<$BlogRSDURL$> Spontaneous Things: Karina Sumner-Smith's Blog
Thursday, February 27, 2003
I was just reading an excerpt from Charles de Lint's new novel Spirits in the Wires, when I came across these lines:

She shrugs. "This and that. I just like playing with words. Sometimes they become something--a journal entry, a poem. Sometimes I'm just following words to see where they go."

"And where do they go?"

"Anyplace and everyplace."

That is one of the best descriptions of freewriting that I've ever heard. Reading this made me feel as if I'd found something hidden and glittery.

It's sad that Charles de Lint will be at the ICFA, and I won't get to meet him. Or, rather, it's sad that he's not coming to Ad Astra. Ah, well, there's always Worldcon ...

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 8:32 PM (0) comments

Decisions, Decisions

I had a very tough decision to make this last little while. Having a story place as an Honourable Mention in this year’s Asimov Award means that I can attend the ICFA for free, complete with a banquet ticket (free dinner!) and an award presentation. Last year, this is what I did, and I had a truly excellent time. It was a time to catch up and spend time with many important people from Clarion (there were, I believe, nine of us there), as well as meet many more. Even though it came at the end of my school year, and attending meant that I missed some very important classes, I never regretted attending for an instant. If I hadn’t gone, I’d never have missed out on so much: wonderful conversations, tarot readings by the pool, the presentation of my award, meeting Sarah.

This year, though, I was presented with something of a problem. If you can believe it, the timing’s even worse than it was last year. Not only would attending mean I’d miss important classes, but it would also mean that I’d miss out on Ad Astra, a local science fiction convention, where I’m supposed to be on a panel.

I have spent the past few weeks weighing pros and cons. ICFA is in sunny, warm Florida; Ad Astra is in cold, wet Ontario. ICFA would let me hang out with Thomas and meet Bryn; Ad Astra would let me hang out with Sarah and meet other Toronto SF people. ICFA requires plane tickets; Ad Astra requires a 45-minute car ride. ICFA has Charles de Lint; Ad Astra has Julie Czerneda. Etc, etc.

Oh, decisions, decisions. And in typical Karina fashion, I waffled back and forth for the longest time, making up my mind and promptly changing it again.

In the end, I have decided to go to Ad Astra. (This turns out to be a very good thing, because a recent look at my bank account shows that I’d never be able to handle the ICFA, not by a long shot.) I’m happy about my decision, and very excited/nervous about my panel (on a yet-unknown topic), and looking forward to the end of March. And as for the ICFA, I figure hey, I have at least one more year of Asimov Award eligibility—maybe even two. Next year, I’ll go for the big prize. That way I could attend for free!

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 8:12 PM (0) comments

Wednesday, February 26, 2003
And I Tell Myself, Just Wait it Out...

The boys have invented a new game: throwing beer caps into the microwave.

Why are they doing this? I have no idea. I think you need to be a 19-year-old boy drunk on gin and warm water to understand this one.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 8:31 PM (0) comments

Freewriting Quote of the Day

I like the word “asphalt.” I like writing it, I like the feel of it leaving my mouth, I like the thought of it, all that cracked and faded black. Old, empty parking lots.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 8:29 PM (0) comments

Monday, February 24, 2003
Joy and Outcry

There have been a great many people saying a great many things about movements and wavelets and whatever cool term they think fits the current situation, and I’d be foolish to even attempt to join the conversation. I’ve been reading, though. Some of these comments have made me laugh, others have made me angry or irritated or simply bored.

In a very roundabout sort of way, all of this makes me think about talking to Rick Wilber last year at the ICFA about “Loving the Bomb.” One of the things that he said was that I was likely going to have a hard time placing the story, not because of the writing but because of the subject matter. “Bomb”—surprise, surprise—has a very Cold War sort of feel to it.

I guess I knew this when I wrote it. But I cannot simply choose what to write. I cannot make my ideas be one thing or another; they are what they are. I am the kind of writer that I am—though I am still fumbling and discovering and learning what that means. I will not wake up tomorrow and suddenly be cool and stylish enough to be part of the movement that it seems everyone with a journal is talking about these days, though I do like to tell myself that I have my cool and stylish moments. I will not suddenly change the way I write so I’ll start selling piles upon piles of stories; and I will not delude myself and say that this is for great and noble reasons, that I’d never “stoop that low” or what have you. I simply have no idea how I could.

I can understand the reason for all this movement joy and outcry, though. I understand the desire and need to be part of something, to be included in something larger and perhaps greater than one’s self and individual work, to be a part of a force that is changing things, having an effect. I cannot say that I am immune to this desire. And yet I also understand the rejection of such things, too. There will always be those who do not feel included, no matter how inclusive the larger group thinks they are or tries to be; there will always be those who just don’t fit in no matter how hard they try. There will always be those who do not want to fit in, who do not want to be categorized and subcategorized, grouped or regrouped or dismissed as a fad. And there will always be those who just don’t give a damn.

And who knows where I fit. Times like this I just feel like a girl alone with her keyboard, struggling to find a place. This is not bad. This is simply the way it is. One ragged claw in front of the other, one word at a time, for as long as it takes ... and then some.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 3:03 PM (0) comments

Sunday, February 23, 2003
Freewriting Quote of the Day

Geekgirl in the corner. Lingering in silence. Linking without shame. (She is waiting, she is laughing, she is wondering what happiness is and how long she can weep over concepts.)

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 8:00 PM (0) comments


There is snow here. Much snow. Much, much snow. It’s bending and breaking tree branches. It’s covering the roads, the driveways, the houses. It tries to bury my little dog when she goes outside to pee.

I may not be Marissa, who lusts after the cold and ice (and wet feet and slippery roads...), but I do admit that at times winter can be absolutely gorgeous. The snow drifts along the side of the roads are wind-sculpted into waves. Everything seems white and blinding, except for shadows, which are soft and blue.

Sometimes, even snow can make me happy--when I’m curled up inside, with a warm blanket on my lap as the vents pump out hot air. It’s only when I think about walking to class tomorrow at a little after eight in the morning that I start to have difficulties...

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 7:50 PM (0) comments

Friday, February 21, 2003

I am feeling somewhat disillusioned this evening. Not with life--that's lovely right now, thank you. I'm mainly irritated with my reading material of late.

American Gods, for example. I heard that this was an excellent book, an amazing book, a creative and exciting and daring book. Quite frankly, I thought it was boring. Was this supposed to be something new? Sorry, all the shine and polish must have worn away before this novel reached me.

Perhaps my dissatisfaction with this book can best be summarized in these lines:

It starts to rain, and her high heels slip and twist beneath her. She kicks them off, and runs, soaked to the skin, looking for somewhere she can get off the road. She's scared. She has power, true, but it's hunger-magic, cunt-magic. (Gaiman 377-378)

Where to begin? The terminology? The manner of her death, which follows? The way this represents Gaiman's poor fumbling representation of goddesses throughout the entire novel? Why don't we just finish off this lovely passage of complete religious misinterpretation by calling her a temple prostitute and be done with it?


I've been reading a lot of YA books, too, and am getting pretty sick of protagonists who have an abusive and/or alcoholic parent. These writers are putting these characters into the story not because it helps the story, but because it's easy. Why does the main character feel unloved? Because his father's abusive. Why is the main character unhappy with her life? Because her mother drinks too much. Why does the main character have no friends? Because she's too embarrassed to let anyone know that her Dad's a drunk. Why does the main character run away? Because his Dad hits him, and he just can't take it anymore. As if the only reason for an unhappiness during childhood is abuse.

I have read some YA novels in which abuse is an integral part of the story; novels that deal with these issues in a relevant and powerful manner. I hate it when abuse is just tossed in because it's more convenient than creating a complex character. And I hate it when the abusive/drunken parent is simply a caricature of every Mean, Horrible Adult that the author can think of.

I remember disliking YA novels back when I was their target audience. If they're half as depressing and irritatingly predictable as some of the ones I've read recently, then no wonder.

How do these things not only get published, but win awards?

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 11:51 PM (0) comments

Blogger Trouble

I have had some trouble getting to the main Blogger page recently. (Whether this is related to the Google buyout or some quirkiness of my own system, I do not know.) I will type into my browser: www.blogger.com

I wait and wait and wait.

At last, I get the message: We're sorry, we cannot find www.blogger.com. Were you trying to get to one of these sites? Possible sites: www.blogger.com.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 11:26 PM (0) comments

Thursday, February 20, 2003
Creeping Above Zero

My window is open right now. The breeze is cold, but wonderful. I can hear a crow somewhere out in the back and, distantly, the sound of traffic.

Outside, the snow and ice are sluggishly melting. Where there were gray ice patches yesterday, now there are piles of sand, thick and wet and brown. The sand will stay there for another few months, until spring actually arrives and the snowplows are exchanged for street sweepers. Everything smells clear.

This morning I spent a good hour walking across town. I went to the library and bought some discarded paperbacks for a quarter each. I wandered downtown (which really is down--this town is built around a valley), thinking, smiling. The sky was blue and the temperature was creeping above zero and it was enough to make me absurdly happy.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 3:48 PM (0) comments

Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Freewriting Quote of the Day (because it just isn't home without it...)

My hands are very cold right now, and red, and the skin is tingling (jar of tang), and my face is flushed, and there are a great many things that no longer surprise me.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 11:59 PM (0) comments

Monday, February 17, 2003

It's strange, figuring out how to write again. It's not as if I've gone without writing for years, but somehow all the things I was taking for granted--things I once considered "normal" for my writerly self--are all signs that Something is Still Wrong.

I've been trying to start a new project. It's … well, let's just say it's important to me. (And no, it's not Journey, though that particular story is ever a presence in the back of my mind.) I have written quite a few beginnings already today, and thrown them all away. Part of my mind is gibbering in panic, "I can't do it! I can't do it! Oh my god, I'll never be able to write again!"

The rest of me is trying to remind myself that I've never been able to write a story without throwing away at least a few thousand words first.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 8:58 PM (0) comments

Land of Salt

I think people tend to idealize winter when they are not actually experiencing it. I, as many people know, am not a fan of winter. Ever. But even I tend to look at this 6-month-long season though a haze when I'm lost in the loveliness that is summer. Winter's not that cold, I think. Winter's not that windy, and dark, and depressing. What I tend to forget is that by February, everything has become the colour of salt.

Driving downtown and back this past weekend made me realize this. We had a thaw a little while ago, and rain, and then everything froze again. There are no great heaps of white snow, only gray little lumps hiding in ditches and covering fields. Old, rotten ice lines the sides of the road, like scum. The sky is overcast, and as bright as concrete.

Cars have all become one colour. Salt drips down blue and red and green paint, stains black and white paint, coats tires and trim, until everything is a nothing colour, a colour that is not gray or tan or white, but something of all three.

It is snowing again, lightly but steadily. I hope for a few hours in the morning when everything is again blindingly white, before the nothingness of salt returns. And, more than that, I hope for spring.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 8:54 PM (0) comments

Marissa has changed her journal's name to Novel Gazing. This gave me a good giggle, actually. Anyone who reads Marissa's journal will know that this is a wonderfully appropriate title.

(Whereas I have the most inappropriate title in the world. Spontaneous? Me? I make lists of pros and cons to decide what movie to see. … Well, maybe not that bad, but it's close. That's what I get for naming my journal/blog after my first real short story.)

And M'ris, to answer your question, yes, you can/should take the fish back. I think it's perfectly reasonable to explain that the product that they sold you was not fresh, and would likely have made you sick had you eaten it. I've found so long as you don't approach with a "you jerks sold me rotten food!" sort of attitude, people tend to be very reasonable. I think fondly of the time that I walked back to the restaurant that sold me the Worst Sandwich in the World. Got my money back and ate cookies instead. No problem.

And Happy Birthday Timprov!

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 12:44 PM (0) comments

Sunday, February 16, 2003
A Farscape Fan? Me?

This has been a great weekend. The big event was visiting Sarah (after some adventures driving downtown … if you can call being stuck in crazy traffic an adventure) for a Farscape marathon.

Before yesterday, I only knew four things about Farscape:

1. It's a science fiction show.
2. Some of the main characters are Muppets.
3. The people I know who watch the show absolutely love it.
4. Sci-Fi has cancelled it, which has sure pissed off a lot of people.

Now, however, I have to say that I'm officially a fan. This show is so much fun! After ditching or ignoring pretty much every SF show out there (mainly because of insanely predictable and boring storylines, and/or characters who I'd happily push down a well), this came as something of a surprise. (Not too much of a surprise, though; after all, Sarah told me I had to see this show and I trust her judgment.) I've only seen the first eight episodes so far, and I'm told it gets even better.

I can't believe that this show has been cancelled. Network people are such morons.

In addition to 8 Farscape episodes, our 12-hour (yes, you read that right) marathon also included some episodes of Inuyasha, which I'd never seen or even heard about before, but enjoyed muchly.

I have to say that I have never before watched anything for 12 hours straight before (except, perhaps, the insides of my eyelids), but I had an amazing time. I think it was the excellent combination of the company, the programming, and the ready availability of carbohydrate-based snacks that made this so much fun. Definitely must do this again.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 9:52 PM (0) comments

Friday, February 14, 2003

So, other than this page and the format, not a lot has changed around here. The Rejectmeter is still up and running, as it has been for the last few years. (I spelled "acceptance" wrong twice yesterday. It's not a word I get to use often enough, I think.) The old archives are all still there ... though one of these days I really have to work on restoring my entries from 2000.

The links page is up, but unchanged. It'll get an overhaul soon, but seeing as I'm away from my real computer right now (and will be for a bit over a week -- woohoo for holidays!) that'll have to wait.

So, welcome back, or just welcome. What do you think of the place?

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 11:03 PM (0) comments

A Chicken for a Cynical Valentine

Ah, Valentine's Day. Not a big day for me. It's never been of interest to me when I'm in a relationship, and it's of no interest to me when I'm not dating anyone, either. I think I'm too cynical, either way.

It was funny to walk around the grocery store today, though, and see the men of all ages scrambling for last minute gifts. They clustered around the flower counter, picking through the roses and carnations. They were two-deep around the "to my wife" section of the card display. They had this sort of look that they gave each other, too, like they were in a club and were all reluctant members. Gave me a good giggle.

I did get a Valentine's Day present, though: a chicken! A real, live charity chicken that will be sent to people in El Salvador. I have a lovely certificate for it and everything. It's funny and helps others: sounds like a great gift to me!

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 10:58 PM (0) comments


This feels funny, writing journal entries again after so long. I almost don't know where to begin.

It was the right choice, stopping Spontaneous Things when I did. Truth be told, I probably should have stopped sooner. The difficulty that I was having just writing and posting was clearly evident in the last few months of this journal's last incarnation, and yet I dislike just giving up. It can be difficult to not equate stopping with failure -- for me, anyway.

But the difficulty I was having writing journal entries turned out to be an early symptom of something far larger. Within a month or so of my last entry, I found myself unable to write anything. I had ideas for short stories, and I could not type more than a few sentences. I had this huge novel idea, and wrote no more than a few thousand words before having to walk away (again). I couldn't freewrite. And, soon, I could barely even write email. Yes, I was incredibly busy, what with work and then a new semester, but I admit that was not the only reason for my silence.

What's odder still is that I didn't believe in writer's block. Or, at least not what I had understood writer's block to be. I'd always thought of it as something active -- something was blocking the writer's mind, standing in her way, stopping her. But this ... this was simply absence. I had ideas, characters, stories, but they were somehow distant and trapped. I knew how to think like a writer, the rationality of creation, but no inspiration. No passion. No desire.

For the second time, I experienced real doubt about whether or not I was actually a writer. The first time, I simply despaired that I'd never be published, that I'd never be good enough. This time, I wondered if all of it had only been a phase. A passing passion. A love that had left me, and I was trying to continue only because of a sense of duty -- a sense of responsibility to myself, perhaps, or that damned refusal to simply let go.

And what if that was it? What if my time as a writer was at an end? What the hell could I do with myself and my life if I could not write?

I have spent the past while wondering about that. Months upon months of questioning and fear and uncertainty. I might have even found a hint of an answer.

But it wasn't enough. Even as I thought I'd lost it (whatever it was that I might have once had) I was planning. Turning over novel ideas in my mind. Discovering characters, creating places, worlds, traditions. I could not write, but I could not stop.

And then, last week, something changed for me. Something started to feel different, and I was too afraid to even admit it to myself. Despair can become almost comfortable in its predictability. Then I got a phone call from Rick Wilber, telling me that my short story "She is Elizabeth Lynn Rhodea" had just placed as an Honorable Mention in this year's Asimov Award.

That did it. I don’t know how or why, but I can write again. Not a lot. Probably not even well. I feel a little rusty, a little rough around the edges ... but the words are starting to come again. And that’s something.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 6:39 PM (0) comments

Rice for Peace

I have done this, thanks to the anti-war movement here at York, and will continue to do so. Rice for peace? It's better than sitting on my ass and doing nothing.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 10:32 AM (0) comments

Monday, February 10, 2003
An Overheard Conversation

For those of you who do not know, this year I have the supreme misfortune to be living in the same suite as three first-year boys. (Counting the days until I'm out of here...) They are irritating and obnoxious in more ways than I can count, but also provide me with moments of hilarity. For example, a conversation that I just overheard through my completely un-soundproof door, as they're making spaghetti for dinner:

"Yeah, my sauce has weed in it."
"My sauce has weed in it. And ground beef."

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 5:49 PM (0) comments

Sunday, February 09, 2003
So. Things are starting to look prettier. I don't know if this is how I want ST to look yet, but it's something. Perhaps the title graphic is too big. Perhaps the title graphic is pretentious. Perhaps I shouldn't have a title graphic. Perhaps I have been working on this for far too long and should really go to sleep so I can get up in 7 hours.

No, that would be too sensible.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 11:48 PM (0) comments

Friday, February 07, 2003
I can hardly believe it! I've finally gotten this to work. I was beginning to think it was impossible. But this template is so very ugly, I don't think I'll let anyone know that this is here ... yet.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 10:58 PM (0) comments

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