Archive | August 2012

There’s Nothing for a Monkey Man Like You to Do

Famous lyric from "I'm Going to Chicago," just in case you didn't know what the heck that title was. What this means is that I won't be writing here again until Tuesday, although no doubt I'll have some things to share from the convention then.

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What do I owe you yet? A couple of book and movie reviews, a report on current writing projects, and a tentative little piece called "Tissue of Lies" which will once again deal with the exciting world of dysfunction! Until then, I'm going to leave you with a couple of images from the Mac Duggal collection that would be in my closet. If I bought that kind of thing instead of books and cruises. 🙂

(For all you sugar mommies and daddies out there, that would be a size 20.)

(most likely this one is a 16W)

The Third Sex

I don't want this journal to turn in to all politics, all the time. Nevertheless, you might be interested in the GOP Platform approved in Tampa. There's much that can be said, but I will spare you that and let you think for yourself.

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Last night after a very busy night of being teachers, Bryon and I made it home. We whisked through our Tuesday night chores, and then I sat down on the couch and turned on the television in time to catch Ann Romney and Chris Christie do their thing.

Let's imagine, for a moment, that you are like me...a woman that didn't have children. I am not anti-children. I just didn't have them. Or, if you prefer, I have 50 a semester. Bryon has a 150 a semester.

Okay, so, no children. I have dedicated my life to teaching other people's children.

Here are some excerpts from Ann's speech.

I want to talk to you about that love so deep only a mother can fathom it -- the love we have for our children and our children's children. (because women like me can't fathom that deep a love because we aren't mothers?)

And the working moms who love their jobs but would like to work just a little less to spend more time with the kids, but that's just out of the question with this economy. (Ann is speaking to a sub-set of working moms, but there is no balance in this speech to focus on working moms who don't want less of their career, or even might want more.)

And if you listen carefully, you'll hear the women sighing a little bit more than the men. It's how it is, isn't it? (Men, you just don't give enough of a damn, do you?)

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RNC

Good luck this week, Republicans, staying high and dry in Tampa. You should really stop picking gulf state venues.

From Jay Lake, there's this link to The Top Ten Pieces of Bad News for Romney on the Eve of the Convention.

What I find interesting about this piece is that it doesn't forget, like so many people have, that Romney is only heir apparent at this point, and he can still get stabbed in the ankles by little nitpicky things.

Two of these things are of some internal concern. The other two are image problems.

1. Ron Paul: He's hot, he's now, he's got the support of the young. And so he dents Mitt's potential mass appeal by putting himself out there as an alternative. Well, guys, you should have seen this one coming. Paul is not exactly a team player.

2. Turn coat Republicans: Come on, guys! Don't support the other guy! And then run your Op-Ed piece in the paper of the city that's hosting the convention. So not cool! Come to think of it, why does Charlie Crist have no party affiliation anymore? Looks like he's not the Republican flavor anymore. Crist is flexible-ripple. Most Republicans these days seem to consider themselves neo-choco-conservative, at least those we get the most in the media.

3. Women: Let alone what Mitt says about Planned Parenthood, his fellow Republicans have engaged in an all out campaign against women and their sexuality, most recently Paul Akin not stepping away from his "legitimate rape" interview. Lest Akin seem unusual, don't forget the Republican who suggested this year that women should practice birth control by holding a quarter between their knees. Yup. In tune with our modern needs.

4. The Little Guy: Romney doesn't seem to understand that many young people can't "borrow money from their parents" or that most people can't "bet a thousand dollars." He's also not "worried about the poor," and while I understand that he was praising our social safety net, many people will not take the time to use this quote in context.

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So...you know, Romney might need to think about a couple of things. How is he going to unify his party while not projecting an image of total out-of-touchness with voters that don't have as much of a political alignment? Other issues touched upon in the list of 10 are that voters seem to be okay with federal services, and seem to want some of the things that this candidate's party doesn't. That's naturally going to be an issue for any candidate.

I sometimes wonder if the Republican party is having the trouble it is because it's trying to pull together too many disparate elements: social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, the rich who aren't altruistic, working class persons who want theirs, and so on and so on. That's a lot of balls to juggle. This is before we even get to the run off of ideology versus ideology, or of convincing people who aren't sure that you have the plan.

I'd wish you good luck, Republicans, in the whole spirit of competition thing, but you know, number 3.

Catherine

Human Pride, Learning, and Intellectualism

Another day where the confluence of several events leads me to pen commentary.

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Last week I had a note from the International Student Adviser. She had been contacted by two students from China who were on visas to study in the U.S. An unnamed small college in a little town in Iowa had suggested to these students that if they came to Nameless College, they would not have to take English classes, and could hop right into their majors. One of the students was begging to come back here and pursue her English classes on the students' behalves. The students had discovered that their English wasn't quite where they thought it was. Well, that makes sense. A quick check of their ability levels indicated they were ready to take the advanced intermediate class, not even the beginning advanced class.

At least these students swallowed their pride and came back. Rather than clinging to their pride and forfeiting their education, and perhaps failing their class, they have made a wise decision to study English again. It's not a glamorous or sexy decision, and it's not part of our culture's (and theirs) constant goal-driven forwardness. No, they decided on mastery.

So too we artists, eh?

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Odyssey Workshop

No writer can attend all of the workshops that are out there, unless they have deep pockets and a great deal of time. But one of the benefits of attending some of the workshops is that you meet people who have attended the others.

Fellow Taos Toolboxer Gerald Warfield has been kind enough to write about his experiences at Odyssey, for those of you who might be interested in attending at some point. Thanks, Gerald, for sharing these valuable experiences with us.

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My experience at the Odyssey Writers’ Workshop was the result of two things: where I stood in my own development as a writer and the kind of personality that I have. My background, being in music and in technical writing, was no help in fiction at all. The subtleties of point of view, the hazards of telling, the dangers of filtering were all mysteries to me. What I needed was a disciplined march through the elements of writing.

That’s where Jeanne Cavelos, the director of Odyssey came in.

She was with us the whole six weeks and carefully oversaw the development of each writer. While we had big-name authors and editors come in for guest appearances, she provided the continuity. Her critiques were based on three works of ours she had read before Odyssey as well as the three pieces we wrote in the course of our stay. She commented on weaknesses and gave us direction and pointers for improvement. And very important, she followed up on these areas in our subsequent writing.

On the personal side, I function best in a non-competitive environment where I can concentrate on my own development, independent of other writers. Thankfully, I had already had experience critiquing with the Milford method, so that wasn’t a problem for me. I took my critiques seriously and also my obligation to critique other writers with equal care. I was relieved that at Odyssey there was no pressure to impress well-known authors at cocktail parties. In fact, there were no cocktail parties at all, although there were picnics. Those weren’t my favorite activity, but at least I didn’t feel that my success as a writer depended on my social skills. There’s enough of that in the real world. It was a relief, for six weeks, just to concentrate on writing.

I’m not saying that there was no social component to Odyssey. There was, and it was a major part of my experience, but it was based on individual interaction with other writers who were in the same boat as I, working toward a shared goal. Bonds were created in those six weeks that will last for a lifetime. I still trade critiques with my Odyssey colleagues, and we have are reunions at the major cons.

And speaking of reunions, Odyssey has a one-week refresher course every July. All Odyssey grads are eligible to see old friends and make new ones among the Odyssey alumni.

All-in-all, I date my emergence as a writer of fiction to that summer in New Hampshire.

May I Borrow a Cup of Angst?

So. That was a successful evening of socializing, working out, and even writing a (very) little. Tomorrow morning, I'm off to get my hair Margo-ized after a summer of her maternity leave. Yeah, I am so ready.

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Well, I read Amy Sundberg today. Her blog on Life as a Dream, Life as a Fairy Tale is pretty first rate. And you know, like a good blog entry, it got me thinking.

I've always been a believer in shaping your own destiny and becoming what you dream. No, I'm not about pulling yourself up by the old bootstraps. Rather, I am about living and enjoying life, and being what I want to be. Sounds really, really easy, right? 🙂

Funny Amy should use the fairy tale analogy. I have thought of myself as a fairy tale figure before. (Step aside for my pretension.) I wrote a series of entries thinking about my background called The Standard Bearer last year, and I've always felt that I was more of a Don Quixote figure than anything else. Or perhaps a girl who was adopted by trolls and discovered she wasn't a troll. Or a troll, maybe, who learned that she could act like a girl, and people wouldn't notice.

Or there's the Dickensian way of thinking of myself. Pick any one from the number of wretched, mistreated children in Dickens who do right, and you'll probably find me. And I must admit, a lot of early Dickens reading warped my moral image. I often thought of myself as a British gentlemen. Well, British girls were kind of passive.

But the thing about the character who overcomes is that you have to...overcome. Lot of work in overcoming. Hard work. Training yourself to be the thing you want to be. Learning a new culture, like. Does our hero and heroine have a goal worth achieving? Is there a happy ending to the story? Is it necessarily a story of transformation? Can we interpret our lives to have iconic meaning?

I have come from squalor and pain into a happy marriage and a rewarding career in which I help others. That's...pretty epic. I do my art, and I get support to do it. I wouldn't be the person that I am today if I hadn't come from where I did, and while I'm not saying I'd like to do that again, well, there are lessons to be learned from that background that make me a better person, because I won't repeat those mistakes.

So, yes, I'm going to say that it's a good narrative. That life is a story, and you are at the center, and sometimes life is like that Dickens novel. David Copperfield does get out of the cannery and gets to write his own autobiography. The girl meets a great boy and they do live happily ever after. It can be that simple. You don't see the transformation, and the transformation isn't easy, but hey, you know, the life worth living is the examined life. And the grateful life.

That means, I guess, I have to borrow a cup of angst. Because today I am all out.

There is No Good Title Today

...because today we are random! In no particular order:

1. Writing time: Wow, universe. You really, really have it out for me right now. You have made me reach into my writing time on two days this week for stuff I can't schedule any other time, even though it was originally scheduled at another time. This is not cool and sucky. Then you scratch my wheel rim at the dealership yesterday, and grant them remorse, so I must write another day in the auto center. NOT COOL. All I want is some pleasant writing time somewhere nice, me, my laptop, nice music, sort of like where I am right now. Anyway, stop it. I schedule writing time, I write in writing time. I don't get surprised. At least not this much.

2. Day Job with Teeth: Wow, Kirkwood. When I'm there, I'm like on, right? All I've done this week is troubleshoot and test. You owe me. Oh...that's the whole paycheck thing. Nevermind, then.

3. Taos Slump: Between Day Job with Teeth and Taos Slump, writing has been...harder. Lifting fingers off the keyboard has been...harder. I hope that getting back into my routine helps. So far, yeah, but not appreciating the writing while holding eyes open with toothpicks thing.

4. World Con: Will you be there? I'll be there. Attending writer ed panels, and stuff. Drinking and stuff.

5. Paradise Icon: Still looking for neo-pros...

6. Workaholics Are Us: So. Day Job. You aren't helping with the regression thing. Not. At. All. Have been relaxing on the principle of thing. Which starts the cycle of questions about why I'm not writing. Own your free time woman. Own it!

7. Husband: Turned 50. Still cool. Still working on year 26.

8. Pirate Glass: Cruise pirate glass broke. Cheap product from China. Damn! No more pirate juice.

9. This Blog: Sketchy. Kinda busy. If you want books, I expect sketchier.

10. Checking Papers: My goodness. How I've missed you, papers! My red pen has been crying out in loneliness!

11. Coffee Shop: May be looking for new first coffee shop. Rock music and student conversations do not rock my writing world. Also, still recognized by Kirkwood crowd. Not cool, not productive. This place is kind of cool. The drama! It burns!

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That's what's been up with me. In more concrete terms, I am living my very full life, and hope that it gets a little less full soon. I'm going to go back to working on the first third of Abby Rath. After cocktails and supper. Yes, cocktails. We do that sometimes.

Cath

TT Profile #1: Lis Bass

This is the first of a new series of interviews profiling my fellow writers from Taos Toolbox. First up, fellow teacher Lis Bass.

Tamago: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Lis: In 6th grade, my teacher allowed us to choose our own topic for an essay. This was a first and I took it seriously. I was a fugue reader—disappearing into books, preferring long ones so that I could live in them. I was amazed by the power of writers to create reality—their worlds seemed truer that daily life to me because they allowed me intimate access to people’s lives and minds. After being given this writing task, I woke having had a complex dream-story. I rendered it to the best of my ability, and then wrote the last line, “And it was all a dream.”

I received an A for the essay, but the teacher had crossed out the last line, telling me that it diminished the essay. But I told her it really had been a dream. She said, “no matter.”

I walked home that day and slowly tore the essay to tiny bits, littering as I walked, saving the big red A for the final destruction. I was not a litterer and so knew that I was doing something quite wrong, but it was my response to what I felt was wrong—I wanted writing to be true. I stopped writing, but I knew at some level that this was something I always would want to do more than anything else. I focused on studying literature and politics, and kept my writing private until I turned 50.

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World Con

Again, I'm playing it really low key at World Con. I'm going, but I'm not on any panels and I'm not reading.

While I've already arranged a few rendez-vous, if you're going to be there, and you'd like to meet up, just email me, and we'll see what can be done.

All right. Back to the very busy day in progress. School started today!

The Antagonist’s Story

When I sat down recently to take a look at Abigail Rath Versus Blood-Sucking Fiends after Taos, I tried a few new things. The first thing I did was look at each of the scenes using a scene analysis tool that Walter and Nancy had shared with us. That helped me clear up some of the desires of my protags, but I wasn't getting the overall feel for the plot that would move the story forward as much as I liked.

So, then, I did something new for me. There are two antagonists in the story, ostensibly the people's whose actions were going to push the entire engine. Then, for one of those antagonists, there were two characters that were acting directly under her orders, one of which would do some antagonizing of his own, and the other who wasn't going along with the plan, which made her an antagonist of a different sort.

I plotted out the story according to the ANTAGONISTS. What were the action beats? Where did the antagonist want to make things happen? How did the PROTAGONISTS then react? And take counteractions.

In this way, I am aware of the entire story now.

Well, that worked. Now if I could just find some time to write the thing. Luckily, the full time administrator gig segs nicely into the teaching administrator gig next week, and each week has about 10 hours of writing time plugged into it. I hope to have the first third cleaned up and solid next week. The other two thirds will require some real revision, but hey, at least you (and I!) are not likely to be bored now.

Interestingly, by focusing more on the antagonists, you also end up with a more rounded protagonist, because the protagonist has to change to get around the antagonist. Go figure. At least in this story.

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Off to orient some students. First stop, paying for some pizza. Have a great day.

Cath