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Week Six and Next Year

It seems to me that the stories I wrote toward the end of Week 5 — for critique during Week 6 — at Clarion West (in 2006) have been doing particularly well lately. Surely not because I had a burst of energy: I was exhausted long before Week 5 ended, and yet somehow I (as Shawn, a classmate and friend) put it, I “pooped out” two stories that weekend: a flash piece titled “Pahwakhe” and a novella (of around 15,000 words, at the time) titled “Lester Young and the Jupiter’s Moons’ Blues.”

The former was my first fiction sale ever, to Fantasy Magazine, and it was a good omen of more to follow.

(Note: I’d published fiction unpaid: a very short, impressionistic thing about how electronic interconnectivity levels barriers between humans, titled “touch,” in a campus magazine, and donated a story to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank for a program my sister was running education the public about the experience of refugees and exiles.

But this was my first sale, and I am still proud of it. My dark little postcolonial ghost story. Well, this week, Rachel at Podcastle accepted it for podcast. Fantasy has the first rights, of course, but people will get two chances to enjoy “Pahwakhe” in 2008.

My other story from Week Six, as I mentioned, was my jazz-and-aliens story (okay, it’s more than that, but that’s the blurb I’m going with for now). Like “Pahwakhe,” this story benefitted not only from the comments of my excellent classmates, but also from the critique of no less than Vernor Vinge; their comments undoubtedly improved the story, and they made so man good comments that it was a hell of a job for me just to figure out which ones I could work with and which I’d have to leave off, despite their being sensible.

The comment I most wanted to integrate, but couldn’t, was the suggestion by my classmate Guy Immega to work in an alien buddy who loved jazz. It would have been fascinating, but working through a friendship with an alien would have added a lot of pages to the story, along with a lot of interesting content. I’m saving that for the novel I’m thinking of writing in the same world.

But explicit workshop comments, I think, are only a part of the picture. While it would be easy to credit just what people said about these stories particularly with their success, learning is so often cumulative, and I think that that their sale is a pretty good sign of how immersed in the world of writing and creativity I’d become by then. I’d been learning to think critically about my writing, to look at others’ writing with an eye to improvement, and so on for a whole five weeks — not just occasionally, but constantly. It was like learning to swim by being dropped into a pool every day — by the end of week one, you’re jumping into a pool on your own, and by the end of week 6, you’re tired and ready to stop, but know you’ll miss those days of splashing around, and you can feel something different, right in your muscles. That’s what the workshop was like, and in fact, I feel like I’m still learning from it, everytime I sit down to write.

And now, I am very pleased to mention that I have gotten news from Sheila Williams, the editor of Asimov’s SF, that the story I’m most proud of from my stay in Seattle has been accepted for publication in, yes, Asimov’s. This is very exciting because I think it’s the first submission I’ve made to Asimov’s!

(There was one prior submission, but I think it got lost in the mail… and anyway, I sold that story to Interzone recently, so it’s all good.)

Anyway, now I’m thinking carefully over what I need to do next year. I have a few short stories and novellas sitting in the “rework” and “edit” pile, and unfortunately too few pieces in the “sent out, pending” folder — though I’ll be sending a few more things out this afternoon or tomorrow.

But I think it’s time I try my hand at something longer, again. I won’t be turning my back on short stories — I definitely am finding short pieces a great way of teaching myself to do various things, new things, things I’ve never experimented with before, and they’re fun, and my short stories seem to be doing relatively well — but I also love novels, and I have a few of those kicking around, too.

I also think it’s about time I retool this site just a little bit more: it’s still very much a blog, and I envision it more as a site that happens to include a blog, if that makes any sense. Hmmm… it shouldn’t be hard, but I hate working with CSS and webpage design. Ah well… maybe I’ll write a novel instead.

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