All Things Come in Time

And…we’re back in front of the computer at work.

Saturday was actually a surprisingly good day. It was good for Bryon to see his mom and dad. Neal’s attitude was stellar. He’s in no pain, he was talkative, and he feels the docs did all they could. Phyllis is a little less balanced. She’s concerned about her ability to take care of him. We encouraged them to check out their local hospice possibilities. Bryon has decided that this really hasn’t changed much. We know that his dad is dying, but we don’t know exactly when that is going to happen. At Neal’s age, we wouldn’t know that anyway. We’ll ramp up the visits, but we’re not going to miss out emotionally on the time we have left. Our minister believes a lot of people set themselves up for pre-emptive grief, and try to shoot past those feelings by already imagining loss. We’ll be okay with living in the now, no matter how sad that makes us.


Tonight it’s my plan to get some writing done. I have been focusing more on studies rather than production, given my travel and emotional action. And I still have some trip prep to do as well. Only 10 days until Wiscon, and after that, the time between Wiscon and Finland/Norway will disappear in a blink.


Usually this is the time of year I think about what I’ve accomplished in my writer life, given the proximity of Wiscon.

This has been the year where I lost my almost agent opportunity, but I gained more promising rejections (and some acceptances!) in the realm of the short story. This has also been the year that I have begun to really control my writer education, and become a more active writer in terms of planning and editing. This is the year I write a certain amount of time each week, rather than focusing on words on the page.

These are great steps forward. What I had hoped for going into this year was an agent and a book deal. What I got was an affirmation of the organic process of writing, and a belief in my own continuity of goals. I am seeing improvement, I am in the community more, and I am getting there, slow but steady.

I believe more than ever that writing, as with anything, is a natural extension of where you are. I saw Sarah Prineas doing her first guest gig at Demicon, and we were talking about some issues some writing friends were facing down, and I suggested that it was true, that what you did was really trade up your problems. Maybe, I said, I should stay cuspy. Maybe this was the easiest time of my writing life. We laughed about that, but I think there’s something to this.

I really don’t know what kind of a writing career I will have. I write books and they will get better. I’ll hit writing career benchmarks when it’s time. I am content. I will try to hold onto this whenever I am thinking that things aren’t going as they should. There is no perfect life. There is only working with what you’re given, and finding new ways to work with that and to keep trying and learning.

Meanwhile, I go to Finland and Norway because I’m a writer doing research. I meet up with my friends at conventions because I’m a writer who knows other writers. I send things to my friends who critique them because I am a writer who is growing. I teach. I have good friends. I live. Writing and its ups and downs do not control my life. It’s part of me, but it’s not all of me.

I keep plugging away, and I keep living my life. I won’t be waiting for the day I’m (agented/published/in a box store/adored by millions). I’ll keep looking at what I have and seeing the good in it, and making more things happen. I won’t whittle away my life to the future when things are exactly what I want them to be. I wasted enough of my life doing that, and I’m done with that.

Wishing you productive word counts and ego security.


Real Family Sagas and Fictional Family Sagas

When one posts about a tragedy like cancer in a public place, one wonders whether you should enable comments. Well, I know one of my frustrations when friends are going through hard times is not being able to express at least well wishes, and I went with on. And thank you all for those wishes.

Real life friends have been especially helpful. I sent out the news as soon as we found out to our family of friends, and Bryon appreciates the phone calls and the letters. He’s doing a lot better. The first night was a shock. He grieved, he didn’t sleep, and he was pretty exhausted. Yesterday he felt better and he had a good night’s sleep.

We talked about grief. How when you grieve, you might feel happy for a moment for some reason or other, and then you feel guilty because you have no right to feel happy when someone you love is dying. How you don’t want to think about your usual geeky pursuits because they feel frivolous. How you sort of sleep walk around at your worst. The best, Bryon said at breakfast, is a sort of unemotional neutral, a dimmed amiability, an upbeat sadness.

How am I doing? Stalwart wife that I am, I managed to stave off my emotional reaction until I got to work yesterday, at which point I felt safe enough (imagine! Feeling safe at work!) to have a good cry. It didn’t help that wonderful and supportive friends kept sending all these wonderful emails that I was forwarding on to the husband and elaborating on with insight. So, I exhausted myself yesterday. I spent the day sleepwalking through budget codes, and I stumbled home to watch a little television, sleep, and read. Not my most authorly day. It’s okay. Sometimes we can do nothing but be human.

Bryon had a lengthy conversation with his mother to let her know we’d be down this weekend. She seems to be doing a little better. His father slept all day. It goes without saying his grief is the worst of all. I can’t pretend to know what he thinks or how he feels. I’ve never been about to die and known it. Jay Lake has been very public about his battle with cancer, so I have some inkling there (Thank you, Jay. You may not realize how helpful what you’ve been writing has been as we’ve been riding this roller coaster with Bryon’s parents). For the last years, Neal has struck me as very tired, very frail, and very afraid. He was a big guy, a mechanic, and he has become a frail elderly one, and I don’t think he’s found that anything but terrifying.

We’re going to talk about hospice. I know Neal is religious and his minister has been visiting. Hospice is the intellectual version of that–helping both Neal and Phyllis to get ready for this change of life. Several people at work say it’s the best thing their dying relatives ever did. I don’t know how it will play in Southern Iowa.


Bryon and I grieve very differently. As you can tell from the post above, I process verbally. He needs quiet alone time, and does talk, but only after very careful, already finished processing. He apologized for what he thought I perceived as pushing me away the other night when he just wanted to be alone. I re-assured him that I understood, that I wasn’t offended, and that I was here when he needed me. For the next several months, Bryon gets a blank check with me.


I mentioned reading. I am reading a very good book right now– Prospero Lost by L. Jagi Lamplighter. The next time I get a crack at the journal, my plan is to discuss the book. It’s a family saga, and there are lots of good techniques in there I can use with the Klarions. The flashbacks and forwards are superbly rendered. It’s also making me think that I need more character flaws. They’re there, but sometimes the characters strike me as too nice. Need to bring out some of that not so nice. Anyway, there will be a discussion, a review, and a dissection. I’d like to figure out how to do what she’s doing in there, so I can do it, so I’ll have to take the book apart. After I’m done with it as a reader.


Not really looking forward to tomorrow, but wouldn’t want to be anywhere else this weekend than with my husband and his parents. Besides, I may have to cuff my crazy sisters-in-law just a little. Neither of them do crisis well. It’s a benefit of my background that I do crisis exceptionally well. You know, making lemonade and all that.


My Father-in-Law

It is with great sadness that I report that my father-in-law Neal Stump has terminal cancer. Neal underwent radiation treatments for a tumor behind his eye earlier this year. The tumor reduced. He has been feeling healthier and undergoing physical therapy to help improve his overall mobility. He was gaining confidence. We all thought that he was doing well.

Today a PET scan revealed that Neal has cancer all throughout his body. The doctors have told him he won’t live to see another winter.

I write because some of you will want to know. Also, my priority right now is spending time with Bryon as he goes through the grieving process of losing his father over a long term illness, so I imagine I will be online somewhat less.

Neal is an excellent father and grandfather, well loved by his children and grandchildren. His life is the best kind of life. People will miss him, and he has made a difference. He has kept safe and provided for the ones he loved.

And I expect that’s what you need to know about that.


Wiscon 2011

And…here’s a post from J. Kathleen Cheney that I found interesting. The topic? Releasing your submission into the wild. Because you can keep something too long.


This would probably be a good day for me to talk about my Wiscon schedule. As usual, Catherine will be taking the Wiscon journey with two of her best buds Dan and Lisa, and we’ll arrive early Friday afternoon. We *tried* to get a Governor’s Club room, with the help of Mary Robinette Kowal, but it was only a double, and I am too old to sleep on the floor, so better luck next year, I guess. Still, I hope to hang out with and talk to some author friends, even if I can’t try Sarah Prineas’ famous chocolatini from the Governor’s Club.

Ahem. So here’s where I’ll be on the official program.

5 Writers, 5 Girls, 5 Worlds: Wiscon did find me a place to read. I’ll be reading at Michelangelo’s, and given the theme of YA and a female heroine, I’ll be reading a bit of the first Abigail Rath book that I started some time ago. Oh yeah. The time. Friday at 4-5:15 pm.

Being a Resilient Writer. Monday 10-11:15 am. This is a panel about setbacks and how writers overcome them. I’ll be talking a lot about finding the time to write, as well as some of the things I talked about recently in the advice I would give to my younger self.

The Sign-Out Monday 11:30-12:45. I will happily sign any of my work, including material you might bring in from the Internet.


I already intend to see Lisa Cohen at the dessert salon. I promise Lynne Thomas to actually chat. Julia Rios, my friends and I are at your disposal all convention long. Shveta Thakrar, I will be at your reading on Sunday, which means I’ll see Shira Lipkin as well. Rachel Swirsky, I will try to catch you at the FogCon Party.

These are things I am likely to do for sure:
Rabid Transit Karaoke (Catherine is a fool for karaoke)
Fairyland Party (Catherine is a fool for a fairy themed party)
Fogcon Party (to which, some day, Catherine hopes to go)
Star Songs from Four Primates
Space Faeries from Beyond
For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Shapeshifting, Teleporting and Conjuring
Blood and Chocolate

Mostly, I want to see people, catch up, and enjoy the convention. How am I ever going to find time to write for two hours each day?

Do let me know if you’ll be there. Please.


STAND in the place where you work

Oh yeah! I’m cooking at home tonight! Yes! (For the curious, the meal of choice will be Tater Tot Casserole and Carrots. Going folksy, in a big way.)


I have to announce all sorts of writerly stuff. First of all

A big shout out to George Galuschak and Ferret Steinmetz, Fellow VP XIII’ers who made sales today. Woo and hoo.

And I guess instructor-wise, Elizabeth Bear just made a sale, and John Scalzi has a book coming out today.

And as a sort of mythic announcement, Cat Valente’s Fairyland also comes out today.


I’m trying a new experiment at work. I’m standing. I have to say so far I like it. The college has bought me a laptop stand, and even as I type this entry, I’m standing. I have also gone to a hand-less phone system that helps me enter data and talk to students at the same time. Many of you may have wondered about the standing office. Is it for you? The following seem imperative.

1. Only stand at the office if you have good shoes. I have three great pairs of shoes that I wear to work. They offer great support, but still at the end of the day, I have a little plantar action going on.

2. The less stationary you are, the better. I find that moving around is helpful, so I actually don’t stand in front of the keyboard and the phone only, and this gives my feet an appropriate break. And of course, I get out for teaching and meetings.

3. Shift your weight sometimes. Right now, I’m standing on one foot. In general, I don’t do that. I stand firmly planted on two feet, but movement helps.

4. Build up to standing. If you are just doing this, shoot for a certain amount of standing time a day. When I started, I tried an hour. I didn’t have too much trouble with that, so I moved on. But I walk a lot and stand when I teach. If you’re a desk jockey, you’ll need to develop those muscles accordingly.

My whole day is not built around standing. I can’t stand when I have students in the office. That would make me look down on them. I also don’t stand for meetings. And certain writing tasks work a lot better when you’re sitting.

But, on the whole, it seems to be working for me. The work I do while standing seems to take my mind off my standing…

I still sit when I write at home. We aren’t configured for this at home. I figure it’s okay to sit for an hour or so a night. It’s that 8 hour a day thing on my butt that’s probably messing with my body.


Mothers and Others

I think I understand the singletons on Valentine’s Day pretty well now. I am happily married, and I love Valentine’s Day, but if you don’t have that romance that is advertised in the popular media, you don’t and with good reason.

The parent days leave me cold.

Now, I do think they are a good idea. There are loads of people out there who are fortunate to have wonderful moms and dads. And if you do, and you don’t celebrate them, you are an ungrateful wretch. I don’t, and I recognize the value of what you have. NEVER take really good parents for granted. I wish I had them.

For me, I only have fantasy parents. My in-laws are fantastic people, but the parent holidays actually remind me that they aren’t mine. Christmas is similar. That little voice in my head wishes more for what I don’t have on the holidays. I appreciate the wonderful surrogate, but they aren’t mine. And since I’ve gained more sanity points, I can’t pretend mine are better than than they are/were (my mother lives, my father is dead), just in time for the holidays.

I am also not a mother. It didn’t happen. I like kids, but I was busy doing other stuff, and I never felt the lack. Or, if you prefer, when you have 125 kids per semester, your nurturing needs are well met. I’ve done a great job creating a family, but in this way, I don’t feel terribly attached to Mother’s Day. And I can admit that while being an abused kid wasn’t the reason I didn’t have kids, it did influence that decision.

Every Mother’s Day I get to watch the world worship the position of mother, a concept about which I have pretty mixed feelings. I understand it, and intellectually I appreciate it, but in the end, I usually wish I’d stayed home from church and just gotten drunk. I get wished a happy Mother’s Day by people who are hedging their bets. Well, they mean well. They don’t know that Mother’s Day makes me feel angry, sad, and abandoned, all at the same time.

Yes. I am tragic.

With this in mind, I have to work extra hard to write mothers and fathers. It’s not the realistic good ones that I have trouble with. It’s to avoid going over the top with the less than desirable ones. I’m writing a really strict granddad right now, and I’ll have to make sure we don’t go too far into the unbelievable.

Well, all writers have their myopia. I count on my readers to keep me on the right path. And I’m always looking for portrayals of mothers and fathers in fiction. If you have any that you think are particularly well done, good or bad, let me know. I’m always on the look out for data.

And hey, there’s another 365 days until the next Mother’s Day. That’s a reason for me to celebrate.



The superhero movie by which I measure all others is Spiderman 2. In S2, Peter Parker has an emotional arc: persecution because he is Spiderman, rejection of being Spiderman, acceptance of his responsibility as Spiderman. As a bonus, Otto Octavius also has an arc: Otto loses everything, Otto is taken over by his machines, Otto accepts responsibility for his criminal actions and sacrifices his life for the greater good. I love these two emotional arcs, and I love that two skilled actors bring them to life. Tobey Maguire and Alfred Molina make me believe what happens to these two characters matter.

So, how does Thor compare? Well, it’s every bit as complex as Spiderman 2. I’m still going to give my number one movie nod to S2 because the redemption arc is the villains, rather than the heroes, and I’m a sucker for villains redeeming themselves. However, the relationships between the protagonist and the antagonist are just as complicated in Thor.

Without giving too much of the movie away, I can tell you that the first half an hour of the movie really made me dislike Thor. He is rash and stupid, more machismo than honor. He doesn’t respect his father’s wise and diplomatic decisions as king. (Yes, for those of you who have read Thor, the Marvel comic for a long time, you’ll recognized that Odin has gotten a flattering make-over toward the reasonable side.) So when Odin exiles him to earth, I felt yeah, he had it coming. The jerk.

And the first part of the film makes you kind of like Loki. Loki seems to be the smarter, more reasonable brother. Kudos to the film machine for using some strong mythological overtones with Loki. His frost giant heritage from the myths is preserved. Loki manipulates and lies, and as the film progresses, we can see that he’s getting out of hand because of his issues. Just as Raimi managed to do with Otto Octavius in S2, Branagh manages to make Loki’s transition gradual, delving a little into the madness and anger he feels because of his heritage.

As you might expect, Thor has the pivotal arc in Thor. Through a series of events that humble him and show him the worth of ordinary people, Thor is transformed into a guy you might want to know. His arrogance is stripped away, and the noble hero remains. So, we get both rough and ready mythological Thor, and Marvel’s tortured honorable hero.

I can’t tell you about the plot. You don’t want to know. You want to see the movie. The final conflict between the two brothers is worthy, just like anyone who can pick up Mjolnir. Dramatic, unpredictable stuff happens. You can see Loki’s evolution as clearly as you can see Thor’s, and it’s satisfying when Loki reveals motives, which were Thor’s at the beginning of the film, and Thor now sees those motives as morally inappropriate. Loki’s end choice, to embrace the villain that he has become, is also satisfying.

For all you Marvelites out there, there’s awesome Marvel stuff. We get the Warriors 3, tastefully rendered. We get Sif, and she’s terrific. Watch for the scene where she attacks the Destroyer. For all you Mythologicals out there, we get a great Odin, a beautiful Frigga, and a striking Jotunheim.

Go see Thor. Or if not, send me the ticket money you would have used so I can go see it again. We writers need to study well-constructed characters.


The Natural Extension of Who You Are

It’s been a bit of a rush the last month. SO MUCH stuff to do at work and at home. You know, I haven’t cooked a dinner at home in THREE WEEKS. Next Tuesday, baybee. I’m cooking. And I’m cooking for the rest of the week. Hooha.

Tonight is Thor night. The Man and I are going to watch one of my favorite heroes come to life, and I’m hearing all sorts of good reviews. Which is good. I was a little worried about the amount of Asgard we were going to get from the previews, but I hear I won’t be disappointed. Expect a review.


I finished Beggars in Spain last night. Any book I read right now will suffer by comparison. I’ll need a couple more days to figure out why that book had such a profound impact as opposed to the many good books I’ve been reading lately. But I know as a writer, that’s what I want to do. I literally want to take my reader and make them as present in the book as I was in that book. Kress shows me that you can do that with almost any subjects. Other writers have showed me this as well. Scott Lynch, for example, helped me to buy a high fantasy story, The Lies of Locke Lamora, when I would have just as soon not gone there. John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War put me in a place that I probably wouldn’t have gone to either, but once I was there, I wasn’t leaving.

So, how do I learn to do that? I could easily, readily move into all sorts of philosophical reflections on talent and hard work. I’m a writer in process, and I will do what I can to buff up my technique. There seems to be a factor in here that involves emotions in character, of getting in there and really knowing them, even better than they know themselves, so you can know what they’re not telling themselves.

I can do that. I am very uncomfortable doing that. It’s risky, isn’t it?

Yesterday, Jim Hines commented in his journal that someone on a panel recently suggested that humor wasn’t hard work. And Jim contested that. And he’s right. You’ve got to figure out what is funny, what won’t fall flat, what is idiosyncratically funny, and what will have mass appeal. There has to be an organic element that extends naturally from your characters. Just like any other emotion. Any other.

I made a conscious decision to be funny to cover up a lot of hard life. Humor became a shield from about the age of 13. In terms of expertise hours, I have my humor time in. It’s easy for me to crack a joke, to say the right thing to make students and fellow workers laugh. I don’t even analyze anymore. I just do it. Jim’s right, though. You can plan it, and use that knowledge. People who do it a lot think of it as automatic, but just like learning anything else, we’ve learned it. And you can hone it, polish it. You could learn to write humor.

My problem? I have to learn to not write humor. Humor has been the insulator. Since I started taking my light anti-depressant, I have the choice to be funny or not, rather than shooting everything I say right from the hip. At first, medication was like woah! I can think about what I say FIRST. It was awesome.

Now, as I try to amp up my writing, I’m finding I have difficulty digging deep and hitting emotions like the authors I admire. I really could crank out some funny books, and yes, I have plans to do so. My middle grade voice and sometimes my young adult voice is funny. But I want to write a full range of emotions in my work, largely for myself. This February in Vegas, the plexiglass sheet I put between my emotions and my characters was really obvious in The Werehumans, where the prose is elegiac and the mood is gothic, but the protagonist seems bored.

I didn’t want to weep when I wrote it, and revisit the places in it that were so painful to be. And the same might be true of the writing that isn’t quite as successful as I’d like. You know, when I get to emotional pieces in the short stories I read, I have to compose myself as my voice cracks. I clearly need to learn how to interface with those deep emotions, use them in my work, and not have them overwhelm me.

Doesn’t that sound more like the need for therapy than writing lessons? :p

So, what can I do with all of these thoughts? Successful writing, for me, takes us through the human experience and makes that memorable. It’s honest in its emotions, whatever kind of emotion they are, and writing in that arena is risk. But writing needs to open conversations about the human condition. It needs to be the natural extension of the writer.

I have to practice that, being honest in my writing, rather than being structural or formalist. I have to find how to get to that emotional truth that will put the reader there. And that will take loads of practice for me, because that’s not a strength.

Well, it will build character. And yes, that was an unintentional pun.


Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

I’ve been meaning to let you know that Maggie Stiefvater’s book Forever, the last of the Werewolves of Mercy Falls series, is coming out.

Maggie is a great writer. Her style is lyrical and her characters have heart. Ballad, one of her faerie books, resonated with me. Her werewolf books are wonderful for teens, full of romance and feeling. One of the things I really admire about Maggie is that she’s living the dream. She’s been going every where on tour, and she even spoke at NASA’s TED conference. That said, she’s still a real human being who acts like a real human being.

Maggie is also an artist, and she makes her own trailers. As in animates. And, the music here is played by Maggie and a friend. Here it is, the trailer for Forever.


There’s also a link to the book you might want to check out.


New Writers for Me

Recent reading has been interesting. I’ve been sinking into some writers and their series. Some of these writers you all might know very well. But their work is new to me, and since I am the center of the universe, I’m going to share them with you like I discovered them. Cue haughty sniff.

In all seriousness, however, I can’t think that anything would delight a writer more to discover that new readers have been turned on to the body of her work. Why yes, these writers ARE all female.

Let’s get the trendy one out of the way first.

Suzanne Collins: Recently I devoured The Hunger Games. It is far from a perfect book. It’s a bit over the top, with a ton of melodrama. Just the way I like it. 🙂 Yup, I’m a sucker for this sort of thing. Not only is the story adventuresome and riveting, and the setting intriguing in its own right, but the characters are beautifully sketched. I haven’t read next two yet, but I will. Soon.

What is Collins’ book about? For the two of you on the planet that don’t know, here’s some copy from The School Library Journals: In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, the son of the town baker who seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives. Collins’s characters are completely realistic and sympathetic as they form alliances and friendships in the face of overwhelming odds.

I just want to clarify Peeta is much cooler than this blurb makes him out to be.

I love The Hunger Games as a fan, more than Collins being a writer I’d want to “grow up to be.” It’s good stuff that engages me as a reader.

Octavia Butler: I should have been reading Butler years ago while she was alive. Her work has always been recommended to me, but I slotted her as mostly an SF writer, so I didn’t get to her soon enough. Recently I’ve read Kindred, which is an IMPORTANT book, and Fledgling, which disturbed me deeply, but had an elegance and likable characters than enabled me to read through to an situation that converted me to liking all these people.

Butler’s work is sophisticated, nuanced, and complex. I can’t recommend her enough, especially her later works. There she was at the height of her powers. I regret her loss, and I regret not having opportunity to have met her and complimented her. I could hope to write that well. Not only does Butler give me something to shoot for in my own writing, but she also makes me think a lot about the topics she writes about and the way that she raises those topics.

I’ll be working my way through her canon.

Nancy Kress: Reading Nancy Kress is freaking me out. I don’t read Science Fiction. I don’t. (Not true. I read science fiction for book group and on recommendation. It’s not something, however, I seek on my own.) Beggars in Spain is science fiction. Genetic manipulation is the theme of the day. Oh my God. This might be one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s a FAMILY SAGA about people who don’t sleep and people who do sleep, and all the personal, political, and societal implications therein. Wow. Each scene is full of characters with flaws as intriguing as strengths. I can love and dislike the same character at particular moments. Of course, I’ve already bought the two sequels to the book I’m reading now.

What captures me when I read Kress are relationships. Her science is brilliant and sound. However, it’s the way those complicated, flawed characters work with each other that pulls me, literally drags me, through the book. Now, don’t get me wrong. I want to be dragged. I want Kress to take me by the hand and pull me right through the crowd of her characters. My God, she’s good.

I want to write like that. I want to compel you through my fiction. I want you to stay up late and read my stuff. Damn it. And I love reading her people.


You know, it occurs to me that there are two writers I’ve fallen in love with over the last two years that I could study with as a student, if I wanted to. Next year’s personal fundage is committed to 25th anniversary antics (Disney Paris, baybee!) , BUT professional development comes up again with the college, and the boss is encouraging me to apply for workshops once again.

Nancy Kress teaches at Taos Toolbox in Taos, NM. I know she will not teach there indefinitely, but she’s there now.

Kij Johnson teaches a novel workshop at the Center for Science Fiction in Lawrence, Ks.

I should be doing something about that.

It’s wonderful to be reading such excellent writing.