I'd like to lie down in my high, cheap bed, and put on my pajama pants, and curl up with the blankets over me and the curtains twisted just so to keep out the bright, reddening light. The heaviness of eyelids and people passing by outside closed doors. The drifting of sounds between sleep and dreams, a fading half-awareness. A voice that in my absence forms no words.
[I think it says something when one's freewriting becomes unashamed lusting for a nap.]
This evening, I've written 500 words on a new story. I'm writing again. Oh, it's rather a silly story, but it's fun, and there are lines in there that I liked when I first wrote them (lo, these many minutes ago), and have read four or five timess since and still like. I can't tell you how wonderful this feels. If you're a writer, you already know.
(I promised myself that I'd finish an essay before I let myself post my news here, and I have finally finished.)
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Jed Hartman at Strange Horizons that began, "This is not an acceptance or a rejection, but a request for clarification." The fiction editors had a few questions about the story I'd submitted, "Drowned Men Can't Have Kids." To be honest, I'm not surprised that there were questions. This is a story whose motto I've always thought should be "You figure it out."
But, I realized that "you figure it out" is not an ideal answer to give to an editor, and knowing that my response to this email might very well decide the fate of my story, I agonized and laboured over my very calm and casual-seeming reply. I hit send, and let the waiting begin again.
I've been thinking about this for so long, knowing that it was sitting right on the fence--but that it had a chance. The editors had read and liked my story, and it had a chance.
Today I received their decision: they bought it!! "Drowned Men" is going to be published in Strange Horizons!!
I can't believe it. I am so, so happy about this. Shocked, delighted, overjoyed. Pro sale! WOOHOO!!
So, Friday. Class ended, and I packed my things in something of a hurry. I had this nagging feeling that I was forgetting something, but no matter how much I looked around my room I could not figure out what I was missing. Only when I was across campus waiting for the bus did I think, "Oh, right. I was going to check what subway station I have to get off at." Oops. However, my bag was incredibly heavy and there was no way I was going to walk back to my room for that, so I prayed that my memory was as good as I hoped and headed downtown.
Well, my memory's good but my sense of direction is not. Luckily, I only went the wrong way once--though it was really just the wrong side of the street, not the wrong way entirely. But with a weekend's worth of clothes and a big ol' stack of books to have signed by various authors all packed into one bag, my shoulders were not happy with the extra wandering. Luckily, I found the Colony Hotel and signed in (much to the pleasure of my aching back). My roommates had all arrived, and I quickly found Sarah and her sibling, Simeon, and went out for some much needed dinner.
The Japanese restaurant that we went to seemed nice, small but pretty. I didn't eat too much, my nervous stomach being what it is, though Sarah and I did dare each other to eat some sashimi. Sarah ate hers without any problem, though I was caught using Improper Japanese Food Eating Technique.
"Hey," I said. "If I put this whole thing in my mouth at once, there will be issues."
However, the only issues of the meal turned out to be the fingernail that Simeon found in his tea. Say it with me now: ugh! Though we tried to think of other things it could be, the only thing that it looked like was a fingernail. We decided not to eat there again.
Saturday and consciousness came about an hour before I was expecting--woken at 7 with a wake-up call instead of 8 with the alarm. Oh well, who sleeps at cons anyway?
In the morning, I went to panels. First up was Julie and David Brin's panel on SF in the classroom, which was entertaining even for us non-teacher types. I collected material for my mother instead, who is not only a teacher but also a David Brin fan (and soon to be a Julie Czerneda fan, if I have anything to do with it). I'd hoped to get Lindy's book signed for her, but I'd forgotten to bring it downstairs, so talked to David Brin instead and told him that I'd have to track him down later for his signature. I'd hoped to buy copies of the Wonder Zone books, but there were none to be had, so no deal.
After that it was standing-room-only in the "what's coming up on Space" panel. I discovered what's coming up on Space. Then it was off to the launch of the new Wonder Zone book Orbiter, where I drank some very excellent punch and talked to some very excellent authors. I'd hoped to buy copies of Wonder Zone books, but there were still none to be had, so no deal. David Brin showed up, but I still didn't have Lindy's book with me, so I figured I'd have to track him down later for his signature.
Things after that are a bit of a blur. I had lunch with a fairly large group of people, which was a lot of fun. I broke the trend, though, by being the first one to not order a tuna sandwich. In my defense, I thought about ordering a tuna sandwich, but knew I'd end up wasting half of it (was not hungry) and so had a sausage roll instead. We returned to the hotel, where I discovered that I'd missed David Brin's reading and signing. Damn! I thought. I'll have to track him down later for his signature.
I did start tracking down other authors, though, and begging them for signatures like the geeky fangirl I am. Had Julie and James Alan Gardner to sign books for me--woohoo! And somewhere in there I went to the dealer's room, which is always entertaining.
I finally found time to go visit the art show--only to be greeted with the announcement, "Two minutes until the auction closes! You have two minutes left!" Argh! I'd wanted to buy something! I started to run around the room in a desperate hurry, but was ushered out of the room in (you guessed it) two minutes. Too late. (Damn!) I felt like a moron for not visiting sooner.
Back at the con, I picked up my con badge. It was green! This gave me more pleasure than I should admit to. Yes, I had a cool, green panelist badge. I felt so very special.
Tagging along with Sarah, we met up with Julie Czerneda (woo!) and Janet, Lance, Ruth, Dan, Lara, and Erin, people who frequent Julie's newsgroup. Sarah had told me to say hello on the newsgroup some time before, promising that the people there were welcoming and fun. I believed her, and said a few things there, though was rather reserved, as I always am around people I don't know, even online. Needless to say, I wasn't sure how people would act towards me, and was a wee bit nervous. My fears, however, were completely unfounded. People were welcoming and fun, just as Sarah promised.
It was interesting, though, meeting people that I only knew (and then only just) through the internet, having never seen pictures of them before. I never have any idea what people will look like, so whatever I see is a surprise. (With some exceptions, of course. I don't think I'll be that surprised when I meet Marissa, for example, because I've certainly talked to her before and have seen a picture or two hundred.)
Friday night was Jason Taniguchi's show. I did not know what this was. All I'd heard were rumours and announcements. "Jason Taniguchi's show is on Friday this year, not Saturday! Come early! You don't want to miss out!" The con booklet described it as a musical version of Attack of the Clones. I was wary.
However, by the time he got out a roll of paper towels to do the "In a galaxy far, far away…" sequence, I knew I was in for something pretty damn funny. I don't think I've laughed that hard for that long in years. He made everything that I disliked about the movie into jokes, and added eeevil political commentary and Sound of Music songs. "The force is nutty … with a slightly fruity aftertaste," became the ongoing joke of the con. My stomach and ribs ached from laughing for what seemed like hours.
We visited the con suite somewhat briefly, but went to bed "early." I think I got maybe six hours of sleep that night. What luxury!
Dinner was in the rather expensive hotel restaurant. I was in a big group of people who ignored the waitstaff and rearranged the tables as we saw fit (evoking Clarion flashbacks). We were right by the GoH table; oh, I thought, there's David Brin. But it's not very nice to accost authors while they are eating, I'll have to … well, you get the idea.
After that I prettied myself up (sparkly big-sleeved shirt--woo!) and went down to the Masquerade. The only masquerade I'd seen before this one was at PhilCon, and that was in a hotel room on TV (though admittedly surrounded by cool, famous authors). It was far more fun in person. There is something delightfully and unabashedly geeky about the masquerade that I so enjoy.
The evening is more of a blur than the rest of the con. For a while a group of us went to the dance. I don't dance very often, but when I do I have a great time. I haven't had this much fun dancing since the Clarionites-go-clubbing fun in 2001. I'd go dancing here, to be honest, but I don't have a group of people to go with. (Pout.) The music was silly, but fun. I'm still singing "The Safety Dance" now, and I'm listening to Miranda Sex Garden at the moment so that should tell you something.
I did, however, make the mistake of sitting down too long. Next thing I know there's a tap on my arm. I look up. Two guys are standing there, looking awfully out of place. Acting cool, hair spiked, the whole deal. No badges. Con crashers.
They said a few awkward things, and then attempted the worst pick-up line I've ever heard: "Um, so … do you like science fiction?"
To which I thought, No, dude, I'm just pretending. Pah.
After they left, announcing their plans to come back and talk to me soon (oh, great), Sarah and I came up with a plan to deal with them should they return and prove to be persistent. I'm pretty sure we could have gotten John to go along with it, too.
The rest of the evening was mainly wandering the halls and visiting of various suites. Con parties. Noise, food, laughter, interesting conversation. The evening finished with a group of us hanging out in Julie and Roger's suite, where I became too reserved for my own good but had a hell of a good time anyway. Too funny.
And, a few times during the evening, I did take a moment or two to wonder what was happening at the ICFA. Things went from "no banquet yet" to "probably having the banquet now" to "guess the banquet must be over … I hope they said my name right." Not the same as being there, but at least there was no heckling.
Sunday, I was nervous. Sarah and I had not one but two panels, the first of which was at 10 AM. No breakfast for me. "Mind over stomach," became my motto.
I'm not sure what I was more worried about: no one showing up (seeing as we were up against the Guest of Honour brunch), or people showing up and having to speak in front of them. We loitered outside the room for a while, and Tanya Huff came over and chatted with us. (My reaction: Tanya Huff!! Talking to me!!) We were all a bit groggy (it being a Sunday morning and all), and Sarah and I were a bit nervous, but we still had a good conversation. I think I managed to not act like a complete fangirl, but I did have her sign some books for me.
Then it was time for Panel #1: Creating a Religion. We went into the room--well, actually we went into the wrong room, figured out that we were in the wrong room, and sheepishly went into the right room. The room was … large. Large enough for two chandeliers on the ceiling. There was a podium. As we came in, a volunteer was just setting up the microphones. (Mind over stomach, mind over stomach…)
Sarah and I got set up, and looked over who we were sharing a panel with (for the twentieth time). They were: the Campbell, Philip K. Dick and Aurora-winning author, Robert Charles Wilson; author of nine novels and four poetry collections, Phyllis Gotlieb; and the notable Gemma Files. And Sarah, of course, has recently sold her first pro short story to the Wonder Zone book Odyssey--the first of many, I'm sure.
I started to sing, "One of these things just doesn't belong here…"
To make matters more interesting, Dan and Erin had asked me if I'd heard "what we do to new panelists." Um, no… I tried to pry some info out of them, but neither was budging. My nervousness increased. (Mind over stomach, mind over stomach…)
The panel actually went really well. No one could see that my hands were shaking at the beginning, because I hid them under the table. As Sarah said later, it became more of a discussion of theology than actually creating a religion, which was somewhat disappointing, but I managed. I think I spent most of the time that I was speaking trying to get the conversation out of the "Western religious thinking" groove that we seemed to be stuck in. I also spent a good deal of time watching Dan and Erin out of the corner of my eye, certain of my Impending Doom. Yeah, they got me. What do they do to new panelists? Freak us out. Mission accomplished!
Afterwards, I said to Sarah, "That was fun! I want to do it again!"
After Julie's Hidden in Sight book launch, which was fun, and Julie's reading, which was hilarious and fun, and lunch, which I got for under $3, came Panel #2: Breaking into Print. Once again, I was the gal with no pro sales. However, I've got two Asimov Awards, Clarion and a handful of semi-pro sales, so damn if I was going to feel out of place. The mini-podium up front was sort of blocked with a screen projector so we all just arranged the chairs at the front of the room and talked.
I really had a great time up there. We laughed, we chatted, we didn't know Heinlein's five rules. Near the end, I started arguing with one of the other panelists about where you should send stories. He was of the "only to the pro markets" sort of guy, and I, Miss No-Pro-Sales herself, said, "Um, no, that's not the smartest thing," and proceeded to talk about Lady Churchill's and Strange Horizons and non-traditional markets that are certainly excellent places to be published. We had to stop our discussion when the hour was up, though we could have easily kept talking.
Midway through the panel, my Clarion classmate Genevieve arrived. (Hey, Gen!) We realized that it's been over a year since we'd gotten together last, which is terrible considering we live in the same city. (Phil, Thomas, et al: Gen looks great by the way, and we're planning Big Things for Torcon.) After the panel, we went down to the dealer's room for a bit and then had some tea and chatted before she had to leave.
I'd also spent a good deal of the day trying to track down David Brin. Finally, I asked someone in the know where on earth the guy was. "Oh," I was told. "He went home yesterday."
That was about it for official con things, though there was a good deal of time spent waiting around to get our things out of Erin's car (which was not Erin's fault!). This was both very boring and very entertaining. Sarah, John and I started writing stories together, the kind where one person writes a paragraph, folds it over so only the last line is showing and passes it to the next person, etc. I rather enjoyed the results. And, while this was happening, I also made a large card-house out of Torcon fliers, as well as a paper airplane out of a book flier. The paper airplane needed decorating, I decided, and thus became The Freewriting Plane. It was highly entertaining to have to fit one's freewrites onto the sides of an airplane. In fact, I think I was a little too entertained for my own good…
But, the time came to leave and I took the TTC back to York. My bag, of course, was heavier than it'd been originally, and I spent the rest of my evening with my back literally in spasms.
I have crashed Blogger about five times today trying to post my Ad Astra report. Or, rather, York's network and my computer do not get along, so when I try to post anything large (or send long emails), The Page Cannot Be Displayed. Familiar. Oh so familiar. So, I'm now going to attempt to post the report in several smaller chunks. Cross your fingers, because I have big news and I'm not going to post that until I get this con report online...
I went to bed last night at about 11:00. I got up this morning at 10:45. I am not going to work today. I will go to class, and then I think I'll go out for dinner. Right now, I think I'm going to lounge around for a bit and read some more of Tanya Huff's Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light.
By this evening, I think I'll be sane enough to handle writing essays again.
Freewriting Quote of the Day
Nothing is permanent. Icicles melting. Losing control over one's self.
Ad Astra report is in the works; I've written Friday and the beginning of Saturday, but have no energy to write more just yet. Soon.
Wrote my first final exam today, and think it went well. I was not exactly alert and focused, but was able to pull myself together enough to get down some decent answers. Only three more exams, two and a half essays and two journals to go. Only ten more days. I'll get through it, but right now I don't know how.
[Taken from the side of the Ad Astra 2003 Freewriting Plane--a project that will be explained in time.]
I am standing at a bus stop in the rain ready to kick the moron whose idea this was. Kick him hard. And it would serve him right, too, for sending me out with no umbrella, half a cheese sandwich and a handful of dimes for bus fare. Who pays for anything all in dimes, anyway? I'm going to be like one of those idiots in the bank on Saturday mornings, holding up everyone so they can deposit $14.50 in pennies into their account. Damn.
Well, today's been interesting. I had class at 8:30 this morning, and was so tired that I literally had trouble making my eyes focus. I almost fell asleep twice during class (was jerked awake only by the sensation of my head suddenly slumping forward), and had a whole lot of trouble remembering what I was supposed to be doing. I was never really "awake"; the best I managed was "not asleep."
Came home from work early and crashed. I slept for three hours, and am now feeling a bit more coherent, if not exactly productive.
I have an exam tomorrow that I should be studying for, and there is the ever-present press of essays, and I'm struggling to accomplish anything. It's more than just the post-con crash (though oh, how I'd rather be at a con than at York!). I've hit that point where I really just don't care about this stuff anymore. Too much. My school-brain has officially overloaded.
Too bad that "school brain overload" is not an acceptable reason to miss exams or hand in essays late.
So, back to work. And because I can't allow myself enough time to put up an official con report just yet, I'll link to this page of Julie Czerneda's. I am in two of those pictures--can you find me?
I'm back from Ad Astra! I had an absolutely amazing time. My back is a wreck from dragging luggage around Toronto, and I'm so very tired, but it was worth it. Very, very much worth it. I'll write a con report soon (it's going on the very long "to do" list for tomorrow), but I just wanted to pop in and say hello. Hello!
Sometimes it's helpful to ask one's brain direct questions. So today I said to my brain, "Hey, brain, why can't I figure out how this story begins? I'd really like to start writing. What's the problem here?"
To which my brain replied, "Well, Karina, you have completely forgotten to figure out half of the religion that is the core of the story, more than half of the political-system-in-turmoil, and pretty much everything about your main antagonist. I'd say that's something of a stumbling block, wouldn't you?"
There was a moment of internal shock as I came to terms with this. For a while the best I could muster was "Oh."
My brain's right, of course. Knowing the story part of the story does not mean that I'm ready to start writing. Silly me.
So, the sort-of new news in Karina-land is that I'm going to be on two panels at Ad Astra this weekend. My new addition is Creating a Religion, Sunday at 10 AM. More opportunities to make a fool of myself! Or, rather, more opportunities to impress people, make some pithy and/or sarcastic comments, and have fun. And maybe curl up into a little ball from nervousness.
As for the bigger news, the news of war and the world at large, for now I will say only this: I am not surprised. I am not pleased. I am sure that this will not end well. The only "positive" thing that I can say, really, is that Canada refuses to be involved. Thank the lord (and Chretien for actually having a spine). I want absolutely nothing to do with this.
I have to wonder, why did I start up this journal again right near the end of the term? This was, perhaps, not a wise choice. I have two and a half weeks left of class. Of the five assignments that I've been working on, I've finished one. Deadlines are breathing down my neck. I just looked at the calendar to see how many days I have left and literally gasped. Oh, don't get me wrong, I can't wait until this semester is over. It's not that I don't enjoy my classes, but I'm pretty much done. Can't do that anymore. Take it away.
And oh, how lovely, how wonderful it will be to get out of this place. Never, never again will I live with first-year boys. Never, never again will I have to associate with these selfish, rude, obnoxious people. The freedom!
And won't it be lovely to be able to write again?
But now I'm still dealing with classes and readings and essays and assignments, and I have to be at class in 45 minutes, and my hair is wet and dripping down my back, and I have not eaten breakfast. Time to get going.
The schedule is out! On Sunday, March 23rd at 2:00, I'll be taking part in the panel discussion "Breaking into Print." Come see me, Sarah, and some names-yet-to-be-disclosed-to-me famous people talk about the struggle to see one's work published as a new and virtually unknown author. Will I have anything to say except, "Keep trying and good luck"? Will I make a fool of myself? Will I disclose my top secret plan for becoming a world-famous author? Find out all this and more at Ad Astra!
Yes, rumour has it that the exciting "Breaking into Print" panel is running at the same time as Tanya Huff's panel and the Farscape panel. Rumour also has it that all the cool kids will be coming to "Breaking into Print."
Also, if you're in Toronto but don't want to spend money to attend the con, there will be an open house. Admission to the con will be free from 10-1 on Saturday. However, be aware that at 10:03 (there's a two minute grace period to acknowledge the fact that few people set their watches by the atomic clock) all non-paying con goers will be herded from the hotel with sharpened sticks. Unless, of course, they promise to stick around until Sunday to see my panel.
There is also a rumour that I have decided to do away with the hyphen in my last name, thus becoming Karina SumnerSmith. This rumour is supported by my Ad Astra bio, which writes my name this way not once, but twice. This rumour, I'm afraid, is unfounded because I feel that the lack of a hyphen makes my name look odd and/or pretentious. And as I am not (yet) a writer who wears a beret and dresses all in black (despite Phil's encouragement), pretentiousness is not something I'm trying to cultivate. Sorry.
I have a new goal to add to this year's list: try to sell two stories! Imagine that. Others make it look so easy. It takes me forever these days to get the world and the characters and the plot and the style just so in my mind so I can actually write a story--that is, when I am actually writing and not sitting around blocked. (I originally was going to type "as blocked as the kitchen sink," which, thanks to you-know-who is very blocked. Noodles, I think. And grease. But then my mind rebelled and did not want to compare me to a sink blocked with noodles and grease ... though relented after the fact. Just to give you that pretty mental image.)
And another goal: actually see a story in print. It's been a long time since 2000. Three years, in fact. I need to see a short story in print before I feel that all is hopeless and begin to seriously mope and dress only in black and buy myself a beret to help me look pretentious. Of course, if I did all of the above, it wouldn't matter if I was blocked (even as blocked as the kitchen sink) because instead of wanting to write I'd just have to look like I might have written something once, and spend my days sipping cappuccino and looking arty, and maybe occasionally trying to weasel my way into open-mike nights so that I can sit at the back and criticize others. ... Oh, dear. This is what happens when I get hungry.
There are some potentially cool things going on over here, though I'm biting my tongue for now. Superstition and all. That, and I'm afraid of getting my hopes up. If I type things out now, they'll be posted for all the world to see in plain black and ... yellowy-orange, and then won't I look like a moron when everything falls through? But I'd appreciate any crossed fingers, from anyone who has fingers to spare. If nothing else, I'll have an interesting story or two to tell when this is all finished.
I received the proofs for my poem, "Waterside Old Age Home, Room 245," a little while back. It's scheduled to be published in the next issue of NFG.
I have such mixed feeling about this. On one hand, it's a paid publication, and will be printed on honest-to-goodness paper. Paper! Oh, I love having anything published, but when something's published in a book or magazine ... it seems real. I can hold it in my hands, and put it on the shelf, and drag it out for the next fifty years and say, "Look, look, that's me! This is mine!" It's exciting, and makes me want to giggle with glee.
(And yes, I still drag out my contributor's copy of Challenging Destiny Issue #10 every now and again just to look at my story, and my byline, and the illustrations. I can no longer say that I love the story or that it's anywhere near my best work, but it's real, solid proof that I can write publishable fiction--that I have written publishable fiction since I was 17. It's just a slow process to make it into print.)
And yet ... ah, poetry. We all know that I'm not a poet. I don't even want to be a poet. And, despite what I typed above and its classification in my Bibliography, "Waterside" is really a polished freewrite. It was part of one of my gigantic hour-long freewrites (aka, the only way to sit through my Creative Writing lecture without going crazy). I sort of feel like a fraud, like I'm tricking people. I scribble nonsense when I'm bored and call it poetry.
Also, like all of my freewrites, it was written (and subsequently submitted) without any line or paragraph breaks. This was the one thing that the editors all seemed to hate. "We'll have to break this up," they said, and I accepted this and cashed the cheque. In the proofs, it looked pretty good. I didn't recommend any changes. But it is odd to see a freewrite in pieces like that, bits of lines scattered about. A freewrite masquerading as a poem.
I am suddenly tired of cleverness. Tired of surreal not-stories masquerading as entertainment. Tired of moments that have no resonance, scenes that do not connect, wires that snap, phone lines that are dead. How can I connect in this emptiness? I cannot polish words to that gleam. I do not want fiction in museums.
And yet their words still my hand, and their cleverness chokes my eyes, and I am not writing, but writing, and not writing evermore, forevermore, addingmorewordstoevermore. Seeing how long it can get.
Days like this I wish for simplicity. The joy of ignorance, the flowing bliss of simplicity that is truly just that.
Illness continues. I went to class and work yesterday, but couldn't bring myself to do so today. There are times I feel almost fine, but the longer I am standing--or even sitting--the worse I feel. It's not dizziness or nausea or headache pain, but something rather like all three. Best, I figured, to have a quiet day in bed and get better than prolong this more than is absolutely necessary.
Should be doing work. Have been doing work--over 3000 words of work, actually. Ah, if only that was writing and not transcribing an interview. Still. I am very aware of the fact that I should be sitting in class right now, writing notes (or, more likely, freewriting) while the very smart, very nice, very boring professor turns a subject I love into inspiration for a nap. Can't say I'm sad about this, just that I'm aware.
It got me. I guess I knew it had to happen sometime. It seemed that everyone around me at school was getting sick, or was sick, or was trying to recover from being sick. And if someone was healthy, they sure knew a whole lot of people who weren't. What's more, three of the six of us in that suite (guess which three?) were sick all last week, which I actually enjoyed because of the resulting silence for most of the time. People who are headachy and coughing seem to have less desire to watch TV at 2 in the morning.
But now I've got it, a lovely cold that's making me feel perfectly miserable. Well, I suppose it was inevitable. I mean, how could I go all winter without getting a cold? I was, for me, ridiculously healthy, and it had to end some time.
(And yes, even though it's now March it's still winter. Right now the temperature is hovering somewhere just above zero, making things melt sluggishly, but the forecast says it's going down to -24 tonight, and tomorrow's high is supposed to be -12. Hopefully with a wind. Ah, lovely weather.)
So bring on the Tylenol Cold, or the Dristan, or maybe even that lovely Extra-Strength Sudafed Cough and Cold (which is strong enough to virtually eliminate all cold symptoms for great lengths of time, but which also builds up in my body until I become mildly loopy. … Okay, "mildly" isn't the word.) I'm going to need it.