<$BlogRSDURL$> Spontaneous Things: Karina Sumner-Smith's Blog
Saturday, February 28, 2004
Happiness Is a Warm Sun

(Sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

This week, the temperature outside has been rising above freezing. A good few degrees above freezing, in some cases. Today, rumour has it that we will have a high of six degrees. Six! The sun is shining, and the sky is entirely blue, and the way that it smells like melting outside is enough to send me into paroxysms of joy. Some of the neighbours' have had so much snow melt that I can see grass. It's lovely in so many ways.

So today, instead of staying inside and reading and working on everything, I am going out. We will wander the city and find good things and be happy in the sun.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 12:15 PM (0) comments

Friday, February 27, 2004
Days Go By and Still I Think Of You

So I suppose the question is: is it worth posting when nothing is happening? I waver back and forth, hence the silence followed by inconsequential posts. This week has been all about insomnia. Hours pass in the dark as I think about class and essays and writing and snacks and laundry and what I'll wear in the morning ... all to the cheerful sound of a fiddle running through my head. (Mutter, mutter.) Can't help it; some days I think it's only the constant fiddle music that's kept me going and in reasonably good spirits.

Read Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, which was often close to amazing on the sentence-by-sentence, paragraph, scene level, but seemed really off on the story level. Still, interesting. And then I read A Year in Provence, which confirmed to me that French culture and I would likely not get along too well for very long. I'd love the bread, though. Ah, for fresh bread every day! And the wine might not be half bad, either.

Ditched In Search of Lost Time about halfway through when I was told that I could relate the next book, The Golden Notebook, to the book I have to do a presentation/essay on, The Second Sex. So out went Proust in favour of Doris Lessing. And let me just say: yay for Doris Lessing. The Golden Notebook isn't what I'm used to, not in terms of plot or structure or characters or dialogue, and yet ... I like it. I really like it. It's the first required text for this course that I just genuinely enjoy reading. Such a relief.

Also, I ate a lot of pizza. This is my life.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 10:20 PM (0) comments

Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Two Scenes in Which I Listen to Other Writers


In the middle of class, I gathered my bags and quietly snuck out, feeling no guilt though rather sad to be leaving behind what was quickly becoming an interesting discussion on cyborgs. The previous evening I'd received a phone call from my YA Fantasy professor, Carole, to tell me that Australian YA fantasy author Isobelle Carmody was in town and that they'd arranged for her to give a talk in one of Carole's classes. (Though her visit was not a surprise, the sudden arrangements and short warning time were--to myself and everyone else involved.) Despite the fact that I have class solidly on Tuesdays from 10 AM to 5:30 PM, I quite definitely could not miss this talk, hence the sneaking.

Isobelle Carmody is quite famous in Australia, though I admit that I'd heard her name for the first time only a few weeks before. Since then I'd read her first novel, Obernewtyn--a novel that she'd written when she was 14, rewritten countless times in the years following, published when she was 20--sold to the first publisher that she submitted it to. The book was shortlisted for Australia's major children's book award, which made her a bestseller within days of the announcement.

I enjoyed Obernewtyn, though wasn't surprised to discover that it was her first novel. I'd be interested to read some of her more recent books, of which there are many. One day.

Her talk lasted an hour, and was like listening to a friend tell stories about the crazy things that had happened in her life (though, admittedly, a one-sided conversation held in a packed lecture hall). She talked about her childhood and how she'd come to be a storyteller and then a writer, her experiences writing and publishing and how she became famous. She gave advice and talked about her good and bad cover art and answered questions.

Afterwards, Carole introduced us, and I spent about five or ten minutes talking to her about writing and publishing and the like before I had to hurry off to my next class. She had a quick smile, terrifically short bangs, and wore the neatest collection of silver rings that I've seen in a long while.


In my final class of the day there are a few Creative Writing majors. (Names, faces, and personality quirks are not going to be mentioned to avoid identifying the scrutinized.) During break, sometimes they sit together and chat about so-and-so's latest story, or what they're working on, or going over some funny incident or another that happened in their latest CW class. I've always watched and listened to these conversations with a detached sort of interest, feeling like a spy from a potential future: that could have been me, I think, and I watch as if enough attention would explain to me just how that might have felt.

Yesterday, as people came into the room with their Styrofoam cups of coffee and mini bags of chips and Doritos, the CW majors were discussing how it felt to walk into a room full of other writers. It was nerve-wracking, they said, back and forth, each agreeing with the other's experiences. And it was nerve-wracking to sit there in class, they said, knowing that all these other writers are there, watching them, perhaps studying them at that very moment. Judging. As they themselves are judging everyone else there.

And I wanted to say to them, What sort of reality are you living in? What sort of writers are you associating with? What makes you think that this is normal, or okay? Is writing ability somehow apparent in the way that one listens, or holds a pen, or fidgets with a scrap of paper? Can you tell how a story is going to read from the way that a person chews their gum? I thought of my quiet chat with the bestselling Isobelle Carmody an hour or so before. But I said nothing, and opened the plastic wrap around the straw to my raspberry juice box with a loud crinkle.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 1:55 PM (0) comments

Saturday, February 21, 2004

I could not sleep last night. Two AM, three AM, four ... hours passed and my eyes were heavy and I could not sleep. The same thoughts kept rolling through my head. It was not the thinking that kept me awake, but rather that sleep left an absence in me that only large thoughts could fill.

Sometimes I'd begin to dream, my eyes partially open, aware that I was both awake and dreaming. I dreamt that I'd hung some laundry on chairs outside my open bedroom window, a room that was and was not my apartment, and that some strange guy tried to steal my bra and then lied about it to my face. I took it back from him and locked the door, and stood against the wall while he and his friends pounded on the door, hoping that they weren't smart enough to see my reflection in the mirror.

A bit after six AM, a bird started singing outside my window. For months I've been awake at seven in the morning, awake before the sun is close to rising, and yet this is the first time I can remember hearing a bird sing since fall. The sky was becoming blue.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 12:42 PM (0) comments

Friday, February 20, 2004

Yep, that's a good word for it. I'm twitchy as hell right now. Haven't been outside the apartment since Tuesday. I move from room to room and read books. I scan their pages, I lose my bookmarks, I forget which room has which book. I have done laundry and haven't done the dishes. I eat. I open my window a few times a day to smell the ice melting and breathe and remember what the outside is like.

I have been told that I need to take a break. I do--I've watched a bit of TV, checked my email and read blogs, I've listened to some music. That's about as good as it's going to get for a while. How can I take a break, relax, when after I'll only be more panicked than before?

I think consciously about the air entering and leaving my lungs. I am sane, I am rational, I am wishing that this was finished.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 4:57 PM (0) comments

Confessions of a Self-Professed Structure Geek

While I was reading Piano Shop, I came across a passage in the middle of the book that absolutely leapt out at me. I stopped and re-read it, and re-read it again. Then I murmured happy things to myself and bookmarked the page with a spare bus transfer.

This is the passage, from page 103 of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by T. E. Carhart:

We practiced a form of musical gymnastics, which consisted in having me say out loud the name of the next chord as I played harmonic progressions, faster and faster. It was nerve-racking a t first, but it was strangely thrilling as I came to know the sequences not just with my hands, as before, but as an idea that the mind could grasp while the piano gave it a voice.

From my very first lessons with Anna I experienced a satisfaction and a kind of pleasure that I had not expected. Even the simplest figuration in those first pieces--a change of key, an unexpected chord--could fill me with joy as I grasped with my ear and my mind what was intended, however straightforward. This was a new kind of experience for me: not just fingers on the keyboard but a deeper level of comprehension and, with it, of beauty.

Here, in a piano-phrased metaphor, is what I've been trying to explain to more than one person for so long: why it is that the structure or style of a particular piece of writing can bring me such joy. Once upon a time I could read a story simply for the story, without wondering at or even comprehending the underlying structures of the work. I read for characters and events and emotion, and nothing else. But somewhere along the way I decided I wanted to be a writer and so I've trained myself, year by year, to become aware of the words of a story. To pay attention to the phrasing of an emotional passage, to examine why a certain line or paragraph or snippet of dialogue affected me the way it did. (Or even to see why it didn't.)

I said in my Creative Writing class that the biggest failure of the program was that it didn't teach how to critique: how to examine and pull apart and put back together and understand a story. And somehow I've taught myself, and continue to teach myself. I've experimented and failed and played around and had fun. (I've even written some decent stories along the way.) All of this is why I can start to see why a story isn't working, or where the narrative slows and pulls itself down, or the tone shifts unexpectedly, or there's a beat missing. I am like Thad Carhart in the above passage, a student and a fumbler, yes, but one who takes great joy in the learning. This is what I do. It's what I love.

Which is why when I see someone playing with style or structure, or discover a writer whose work just works, every line of it, I absolutely geek out. I was in Bakka a few weeks back and started reading Put This House in Order by Matt Ruff, an author I'd never come across and a work I'd never heard of. And I knew within a few lines that I had to own this book. (It's now sitting on my bookshelf, awaiting my time, a self-purchased Christmas gift from my Grandparents.)

For my fellow style and structure geeks, here are the first few chapters of the book. Enjoy.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 12:16 PM (0) comments

Thursday, February 19, 2004
All About Pianos and the Apocalypse Quartet

(Written over the course of yesterday evening.)

Today I was smart enough to not only continue to read In Search of Lost Time but to split it up with another text. (Going slowly crazy, like I was with The Brothers Karamazov, did not seem like a good option.) Specifically, I've been reading The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, a non-fictional book by T. E. Carhart. This is not a book that I would have picked up on my own, I think, nor one that I was particularly anticipating reading (the subtitle, "The Hidden World of a Paris Atelier," was not exactly encouraging) but has proven itself to be a very well paced, intelligent and interesting book.

Actually, I think that the highest praise I can give this book--and it is high praise indeed--is that while I am reading, the subject matter is honestly interesting. I have never been interested in pianos. I've never wanted to play a piano, nor was I forced to take piano lessons. Pianos are somehow linked with my grade school music classes, bringing to mind cold linoleum floors and school recital preparations and repetitions of "do, re, mi, so ..." The tick of that metronome. Though I have heard some beautiful piano pieces, and some excellent performances, the sound of a piano has never been one to which I've been particularly drawn. And yet ...

I can imagine myself wandering among these pianos in the hidden store's back room, fingering keys and lifting highly polished lids to look down upon those hundreds of precisely tuned strings. While I'm reading, I find that part of my mind is wondering what it must be like to put one's fingers on those white and black keys and have them play across their surfaces with the same kind of thoughtless ease with which my fingers are currently typing. Imagining the sound of a piano in my own home.

Of course, I close the book and these things fade and all but vanish. But I am startled, nonetheless, at the kind of writing that it takes to draw one against one's will into another world and kind of love and fascination, and to share it with the reader, if only for a short time. Many books do this to some extent, but few with such ease. It reminds me of that Bryce Courtenay novel, The Power of One, which made me excited about boxing. (Not that I'm inherently anti-boxing or anything of the sort but me ... boxing ... not usually two things you think of together.)

My brain is already offering to have me put this piano knowledge into use. I've recently been pondering writing a companion piece of sorts for "A Laste Taste of Sweetness," which would be a dark apocalypse where "Sweetness" is light. And though I can't exactly fit the pianos nicely into "A Name for the Destruction," I could write yet another companion/apocalypse piece with all this nice piano knowledge. And then since three is a quirky number, I could add a fourth ... you know, for balance. I could have the Apocalypse Quartet! I have to admit, this line of thinking does say interesting things about my stress level right now.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 12:45 PM (0) comments

Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Where Is My Mind?

So. This is reading week. I heard people talking before various classes about where they were going (I heard Cuba a good few times), what they were planning to do. Surely I can't be the only one who is planning to spend this week reading like a maniac and writing essays and catching up on my horrible backlog of unanswered email and whatnot. I'm so very tired of this. I'm tired of having to write that what I'm doing is always writing essays and reading for classes, and soon I won't have to say it. Six weeks plus change. Strength, me, strength.

But, of course, the moment that I let myself rest a little bit (which I did on Saturday and to some degree Sunday) my body goes and gets unhappy with me. I've been feeling ... wrong for the last 24 hours, and my head is hurting in ways that Advil just won't touch. Damn.

Ah, well. Finished The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin, which connected in cool and interesting ways to friend/Clarion classmate Amy Beth Forbes' short story "A Communion of Maggots." Clever, Amy. Started Volume 1 of Proust's In Search of Lost Time (aka Remembrance of Things Past) this afternoon, and am happy that Volume 1 is as far as I have to go.

I also read Art Spiegelman's Maus at the end of last week, which was overall a very good experience. Interesting book. It did take me a little to get used to reading a comic/graphic novel, but then I've always had trouble with that. I remember trying to read a few of my brother's X-Men comics way back in the day, and getting so horribly confused because I'd only read the text and have no idea what was going on. It's not that I didn't understand that I had to look at the illustrations, but once I got reading my brain seemed to block out all non-textual visual input. Reading Maus was easier, so long as I periodically reminded myself to look at what was happening. I must admit, though, it was a distinctly odd feeling to be reading a book that has a gigantic swastika on the cover, and reading it in public, no less. I just hoped that the mice and the Hitler-as-cat imagery helped prevent confusion. (Now that's a unique sentence.)

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 8:06 PM (0) comments

Saturday, February 14, 2004
God, I Love This Song!

I have had "Icarus" by Enter the Haggis on near-constant repeat this week. What an incredible song. This is one of the songs that, like when I was hearing them play live, makes me close my eyes just to take it all in. And yes, it's just as fantastic now, even though I don't have the cute guys here to look at. (Pity.)

These CDs have just hit the top of my "Things to buy when I have money again" list.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 2:20 PM (0) comments


I just saw a very short film on TV (think it was CBC--sorry, Americans) called George Lucas in Love. Shakespeare in Love meets Star Wars in about seven minutes. Carly and Dale thought it was vaguely amusing; I, however, was laughing so hard I could barely breathe. Ah, my geeky self is so happy.

Also on TV all week has been Conan O'Brien in Toronto. All the TO newspapers are going on about this like he was the Pope--or maybe more, because I don't recall the Pope getting this many headlines in the summer. (Though, really, I wasn't counting.) I haven't stayed up late enough to see it live, but Carly's been taping them and we've watched the shows sometime during the day. It's so surreal. The opening shows stores that I go into, and the streetcars that I curse when they won't come and pick me up, and the skyline of the city in which I was born. And yet ... it's Conan.

And the Canadian content is just unbelievable. I'm reeling. Not even Canadian shows/stations can pull off this level of Canadian content. Some of it is hilarious, and yet I can't believe that anyone outside of Ontario is really understanding even half of this stuff. Or maybe the joke is just the fact that if Conan mentions Scarborough, the Canadians in the audience will laugh their asses off. It doesn't take much for us, really.

See, we're used to getting brief mentions. Like, when David Letterman visits Toronto in the summer to see the Molson Indy, half of the city holds its breath during his Monday show just waiting for him to say "I was in Toronto this weekend--what a beautiful city." Oh, and then we cheer and cheer. Or if a Canadian actor goes on a talk show, you just know that half of the Canadian viewers are muttering to their TVs, "Say you're from Ottawa. Say it ... SAY IT ..." Nothing evokes more scorn than a Canadian pretending to be American (coughJimCarreycough), except maybe a Canadian who becomes American (yes, I'm talking to YOU, Alex Trebek). Course, you mention Mississauga in passing in a 30-second interview for Extra and we'll love you again. As I said, it doesn't take much.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 12:28 AM (0) comments

Thursday, February 12, 2004
Grumble, Grumble

For two days, I could not get my internet connection to work (hence the lack of entries, and total email silence). I rebooted the cable modem. I checked and rechecked the wires. I unplugged things, plugged them back in, restarted my computer. I even went outside to make sure that the connection coming into the house was okay. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

"I'll have to phone Rogers tomorrow," I told Carly, finally giving up, and I dreaded the long call with the customer service people who would tell me to do the things that I'd already done and then hang up.

It was only in the shower this morning that I remembered about our hub. Turned it off. Turned it on again. Internet.

If only I'd thought of that yesterday. Or the day before. Sigh. At least I got a lot of reading done.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 6:44 PM (0) comments

Monday, February 09, 2004

I had a few plans for this weekend, most of which involved me catching up on my much-neglected email, mucking with the template for this blog, writing assignments for this coming week and doing a lot of reading. The Universe had other ideas. There are times when you just have to chuck all plans out the window, without thought or hesitation, and go where needed. Most of the weekend isn't mine to share. If you want the barest of details, then best check Sarah's entry.

I do have to mention, though, that we went out on Saturday evening to see Enter the Haggis. I'd heard of this band through Sarah, but had never heard them. I knew that there was at least a bagpipe and a fiddle involved, but other than that...? Nothing.

I was more than surprised. I was delighted. There was indeed a bagpipe, and a fiddle (with a very attractive guy playing said fiddle, I must add), but there was ever so much more. Simply put, Enter the Haggis is a very quirky rock band. The rather small pub was packed with people, but we managed to find seats, and I enjoyed the hell out of the music. Their energy was absolutely fantastic.

In fact, my only disappointment was that there was no room to dance. (And that we couldn't have been there under happier circumstances.)

The weekend had some other highlights, too, including some very good food, seven episodes of Firefly (which I'd never seen before, but which impressed me considerably), and, to wrap everything up, Sarah's second pro sale (woo!).

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 8:34 PM (0) comments

Brace Yourself

I suppose it's a bit late for a warning, but I decided that it's time to try and make my blog match the rest of the site. I don't know how anything but the most basic, basic, basic html (as in, I know how to make things italic, don't ask for more), but I am observant, stubborn and a believer in trial and error.

So, this is the new style, based on the wonderful web design created for me by Beth. All mistakes here are mine, and mine alone. (For example, I think a few of the fonts are off because my new computer is only allowing me to see Times New Roman. I have no idea what this looks like on any computer but mine.) I'm pondering making a slightly different title graphic for this page only, but as I don't currently have a program that would allow me to do that, I'm sticking with this one for a bit.

Thoughts, comments, help? What do you think?

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 1:11 PM (0) comments

Saturday, February 07, 2004
Three's the Charm

Went by a store in York Lanes the other day (York Lanes being York University's small indoor mall, for those of you who were wondering) that sells cards. The cards that they're currently pimping are, of course, Valentine's cards. On one of the racks, there was an ad from Hallmark that read like this:

One card is fine,
Two cards are divine,
Three cards will get you your Valentine!

I made a noise somewhere between a snort and a gag, and then laughed all the way to the door.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 6:48 PM (0) comments

Awards: Won, Lost and Otherwise

Okay, so I haven't won any awards. I should delete that part from the title, I suppose, but it looks so pretty that I'll just keep it in.

I have, apparently, lost an award: the Asimov Award. Sigh. Got word from Thomas the other day that a friend of his has been notified that he was an Honorable Mention (congratulations, whoever you are), and since they notify the winners at the same time and my phone has been noticeably silent ... no go. Ah, well. I'll admit to some disappointment, but it's really not unexpected. "I Breathe" is a mess, as I've said (though an interesting mess, I think), and "Earth Bride" is unreadable. Seriously. I opened the file the other day to see what it was that I wrote that night, and ouch. Not good. So since all my hopes were riding on a structurally and stylistically messy story, and a just plain bad story, is it any wonder that I won't be getting a free trip to Florida?

I did get into the final group, though, and that's something.

In other award news, I've seen that Strange Horizons is having their annual readers' poll, which "Drowned Men Can't Have Kids" is eligible to win. I don't vote for myself (it feels too tacky, and edging on something morally questionable, so I just don't), and I've only read a few other stories so I guess I won't be voting in that. Nice to know I'm eligible, though, and there's always hope that someone else will vote for me.

There's always hope, right?

My recent inability (or, rather, lack of time) to read short stories that neither I nor my friends wrote has left me with something of a problem. I'm also allowed to nominate for the Hugos this year, and I'd rather like to do that. After all, in a sense I've paid for that privilege, and I do like to see good work rewarded. For example, one person I'd love to nominate is friend Susan Mosser for her story "Bumpship" in Trampoline--fantastic story. But as I haven't had a chance to read nearly anything else out there, including reviews of what's good, I don't even know where to start my reading.

So, I'm asking for help. If there's a story out there that you think is particularly good and worthy of Hugo nomination, please let me know and I'll try to track it down and read it and (if I agree with you) nominate. Otherwise ... well, so much for my nominating power.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 4:22 PM (0) comments

Friday, February 06, 2004
Continue to Continue

Progress continues. Somehow, the mere act of walking into class makes my writing brain turn on with an audible "Ping!" (Okay, maybe audible only to me.) I'm working on "Ohntai" again, because I was blindsided by something resembling the story's voice last Friday, and so have been writing out sentences and ideas and interesting turns of phrase on bits of paper in nearly every class since then. They are scattered around me on my desk. It's hard, this story, both the process of writing it and the content (inspired by the Holocaust--you can image the place I have to keep putting myself in to make this work), and yet I have to do it. This one needs to be written, and won't let me alone until it's done. Even if my progress is limited to a few sentences a day.

I'm busy. So, so busy, mentally if not always physically. I have eight weeks of class to go, I think. Seventeen more required texts to get through, and a crapload of research material. I'm making progress, though. Had a required-text pause, having gotten myself far enough ahead, and so have been reading research books. Read through Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, and Hitler's Daughter by Jackie French, and Clara's War by Kathy Kacer. (I'm giving the latter a thumbs-down. Blech.) Started Jane Eyre on the subway today, and have a copy of Agnes Gray.

I'm also still reading The Lady and the Monk by Pico Iyer, which officially we have already talked about and should have moved beyond, but I can't quite leave alone. I pick it up in odd moments. I can't quite explain what's so interesting about this book; it's the story of the year that the author spent living in Kyoto. A beautiful book, in an unobtrusive sort of way.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 12:08 AM (0) comments

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I was amused.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 10:21 PM (0) comments

Monday, February 02, 2004
Writing? Easy?

I am writing. Or, rather, not writing. Writing, deleting, stopping, rewriting, stopping, writing ... Sometimes I just want to shout, "Goddamn it, when is this going to become easy?!" Some people can have an idea and sit down and just write, and what they write is good. Worth reading. I, on the other hand, have to go through cycles of crap almost every single time that I write a piece of fiction. The exceptions are few enough to count on one hand.

And I realize, it's never going to be easy. This is it. I just wish that some days it wasn't such a hard slog to get to "worthwhile."

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 6:08 PM (0) comments

5 Questions

(Via Sarah, who got it from E. L. Chen.)

1. Is there a moment that you look back on and cringe, thinking "dear God, I was (am) such a GEEK"?

You mean I have to choose just one?

Let's see. There was the time I wore my Bajoran earring to high school (official Star Trek merchandise, no less). The night of the formal (aka, the prom) I think I was reading the Rumor Mill and working on my latest short story. I pondered long and hard about certain metals being able to assist in psychic transmissions (as in, if the psychic person was wearing a gold necklace, anyone else wearing gold would be more likely to hear her). I wanted a headpiece like the Empress in The Neverending Story had, or, failing that, a golden circlet. I spent many long, long hours in class lost inside a total wish-fulfillment science fantasy world, and wrote about 40,000 words about the place. And, of course, there was my obsession with Knight Rider.

(Damn, I still love KITT.)

The geekiness has definitely not gone away. If anything, I've encouraged it and reveled in it. I'm glad to say, though, that the cringing is now optional.

2. When did you know that 100%, without a shadow of a doubt, you were going to be a writer, dammit?

May 31, 1996. No, seriously. That was the day that I submitted my first "real" short story, "Spontaneous Things," to a publisher. The magazine was The Leading Edge--you know, that one published by Brigham Young University. I remember liking their guidelines, and chosing them over Asimov's and F&SF and all those other places that a 15-year-old could send her first submission because The Leading Edge said that they wanted to see interesting fiction from new writers. That's me, I thought, and away it went.

I remember being absolutely convinced that they would buy that story. The fact that months upon months passed without a rejection arriving in the mail did little to worry me, because I was sure that they were spending all that time talking about how wonderful my story was and preparing to send me a cheque. I was already planning how I was going to tell my friends that I was going to be a real writer--a published writer. Oh, it was going to be so very good.

And my lack of rejection and excitement over my future career allowed me to keep writing and submitting (Realms of Fantasy received my second submission, and the Canadian zine TransVersions my third), so that by the time I discovered that The Leading Edge had in fact rejected me and that the rejection had become lost in the mail (what luck--I never did receive it) I had a good handful of other stories written and out in the mail. And I was convinced that each and every one of those magazines would buy the stories that I submitted to them, and was utterly unphased by rejection.

It's probably a good thing that I started submitting when I did, simply because I had no idea what I was getting into. I was so absolutely sure that I was going to be a writer, that what I was writing was different and new and fantastic, that it didn't occur to me to doubt myself. And by the time that doubts started to creep in ... well, I'd already been submitting for years. I'd learned so much. I was writing better stories--stories that might actually be worth reading. The idea of stopping submitting, or stopping writing, was almost inconceivable.

3. Aliens take over the world, and in exchange for all the help you've been giving them over the years, they give you Hollywood as a way of saying thanks. You now have the best and brightest of the filmmaking world at your feet, and they have to do what they tell you or they'll get vaporized. All those times you kept thinking "damn, I wish they'd make this book into a movie" have led up to this moment. So, what movie do you have them make, and who do you insist be involved?

Well, the thing is that I rarely wish that anyone would turn a book that I love into a movie. I often love it so much as it is that I fear to have anyone else mess with it. And besides, so many of the things that I love about the book might be lost (the wording, the descriptions, the structure...).

That being said, the first thing that popped into my head when I read this question was Anne McCaffrey's Dragonrider. Who knew? McCaffrey's books--the Pern books especially--were very important to me during my teenaged years, something I think that many other young, female SF/F fans can relate to. Danger and romance and dragons and flying ... if done right, it could be amazing.

On further thought, I'd also love to see what could be done with something like Octavia Butler's Wild Seed. I think that with a skillfull enough actress and the skill of makeup artists and special effects people, it's now possible to portray an interesting and believable Anyanwu. They'd have to get together a group of really skilled actors, though, to play Doro. If it could be done, though? Oh, wow.

4. What's the happiest you've ever been?

It's frightening how blank my mind is right now.

How happy have I been? Very happy. Yet there is no one moment, no single time in my life that I can point to and say "There, that is it. That's the happiest I've ever been." I have been given a lot; I'm very lucky, and I think I may only just be truly waking up to that fact.

Writing-wise, there have been many highlights: Getting into Clarion. Times at Clarion itself. Selling my first short story. Nearly every short story sale since then. The Asimov Award. Conventions. That indescribable feeling of finishing a story and knowing that it's good.

Sometimes it's just the littlest things that make me happy. Laughing about something until my sides hurt and my legs collapse and I am a helpless, giggling lump on the floor. Reading a book in the desert warmth as the sun goes down over the mountains. Watching small birds. Which, really, is what the apocalyptic "A Last Taste of Sweetness" is all about:

This fleeting moment. The feel of heavy eyelids and slow fingers. Pancakes and syrup, strawberries and candle flame.

(Etc. I really shouldn't give away the endings to stories, I suppose, even if they are my own.)

5. You save the life of a brilliant and influential (and wealthy) inventor by pushing him out of the path of a falling piano. He's so grateful that he gives you access to his time machine and tells you that you can have a casual conversation with anyone in the world, living or dead. Who do you pick, and why?

First: time machine! Woo! I'd have a lot of fun with that (all while avoiding stepping on butterflies, killing my ancestors, etc., to be sure).

As for a conversation (and you'll enjoy this, Sarah) the person who keeps popping into my mind is Emily Bronte. I did a lot of reading about her and her sisters in November or so, and she was a fascinating person. The whole family was, really, even the crazy ones. Charlotte and Anne seem interesting enough, but Emily seems to have been someone absolutely in love with the land around her, lived through her writing, and was enormously creative. Her writing is, of course, gorgeous (even though Heathcliff is the type of character that irritates me no end). She was capable, self-sufficient, fierce and almost totally reclusive. And, like me, to an extent, she seems to have understood silence. Perhaps we wouldn't so much as talk, when I arrived with my time machine, as sit and read together. And it would be lovely.

1 - Leave a comment, or send an email, saying you want to be interviewed.
2 - I will respond; I'll ask you five questions.
3 - You'll update your journal with my five questions, and your five answers.
4 - You'll include this explanation.
5 - You'll ask other people five questions when they want to be interviewed

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 1:14 PM (0) comments

Sunday, February 01, 2004
Weekend Catchup

Both a very productive and unproductive weekend. A whole lot of vehicular adventures and troubles with snow led to me being very late to leave the house on Friday, and so I forgot all the books I needed to read. Stupid, really. But I went to the community centre on Saturday and ran 3 km, and then rode the stationary bike for about 1.6 km (it was just over a mile--I'm translating), then fiddled around with the rowing machine and the eliptical machine for a bit before calling it a day. I was tired, to say the least. Surprisingly, though, my legs aren't sore today.

Ooh, and I taped coverage of a short adventure race, too. Haven't watched it yet, but I'm excited.

I also discovered that my rejection from On Spec finally arrived in the mail sometime in the past week. It was a bit frustrating, actually, both because this was for a story that I sent in April of last year, and because the rejection indicated that the story was totally misread. I realize, of course, that it's not the editors' fault that my intent wasn't clear, but when the problem area was a "lack of character development. Does your character grow or change in the story?" and the entire story was the character arriving at a moment of epiphany ... well, sigh. There's not much to do but chuck it back out in the mail.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 11:44 PM (0) comments

Powered by Blogger

Spontaneous Things © Karina Sumner-Smith 2000-2005