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.

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