Saturday, December 31, 2011

Turning years, turning pages, making wishes

I wish you joy.

I wish you people to celebrate your successes, and to hold you when you cry.

I wish that you are challenged in your convictions, and so have the chance to learn what they truly are, and to learn who you truly are as well.

I wish that you will make something - a poem, a pie, a sweater, a song - something only you can make. It won't be perfect, but I believe creation is our way of fighting entropy, and 2011 was a year of things falling apart for too many of us. Let us help the center to hold.

I wish that you feel truly understood.

I wish that you try something that scares you, something you think you aren't good enough to do, something that you have always wanted to learn, or to learn to be. Working without a net is scary, but it is how we become.

I wish that you are able to shed one of the layers of skin that you have been longing to cast off, to forgive an old wrong, to let a wound scar over.

I wish you material comforts - food, shelter, warmth, light - and I wish you the particular comforts of your own soul.

I wish you moments of transcendence, of compassion, of hope.

I wish that at the end of this coming year, when you look back, you are proud of who you are and of what you've done.

I wish you love.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

One more new beginning

I don't normally get very excited about New Year's Eve. I like a sparkly party and champagne as much as the next girl, and I've thrown NYE parties in the past, but it's one of those occasions I am perfectly happy to mark in flannel pajamas with a cup of hot chocolate, rather than out with the riotous crowds. Besides, after spending basically my entire life in academia, I believe the new year begins in September. 

But I got to the end of this fall semester, and I was burnt out. On teaching, on writing, on very nearly everything. This was Not Good, as I have twice as many teaching obligations next semester, and my writing obligations are (thankfully) increasing. And I love the teaching, and the writing (especially the writing), but I was just so very tired. So tired I didn't even know what to do to get myself out of being tired.

When I went home for Christmas this year, I decided to use the time to regroup, and to actually relax. To work differently than I usually do when I am on vacation (laugh at that phrase all you want, but welcome to the life of a working writer), and to think about how I worked, and what was really important to me, and how much of what I was working on was focused toward that. To think about how much of my life was focused toward that, and how I might rearrange things.

So I'm giving myself a new beginning, here at the turn of the year. Not resolutions, but a new way of looking at things.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dancing and sitting with happiness

I am delighted and honored and - honestly - a bit overwhelmed that "Choose Your Own Adventure" has been chosen to appear in The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2012, edited by Rich Horton. 

I found out earlier this week, and did the ritual dance of joy in my office. Today, I saw the official Table of Contents, and I pretty much had to sit down. The other stories are so good, and the people who wrote them are people whose fiction I turn to for inspiration. It's an amazing thing, to be included in such company.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In case you were wondering

It is the end of the year, and, as such, many places are putting together Best of lists, or Top Ten articles, or other such things that talk about what they enjoyed in the previous twelve months.

I have a passing fondness for lists myself - there are three within easy reach on my desk, even now - and so I have put together a list of my favorite books from the past year.

But! you must go over to Fantasy Matters to read it. (I know, I know, there's always a catch.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Good night and thank you, whomever

I have been an appallingly bad blogger of late. The worst part is, when I click through my list of blogs I follow, and I have sadness because they haven't updated, and then I have guilt, because neither have I. And I have good reasons - I am writing two books, a novella, a short story, and a ballet! And tomorrow I will get 45 final papers to grade! And also, it is two weeks until Christmas! Apparently, I use exclamation points when I am full of terror!

This is the point where my head explodes and/ or I search for consolation in the egg nog. Choose your own adventure.

In the spirit of five things make a post, then...

1. I have absolutely no plan to see this movie, but the version of "Is Your Love Strong Enough?" from the Dragon Tattoo soundtrack is amazing.

2. Writing is full of preoccupations. Current ones: the poetry of T. S. Eliot, Arthuriana, bad boys, and time.

3. "The Least of the Deathly Arts" will be in the Winter '12 issue of Subterranean. I am so excited. I am also incredibly excited for "Seeräuber," by Maria Dahvana Headley, also in that issue. It rocks. You will love it. 

4. Yesterday, I met a man dressed in a Santa suit who encouraged me towards a greater understanding and appreciation of the truth in the works of H.P. Lovecraft. In other news, Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Rudolph R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

5. Goonies never say die.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On being a writer

My students know that I write. So even though I don't teach any creative writing courses, there are usually a handful of students from each class every semester who come and talk to me because they want to be writers.

There are, I tell them, lots of ways of being a writer. There is writing that you do solely for yourself, or writing that you do because you want others to see it. You write because you want to see your name in print, or because you want to get paid. There is writing that is a hobby, and writing that is a career. Sometimes these categories combine. I tell them there is nothing inherently better or worse about any of these ways of writing, they are just different to each other.

Usually, though, when a student comes to see me about writing, it is because she wants to write for publication, with the stated or implied hope of it being a career, and the often implied hope of seven-figure book deals, lunches with King and dinners with Rowling. I try to give a reality check - I mention median first novel advances and that professional short story rates are five cents a word. I talk about people I know with multiple books on the shelf who still can't afford to be full-time writers. This information almost never makes a difference, and I'm glad, even though I think it should be part of the calculus. I don't think there's anything wrong with being attracted to a profession because you think you will be blindingly successful in it - you might be. Better to dream.

So I talk about rejection letters and submissions guidelines and daily page counts and rejection letters and query letters and letters you have to send to markets that forget to pay you and that time that I cut 20,000 words because they were the wrong words and critique groups and beta readers and that year I couldn't sell anything and rejection letters. I tell them that I love writing, even on the days that I hate it. That even though it is work, it is a job, there is nothing I would rather being doing. I think I must speak that last bit louder than the rest, because they walk out of my office bright eyed and shiny, and I see them clutching notebooks, and typing madly on laptops before class.

I hope they succeed. And by succeed, I mean get what they need out of the experience of writing, whether they only think of themselves as writers for a semester, or whether they go on to a career of millions of copies sold. 

But I think the next time someone asks what it is like to be a writer, I am going to point them at this post of Nova Ren Suma's, where she says "I'm a writer first, and then a person." It's a fantastic post for reasons more than simply that phrase, but that description really spoke to me. Because I think that to continue - especially if you are writing for someone other than yourself, if you are writing for publication, if you are writing with an eye to being a better writer, you must learn to be a writer first, and then a person.

You must learn that you cannot wait around for inspiration to show up, but must find it, whether by being open to ideas or by refusing to get up from your desk until you have 250 new words. You must learn that strange double self, of having an ego large enough to sit down at the notebook and pick up the pen in the first place, yet still able to sublimate itself in pursuit of the best story. You must learn how to have deadlines in lieu of a social life, and how to keep working even on the days the rejections make you weep.

You must learn to pare away everything, until all you have left is that core of what's most important, and then build your life outward from that. Then, you will be a writer.