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I thought [livejournal.com profile] heleninwales had useful stuff to say about the frustrations of teaching writing, or even discussing process. Not that it isn't worth the effort. Not that it isn't helpful. But sometimes writers, in striving to find enlightenment, can talk right past one another.
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Are you tired of coming home to find your answering machine full of long political screeds?

[ ] Yes

[ ] Yes
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How Not to be a Tool on Facebook.

How many of these things are familiar to you who do Facebook regularly?

Editors

Oct. 21st, 2012 07:46 am
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While I was visiting [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume we had a small but excellent writing workshop. I came away all excited about what people had seen in my first chapter of a thing--the bad and the good. All during my travels I tinkered with that chapter, addressing issues that people saw, then I woke up the night before last and realized I have to scrap the entire thing except for the opening scene.

Writing is such a weird thing--we write for ourselves, but we also have an eye to the potential audience. We have things to say, but we often have to hide them. We are accused of saying things we didn't actually put into the text, because each book is different for each reader. And yet there is the shared sigh of satisfaction at this bit--or a general shudder for the horror reader at that incident, binding us together, those of us who read and reacted to the same book. One of the most powerful magics of fiction is the shared reaction.

The e-book revolution has returned the power of publication to the writer, as it was in the eighteenth century, when there were printers and booksellers, but no editors in the way we know them now. A New York agent was telling me a day or so ago, during a phone conversation, about attending a meeting of head librarians who were trying to address the problem of ebook purchase, and the agent reported heartfelt cries of "We need gatekeepers! Why won't these writers get editors?"

Well, just like in the eighteenth century, the self-published writer will either find her audience or won't, the audience will either like the book or turn away in indifference. Nobody has the formula for success, with or without an editor.

But for those who are sticking to the established publication route, what do you do when the editors (or agents) say, "Yes, but . . ."

And home

Oct. 20th, 2012 05:45 am
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I can't resist adding two more photos, both taken from the window of the train as we whizzed through Colorado. Back to very dry air, and I made out the haze of wildfires across the sky, though no one said anything about major ones.

Oh, but the astonishingly brilliant shades of gold!
trees

That one, alas, caught the edge of the sun.

trees2

One of the nice things about train travel is that they seat you with others. I would never have the guts to impose myself on a set of strangers, but with the authority taken by the dining car steward I find myself eating my meal with people I never would have met.

That Colorado lunch was shared with a professional fiddler from Oregon, and a couple of UK people who were crossing North America to see the sights, before embarking on a cruise ship to go south. They were discussing knowledgeably whether those trees were aspen or cottonwood. As always, whatever the name was fell out of my head in seconds--I have to see something frequently to remember its tag.

The dinner the night before, I sat with three nurses--did they laugh when they discovered they were all in the same profession, one in her mid seventies, one my age, and one around thirty. They had a great time comparing nursing training and attitudes as it had once been, and as it was now.

But I am back, and there was my desk piled with the "I'll do that when I return" things and the things that had accumulated since, so it's time to hunker in the bunker.
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LJ is being weird--won't let me answer comments. This form for posting I have never seen before. I am going to try to post these last photos as it is laborious to get photos from phone to here, and I don't want to do it all over again when I reach home.

I had four hours, and the weather was cool with incoming clouds, so I took a water taxi to a canal tour boat for the architectural tour. I snapped some of my fellow passengers, who represented a remarkable range of language groups--imagine each set of people linguistically isolated from everyone else.

Oh, but first off is my roomette aboard the train to Chicago. As you can see, tight quarters, especially for two! I have packing and organizing myself down to a science, so I am quite cozy.

Following is the tour. Naturally, being me, I forgot all the names of the buildings five seconds after I was told. Lots of rich men and corporations. The only one I remember is the opera house--apparently another rich man had a mistress who wished to be an opera singer. But New York wouldn't have her, so the guy built her this gigantic, fantastic opera house, with its back to New York. It looks like a Titan's arm chair.

Okay, let's see if this works.
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Last day

Oct. 16th, 2012 08:20 am
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I'd wanted to go see the Constitution again, and this time get below-decks (saw it in 2000, but couldn't go below-decks) but it turned out the ship is closed on Mondays.

But Julia Rios, my hostess, found the Mayflower II, which was built on the plans of the original Mayflower back in the fifties. It was built in England and sailed over here, where it is permanently docked off Plymouth.

Turns out there is one of those living museums nearby, but as we were meeting [livejournal.com profile] nineweaving at three for tea, we marked that portion for a possible all-day trip next year, and confined ourselves to the ship.

Cut for photos:
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It's difficult to know how to write up such an experience without resorting to wibble-and-squee, or worse, retailing the in-jokes that inevitably develop in such activities, as these, I find, are usually hilarious to the participants, freighted as they are with the fire of shared experience, but to those who weren't there they tend to cause reactions ranging from the polite smile to stunningly unfunny.

I will try, below the cut (heavy with pix)
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I got this request:
I'm an undergraduate student doing a senior thesis, and I'm trying to get participants for an online survey I'm doing. (I have approval to use human subjects and everything, it's all very exciting!) I was wondering if you'd mind throwing out a link in order to help chum the waters a little.

http://fandom-academic.livejournal.com/878.html

I'm doing a study on the formation of online relationships, specifically friendships, among members of fandom. I need to get the word out, though, because I can't contact everyone by myself. So I'm relying on the help of others to pass the link along.
Thanks for your time.
FandomAcademic
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I wrote this riff up weeks ago, during the sweatbath of summer (still going on at home, oh I shall mourn sitting here in delicious sixty degree temps!), but it's turned out to be so apropos after this intensive week of talk about writing.

I have some pictures, but I will wait to post them for when I'm not dealing with a hotspot struggling to hold onto one or two bars, connectivity being elusive.

A week of intensive talk about writing is both exhilarating and exhausting; so many wonderful conversations with interesting people, each of whom brings a unique world to the table. At the start of the week someone joked about mentioning "plot tomatoes" as a literary term, which would not be explained--but by the end of the week it had developed meaning, because we humans are pattern seekers and makers above all.

More anon--a last few island hours, a ferry ride, and back up to Boston first!

Trip report

Oct. 8th, 2012 09:31 pm
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Amazing, how relatively few miles can take one from quiet and forested beauty to the intensity of New York City. I mean, I sometimes drive that far and back for a family meal!

Below the cut, sketching out my trip so far (with photos)
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We're not supposed to but we all do it.

What do you like? What do you hate? My thoughts here..

Here on the island. Much reportage to catch up on, which I will. Here's me, taken at the home of Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner, before we went to the SFWA reception.
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The authoress has bestowed wonderful pains upon its composition [Shirley], and she has been rewarded accordingly. It has been slowly written, carefully digested, touched and retouched, reviewed and revised, corrected in manuscript and in proof, and in this respect it is a pattern to our modern novelists, who gives their scribblings to the press with all their imperfections, as they flow from their gold pen, scarcely troubling themselves to amend defects in grammar or remedy tautologies.

I took that from a review of Charlotte Bronte's Shirley in 1849. I think it is easy to forget how new the novel is (as we understand it), and how much newer the concept of editors, copy-editors, proof-readers and the like.

The book I was reading was The Brontes: The Critical Heritage, edited by Miriam Allott. Not only reviews but discussions in private letters, both by Charlotte and others, such as Thackeray. This snapshot of early and mid-Victorian readers and reviewers as they try to deal with the question of the 'Bells' gender (some thought that line of inquiry totally irrelevant), morals, ethics, the purpose of books, and especially, what to make of that masterpiece of id-vortex, Wuthering Heights, makes absorbing reading.

But stepping out from the Brontes and taking a look at publishing, which that passage quoted above inspired me to do, caused me to think about the purpose of the editor--and how that purpose has been bypassed by much of the flood of e-book publishing appearing now.

It's too simplistic to say that self-edited e-books are automatically trash. In any discussion I've sat in, the first hands to start waving belong to those who are quick to point out that there is plenty of balderdash out there that has been edited to a fair-thee-well, and the second wave of hands want to make sure everyone knows that editors nowadays either don't have the time to edit, or don't know how to--were hired straight out of business school for their marketing training, and boo-ha boo-ha.

Then there are those who say, in effect, "Who cares about proofing and copyediting? Most Americans are so badly educated they wouldn't know a grammatical mistake, and can't spell." Anyone who has listened to some of the jaw-droppingly awful dangling modifiers tripped out by first-at-the-site newsvamps, richly caparisoned by grammatical vagaries ("Appalled and horrified, the bodies of the dead laying around . . .") might nod judiciously.

Whatevs, as a teen I was talking to the other day said. "I read what I like."

And what I have been liking lately is the work of the self-published Andrea K. Host (there should be an umlaut over the o in her last name, but I have no idea how to make one outside of Word). Her latest is And All the Stars , which I simply devoured while on the train and bus this past couple of days, and even while standing at red lights as I strolled along Broadway in New York City.

It's a YA apocalypse, very different from some of the familiar patterns appearing of late. Do I think she would benefit from an editor and copyeditor? Yes, but only in the sense of making a smashing good read even better. The best editors are able to see what the writer can't always, due to living inside the story; the danger of turning to other writers for editing is that they might assume they are editing but in fact they are trying to make the story theirs. Well, that's collaboration--and a whole nother topic, but I just got the phone call and it's time to flit to another state.

Will catch up again when I reach Martha's Vineyard. I have some nifty photos to share.
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I'm in beautiful western Massachusetts today, after an excellent day yesterday workshopping some chapters or stories with a bunch of other writers.I got good feedback on a much-written opening that is going back for more retooling.

We broke to amble through the woods (imagine having woods right by your house!) and I gloated to myself about how I am missing more hundred degree temps at home. I wore long sleeves yesterday, ha ha ha!

Other than that, BVC is doing a full week about banned books for Banned Books Week. Here is my entry--Put her in the Fire!.
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The plan for today was the Constitution, Make Way for Ducklings, and as much of the Freedom Trail as was comfortable for all parties, but the rain (pause for excitement, rain in September?) squashed that plan. So my hostess's mom and I ventured out to visit Louisa May Alcott's house (after 1857).

Because photos of the rooms were not allowed, I've linked here the Orchard House website's room tour. It was pretty cool to stand in Louisa May Alcott' room, looking down at her desk. (I would have loved to sit at it and look out her windows--top right two in the pix below--but we were not permitted to touch anything.) At the right were her books--her published books, and books she loved. I couldn't see all the titles, but George Eliot was featured prominently.

The most amazing revelation, though, was sister May (who is kind of Amy in Little Women, though not self-centered in real life); I had not know how brilliant an artist she was. The house was full of her artwork, exquisite watercolors and oils, but also, her room had pencil drawings all around the windows and on the walls, carefully preserved all these years. She was also responsible for recognizing the talent of, and providing the early training for, the sculptor who eventually made Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. As a boy, he was carving faces in turnips.

Their mother was remarkably intelligent--their earlier house (where sister Elizabeth died) was a station on the Underground Railroad. In November, a major biography of Marmee is coming out.
My snaps of the house below--the house from an angle to show the old cabin they dragged to the house from the back and hammered to the main house, and then another view showing Bronson's Philosophical School.
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The last portion of my journey was by bus, as the track through southern Mass is being worked on. I put on my music, headphones, and watched the windows. The trees had been still late summer through IL and points adjacent, but here, suddenly, were bursts of startling color.

These photos are snapped from a bus window, so the detail is smeared by speed, but the colors in the slanting sunlight were just so lovely to my SoCal eyes!
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Boston

Sep. 28th, 2012 11:18 am
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After a lovely train journey, on which I got a ton of reading done, I arrive in Boston to discover that Elizabeth Wein is in a local hotel, having drinks with my hosts and friends! And so we joined them for much talk about history and writing and textile art and reading Herodotus.

Midway I took my usual wander around the streets of Chicago. I snapped the following partly because of the effects of the shadows, but also because it is closest to my mental picture of downtown Chicago, as a result of these various few-hours layover walkabouts.
Edited to put giant photo behind cut
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Literary

Sep. 23rd, 2012 06:22 am
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"Oh, but *I* write literature . . ." About literary fiction. And how that term seems to be evolving; I notice in one or two comments that it doesn't seem to mean what it did when I was young.

Other than that, the mad scramble to get ready to go back east for a couple of weeks, with a week at Martha's Vineyard in there. 'Getting ready' so far has involved watching northeast weather reports every day, hoping I get to pack my deep winter clothes (long sleeves! long pants! And maybe . . . maybe I would be justified in bringing the London Fog coat I inherited from my great-aunt? She bought it in 1963, and her daughter told me six years ago when I got it that it had been worn all of three times. And I've yet to have an occasion to wear it.)

Also, trying to figure out an outfit for the New York City Mill & Swill, or the SFWA reception for authors and editors, which I have heard about all these years, but never been to. Do they dress up for that? Looking askance at my wardrobe, which is either a few fancy long dresses of various vintage, or else my scruffy everyday stuff. I think I will opt for basic black, which at night hides the age of the fabric, and over it, the green kimono jacket that [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija brought back from Japan for me.
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"But also, it is only very happy and contented people who can bear to contemplate suffering as a form of entertainment. Ordinary people have enough suffering of their own to do, and want to think about something else in their leisure time. This is why it is so hard to write a bestseller; and why bestsellers almost never please the critics. The critics are aristocrats, and despise the public for its ‘escapism’; but then, the public has things it needs to escape from."

[livejournal.com profile] superversive continues to chapter four of the Poetics, on tragedy and comedy.

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