Sunday, October 17, 2010

clawing my way

from under a heap of apples, rather like James T. Kirk in the tribbles episode, only apples are hard and some of them have mushy bits or bug-bites.

Last weekend I was in the Interior, attending the Golden Swan event and spending time with Alis/Rajpal and Lucy, my most distant apprentices. Riding with me was Deirdre Greenwood, with whom I am in apprentice negotiations. This was the road-trip test, to see whether either of us had such annoying habits that the other would want to leave them behind at a rest area.
I am pleased to report that we both made it back to our respective homes. Though the last part of my trip makes for a long and convoluted story that can only be properly shared in person, and all I will say at present is that I am really surprised BC Ferries has apparently no provision at all for dealing with someone who falls ill during the trip. I mean, not even a place to lie down.
But I am back now, and mostly recovered. It has been a social month so far, with the spare bed not having a chance to be folded back up between Deirdre, Alis and Sitavati, and Stephen visiting, and that just at our place, not counting travels & socialising.

Me with three apprentices, in front of my little tent, Cawston BC.

The apple trees have taken advantage of my absence to start dropping fruit in earnest. We gave two buckets away, and I still have a sinkful to process into dehydrator loads and frozen crumbles. I'm missing the boy and his appetite for apple pies, since the freezer will only hold so many. I may have to start pushing frozen pies onto stray visitors: 'What do you mean you'll be on the road for 3 days? Look, I'll bake it for you, then you can just eat it on the way!'

Then there's deciding on an itinerary for the UK visit, booking b&bs, and figuring out how to pack for the very professional & businesslike World Fantasy Convention and also for hiking around the UK in the cold. Which I admit is a damn fine problem to have, and I'm not actually complaining, just noting what has my brainpower booked lately.

Do I have any writing-related thoughts? Yes, I think I do. As with other times that I've attended Golden Swan, which is a persona-development challenge (sometimes called competition, but since there can be several winners or none, it's not really competing), I notice that what makes a presentation of one's persona work is not so much the big-picture info-dumps, but the small details of the texture of one's life. Lucy did well with her entry, in part because she knew the layout of her home, the way down the stairs with the low beam, drawing water in the courtyard to wash. Another entrant did less well because she knew how 'male children' were taught, but could say nothing about her own son's education, whether he liked his tutor, what he learned quickly and what he was slow at.
The other thing I notice is that while those small, telling details are effective, they need to be researched, or you risk breaking the illusion with a mistake. Anne Rice broke the illusion in Cry To Heaven (for me) by having a character burn a parchment letter in a candle flame--I've worked with parchment, which is essentially fine, thin, smooth rawhide. Imagine burning a dog-chew and you see the problem. Similarly, an entrant this year presented an 11th or 12th century noblewoman and told us about her psalter, made by 'students' at the nearby priory. Um, no. Personal ownership of books is a watershed moment, and it comes at the earliest in the late 14th c. by which time books are being produced in secular workshops. She had, essentially, told me that she'd researched everyday life in the wrong century, and skimpily at that.
Ah well, pedantry: hobby, sport, or vocation?
Or just a relief from the burden of apples?


fairyhedgehog said...

That's a gorgeous photo.

I'm not sure I'd have the patience for all the research needed for a convincing persona but it must be fascinating when someone presents one really well.

batgirl said...

It really is fascinating to sit in on the conversations. I think one trick - easier to do with writing! - is to steer the conversation away from the thin spots and towards the well-supported areas.
My own problem is often that I don't want to stop researching and start writing. Just one more book, please?

Terri-Lynne said...

Look at your jaunty pose. I love it!

I often marvel at places like Williamsburg, where all the costumed people are actually historians who like to act. I couldn't vouch for their accuracy, not being a historian! But it must be cool to listen to them and know all of what they're talking about, even if they make a flub.

batgirl said...

What helps is to be living that way, because then you know what it's like to be pumping water, chopping wood, and so on, and that makes it easier to talk like the person and to have the concerns of that person. Most visitors don't much want to hear you talk about politics or literature, they want to know what you ate for breakfast and what it's like to sleep on straw.
Not an option available to every writer (or actor), though - almost a bit of a cheat!

Laurie J said...

I found your blog while trying to find the rules for the Golden Swan.

I'm fascinated by the Golden Swan event. I doubt I would ever be researched enough to enter, but I'd love to see the criteria as a way to bettering my own persona. Is there a way for someone outside the Kingdom to get the rules?

My email is alizkye at just in case. :)

batgirl said...

Hi Laurie - be aware that the rules for Swan are being revised, and what's online may be out of date. I understand that the required and optional categories may be changing (I'm not on the Swan mailing list so I can't be definite).
Here's a link to the categories, and there are further links to documents at the bottom of that page: