sitter about the cats I'm responsible for Monday in case something awful happens and I don't come back from Minneapolis — she knows where the key is so those cats won't starve.)

To complicate it all, Mabel, our black cat, decided this morning to teach the striped cats how to catch a mouse. I removed the mouse from the house, but the stupid thing kept coming back and sitting on the back porch. I thought it had finally gone, but the cats got it again, and it had to be delivered to a large field a block away before things came to a fatal conclusion. The cats are still skulking around the back yard looking for it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Weird things in the garden

Every time I look out in the garden, I see something else strange.

I just looked out the window from my office and saw a gigantic, six-foot weed in my neighbor's yard, towering over the fence. I hope I remember to get over there tomorrow and pull it out. He doesn't garden.

Friday after work I went out into the back garden and came to grips with the fact that a perfectly innocent hardy geranium that I've had for more than 10 years in a concrete pot somehow got loose and took root (via seeds) all over the back garden beds, crowding out the blue star creeper and various other things. Little yellow poppies were about to crowd out the strawberries, but I removed them.

My take on this is that the relentlessly damp spring has coddled the plants into producing shallow roots (that will be the death of them once it stops raining) and the weeds are poised to overrun everything by August. It's hard to get excited about summer at the moment.