Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Happy Spooky Day, everybody! Hope you're all doing something fun today. We're heading off to see the brothers down in Kingston, mon. I got a card from my sweetie with some Hello Kitty devil mints, an Oliver Reed Curse of the Werewolf finger puppet (!) and Halloween crackers.

Last night was the Devil's Night Reading which went very well. The students did a terrific job of decorating and organizing the readings. I dressed as Death and read Parker's "Résumé" and Lewis Carroll's "Brother and Sister" and Langston Hughes' "Request for Requiems" from Shrieks at Midnight.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Publication: The Princess and Her Pig

On line now at New Fairy Tales magazine, you will find my poem "The princess and her pig" with a cute illustration and a picture of the real princess, Sophie with her pig. The magazine is chock full of gorgeous illustrations and wonderful stories and poems. Enjoy! (If you do enjoy it, please consider giving a little to the Derian House Children's Hospice.)

The picture to the left is by the very wonderful Faye Durston, one of the featured illustrators. Check out her work at her site.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Devil's Night (almost!)

Two things: on Thursday, the actual Devil's Night, we'll be taking part in a reading on campus sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta. Many spooky stories and poems will be featured as well as costumes and general spookiness. If you're in the neighborhood drop by Standish Room 1 in the Student Activity Center around 7pm.

Also, my poem "Devil's Night" is among the submissions at the Guardian for Halloween poems. Feel free to stop by and recommend it (link on the right next to the poem): vote for me!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Podcast: Against a Wen

Run over to Radio Wombat for the latest podcast, the Anglo-Saxon metrical charm "Against a Wen." Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Need a Push?

November creeps upon us and it is the time of both NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo; that is National Novel Writing Month and National Blog Posting Month. The latter is actually a rolling deadline: "Post every day for a month. That's all you have to do." It's about committing to building a habit. Dust off your blog and commit to a month of posting.

I include the facetious image above because it has a good point -- if you've wanted to try writing a novel and have been intimidated by the fear that it won't be "good," NaNoWriMo offers the perfect opportunity to get over that fear. It's only a month, you'll give it a good try and you'll see how much you can do in that relatively small space of time.

What, it's not a masterpiece? So what?! That's what revision is for.

First drafts are lousy (believe me, I know). You go back and you improve the writing once you have it down. But you have to have something to revise. Need I remind you once again that I took part in the THREE DAY Novel Writing contest? You don't know what you can do until you jump off that cliff, flail your arms and give it a go.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I should have known better...

Yes, I was a glutton -- three medieval classes in one term. I should add, I'm teaching three medieval classes with at least two different textbooks, so I am teaching some of the same texts in different translations (as if conveying the complexities of different parts of the Middle Ages were not hard enough!).

I can't tell if it's more perplexing to teach the same text at the same time with very different translations and aims (medieval lit for non-majors v. gender in medieval lit for sophomore majors) or the same text at different times -- so I always catch myself saying, "Did we already talk about this? No? Oh, well -- let me explain..."

My third class of the day -- the upper division one -- bears the brunt of this exhaustion and inevitable confusion. I'm always making them laugh as I get stuck stammering on a word, because suddenly I've lost the one following it as my mind races to check:

1) is this the right text?

2) have we already covered this?

3) am I confused because I said something similar in the previous class?

4) or was it in this class last week?

5) and now they're all staring at my sputtering and thinking I'm crazy!

I generally recover quickly (I can always vamp on just about any medieval topic for a fair space of time until I recall where we're supposed to be) but I'm beginning to think the Medieval Texts on Film class thinks they've signed on with a lunatic. Fair enough.

Nonetheless, it's better to have this embarrassment of riches (teaching the field I love and have been trained for) than to be stuck with the dread thousand year survey. In my last position, I had to cover the class that lumped together everything from early Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry to transitional Anglo-Norman texts to Chaucer and the late Middle Ages to Elizabethan drama to the English Civil War to Restoration drama and the roots of early journalism. In a semester!

It's like having a huge banquet and a half hour in which to eat it. You can cram your mouth with stuff, but you won't digest a lot of it and you won't even get to taste some of the signature dishes (I am so not going to teach Spenser! Just not qualified). You get the academic equivalent of heartburn.

Why do it? Often it springs from a desire to teach 'foundations', the explicit recognition that all writers stand on the shoulders of the giants who have come before. But it also devalues those foundations with the suggestion that a mere semester of running through that thousand years will sufficiently acquaint students with the complexities of these wildly varying texts and cultures. The often unspoken assumption is that the students can then be ready to move on to the 'important' (i.e. post-1800) texts -- argh! Medieval literature is not just 'background' for modern literature.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Clive in Chicago

If you're in Chicago, you have a great show to see: Clive Barker's art at the Packer Schopf Gallery. One day only -- this Sunday. If you go, get me something, eh?

He'll also be at a screening of Midnight Meat Train at the Music Box. The trailer does make it look like a slasher film, but the trailer's job is to sell it to a perceived audience. I hope it retains some of the mythic weight of the original story.

Thanks for the tip-off to Boing-Boing, Gene.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Podcast

I have another new podcast over at Radio Wombat, "The Princess and Her Pig." Enjoy!

Review: Jonathan Richman @ Club Helsinki

Richman was amazing -- are you surprised?

What a treat to see him in such a tiny venue, too. It was our first trip to Great Barrington and to Club Helsinki. We happened to park in front of the famous local artist's shop, but she wasn't in. Naturally, we had spotted a bookstore and went to explore before getting some dinner at Siam Square. Their steamed dumplings were maybe the best I've had anywhere, but the entrees, although very flavourful, lacked the promised heat. I had chosen the three chili-rated Hot Basil beef and it was barely spicy at all. I guess it was Massachusetts "hot." We had a bottle of malbec that was delicious -- of course I forget the name but it had a cat on the label with very long legs.

The club was just around the corner. Tiny! It seats about 80 I think, lots of little tables, bar and then a bank of maybe 20-30 chairs in rows in one leg of the L shaped space. The stage is in the middle of the L. We found out the thing to do was to reserve a table: we will next time, for sure. It would have been easier not to have to juggle our drinks, particularly as I found a wireless signal that allowed me to update Facebook from Ianto (yes, just to taunt everyone who was not there).

Hilton Valentine opened for Richman and he was terrific. He did a few songs on his own (yes, including "House of the Rising Sun"), then added a bass for a couple more (including a song about his hometown, Newcastle). Then he was joined by the rest of the band and they went all skiffle doing Cliff's "Move it" and "20 Flight Rock" and encored with "Working Class Hero." The crowd ate it up enthusiastically.

I won a dollar waiting in line for the toilets.

Richman and his drummer came out and set up their equipment themselves. The troubadour extraordinaire -- he was just an endless delight, playful and fun and story telling and hopping off the tiny stage to step out into the tiny audience and sing right to us. He started with "No One was like Vermeer" and sang in French, Spanish, Italian as the mood struck him. He was meandering all over and playing with the microphone when it didn't work. Richman's songs are like flash fiction pieces you realise as he's singing about the Marx Bros or why he doesn't have a cell phone and never will or summer and winter and New England and the smell of the school bus in junior high ("2% cigarettes from those guys who sit in the back, 30% wool, 30% ice and snow and the rest..."). A lively intelligence and curiosity provide his restless muse. It's a treat to see a performer like this. He rocks, he swings.

I shook his hand at the end (like most of the people there). Small venues are so wonderful.

Spotted this graffiti outside the club and decided it looked good under the mercury lights. Thanks to Gene for all the pictures. I had Ianto with me, but not my phone (as usual).

There was frost on the cars this morning as I went biking. I'll have to find my gloves soon, as pulling the sleeves of my hoodie down over my knuckles is no longer enough. It was also suicidal squirrel day with a good bit of unexpected dodging to keep me on my toes. The geese have horned their way into Buckingham Lake and the heron seemed perturbed, but the ducks didn't mind. All the green was covered with frost, though, so soon they'll be crisping. The ankle is slowly improving -- not quite back to normal, but it's getting stronger.

*Review linked (thanks!).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Publication: The Princess and her Pig

I'm pleased to announce that my little ditty for Sophie will be appearing in the inaugural issue of The New Fairy Tales magazine. Who doesn't love fairy tales? Or the lovely art by Faye Durston? Better yet, the magazine is raising funds for the Derian House Children's Hospice, too. How wonderful!

Also exciting -- it will be available by the end of the month, too! Yay! Usually I have to wait a long time to see things in print, so it's terrific not to have to wait too long.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jane!

Hope it's a great day! We're rushing off to see Jonathan Richman tonight, so this is in haste!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Too Much Writing

A friend suggested I need to take a break from writing, but I can't think without writing, so I'm not sure how to do that. But being a little preoccupied at present with work (mostly writing), I cheat with the blog today, offering some words of wisdom from wiser heads than mine about this madness we call writing instead of actual original content (am I forgiven?):

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.
~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.
~Ray Bradbury

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.
~E.L. Doctorow

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
~Sylvia Plath

First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not...Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don't have it, it doesn't matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent... Finally, don't worry about imagination. You have all the imagination you need...Persist.
~Octavia Butler

I am a galley slave to pen and ink.
~Honore de Balzac

What a writer wants to do is not what he does.
~Jorge Luis Borges

I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.
~Gustave Flaubert

1. Find a subject you care about.
2. Do not ramble, though.
3. Keep it simple.
4. Have the guts to cut.
5. Sound like yourself.
6. Say what you mean to say.
7. Pity the readers.

~Kurt Vonnegut

I write for the same reason I breathe - because if I didn't, I would die.
~Isaac Asimov

Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.
~Tom Stoppard

Many red devils ran from my heart
And out upon the page,
They were so tiny
The pen could mash them.
And many struggled in the ink.
It was strange
To write in this red muck
Of things from my heart.

~Stephen Crane

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Albacon Wrap-up

A busy day to finish up the con: yesterday was more leisurely, lunching with Maryann and Mick and giggling at the back of panels, then doing a little work -- I chaired a panel on "Why Write?" which, perversely as ever, I never asked the panelists to answer. Nonetheless, we all had much to say about the subject, about our very different styles and techniques for writing, and about our widely varying levels of self-satisfaction when it came to our own writing. It was a lively panel with plenty of input from the audience, which is what one always hopes to achieve. Afterward we went to the Fountain with Maryann and Mick, and laughs a-plenty followed.

This morning I was on the "creating your own language" panel; yes, another opportunity to trot out the list of languages I had to learn for my doctoral program. It all got silly right away because I emphasized the importance of colloquialisms, using as an example the Finnish swears that use "vittu" (a rather rude word roughly equivalent to "vagina"). I prefer to think of it as a teaching moment and not just a chance to be off-color. Of course, after all the tea I drank to wake myself up this morning, I had to run off in the middle of the panel, but I don't think they missed me much.

We grabbed a quick lunch in the bar (yum, salmon wrap!) then headed up to the "is academia destroying genre literature?" panel in time to argue "No!" All right, oversimplification, but the panel organizer had clearly had some unfortunate personal experiences that influenced his negative stance. I think that by the end of the session Gene and I both had convinced people that while, yes, there are terrible and incompetent instructors (as in any field), academia is not your enemy, reader!

While I lingered chatting with people after the panel, Gene hurried off for the manga panel. The day ended with the British tv program panel, which soon digressed hopelessly into beefs and raptures (as those last panels of the con tend to do). Not enough Torchwood dishing for me.

Got lots of compliments on my new purple locks :-) and best of all, tomorrow's a holiday -- whoo hoo! A chance to catch up...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Albacon & Fall Colors

Ran out to get a hair cut yesterday and decided I needed a little color too, so voilà: Purple highlights! Thanks, Joy. She's so good that she matched the color to the jacket I was wearing.

We had a short night at Albacon -- one panel for me on writing flash fiction. True to form, we cut the panel short (hee hee!). But I sold two copies of Jane Quiet at the end of it (slight upward blip in whuffie), so whoo hoo! We had some tasty ice cream at the ice cream social, but having both slept badly the night before, we went home early and watched the news before collapsing. More today at Albacon -- should be fun. There's free wireless in the hotel, so updates to Facebook likely.

The corset did its job: despite being on my feet all day and driving (a stick) for the first time in a month, there was very little swelling around the ankle. Yay! I even managed to find something to Sanrio-fy it, so that's good.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Bootless (but Corseted)

I was all pleased to be without the boot any longer, despite the swelling today (pushed things too much yesterday, I guess -- missing the whirlpool at physical therapy, sigh). But my trip to the orthopedist this morning resulted in another appliance, an ASO, which naturally I have already dubbed "the ankle corset" (nice lacing). Despite their claim that it "will fit in any type of shoe," it could not fit in the slip-on Sketchers, so I had to go home and get the Chuck Taylors.

Here's what it looks like all wrapped and ready to roll (minus the Chucks).

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Hope it's a beautiful day down your way, so you can cruise around in the 'Vette. Enjoy that birthday cake!

The rest of you, don't forget to imagine peace!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Slight Hitch

My reading at East Line Books will have to be postponed -- Unikirja won't be available as early as we'd hoped, so it will have to be scheduled for some time in November. I'll let you know as soon as I know. I will still be at Albacon (or All-Bacon, as some people have suggested it should be called) this weekend.

See you there!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Albacon & Reading

There have been changes in the Albacon schedule, most notably the loss of a GOH, but the show must go on. Here's my revised schedule:

In A Flash: The challenges and rewards of telling a story in under 1,000 words. Mead, Schwabach, Laity, Strock(M)
Fri 6:00 PM Beverwyck

Why write? It pays badly, you have to deal with constant rejection, and you spend your life typing. Why do you do it?
Laity(M), SGrotta, Spoor, Frederick, Flint, Hunt
Sat 5:00 PM Beverwyck

Implying other languages:
How do you make it seem like aliens are speaking other languages. Other than sprinkling in apostrophes, how do you make it seem like characters are speaking other languages? What tricks of syntax and grammar can be used to make aliens sound alien?

Rothman, Schoen(M), Laity, Mead, Sklar
Sun 11:00 AM Ballroom C/D

Saving science fiction from academia:
Nowadays science fiction Is being taught as literature and prediction, surely destroying joy and misinformaing readers. What can we to save SF from being studied to boredom?

finder, Halasz, Kannenberg, Miller, Laity(M)
Sun 1:00 PM Beverwyck

British SF Television – Why Are They So Good? What is it about British science fiction television shows that make them so appealing?
Fludd, Price(M), Laity, Lay
Sun 3:00 PM Schuyler

Reading: Don't forget to mark October 18th on your calendar. I will be reading from my new collection Unikirja at East Line Books. Maybe I'll bring one of the kanteles, too (or all of them!). Now that the heat's come on, I'll probably have a good bit of re-tuning to do, however.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


From the official Empire State Building site:

Narrating the tour is Tony, a fictional, but nonetheless authentic, native New Yorker born 50 years ago in Chelsea, an area of Manhattan not yet the hot, trendy neighborhood it is today. The tour is written from Tony’s point of view and is filled with his colorful, amusing and informative observations about his favorite city . . . and his favorite building.

Huh? I think I might like to be fictional yet authentic. Maybe I am -- who knows?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Friday, October 03, 2008

Stephen Fry in America

My hopes that Fry's visit to all 50 states for his documentary on this country would lead to 1) his no longer doing that quite terrible "Ammurrican" accent (leave it to your former partner, whose accent is superb) and 2) not portraying the nation as a circus of freaks, seem to be dashed by the teaser video at The Guardian. Despite his recognition that the vast expanses of the country assure a broad palette of differences, he sums up Americans as "very positive" but needing "a lot of encouragement" and the video highlights woodsy hunters in plaid, smearing themselves with deer dung, and colorful pagans in wild costumes at Samhain. Yep, Americans are wacky.

I had hoped that someone with Fry's intelligence would resist playing to the stereotypes, but who'd want to see a series on the States that suggests Americans differ as much from each other as they do from people in other countries? Apparently no one on BBC1. Sigh -- maybe the show will be better than the trailer, but I don't hold out much hope.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

October Country returns...

I will put aside for a moment the anxiety I feel that my Halloween cards are not even conceptualised, let alone ready to send (HA HA HA). Instead I will think of all the lovely fall colors beginning to appear -- more slowly up here, but much further along in Connecticut. I can't get over how beautiful the leaves are there -- more colors than I remember anywhere else. I know Vermont is supposed to be the foliage queen, but Connecticut wins every time. As we drove through the Berkshires back to New York, you could see the palette shift and change, growing darker and more green.

It's the time of year Dark's Carnival returns and you think, maybe this year you'll run away and join up. What could you do? Maybe a juggling act -- or performing as a geek, or maybe once you join you'll find that there's something weird about you that you never acknowledged before. Something that will make people stare, something that will provide a living as the carnival moves from town to town, old hands slipping away into the darkness as new recruits join up. Doesn't matter -- they've always been there, even if they just arrived last night.

The bonfire of dead autumn leaves perfumes the air. It's October again.