thanks

Hello, readers.

I wrote a thing about Nick Drake for the folks over at And now we rise. It came about after listening, and tweeting about, the 99% Invisible episode about him, Three Records from Sundown. Here’s the beginning of that thing I wrote:

Under the television, behind a couple of cabinet doors, she kept her collection of CDs, a myriad of albums, artists, and mixes. For a time, after she left, she left that collection behind. I guess I knew one day she would come back for it, and she did, but in between when she first left, and when she came and collected everything, I listened, I swallowed, I absorbed, I pushed that music deep, deep down into my soul, holding on to what we had and what I knew we had lost. Among those CDs–so many of them just CD-R’s with the name of an album, artist, or mix written in black marker–were Weezer, Neutral Milk Hotel, Badly Drawn Boy, Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and one mix called “The Frantic Panic Mechanics.” The music blurred into a soundtrack for that moment. One of those CDs had a name written on it I had never seen before.

Nick Drake.

Head over to And now we rise to read the rest. Music is the best time machine. Well. Except for a delorean.

Also. It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S.

So, remember, if you make a bear, undo it, whether you meant to make a bear or not.

Also, also. Someone quoted this passage from To Kill a Mockingbird the other day. It seemed right.

“Atticus–” said Jem bleakly.
He turned in the doorway. “What, son?”
“How could they do it, how could they?”
“I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it — seems that only children weep.”

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (published in 1960 – based in 1936)

Happy today, readers. Be awesome. Be worthy of thanks.

Thank you.

ttfn.

space

Hello, readers.

One late night, while walking through a field near Oxford, Mississippi, a friend turned to me and asked, between the shush-shush of our steps through the tall grass, “Do you ever feel like when you look up at the stars you see more than other people?”

We were walking to a pond near a farmer’s house. We were meant to go skinny dipping. A late-night walk, a late-night swim, a return home, a goodnight, a goodbye. One of our friends was leaving the next day for distant mountains and very well known dangers.

I looked up. I saw more stars than I had ever seen. It was so dark and so clear that you could see the dust between the stars. Galaxies caught in the winds of dark matter.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean because we grew up with Star Trek and Babylon 5 and Star Wars, because we read Foundation and Dune, because we care about the multiverse and so when we look up we see aliens and star destroyers and sliders surfing the dimensions. We see stories.”

I knew what he meant. And I said so.

“I know what you mean,” I said. “Stories in the dust.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

Now, thinking about it, I suppose I could have said that people have been dreaming into the dust since forever. I could have mentioned Cyrano de Bergerac’s L’Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune, or Dante’s various planetary paradises, or those Hindu epics of flying machines that flew equally well underwater or in outer space. But, that wasn’t what he meant. And I knew what he meant then and now. He meant that we possessed a shared inheritance and responsibility of wonder that had been passed down from forever and, for us, that wonder happened to be populated with Skywalkers and Baron Harkonnens, as opposed to angels and demons, and it would be our job as writers to keep populating the dust with stories of what was and what still might be.

Happy Wednesday, readers.

ttfn.

p.s. Later this month, EG and I will be seeing 2001. It will be her first time. Hopefully, we’ll catch Interstellar, as well. One must never stop re-wondering the imagination.

On London, Vlogs, and Everything

Hello, readers.

A few things of note.

1) The Red Volume, the anthology created by me and my fellow Awkward Robots of Clarion 2012, is go! 17 awesome stories of weirdness, wonder, and terror (also, possibly, love) written by 17 awesome people who are also, by turns, full of weirdness, wonder, terror, and love. One of these stories is mine. And it’s a musical with rodeo clowns, cowboys, and a ghost.

We put this thing together to support the Clarion foundation which is a great bunch of people who put together, every year, a great bunch of professional writers and soon-to-be professional writers and let them go at each other on the campus of UCSD. It was absolutely one of the greatest experiences of my life and I’ve come out of it with a family of awesome that will go forth and be awesome and we wanted to give back so that more awesome could happen for more awesome people.

Enough awesome.

Go here: https://gumroad.com/l/awkbotsred

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Give what you want. If you want the thing for free, take it for free. If you want to pay, know that the proceeds (after Gumroad fees) will go to the Clarion foundation and that you are awesome.

One last awesome in there.

2) I’ve started vlogging. I love it. I get to yell at the world about all the things what I love, fear, and wonder about.

Here’s my latest video:

 

 

3) A few weeks ago, I arrived in London, but did not stay there for very long. With EG driving a car hire (or hired car)–which is how Brits refer to rental cars–we drove west to Oxford for the 80th birthday celebration of EG’s aunt. Oxford is a gorgeous city wherein there was more greenery than I imagined. There is the university, yes, and the walls are bricked with narratives of time and whatnot, and there are the cobblestone streets where Tolkien and Lewis walked, but there is also so much countryside surrounding the areas that it’s easy to imagine Tolkien and Lewis walking as much, or more, out here in the green lanes.

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My first vlog covers a bit of the journey to London, but as far as Oxford, I’ve not put that together yet into a video that is watchable. We’ll see if it happens. Something always happens.

 

 

Happy Monday, readers.

Go read some stories:

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ttfn.

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.

Time and its Discontents

Hello, readers.

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It’s Sunday and, so, as it sometimes seems to happen, I’m writing to you. Outside, there is Saigon, and there is rain. My dad was here many decades ago. That’s strange to think about.

I’ve been putting together short reading lists to share and discuss with my crit group in Saigon. The first list featured three stories about space and aliens: “Surface Tension” by James Blish, “Semley’s Necklace” by Ursula K. Le Guin, and “The Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang.

The second list featured stories about space and time: “The Men Who Murdered Mohammed” by Alfred Bester, “The Fire Watch” by Connie Willis, and “The Remeberer” by Aimee Bender. This second list I titled, ‘Time and its Discontents.’

Earlier today, I had sad thoughtful thoughts about my sister and our mom and the house where my mom lived, and where her parents lived, and where her brother lived, where, for different and sometimes overlapping periods of time, I and my sister lived. Mom died earlier this year. The house is still there. At some point the house will not be there. At some other point, it may or may not belong to other people. This got me to thinking about how a long time ago maybe people stayed in one place for a very long time because it was hard to move. It’s still hard to move, but people do it a lot now. I’ve gotten quite good at it. I wonder sometimes if I will ever be some place for more than a couple years. I imagine if I stayed in one place I would want a house with secret passages and a bookshelf or twenty. It seems silly to stay in one place and not make it worth it.

A lot of my favorite stories focus on memory and time. Solaris. Eternal Sunshine. The Rememberer. Prisoner of Azkaban. Etc. So on. My head is full of time and space. So is yours. I wonder what my cats think when I’m not there, or when they move houses. Do they remember? Science probably knows the answer to this.

I finished Alif the Unseen. It was magnificent. Here are some articles about it. The book had me thinking again about myth and time and gods and spirits and how very much I love to exist in a place of uncertainty and how much it scares me, too. Roger Ebert said of belief that he’s much more interested in questions than in answers. I don’t know if I agree with that. But, I do know that I love asking questions.

How are you today, readers? Well, I hope, or if not well, then gainly occupied with the business of traveling through time and adding some joy to the goings on.

love.

New review and other things.

Hello, readers.

Today, I find myself in a cafe very near my home. It’s called Sleepy Town. Howie Day is singing about the best falling down. There is a bicycle hanging on the wall and, across the room, a scale-model of giant electrical towers connected by power cables that bounce when people walk by.

I spent the large part of my morning at the top of my very tall house writing a story about a girl and magical things and stuff. It is one of my favorite ways to spend a morning. Later today, I will visit a fine Indian restaurant and eat delicious jalfrezi’s and korma’s and maybe some channa. Possibly a dosa or two. Probably not all of those things or I would die.

Earlier this week, my review of Karen Russell’s latest collection of stories, “Vampires in the Lemon Grove,” appeared at Strange Horizons. They are in the middle of their fund drive. If you’ve got some spare change, toss it their way. They’re good people.

Happy Sunday, readers.

p.s. I am loving Alif the Unseen. It mixes religion and myth and hackers in a way that delights me terribly much.

p.p.s. Finally figured out a background that works for both me and iOS7. This was, not kidding, a highlight of my week. I like when things are pretty and functional.

p.p.p.s. This is pretty.

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p.p.p.p.s. This is cute and sad and fun. I found it walking about the streets.

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