Monday, December 18, 2006

Viable Paradise diary, day minus two

NOTE: This is a diary that was kept from Oct 5-14/06, here first made public. It is not happening in this present now.

Viable Paradise diary.
or: my writing sucks! in ways that can be fixed!

Thursday night. I'm on the ferry to Vancouver, having been rushed off by Mark with pizza still in my mouth and my wine poured into a travel mug. I have the following:
1 small sports bag, containing clothes, toiletries, snacks, books, etc. for VP
1 laptop bag, containing laptop, backup diskets, books & itinerary
1 large tote, containing clothes, books, mss. etc. for Master Classes & workshop
1 backpack, containing my usual backpack stuff - this all to be repacked or left.
1 shopping bag, containing frozen muffins, cookies and a piece of chocolate cake (described as 'brownie-like, too dry' by those who've had some).
I hope Mark remembers to bring my other shoes, as well as the sandwich fixings. If I could get down to Chinatown and pick up some pork buns that would be great, but it doesn't seem likely. However, the hotel is near the airport, so I shall be properly grateful for that.

I didn't say a virtual goodbye to the ABE furtive scribblers. Perhaps I'll be able to go online and catch up sometime in this week. Kate's internet access sounds a bit dicey, and I know the Inn's access is questionable. So we'll see.
Not so worried about saying goodbye on AW, since a fair chunk of it will be at VP. Not Aconite, but she's not on AW either. Alas. But I'll keep what records I can for those who can't attend.

Paul dropped by to catch me with a goodbye and good wishes. I am to tell PNH and TNH that he is not really a dogmatic Foucault-freak. (This in reference to a thread on Making Light which I haven't read). I thanked him for making VP possible, which is quite true. I never would have applied, if the travel costs hadn't been taken care of. I wish he were coming. Partly because seeing him and PNH butt heads could be marvelously entertaining.
On one level I understand that when he can make thousands for writing code, there's not a huge incentive to write fiction that at most would be a few hundred. And Paul is very practical--hard-headed Frenchman. But I have to wonder if there isn't some fear of success, because if he turned out to be good at it, wouldn't he have to do something with that talent?
M-- dropped off an envelope which I'm to open on the plane. The subject of the Master Classes has been carefully not mentioned between us since I first sent her the info (and one update) to which she didn't reply. I suppose she's protecting herself from information again - she can mention VP because there's no suggestion that she would want to apply, since it's far away, expensive, and genre-specific. But the Master Classes, which are nearby, inexpensive, and taught (in part) by someone she claims to venerate--harder to excuse herself from attending. I sent her the programming and autograph session schedule, and she didn't reply to that, either, which feels to me like her avoidance behaviour. Again I have to wonder about fear of success--one can hardly fail during a series of lectures, after all. Is she afraid of taking her writing seriously enough to try to improve it? Is she lumping all workshops and classes into the category of I--'s dysfunctional writers' group?
For me, I'm feeling that this is what I need. I've said/written to a couple of people that I feel becalmed, or plateaued. I can put my work up on AW or OWW, and I do get some useful crits, but it's almost all tweaking. Cathy's questions are the most useful, really (doesn't anybody wonder about the propriety of Tom and Nan?) pushing me to fill in aspects I'd brushed aside. I should tell her that when I'm online again. Leo's also been good, pointing out when I labour a point. (Has he posted recently? I haven't looked.) But I feel that much of the rest is what I could do myself--am doing myself, now that I have practice.
I'm at the point where I'm not obviously doing things wrong. On the face it's okay. But sometimes I wonder if it's not facile, an unthinking facility with language masking an emptiness at the heart. How do I tell?
I want the next level. I'm not ready for the last boss yet. But I bet the boss of this level is really wimpy.

So, this is what lies ahead:
1 day of lectures by Barbara Hambly, Matt Hughes and Alma Alexander, including two assignments.
1 three-hour workshop with Rhea Rose, Linda DeMeulemeester and three other students.
9 hours on a plane, about 3 hours on bus and ferry
5 days of lectures, crit groups and exercises with Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, James Macdonald, Debra Doyle, Stephen Gould, Laura Mixon and Cory Doctorow
3 hrs on bus&ferry, 9 hrs on a plane
1 day of collapse
Return to normality. Or normalcy. I'm not sure what the difference is.

I really really want a one-on-one with TNH, though reason tells me that this is my inner fangirl coming to the fore. She does line-crit, and I think my copy is pretty clean on that level. My shortcomings are more likely to be big-picture, as well as invisible to me. Of course, it's possible that I'll be in need of reassurance that I can do something right, after a few days of having my work pulled apart. On the other hand, it would be very useful to get the opinion of someone at a professional editing level whether my own line-editing is satisfactory. It's one thing to know I'm not making egregious errors. It's another to know whether I'm doing well.
Must remember how important it is to go into a judging session with the right attitude. The judges are here to help me. They want me to improve and to continue to improve. My work is not perfect, and if I don't learn to see where it falls short, it won't ever become perfect. Not everything I hear will be helpful, but if even half of it is (and I would expect more than a 50% rate from the pros) I will have guidance that I didn't have before.
Remember the story of the cup of tea. If I don't empty my cup first, how can I taste the master's tea? This is particularly relevant since I've picked up the Frey book How to Write Damn Good Fiction, because I'm going to be tempted to relate everything to his lessons. I suspect that many of the same principles will be involved, in slightly different words.

More later.

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