Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA Student Commencement Address

Earlier this August, I and thirteen other writers received our Masters in Fine Arts degree for Creative Writing, from the Whidbey Writers Workshop and the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts.

I was selected by my peers to be the student commencement speaker, and I wanted to share what I said, both for posterity and simply because I think I have have accidentally included some pretty good advice for writers in general.

So, below, the text of the speech, and an audio recording of me, reading it.



@: commencement speech

On June third of this year, I logged into the MFA’s online campus and learned that my fellow graduates had chosen me to deliver our commencement address.

I’d like to share some of the comments that followed this announcement.

  • “I know he will do a fantastic job.”
  • “Doyce, you will rock!”
  • “Thank you for representing the graduating class to our friends and family.”
  • “No pressure, but I expect to be inspired.”

I want to thank my fellow graduates for selecting me – it was surprising, humbling, and – I think – an excellent opportunity to talk about writing, and unrealistic expectations.

During my undergraduate studies, I had an English professor – one of my favorite instructors – who, upon hearing I wanted to be a writer, asked “Do you just feel like you… have to write, all the time?”

It was, I think, the question she thought she was supposed to ask, when confronted with someone who claimed to be a writer.

And, faced with that question, I grudgingly admitted that, yes, I needed to write, to the point where it interfered with every other part of my life… which is why my paper on Catcher in the Rye was late.

I was lying, of course. My Catcher in the Rye paper was late because my roommate had subjected me to a Monty Python movie marathon that weekend… and I certainly did not “have to write, all the time.”

But just as surely as that professor thought that was the question she was supposed to ask, I thought that was what I was supposed to feel – a gravitic pull toward any keyboard or blank sheet of paper so strong it overwhelmed every other influence in my life.

That’s what I thought being a writer meant.

But I didn’t feel that pull, and it terrified me.

It took me a long time to realize being a writer is something quite a bit different, and quite a bit simpler, and not nearly as fun or as easy as a mysterious cosmic force that reaches out and grabs you and drops your butt into a chair and tunes out the world and makes you put words down on paper.

The truth goes something like this:

Writers write.

People love to label and categorize things, and it’s no different in the world of writing and publishing.

Are you published? Then you’re an author.

But, what kind of author are you? A novelist? A poet? A journalist? An essayist? A lyrical essayist?

The labels (and the qualifications) get more obscure the further down the rabbit hole you go, and in my opinion it’s all a bit boring and pointless.

Are you a writer?

“Well, what are the qualifications for that?”

Do you write?

If so, you’re a writer.

Now, some smart alec with impossibly white teeth and an MBA will smirk and tell you, by that simple criteria, almost everyone is a writer; lots of people have scribbled down an old family anecdote, or tapped out a poem that holds together as long as you sing it to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody, or written an essay on The Catcher in the Rye.

But that’s not how it works: Writers write.

It’s not that they have written, at some point in the past.

It’s not that they will write, at some point in the future.

It’s certainly not that they intend to write, at some point in an alternate future, with jetpacks and flying cars.

This is not about the past, or the future. It’s not even about the present – it’s not a verb, it’s a description: a statement of reality.

Writers write when it is sunny, and they’d rather be outside. Writers write when they are tired, and would rather watch television, or read, or go to the movies, or browse the internet, or play a game, or just nap.

Writers write when it’s hard. Writers write when they don’t wanna.

And it’s never – almost never – because of some mystical pull toward the blank page — it is a conscious act. Call it whatever you want: Will. Determination. Desire. In my case: sheer cussedness.

Sitting up here, looking a little nervous, a little nauseous, is the largest graduating class the Whidbey Writers Workshop has ever produced.

Fourteen graduates who know the writer’s simple, painful requirement. Yes, they’ve studied their craft. Yes, they’ve put in the hours on workshops and thousands of pages of reading, but more than anything else, despite every imaginable personal conflict, and distraction, and loss, they write.

We are writers.

Those of you who smiled at that through are probably also writers.

Those of you who did not clap or smile… live with writers. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your patience, and apologize on behalf of my fellow graduates and students.

You, our long-suffering, patient, loving family and friends have shooed the kids outside to play, or volunteered for another tedious school function, or brought in a cup of tea, or simply listened while we tried to sort out the lives of imaginary people you have never met.

More often, you’ve done the hardest thing: left us alone – in a quiet room, or our favorite chair, or a coffee shop, or a hospital bed, knowing, if not always entirely understanding, what we had to do.

Understand this: we made it here, because you were there.

On behalf of my fellow graduates, I also want to thank our our Faculty. You have the unenviable, it-would-seem impossible task of providing guidance and direction to a pack of wanderers who each see a different landscape.

You don’t know – you can’t know – what challenges any specific writer in the program might face, so you teach us the craft: you show us the tools of exploration and survival; the techniques for navigating by whatever strange stars we’ve put in our personal sky.

And, when we need it, you give us a little shove, just between the shoulder blades, to keep things moving.

That shove is, I think, the heart of this program, and it consists of two words; the same two words with which Wayne signs off every email he has ever sent, since I started this program.

“Keep writing.”

“I’m not sure this story is working.”

“Keep writing.”

“I don’t know if I really get this poetic form.”

“Keep writing.”

“I’ve graduated! It’s over! Now what to do I do now?”


You are both our mentors and our friends; we are here, because you helped us find the way and never let us stop moving.

Finally, to my fellow students and graduates, I will share this thought.

You won’t always know what you’re doing. There will be days filled with joy, pride, excitement, and hope; and there will be days filled with panic, confusion, frustration, and disillusion. Sometimes, they will be the same days.

This is what you do.

You write.

If you can’t figure out where to stand, write the ground in under your feet. If you feel like you can’t breathe, write the air. If you can’t see your next step, write the sky; write your horizon, and put it far, far in the distance.

If you don’t know the rules about this thing you’re doing, find some comfort in the fact that no one – no one – knows the rules, either.

Keep writing.

Make amazing things.

No pressure, but I expect to be inspired.

Nailing Down Magical Realism

This isn’t going to matter unless you are a bit of a lit nerd.

I’m participating in a “Directed Reading” for the rest of the year, focusing on Magical Realism. (The air quotes are in there because the ‘reading list’ includes stuff like Pan’s Labyrinth and Big Fish, with which I otherwise have no problem.) The goal of the DR is basically to sort out what the term even means in modern literature – there’s some historical examination – looking at where the term originated and why, but mostly the goal is to work out for ourselves what the hell this creature even is.

I think everyone participating will come up with an answer. I very much doubt we’ll all agree. Magical Realism is a bit of mess. From a literary criticism point of view, it’s functionally useless – it isn’t a real thing when looked at with any academic level of rigor. It’s just a term that gets thrown around a lot, applied to many things it shouldn’t, some that it should, and is often dismissed out of hand by those who see only the sloppiness with which the label is usually applied.

So, the first assignment: list four ‘core’ elements that (first) make a story Magical Realism and (second) not anything else. This is my list.

  1. Magical elements. This almost goes without saying, given the term “magical realism”, but it needs specific mention as a prerequisite: magical or fantastical elements appear in an otherwise objective, realistic story. If this isn’t happening there’s no point in looking at the latter criteria.
  2. The magical is mundane. When magical elements are introduced, the story proceeds as if nothing extraordinary took place. 
  3. Antinomy is accepted by the characters in the story. Contrast this with standard contemporary fantasy, where magical elements are remarked upon or explained at length and usually in detail. In fantasy, the presence of the magical or supernatural is something that draws special attention; in magical realism, the natural and supernatural are equally ‘valid’ elements the story, neither one more (or less) deserving of attention.
  4. Authorial reticence. This is a central element, for me – especially when it comes to setting magical realism apart from standard fantasy. In short, the narrator does not provide explanation for the magical elements in the story. Explaining the supernatural world reduces or destroys its magical nature. You would no more stop to explain why one of the characters floats three inches above the ground than you would stop and explain why a character’s car starts up when they turn the key in the ignition.

This list is my starting position. I fully expect it will change – in fact, I’ve rewritten or revised the thing four times while writing this post, moving bits from #2 to #3 and from #3 to #4, and I’m still not happy with it. I strongly suspect that points 2, 3, and 4 are describing different parts of the same elephant (introduced via point 1). A shorter list might read:

  1. Magical elements in an otherwise objective, realistic story.
  2. Antinomy within the story is accepted by the characters/narrator; both ‘sides’ are seen as equally valid, important, (un)remarkable.
  3. Explaining the supernatural elements reduces or destroys the power they bring to a story told in this style.

I like this list quite a bit more than the longer one, but the instructions say four points (for now), so what can you do.

We’ll see where I end up by December.

Working Like a Rockstar (The October Forecast)

My short-term contract job came to an unhappy/happy end on Friday. And while you might assume ‘unhappy for me’, I’d have to say that the real unhappiness was felt by my now-ex-employers, who really wanted me to stay and really liked me; they just ran out of budget.

They liked me so much that my boss basically wrote the new update to my resume, bragging me up even more than I usually do myself. Contract jobs are actually pretty good in that way — you can come in like a superhero, smash the crap out of problems, gird yourself in accolades, and leave before office politics sully your fancy spandex costume.

The big trick is making sure you’ve got somewhere to land when you leap over the next tall building in a single bound. (Freelance writers will find this kind of thing very familiar; it’s a kind of rockstar lifestyle, assuming one reads that to mean “striving to see the difference between homelessness and living out of a tour van.”)

I may have a new gig lined up pretty soon — another -opolis that needs saving from an Atomic Menance — but to be perfectly honest I’ll be happy if there’s a bit of a lag before the next corporate thing.

I am ready to do some other things.

Let’s review what’s on the to-do list.

New cub.

There’s a new kid on the way to the Casa, so there are more than a few home projects going on. The kid’s room is actually pretty much ready to go, but in the meantime we’ve been working on other rooms in the house.

We’ve painted our bedroom and the front greatroom, and of course Kaylee’s new bedroom needs to be framed in and painted and carpeted and all that cool stuff, but we’re letting some professionals handle that, even though I’m pretty sure I could nail (heh) the framing part.

Then there’s painting the house itself. The outside. We must — absolutely must — paint the whole thing before winter, or we’ll need to replace all the siding next summer, and if I’ve got some time before the next gig, I’ll probably be doing that myself and saving us mumble-hundreds of dollars.

The main problem with this cunning plan is that there are three spots where the siding needs to be replaced, and of course the problem spots aren’t anywhere a mook like me could handle it — they’re complicated places like where the chimney meets the house, right under the eaves.

By the way: if you’re in the market for a house, or planning to build one? Fuck chimneys. I don’t care how much you want a fireplace; don’t do it. Embed a firepit in your deck or something. Chimneys are to houses what a bad smoking habit is to an otherwise healthy person.

Anyway. I am pretty much ready to go with the painting thing, but we’re going to have to wait until we can get these sections fixed by someone competent experienced.

Why isn't it ever simple?

NaNoWriMo is on the horizon, and the prepatory murmurs are audible even at this great distance. Some folks have asked if I’m ‘doing’ it again this year which… c’mon. Of course.

But I’ve got a lot of other stuff to do first. A publisher handed me some revision requests which — damn them — are actually really good, so I want to get those done and handed back to my awesome agent before October is dead and gone.

What will I be writing?

Actually, I have a story to finish that needs at least another 50k (well, two, actually, but I’m picking one over the other), so I’ll be getting it down. Yes, I know you’re not supposed to do that with NaNoWriMo, but at this point, I think I’ve done it legit often enough to pfff those kinds of restrictions.

But that’s just me; if you’re trying to finish NaNoWriMo for the first time, BY ALL MEANS OBSERVE THE RULES. Doing it my way (picking up an unfinished story) is actually making the whole thing harder; I’m just stupid self-challenging that way.

What would I write if I weren’t working on something extant? I dunno.

I’ll tell you what I wouldn’t suggest, though: steampunk.

I love the stuff currently lumped in under the heading of ‘steampunk’. Love it. But steampunk is kind of like vampires right now; something people mix in because it’s cool, not because the elements are being used in any kind of meaningful way. I’m getting sick of it.

You want to use the trappings? Fine. Call it whatever it really is, though — zeppelin fantasy, gogglerotica, or whatever.

Punk anything requires class struggle, the social effects of technological revolution, and people with no influence and power rebelling against a monolithic Authority.

Slapping goggles on your protagonist doesn’t make it steampunk.

Ahem. Anyway. Rant over. There’s my advice for NaNoWriMo. At least for today.

Hey, that reminds me.

Last year, I wrote a bunch of NaNoWriMo advice, broken down for day-by-day consumption. People seemed to dig it (and I’ll probably repost them to twitter as appropriate), but would there be any interest in seeing all those posts brought together into some kind of ebook-like thing prior to the start of the madness?

Not to buy, obviously — I’m not wondering if there’s money in it — I’m wondering if there’s enough interest to justify the work of putting it together before 11.01.10.

Is that it? I think that’s it. Damn but I’m out of practice writing these things — this post was all over the place — I’ve got blog-rust all over the keyboard now. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Nothing like being blocked from your own site during the day for the last two months to make you really pine to get some blogging done.

Constraints: Tie me up, Tie me down

You may find yourself in a situation where someone you’re working with just doesn’t want to be constrained with guidelines on their creative output. Maybe you’re that person. Maybe it’s deadlines. Maybe it’s a specific word count you need to hit, or can’t go over. Maybe it’s some topic for a short story anthology you’re working on.

“What? I have to write something about a kid without any parents? So we’re going to have a book full of orphan stories? What kind of stupid requirement is that? And it’s a paranormal collection? Paranormal is so last year. What’s the point?”

Okay, precious, let’s talk about constraints.

These are for your own good.

“The most gifted members of the human species are at their creative best when they cannot have their way.”

We’ve probably all heard (or thought) that a blank sheet of paper is terrifying – the point being, too much freedom is just that: too much. Artists love to wax rhapsodic about complete creative freedom, but a lot of the time, having total freedom to do or create anything at all tends to paralyze. I don’t have time to be an artist; craftsmen need guidelines.

“Write whatever you want — anything you do will be great.” That’s a terrible set of instructions, right there. It’ll take me months to get you anything, assuming I ever get you anything.

“I’m going to need something presentable in two weeks.” Now we’re getting somewhere.

“I need it in two weeks and it needs to involve two bishops from Papau New Guinea and their pet llama.” Excellent. Man, I can work with that.

But oh the horror — these constraints have taken things away from me! They’ve robbed me of choices! What if I wanted monks instead of bishops, and a surly binturong instead of a llama? How can my life as an arteest go on?

Surly Binturong is very Hurt that you have excluded him as an option.

Okay… yes, every detail and requirement that is added to a set of guidelines takes away options, but having obstacles to deal with means you’re more likely to take some path you might never have otherwise explored. Obstacles are a gift. The biggest secret to being a creative and productive person is embracing constraints instead of running from them. Small spaces lead to cool innovations. Walls in your way just mean you have something to grab when you need to climb higher.

The other big benefit of constraints is that they focus your energy into a smaller space. A completely blank sheet of paper is like an open, featureless plain — it doesn’t matter how much you have, there’s very little chance you’re going to be able to fill that vast space up with energy. The best thing you can possibly do is compress your energy into a smaller space. Any amount of energy delivers more power when it is controlled, compressed, and directed. Start with an open plain, then keep pressing inward until you’ve squeezed all that down into the smallest package possible. A building. A room. A box. A bullet.


Maybe you’re floundering with your current project. See if there’s a way you can make the scope smaller. Compress it. Constrain it.

Think inside the box. See what happens.

Mowing the lawn in your brain

I was doing some yard work today (why do I always wait until the hottest part of the day?) and thinking about the hows and the whats and the whys of it. My house sits on a corner lot in and older part of one of Denver’s more grand suburbs (if it sounds like I’m bragging, you’ve never lived in a grand suburb), which means it’s a pretty good sized patch of earth. Moreover, I’ve done a lot of landscaping work over the years, so there’s a fair bit more to deal with than just mowing.

But mowing’s a big part of it.

I’ve got a process for those days when I need to get out and clean things up. Having a process is really helpful and, more to the point, it’s kind of appealing. I mentioned not too long ago that there are days when I’d rather mow the lawn in 100 degree weather than sit in a comfy chair and write, and maybe part of that (albeit rare) preference is the fact that I always know what I’m going to be doing out there, whereas the writing can be kind of a smoky, treacherous canyon full of quicksand and brain syphilis.

Where was I?

Right. Process.

Anyway, while I was poking around, letting the sun boil my brain, I identified a few parts of THAT task that might be useful for… oh, I dunno… some other task.

1. Yah Gotta Do It

It’s readily apparent that my approach to landscaping is a lot less “topiary sculpture” and a lot more “I think there should be some more flowers and stuff kind of over that way.” I put plant beds in where the the grass won’t grow, and if that doesn’t work, I plant a tree, and if that doesn’t work, I find some pretty rocks to stack there. It’s perhaps a little less apparent that I kind of like it when the grass gets longer and kind of shaggy. It looks better. Healthier. Greener. Maybe I’m compensating for my own nigh-mandatory buzzcut of a head-lawn, but the fact of the matter is I’d be perfectly happy surrounded by shaggy fecundity.

Until it finally got so bad that my kid came back into the house covered in grass ticks. That’s less desirable, so you gotta get out there and keep things in check.

There’s a guy I knew back in high school who still lives in my home town. He’s all grown up now with a couple kids of his own and, within the boundaries of our home town, he’s well-known for mowing his lawn regularly.

(Just… pause for a second and ponder the hotbed of intrigue in which a man can become well known for mowing his yard. Then wonder why I moved. Anyway.)

What do I mean, “regularly”? I mean the guy mows his lawn every two days.

When asked (by my mom, because she’s curious about such things and has no internal filter) why he mowed so often, he explained that it was simply because he didn’t like — hated, in fact — bagging the grass clippings, and the only way he’d ever found to avoid having to do that extra bit of work was to mow often enough that the lawn didn’t require it.

So: yah gotta do the work, if only to keep your kid free of blood-sucking parasites, and the job’s a hell of a lot easier if you do it often and regularly.


2. It helps to have an external force demanding your compliance

Since I live in a grand suburb, I get to experience the joy of regular interaction with a Home Owner’s Association. As much as I’ve tangled with them in the past (and continue to bitch about them and organizations like them), I do appreciate the way in which they generally keep the neighborhood looking like a place I want to live — no old beater vehicles up on blocks in the driveway or on the street, no old rusted appliances lining the side of the house… you know, obvious things like that.

They’re also quite… enthusiastic about sending out angrygrams reminding people to keep their lawns trimmed and — you know — alive. I know this because I’ve gotten a few in the past. Not a LOT, by any means, but a few here and there. (I recall more-than-two the summer Kaylee was born, for example; it’s possible that it’s the only thing I remember clearly from that whole bleary, sleep-deprived period.)

Now, I’m never happy about getting such letters, but I recognize that they’re a good kick in the pants reminder telling me that I need to keep my play area clean. Sometimes, I need that reminder.

As it pertains to other non-lawn related projects, I’m slowly coming around to the opinion that having some external entity that’s waiting not-so-patiently for your output is generally a good thing. I’m particularly bad about self-imposed deadlines, frankly, but I flat out refuse to under-perform for someone else. Therefore, having a “someone else” that I’m producing for makes me work more betterer.

3. Leave the Weeds Alone until they are Big Enough to Kill

My mom has a huge lawn. Huge. At least an acre, and probably more. She also has a pretty easygoing opinion about weeds, summed up fairly well as “Once you mow everything down to the same height, it all looks green to the folks driving by.”

I am not so sanguine.

I may leave my yard alone for most of the week, but when I get out there to do some work I pretty much want nothing left in the yard except for what I put there in the first place.

The problem is, sometimes I’ll spot the barest stub of a new weed coming up, and try to get that thing out.

Can’t be done. Try as I might, all I’m going to do is waste time sweating over something no one but me is going to see right now, and probably just snap the fucking thing off at ground level, which gives it time to get its roots in nice and deep before it pokes up where I can see it again.

Best thing? Leave it be. Next week (or the next), the cocky little bastard will be nice and big and bushy and, more to the point, easy to pull up and throw away — since I didn’t screw with it in the first place, the roots are usually shallow and useless — it’s all show and no hold, and I can get rid of it so much more easily now that I have a good place to get a grip.

Also, since it’s so obvious, other people (like my daughter) are really helpful about pointing it out.

4. Not Everything You Plant Gets to Stay

A couple years ago, I put some some daisies out in the yard. They looked nice, and I’d heard they were pretty hardy and well-suited to the climate.

They’ve done pretty well.

By “pretty well”, I mean to say that the original cluster of daisies is now five clusters located in militarily valuable areas of the yard, each one about three feet across, each flower coming up to somewhere around the middle of my chest. In the evening, you can hear them whispering and giggling to themselves, telling stories about the inevitable fall of mankind and the rise of the Petal Throne. It’s a bit out of hand.

Much as I like them, there’s going to be a Culling this fall, and it’s going to be a blood on the sand kind of event for the daisies. Them’s the breaks; sometimes you have to rip out the pretty stuff you put in yourself, especially when it’s overwhelming other stuff you that you like just as much (if not more).

5. Wear Sunscreen

Yeah… I’ve got no witty writing corollary here. Sunburns aren’t cool. Wear sunscreen or your face is going to look like a catcher’s mitt.

Suspicious Hoboman is Suspicious

That’s it for my musing. Back to work.

How do I make “What works for me” work for me?


Why I’d Rather Mow the Lawn than Write

(In which the author raises – rather than answers – a question.)

I’m an extrovert.

Most people hear “extrovert” and think “friendly and outgoing” — let me dissuade you of that notion. Basically, an extrovert is a person who is energized by being around other people.

Extroverts tend to fade when alone. Extroverts tend to think as they speak, and think best while they are communicating the thing they’re thinking about. Ideas just don’t seem real unless they can talk about them; reflecting often isn’t enough. There’s a necessary feedback loop as well: talking to yourself (like masturbation) is a temporary substitute at best and tends to hamper you in the long run, if overused between sessions of the Real Thing. (Now there’s an example I didn’t plan on using today.)

So anyway: extroverts. Extrovert. Me. Feeds on feedback. Got it? Good.

The Problem

I write. I’m a writer. Assembling words in an order best suited to enter the eye or ear and, thence, to stick your brain meat is basically what I get paid to do.

In most examples of this kind of work, the feedback loop is slow. Feedback on commercial work is Pretty Darn Slow. Freelance stuff or writing for Big-P publication varies, but tends to range from Fucking Slow to Publishing Industry Slow, with “Glacially Slow” sitting at what’s generally agreed to be the arithmetic mean.

For someone like me, that’s a pretty hard row to hoe. Usually, I can find a work around that gets me by, but I’m struggling right now.

One of the reasons that I like twitter as much as I do is the immediate feedback. Positive or negative, if I put some energy out there, I’ll probably get some energy back. It may not be the response I’m looking for, but something happened. Same’s generally true for blogging or forums or whatever. Feedback. Energy. I recently wrapped up a contract gig that involved me creating coursework for a company. The work cycle was three days of me making something, one day for feedback, two days for implementing feedback, and repeat. Tight cycle of energy transferral is what I’m saying, even though I was working remotely and never saw the client face to face for the twelve week duration.  In that time, I created 14 polished hours worth of online courses.

Then there’s long-form writing. Months of getting that first draft out. Then maybe two people read it. Then a rewrite. Then maybe six more people read it. Sweet Fancy Moses with Bows On, it’s slow. (It’s likely the reason I’m at my best levels of productivity during NaNoWriMo; even if I’m not sharing the actual stuff I’m writing, there’s a lot of loose energy bouncing around.) Using #amwriting tags on Twitter and dipping into that stream only goes so far, and lacks both immediacy and often a sense of connection — it’s not getting the job done.

It gets to the point where, in the midst of the worst mid-afternoon heat, the pull to go mow the lawn is stronger than the pull of the keyboard, because at least with the lawn, someone will point out I missed a spot. Interaction. Feedback. Energy. I’m a junkie.

So what do I need? I dunno. A writer’s group with weekly deadlines? An MFA program? Fucked if I know — I said at the outset that this isn’t a post with answers, just questions. I welcome your input. In the meantime, this is about all the whiny navel-gazing I budgeted for 2010, so I need to get back to work.

A bit of conversation

SO here’s a talk I had this morning:

Website: *explodes*
Me: …the hell?
Website: What?
Me: You just exploded.
Website: Nuh uh.
Me: Yes. You did. You are still exploded, in fact.
Website: Well…
Me: What?
Website: At least you noticed me.
Website: Sorry.
Me: I’ve had a lot on my —
Website: I know. I know. Sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. Here… I’ll unexplode for you. Gratis.
Me: You don’t have to —
Website: It’s fine. It’s fine. Really. Just… it’s fine. You should finish up your job aps and the new coursework. I know it’s how you spend your mornings right now.
Me: Actually…
Website: *sigh* What?
Me: Well, the apps are in, the course is done — I’m writing this morning.
Website: Oh, on Adrift? I thought I saw something about that on your other site.
Me: My other…
Website: You know. The Twitter.
Me: The Twitter?
Website: Shut up.
Me: The Twitter? Who are you, Betty White?
Website: Maybe I am.
Me: What? What does that even mean?
Website: Nevermind. Shut up.
Me: Listen. *sigh* The reason I noticed you exploded is because I was going to write something with you.
Website: Pff. Sure.
Me: Really. Look, I got some pictures to go along with it.
Website: *glances sidelong* That’s a pretty random collection.
Me: It’s kind of a potpourri post.
Website: … thus marking the one and only time that “potpourri” will show up on your website.
Me: Well, two, now.
Website: Whatever. *rubs scalp with fingers* Grab-bag post, huh?
Me: If you like. I don’t have to if you —
Website: Just get over here and type.

Why Hello There


Yes, it’s been pretty quiet around here, but that’s only because it’s been really noisy everywhere else, and while I love me some oversharing, there’s a point at which the day to day slog of doing contract instructional design and job hunting gets a little banal, and that point is somewhere just before I ever start talking about it on the blog. I’ve been working out my schedule (which keeps changing), and the points during the day when I would normally write here have been swallowed by writing for other stuff.

That picture, by the way? That’s totally me — lots of tappity tappity tap, lots of phone calls, and a growing feeling that I’m having two conversations at once, all the time. I’m hoping that’ll pass.

Let’s see what else is going on…

The death of the paper book! Again!

There’s been a lot of very intelligent talking about books and writing and piracy lately, and while I’ve been keeping my eye on all of it, I haven’t jumped in because my feelings haven’t really changed, which means the music I’d be adding to those jam sessions isn’t substantively different than the stuff I’ve played before, and everyone’s already heard that.

Print is dead, long live print.

I’ll tell you this for free: I agree with Konrath — the changes that are coming to publishing will, in the end, come from the rainmakers (the writers), not the people manufacturing buckets (huge props to Rob Donoghue for that analogy). I look around at our greatest living shamans today — the mightiest rainmakers — and I examine what they’re doing, and it looks a lot like someone marking a trail for others to follow. That Steven King dude? He’s training a LOT of readers to like ebooks. I’m just sayin’.

There’s a lot more to this conversation than just paper vs. plastic, but it is one of the sides to the dodecahedron, and I truly feel that electronic (self-?) publishing will be the thing that melts traditional publishing down to its composite goo, remoulds it, and forges it into something new in the next two decades.

It’s important.

I’m Done with Facebook

Yeah, I'm done.

It’s not that I’m a particularly private person. It’s not that I think anything I post on facebook is that inherently valuable.

But it bothers the fuck out of me when someone takes any portion of me — any fraction of my anima — and sells it off like erection-inducing rhino horn powder to the nearest advertising megacorp. No. Not me. Not anymore.

Facebook. Initially welcoming. Ultimately crap.


Nuff said.

The Beard

It comes and goes, oscillating between “sea captain” and “gruff grandfather”. At some point in there, Kaylee decides that Daddy Don’t Get No More Lovin’ til the thing comes off, so off it comes. Wail, my brothers, but know that I will soon be with you again.

Someday, I will be a super-wizard.

Gaming stuff

Hoping for a little tabletop Dragon Age this weekend, maybe even next weekend — two weeks in a row. That’ll be fun.

Still playing the FATE-based Diaspora, and it’s good. It’s probably the best FATE iteration I’ve played, but I suspect that’s only because I haven’t played Dresden Files yet. It’s good – don’t get me wrong, it’s damn good – but it’s good in the way that reading Ekaterina Sedia is good: you simply cannot shake the sense that the authors are not communicating with you in their mother tongue. The Diaspora guys speak FATE fluently, but one gets the sense that they’ll never be wholly comfortable within it.

Games overwhelm me at times.

On the computer front, Kate and I are still really enjoying, of all things, Wizard 101. Enough so that we’re playing when we don’t “have to” with Kaylee, and have a pair that we’ve taken well ahead of the trio we play with our youngest gaming partner. It’s good times, and frankly it’s a good game. I even like the dueling arena, which gets back to the game’s MtG/Pokemon deck-dueling roots in a way that I find very satisfying, even when I’m getting my ass kicked.

Also? Teaming up to play a game with my daughter? Awesome.

Back in Middle Earth

We’re not spending a ton of time in Lord of the Rings Online at the moment, due to our Wizard 101 binge…

You're Tolkein my language.

… but I’m getting my fix all the same.

Kaylee and I are reading The Hobbit. By my best reckoning, this marks the realization of a personal dream probably 20 years in the making, and I am very very happy about it.

The dwarves are stuck in the barrels now, floating down to Laketown. Bilbo has a cold.

Kaylee keeps telling me that none of this would have happened if they’d stayed on the path, like Gandalf said.

Sooth, child. You speak sooth.

In the Meantime

I write. I’m coming to the tail-end of my contract work, and I’m taking the opportunity to let go of my job-search stress and use the time to find out what I can do when I’m not cramming my writing time in wherever it will fit, like mortar between boredom bricks. It’s a bit scary, and more than a little stressful, but the words keep moving from my fingers to the screen, and some of them really make me happy, and there are so many many worse things than that.

I have all the direction I need.

I’ll talk to you soon.