Fantasiland.

Why is everything so awesome and covered in kittens? Nina told me to send out a story that I thought was dead in the water. As is, she said. And I think he’ll buy it, she said (about the editor of said magazine). I hope, hope, hope she’s right! Now I need to buy myself a manila envelope and some stamps…

The message is clear: I need to stop sitting on things and send my shit out, which I am SO not good at doing. Start racking up those rejections. But wow has it been an encouraging week! My atrophied little soul ballooning…

This morning, I woke up to an email from one of my fellow Clarionauts. See, I’d had a research question about Faerie mythos. So he emailed his friend, Holly Black, and I got a response to my question from Holly Black (which Holly Black? This one) in my in-box this morning. It is so effing cool to have famous people who are doing work I care about on the speed-dial of friends I now know IRL.
Tonight I will read all the things, and draft the first chunk of a sequel to my Cthulhu story (I do believe I have planned out a Cthulhu Quartet that explores four of the five forms discussed in Rhetorics of Fantasy). Then I will have a Scotch, and possibly call home and/or some friends, and/or my BF, if he’s about. And then I will sleep the warm sleep, and do it all over again tomorrow.

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Comforter.

Workshop was splendid. I have revision path laid out for the story, and feedback was shockingly favorable—I have high hopes that this story will also sell, once I wrangle it and get the boring bits out. Apparently humorous form pieces are marketable, or something. Although I admit to playing it very, very safe with this story—I’m going to try to stretch toward risk in the next submission round.

Signed up for the gym yesterday but did not go, because: sleep, it is not for chumps. Wound up napping through what ought to have been my workout time, but I kept waking myself up with the shivers.

I’ve been sleeping terribly—partly from anxiety due to having to produce a story/getting story workshopped the following day, and partly just body acclimation to a new place. I also still haven’t managed a workout routine. This all came to a head yesterday, and I almost got violently ill on the walk from workshop to the cafeteria. Too much caffeine and adrenaline. Several Clarionauts stuffed me with food and water ‘til I stopped looking pale and like I was about to keel over.

Why the no sleep? See: shivers, above. My room is frigid, degrees colder than the main area, and much chillier than other people’s rooms. A Clarionaut with car (angel of mercy) took me to buy a comforter last night, and lo an behold, I crashed out instantaneously. Finally, FINALLY got a full, solid night’s sleep. I’m even planning to go to the gym in the afternoon, after my instructor meeting.

What is this, you ask? Well, we get half-hour meetings with each instructor to discuss our work, goals, life, etc. My first instructor meet is with Nina Kiriki Hoffman, and I’m awfully excited. She’s just a darling human being. And I bought the sequel to Fistful of Sky last night, so I have some weekend pleasure-reading ahead of me. Yay!

Also, a sweet-ass link by Ursula K. LeGuin.

Big day, it is GINORMOUS.

Today was a big day. First off, I finished and submitted my first new story to Clarion. It is 1,600 words and I wrote it in under 24 hours, and it got very few first reads because I didn’t realize I’d be turning in until I had less than four hours to work if I wanted to make deadline. Signed up this morning for a 5pm turn-in, knowing I had a working draft. Workshop ended at 1. Inhaled food, buckled down ’til 4, called first readers in a panic (sorry, Dan P.! Thanks, Rhin!), then cleaned up typos, buffed, polished, and printed 18 copies. It was a whirlwind, and wow am I glad I have a week before I do that again. Next time will be smoother, with a bit more lead time. And then I went out and had a few beers with the other submitees, which was just lovely. These people who I can’t talk about? They are THE BEST. They know everything about everything: markets, structure, lyricism, noir…just super sweet all around. I feel a bit outclassed and outgunned, and it’s a great feeling.

But that wasn’t even the ginormous news. You guys, I sold my first story. To Daily SF. It’s an SF story, dubbed the sad robot story. And it is indeed the third story I’ve written around, about, or in context of Matt Wilson, to see publication this school year. That guy, he makes a damn good muse. He will lord it over me when I get back to Chicago, too, to be sure.

Added humor value: This was the story that got me a very sweet rejection from last year’s Clarion (the one with GRRM). Many thanks as well to Strange Horizons, who wrote extensive notes on their rejection of it–I took them all, and lo, Jed was totally right about everything, and it sold.

Anyway, I am on cloud 9, but also beyond the pale sleepy. I’m going to go read a few stories a kind Clarionaut let me borrow for the evening, and then to bed. Tomorrow: baby’s first critique. Here’s hoping it goes swimmingly!

The hard part.

Day two, and it is abundantly manifest that the hard part is not critiquing, or sleeping, or eating healthy. The hard part? Is actually writing.

I got up at 6:50am and ran around campus, which involved me getting horribly lost, digging out the map, finding myself again, then running til I was horribly lost again, rinse/repeat. We spent the morning workshopping, with a brief short-story 101 lecture on the side. The Clarion workshop style is painful for extrovert me, and it’s also a lesson in self: STFU. I have always been superverbal and tend to dominate workshop settings not a-purpose. The Clarion round-robin curtails that, and I’m finding it…dare I say, freeing? It saves me from myself, from my own terrible verbosity/accidental assholery. We each get 3 minutes. Beyond that, we must pay $$ for each additional minute. Nothing I have to say past 3 min. is worth a nickel. It’s awesome.

Then, post-lunch we were freed to…write. AAAAaaaaah! So write I have done. I rather wish I was every kind of writer other than the kind I am, but that can’t be helped. Gimmicks, they are gimmicky. This draft, it’s been fits and starts, but I just now hit my stride. Clarion-buddies, drafts will likely be incoming shortly, though I want to find out my day/timeslot first, because I’ll revise til the 11th hour.
Now I go to dinner. The food? Has been excellent. It may get repetitive by week 5, but at moment, I’ve been impressed. Well-stocked salad bar with several delish dressings. Tofu and vegetable stirfry. A salty bean stew. Tons of fresh fruit. Morning granola, even! The only things been meh are the desserts (plastic frosting), but I shouldn’t be eating those anyway.
Please think happy thoughts for me and clap your hands if you believe in fairies/that rockin’ first drafts are possible. This rough draft, I fear it.

We are not supposed to write about other students, so this is all I will say, probably 4ever: I LOVE THEM ALL LIKE CHOCOLATE AND GUMMY BEARS. But not all at once, because gross.

Exhaustion.

I make bad decisions and have no sense of direction. I somehow led my poor fellow Clarionauts on a merry chase to find the Trader Joe’s. We returned to base camp bedraggled and downtrodden two-and-change hours later, though with Scotch, coffee and other essentials in hand. I should’ve brought my car. Finished 2/3 critiques; one more and then to bed so I can get up and run tomorrow. Need to write a new story, too. I’m thinking of fleshing out (PUNTASTIC) the zombie mailman story, working w/ one of NKH’s prompts, that being the (misheard) title: “Trader to the Dead.” Which cracks me up, because this evening, Trader Joe’s nearly killed us all.

In short: had a fabulous first day, and straight on til morning!

I care about this alot.

Clarion is around the corner, and my motto is taken from Hyperbole and a Half, because it seems appropriate. I give myself permission to love everyone, to love every second of this time, to flail around in joy, to fail big.

Update on goooooals:
Weight loss: success. Down 7 lbs. since coming back to AZ. That Lose It program has really helped, and I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing or starving myself. It’s a nice feeling.
Exercise: success. Have used the gym membership 17 times since I got it.
Alcohol: fair to middling. Am still drinking, but three or so times a week, and only one drink in an evening. This is a HUGE cutback from the 3-5 drinks a night that were my norm last semester. I am less depressed, less ill, and I feel capable of focus in a way I haven’t in months.
Writing: Middling success. Two revisions I adore (one on a new story–about etiquette and terrifying three-headed angels), two chapters on the novel, and four new drafts to tinker with. And the start of a revision on the girl-Jesus story. And I sent out one of the revisions a few weeks ago and still have not heard…will update when the reply arrives.
Food: success. Have been eating MUCH healthier. That could all disappear if the Clarion cafeteria food is as terrifying as rumored, though. I’m hoping the Trader Joe’s (walking distance of campus) can get me by if the “free” food is too unhealthy.

I don’t think I could be any more prepared, all things considered. I have a daily writing habit, a daily exercise habit, a packed suitcase, and an open brain. What else am I missing?

Publishing.

I think about it lots. Amanda Hocking was in the NYTimes Magazine today, the same day that Cat Valente appeared in the NYTimes Review of Books. I actually view them as opposite sides of the same coin–“Fairyland” as the award-winning, literary version of the Hocking phenomenon. Perhaps this is erroneous. But they both, to me anyway, look like our brave new e-pub overlords are upon us, and publishing will never be the same. And that excites me, because it means that unviable projects may magically become viable again.

One of my Clarion-mates is an e-pub zealot by most accounts, and I cannot wait to pick her brain. I have a novel (well, I’m a rewrite away, but very soon now I will have a novel) that I doubt can find an audience via traditional publishing, but that is kind of built for e-pub and self-marketing. One of Rhin’s older long-form fics recently got listed on a major fanfic recc site, and that is exactly the audience we want to find our novel (yes, this is the Rhin/me novel we keep returning to. Someday it will be done).
The plan, at mo: finish the novel post-Clarion. Rhin will be working on it while I’m away, and I may peck at it, time permitting. Neither of us are in any hurry, though, as he’s dissertating and it’s my exam year, so I imagine we’re on the 3-6 months plan, realistically. However, we’re three chapters in and going strong, with a shiny new outline to boot. The rewrite writes like buttah, too, so I am…cautiously optimistic?

Then. I wonder, can I copyedit my own work? I do not know. I’m actually considering hiring an editor friend I trust to do a pass-through before we start querying. If queries fail (as they likely will; it is a strange cross-genre book that I doubt can find a home), I have several designer friends I’d trust to do a cover, if I can come up with the $$. And I think I can teach myself basic layout? I have a decent Adobe program and a “For Dummies” guide, and I’m willing to shell out the $$ if necessary to take a basic design course if that fails. I’d rather learn how to do something myself than be continually paying others to do for me, but I get that cover=sells book, so it’s worth going pro for that.
All this to say, self-publishing, it excites me. Perhaps this is a terrible idea (it is certainly premature, until we complete the latest rewrite, and possible attempt to query). But the novel was never going to be something viable in terms of mattering for the academic half of my life. My nonfic pub(s)–and possibly some short story sales if I can swing them (and even those won’t matter if they’re genre)–are all that will count.

I remain split in three directions, trying to balance all the things I love with the finite quantity of time in the day. Now, to the gym, and then to revise a few short stories and write up the next novel chapter. Clarion is in a week. I want my writing muscles as buffed as I can get ’em in a hurry.

Have done.

So the sekrit 2011 Clarion getting-to-know-you blog has featured prompts for the past ten weeks. I have been trying to keep up, though my rate of story production is slooooow. I did a tally, though. Five new drafts based on prompts. I’ve skipped (or been dissatisfied with my concepts for) half the prompts, but I’m still rather shocked to see all these shiny new stories lined up in my Clarion file. The tragedy is that none of them are submittable to Clarion, as we’ll be expected to produce a new story a week while we’re there. Which is a good thing on the one hand (moar stories I can submit) and bad on the other–I can’t afford to take a workshop next year on top of exams, so I’ll likely be sitting on these stories for a while before I can get them critted. And I do find critting to be crucial for me–I struggle to spit-shine work on my own. I can’t SEE the damn thing until I’ve let it rest for a few months, at which point I hate it on sight, making it difficult to revise, let alone send out. Perhaps my Clarion backup team will do a few reads, once I’ve wrangled the drafts into stories worth critting.

My Clarion backup team: Rhin, Farkas, Patty P. Possibly Jess and Dan P., if they’re willing. I’m hoping I can get at least one pass on just about everything I write for Clarion, pre-workshop-throwdown. And without burning out any one reader–“Here are six stories! I will need four hour turnaround on these! Godspeed!”

I’m getting excited, though. Packing. Working like a fiend to make all the monies I can. Working out like a fiend, too–haven’t missed a day at the gym since Vegas. Best summer ever, thusfar. We hopess it continuesss, my preciousss.

And the novel. Oh, the novel. I still love it, and love working on it, and wish I could write it all the time. This latest outline revision is leagues ahead of our draft of three years ago, at any rate. Writing my way through it, hoping this is The One.

The smell of unwashed boredom.

Vegas with the brother was splendid. I didn’t win much, but I didn’t lose, either, which in Vegas is practically a win. I even managed to work out while I was there (the gym was connected to the spa. What?). Now, though, I must buckle down. Two weeks to Clarion, and I’ve been writing a few times a week, but I’m nowhere near the daily habit I’d hoped to build. My writing muscles, they are flabby. Time for the wordcount equivalent of a crash diet. Going to try for a few thousand a night, even if they’re shite. I did revise up two stories that had been languishing on ye olde hard-drive, one of which has now been sent off into the ether, and Rhin and I are back tinkering on the novel, so I’m trying not to kick self in teeth too hard for all the things I’m not doing. And the real point of coming back to Flag was to make some $ copyediting, which I am doing–if I’d stayed in Chicago, jobless, it would’ve been easier to exercise and write, I suppose, but I’d have been even more broke. Boo hiss to that.

I’m about to write nonstop for six weeks, with famous people, on the beach [with the lead pipe!]. I cannot wait. Where is the fast forward button on my life remote?