Posts tagged with "family" - Faerye Net 2011-07-20T16:28:37+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Superreaders 2011-07-20T16:28:37+00:00 2011-07-20T16:32:34+00:00 <p>My mother, I told a fellow author once, is the kind of reader you want. One time I recommended <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780547085753'><em>The Hearts of Horses</em></a> by <a href="" target="links">Molly Gloss</a> to my mom &mdash; actually, I may have bought it for her as a present. Either way, she loved it. She bought several more hardback copies to give as birthday presents, and I am pretty sure once the trade paperback was out, she bought <em>two</em> extras to lend out to friends. I stress the two because buying one extra copy of a book she owns and loves is fairly ordinary for my mom. She sticks her return address labels on the extra copies and presses them into the hands of the friends and quilters with which her life abounds.</p> <p>One library copy of your book, I&#8217;ve been told, translates to some number of readers &#8212; and those readers may in turn recommend your book, buy their own copy, or buy it as a gift. My mom, I&#8217;m convinced, is even better than a library, if she loves your book. In the case of <em>Hearts of Horses</em>, she probably bought at least five copies herself, and spurred some unknown quantity of other purchases.</p> <p>I used to think of this specifically as something my mother does, until the other day I was talking books with my friend Dan. I know Dan reads ravenously and always has, and he is free with his recommendations. But as he pressed a <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780825462900'>historical murder mystery</a> into my hands, I protested, &#8220;My to-read list is over 250 books long! If you give this to me, you&#8217;re not likely to get it back.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;Oh, I don&#8217;t count on getting any book back that I lend out,&#8221; he said. &#8220;If I was worried, I&#8217;d buy a second copy to lend.&#8221; Suddenly, I realized: Dan is constantly extolling his favorite books. He lends books like you&#8217;re doing him a favor by taking them off his hands. I&#8217;m pretty sure he drove his friends&#8217; reading as early as middle school (although I didn&#8217;t know him then, so it&#8217;s merest hearsay.) Dan is like my mom. Perhaps like <a href="" target="links">my friend Jan</a>, the English teacher with the vast bookshelf of lending books for her students &#8212; books she buys herself. They&#8217;re <em>superreaders</em>.</p> <p>This is not meant to impute miraculous powers. While I imagine it&#8217;s easier to consume large stacks of literature and promote the chosen few if you read quickly, superspeed is not the defining characteristic: not being content simply to read and enjoy is. These people are boosters, and part of their enjoyment of reading is sharing it. These are the people who will drive the sort of social recommending model I envisioned in <a href="" target="links">&#8220;The Future of Genre&#8221;</a>. They&#8217;re tastemakers, pushers, book evangelists.</p> <p>Who do you know that takes their love of reading out of the page and into the world? Are you a superreader?</p> Why longhand? 2011-03-16T11:33:22+00:00 2011-03-16T11:40:17+00:00 <p>Here&#8217;s yet another of those topics I&#8217;d have sworn I&#8217;d already covered here, but apparently I have not.</p> <center><a href="" title="Longhand by Felicity Shoulders, on Flickr"><img src="" width="180" height="240" alt="Longhand" border="0" /></a></center> <p>The other day I finished writing a longhand draft (126 pages, not pictured) of a long novelette. The problem that then confronted me was that I had to get the thing typed into the computer in time to send it to my critique group in only a couple of days (in case you were wondering why I hadn&#8217;t blogged recently!) I posted about this challenge on Facebook and <a href="!/faerye/status/46833518147416064" target="links">Twitter</a>, and one of the responses on Facebook was: &#8220;You can do it, but why would you write in longhand to begin with? Embrace the 21st century!&#8221;</p> <p>Which is how I ended up discovering I don&#8217;t have a blog post about this to which I can direct people when they ask, because they do ask. I have <a href="" target="links">mentioned my process obliquely</a> but never written up the defense I&#8217;ve had to give verbally many times.</p> <h3>Why I write longhand first drafts</h3> <p><strong>1. Transcription is revision</strong>: When I transcribe a finished draft into the computer, I don&#8217;t type it exactly as I wrote it. It is no more effort to type different words than it is to write the same ones &#8212; and less if I can make the sentence smaller (which usually means clearer and more efficient). When I transcribe a story, I reconsider <em>every single word</em> in a way I simply don&#8217;t when reading a typed document. This is by far the most important reason I write longhand. The draft that goes in the computer &#8212; the first one anyone else can read (given how my handwriting gets when I&#8217;m in a hurry, quite literally) &#8212; is lightyears better than the handwritten draft that no one sees. Rewriting the entire story, starting at the beginning, with the end freshly in mind allows me to grasp the story as a whole and helps me improve continuity, too.</p> <p><strong>2. Process</strong>: A related point. When I&#8217;m writing a rough draft, I don&#8217;t always know what the characters&#8217; names are, or what precise order things should follow. Rekeying the entire story means I can easily replace the placeholder names (or epithets) on the fly. More importantly, while I&#8217;m writing, if I think of something I should have written in a scene ago, or decide to move something, I can note it quickly with a marginal note &#8212; &#8220;add desc of room&#8221; or &#8220;move after reveal&#8221; &#8212; without losing the forward momentum of composition. My bookmark or thumb is still holding the current page, I didn&#8217;t have to do the copy-paste to move the stuff, make sure it was tidy and unrepetitious, and completely lose my creative place. Writing longhand has a great forward flow.</p> <p><strong>3. Distraction reduction</strong>: My <a href="" target="links">favorite notebooks</a>, by Clairefontaine, have many fine qualities, but they don&#8217;t have an internet connection. It is less easy for me to be pulled out of that forward flow by a communication or my own fidgetiness. Even more importantly, for a person as easily drawn into small and often non-germane research topics, it means it&#8217;s not easy for me to open a tab and start doing lots of searching and reading about something that doesn&#8217;t really matter to the story. I can just scrawl a &#8220;[?]&#8221; or &#8220;[check]&#8221; or &#8220;[did they already have this in 1919?]&#8221; and keep going. When I transcribe, that&#8217;s when I get fiddly and detail-oriented &#8212; a much better fit for a revising mindset than it is for a composing one.</p> <p><strong>4. Portability</strong>: My beloved Clairefontaines are under 7 inches by 9 inches. Even my smallest messenger bag can fit more than one of these puppies. So when I&#8217;m waiting for my Chinese takeout, early for a lunch date (don&#8217;t laugh, that&#8217;s happened), proctoring a test in my capacity as an occasional substitute teacher, or on a long drive with <a href="" target="links">Ryan</a>, I can whip this out and be working on a draft &#8212; with full access to what came before &#8212; in moments.</p> <p><strong>5. Psychology</strong>: I come from at least one line of <em>makers</em>. My paternal grandpa could build a house. My paternal grandma could renovate a hotel to period-accuracy, make beautiful furniture, and sew entire wardrobes including wool coats and formalwear. Between them, they taught me to cook, tole-paint, make model airplanes and build a remarkably sturdy footstool (still in use, albeit at my parents&#8217; house. I want that back!) Much as my psychology is keyed to celebrate upon <em>finishing</em> things, it&#8217;s even more satisfying to be able to hold up a physical finished item and rejoice. When I finish a first draft, I like to pinch the silk-smooth french-ruled sheets of paper together and look at their thickness. Look at all those pages of words. I made that.</p> <center><a href="" title="My writing notebook stack as of 2010 by Felicity Shoulders, on Flickr"><img src="" width="180" height="240" alt="My writing notebook stack as of 2010 -- now higher" border="0" /></a></center> <h3>So what?</h3> <p>I have no idea if this will convince those of you who think I&#8217;m ridiculous to write longhand that I know what I&#8217;m doing. There are lots of other ways to deal with these problems or accomplish these goals &#8212; this just happens to be mine. The bottom line is that I believe I produce <em>better fiction</em> writing this way. If you read my stuff, you should appreciate that!</p> <p>You&#8217;ll notice, however, that I have written this post in the first person. I do <em>not</em> believe there&#8217;s One True Way to write fiction or anything else. I believe much of the journey of writing is learning (and gaming) yourself and your process. I would never tell anyone else they needed to write longhand (although I might list it as among possible exercises should they need a lot of process shake-up). I would never promise that I&#8217;ll always write this way. Writing &#8212; which is to say, learning to write, as they&#8217;re the same thing &#8212; is a process of growth and change.</p> <p>What do you do in your writing, crafting or artistic process that might seem odd to someone else?</p> A genealogy of sneezes 2010-10-02T20:43:31+00:00 2010-10-02T20:45:05+00:00 <p>I&#8217;ve been thinking about sneezing lately. Mostly because I&#8217;ve been sneezing so much today I can barely finish a sentence. Either our landlords&#8217; bamboo only flowers every seven years and gives me seven years&#8217; worth of pollen allergies, or crawling out of my comfortable hobbit hole to attend social functions has given me a cold.</p> <p>Anyhow, this sneezing has made me reflect. I myself have what I jokingly term the Atomic Sneeze (best restrained with ruby quartz face masks, &agrave; la <a href="" target="links">Cyclops</a>). It is extremely loud, and my poor sensitive-eared companion <a href="" target="links">Ryan</a> complains bitterly about it. (He kept covering his ears when we watched TV tonight, and eventually I saw him building acoustic barriers out of sweatshirt.) I keep telling him it could be even worse, and my sister&#8217;s sneeze is proof. Of course, since she isn&#8217;t allergic to everything on Earth except water and mold, few witnesses can back me up on this. My paternal grandfather&#8217;s sneeze was even more prodigious than my sister&#8217;s and mine, and my usual joke is that if he sneezed like that while he was in the Army, his comrades probably hit the deck.</p> <p>Of course, it could be <strong>even</strong> worse: on my maternal side, my relatives seem to sneeze in consistent numbers. My grandma sneezes in the same pattern every time &#8212; I think it&#8217;s five sneezes? Of course, they&#8217;re such cute little noises that they&#8217;re quieter than a cat sneezing. Other family members appear to sneeze in threes, et cetera. I think Ryan should just be glad the two traits haven&#8217;t been mixed, because even a double-barrel of this noise could destroy our block, and five at a time would doom the entire city. Or at least give me whiplash.</p> Home places 2010-08-03T13:58:59+00:00 2010-09-04T23:12:28+00:00 <center><a href="" title="Grants Pass sunrise by sylvandmike, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="375" alt="Grants Pass sunrise" border="0" /></a><em>Grants Pass sunrise, taken by my cousin</em></center> <p>I recently spent the week with my grandmother, engaging in family traditions such as DeCourcey-rules Scrabble, Jeopardy! viewership, and politely refusing to put Grandma to the trouble of baking powder biscuits at breakfast, then politely eating upwards of three.</p> <p>We also discussed, in passing, the possibility that she will move soon. While we were discussing it, my mind was very much on the implications for her, and perhaps for the rest of my Scrabble-ating tribe. But some days afterward, I realized that once my grandmother leaves Grants Pass, <em>none</em> of my family will live there. I won&#8217;t have any cause to visit, and the sort of half-citizenship of that little burg in Southern Oregon that I have long enjoyed will quite dissolve.</p> <p>My family&#8212;the other side, as it happens&#8212;moved to Southern Oregon in the early 20th century. My Oklahoman great-great-grandfather came for a promotion with the railroad, and brought his family. My Canadian great-grandfather came for a lumber industry job, married the daughter of the aforementioned railroad man. They lived in the little town of <a href=",_Or" target="links">Glendale</a>, 28 miles away from Grants Pass through thick conifer forests. My maternal grandparents moved to Medford, then Grants Pass, after World War II, and Grandpa started a business. Most non-Native Westerners&#8217; family stories are stories of migration, and our stories brought us to Grants Pass, the nexus of my recent genealogy.</p> <p>Is that the only reason I love Grants Pass? That my parents met in the halls of the old Grants Pass High School (now demolished), drawn together by their identical paperback copies of <em><a href='' title='' rel='powells'>The Two Towers</a></em>? That my Grandpa is buried in a woodland cemetery outside of town, bright with dry grass and the sound of insects? That my family orbited around that valley for generations, and even now I feel it&#8217;s our home planet?</p> <p>I don&#8217;t know. I think we have a powerful drive to connect to places. For me, the Willamette Valley feels like home, with its <a href="" target="links">waterfalls</a>, <a href="" target="links">rain</a>, its <a href="" target="links">particular shades of green</a>. But most of us&#8212;I know I speak for myself and <a href='' title='' rel='powells'>Taran of Caer Dallben</a>, at least&#8212;have a desire to know where we came from. It manifests in genealogical research, in recording family reminiscences, in sequencing our <span class="caps">DNA</span>, and in attaching ourselves to places.</p> <p>My parents moved to the Portland area about 9 months before I was born, and before that lived for a few years in Eugene. I have never lived in Grants Pass for more than 3 weeks or so, but I&#8217;ve become accustomed to &#8216;owning&#8217; it, to thinking it&#8217;s part of me. When people mention it (or name anthologies after it), I perk up my ears. My car still has its Grants Pass license plate surround. I know the <span class="caps">GPHS</span> colors, remember feeding the ducks at Riverside Park, have walked the main street, passed under the <a href="" target="links">&#8220;It&#8217;s the Climate&#8221;</a> sign, had many milkshakes at the old soda parlor in the Grants Pass Pharmacy. I feel at home in that bowl of blue-green hills. Even though I&#8217;m a proud Portlander, I know my roots are in small towns like Grants Pass and Glendale, <a href="" target="links">Llanfyrnach</a> and <a href="" target="links">Marvejols</a> and Taupinet. Perhaps that&#8217;s silly, or meaningless, or maudlin, but I&#8217;ll be sorry when there are no more DeCourceys in Grants Pass, when I am only a traveler passing through, and not a native grandchild returning.</p> I've been Calvin's-Dadded! 2010-07-20T11:51:11+00:00 2010-07-20T11:52:17+00:00 <p>The other morning, I started to type out a tweet. It would eventually be <a href="" target="links">this tweet</a>, declaring my love for my iPhone 4, no matter its overhyped failings. But when I typed it, I typed &#8220;I&#8217;m glad Apple isn&#8217;t responding to this <strong>foofraff</strong> with a recall&#8230;&#8221; Then I stared at the word &#8216;foofraff&#8217;, which even as I type it now I hear in my father&#8217;s voice, in tones of exasperation. To me, it means &#8220;mess&#8221;. Used in a phrase: &#8220;all this foofraff!&#8221; But I wasn&#8217;t really sure, so I searched. No hits on <a href="" target="links">Yahoo! Search</a> for foofraff. None. On Google, one&#8230;in Polish. It seems not to mean anything in Polish either.</p> <p>I called my dad. &#8220;Dad, I have a very unimportant question for you.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;Yes?&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;What does &#8216;foofraff&#8217; mean?&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;Nothing, as far as I know. It&#8217;s one of those coined words with no particular meaning.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;And who coined this word?&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;Oh, I don&#8217;t know.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;It wasn&#8217;t by any chance&#8230;<em>you</em>?&#8221;</p> <p>My father claims innocence, but how do you explain this nonsense word only he, I, and some person in Poland use? It isn&#8217;t the only one. The internet uses &#8220;<strong>smoorg</strong>&#8221; but I&#8217;m not sure it uses it in our familial sense of &#8220;mix together&#8221; (Dad says this is &#8220;<strong>smoog</strong>&#8221; and comes from the divine <em><a href="" target="links">Pogo</a></em>). I constantly have to define &#8220;<strong>feh</strong>&#8221; for <a href="" target="links">Ryan</a> (it&#8217;s short for &#8220;feculence&#8221;, obviously!) My dad makes up nicknames for everything from restaurants to electronics stores, and I&#8217;ve no doubt he&#8217;s gotten creative with slang and nonsense, too.</p> <p>I also discovered during my brief flirtation with <a href="" target="links">NaNoWriMo</a> five years ago that a whole phylum of my father&#8217;s vocabulary came from an unexpected source. I was trying to shrug off my perfectionism by writing pulp. Of course, I started trying to write perfect pulp, and I researched my vocabulary accordingly. My favorite resource was <a href=""><em>Twists, Slug and Roscoes</em></a>, which is where I found favored parental word <strong>glom</strong> and rarer birds like <strong>spondulix</strong>, as well as more common idioms like <strong>cheese it, dingus, hinky</strong>, and <strong>noodle</strong> (in the sense of &#8220;use your&#8221;). I use these words quite freely, and never realized I might sound like a &#8220;wise dame&#8221;.</p> <p>Now sure, you may think that my dad just enjoyed a few issues of <em><a href="" target="links">Ellery Queen&#8217;s</a></em> in his formative years alongside his <a href="" target="links"><em>Amazing Stories</em></a>. But perhaps this whole thing has been a linguistic experiment to set his children up with totally outlandish vocabularies. (Or make them play with language until they are compelled to become writers.) Sure, there are only a few examples here, but that&#8217;s the whole point: <em>I won&#8217;t know how weird the words are until I use them in public.</em></p> <p>Unlike <a href="" target="links">Calvin&#8217;s Dad</a>, my dad gave me full and, as far as science can be definitive, accurate particulars on why the sky is blue, when dinosaurs roamed, and why old photos are black and white. But his systematic campaign of linguistic misinformation is only now beginning to emerge!</p>