I don’t like doing convention reports because I suck at them. I don’t like mentioning people, because I know I’ll forget some and then I’ll feel bad. But I need to say a few things at least: First, it’s a great convention–old school. Second, they took really good care of me (and, so far as I could tell, the other guests) including getting me a large smoking room so I could host parties. Third, an apology to the young lady on that song-writing panel to whom I was a douche after the panel was over; that shit comes over me sometimes, I don’t know why. Fourth, I hope I make it back there sometime; it really is an outstanding convention.
Thanks to everyone who made Milehicon so much for me; you know who you are.
On my recent trip I drove from Minnesota, to Iowa, to Missouri, to Kansas, to Oklahoma, to Texas, to Arkansas, to Tennessee, to Kentucky, to Virginia, to Maryland, to Pennsylvania, and in all that driving, there was never a point where I said to myself, “Wow. Drivers in this state are —–.” Until I hit New Jersey. Good grief. What is wrong with those people?
I want to make it clear that this is NOT MY FAULT. My friend @Jenphalian held a gun to my head and MADE me do this. AGAINST MY WILL.
Anyway, there’s a new, um, thing on my homepage, available for free download. Any complaints should be addressed to her.
This happened at this year’s Viable Paradise, I believe on Friday.
Me: Teresa, have you ever noticed that knitting is a lot like literary criticism?
TNH (staring): Yes, but how does a non-knitter know that?
Me: I just assumed.
This was my second year teaching at the writer’s workshop Viable Paradise on Martha’s Vineyard, MA. I have no idea how to talk about it. I mean, there’s only so many times you can say, “Holy crap, wow!” before it gets old. But, holy crap, wow.
I can’t mention the students by name, because I’ll leave someone out, and that would be wrong. But, like last year, they were all as geeked about writing process as me. Amazing, amazing week.
Thanks to my roomie, Stevie Chuck, who did several wonderful things (including talking Jenphalian into showing up) capped by swapping rooms at Just The Right Time. Patrick gave a talk about publishing history and its current state that I thought was going to be dull and academic until suddenly it came into a focus with a snap of, “this is why your career is where it is.” And music; fun, fun music. Teresa on exposition was her brilliant self, and then she cured my scurvy. Forever. Jim and Dr. Doyle, who do the parts of this that I could never do, were wonderful throughout. Bear spoke of plotting and a bit more came into focus; I’ll be trying some of it out in my current book. Scott was delightful, and his explanation of plot tomatoes cleared that up wonderfully. Sherwood? It astonishes me how small she is, for having that much knowledge; you’d think she’d need to be bigger to contain it all.
And the staff. Mac makes things work, Bart makes things happen, Chris is the one who is always there when something needs doing. I’m tempted to leave Pippen out, to continue the joke, but I can’t on account of how much work she does (and the fact that she’s utterly adorbz).
But, really, the students made it all magical. There was a moment during a critique session when one of them applied (perfectly) a subtle and nuanced approach learned in a critique the previous day. You could feel the learning taking place. That’s the sort of shit I live for. Well, that and writing. They kind of go together.
Off to Milehicon in Denver this weekend; I wonder if I’ll have come down by then?
They knew what they were fighting for.
It seems that the reason you walk into the hail of bullets and canister shot is for the guy next to you; it’s a combination of not being willing to lose respect in his eyes, and feeling like you owe him. But what makes you go forward into your second battle, after you’ve been through one already? How can you do that, when you know what it’s like?
It was a time when the notion that there were causes greater than one’s self–to preserve the Union, to free slaves, to defend one’s homeland–wasn’t absurd.
Yes, today there are still those who will risk their lives for a cause, and this is worthy of respect, however misguided–even evil–I might believe that cause to be. But they’re increasingly rare.
Today, the passion and excitement is coming from people saying, “Why should my tax money go to support people who can’t afford food, housing, and medical care?” followed by endless and increasingly lame justifications that make this position sound moral. That’s what we hear today: utter selfishness hidden behind a veneer of moral posturing. It is repulsive; and more than that, it is sad.
A hundred and fifty years ago, the passion and excitement was about actual efforts to make the world better for everyone.
The era has changed. The culture has changed. But–
We are still human beings. Inside of us are still those yearnings and desires that inspired the 1st Minnesota to charge, or the 20th Maine to hold. Yes, the dominant culture now is as reactionary as the dominant culture in South Carolina was a hundred and fifty years ago. But I believe we have it in us to fight to make things better, whatever sacrifice that entails. I believe that we’re going to see that. I believe we’re going to do things that those boys would be proud of. I think the culture can change, and I think it will.
When you stand on Little Round Top, or Culp’s Hill, or by the statue erected for the First Minnesota, remember that they knew what they were fighting for.
First of all, in case some of you were wondering, “totes” is not a word. Well, okay, when used in the sense of, “He totes his piano over to the cliff and drops it,” then yes, it totes is. But it should be obvs that that is not the usage I’m talking about. I’m talking about internet speak, I know some of you think it’s adorbs, but you’re wrong.
Now, my editor, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, hates these things (and, beeteedubs, so do I). So please, make sure that, when tweeting, emailing, or, especially, talking to her, you never ever use them. It would be totes wrong.
Just back from a weekend trip to Gettysburg with jenphalian, TNH, and PNH, and it was amazing and my head is still spinning. I’ll probably do another post once I’ve processed some of it.
It started Friday night and the NHs, where we watched the movie “Gettysburg,” which remains a favorite of mine. Saturday morning we headed for Pennsylvania.
We saw most of the battlefield. We talked, we hung out, compared notes. On Saturday, we did everything except the Day 2 Union Right; then went to our hotel and drank and talked and it was SO MUCH FUCKING FUN. Yeah. Like that.
Sunday was the last part, the museum, the gift shop, then dinner with Jen’s parents in York (much fun, good food) and now back in Jersey City and I believe I will drink now.
Seriously. I don’t know how else to say it. The experience of seeing the battlefield was mind-blowing; trying to imagine what it must have been like on Little Round Top, or the Peach Orchard, or Culp’s Hill. And the four of us all sort of fed into each other.
I’ve always had a fascination for what is going on in someone’s head in a moment of danger, or crisis; that’s why I write what I do the way I do. But there are things my imagination just won’t encompass.