Some Pictures from Another Planet

Posting later today. Bryon and I have been escaping the oven that is our house (environmentally conscientious Stumps only have a unit AC that they run some nights) by doing intellectual things, like seeing Madagascar 3 (circus! afro! circus! afro!) I have to tell you, it’s the best animated Cirque de Soleil show you’ll ever see.

So, here’s a link that my friend Eric Kelly sent me from Kristine Katherine Rusch, which sort of takes another interesting look at critiques and effectiveness. What I like about this particular link is that it doesn’t forget that writing should be fun for both the writer and reader. Go on. Read it. These photos will be here when you get back.


Wow. New Mexico. I’ve never been anywhere like that. For example:

This is the Taos Pueblo where writer friends and fellow workshoppers Fran Wilde and Lis Bass and I went the weekend between workshops. The heat waves flickered off the dusty pueblo. It’s a good thing we had hats and sun screen, because we’re talking some serious desert. We saw…sagebrush! And Lauren Teffeau, native of New Mexico and workshop participant swears there are actually tumbleweeds. So not like Iowa, this place where they put Christmas chili and beans on almost everything. I bet there’s a restaurant out there where they put it on cornflakes.

Well, anyway, more pictures of that ilk here.


At the same time, where we spent the majority of our time, Snow Bear Lodge, we were definitely in the mountains:

Surrounded by coniferous trees, no real oxygen to speak of, definitely a place to commune with nature. And write. And read a lot.

If you’re thinking about Taos Toolbox, Snow Bear is comfortable, if a bit isolated. Some people had more trouble with their rooms than others, but Catherine and I (yes, my roommate was also named Catherine) had pretty nice rooms. We did share them with some wild life (bugs mostly), but on the whole, I was happy with our accommodations. Others, however, were attacked by their fireplaces. And the town of Taos Ski Valley inadvertently cut our power one night for a couple of hours. Which is an adventure feature, I think, rather than a major detriment.

Other handy tips…laundry is free, but prepare to have that dormitory/apartment house vibe of fighting for the machines. The grocery folks will get you anything you want to buy, so you might put in a request for alternative materials early for lunch, so you aren’t tired of sandwiches by day 7. The evening meals are catered and were, on the whole, very good. Our vegetarian and gluten free workshoppers needed to do a lot of personal shopping. You may wish to do that when you get in on Sunday, before you come up, or bring some stuff along. Do bring laundry soap, dryer sheets, and personal grooming products. Bring some kleenex. Maybe some sinus irrigation equipment. Definitely aspirin. Walter will give you instructions on hydration and bears.

Anyway, more gorgeous landscaping about the lodge

Next up–either a post on Digger, or a conversation about the educational component of Taos Toolbox. Be there or be a rectangular thing.


Catherine’s Epiphany: Technique Versus Vision

So, I’m still ruminating about lessons learned at the recent workshop. I sat down and did a little writing (very little) Monday, yesterday was all about errands off line, and today seems to be full of Mindbridge things and exercise.

I have finally gotten photos from the trip on my computer, and will be sifting through those things soon. Later today we take the cats to the vet. Sekhmet has a growth around her clavicle, so we are a bit concerned about that. I’m hoping we just have an older kitty feature that’s harmless, which is what the Internet is leading us to believe.

Anyway. So, workshop. Maybe this is Catherine’s Epiphany.

Taos Toolbox is a workshop where you can go if you need to get some help with technique. And beginning writers do need help. Plotting, planning, ending scenes on strong notes, developing character, getting unstuck, being too ambiguous. All these things will happen to writers, and yes, will continue to happen. And now, we have more tools to deal with these things (get it? Tools? Again?) This is the pragmatic pay off of the workshop.

No workshop can teach vision. No workshop can teach you to tell the stories you have, uniquely, that are your own. Further, you have to be wary at a workshop, because if you aren’t, you’ll start seeking approval for your work, or fall into competition with other writers. Or even worse than that, you will give a critique where you focus on the story YOU would tell with those prompts, rather than helping the writer get what they need to tell the story that they want to tell more clearly. Writing is about realizing individual visions. Critiquing is about helping writers get there.

Oh my…I have been in a room full of people for two weeks. And I have been trying to convince them that my writing is worthwhile because of its vision. What have I been doing?

Continue reading “Catherine’s Epiphany: Technique Versus Vision”

Interview with Me

Wow. Everyone wants something!

I am working my way toward a Taos post. Honest. But above, a picture from our social antics, courtesy of Lauren Teffau (she’s on the left end. Yes, your left).

And, an interview Amber Sistla did with me a month or so back. You should be seeing an interview from Amber about her writing here, soon.

Will I get back her for another post today? Stay tuned!


I love humidity. Love, love, love.

Yesterday I settled back in with some wonderful sleep, unpacking, hanging out with the husband, and updating the Monster High collection (much booty had arrived in my absence.) Today I’ve gotten back on the work out train, and sifted through a couple of days of work and home email.

That means that if I want to get any real writing done today, what with book group being on tonight, I need to give you not much of an entry today. Instead, over on the Taos Toolbox page, I’ve updated Nancy and Walter’s entries.

It’s good to be home. And on vacation. Now to recraft my Abigail Rath schedule. I should see you guys with a real entry in the next two days.


Taos Toolbox: You Will Always Love Your First, But Later You Love in Different Ways

Still up here. Waaayyyy up here.

So. I’ve been at Taos Toolbox for a week. Let me talk to you a little bit about it.

Caveat: You will always love your first. I don’t necessarily mean your first workshop, because I know a lot of folks have found Clarion or Viable Paradise or any other number of writer’s workshop less than appropriate for their expectations. BUT what you will always love is that space where you first felt like a real writer, like you had a chance, like it wasn’t all some sort of system designed to keep you out, that you were going to be responsible for self-publishing everything you wrote, ad nauseum.

That space for me was Viable Paradise, and no matter how good another experience is, I will never be able to recreate that halcyon experience. It’s a little like a good undergraduate stretch in college. It probably wasn’t as good as you remember it, but it’s okay that you remember it as good as you do. And the people at VP XIII were exceptional people at that time during that week pulling together in that way. That will never come again.

There are people who are experiencing that here RIGHT NOW. Taos Toolbox is, for a few of us, that epiphany. There are a few writers here who have never been in an SF Workshop, so they are sort of bouncing off the walls in a “Really? It’s okay if I write spec fic?” kind of way.

I know that you want to know what I think, however. Because, by God, why the hell else would you be reading Writer Tamago? Indeed. Some of you have been to this workshop, and recommended it to me, so I imagine you especially are curious.

Continue reading “Taos Toolbox: You Will Always Love Your First, But Later You Love in Different Ways”

The Big Fat Cheater Post: TT Workshop Quotes and Hot Colonialism Links

I’m supposed to be working on a short story, so today you get links. I’ve been saving up a few.


First, let’s do the light stuff. Courtesy of Nancy Kress, here are some interesting quotes from Day 1 and Day 2 and 3 of Taos Toolbox. I am responsible for the quote about the 18th century heroine. No one is surprised.

Thanks, Nancy.


Now, some perspectives on Colonialism. I hope these things stimulate your thought process.

Nisi Shawl

My current novel-in-progress, Everfair, is another deliberate confrontation of colonialism: steampunk set in the Belgian Congo. It arose from my dislike of steampunk’s tendency to privilege imperialism, and especially Britain’s Victorian Empire. It also focuses on the site of one of the worst modern human rights atrocities, an infamous episode intimately connected with the rape of natural resources that lies behind the Industrial Revolution.

To ensure representation of the multiplicities of non-dominant difference, I’m writing Everfair from many viewpoints: white and mixed-race Europeans, African-Americans, and indigenous Africans. Research is sometimes exhilarating, and sometimes heartbreakingly piecemeal, particularly in the case of the indigenes, whose histories were severely disrupted—to say the least—by their decimation. Often the only voice left to tell a tale is that of the colonizer.

An essay by Ardha on what cultural appropriation is. I disagree with some of the author’s conclusions, but overall it’s a great explanation.

The problem isn’t that cultures intermingle, it’s the terms on which they do so and the part that plays in the power relations between cultures. The problem isn’t “taking” or “borrowing”, the problem is racism, imperialism, white supremacy, and colonialism. The problem is how elements of culture get taken up in disempowering, unequal ways that deny oppressed people autonomy and dignity. Cultural appropriation only occurs in the context of the domination of one society over another, otherwise known as imperialism. Cultural appropriation is an act of domination, which is distinct from ‘borrowing’, syncretism, hybrid cultures, the cultures of assimilated/integrated populations, and the reappropriation of dominant cultures by oppressed peoples.

And Aliette de Bodard presents the Cultural Imperialism Bingo Card.

All right. Frost elves. See you guys in a couple.


The Writing Process and Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear was kind enough to share her insights and wit in talking about the writing process. Any interview that quotes Kurt Vonnegut is worth the read. Enjoy.


Tamago: Do you have a regular drafting process, or does your drafting process vary from book to book? (If it varies, please keep one project in mind as you answer these questions.)

Elizabeth: It does vary.

A couple of things are consistent–when I’m a third of the way done, I have to stop and go back and rejig everything in the first third so it will support the rest of the book. And when I’ve gotten to the buildup to the climax, I always have to go back and find all the dangling plot threads and write them down so I can figure out what happens and in which order.

Tamago: Which part of writing–drafting, revising, critique from others–do you enjoy the most? Why? The least? Why?

Elizabeth: The part I enjoy the most is finishing. Finishing things is good. Delivering them is even better!

But really, all of it is fun. Hard work, sometimes frustrating–but I try to hold on to the knowledge that at the baseline, I get paid to tell people stories. And that’s kind of cool.

Continue reading “The Writing Process and Elizabeth Bear”

Life at 10,000 Feet

Hey everyone. I’m waaaayyyy up here at the ski lodge above Taos. The view outside my room is just like Hikone valley–the spine of a dragon covered by the fur of fir trees. It’s cool, not what you’d expect in June, but what you’d expect from the mountains. And we pretty much are in the middle of no where.

Getting here was a struggle. Delta had changed my flight plans about a month ago, and the night before, they changed my flight plans again. Luckily, Aric and Kim were down visiting, and so I could avoid missing every potential flight to get here in the afternoon by driving up to Minneapolis directly and catching a plane. That was great. If I couldn’t have gotten in until the evening, there would have been a domino effect of travel awfulness. But hey, I am luckier than the Australians, who got in during the wee hours of Monday morning, or Sandra Wickham, whose luggage waited to show up until yesterday evening. I just got up at 3 am, drove 4 hours, caught a flight, arrived in Albuquerque, and drove another 3 hours. Yup. A rockin’ way to spend the old birthday.

I’m 47 now. How’s about that?


But what you really want to know is how is Taos Toolbox, am I right? The workshop is great so far. Walter James Williams and Nancy Kress really are pretty good at the teaching gig. I’m impressed with the lectures thus far. I mean some of it I’ve heard before, but I took a lot of good things away from class yesterday. I’ve got to put together another piece for next week, so I’ve started thinking about that. I can’t tell you anything about my critique at all yet. I am dead last on Friday. Well. Someone had to be.

As for facilities, I am in the Catherine room (the two Catherines are rooming together. I suppose that’s double the bang for your buck in name calling if you’re someone else). The room is faux-rustic, and it’s a bit run down in some spots. In other ways, (kitchenette, individual rest rooms) it’s great. We aren’t having too much trouble getting something to eat–mostly sandwiches for breakfast and lunch, and a catered in hot meal for supper. Not for the foodie, but maybe Weight Watchers will like me better when I get back. 🙂

I am running into some cluster headache difficulties. I have been hydrating A LOT, and popping pain relievers, and resting when I’m tired, per instructions. But each night thus far, I’ve woken up, dried out like a river bed in drought with a headache behind my right eye. So, I suck down more water, pop more pain relievers, put a cloth over my eye, and wear sunglasses when I can. I hope that this is part of the acclimatization game, and that I won’t be spending the whole workshop with a low level headache. There have been some periods of relief, but mostly, ow.

So. I’ll try to get back to you all as soon as I can. Meanwhile, here’s a post from Elizabeth Bear about her writing process, coming right up.