Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Writers' Craft

So I wrote a story.

It's pretty short, as stories go, clocking in at about 900 words. It's for an anthology of "short, weird fiction" that a friend is editing. He's been very encouraging in getting me to write more over the last year or so, so I figured that I owed it to him to actually write something to justify his kindness.

While I'm mostly quite pleased by what I've written, I did feel like there was something there that wasn't quite right. I couldn't put my finger on it, so I got Mat to edit it for me. He thought there was something else wrong with it other than what I didn't like. So I took to the internet--specifically Twitter--and found a cadre of people to read the story and give me feedback.

The group was varied: a Raveler, a couple of guild friends, an old co-worker from THSWSBN, a NBRC twitterer, and Youngest Sister. The feedback was equally varied: Some liked it; others didn't care for it. Some of the feedback was contradictory. Some of it was hard to read. I've written approximately four short stories in the last seven years; this is the first one I've written with a specific purpose, and the first one I've shown to other people. Taking criticism--however well-intentioned--is a difficult thing to do. It gives me a new appreciation for what my students go through with their essay writing, and I will have to remember this lesson the next time that I have a set of papers to grade.

Trying to synthesize that much feedback was really challenging. One of my respondents began his critique by telling me that he hated the type of story that I wrote, which made it really hard for me to situate his feedback in with the others: If it's not the kind of fiction you like, is there anything I can do to redeem it for you? If the genre grates, isn't it likely that my tone and narrative voice will as well? It turns out that a big part of editing is allowing yourself to say, "No, I think her eyes are green," even when your readers keep telling you that her eyes are obviously blue. It's also about admitting to yourself that you have a problem with adverbs and also one with semi-colons. (Frequent readers of this blog are shocked by that information, no doubt.)

After much gnashing of the teeth and rending of the hair, I finally managed to fix it into a shape that I'm not disappointed with, and I've sent it off to the review board. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

We'll be dead before our time is due

It's the Victoria Day weekend here in Canada, where we all get an extra day off to celebrate the birth of our deceased monarch. Her birthday is actually the 24th of May, but we celebrate it on the last Monday on or before that day. I usually try to avoid travelling this weekend, since it marks the beginning of summer for Canadians, which in Ontario means the beginning of cottage season. Unfortunately, I didn't think the dates through when my dad asked me if I'd like to go see The Cars with him in Toronto on the 20th. I wound up coming down on Thursday to avoid the truly awesome traffic that long weekends inspire around here, and I'm hanging around until Monday to head back up to the Bay with Youngest, who got hired to work as a massage therapist by Middle's workplace for the week.

The concert was pretty good--it's been a long, long time since I've been the youngest person at a concert, but I had to have been pretty close to that last night. It was at the Sound Academy, formerly known as the Docks, which is a venue that's right on the docks in downtown Toronto. The sound was excellent, which was nice, particularly since I was expecting something closer to the godforsaken Koolhaus (formerly known as The Warehouse, since that's quite literally what it was). In some ways, it was strange to be at the Sound Academy--in its previous life, it was one of the premier venues for techno music and rave culture, and Mat spent a fair amount of time there in his younger and more foolish days.1 Having been to a lot of concerts with me, he always talks about taking me to a rave, but luckily I've never had to actually go through with that.

I have started a new pair of socks with Handmaiden's Casbah (80% merino, 10& cashmere, 10% nylon) which I think is probably my all time favourite sock yarn. My previous pair, now about two years old, are in great shape despite being washed and dried in machines on a regular basis; one may have an issue soon, but that's because of the lace pattern on the front--the soles are in great shape, even the heels. I'm really excited for the new pair and how quickly they're working up.
1 He'd actually never been to a music concert before we started dating, just lots of raves and DJ shows. He also had pink hair for a long time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Because I'm a POTATO

I've been staring at this blank post for the last thirty minutes, trying to piece something together to write about, and failing admirably. My life is full of things that are not interesting. I've spent most of the last week in what feels like an increasingly futile quest to clean the house. Why can't stuff just ever stay clean???

My knitting has felt very uninspired lately, likely because I'm knitting a cardigan right now. It's a free Berroco pattern--the Ephemera cardigan--and it's knit flat in fingering weight yarn and then seamed. In short, a total snoozefest.1 I mixed things up today by using the Exfoliate! pattern to make a blanket square for my guild.2 I haven't knit with cotton in ages, and my left hand is all tense from working bobbles in a non-elastic yarn. I've picked out (I think) my next pair of socks, so I'm going to get those started tomorrow. Dad got tickets to see the Cars in Toronto on Friday, so I am headed south for the long weekend, and these will make some good companion knitting on the bus ride down.

1Which is not to say that it won't be fabulous when it's done. It's just that it's pretty much the least interesting knit ever. It's one of the tragedies of my knitting life that the things that I want to wear are often the things that I don't want to actually knit.
2 Because what charity knitting project can't be enriched by the inclusion of Daleks?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

In a corner of the world on election day...

Well, the election happened, and I was wrong on pretty much all of my predictions: Harper got a majority; the NDP took the Opposition; the Bloc Quebecois went down in flames; the Conservative candidate here won by a scant fifteen votes. The only things that I got right were 1) that Helena Guergis would be drummed out of office1 and 2) that the voter turnout would be higher.

Watching my social network respond to the election was fascinating. Because Canada encompasses six different time zones, there is supposed to be a media blackout on reporting results from the eastern half of the country until all of the polls close. Violation of this blackout can earn you a $25000 fine or 5 years in jail. The ban is, in theory, a logical thing: news of an NDP landslide in Quebec could well affect how things fall out in British Columbia. Unfortunately, in the day of the internet, this isn't really feasible. #tweettheresults became the most popular hash tag on Twitter during the election, and people from other countries started to gather and retweet the early polling information. It was very neat to watch it happen.

On the not-so-neat side of social media, my Facebook page was a total clusterf-ck. I should have anticipated this, having just discovered how many 9/11 truthers I am apparently friends with, but I didn't. Seeing people's reactions to the election was really eye-opening for me: on one hand, a good majority of the people on my friends' list voted (including some for the first time), but on the other hand, some people became very belligerent and pouty when the results didn't work out to their satisfaction. A few people actually asked that their friends who had voted Conservative to identified themselves so that they could delete anyone who voted for Harper from their friends list. A few others have changed their profile pictures to upside down Canadian flags, and pledged to leave them there as long as the Conservatives are in power.2

I just don't understand this. I mean, I understand the emotion, I guess3; I just don't have the energy to sustain that anger for the next 4 years, nor to perform that anger publicly. My friends (and family) who voted for Steven Harper are still just that--my friends and family. As much as I wouldn't vote for Harper, I recognize and accept that some people would.

1 and she was, coming in third after the NDP candidate (my elementary school French teacher), a loss that I find enormously personally satisfying in a way that says bad things about my character.
2 Little Hob, who has been nothing short of a holy terror all day, having knocked over the spinning wheel, the humidifier, and a glass of water all over a stack of books, has now decided to be extra cute by sitting on the back of the couch with his front paws on my shoulder, as though he's reading what I'm typing here.
3 And then he jumped off my shoulder and managed to hit the "Off" button on the remote control on his way down.