August 12, 2006
August 4, 2006
Over in her journal, sallytuppence posed this question: "I'd like to hear, either in comments or linked to an entry in your blog, about how you started writing. I don't want to hear that you were a writer ever since you could hold a crayon in your chubby little hand, no. I want to hear about how you got serious as a writer. What catalyzed it? When did you start thinking of yourself as a writer?"
Though I've talked about some of this before, I thought I'd repost my answer here:
I suppose you could say I got the crayons from my first grade teacher. I was in a combined first/second/third grade class at Buchanan Street Elementary School in Los Angeles when I was six. It was October and our teacher announced a Halloween short story contest for the class. All the entries would be read aloud, and the class would vote on the winner.
Most of the stories were happy little tales of ghosts and haunted houses. I, who liked to scare myself watching bits of "The Outer Limits" and "Night Gallery" on TV when I wasn't supposed to, wrote a little story called "Rattlesnaks [sic] and Cobras." It was a first-person story where the narrator gets attacked by shapechanging snakes in his backyard and dies.
A couple of girls cried when the teacher read my story. I won the contest hands-down. And that's when it crystallized for me. I was going to be a writer, no question.
I told my teacher and she starting letting me use the electric typewriter next to her desk. My first project at the typewriter was to try writing a "Star Trek" script. (Fortunately, that page is lost to time.)
I considered a lot of different ideas for day jobs during the next nine years, but writer was the one constant. Whatever job I ended up taking, I knew I'd be a writer too. I always wrote stories, often during class, but I would say it wasn't until the age of 15, in the spring of 1983, when I was a junior in high school, that I really got Serious.
My dad, trying to help me figure out what to do with my stories, found a copy of Asimov's on a 7-Eleven newsstand and brought it home for me. There were submission guidelines inside, so I sent them a story. A couple of months later I got my first rejection (a form letter with Shawna McCarthy's name at the bottom) and was crushed. But I kept at it.
My parents were encouraging, and couple of my other friends wrote the occasional story too, but really I was pretty much on my own. I subscribed to Asimov's, and during those first two years a couple of articles about Clarion appeared, one from a teacher's perspective by Algis Budrys, and another from a student's perspective by Lucius Shepard. In early 1985 I cajoled my dad into letting me apply to Clarion. He didn't want me to go, but he let me apply. I don't think he expected me to get in, but I did, and I went. I was 17.
Everything changed at Clarion. For the first time I wasn't the best writer I knew, but I was also part of a community of writers for the first time. I was pushed there in ways no parent, friend, or teacher had ever pushed. I received honest, if flipping harsh, assessments of my work. But maybe the most important thing of all was that all those older people took me seriously as a writer, and didn't condescend. There were no pats on the head, which of course made me feel more like a real writer.
Kate Wilhelm, during the last week of Clarion, called me the most improved student, which could have sounded like damning with faint praise from someone else but not from her. She and Damon told me to forget about setting any records, since I was already older than Chip Delany was when he made his first sale, and keep writing while I got more life experience. They predicted I'd start selling in about five years.
As it turned out, it took seven years* after Clarion and something like 200 rejection slips before I made my first pro sale. So I guess the watershed moments for me came at 6, 15, 17, and 24. Maybe I'll sell a novel before I'm 40!
* For two of those years, though, I was a missionary and writing almost nothing.
July 31, 2006
See also shunncast.
July 26, 2006
July 24, 2006
July 20, 2006
July 17, 2006
Epidode #20 of "ShunnCast" is now available, in which at least two people are rendered dripping wet, one senior companion braces for a return to reality, and Bill unexpectedly learns the true meaning of death. Plus a bedtime horror story!
See also shunncast.
July 14, 2006
I'm very pleased to announce that John Klima's Spilt Milk Press will be bringing out a chapbook of my stories in Summer 2007. We're still working out the contents, but under John's expert editorial eye I'm confident the result will be worthwhile.
If you don't know, John publishes the excellent zine Electric Velocipede, home to more than one of my past stories, not to mention showcase for fine work by Hal Duncan, Mark Rich, Jeffrey Ford, Richard Bowes, Alan DeNiro, and many, many others.
More details as they emerge!
July 7, 2006
Yes, here I am at Readercon 17, making a quick post from my lovely hotel room.
I met bobhowe at Logan Airport, each of us having flown their separately, and then we made the quick drive to Burlington together in a rented car. After checking into our rooms, we met in the hotel pub for some lunch and a couple of beers. We also chatted briefly there (and afterward at con registration) with Jeff Ford, Patrick O'Leary, Paul Witcover, and Scott Edelman.
(I had to stop at two beers, considering that I will be reading to an audience of hopefully multiple persons in about 90 minutes.)
At registration I was happy to see that this afternoon's schedule had been rearranged enough that Mary Turzillo and I will be reading consecutively instead of at the same time. Mary is reading at 4:00 pm, and I'm reading at 4:30 pm. If you're here, come on down! At Laura's suggestion, I will be recording my reading to the laptop for my podcast.
(Haven't seen Mary, or any other Blue Heaveners, yet. But I'm keeping my eyes open!)
Bob and I have scored at the freebie table. Paperback copies of Paul Park's A Princess of Roumania are there, as is a stack of what would appear to be genuine, musty-smelling first editions of Norman Spinrad's The Void Captain's Tale. Goooooaaaaalll!
Okay, time to toddle off to a panel.
(Interesting that "Fast Car" is the track that came up when I started playing music here. I'm having dinner with Geoff Landis and Mary Turzillo tonight, among other Clarion '85ers, and Tracey Chapman's mother sang at their wedding a few years ago.)
July 5, 2006
Epidode #19 of "ShunnCast" is now available, in which boldness leads to a first discussion, the possible hues of areolae are considered, and Bill receives instruction as to when women's jewelry is not women's jewelry. (Step back, son -- give the man some whacking space.)
See also shunncast.