Wednesday, January 10, 2007

saith the gourd unto Herod

Aren't spam subject lines fun?

Anyway, here's some mental housecleaning for the week, mostly about words and writing. Hey, did you know this used to be a writing blog?

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DK sent me an email yesterday:
As I recall you are not particularly fond of writing short stories, but I thought this might present as a good opportunity for you to get something published. Check it out.

http://www.escapepod.org/2007/01/06/300-word-flash-contest/#more-185


I have several thoughts on this. First, I wonder if DK has some kind of stock in escapepod.com, since he's mentioned it to me three or four times, apropos of nothing each time. Second, I worry that the state of publishing is even worse that I suspected, because I see several "names" on the lists of escapepod's fiction list, and I know that even the award-winning midlist authors are scrabbling for publication space/money, so I really doubt that my odds would be better in this venue vis-a-vis any other.

Thirdly, I really love it when people (men, generally) who don't know me send me little pearls of wisdom about how I could get published, when the pearls they send me are in no way related to anything else they've seen me do, and frequently reveal the sender's own ignorance about writing and publishing. What's the goal in this? Winning my undying gratitude? Hoping to siphon off some vicarious fame? But then, DK once wrote to Tom Clancy suggesting they write a book together, or barring that, could Mr. Clancy please forward copies of all his research so DK could write the book? Honest to God.

Weary indignation aside, I've been wondering in a more general way if audiobooks are going to continue to grow the way they have. I wonder if publishers have any hard numbers about how consumers are using books; so much media is throwaway or background noise these days. The emphasis is on portable entertainment--of which a book is the original format--but you can listen to a book while driving, or working out, or whatever. Even I'm hard-pressed to sit down and read these days. I wonder if I'd be more inclined to listen to a story, if there were more of the kind of story I want, available? Or would I simply be annoyed by the background noise, the way I so often am with music, these days?

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My writer's meeting was last Saturday. We had a bit of material to cover, too, after a long dry spell. Three of our members have been going through household changes this year; the other three are just having really bad luck (car accidents, surgery, settling the estates of parents). But this time, Jan brought a nonfic article for her art history class, about the late-19th-century Japonisme fad, and how Japanese art influenced western art (especially the Impressionists, which is hard to fathom), decor, and dress. I knew a bit about this peripherally, because of my cultural research, but it was interesting to see a more in-depth article. I wrote several comments on her paper, and she wrote me a very nice thank-you. I love that. It's so nice to hear when my crits have been appropriate and helpful. Makes me feel like I've got a handle on this writing thing.

My contribution to the group was about 7 pages of a new story I'm working on, a little urban fantasy/slipstream/horror thing. Kinda Ray Bradbury, without the sugar coating. More Shirley Jackson, I think, which makes sense cuz I've been reading her.

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I finished reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle. That is some disturbing stuff. It's not supernatural in the slightest. It concerns a pair of sisters, the only survivors of a poisoning that killed the rest of the family (the elder sister was tried and acquitted of the murders). The girls have a symbiotic relationship that's all the more twisted and awful for all its surface normalcy. Jackson's style is tremendously clean, straightforward, and readable. It's like being stuck in a nightmare, where everything makes perfect sense even while you know it's wrong. I admire it greatly.

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I also finished The Knife Man (see sidebar). Good reading. Fascinating insight to the state of medicine on the cusp of science. Made me grit my teeth many times at the pigheadedness and shortsightedness of the establishment, who always want to do things the way they've always done them, a system that rewards mediocrity and resists any kind of change for the better.

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My writer buddy Rob loaned me Other Powers, by Barbara Goldsmith. It's a social biography, if you will, of Victorian Woodhull. I knew of Woodhull as an early proponent of birth control and the first woman to run for the American Presidency, but the last time I read about her I was in the seventh grade, I think, and the library books at that level were somewhat more sanitized than this account. To my delight, I find that the meat of Woodhull's life and biography center around the American Reconstruction era, and among other things she was a spiritualist. Looking forward to these pages.

2 comments:

AJ Milne said...

Feedback to James Joyce from his writing workshop:

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2006/5/9wayne.html

Holly said...

I think McSweeney's is most effective when the writers are writing about writing. I like Neal Pollack's "routine" from about six years ago: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2000/06/26routine.html

Related is the crit of Homer's "Odessey." http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2001/05/09homer.html

It cracked me up because of the constant contradictions of the remarks.