Stories & Revision: Retreat to Advance!
lost music, award nominations... and did I mention Footnotes?
Every time I post one of these, I get so exhilarated by your response that I want to write another one immediately! But I think: No, no, don’t spam these people. Wait a week or two . . . By which time I am entirely engaged in something else, so I make a series of notes for Things to Post Next Time, and hope they don’t outlast their sell-by date.
I know you live for the long, philosophical memoir-essay. But this time you must pardon me: While I have notes for several really good ones, I am on my second retreat since I last wrote you, hoping that this week I will nail the sucker - I mean, I will get a really good draft of a saleable manuscript.
The last retreat was just a few weeks ago, when Delia & I went back to our beloved “1710 House,” and pretended we were novelists in a Carl Larsson painting for a couple of weeks. That was the week of below-zero C temperatures, though, and we learned a lot about life in an uninsulated farm house. And perfected our fire-building skills.
By the end of the weeks’ writing, I was so close. Sooooooo close!!!! As we left, Delia said, Plan your next retreat immediately.
So here you find me at our friends’ New Jersey Lake House, all alee and alone-y oh. I re-read the work I did at the 1710, and I actually like it a lot.
Possibly because what I have done is to start the book over completely. Typing it all in as a new document. I am always warbling to students about what a difference it makes to get the whole thing in your body when you do that. It’s priceless for polishing your work, and for staying with the continuity of a complicated novel. And - confession - I never do it anymore: Takes too my time! I hate typing!
But I’ll tell you, I was desperate. And as I also always tell anyone who sticks around long enough to listen: When you hit the wall, change mediums. If you type, hand-write. If you hand-write in a notebook, write on rolls of brown paper. Etc. etc.
Someday I will learn to listen to myself.
And that day, apparently, is today.
At the end of this, I will put a few lines I particularly like from the manuscript, to reward you for reading all the way to the end. Because now, it’s time for the news.
Well, it’s finally official:
I am one of the most interesting people you know!
Although I haven’t lived in Cleveland since I left for college, it’s really nice to be recognized. I also did a fun interview with the delightful Ken Schneck of Ohio’s LGBTQ+ paper, The Buckeye Flame. Mostly we talked about my queerness, and the queerness of F&SF - but there’s this:
When I first reached out to you, your immediate response was laden with affection for Cleveland. How would you describe that affection?
It’s partly the affection of an exile. When you get out into the big world, people have all sorts of misconceptions about Cleveland. As a result I’m very proud to be from here. And my family is still there, my parents and my brother and his family, so I’m still tied to it.
It’s great being recognized as a credit to my homeland for my existing work - but at the same time, I worry about having something new to offer these days, while I’m finishing the novel. The good people (they really are!) at Uncanny Magazine facilitated this by backing me into a corner and demanding a new short story for me as part of their annual fundraiser to keep Uncanny free online.
“Immortal Coil” was inspired by the year I’d just spent with my Zoom reading group, All the Bard’s Words (all of them), reading the entire Shakespeare canon . . . and maybe just a little bit by our friend Liz Duffy Adams’ new play, Born with Teeth, which has its premiere this spring at Houston’s prestigious Alley Theater.1
Do you like short stories?
The SFF stories published in 2021 are truly astounding. My “Immortal Coil” made Locus Magazine’s Recommended Reading List. It’s a list compiled by their astute reviewers.2 It also includes novels. If you think you like SF and/or Fantasy but know there’s a lot of crap out there and aren’t sure what you should be reading, Click on the List.
The competition is fierce in the most exhilarating way! I can say the same for the Uncanny Magazine’s 2021 stories online. Sophisticated, well-written visionary work, there. Uncanny has cannily set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2021.4 You can find links to all of the stories here.
Given the abundance of riches there, I’m not sure I’d even vote for mine for top three! But that’s what makes horse races, as my dad likes to say. I do not mind at all if you decide that “Immortal Coil” is one of your top three. But do read some others, too!
The Song Goes On
I am deeply grieving the loss of two people who meant a lot to me in the music world:
Scott Alarik and Norma Waterson
I will say more on Scott at a later date. Norma was the wife of the great Martin Carthy, passing her heritage along to their amazing daughter Eliza. While Norma was in the hospital, Eliza was forced to post a fundraiser for the family: when everyone’s a musician during a pandemic, there’s no one drawing any income. The fact that this family, arguably England’s greatest living folk treasures, were basically forced to beg for food5 was taken up by the papers, as was Norma’s death. I won’t put a bunch of links here, because Substack tells me most people never open them, but if you want to donate to the family - and to read the many loving tributes attached - click here. As I wrote to a friend, I want them not just to have enough. I want them to get rich from donations. Like, new house rich. Like, bestselling novelist or gallery artist rich. Amirite?
All touring musicians are basically without income these days. Please buy some albums. Or find these people on Patreon. Does anyone know other ways to help?
ETA: Go to COMMENTS to see Terri Windling’s helpful suggestions.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Facebook coughs up some pretty entertaining past entries:
Have just learned that Delia has never, ever heard "On Top of Spaghetti." Which is so sad, because it would be her favorite song. Attempting to rectify this, but I find I do not have every single line down cold anymore. (This is odd, because mostly I never forget the lyrics to songs. Ever. But I guess this one was stored too deep and not taken out and aired...)
It's cooking in the back of my brain, though: As a result, every 20 minutes or so I will suddenly blurt out a line like "It rolled in the gaaaaaarden and under a bush! By then my poor meeeeeeatball was nothing but mush."6
TRAVEL: We’re going to ICFA!
Delia & I basically locked ourselves in during NYC’s Omicron flare. New York’s numbers are now 90% down, so we are slowly starting up an active life again, with a little socializing and a lot of travel planning. In March we are going to see my parents in Sarasota, FL, for my mother’s birthday, then on to Orlando for the annual International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. We signed up too late to be on any programming, but we will be totally there for the Hanging Around Outside by the Pool with an extraordinary number of attending colleagues I love dearly and haven’t seen in years - many not since way before the pandemic.7 It’s very clear our community needs to be together, and that people are seizing this chance.
And then in May we’re going to France,8 where my book THE PRIVILEGE OF THE SWORD is coming out in translation, and there is lots to tell including a cover reveal, but I have to stop now and get back to writing.
And that’s a good place to stop.
Yours til root beer floats,
Lines from the Work In Progress
The Duchess Katherine prized punctuality. She felt it was wrong to use her position to make people wait for her. She was often late anyway, matters of state being what they were – but she always felt bad about it.
Jess wasn’t used to someone who was better than she was. Even in a simple drill, every part of the duchess spoke discipline and skill. Jess was used to getting away with a combination of being flashy and lunging fiercely, which usually accomplished her goals. She was beginning to suspect that her teachers had been not only second-rate, but had indulged her shamelessly.
Jessica waited long enough for them to have followed the maid about halfway down the hallway before easing herself out of the room. The other girls were all clustered around Daphne’s new bracelet, and her chaperone would quite reasonably assume she needed the chamber pot. The last thing in the world Jessica wanted was to hear Clarissa Davenant pissing; but information-gathering was not always a savory dish.9
I think we might fly down to see the premiere!! Liz wrote some of it while she was staying with us in Brittany, and read a bit of it to us one memorable night when the candles blazed. And in 2021, to make up for the premiere being postponed, we had a private online reading with two of the professional actors in our Bard’s Words group, the magnificent Margo MacDonald and the terrifyingly multifaceted Emily Carding.
The Locus list also includes novels. In 2006 The Privilege of the Sword actually won for Best Fantasy Novel, but probably only because I astutely used the burgeoning internet to garner attention. (And now, all the kids are doing it!)
Deadline for the Locus Poll is April 15
FEBRUARY 7 is the deadline for the Uncanny Poll, so read fast!
My words, no one else’s. As you can see, I’m furious about this. U.K. friends tell me that their traditional folksingers are at the bottom of the ladder for musical respect. I burn. They should have a National Treasure thingy, and these people should be on it.
I find the most entertaining things on Facebook’s “On This Day…” feature!
Like, I am seriously screaming as I read the list of names on the Panel Schedule I got a sneak peek at. Nicola Griffith!! Candas Dorsey! John Chu! Sarah Pinsker! John Kessel! Emma Bull!!!!! Amanda Firestone, you crazy kid! Mary Anne Mohanraj!!!!! OMG I’ve missed you guys so much!!!! (Writers I haven’t met yet - I can’t wait to meet you!)
And maybe . . maybe . . someday . . . Someone will Present a Scholarly Paper on one of my books at this scholarly conference. And it will be even more fun than The Re-Corporealization of Latin American Science Fiction After World War II or The Malevolent Environmental Body: The Wood in Naomi Novik’s Uprooted.
Unless there’s a health reason not to. ALWAYS.