Tuesday, March 22, 2011

And also, coffee spoons

When I was at Clarion, we talked a lot about time. (Also: tentacles. But that was more an effect of the Lovecraftian horror of the squid patty, helpfully offered as "food" by the kitchen staff, than anything else.) We talked about how at the beginning, time stretched out, made the weeks seem to last so much longer, as if we had fallen into Faerie and we would wake to find that years had passed when we left UCSD. Then, sometime around week 5, time cycled through normal for about a day, and then passed in a blur, and suddenly it was our last night there. Then we woke,  alone, on the cold hillside, and went home.

When I think about my writing career, I mark its time in relation to Clarion. Applying was the first time I tried seriously to write, being there was the first time I'd really spent around people who defined themselves as writers. So I notice the places in the year - applications open, applications closed, acceptances announced, the beginning and end of the workshop - that match up with those marks.

And somehow three years have passed since getting the email telling me I had gotten in. And a couple of things have happened, that serve as nice markers of that time. The first is something tangible. My story in Apex, "The Speaking Bone," was given a recommended review ("the good story award!") by Lois Tilton for Locus. You guys. I am so excited about this it makes me a little dizzy. The other thing is less tangible, less the sort of thing that I want to print out and put up on my refrigerator, but still important.

Yesterday, I started the rewrite on my book-in-progress (working title still Stronger Than Death, but I'm starting to suspect that might change). And yes, to comfort my ego I'd rather call what I'm doing to the manuscript a revision, but this is for posterity, so I'm going to be honest. The thing that is happening is a rewrite. And as I started the rewrite, I did something with the first scene that not only would I not have been able to do three years ago, it wouldn't have occurred to me to try.

And I guess that's the thing about marking anniversaries like this, about keeping time. That it's a way of remembering who I was, as much as knowing who I am, and thinking about who I want to be. It's about watching this time stretch and condense and give me days where I can see myself getting better, and when, as I read the manuscript that I began in November, I also have the markers of the days when things were worse. When writing was pain and doubt and tentacles, and somehow, stories were born out of that, too.


  1. I was reading this and I totally got stuck. Did you say SQUID PATTY? I love seafood, but that evokes complete horror...which I suppose you understand.

    In any case -- I saw the mention about your story in APEX. Congrats! That is fabulous.

    Rewriting is a huge undertaking, and I think that being able to do rewrites like you are -- well, that shows courage and growth. Who could ask for more?

    I've been thinking a lot about rewriting the book I thought was done. If not completely, that parts of it need to major gutting. Instead, I've been churning out short stories. I'm pretty sure that's a new kind of avoidance.

    This might've given me the kick in the pants I needed.

  2. Oh, yes. Squid patties. Squid (or something masquerading as such) squooshed flat and square, to be eaten on a bun, like a hamburger.

    A hamburger from Hell. Even the seagulls wouldn't eat them. Also, they bounced.

    The thing about rewriting, the thing I tell myself when I am slashing thousands of words out of a document, is that it makes the story better, and that is the most important thing. No one will ever see the false starts and the embarrassing bits. And sometimes, maybe all the time, you have to write through the false starts because knowing what the book isn't about is as important as knowing what it is. You can do it.

    And thanks.

  3. The description of the squid patties? Eek. That is truly the food of the damned. Well, that and decaf coffee. Also, food should not bounce. Ever. *shudders*

    And that thing about rewriting? You are absolutely right. I don't think I ever looked at it like that before. "You can do it" was just what I needed to hear. Thank you right back. :-)