Monday, October 25, 2004


"Family Plot" got a pretty good critique on Saturday. One one other member of P.O.E. reads speculative/fantastic fiction and her reaction was very positive. As I anticipated, people commented on the story's uneven ending, which I think I can fix.

I do think it's valuable to have non-speculative readers look at your stories. I've received a lot of very helpful comments from them. But I do miss (Am I feeling okay?) the critiques from my Clarion buddies. I'll work this one over one more time before I send it to them.

DC Writer's Way has a reading scheduled for Nov. 6 in downtown DC (at The Corner Store Artist Studio, 900 South Carolina Ave, SE, if anyone's interested) @ 5:30PM. It's always tough - there's usually so many people reading that you only get 5 minutes. Most of the readers are poets, so for short story writers like me, 5 minutes is a real challenge. But I think I can read a portion of "Family Plot" and a 100-word story called "Tonight" that I wrote for a contest.

What did I learn today? That Kelly Link is incredible. (But I knew that already.) I'm still studying "The Specialist's Hat" and I'm still blown away. The twins are fascinating characters; I'm more convinced that Samantha (rather than Claire) has made a transformation by the story's end. It's very interesting that Claire is obsessed with numbers (cold, calculating?) and Samantha keeps thinking about horses. Is Samantha partially living in a fantasy world where she can have her mother back and horses too? By the story's end, Samantha seems to have accepted the situation and the aid offered by the babysitter. I do think that the larger issues here are abuse (by neglect) and the ability (or inability) to establish trust between children and adults. Whether I'm right or wrong, this is one fascinating story. It shows me how far I have to go in my writing, but it's also a big motivator.

Time to get back to it.

Now Playing: Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Let Your Dog Determine Your Writing Career

Yesterday I finished the story I've been working on, "Family Plot." I hadn't intended to write a horror story, but that's what came out. My First Reader (my wife Cindy) liked it, but said the ending needs work. I agree. My writers' group P.O.E. (Publish or Else) will critique it this Saturday. start a new one or revise my John Coltrane story? I'll go see what my greyhound Bullet is doing. If he's sleeping with his nose pointed east, I'll start a new one; west, revise.

Wouldn't you know he's pointing north...

I've been going through my Clarion notes and jotting down the things I feel I need work on in a little tiny notebook. I got in the habit of doing that when I was teaching. Everytime I learned something new from an article, a clinic, a workshop, or just an observation, I'd write it down. I filled seven books in two years. (Shows you how much I didn't know, huh?) Anyway, right now I'm going through some of the great advice that Nancy Kress gave us on character generation.

I'm also studying one short story a week. This week's story is Kelly Link's "The Specialist's Hat." I'm amazed at the way Kelly presents information in a story. I'm going to study that aspect first, then the way she manipulates flashback/backstory. The way the story is layered just blows me away. I've got a feeling I could study this one for a long time and not uncover everything that's there.

One week from today - World Fantasy!

How 'bout those Red Sox?

Today's weight = 175
Word count = 1,400
Now Playing = Let It Be...Naked - Beatles

Friday, October 15, 2004

A View of the Woods

Flannery O'Connor's "A View of the Woods" is not a good story to read if you're having a bad day. But since I had a pretty good day today (I have a job interview on Monday), it all evens out.

I am in awe of O'Connor in general and this story in particular. The first time I read it, I thought the ending was cruel and pointless, but thinking back through it, I wonder if O'Connor is saying that ol' man Fortune has abandoned any kind of redeeming qualities whatsoever and gets what he deserves? He seems intent on heaping any and all types of (unjustified) punishment on his son-in-law Pitts. Fortune's slow progression from a cynical, hateful old man to the deplorable creature at the story's end is amazingly handled by O'Connor. I want to read the story again just to watch this progression of character emerge. Amazing stuff.

Started a new story - more horror than sf or f. As Jeff Ford suggested at Clarion, I'm just trying to let the story tell itself and figure out what it all means later. Jeff is right; the more you do that, the more it frees you up to write the story and not try to press a theme.

The weather's still good, so I think we'll grill some salmon tonight. Mmmmm...

Today's weight: 178
Today's word count: 800

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Post-Clarion Pre-Employment Blues

Finally reality has set in. Clarion (regrettably) is over, our family emergency (thankfully) is over, and the job hunt has begun. The real world is not very nice sometimes. I prefer the Clarion world.

Since Clarion, I've revised and sent out three stories, which may not seem like many, but with all the family stuff going on, it's quite a lot. I always looked with skepticism at the websites of Clarion graduates who wrote that it took them months/years to write again. Now I understand. Any workshop like Clarion dumps so much information into your skull that you can't process it all when you get home. As soon as you start to write a new story, you start remembering something you've learned (but haven't mastered) that's getting in the way of your story. It just takes time.

I've also been working on my copywriting, which right now is moving slower than my sleeping greyhound. I went to a freelance Q & A panel in Baltimore and listened to three people who just sort of fell into it. I suppose like anything, it just takes time.

So in the meantime, the job search continues. I got back from a local job fair about an hour ago. I talked with a few people. Didn't seem too promising, but you never know.

In the meantime, I'm studying copywriting (Bly, Ogilvy) and short stories (Karen Joy Fowler, Lucius Shepard, and my newest obsession Flannery O'Connor) to see what makes them tick.

At least I'm losing weight. (Last week = 183; Today = 178) And the World Fantasy Convention is just around the corner.

Today's Weight: 178
Now Playing: Exile on Main Street - Stones