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Writing Ruminations

Writing is such an internal process. Why not make those private ruminations public? This is how stories take shape and grow.

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Location: Happy Valley, Oregon, United States

I've been supporting myself as a writer for many years and am watching the changes in the publishing world with fascination. For me, sharing the craft, teaching, is as creatively satisfying as the writing process itself.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Scavenging the Audience

Ray, I agree with you that Jim and I really did have a conversation with the audience, rather than merely leacturing at, or performing for them. Personally, I love that type of two-way conversation, but I guess that's how I feel about my writing...that it is not a solo act. I am not dancing on an empty stage to an audience I can't even see beyond the footlights. My writing has always had its wellspring in conversations with people...their hopes, their fears, their worries about tomorrow. In a way, I am writing with my readers as much as for my readers.

That is what I particularly liked about that Inquiry....that it creates a forum for dialogue. I hope you do a lot more of them!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Future Scavenging

Jim, Ray, Lyle, Therese...all of you thanks for including me on the Scavenging the Future Inquiry up here at the SF Museum this weekend. It was a great topic and we covered it from many viewpoints and approaches. No good answers, perhaps, but I think it offered members of the audience a lot to think about next time they pick up a paper, turn on the TV or radio, and listen to the news. Yes, it can be daunting to look ahead, but the glimmers of hope there are real ones.

Dr. Jim Karr and I teamed up on our panel. He presented a compelling look at how the numbers we see every day...GNP, Economic Index...wholly fail to present a realistic picture of the health or 'illth' of our countries. What we choose to measure is what we pay attention to, and we are ignoring may social and ecological issues with our focus on economic growth only. In my turn, I talked about the writer's ability to put a human face on these numbers and make the future one we can imagine. What we can imagine, we can seek to change. And that desire to change, I believe, has to come one person at a time. Try Jared Diamond's 'Collapse' or 'A Short History of Progress' by Ronald Wright for a quick education on societal health.

What pleased me most were a couple of aspiring writers in the audience who seemed to share my really profound believe that the universe of story is not dead, even if the world of New York publishing and hardcover books seems to be tottering. Story really is how we put a human face on facts, and I don't think that will ever cease to be the case. And while waiting for the One Book or One Movie to make a cataclysmic change in our world is probably futile, a thousand thousand writers, poets, actors, video game authors, comics writers telling a thousand thousand stories can, I really and truly believe, make a difference.

And the new forms that storytelling may take delight me. Currently, in Africa, touring bands of people visit villages to perform free plays to entertain the populace. These plays illustrate the danger of AIDS and the need for condums. But mostly, they are a fun and exciting romance that draws an audience. Authors in other cultures are writing fiction that takes a hard look at social conditions and the envirionment and what it means to us now and in the future...Arundhati Roy is one of these, an author with a very strong focus on both the environmental and social ills of India.

I see our video game and comic universe as strong players in this world of future story, too. If you ever get a chance to watch Slide Rule, 'perform' their comics, do so! The Seattle group presents comics that come to life with powerpoint, music, and live voices as they take comics off the printed page.

Fine idea, I was honored to be included. My thanks to Richard Hugo House and the Science Fiction Museum folks.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Scavenging the Future, this weekend!

I'll be up in Seattle, sitting on a panel with James Karr, a professor from Washington State University this Saturday, May 21, talking about the near future, what it holds, and the roles of science and fiction in trying to influence that future. I've been reading Dr. Karr's publications and I'm really looking forward to our discussion. This is the 'big picture' of writing for me, and why Science Fiction is really my genre of choice. Of all the types of fiction out there, I see Science Fiction as having the most potential power because it allows us to step out of a 'right now' that is so familiar as to be invisible and to look at that 'today' reality and the direction in which we're headed with clear eyes.

Not that there isn't a ton of space opera out there, and entertaining battles with aliens that have no connection to any reality whatsoever...the genre is full of that sort of fun fiction and alas, gets tarred with that 'space opera' brush, partly in thanks to Hollywood's interpretation of Science Fiction. But there are some real and often troubling looks at just who we are and where we are going in Science Fiction, and that is what makes the genre so compelling for me. We don't really need a crystal ball in order to see the future. We simply need to look.

Take a look at the program if you're local and might want to attend. http://www.hugohouse.org/programs/scavenging.html

If you do attend, come by and say hello!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Goes Around Comes Around

I got an invitation to submit a 10K word story to a YA fantasy anthology...an original. Good money and I really like YA. I got started on it this week, with a rough plot idea in mind...know where I'm going generally. Now usually, I work out my story pretty thoroughly. I hate first drafts and this is my way of avoiding them. :-) If I plot out the story I use the same creative energy as if I'd slogged through that rough first draft. When I actually write that detailed summary out, it's like doing a second draft...my favorite part of writing. (That's when I get to really bring my characters to life. I love that).

But this time...from my first scene everything went out the window. Yeah, I know what I want to achieve eventually. But I have a fun pair of characters and...I'm just finding my way there. Haven't done it this way for some time, but that's the cool thing about writing. You don't have to do it the same way every time. You should not. So I'm letting myself be surprised by where the story takes me. Yeah, I used to do that, but without a lot of craft ability, it meant a LOT of rewriting. This time, I'm letting the story take me where it wants to go, but I have a lot more experience with Story. So I'm guiding a bit, even as the horse runs away with me. :-) That's why I do this. Every piece I write is a new experience.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Archetect Versus Explorer

I've been working in the nonfiction universe this past week, revising one of the chapters in the novel writing course I have been creating for Long Ridge Writers Group. I actually began my publishing career with nonfiction, then switched over quickly to fiction and never looked back. Lately, I've been returning to nonfiction more and more often. They offer very different types of creative satisfaction to me, and the 'feeling' is very different. When I'm writing fiction, I really do escape into my created universe. Yes, I am also at the same time the crafter, making the words work as well as I possibly can, deepening the characterization, strengthening the dramatic arc. But a part of me is along for the ride, too, enjoying my exploration of that universe the same way I have enjoyed exploring the universes created by other authors over the years. So I am both creator and participant here.

It's different when I write nonfiction. I find the same satisfaction in the strength and beauty of words that work -- that incredible magic of turning black ink on white space into images, understanding, a shared moment of complicity. But it is the beauty of the structure that pleases me here, the clarity that I can achieve, the personal connection that will assure the reader that he or she has got it right, can do this, will succeed. I am more the carpenter/archetect here, admiring the perfect right angles as I frame the structure and appreciating the lovely lines of the roof and the grain of the maple trim. :-) I am not exploring here, I really am building this dwelling from the ground up. In my fiction, I am the explorer who returns out of the jungle with the pictures of the lovely places I've been...not everything I've seen, but the images I chose to bring back.

I guess I'm more explorer than archetect, which is probably why I write fiction and teach in stead of writing nonfiction to pay the bills. It probably has a bearing, too, on why the garden shed I built a few years ago leans slightly...