Nanowrimo update.

I’m not going to win, but I never win, so that’s all good.  Congrats to everyone who broke 50K, though (or 20K or 30K or whatever your November life goal wound up being).  Here is a pony.

I offer you this pony totally sincerely, because I am happy for your accomplishments.  Really, I am.  And I’m not even the slightest bit jealous.  Because:

I wrote 11K words across a range of projects.  Did some work on the memoir, drafted a few new stories (four…so, about the same pace I’ve kept since June: a story a week).  Threw everything written in November into a Frankenstein word file and it tells me I wrote 11,371 words total.  Neat!  James and I plan to write tonight, so that’ll go up a smidgen, but I’ll probably hang out right around 12K for November.  Not the 20K I wanted, but not abysmal either (for me…for most of you prolific people that number looks a travesty, I’m sure).

I also revised four stories and got them back out into submission.  Still haven’t received more than two rejections in a day, but it’s only a matter of time, I’m sure.  I hit fifty rejections this month, a number that pleases me because it’s proof I’m finally consistently submitting.  Soon I will have one hundred!

Things I have learned from this round of failing Nano (things I mostly already knew):

1)    I do not like complicated spreadsheets.  Is time spent filling in said spreadsheet supposed to induce rapturous joy or something?  I set aside my old wordcount tracker (like my old submission file, a simple Word document) and switched over to a shiny spreadsheet my friend had built, and it just didn’t work for me.  I found it frustrating, I didn’t want to open it (so many boxes!) so I just….didn’t.  I’m returning to a simpler, stupider spreadsheet so that I can rebuild my (dropped in November) habit of monitoring daily wordcount.  Ridiculous that Nano had the opposite effect on me and actually led to my NOT tracking progress.  Bah humbug I’m a Luddite rum tum tum.

2)    I still can’t get Googledocs to read my mind and do everything I want.  The joy of Nano is mild competition, but since apparently my two compatriots in Nano-ing couldn’t see my spreadsheet and I definitely couldn’t see theirs, the entire purpose of my Nano-ing had gone down the tubes by the end of week one.  I could’ve fought to come up with another tracking model for purposes of friendly competition, but by that point parents had arrived.

3)    Which is to say, November is a rough month generally, and this year especially.  End of semester grading.  Halloween party prep.  Parents in town for two weeks.

4)    But more than anything, my goals shifted.  I realized pretty quickly that my dissertation needs thinking time WAY more than it needs me vomiting up another 50K words.  The issue with my dissertation is not and has never been a lack of material.  It’s the opposite: wrangling said material.  My MA thesis (90 pages).  50K of journaling and blog entries from the year my boyfriend killed himself.  A box full of photos and memorabilia that was in dire need of sorting (now done).  Another 150 pages of notes and newspaper articles I’ve kept over the years.  A 50-page file of possible epigrams culled from hundreds of sources.  Hilariously, 25K-ish from previous memoir Nano attempts.  And on and on.  So I started a file called Structure and a file called Timeline, and I am GETTING MY CHAOS IN ORDER DAMMNIT.  The entire of Thanksgiving Break, when I wasn’t eating or cooking or grading or writing/revising short stories, I was slogging through this mass of aggregate data, attempting to find threads and whirlpools.  Deathly dull and not conducive to high wordcount, but also utterly necessary.

My Nano goal was small: 20K and the wind at my back.  What I wound up with: more like 5K on the memoir and 6K toward some new short stories.  But.  I roped me some wind, and that’s worth far more to me than 50K words.

Man am I going to be boring for the next six months, though.  I have so much work to do…

Clarkesworld, Monkeybicycle, podcasts, thankfulness, etc.

This will be a link-salad-y post because there are New Things all over the Internet that I’ve not yet announced and/or corralled into narrative form.

First off, I somehow missed my Monkeybicyle piece going live.  It’s up and spiffy-looking and can be found here.

Second, my Clarkesworld story is up in podcast form, read by Kate Baker.  At the beginning of said podcast there’s a thank you to Neil Gaiman and John Scalzi (my week 2 Clarion instructor…small world, what?) for their recent shout-outs to help Clarkesworld.  CW’s wonderful editor, Neil Clarke, has had a seriously rough year.  I’d heard about his Readercon health scare from Becky (and other places around the ‘net).  Then when I sent in my contract for “Everything Must Go,” I received an email warning that Neil might be out of contact for a bit thanks to Hurricane Sandy.  Seriously, universe!  Give this guy a break!  And apparently the Scalzi/Gaiman SF ‘verse did, crashing Clarkesworld’s subscription site.  Friends and family, consider joining in the revel.  CW makes for great CTA reading, if you’re possessed of a Kindle.

Thirdly.  Tim and I have created a blogging link-loop of pure elation.  That ringing in your ears?   Internet feedback from blowing out the joy-speakers.

Soon I head to a Thanksgiving feast with my Chicago friends.  So much to be thankful for, a list can’t possibly do justice.  Happy Thanksgiving, all.  Here, have a hand turkey.

I get reviewed again.

This time it’s “Everything Must Go,” reviewed by Lois Tilton at Locus Online.  Fellow Clarionaut Tim Susman’s fabulous “Erzulie Dantor” is also reviewed.

…and we both were listed as recommended reads (!!!).  * Cue sounds of me leaping around my house crashing into things while screeching banshee-like in glee. *  A recommended review at Locus is like your mom agreeing to buy you that pony for your sixth birthday, and on arrival it’s got a shiny golden horn growing out of its forehead.  Pretty much the best thing ever.


Also, my family is in town this week.  James met my parents for the first time, we spent Sunday at the MCA, and tonight we’re headed to Improv Olympic to see TJ & Dave.  Fabulous week all around.

ETA: And I somehow missed this lovely review from Tangent Online.  So, so happy people liked my tiny, sad story!

Girlwonders as sharkhead.

In an effort to not repeat last year’s Halloween overthinking, I’d planned to keep it simple and dress up as an angel.  My friend and fellow apartment denizen (she of Saskatchewan Review) had scheduled a Heaven and Hell themed party for the weekend after Halloween proper.  Her place was hell, and James and mine was to be Heaven.  Thursday before the party we stocked up on sale candy at Target and perused the half-price costume aisle.  There were also pet costumes of various kinds, for cats and dogs mostly, in sizes S-L.  I put a medium-sized dog costume on my head.  This one:

Which is how, despite my best intentions, I ended up going as an angelshark/medium-sized dog for Halloween.

James found a God mask (tactfully named the “Man’s Hair Mask”—why not Rip Van Winkle?  Or does that still qualify as discrimination against older persons somehow?) on sale, so he forwent the angel wings, too:

One friend wore a horse’s head as his costume, and round about 1am, God found this in his bed:

James worked in the morning (which is why he found the horsehead rather than me), so we had to shut down heaven at 1am, but hell kept going til dawn.  As well it should.

You know you live in a fabulous city when…

In the month of October I:

— went to Amber Sparks’ book release party.  Her collection, May We Shed These Human Bodies, was a curious fusion of that experimental/New Sincerist voice I read in places like red lightbulbs and Diagram, but meshed with fabulism’s love of the resonant image.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the event itself was a blast.  Every copy of the book came with a free shot of Maker’s Mark.  Smart marketing move there, Curbside Splendor.

— along with James, saw Don DeLillo speak at the Chicago Public Library.  DeLillo read a much-abridged version of the story that appears in The Secret History of Science Fiction.  I read White Noise as part of my PhD exams; it was amazing hearing a canonized SF writer talk about process and the inspiration(s) for his work.  He mentioned that he’d started writing seriously later in life but had gone on to have a career spanning over forty years, a fact I found tremendously heartening.

— along with James, saw Cat Valente read at the Book Cellar. I sipped a beer while she read from the second Fairyland book.  Oh how I love a bookstore with alcohol!  Decent crowd for a rainy night, but still fairly intimate — about the same turnout as she pulled for Deathless last year.  I asked a few obnoxious questions about languages.  I am so bad at asking questions…I get tongue-tied and wind up sounding confrontational when I’m really just fumbling.  Blech, me.  It was an all-adult crowd, though, which wound up making for a delightful Q&A, because she was able to walk at length about theme and lyricism and feminism and other good things.  I bought a copy of the book, but I’m waiting until my mother brings my copy of Fairyland the First from AZ so I can re-read it before diving in to book 2.

The signing line for Valente was long, and she was being very kind and talking at length to each attendee.  James and I were starving, so rather than wait, we decided to make a date of it and picked up Costa Rican food.  Ended the evening with plantain-stuffed empanadas.  I should’ve brought her the collected Akhmatova to sign.  Next time, perhaps.

But I did get DeLillo’s signature on my Viking Critical of White Noise.

I love living in a place where I attend so many fabulous things in a given month that I lose track and forget to blog all of them.  Just absurd.

The making of a haunted house.

Begin with fear of abandonment, that oh-so-human terror, but give said emotion to a personified house.  Half of all gothic novels can be summed up with “girl meets house,” which means next we’ll need a girl, preferably one who’s already half-mad.  Make her an amateur origamist, in it for the meditation of repetitive motion.  Give her a brother with a lust for travel, except that he’s not yet old enough to make good his escape.  Add two selfish parents with buttons for eyes.  That’s been done? Very well, better make it a zombie father and a mother with knives where her heart ought to be.  Mix to taste.

Today my short-story, “Everything Must Go,” is live at Clarkesworld.  This is my second pro sale, my first since I attended Clarion (UCSD, class of 2011).  I am irrationally pleased it went to such a good home, and if you’ve dropped by due to said publication, hello and welcome to the blog!

This particular story began life in July of 2011 as my Week 5 Clarion submission, with the working title of Feral House.  It received 18 critiques from my Clarionauts, plus crits from John Kessel and Kij Johnson.   I owe all of them an enormous debt; the finished product is much better for their wisdom.  The story rested until December 2011, partly due to studying for comprehensive exams, and partly because I wanted some distance on it.  From December until October 2012 the piece went through eleven drafts; at drafts six and eight I snagged another round of feedback from readers.  The final draft was completed on October 19th.

None of which tells you much besides that writing is deadly hard, and rather boring when reduced to pure process.  Here’s a better story:  I met someone at Clarion.  This someone, to be precise.  And we fell in love, and in between critiquing other people’s stories into the dead of night, we told each other our life-stories, assuming that after six weeks of beach-vacation-writer-paradise ended, we’d never see each other again.  “Everything Must Go” is and isn’t his story, but it was (and is) an odd, melancholy love letter.  This particular story has a happy ending, though.  He now lives with me in Chicago, and our writing desks sit side by side.

Thank you for reading, everyone.