Inhuman Swill : Workshops

Sparkly heaven

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In other news, I arrived today in Flagstaff, Arizona, to attend the Starry Heaven novel workshop! I'm here with my poor half-finished novel Technomancers, which I hope my fellow workshoppers give a swift kick in the ass. I was hoping that at 70,000 words I'd be close to finished, but as it turns out I'm only about halfway through the first draft.

But anyway, Brad Beaulieu and I ended up on the same flight from Chicago and rode together in the 90 mph shuttle van from Phoenix. Sarah Kelly picked us up with Gary Shockley and whisked us off to lunch at the Beaver Street Brewpub where we met up with Sarah Prineas, Sandra McDonald, and Greg van Eekhout and Lisa Will. A pitcher of Lumberjack Lager couldn't get to our table soon enough!

Then we checked in at our B&B, where the room Greg and I are sharing pretty much boggled our minds with its palatial dimensions. Blue Heaven will henceforth have a lot to live up to! A trip to the supermarket and our fridge is stocked, although it was pre-stocked with bagels and cream cheese and milk and OJ and coffee and syrup and the cupboard with cereal and pancake mix and stuff when we arrived.

Okay, I'm starting to gush. We hear via Twitter that Eugene Myers is having extreme travel complications, but with luck he'll be with us late this evening. I'm now drinking a Four Peaks 8th Street Ale and signing off. The week begins!

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I finally made it back home yesterday to my lovely wife and fuzzy dog after eight days away at the Blue Heaven workshop. I'm delighted to be home but nostalgic for the workshop. It was an extraordinarily helpful, intense, and fun week, maybe even moreso than last year. I don't want to be a namedropper, so I'm not going list all the terrific skiffy writers who attended. Suffice it to say that the week was professionally and personally rewarding, filled with learning, insight, humor, collegiality, friendship, food, beer, free Stormclouds, animal heads, turkey vultures, TNT explosions, Totally Outrageous Behavior, quips that can never be repeated without someone choking almost to death, and Old Gregg. My novel Silvertide was critiqued by two sharp readers who restored my confidence in it, and I hope I served as useful a function to the three embarrassingly talented scribes whose novels I critiqued in full (or nearly so).

Too many good times to recount them all, or even to pick a handful. I leave you with my entry in the Blue Heaven 2007 Raunchy Limerick Challenge, posed by a fellow workshopper who shall remain nameless, for reasons that will remain unstated. The challenge was to compose a limerick employing the words pump, rump, and Cockney.

Down at the Village Pump

A barmaid of bonny sweet rump
Set empty beers down with a thump.
    "Don' just sit and watch me,"
    Said this comely Cockney.
"You want some, get back 'ere and pump."

It's good to be home.

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Over in her journal, [info]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.

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More of that Blue talk

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Is it possible to be nostalgic for something that only happened a week ago? Laura and I were sitting out back in the dusk last night, me with a beer, she with a cigarette, the dog with a chew toy, and I was telling her about how if I felt this way after only a week at Blue Heaven, I must have been a complete mess at 17 coming home from six weeks at Clarion.

For a few days I've resisted sitting down to write up the social side of the workshop, figuring the ground has already been covered pretty thoroughly by others. But the idea wouldn't let me go, so here (rapidly and possibly incoherently) I go.

[info]paulmelko picked me up at Port Columbus on the afternoon of Friday, May 12th. Cathy "Chance" "Jaded Reader" "[info]secritcrush" Morrison, having arrived earlier that afternoon and checked into an airport hotel, was with him. I almost immediately supplied the first running gag (or "callback") of the week when Paul, pulling out into traffic, said, "So your plane was a little late."

"I thought we landed early," I said, looking from my watch to the dashboard clock. "Is that the right time? 4:20? I set my watch back an hour when I got on the plane."

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Blue language

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Though I've been involved with local writers' group on and off in the time since, I hadn't attended a formal away-from-home writing workshop for nearly 21 years—well over half a lifetime, and all of my professional writing career. So it was with excitement and some trepidation early this year that I accepted Charles Coleman Finlay's invitation to attend Blue Heaven 2006 on Kelleys Island, off the Ohio shore of Lake Erie.

Excitement because this would be a peer workshop focusing on SF and fantasy novels, and I was having definite trouble transitioning from short fiction to longer work. And also because I'd be hanging out with some first-rate writers and rising stars.

Trepidation because, for all that I sometimes get worked up online and probably don't come across as bashful, I'm fairly reserved in person and don't usually say much in a new group until I'm comfortable, if then. And also because I'd be hanging out with some first-rate writers and rising stars.

The immediate benefit of Charlie's invitation was that it sparked me to write a hundred more pages on my novel Inclination in something under a month, which for me qualifies as a blistering white heat. The next benefit was the chance to read the first fifty pages of ten other nascent novel manuscripts that ranged from cool and fun to fucking awesome.

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No heaven, just blue

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Bill on the rocks
Came home last night to a happy dog and an even happier wife. And I couldn't have been happier to see them.

But quite a comedown to return to work—and be plunged into a manufactured crisis—after a week-plus at the Blue Heaven workshop. No time to post about the week's experiences yet, except to say that it was an amazing week filled with great people, and that the help I received on my novel was and will be absolutely invaluable. You may or may not glean more tantalizing details from [info]ccfinlay, [info]secritcrush, [info]sallytuppence, Paul, Greg, Tim, Brenda, and Toby.

And you may or may not be tantalized by Secritcrush's Blue Heaven photo album!

Oh, and here and here, if you read down the yellow columns on the left, you can see what happens when writers with too much beer and wi-fi edit one another's Wikipedia entries.

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Wing nuts

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It's WING NIGHT at the Village Pump, sort of a happy hour for chicken wings, 4 to 6. I could get used to this kind of living. Beer, wings, and internet.

Oh, yeah. And the critiquing of novels is very good, helpful, and educational.

But boy. Beer, wings, and internet. Yeah.

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Heaven is very blue

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I'm enjoying the week greatly here at Blue Heaven, on beautiful Kelleys Island off the Ohio shore of Lake Erie. It's raining like a mother, and will for the rest of the week, but I'm still having a wonderful time and learning a lot.

There are two places and two places only to get free wi-fi on the island: the public library, and a local bar called The Village Pump. Guess which one I'm sitting in right now with Paul Melko, Greg van Eekhout, and Tim Pratt?


Hint: we're drinking beer.
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My Himmelblau

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So tomorrow afternoon I fly out to Ohio for eight days of novel-critiquin' good times. This space will likely be pretty silent in the meantime. Looking forward to it, [info]ccfinlay! (And all you other Blue Heaveners out there.)

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Here's to deadlines

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The cursor is on page 201.

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