So, it’s July, and I have the great pleasure of being (for the third time) at the Extending Teacher Creativity Workshop at Indiana State University in Terre Haute for the next three days!
One of the many benefits of winning a Lily Teacher Creativity Fellowship (besides the humungous grant – $10k when I won in 2015, and $14k now) is an annual invitation to what I think of as Teacher Camp – previous recipients gather in the ISU student union to do one Workshop and one Mini-Workshop, and they feed us generously and gift us lavishly and try to freeze us to death (whoops, no, that’s just the a/c).
This morning I went through the closet in my old room at my parents’ house and pulled out some old toys for my son: some Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figures, a Harley Quinn doll (with two hyenas!), and a very perplexing Jonny Quest figurine (Hadji in… a mech suit? With a machine-gun arm?). The kid is pretty dang into them. And that’s not the only connection between past and future that’s going on today.
I haven’t really written much (any) sci-fi before, but one of my current WIPs is “cli-fi,” aka “climate change fiction.” It’s about as sci-fi-y as The Hunger Games, in that I’m aiming for a world that seems basically like ours only after some kind of disaster, with some technology that’s basically magic and just there for plot reasons (sort of like in Star Wars, only there’s no Force. Yet?).
Obviously even when you’re writing something set in a contemporary world, you have to do worldbuilding: small town? Big city? What details of technology give the setting? Buffy is contemporary to when it aired (and boy do the outfits look hilarious nowadays, except for the ones that are somehow back on-trend) but still has tons of worldbuilding around the magical/supernatural elements.
Something like Burn Notice has a world built up of some real places and organizations (Miami, the CIA, the IRA) and lots of fake people (all of the characters except Sam Axe, because I refuse to live in a world where Sam Axe isn’t real).
Worldbuilding for a world that’s not our own is trickier… but pretty fun.
I’m really loving the posts that Jenny Crusie’s doing about “Story Teams” over on her blog. She’s analyzing why they work (or don’t). She analyzed the teams from Leverage (LOVE it), Person of Interest (tried to like it because she loves it and writes such interesting analysis of it, but…), and Legends of Tomorrow (uhhhhhhh) in preparation for troubleshooting the team she’s building in her WIP.
Reading her posts made me think about some of my favorite TV teams (Burn Notice, Chuck, and Buffy being standouts, and White Collar too, although that’s a duo with support more than a team most of the time, and, of course, the Quest Team/Venture Brothers–Oh, and I guess Archer?).
So I want to analyze these teams the way she’s doing it, mostly for fun but also for comparison to the team I’m trying to build in my Lilly grant novel (YA cli-fi starring Anika, as-yet-untitled). I listed too many, so I might just pick a few from the list.
Of course, that requires me to a)do that analysis and b)figure out what the heck is going on with my team.
And tonight’s not the night for that; I’m going to go to bed and sleep on it, and see what thoughts manage to crawl across my mind in the tryptophan-haze that is post-Thanksgiving relaxation time.
But teams make a pretty satisfying story unit. I’m excited to dig into this more!
At the writing date I had last Wednesday with two friends and fellow writers, my internet-friend-from-way-back-who-recently-moved-to-Indy Chel brought her CD wallet in. This mystified Chelsea, who is enough younger than us that a giant CD wallet full of burned mix CDs struck her as a charmingly old-fashioned item.
Chelsea and I have talked before about making soundtracks as a writing tool; it’s something I’ve been doing since I was in high school (the earliest ones were cassette tapes, but my dad was an early adopter of new technology, meaning we got a CD burner when they were still rarities). Chel and I have been exchanging fanfic and mix CDs with our friend Meach since the 90s, and I used to put a truly amazing amount of time into creating WinAmp playlists (uh, and skins) and mix CDs (often with “cover art” that I drew myself, first-person notes from characters, and on-disc art).
Since having a kid, though, the time I used to put into this seems to have mysteriously evaporated, so I’m extremely rusty; plus, I’ve had a computer upgrade but the new computer doesn’t have an optical drive. But I’ve been using Shazam to identify songs I like and then I’ve been using Pandora, Spotify, and YouTube to follow up. Continue reading mixing it up→
Well, while The Baby is napping, and C’s off feeding a friend’s cats and picking up his brother’s dog, I thought I’d try to pop up a quick entry. I’m working on finishing up my grant report for the Teacher Creativity Grant that led to the creation of this blog (fellow educators, GO APPLY!) and will post that shortly. I’ve also been doing some literary archaeology and re-reading the big, sprawling, terrifying novel draft that I was working on with a friend for several years (but no updates since… yikes, January 2015!). Continue reading Blast from the Past→
Last week in American Literature we did one of my favorite projects–unearthed from the vault, so to speak–based on Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. It’s a collection of poems, each written from the point of view of a former resident (now deceased) of Spoon River. The poems are intertwined, revealing the connections between the lives of the Spoon River-ers, showing town life from various angles.
Today at Janet Reid’s blog, they’re talking about pseudonyms. The discussion was brought on by a particular case in which a man published poetry under a pseudonym that was deliberately chosen to sound Asian (the man is white). Sherman Alexie, one of my faves, writes about the situation here, in case you’re interested in more info.
So, the commentariat at Janet’s place are now discussing the issue, but from the perspective of writers seeking representation: should you use a pseudonym? If so, should you tell your agent?