Monday, February 26, 2007

arthritis and bicycles

I have a diagnosis. Last week I had my rheumatologist appointment, at the Victoria Arthritis Centre, a small but rambling shingle-walled structure near the Jubilee Hospital, with a cute dove? graphic on the sign. The significance of a small scribbly bird to arthritis is not immediately clear to me, though I remember that a pigeon sliced in half and applied to the soles of the feet was a folk remedy for the plague. Probably not what they had in mind.
The rheumatologist suggests, largely because of the rapid onset and departure of symptoms, sometimes only a day and a half, never more than a week, that I don't have rheumatoid arthritis. What I likely have is a type of arthritis so unusual it has no official medical website, even. It does have a fairly good amateur website by a young man in the UK, and passing mentions on various arthritis sites.
Palindromic rheumatism. Which is a terrific name, but unfortunately doesn't mean 'arthritis that reads the same forwards and backwards, which would be more entertaining. No, in medical terminology it reportedly means 'coming and going' (as in 'will get you coming and going', perhaps). It may be a type of rheumatoid arthritis, it may be something different. It is an autoimmune ailment, and about 1/3 to 1/2 of cases develop into RA, which is the bad news. The good news is that unless it does develop into RA, there's no permanent joint damage, just pain, inconvenience and annoyance.
This is rather good news, aside from the pain part.
I have a renewed prescription for Naproxen, and a new prescription for Panaquil, the latter being an immunosuppressant and antirheumatic, originally developed as an antimalarial. So I probably won't get malaria, even if global warming sends infected mosquitoes up this way. More good news all the time.

My recent experience with biking in Victoria without using handbrakes (conclusion: it would work much better in Regina) made it clear that it's time for a new bike. One that doesn't put pressure on my wrists and shoulders, and where shifting and braking are very easy indeed, or don't use the hands.
Mind you, the info on palindromic suggests that the knees may become a problem, in which case biking is probably right out until the flare-up is past. So far it's been hands, wrists, and shoulders, with problems only in one knee after the no-brakes ride.
Over the weekend we went and looked at bikes. My current bike is a Norco that was my son's until he outgrew it, and I think the only adjustments made for me have been raising the seat and handlebars as high as they'll go (which was pretty much where he left them). I started riding his after my old Raleigh was stolen--given its habit of slipping the chain off when I was going uphill, I didn't search all that thoroughly, nor mourn all that inconsolably. The Raleigh cost about $30, and I don't remember what the Norco cost, but probably more than that. Fortunately I'd braced myself for the order of magnitude of new bike prices.
Shopping, the silver lining to the arthritic cloud.

This is what it's come down to:
Specialized Crossroads Sport, women's model: upright position, twist shifter, three-finger braking, cheapest.
Miele Umbria City: coaster brake, Nexus 8 internal drive train, longer-lasting.
I tried out the Electra (no link because of annoying Flash-y site) Townie, and it was okay, but nothing I didn't get with the Crossroads, and more expensive.
The upright position puts no weight on my wrists, but the guy at Performance Bikes, who also has arthritis (and carpal tunnel) says the regular setup works as well or better if the bike frame is the right size and is properly adjusted to the person (this was explained with much reference to geometry and ratio, and I didn't follow very well). Since I've never had a bike adjusted to me as far as I know, this could well be true. I'll be trying out an Umbria that's the right size for me tonight, so perhaps I'll find out.
The internal hub thing is very cool, my husband assures me, and the coaster brake feels safer, but the upright position may be easier to adapt to than trying to keep my wrists straight and elbows bent all the time.
The key thing is going to be how they each handle steep hills, because that's what I have on my route to work.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Accomplishments and the alternative, writing.

The Willow Knot hit 65k yesterday, which means I'm within 10-15k of finishing the first draft. Bearing in mind that experience has shown that I'm not very good at estimating the wordage needed for specific plot events. Both the Elfland story and "Fluke" were meant to be regular-length short stories and ended up at 11k each (Elfland later flensed to 9k, and yes, better for it).

Things I'm happy about:
I got to use a classic fairytale motif, and bonus, one that most modern readers will neither be familiar with nor find easy to accept--motif T(2) 1962.2 'sleep by lousing'. Those fairy tales where the ogre or the dragon or the hero puts his head into the maiden's lap and she 'combs his hair' to put him to sleep? Lousing him.
This is the second rescue, which Myl accomplishes by guile, where Tyl accomplished the first rescue by unexpected and resolute action. Myl louses the old woman who keeps house for the robbers (as well as fixing her a restful posset and filling her straw mattress-tick with soothing herbs as well as straw) causing her to fall asleep, so Myl can get at the barred door.
In another part of the forest, whoops, the story, I'm building the threat to Alard. The background needs working out yet, so many details may change, but it looks as if Alard will be aided three times by actions Myl took in the past, each triggered by Tyl.
First he escapes his pursuers by Tyl leading him to the track Myl built in the marsh.
Second, some attackers are done in by being driven into the osier field, linked to Myl through the willow and her use of the osiers, and by Tyl (this is quite pencilly) scratching Alard and flicking his blood into the marsh to pay for its alliance.
Last, the rescued princess, now grown to warrior-queen and hunting outlaws, with her guard does in the remaining attackers, then realises that she has Alard in her power (and her counsellors have been advocating invasion), but as she and Alard discuss this, Tyl comes forward and she recognises him as the deer-companion of the wild girl who rescued her, and who refused reward, asking only for one favour in some time to come.
The really fun part of this is the princess/queen, who is very odd indeed. Jim Macdonald did say to cherish your secondary characters, and certainly Sefina and the princess are blossoming. Or night-blooming, in the latter instance.

Less happy:
The braiding / knotting / basketwork motif arose unexpectedly while I was writing the opening chapters. It's turned out to be quite important. While I don't aim for the Dick Francis ideal of learning a new skill for each book (it was his wife who got her pilot's licence, I think, for one book) I do like to have some slight acquaintance with how it feels to do something.
I can braid my hair, but otherwise I have very little manual dexterity with the fibre arts. My mum tried to teach me how to knit, and I couldn't do it. A couple of accomplished spinners have tried to teach me how to spin, and it didn't take. I can sew on buttons and that sort of thing, but tying a weaver's knot to join two pieces of thread is beyond me.
Working with thread seems to provoke a sort of allergic reaction, where my hands, although they do not change in outward seeming, function with the equivalent grace and skill of cartoon hands, the kind with three fat fingers and fewer joints.
But I must learn. So I took out The Ashley Book of Knots, by Clifford Ashley, chockfull of information and helpful diagrams. Here's an illustrative anecdote:
"Several years ago, from my printed directions in the Sportsman Magazine, and with no other assistance, my cousin, Hope Knowles, tied without error Knot #2217, which has forty-nine crossings, making therewith a covering for the knob of her father's automobile gear-shift lever. She was barely eleven years old at the time."
Can I follow in young Hope Knowles's footsteps (fingermarks?)? No, apparently I can't. I've managed to follow Ashley's diagrams for precisely one (1) knot thus far, and that's the granny knot. Besides the lack of manual dexterity, I seem to lack the ability to make any sense at all of his diagrams. I can do one step, but how the cords get from that one step to the next is a complete mystery to me. In fact, I've done better looking at the diagrams of completed knots and working it out from those.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

(Self-)published at last!

Ahem. Let me be factual first. Remember my 3-day novel entry, the one that was shortlisted? I thought it would be fun to have a few copies printed and bound as a souvenir for myself and gifts to a few friends.
Lulu is generally considered to be the place to go for this, or else your local copy-shop (which saves on shipping). Lulu's website has a friendly tutorial (insert Don't Panic reference here) that makes things look simple enough for the technologically-ungifted like me. Amazingly this turned out to be an accurate representation. Uploading the text was dead simple.
I ran into problems working out the cover, partly because I wavered between the cover I'd designed (a brilliant use of actual, physically crumpled paper!) and a picture from the lulu gallery showing paper being folded and trimmed, which would have been at least as relevant. When my picture stalled in uploading--time went backwards, right there on the little indicator, time went backwards--I tried to cancel my upload and choose the lulu picture. There doesn't seem to be a cancel button on the screen, unless I missed it. For a while the program was trying to load two things at once, I suspect, and it didn't go well. This used up half an hour or so. Possibly more, what with time running backwards.
Somewhere in my to-ing and forth-ing, my specs shifted from Creative Commons to Standard Copyright, which is a bit annoying, though since I'm not making the story generally available, it's not particularly relevant. Lulu has something called Direct Access, where the work isn't findable by searching on lulu, only through someone clicking on the url of the work itself. So I can give particular people the url, and they can order or download, but random strangers won't be coming across it--not that I expect huge interest from random strangers, nor do I fear plagiarism.
The story strikes me as not an easy one to sell, even to Tiny Canadian Presses. Eventually I'll expand it and start submitting to Tiny Canadian Presses, who won't like it because it doesn't have Canadian flavour or a Canadian setting. It is about Survival, kind of, but it's not about Survival in the Wilderness or the Downtown Eastside.
I'm hoping to order my copies tonight. The website warns to order a single copy first, to make sure it all works, but the pdf looks fine, so I'm a bit impatient. Since I'm not selling the books, I've set no royalties and no cost for download.

Done with the sober factual part.
Perhaps I've spent too much time hanging around writing/reading boards, and too much time observing the manoeuvring of the self-published self-promoting. Over on the AbeBooks forum, we regularly get sockpuppets popping up to promote mysterious books they've read and loved, but no one else has heard of. Sometimes the publisher/author himself is honest enough to come forward as himself. Sometimes not. Some do drive-by spammings and never come back, which is just as well because they're either ignored or have holes poked in them by the more cynical forum members. Some hang about for a while and argue. They're more fun.
What, are you thinking I'm one of the more cynical members? For shame! Just because the first thing I do is to check who the publisher is.
Now I am a self-published author myself! Except for the part about making the book public, which I can't say I've really done. But I am self-published enough to feel the infection working in me, squirming through my veins and bones, mutating....
(pause to fall on floor off-camera, writhe, and rise again, fearsomely altered)
I feel the urge to self-promote, to post spammy messages on book fora, to pretend to be a casual reader who simply must share the news about this brilliant book (ordering information below).
I want to argue bitterly about how the publishing industry is broken, how new writers don't stand a chance and how self-publishing and internet promotion is the Way of the Future. Scoff now, but in five years you'll be following my tracks!
Where's my Dread Legion of Sockpuppets? To your keyboards, gentlemen!
The trouble is, I don't seem to have the knack (although I have made and used real cloth-type sockpuppets, including a rather charming dragon from a green hand-towel) of posting with the combination of aggressive enthusiasm and utter lack of detail that characterises your dyed-in-the-wool sock. This was my best effort, posted to the Furtive Scribblers, and you'll agree it falls short:

Does anyone know anything about a new writer called BML Gordon? I just read an amazing book called Fold by her or him and I want to read more!!!! My friend got Fold from and I picked it up at his place and couldn't put it down! It's hearbreaking and griping! Evyerone should read it! and give it to their friends!

Zolah replied with a far better example:

OMG!!! Ive just finished rseding this totally awsome books its the best thing i've read eva!!! I was like, totally hooked from the ferist page and i good not put it down it is about this amazing adventure and i wnat to read more who is this writer???/!!1? i'm a totlayly changed person since reading this everyone should read this wow!!!1

Printed here with her permission and the following acknowledgement:
(I'd like to thank my mum, my dad, my dog, my stylist and all the wonderful little people who work behind the scenes. Also Jesus.)

And Emil followed up with a dandy pastiche of several recent spammings:

Hey I just found a great new book! Fold by BML Gordon. I got it off Its really a thriling story and is printed on high quality. About God's plan for Shiloh dog breeding. BML Gordon must be a really spiritual and insightfull writer to write such a great value book LOL!. (Only $3.33.) I like Dan Brown, Harry Potter ect. and this is great, its a new twist on the classic good/evil conflict, it really stands out! Don't listen to the bashers they are jealous.

You'll note that he was the one to remember to include the vital ordering information. Zo hit the tone of illiterate enthusiasm.
Further contributions to the Spam Buffet are welcomed. Remember, actual knowledge of the book is not required. If you mention anything about the story itself, some Eval Plaguerist may steal it.
My bad angel is further urging me to collect samples (spamples?) from the ABE boards and post some here, as exempla, purely for teaching purposes of course, and stripped of identifying features. Hm.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

ills that flesh is heir to, a non-writing post

I now have an appointment with a rheumatologist. Not until next week, and I don't know whether I'll come out of it with anything more definite than I presently have, which is that it looks a lot like rheumatoid arthritis, but it's difficult to diagnose RA until it's done real damage.
The Naproxen (can I say a drug name on here without attracting med-spam? I guess I'll find out) is working well so far. The stiffness in my hands and wrists is fairly constant, but I can work it off mostly, and I haven't had anything like the mid-January hand-cramps that kept me from doing anything.
There's what I might call a veiled threat in my hands, a hint that without medication they would be quite painful. Which is interesting in itself, because usually I'm in the position of thinking 'well, I don't know how much good these painkillers are doing, and I just have to take it on faith that I'd hurt worse without them'. The last time I recall being aware of a barrier between me and actual pain was when I was doped up after my first miscarriage, and that was emotional pain kept at a remove. This is physical pain kept at a remove. It's an odd sensation.

In an unexpected way, the possible diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is helpful. When I thought the pain was somehow connected with the rotator cuff injury back in April, it confined me. I believed that my body was warning me, that the pain was a way of telling me 'don't do that'--if only I could guess what 'that' was. I ended up with a frozen shoulder because I was trying not to cause the pain by the wrong kind of movement, afraid of muscles and tendons fraying apart, under my skin where I couldn't see.
But if it's RA, pain is my body's way of blowing a raspberry at me, or showing me who's boss. It's gloating, not warning, and so I don't have to obey. I need to be aware of my new limitations, and not overwork myself, but the pain isn't necessarily related to harm. It's random.
And it is random. It buzzes about my body like the reverse of Gold Bell Armour, the mythical martial arts technique. Instead of having one vulnerable point that I can move about my body at will, my body has many vulnerable points, that it moves around against my will. One day my right thumb swells up and I can't write my name, another day my right forefinger and left little finger balloon, and the next week my wrists turn red and swell.
Again, the Naproxen is keeping this in check. I am appreciative. So far none of it has interfered with my typing, for which I am deeply appreciative. I am more easily tired, I think, and have somewhat less energy, but it's too soon to know if that's continuing or temporary. It may just be winter blahs, and I'll perk up when the sun starts coming up earlier.

Sunday I had a burst of enthusiasm, and not only brought The Willow Knot up to 60k, but chalked out the design for the last bit of painted wall in the new tent, a 4x8' Saint Barbara on an old tablecloth, to fill in the bit of wall that SS. Crispin and Crispinian, Dunstan and Eligius don't quite cover. Then I made cookies (butterscotch chip) to test whether I can do the things that I enjoy, still. Apparently I can, though my wrist is sore today, and that may be payback.

But this is a writing blog, not a moaning-about-the-flesh blog, so I'll stop. Next time I'll catch up with my writing news, honest.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Viable Paradise, all done

It's over. I'm in the Montreal airport beside the phones in waiting lounge 11, with a couple of hours to go. Then 5 hours in a plane and I'll be in Vancouver, and Mark will pick me up.
I want to go online, and gush about everything to the Furtive Scribblers. But I must possess my soul in patience, as they once said. I won't be home and online until tomorrow, and even then it will depend whether my hard-drive is really dead. Feeling more uncertain about calling M--. I mean, I will, eventually, but the subject of writing and workshops is so uncertain between us, and although she's told me that she's grown out of being jealous of others' successes, that isn't the same as actually being able to be pleased on someone else's account.

Last night was tearful farewells and partying. I sat in Scott's room and chatted with whoever washed up next to me, which was ... Dave, Diane, Scott, and Terri, who have been in crit sessions with me, Jim Kelly, and Dru and Erin, whom I hadn't had any sessions with and didn't know very well even yet. Erin was the one who warned Evelyn and me about needing sponges in the kitchen. Dru is another in the Dave Foley ecological niche, but dresses more casually than Bart, and is less deadpan. Mac sat in the armchair, looking both regal and tipsy, and asked random penetrating questions. Haven't said anything about Mac, have I? Short blonde hair, boyish, wears shorts and sandals all the time, slightly weather-beaten, makes me think of the Wandervogeln in 1920s(?) Europe, or perhaps Snufkin from the Moomintroll books (though she doesn't have Snufkin's hat). During a discussion of people-who-had-influenced-one, she mentioned a highschool librarian, Mr. MacAllister, who'd been a mentor to her, and my brain went ping and I said 'That's why you're named MacAllister, then?' I remembered Mr. Basowitz, the librarian in senior high who'd been so supportive of my hiding in the library all the time. Not quite so fruitful for naming purposes, but a cool guy. After I moved away in grade 12, he sent me a recording of Faust, out of the blue.
While I was repacking my sports-bag last night (a bit pointlessly, as I'd have to fit my pajamas in the next morning anyways) Diane came in and told me that Teresa and other instructors had joined us, and that I might want to come back and hang out. Which was really nice of her--I wonder if she knew of my TNH-awe? So I buzzed back and sat on the bed with Nicole and listened to people talking until the need for sleep overcame me. TNH was sitting on the bed with her back against the wall and legs stretched out, very relaxed. Zak was chatting with her about graphic novels and printing techniques. Gradually other technically-inclined people drifted over and the discussion went over my head, though I may have become more informed about printing despite myself, just via osmosis. There were some drinks being made, but since I'd already had a couple of glasses of red wine and my has-served-me-well personal rule is to not mix the grape and the grain, I didn't indulge. Other people did, and there were some loud conversations going on about the time I stumbled off to my bed.

The morning had that dislocated feeling of departures waiting to happen. I got my repacking repacked, having thinned down my pile of manuscript pages to those with comments on them--except for the copies reviewed by Cory Doctorow, Debra Doyle, and TNH, which I'm keeping entire for their apotropaic value. I felt bad leaving good-one-side paper behind, since at home I collect it for use in our home printer, but Jim Kelly was quite right, if you're trying to travel light, cut down on the paper.
I deposited my little heap of luggage (one sports bag, one laptop bag, one accordion file) at the side of the driveway and hung out there for a while with the guys. Lucia came by and I followed her into the commons room for the sake of any goodbyes I might have missed giving. This meant I was able to thank Kate for her handholding when I was applying (where I dithered for a week about which story to apply with, made up two complete application packages, and then sent the one that didn't have the fee in it). She said comfortingly that I hadn't needed to worry after all, and that she'd heard good buzz among the instructors about my story (wonder what it would have been if I'd sent the other one, though?) I hope she and Jen like chocolate. I know almost everyone does, but it's still an assumption. Myself I prefer butterscotch, though I don't turn down any sweet thing other than marzipan (owing to an unfortunate incident in my childhood, which did not however involve a locked closet and two jars of honey).
I said some other goodbyes, and sat in the commons room for a while, but the out-of-place feeling was growing, perhaps because the Reunion was beginning for real, perhaps because I was mentally severing ties and setting my face forward. I feel that the Reunion is for those who've Done Something with their VP experience, and I haven't yet.

Then it was time to leave. Not from the Oak Bluff terminal, but the other one, and I was very glad that this was being overseen by Jen and not by me, because I would have dithered. Jen is slender, dark-haired, and possessed of an air of terrifying efficiency, even for those things occupying only a fraction of her attention. She does in-depth travelogue interspersed with scathing social commentary while organising these things--if she were a Hindu goddess, she'd have more arms than Kali. I don't know whether she'd go for the belt of severed heads. It might depend who was annoying her at the time.
Erin and I ended up on the same departing ferry and bus, though she was being met by her husband at the airport, and I was looking forward to another several hours in transit. We chatted on the ferry, about husbands and pets and how to fit writing time in with one's regular life.
Emily was on the same bus, unexpectedly. Emily is quite beautiful, with thick black hair, and dresses in jeans and sneakers like a model going incognito to the laundromat. She had a sort of circle of silence around her, even when she contributed something during colloquia, as if she were a holographic projection and not actually present.
Not going to talk about the airports. Gah and double gah. I've taken my shoes off so many times I don't know why I bother tying them. And I'm tired of nobody looking at my face, so that I can't tell whether they're talking to me or not. Gah.

Think of nice things. Uncle Jim cooking pancakes and explaining the Boskone / Arisia split. Mur explaining how to do the staff tip for the hotel (something I've never known about because I so rarely stay in hotels). The view off the balcony, across the fields. Funny little Queen Anne houses in Oak Bluff. Sitting with Eleanor in the living room, both of us tapping away at our laptops. Mur bubbling over about interviewing Cory and Jim Kelly. Sitting in Scott's room, chatting with him and Mac.
I wonder how long it will take for all of this to settle?

Monday, February 5, 2007

roundabouts and swings: 3-Day Novel Contest

My goody-bag from the 3-Day Novel Contest arrived today, containing the prizes for a shortlisted entrant (me):
Dayshift Werewolf, by Jan Underwood, last year's winning entry, 3-Day Books 2006.
Wastefall: a novel, by Stephen E. Miller, random previous winning entry, Pulp Press 1990.
Blank book with 3-Day Novel logo - I almost bought this, because it has the whole little cartoon strip on it, but I bought the t-shirt instead. Worked out nicely!
RoGr Lee's tHreE-DaY AlBum, a cd written, recorded and compiled Labour Day weekend 2004.
Gilt-edged certificate of Bravery, Stamina and Extreme Merit for being one of 389 entrants who were able to begin, complete and submit an entire novel over the course of the September 2006 Labour Day Long Weekend, Official Shortlisted Entrant.
I survived sticker.
A form for 4 free issues of Geist magazine.
Early entry form for this year's contest (for Enthusiasts and/or Masochists).
Presenting the Winners info sheet.
A letter:
Congratulations on making the shortlist! It was a really tough year for our judges, with a lot of impressive entries, so making the final cut is certainly no small feat.
Enclosed you'll find a few small gifts to award you for your achievement. We've also included, for fun, a CD that was inspired by the contest and donated by its creator: after following the contest for many years, he took it on himself to write, play and record the entire CD over the three days of the 2004 contest.
I hope you keep developing Fold. Our judges found it to be compelling, and "very literary and sophisticated". Best of luck with it!
Melissa Edwards
Managing Editor, International 3-Day Novel Contest.

I am pleased, though still somewhat incredulous at having produced something considered literary and sophisticated.

On the roundabouts side of the equation, I saw my doctor today to discuss my blood test results. The level of whatsit (ACP?) is elevated, but not sufficiently elevated to confirm rheumatoid arthritis. So they're going to see about getting me a referral to a rheumatologist, and in the meantime proceed as if it were confirmed as RA, because that can't really do any harm. It's some sort of arthritis, and fits the RA profile better than anything else so far.

Not much more to say at present, and this is a writing-focus blog, so I'll leave it for now. I have an idea for a rant that may end up here, but it's too sketchy yet to post.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Viable Paradise, day six

It's almost over. I feel as if I've been here two weeks, or a month, so much has happened, so much has been learned and experienced. While I want to be home, and to work on my book, I also want to stay, and to get to know these people even better, to read everyone's work, to hang out and talk about what we want to do, what we want to write, who we are.
Diane gave me a poem, one written by a Sufi master, about the vintage man, and said it fit me, and that I was a very genuine person. I'm so touched by that, and abashed, because I don't think of myself as genuine so much as careful. But perhaps careful is more important. I fight against sincerity, because I've seen sincere people who were sincerely selfish and hurtful, so occupied with their own sincere and heartfelt feelings that they had no room to observe or allow for anyone else's. But perhaps genuine is not the same as sincere. And I do genuinely want to encourage people and to help them become better at whatever it is they want to do, without hurting them.
Open discussion in the common room--mostly I've left the colloquium notes in the peace and quiet of my notebook, but maybe I should run through some here, until it's time for food?
Morning was the last lecture, PNH on the state of publishing today. Started off with a history of paperbacks, the expansion of bookselling from 'the carriage trade' to the masses, and very interesting explanation of how it was the truckers who shipped the books who filled the racks in the drugstores and corner stores, which was why those racks held such a variety. Patchwork of tiny distributors all across N America, each knowing own territory intimately. As publishing conglomerated, so did distribution, and economy of scale demanded simplification. Thus supermarkets now carry bestsellers, multiple copies of a dozen titles, instead of a couple of copies of a multiplicity of titles. What's lost is the opportunity to reach the bright kid from a non-reading family, whose exposure to odd or genre fiction would have been while hanging out at the drugstore, etc. Possible loss of a generation of potential readers. (Will the internet change this? Lot of reading on there.)

Long break for lunch. I was going to walk into Oak Bluff, but Diane and Mur were driving in, along with Dave, so I decided why not. I'd already had a sandwich, so didn't bother with lunch, but did some shopping instead. Checked for unusual chips or candy bars (no luck) to bring back for Chris, got some pepper chips for me, took some pics of the insanely picturesque shops, most of which must have been made over from houses (front parlour window revised to shopfront window, so passers-by look in at the occupants rather than the traditional system), and ended up at a bookshop. The owner was repainting, so things were in mild disarray, and it smelled of paint, which is a smell I like. I got the latest Southern Vampire, hardcover, for half price, yay! and an old Ace double from the outside shelf for a donation. Dave had kindly lent me his cell so I could keep an eye on the time, but I'm so used to not having a watch that I found myself glancing at clocks anyways.
I was looking for some place that sold chocolate so I could leave a gift for the staff, but over half the town is closed for the winter, so I did a fair bit of wandering (adjust for the tiny expanse of Oak Bluff) until I found the open choc shop very close to where we'd parked. Coincidentally, the others showed up while I was there (this is like leaving seeds out for birds, isn't it?), and Mur and I ended up at the liquor store choosing wines for tonight. I managed to do this without massive itsalmostoverload hitting me, other than the realisation that I hadn't even talked to every one of the other students yet. What have I missed of brilliance and disorientation?

Jim Kelly on post-VP protocol. This began somewhat alarmingly, with unwonted (that's an o, not an a, gentle reader) seriousness on JPK's part. He began with warning that we had to realise that after Viable Paradise we'd probably encounter the instructors at conventions and elsewhere, and ... (At this point, I was pretty sure he was heading for 'you've finished the workshop, now we are strangers again, don't presume on past acquaintance') ... the instructors will remain your friends and people you can approach as long as you are still writing and submitting. If you aren't, there's really nothing they can do for you / have in common.
Pause for a sigh of relief on my part. Barring unforeseen catastrophe, I expect to continue writing and submitting. That's all it takes? Cool.
Caveats: at cons, the instructors are likely doing business. TNH: if everyone is looking worried, don't break into the conversation. Always introduce yourself with context (I'm thinking I'll permanent-mark my name and story title onto my VP t-shirt, to simplify matters); don't be a jerk; be an interesting person, interested in other people; don't act all buddy-buddy with people you aren't actually acquainted with.
Nicole and I were doing laundry during the colloquium, nipping in and out of the common room to check washer and dryer and push in more quarters, sharing change and soap. Nicole has been spinning yarn through much of the workshop, something I've always found soothing to watch although I don't have the knack for it myself. She, like Lucia, I know from Absolute Write. Niki has long brown hair, sometimes braided, and a high clear forehead and pointed chin that give her a doll-like air, polished and immaculate. Sharing laundry-doing with her did not banish that impression, though I suppose it should have.
A webcam was set up and most of us sat down and had our pics taken for the record. It reminded me of one of those photo-booths from my childhood, with the walls vanished. Though I suspect our pictures had a much lower proportion of people sticking their tongues out than the photo-strips, which must have had at least one tongue-pic per strip. Retterson skipped the webcam, which I can understand, because I don't often see a photo of myself that I like, although growing up with a camera-bug father inured me to the whole thing.

The weekend is the VP reunion, which some people are staying for. A few of the previous years' attendees have already arrived, some with family. I recognised Leo from OWW, and said hi (having the advantage of him, since I don't have a photo up at OWW--though I'd put my nametag back on, so he caught on why this strange woman had walked up and said hi). I chatted with him a bit, feeling oddly responsible--possibly memories of all those times changing schools and meeting a room of potentially-hostile strangers whose names one didn't know? And yet he and the other alumni were the old hands and I was the hapless newbie, surely? More reasonably, I owed him because he's given me some very useful crits on OWW. More alumni and alumnae arrived later in the day, so the effect was diluted, fortunately.
Shameful confession, but I felt a bit resentful of the reunion people showing up early, as if they were infringing on the VPX fellowship. Sibling rivalry?
In part my own fault - I stayed in the common room for the Guess Who Wrote This game, because it felt standoffish to ditch and go hang out in Scott's room with the X-men.
But when I did ditch, it felt like coming home. A good part of this was Mac raising a cheer every time one of us came in--one isn't cheered nearly enough in everyday life.
I drank red wine and ate potato chips until the red wine ran out--alas! Mur was buzzing around giddily taping each of us giving our impressions of the week. I ended up squished up against the coffee table chatting with Jim Kelly and discovered that he was at Worldcon in Brighton when I was (there really are only twelve people in the world) though it appears we didn't meet. Somewhere in there I said something about Tor rejecting my novel (the co-written one, so not really mine) and he put his arm around me and said "Sucks, doesn't it?" because they rejected one of his as well. He said other witty and enlightening things, but I'm very tired right now, and should actually be repacking my bags, not writing this diary. I should stop now and fill in the rest tomorrow, during one of the airport layovers.