Go away I’m dyeing.

Yesterday, saw Cowboys and Aliens with a mess of Clarionauts plus Kessel, and it was ungodly awful and I never want to see it again so help me. Was made slightly more amusing by the presence of good friends, but damn. Wow. Dialogue? Why would a movie need decent dialogue? My brain, it hurt. However, we did get pho and bahn mi at an adorable Vietnamese place immediately prior, which made up in great part for the awfulness of the movie.
Today, we went to the ocean, and then I dyed my hair black. I have never had black hair. I am, thus far, enamored. Had planned to hairdye the first week of Clarion in some kind of epic dye-party–showed up, and a few people had come pre-dyed (Bolander: red, Worrad: platinum, Annie: blue) but on the whole peeps were recalcitrant about the whole silly tradition. I love me some silly traditions. So, going into week 6 (dubbed the week of marshmallow rain by our resident soothsayer), I wandered down to the grocery store and got hairdye. My roommate applied it, and I split the bottle with another Clairionaut, so I even have a twin!
And now we’re in the final week, and I am sad sad sad. I have a story idea so ambitious I may ultimately bail on it, but at this point I have five new stories totaling over 20,000 words, and I feel like I got my $$s worth. Also, six instructors with whom I hope to have ongoing professional relationships. And best of all, 18 fabulous crit buddies who will happily read all the genre writing I produce. I could not be more pleased.
I remain slightly under the weather; the ocean salinated my nostrils pleasantly, but I keep coughing. Drank two basil-lime margaritas tonight to cauterize my throat. Can only hope I’ll be feeling well tomorrow, finally.
I have a few hours before bed, and I ought use them to write. Dark carnival form piece ahoy!
Pic of new hair, for your amusement:

Gothly hair is gothly.

Perfect day Elise.

Yesterday was a perfect day. Crit went unbelievably well–Kessel and Kij had helpful things to say about the piece, but they also both made a point to emphasize that they liked it, which warmed the cockles of my cold little heart. The word “magnificent” was used. *dies* I am absurdly excited to revise this one–and Kij gave me the key that unlocked the entire end. These people, they are so brilliant. My individual meeting with Kessel went phenomenally well, and I was both encouraged, and left feeling like things would work out in due time. I am in no rush. Exams and dissertation really do excite me beyond all rational reason, though.

Went out to delicious sushi dinner (mmm Sayuri), though I missed an evening lecture (planning fail on my part…got the notes from my roommate later).
I’d sent my Ponies homage story to Kij a few days back, and we had the most adorable email exchange in which I gushed and she politely tolerated my gushing.
It was a Felix Felicis day, liek whoa. <–DORK

Against all odds.

So I planned to submit a “trunk story” this week. Yes, yes, I know, once again I am all like “Clarion rules don’t apply to me meh.” Except that everybody’s been burning out in Week 5 and submitting drafts built from those lovely prompts that went up on the Clarion blog all through May and June. Now, these are not necessarily trunk stories…but I’d be willing to bet much of the plotting, if not early drafting, occurred pre-Clarion. All this to say, there was precedent.
Over the weekend I was working furiously on yet another immersive fantasy piece, only I had not yet figured out that it was in fact immersion. Monday morning, while brainstorming, I realized what the damn thing was. Spit, cursed, hissed, and threw that fucker out with the bathwater. Started something new based on an old idea I’d had pre-Clarion. Story came together in 24 hours, just like my first piece (the fairy tithe story from way back in week 1….god, that feels like ages ago). I am thrilled to have a new story, even a weak one. Is a form piece, but I know I haven’t pushed the form anywhere near as far as it needs to go to justify its existence. And the original prompt has become something of an albatross and will likely need to be excised. Still, new draft is new draft, and I am pleased.
The pre-nostalgia has already hit, and we are deep into permanent night. I can feel a cold coming on; I Nyquil-ed myself to sleep last night, and one of roommates is also down sick, along with half the class. I want to go to the gym, but I’m scared to push myself, because I CANNOT miss my critique tomorrow.
Despite all this, though, I am frighteningly happy. I rather don’t want to go home…having people feed me and clean my house for me and pretty much let me alone to write what I like has been a pleasure. I’ll be sad when it ends. And I’m dreading going back to exam year, six weeks behind. Bleargh.
But I’m not going to think about that. Remain in the present, self.
Will post the aftermath of crit tomorrow…it’ll likely be a debacle, as Kessel and Kij terrify me, and they don’t pull any punches. This is a weak-ass skeletal draft, and I’ll likely be torn to pieces. You crit the piece you have, not the piece you wish you had. <–mantra
As usual, shout-outs are owed to Farkas and Rhin. You two are awesome-sauce.

Everything’s beachy.

Went to the gym, went to the ocean, ate all the pizza, did all the crits, and now, at 8:45pm, I sit down to write. Oy. I have…perhaps made some bad life choices. And ComiCon was of course a lost day. I will likely be absent of blog for a few days while I play catchup.

Ciao til draft of story’s down!


Just got back from COMICON–OMFGSQUEEE!! Above: the Game of Thrones rickshaw, me and the Tardis, the Joker’s costume from Dark Knight (you’re welcome, Rich), and Joey Comeau from a Softer World.

Best moment of day: Wandering around all the publisher exhibitions with David Anthony Durham while he consumed a free Bloody Mary from the Tor booth. “That’s GRRM’s editor,” he says, etc. etc.
Second-best moment of day: being all like, “is that Joey Comeau from the Interwebs? It IS!” and then digging through the small selection of prints at the stand, and finding my all-time favorite one. This would be the comic that I discovered while reading the archives, in the month or so post-Rob-death–the one that was all like “grief sucks, but here, have some hope.” The alt-text is what makes it suicide-relevant, and oh, my little broken heart, it helped at the time. So I bought the print, and got it signed, and I will frame it and hang it in my apartment in Chicago when I get home. Dreamy day. Just dreamy.


Thank you, subconscious. It’s not an “upbeat” story, exactly, but an idea whomped me on the head not an hour ago. There will be robots. Is in the vein of “Imaginary Enemy,” and it’s gonna be 4 toads cool, and perfect for the Kij Johnson/John Kessel week. Needs must haul on a draft since Sat. will be a bust for ComicCon, but yaaaaaay! It’s amazing how, against all odds, the brain pulls through when you need it most.

Mind the solipsism.

I keep a running Word document titled process and aesthetic.

{{{{This is writer-wank, so if that’s not your thing, opt out now.}}}

In this document, I keep track of my process–how a given story or story-set or essay or chapter or novel worked during the writing of it. This includes the ecstasy of influence (what I read and how closely I hewed to the influence of said reading, and at what angles [tone, voice, character, sentence structure, lyricism/language use, plot trix, etc.]), writerly tricks (readings drafts aloud, handwriting, the core idea, thematic analysis, genre convention analysis…anything that got my mind buzzing), habits (sleep, food, TV, and in what combination)…you get the idea. Is a comprehensive document of my schizoid process so I can track what worked for any given piece. This is accompanied by my attempts to articulate an aesthetic–what I was trying to do, and why, and how a given piece succeeded in meeting its ambitions, and how it failed, and what that means for the overarching aesthetic vision of my artist-life.
Today I had a crisis of aesthetic vision. I went blind. Couldn’t see my own work, or a revision process, or a way out of the woods. It was awful. I keep producing pieces with the same basic flaw, and it’s a crucial one. Collapsed in tears, had a minor meltdown, the usual drill. Felt like I had a crack in the foundation, that my writing could not do what I wanted it to do and never would.
Then I had my individual session with DAD, and dude. The guy nailed it. “Contradictions,” he said. And that one word was exactly what I needed to hear, and opened up a revision path for like, 9 stories I’ve been sitting on because they’re not working and I couldn’t grok why, and people kept critting them and giving me totally reasonable responses, and I just. Couldn’t. Fix.
Because liminal fantasy requires both the fantastic and the real, and the rules w/in each need to be locked in NOT via character motivation necessarily, but by an absence of contradiction. I’m hoping that after I leave Clarion, I can look to these shelved stories and highlight the contradictions, and make some clean and clear choices instead. If I can do that, I think maybe, maybe, I’m fumbling toward the aesthetic sensibility I want.

It was a revelatory, brutal day. Which is the whole point of Clarion.

I have to add as well, that in all fairness, it could have been much, much worse: my wonderful roommates/friends here all helped me through–beer w/ roomies, walking to non-cafeteria food w. Erin/Tim/Jim, swimming in the sunlight with the stunningly brilliant Other Brooke. How lucky are we, all of us at Clarion, to love each other so after only four weeks?

That said, this girlwonders needs a lightweight humor story for next week, wicked fierce.

Manic pixie dream girl.

Turned in yet another story today. I am meh about it; we’ll see how it goes tomorrow. But the schedule really is getting to me. The adrenaline rush and come down of burning through story after story–it’s burnout material, hardcore. Just because I CAN do something doesn’t mean it’s long-term sustainable, though it’s cool finding my limits. Got a fab critique in the nick of time from one Mr. Farkas that saved the day–I know the piece needs more work, but the down and dirty stuff got scrubbed up before submission at least.

David Anthony Durham (who I cannot acronym, because then he’d be DAD) has a brilliant critical mind and a dry, understated sense of humor that I just adore. We played a game in the common room tonight, what he calls “Pitch Me, Baby.” I’d offer up the rules, but it’s Durham’s super-sekrit game. Suffice to say, it reminded me of the good old days of Flagstaff improv, and I got to reference Christopher Walken.

Crits are done, Scotch has been consumed, and it’s only 10pm. Guess that means it’s time to write next week’s story, hmmm?


The draft, I have wrangled it. Tomorrow, more wrangling. It is the same story I always write, and also a new story, in that it ends happily, sort of. Is a selkie-story, with oceanic language. Weird and twisty and unlike me. Trying to do lyric prose is brutal fun, exactly like poetry min the linebreaks. Actually, the story is in many ways an expansion of a poem from Dr. Pugh’s workshop last fall. The un-sonnet revision from the final portfolio:


Yeah. I want this emotional core and this sound, rhythmic language just a bit off-kilter, the images described but also impossibly wrong. Working title of poem: “Grief on the One Hand.” Working title of story: “The Sea-Chair.”
Tomorrow will still be a brutal run, despite 3,000 words and the makings of a draft. I’m hoping to email my first readers a clean copy before 6pm, and then I’ll have a window of time on Wed. to revise before turn-in.
I can’t tell if this gets easier or harder or if I just get more sleep deprived and care less and the unconscious mind takes over because, well, fuck-all, the conscious mind done quit.
It is one and past bedtime, but I am jittery of draft. Jitterjitterjitter.