Write-a-thon Update

keep calmIt’s week 3 of the Write-a-thon, and I’m making slow but steady progress.

I’ve met my first goal, which was to revise and resubmit a story my writing group loved (two prior rejections), even though the story scares the hell out of me. I’m waiting to hear back about that. I also felt motivated to put some other, older work out there, and I’m pleased to say that Lakeside Circus has accepted “Jaguar Woman,” a free-verse speculative poem that I wrote at Clarion West during week 1!

I met my second goal this past weekend (while hanging out with members of my amazing writing group at our retreat), which was to complete a particular story I started a few months ago at my son’s request. He routinely gives me “writing challenges, ” including the idea behind my recent publication in Interzone. If you’ve read “A Doll is Not a Dumpling,” it may amuse you to know that the challenge for that story was ” a robot that makes dumplings, featuring a talking dog, an owl and a ninja who steals the dumplings.” The new challenge: “a story about an alien that has to eat and drink at the same time.” I’m not sure what he’ll think about where the draft ended up, but I completed the rough draft on Saturday at the retreat.

Now, I’ve got three weeks left to meet my last Write-a-thon goal, to write one complete story from start-to-finish set in the world of my current novel-in-progress, in time for my writing group meeting at the end of July. I’ve promised to tuckerize my first sponsor, and so I’m happy to say that I’ve begun work on an outline and don’t even have think too hard about what to name the protagonist.

I’m feeling a bit more like a working writer lately, a change for me from the spare-time-eke-out approach I’d taken in the past. I think these goals have helped with that, along with the encouragement and professionalism of my writing peers.

So, if you’ve thought about donating to the Write-a-thon, there’s still time! Plus, I still have a prize for my next sponsor.

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Write-a-thon Time!

It’s that time of year again! I’m hoping folks will consider supporting the Clarion West Writers Workshop on my behalf.

You can sponsor me here. Every bit helps!

My goals for this write-a-thon are:

1) to revise and resubmit a story my writing group loved, even though the story scares me
2) to complete a story I started at my son’s request (he gives me the best ideas!)
3) to write one complete story from start-to-finish set in the world of my current novel-in-progress, in time for my writing group meeting in July

The first person to sponsor me will be Tuckerized in my new story (see #3 goal) and receive a digital copy of the story itself. The second person will receive a free copy of The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. Any sponsors after that, well, I will think of something! But you’ll certainly have my gratitude.

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Poetry is a Hedgehog

from Hélène Cixous, Messiah (1996):

“One day I heard a very fine scholar respond to the enigma What-is-Poetry: Poetry is a hedgehog; and then I had a marvelous vision, I saw the hedgehog big as life with a soft skin like tiger silks and the hedgehog brought forth a high meadow that made for the earth red- and yellow-spotted corollas, and the meadow brought forth an admirable dead woman whose stories and tales are the cities and lights of my inner existence, and the hedgehog was in the center of the springtime like the spirit of resistance at the heart of great leaps of growth. As if on an elevator, the dead woman had gone straight up to that which lives again and she spoke to the hedgehog in the voice of a beloved. She spoke to it as “Ceres,” in a voice whose gentleness was stronger than any authority. Seeing that, I understood for myself the mystery… to say: “Poetry is a hedgehog” is a bit short. One phrase does not a lecture make. But hold out your hands, and into them I’ll put the word hedgehog and the word Ceres. Keep them safe, each of them will bring forth harvests.”

*the “very fine scholar” Cixous refers to is, of course, Derrida.

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What I’m thinking now

The Thinker and Death, by Bel17b (Deviant Artist). Image used under Creative Commons.

The Thinker and Death by Bel17b (Deviant Artist). Image used under Creative Commons.

Drawing, which I’m not doing.

Writing, which I AM doing, no matter how gross or stolen (or sometimes perfect) those moments feel.

Heteropatriarchy and the damage it does every day.

Women Destroy Science -Fiction, which is practically the best thing ever.

My third, most recent Interzone sale, which I will say more about later.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Ursula K. Le Guin and the hermeneutics of love.

Clarion West, which is four years ago for me and right around the corner for others.

The desert, Trickster mythology and motorcycles.

Changing my name.

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#Draw365 January 9, 2013 Shoe

I skipped yesterday, Le Sigh. I’d thought I might do two sketches today to make up for it, but opted not to.

I may be building up for the Janelle concert next Tuesday…

shoes are hard

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#Draw365 January 7, 2013 Kansas City Selfie number 1

photo(29)A work in progress.

For myself, of course.


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#Draw365 January 6, 2013 Happy hiker

happy hiker

happy hiker

I wish I could capture the natural beauty of the ridge I’m trying to depict here, and the happy smile of my favorite person.

I have to think that practice can only help!

This one is for Remy, in case you can’t tell who it’s supposed to be.

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#Draw365 January 5, 2013 Saguaro

Saguaro on Tumamoc Hill

Saguaro on Tumamoc Hill

On day two of my #Draw365 efforts, of course I should attempt perspective!

I adore saguaro cactus plants and their human-like figures. Road-tripping through the desert last week, I admired these slow giants standing watch on hillsides, slumping by the road, reaching to touch the enchanted sky over Arizona or even to embrace one another.

This unschooled effort is for the artist Galen Dara, who I am exceptionally blessed to call friend. Thank you for showing me Tumamoc Hill and its lovely silent occupants, clinging to life and thriving.

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#Draw365 January 4, 2013

happy birthday, Andy!

happy birthday, Andy!

I’m drawing something new every day this year, beginning today.

Want to join me? I’m not an artist, I’m a writer. But I’m inspired by Betty Edwards’ excellent Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and artist friends like Andrew Penn-Romine.

This one’s for him.

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Clarion West Write-a-thon Wrap-up, 2013

This year marks my second year of participation in the Clarion West Write-a-thon! The fundraiser means a great deal to me, as the anniversary of my own CW experience in 2010, and as a way to pay it forward in gratitude for this life-changing experience.

My report
I’m excited to say that while I did not meet my wordcount goal for the 6-week period, I made significant progress on my novel! This madcap narrative began as a story seed last summer and then grew into a novella project for the 2012 fundraiser. Now it wants to be a book. I also finally completed an emotionally challenging short story during a dry spot in the novelizing.

The sponsors who generously donated to CW gave me a boost of confidence. The money is for the workshop, but gratifying FEELS occur when other writers give in your name. So, thank you. If you’d like to hear about the project itself, read further. If not, please accept my heartfelt gratitude for your support of Clarion West.

About the book
Since Clarion West 2013, I’ve sold a number of short stories, and I’ve been ducking the long form. But this one kept bugging me until I let it in. I’ve kept fairly quiet about it so far, because it’s my first long form attempt (other than a manic dalliance with NaNoWriMo). However, it’s picking up steam and overcoming some of its shyness. A measure of that steam comes from the extraordinary generosity of Mark Teppo, who offered to listen to my pitch back in March at the Rainforest Writers Retreat 2013 and gave me useful, hard-hitting feedback about structure and believability.

He also gave a cool talk called “Nuns With Guns,” in which he asked, “Are characters fighting you because they know the scene they’re in rings false? Ask yourself if there’s a simpler way. What if they fail? How badly could it go? Are you having fun?”

Well, yes, I’m having fun.

The Pitch
Myths to Live By is a post-Event novel that follows the travels of Bailey, a dedicated scientist and Asema, an increasingly dangerous woman she’s sworn to protect, through an apocalyptic landscape populated by motorcycle stuntwomen, talking animals, hippies, wasteland demagogues and tree-dwelling Amazons. Between the two of them, Bailey and Asema hold the power to save the world or utterly destroy it.

Would you read that? I kinda think I would.

Where did THAT come from?
At Clarion West, one of my instructors was the formidable Maureen McHugh, who advised us to write our obsessions. I think it’s a fair representation to say that she credits the success of her award-winning novel China Mountain Zhang to this principle. Rather than trying to guess what publishing markets want, go with the story that only you can tell, the one that’s eating at you and incorporates subjects about which you care the most. A combination of two of McHugh’s obsessions formed the basis of her novel and created space for risk-taking and invention, producing a unique and exciting narrative.

My obsessions, apparently, are tricksters, nanotech, intentional community, sex, and motorcycles. But it started with “trickster plus nanotech.” It grew and shifted as influences other than these folded into the early novella and gradually the novel outline.

When I’m in the thick of creative process, my writer-brain does a katamari thing, and everything I roll past sticks to the story I working on. Sometimes I fight the katamari impulse, and other times it’s serendipitous. I was reading Joseph Campbell’s Myths to Live By when I started the project. The book is classic but problematic; I purposefully distanced myself from it by giving my ragged paperback (purchased at a used bookstore in Seattle during my stint at Clarion West) to a high school student who expressed growing interest in Campbell’s work. I read Fight Club for the first time, and found Palahniuk’s eye for violence and its motives, satisfactions and consequences intriguing. I fell headfirst into Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World, and began to see connections between aspects of characterization I’d been struggling with in the novella. The main characters, who had felt flat and resistant, like they do when they’re bored with shouldering the weight of the author’s obsessions, sprang upright. They pushed off the packs they’d been carrying for me and began intruding into my thoughts when I wasn’t writing. They started arguing with each other. It was exhilarating.

The Outcome
Now, I’d be lying if I tried to claim this all happened during the Write-a-thon; it didn’t. I’ve been wrestling with this story all year. Writers I trust told me to keep going when I fretted about my novel “jumping the shark” right in front of my eyes. A few folks even said, ah, yes, that’s it.

So, here I go, off into the wasteland. Thank you for all your support, and wish me luck!




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