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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Back at Sea Level But My Head is Still In The Clouds

Class of 2011
The Diesel Bears

After nearly 24 hours of travel, I am finally back on the East Coast, but managed to bypass The Big Baked Apple. Give me a couple of days to get my thoughts together and my photos on Facebook, but I wrote though the flight delays and exhaustion, and am still going. 

My goal is to finish Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams by September, and I'm already more than half way there with about 54K done. Today I am researching banishing and cleansing rituals.

You had to be there to appreciate many of the memorable quotes Nancy Kress has on her blog, but Christy's pictures capture the intensity of the work as well as the partying most nights with wine, whiskey, and song in the best Western tradition.

There are bears at Taos, as Scott's early morning picture documents, and somewhere between early morning reading and writing and late night camaraderie the Diesel Bear brand was burned onto the  Class of 2011.

There were thunder claps echoing through Ski Valley most days, but more than one rainbow sighting.

And this is sunset in Camel Rock State Park, Teseque Pueblo, just outside of Albuquerque, on my last night in New Mexico. I felt like this magical moment was engineered just for my benefit.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Taos Toolbox Days 7, 8, 9-Read, Critique, Write, Repeat

Read, critique, write, repeat. With a lot of comfort food, good cheer, some sleep, and an occasional excursion to the real world in between. Punctuated by a violent thunderstorm and blackout, which made it hard to read, critique and write, but the comfort food, good cheer, and sleep went on and on.

Minstrel Jeff continues to entertain us nightly, joined by A cappella Alan and Fiona, and whatever other tone deaf participants care to join in. Jeff played by the light of the laptop-running on battery power-until his elbow gave out and the lights came back on.

Here are photos, courtesy of Christie.  Nancy Kress is posting a daily list of memorable quotes from the critique sessions, which have been inspirational, instructional, and fun.

One of the more surreal moments was discussing my second submission (Unfinished Business) with Walter Jon Williams in the hot tub.

 In order to keep perspective I did the rest of the sightseeing on my docket. After class, Fiona, Sean and I went to Taos Pueblo. Dusty, depressing, hot—reminiscent of  Pompeii except people still live there. Lit a candle to St. Jerome, since I missed doing it in the Cathedral of St. Francis in Santa Fe (wedding in progress).

Visiting Kit Carson's house was a real kick, except I remembered I couldn't tell my Dad all about it and got all teary eyed. We used to watch all the classic Westerns together. Then I realized I could tell him about it, and I did.

Taos itself is beautiful, with some real old buildings mixed in with the new. The desert landscape is stark and beautiful, Taos Gorge is quite impressive, and the bridge very bouncy, even though the drought has distilled the Rio Grande to a trickle. 

The rock formations in the mountains are awesome, and I'm hoping the recent rainstorms will enable them to re-open the Kit Carson National Forest to hikers before I leave on Friday night.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Taos Toolbox Days 5 and 6: Who Am I and What Am I Doing Here?

Day 5  began early and ended late. Somewhere around midnight, I finished some work on another chapter of Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams. That's two for this week, much less than I expected to write and they're sketchy since I don't have my reference books and Google isn't giving me the detail I want. I looked in the mirror while brushing my teeth and had one of those out of body experiences wondering who the hell was looking back brushing her teeth. She didn't look anything like Kira, a Newyorican witch whose already been attacked by a gang of werewolves and nearly seduced by a vampire. And she's been in The Bronx for less than a month

Right then I decided I needed to first, get some sleep, and second, get back to the real world. I've been in several magical worlds, and in outer space, and in a steampunk town in the old West, and just finished reading a creepy horror/urban fantasy.

Day 6 began as usual, with the 6 am wake up call from my daughter at home. She's waiting to go to camp, lonesome, and we can chat while I make coffee, make the bed, make the plan for the day. Then I remembered that it was MY TURN for critiques!  

Sleep had restored some measure of reality left. Just like knew that I really wasn’t Kira and that my story wasn't that bad, I did know I needed to get out in the real world. I really wasn't nervous, but did have a moment of paranoia when I walked into the common room that the silence was because my story was so bad no one wanted to talk to me until the critique round began.

The critique session went fine, as they all have, and I came away with some great ideas and suggestions. I have to blow up the opening and start again, but I knew that anyway.

My classmates and I had a delightful night seeing Taos Plaza, buying some souvenirs for the family, and exploring one of the most cool antique shops/museums that has, among other things, a huge collection of medical equipment from the 1700s to early 1900s including a set of glass diseased eyeballs, autopsy and amputation kits, surgical sets that look like something out of a horror movie, and a male chastity belt. Use your imagination.

The New Mexican food is delicious (tasted my first posole-a type of soft corn kernel) and we arrived back to a gathering in the common room enlivened by wine, whiskey, and beer in the best Western saloon tradition, though we were at one point discussing existentialism. I didn't drink since I was already obtunded enough, but it was again, surreal, near midnight, to be sitting in a room with Nancy Kress, Walter Jon Williams, Jack Skillingshead, a bunch of up and coming writers, most of whom are already published, and some of whom I think will be winning awards in the near future. The names were dropping (in routine conversation) like marbles: Harlan Ellison, Kelly Link, George RR Martin…. I felt like a Bloosmbury—and no I wasn't drunk but as high as the moon.

When Christie handed me her phone to show me a picture, a text message from John Joseph Adams popped into her inbox. Almost dropped the phone. Who am I and what the hell am I doing here?  Time for bed.

Tomorrow, I'm taking the day "off" to see the local sights, relax, regain some perspective.

Here are some photos, courtesy of Christie.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Report from Taos Toolbox, Day 4

So far, other than a daily nosebleed and some breathlessness the altitude isn't bothering me. Of course I'm not doing anything but eating, sleeping, reading, and writing. The air may be rarefied up here, with both Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress as instructors, but they have both feet on the ground and are totally involved and committed to helping all of us work the kinks out of our writing. 

Something like this is every writer's dream: two weeks to do nothing but write, and I know that the other twelve great authors with here with me are as thrilled to be here as I am.

I stay up late critting and still have tweaks to do in the morning. I've gotten no writing on Boulevard done and will do it NOW, before breakfast (I have a big cup of coffee in hand), now that I've cleaned out my email inbox and confirmed that I did, indeed, get paid.

Things seem to be going okay at home. Maya is whiny, but I talk to her twice a day. Her brothers are fussing over her so that helps. Rumor has it even the boys miss me. John is trying to be brave but I know how difficult it is to do everything and be everything and am feeling a bit guilty and disconnected. He assures me all the prep work ensured adequate food to keep the teenagers happy, as well as be sure all the bills were taken care of and the house was organized (yes, really) is much appreciated. The woman who cleans my house is coming today, which should help keep things under some semblance of control until I get back home.

There is a lot of necessary solitary time here or else we won't get our work done. But all my classmates are trying to find time to chat and bond and network, which is so important in a setting like this. Hopefully, we'll get more social time this weekend when there are no crits and no big assignments, other than our own writing.

The mountains are peaceful and the view from the window of my room breathtaking, as long as I don't focus on those big boulders perched up there. In winter, it's avalanche concerns but there is a terrible drought here (hiking trails are closed, damn) and though we've had some rain and a huge thunderstorm (followed by a rainbow so close it felt like I could touch it), too much might cause a landslide.

I will try to get some pictures posted and check in this weekend.