On Some Things About Things; Or, My Writing Process Blog Tour

Hello, readers.

Recently, the illustrative, award-winning Lara Donnelly (@larazontally), who was invited by the structurally inventive, award-winning Carmen Machado (@carmenmachado), invited me to participate in the “My Writing Process Blog Tour.” I have in turn invited the awesomes of Luke Pebler and A.S. Moser.

1) What are you working on?

A couple of things.AwkwardRobotsAssembling

The first thing being that my Clarion class, otherwise known as the Awkward Robots, is putting together an anthology of stories, called the Red Volume, to benefit the Clarion Foundation. There’s a story dancing around in my brain that I might include. Something along the lines of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Once More with Feeling,” but with more ghosts and rodeo clowns. The idea occurred to me while at Clarion when Walter Jon Williams asked me to write about rodeo clowns. I don’t know why he suggested this, nor why I decided that the best way to go about this was to write a musical. I do know that this decision led me to visiting the Geisel library and checking out all the books about musicals and rodeos, which proved a pretty awesome pairing. I read a lot. So much that the story ended up being drafted over the course of one long night, as the first draft of my stories often do, and haven’t touched it since. It occurred to me to give it a look after watching Singin’ in the Rain with the aforementioned Lara Donnelly whilst she visited me in Nashville.

The second thing being a second draft of a novel of revolution, love, and k-pop, whose first draft I began at the tail end of my time teaching English in Seoul. The first draft was written over a period of 18 months that included me moving back from Korea by way of a six-week jaunt around India and also caring for my mother who died, as mothers often do, and I’m afraid that the tone is a bit janky and in need of work. I’m fairly certain, too, that I should add some things that I forgot in the first draft, such as motivation, particularly for the revolution. I’ve never written about revolutions before. They seem complicated.

2) How does your work differ from others’ in the genre?

I’m not entirely sure.

If I could make up my own question, such as, “What inspires me?”, that would be simpler. I could answer this one without too terribly much thought. Hours spent absorbing the absurd, often meta, logic of Looney Tunes and The Muppets. The romantic cynicism of the Princess Bride. The  ecstatic, heart-ending, sometimes never-ending prose of Michael Chabon. The nightmare-logic of Kelly Link. The elegiac wonder of Lord of the Rings. The wit and heartbreak of Buffy.

I could go on like this for a while, but I won’t, as it’s not really fair to answer other people’s questions by making up easier questions of your own and then answering them.

Here’s my answer to the real question. My writing differs from others’ work in the genre in that I wrote it. It contains my obsessions with gender, time travel, received narratives, romance, monsters, and a great deal of heart-based metaphors. I suppose I often love my monsters more than most. Monsters are people, too. It’s just that they’ve been ‘othered’ by mainstream narratives.

I’d much rather my characters understand their monsters than kill them.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I write what I write because it excites me, or scares me, or, hopefully, both. The first story I wrote that scared me was one called, “Monsters and Virgins.” It was about two children, around thirteen, and a game they played wherein the boy dressed as a monster and the girl, very much like Buffy, stabbed him in the heart, over and over. It scared me because it touched on feelings I felt at different times as a young boy, feelings that my desires were, in some way, monstrous. It excited me for many of the same reasons.

I write what I write because of what I read. When I first read Kelly Link, or Kevin Brockmeier, for example, I felt compelled to do what they did. I wanted to touch the magic that they touched.

As such, I’ve written about superheroes and zombies, about ninja zombie werewolf space pirates, and about girls with magic hair who work in porn shops.

All of these stories are about, in one manner or another, love and death, sex and pain, zombies and not zombies.

You can read my thoughts on magic and love here.

I write what I write because I’m confused and in love with the world and stories are the way I learn and love best.

This is what I wrote as the introduction to my MFA thesis named, Some Things About Love, Magic, and Hair.

Here are stories. They are, for the most part, about love. Sometimes there are zombies. Occasionally, people fly. I wrote them in hopes of capturing something of the absurdity and truth of existence. Mostly, though, I had fun. I hope you do, too.

I write what I write because in writing I want to bring the dead to life and bring the living to the dead.

When my father died a few years ago, I wrote his eulogy. I stayed up all night writing it. When I read what I wrote, it felt like my dad was there. It felt like magic.

4) How does your writing process work?

My writing process, such as it is, most often consists of me writing scenes, or dialogue, or lists, until something jumps out at me and I feel compelled to continue writing and exploring the world that grows out of the words. It’s not the most practical method. It often leads to my stories being told not so much in chronological order, as in emotional order. The scenes often end up ordered in the way they came to me in writing. Sometimes, though, I go back and move them around. When I’m writing I feel it’s my job to listen.

If I have to go back and move things around, it just means I didn’t listen well enough the first time around.

In terms of the act of writing, I love to write in the morning, after having had a bit of time to enjoy some tea or coffee and, more importantly, a chunk of reading. Reading opens me up to writing.

In terms of routines, I love them. Waking up and writing at the same time every day is meditation, a mindset attached to a physical activity. Sometimes, like now when I’m traveling, I don’t have the routine and I miss it and I worry that I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO WRITE AGAIN. But, that’s silly. I know, whenever I have some time alone, and a blank piece of paper, it will be there, whatever it is that we call writing and which we dredge up out of whatever process works for us.

Those are some of my thoughts.

For further writing process thoughts, check out A.S. Moser and Luke Pebler, the aforementioned awesomes who will take a crack at writing about themselves next week.

Happy processes, readers, what processes it is that you process.

 

love.

Writing, Valerie, Nashville, Time

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A view of downtown Nashville from the observation park in Public Square. Note the pride flag and Batman, the building.

Hello, readers.

Here are the words from the subject with more details and in a different order.

1) Nashville

Nashville is different. The pride parade is sponsored by Nissan and Dollar General, among others, and populated, in part, by politico’s passing out stickers. I don’t know what the pride parade used to be like (as I didn’t take part in one until I had left Nashville for Seoul), but I imagine it wasn’t such a welcoming atmosphere a few years ago. Yesterday, though, the sky was blue, the streets full of rainbows and cheers.

Do we look good? Yes.
Do we look good? Yes.
Behold. Rocketwater!
Behold. Rocketwater!

Also. Nashville has a lot more coffee than before. There’s Dose out on the west-side, Barista to the east, 8th and Roast to the south, and Louisville to the north, and a growing plethora in between. I love to work in Roast because it’s small, quiet, and full of old light.

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I love to talk and eat in Barista, because it’s big, bustling, and there are gluten-free biscuits. Roast took its tables from a bowling alley. Barista took its space from an old garage.

See. Garage. Also, it is a happy place.
See. Garage. Also, it is a happy place.

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2) Time

I remember when Nashville was different, when it wasn’t the it town, when pride marches weren’t sponsored by Dollar General, which is to say that every time I come back to Nashville I realize that I’m old and I feel sadhappy at the chance to experience change.

This week, I visited my old home and saw this.

If you squint, you can see where the kitchen used to be. It probably helps if you have lived here before.
If you squint, you can see where the kitchen used to be. It probably helps if you have lived here before.

This was to be expected as new people are going to live in this house and not be related to me or my sister. I was sad when my Mom died. Looking at the house where she and I and her parents used to live, I don’t feel sad. A part of me feels excited at what change will bring to this place. Mom and sister wanted to see it changed. They dreamed about what it could be. Now someone will see that dream happen. And so can we.

My home is somewhere else now, and with someone else. That is how time works. Also airplanes. I’m not sure what I’m saying just yet. Maybe it will come to me.

Here’s something my Dad used to say: “I’ve had my adventures. Now it’s your turn.”

Thank you, Dad.

3) Valerie

Nashville has always been good at music. Earlier this week, we saw the Song Suffragettes at the Listening Room Cafe.

 

Courtney Cole
Courtney Cole
l/r: Courtney Cole, Kalie Shorr, Lena Stein, Daisy Mallory, Sarah Allison Turner
l/r: Courtney Cole, Kalie Shorr, Lena Stein, Daisy Mallory, Sarah Allison Turner

 

Tonight we’ll see Valerie June at 3rd and Lindsley as part of Lightning 100’s Sunday night series.

4) Writing

At Clarion, after being told by Walter Jon Williams to write a story about rodeo clowns, I wrote a story about rodeo clowns which was also a musical. Sort of. I’m rewriting it now after watching Singing in the Rain. It may end up with some other things assembled by the awkward robots.

Also, next month, on July 13th, you can buy an anthology from Little Bird Publishing what contains many wonderful dark YA fairy tales including one from me. I will remind you again later.

 

Happy June, readers. Happy time and things.

 

love.

Thursday Things

Hello, readers.

Here is a list because.

1) June is LGBT pride month. And this weekend is pride weekend in Nashville. A group of us will walk and I’ve been told that others, possibly rollergirls, will roll. It could be a whole big thing. There will also be karaoke.

2) I discovered there is a thing such as a dalek ballerina tumblr

3) Friend of the awesome, Sam J. Miller, is recommended reading in The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2014.

4) I’m on the cusp of addiction to Orphan Black and its existential hotness. Here are words with the show’s science consultant at Think Progress. And io9 talking about an essay concerning nature vs. nurture and “our genes do not define who we are” which said science-type person wrote called “Variability and Perturbations of the Spiral Universe Inside Us” which is most likely amazing and which I will not read because I don’t want to spoil future awesome.

5) I am inside of a day where everything seems possible and also I read a lot about pan amalgamation, which is what they used to do to separate gold, or silver, from ore. The process being to mix rocks with mercury in a pan and from this amalgamation you might get something shiny.

That is all.

Happy Thursday, readers.

love.

WisCon 1.0

Hello, readers.

When I was a younger boy, I watched coverage of the San Diego Comic-Con on TV*. It looked like heaven. It looked like a place that make-believe could make as much belief as it wanted. People dressed up as Ghostbusters! As Skeletor! As various shades of pink! It was cool. It was exciting. It was geeks being geeks. I never thought I would get there, though.

And then I went to Clarion and I got to go there and lose my ability to even.

World Fantasy, which I attended in 2012,  was lovely and amazing but not full of the same geek-fervor of SDCC. Most things aren’t.

A week or so ago, after a 24-hour-plus journey (including a linger in Chicago as Obama passed through), I arrived in Madison for my first WisCon. WisCon is not at all like SDCC except for that sometimes people are pink or blue or glittered**. Also, that they are geeks. Geeks for feminism, for discourse, for conscious consideration, for science, for robots, for korean dramas, and so forth, and so on. At the Con, I went to a few readings and a lot of brunches. I heard discussions of hidden narratives and monsters. Of the growing roles of women in Korean dramas, and the proliferation of time travel in the same. I saw a Dalek lingering in the hotel hallway’s linger lane.

There’s an energy to WisCon. It comes, in part, from how small it is. Just a thousand or so people who gather to ponder and celebrate a certain corner of the geekverse. In this it’s the inverse of Comic-Con, which is a gathering of an astronomical amount of people to celebrate all corners of the geekverse.

At WisCon, I discovered that the wonder of all wonderful conventions is meeting old and new people and old and new ideas that you get to discuss with those old new friends. Plotting novels and life goals in a hot tub is another good thing which is a plus for WisCon.

Below are pictures and more words.

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Awesome awkward robot design by @egcosh

Madison, it turned out, is a fantabulous city what features lake-front cider, delicious gluten-free muffins, buckwheat crepes, and delicious coffee.

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This is a picture of a lake-front Sam J. Miller (@sentencebender), who is, while not gluten-free, still fantabulous.

The panels and readings I attended were the following:

  • Three Awesome Women, in which did read three awesome women: Elise Matthesen, Delia Sherman, and Nene Ormes; as well as one awesome Wesley Chu.
  • Awkward Robots Read***, in which I, and many others of Clarion 2012, did read scary, funny, weird things. There was wine, cider, and beer, in the back.
  • Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, in which I for the first time ever attempted to live-tweet something as it happened live rather than wait until it was over and say things about what happened
  • Guest of Honor reading by N.K. Jemisin, in which mountains moved
  • Women in Sageuk/K-dramas, wherein Ha Ji Won was awesome and I learned what Sageuk meant and how popular time travel is of late in Korea****.
  • This Might Get Weird: Stories by Writers You Just Met Last Night, wherein Clarion alums, greatly from 2010, got weird and wonderful with their words.
  • Questionable Practices, wherein Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Eileen Gunn, and Nisi Shawl rocked. Karen Joy Fowler stood on a chair, for example, so that all could see. Nisi sang a song. Which she does every reading, apparently, which is awesome.

I’m not sure why I bulleted these things, reader, but having done it I feel pretty good about it.

Here are more pictures.

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This Might Get Weird (from l/r: Tom Underberg (@tomatlarge), Leah Thomas (@thomtinuviel), Jessica Hilt (@bzztbaa), Holly McDowell (@hollymcdowell), Dustin Monk (@dustinjmonk), Eden Robins (@edenrobins))

 

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People gathered to hear what THE STATUE says about exquisitely sticky cinnamon.

 

Sageuk/K-drama panel in which something magical has just appeared off-screen right.
Sageuk/K-drama panel
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Ooooooh.
Post-floomp dancing with @egcosh
Post-floomp dancing with @egcosh

 

Happy conversations and cinnamon, readers. Listen to THE STATUE.

love.

*Specifically, Tech TV, ZDTV, and now, I suppose, G4, unless it has changed names again.

**The floomp dance is a thing wherein people at WisCon dress up in ridiculous handsomeness and dance. This being my first WisCon this was my first WisCon floomp. It was terrifically glittery and I wore a rainbow.

***Reading with Awkward Robots = gluten-free carrot cake with awesome sauce. You know. If you have to be gluten free and enjoy awesome sauces.

****In dramas. Not, so far as I know, in real life. Though possibly in a novel I’m writing.

Limbo

It has been a very long time since I played any video games, but, recently, watching my partner indulge her puzzler in the puzzles of the beautifully designed Machinarium, I thought to myself, “Oooh. Cool.”

And then I remembered that I had downloaded Limbo a few months ago because my partner told me it was a cool game.

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And it is AMAZING. A lovely combination of mystery, terror, and beauty. Sometimes you die in scary ways. Sometimes you swing among ropes and turn the whole world upside down.

The thing that’s cool about Limbo, beyond the atmosphere of silhouettes and fog, is the sound. It creeps around you, layed, hinting. A rolling boulder coming at you from off screen. Arrows or spears loosed and falling. Rain. God, the rain. It’s beautiful.

The thing about video games that I forgot is how much they honed, maintained, and sometimes dominated my focus. After playing Limbo for a few days, I found myself more alert, more capable of concentrating on things for longer periods of time–reading, writing, etc. I suppose any activity that promotes and rewards the practice of concentration helps to embiggen such muscles. I forgot. Now I remember. You just have to throw yourself into things now and then and possibly always.

love.

p.s. Among my list of things to play next: Machinarium, Braid, Gone Home. Any other thoughts?