Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Learning Cull

Louise Erdich opens her novel Tracks with these words: "We started dying before the snow, and like the snow we continued to fall."

I've been thinking about death and the act of learning. The gathering of knowledge doesn't strike me as an accumulative practice, where wisdom piles up into overflowing abundance we get to roll in at the end of our lives. Learning has a cost. Loss tied to its gifts.

I don't know that I would describe the loss as that of innocence, but each branch climbed on the tree of life puts the ground further below. The possible fall more dangerous.

When learning happens pieces of the old are sheared away. Knowledge gained leaves a mark, beautiful but painful. A tattoo on your essence, exquisitely drawn yet it still cuts, burns, and bleeds - part and parcel of creation. And learning is nothing if not creation, birth and death hand in hand.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hugh Jackman is a god, but Dustin Lance Black had the best speech

So I'm not generally an Oscar follower (I think I mentioned this in my post about Milk). But I had the pleasure of attending a lovely Academy Award gathering (in St. Paul, not L.A.) and thought I'd rehash my experience.

1) Having Hugh Jackman host was a phenomenal idea. I actually clapped after his introduction. Best musical numbers ever.

2) I cried when Dustin Lance Black accepted the award for Best Original Screenplay. If you have a chance, read his speech. Truly moving and something we all need to hear.


Still sad Milk didn't win Best Picture

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Short, Hard Month

Only eight days of February left and I couldn't be happier about it. The sentiment barreled me into musings about why the hardest month of the year (at least in the northern climes) has the least number of days.

An investigation revealed that in fact the brevity of this month has nothing to do with weather sorrows (because, of course, it's not this frickin cold everywhere!) but instead with Roman emperors' egos.

Whatever the reason I welcome the close of this frigid 28 days with much rejoicing and await Oestara with not enough patience. Long twilight, warm earth, budding trees all become the stuff of dreams at this point in the year - seeming impossible beneath the shield of ice and snow. March arrives to ease the burden of belief.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Word Murder

Colder and far away.....

During my visit to the Golden State, I was subjected to weather reports warning me of the terrible cold (50 degrees) that had descended on San Francisco.

"Hah!" says the girl from the land of sub-zero, and wraps another scarf around her neck.

Now that I'm back in Minnesota it's time to apply all that wonderful advice from my conference. Namely, I will soon be engaged in adverbicide. The greatest sin of emerging writers, like myself, is that of overwriting. While we may think that big words and flowery prose are gifts to the world, they are in fact obstructions to a great story. Having sinned against my own novel, acts of contrition are in order.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

In the Before (Recession) Time, the Long, Long Ago

First: Writers' conferences rock my world. At least this one.

I've already met amazing people - agents, editors, authors and those aspiring to author-dom alike. (My deepest thanks to any shiny, new SF writers friends who are checking out my blog!)

But I'm not here for a conference blow-by-blow, with one exception. My favorite moment thus far was when, with a sweep of his hand, Donald Maass cried, "I am a story god!"

I'm not sure what to be shocked by: his self-proclaimed divinity or my instant conversion to his religion.

My other source of bemusement this weekend derives from the Mark Hopkins amenities menu. This oh-so-lovely hotel evokes an era flush with cash unknown to our current dire economy. In the moments (hours) when I'm too nervous (exhausted) to practice my pitches yet another time, I enjoy pretending I am a business don of a bygone era (the 90s) who can make use of the array of services offered.

Oh......If I were a rich man, Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum I'd
1) Order the $62 breakfast
2)The $162.00 Executive Briefcase that bursts with truffles, chocolates, nuts, fruit and not one but two bottles of water
3)The $400 Champagne and Caviar (or if I want to be frugal, just the $105.00 Champagne and Strawberries, please)
4)The $450.00 Wine and Spirits Package with enough alcohol to fill my bathtub (and it's a nice bathtub, I've been luxuriating in bubbles every night. And that's where I'll be after I post this blog)

I apologize to any readers who take the finer things in life as a matter of course. I may be a dreamer, but I retain enough Midwestern/Scandinavian sense to make my father proud.

Not that I'd turn down that Executive Briefcase, should anyone be inclined to send one to my room.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The View is Much Better Up Here

After the great angst that was my last post, I am abashed to admit that I've arrived in San Francisco......and all appears fabulous. The conference has yet to begin, but simply the fact that the venue is the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental renders the experience already delectable. It didn't hurt that my flight was uneventful, on time, and turbulence free. I also met a very kind gentleman who gave me an overview of his Amazon Kindle (it looks really cool, I want one!), which is making waves in the book business, and was even so gracious as to encourage me to keep writing because his teenage daughter would probably love my novel about werewolves. Since she is my target audience, I found such words very inspiring and I hope someday she is one of my first and most enthusiastic fans. Thanks again, airplane neighbor!

From my new perch on Nob Hill, Wonderland appears much less daunting. So I'll frolic on the other side of the looking glass with steps full of optimism. If I'm lucky enough I'll find a Cheshire Cat to guide my steps. But I won't try out any "drink me" flasks or "eat me" snacks I happen upon while I'm visiting - it is still Wonderland after all.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Teeter-Totter: A Note from the Dark Side

The edge. I end up here more often than I'd like to admit. When I find myself teetering at the brink, it derives from my proclivity for over-commitment (in labor and emotion). Right now I'm staring down the barrel of the semester and grinding my teeth into paste.

But the spines of anxiety needling my skin this week are also born of a looming, much-anticipated event: my first writer's conference.

Late Thursday night I'll arrive in San Francisco to rub elbows with a mass of editors, agents, and authors (published and aspiring like myself). For me, this step has moon-landing significance. No longer will I be staring at the shiny mirror of the writer's world and wanting my reflection to belong among the crowd of authors who I admire. The conference means I'm through the looking glass. Once I cross to the other side, I half expect to find Alice waiting for me with a smile and a knife to bury in my belly.

So at the moment I'm tottering, half-drunk with doubt, and wondering whether the bottom of the chasm might not be so bad.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Music Lit Convergence

Happiness is learning that there will be a musical version of Coraline composed by none other than Stephen Merritt (Magnetic Fields). Sigh, smile, giggle....when wonderful worlds collide.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

My Big Fat Geek Movie Weekend

One of the nice things about having a Ph.D. and a job is that I no longer feel compelled to construct an exterior persona that depicts my own self as anything other than the exuberant nerd that I am. (I wish I could have claimed this level of self-awareness and rejection of normative consumption earlier in life, but alas, I was insecure.)

In my younger days I kept my passions close to the chest, reticent except for my vehement defense of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I could no sooner supress than a geyser eruption. But now I frolic through fields of comic books, graphic novels, their web sites, television, and film adaptations. In fits of ecstasy I plot my pilgrimages to children's book conferences, Comic-Con, and Worldcon. And sometimes the convergence of events makes for a particularly exciting circumstance.

Case in point: This weekend features the release of two movies I am dying to see. Coraline is the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's fantastically scary children's book, and Fan Boys is a road-trip homage to Star Wars fiends like myself.

If you're looking for me this weekend, I will be worshiping the silver screen with much abandon.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Writers Draw Blood

If you'd like to see fangs bared and claws come out, check out the 200+ posts on Nathan Bransford's blog (which I follow religiously) regarding Steven King's public critique of Stephenie Meyer. I've never seen blog posts go up so fast.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pulling for Milk

I'm not one to get on board with the Oscar build up (if there is one in Minnesota), but this year I'm holding my breath in the hope that Milk will win Best Picture. The historical footage, compelling narrative, and exceptional acting made this film one of my favorite biopics to date.

It's with reluctance that I confess I only made it to the film this evening and not sooner; I was truly moved and reminded of the amazing activism offered by leaders like Harvey Milk, but also the work that is yet to be done.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Winter Sun

February 1.

We've made it. January is gone. I don't know whether I'd go so far as to call January the most challenging month of the year - but in my book it's close. This year in particular, when we only had one day above 32 degrees and far too many below zero, I welcome January's departure with a hearty hurrah.

Yesterday, when the long-awaited thaw finally arrived and 45 degrees felt like being baked on a tropical beach, the hard packed snow was cut through with rivers of slush and innumerable tiny cricks that flowed along the sidewalk.

But that was yesterday. When winter returned overnight and hung around to greet February, all that abundant melting froze. Now the sidewalks are sheets of ice that make dog walking an extreme sport.

The point of all this ranting (though I do believe ranting is a valid end in itself)? As I shuffled (the only safe way to move on the ice paths that line my neighborhood) along with my two dogs this morning, I realized how unfortunate it is that my eyes had to stay on the sidewalk.

The winter sky deserves more attention. A stark wash of blue. The sun pale and always a little hazy. Austere colors made all the more striking by the snaking dark branches of leafless trees that break up the endless expanse above. And at night. Ah night. The stars glitter more brightly against that cold black canvas. Light and oblivion.

Winter conditions draw our eyes down. Stomping boots, breath that materializes before us and then fades away, treacherous slipping feet as we try to make our way forward. Hesitant, irritable, impatient for the spring.

And winter's grace escapes us.

Dangerous though it may be, I'll be looking up more from now on. It's worth the risk.