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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.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Cattle Prints

Well, I've been playing hooky, doing what I love to do, which is to work stock with my dogs. I spent last weekend at a cattle clinic with my puppy, Annie. (Well, she's 2 but she's still a puppy, although growing up real fast now!). She was a real lady, but those big steers were by golly going to do what she said! I like her attitude. Dogs are my antidote to the realities of publishing with its foundation on sales numbers. Where 'good' or 'bad' doesn't count as much as 'popular', performance dog work puts me in an arena where how well the dog and I communicate, how well we have trained, generates the end result. If we do a bad job, we get a train wreck. If we do a good job, we do a good job. No politics, sales figures, or popular fads count. It's a very nice, very straightforward universe...if a bit muddy at times. (You should have seen Miss Annie after a few 'down's!)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Reality and Fiction

Two weeks ago, Marilyn Holt, Amy Thompson, and myself put on a panel on the effects of global disaster for the Potlatch SF convention. We wanted to take it beyond the usual Hollywoodesque 'what are all the awful things that can happen' list of possible disasters. Hollywood can use all those special effects and do that so much more colorfully. We worked instead on the 'what's it gonna mean for you' realities of day to day climage change, no tidal waves engulfing New York, no killer super storms to scour the entire US clean in one fell swoop. Marilyn Holt did a great job of providing visual illustrations of global climate change and we talked about the economics of multiple Katrinas worldwide, trade and food and money and the role of agribusiness worldwide in the threat of serious food shortages.

Afterward, the Programming Chair told us that most people were really happy with the panel (we did a really good job, in my totally biased opinion!). But she did receive one complaint that reality had no place at a literary conference. I brushed that off at the time. You can't please everybody. But it has continued to bother me. We have way too many opportunities to ignore reality every day. How much of our news reporting is driven by ratings? If you report boring old 'the world's gonna end' facts about agriculture, shipping, balance of trade, and so forth, how long are you going to keep popular attention? Time's better spent on celebrity misbehavior and catastrophic events right? Rather than on the increasing urbanization of low lying coastal areas. You know, as a whole, we seem to be much more reactive than proactive. Maybe that's a species trait we need to overcome? Personally, I think that's the main strength of SF and it's why I love the genre. Sure you can escape to fantasy planets and ride dinosaurs or battle space pirates, but it also allows some of us step forward into future and show our readers a glimpse of things that could very well come to pass if we don't stop 'em in time.

When it comes to our global future, I really do not want to be proved right. And I think that requires a lot more thinking about that future than might be either comfortable or convenient.

Monday, March 12, 2007

New Lambs and GMO Crop Circles

I have discovered how to determine the start of my lambing season with pinpoint accuracy. All I need to do is to plan on attending a SF con in the spring and the ewes will start lambing that weekend. They did it to me last year as I packed for Norwescon. So why was I suprised to hurry down to the barn to feed, Saturday morning, (with a 10 AM writers workshop to run) only to find a missing ewe.... Silly me to think that last year was an isolated phenomenon. Our little boy in the picture is still a bit confused by this big strange place, but he and mom were fine, so I hurried off to my conference. I even got there on time. (He's a St. Croix in case you're wondering. That's a hair sheep breed).

Potlatch was great. It's a small, local gathering of writers and readers, mostly for visiting and raising money for Clarion West with an auction of Cool Stuff. One panel at a time, and the panels tend to be deeper than your average convention panel. I joined Marilyn Holt and Amy Thompson (writers both) to talk about the interconnected web between global warming, global commerce, and agriculture. It was a good panel. We tried to take it beyond the Hollywood 'sky is falling' themes.

But lest we forget our effect on our alien neighbors, (You know, the ones that didn't land at Area 51), Gary Kearney was good enough to remind me that when we mess around with that wheat DNA it's not just Europe who rejects our GMO crops! You should go see what the aliens have to say about it:


Thanks, Gary! I'll surely have to bring this up at my next panel on genetically modified foods!