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So I got the International Baccalaureate Diploma. (Scores went up today.) The proudest part of that was probably the B grade I got on my extended essay, which I posted about here and which was on DUST by [livejournal.com profile] matociquala and PARADISES LOST by Ursula K. Le Guin. I didn't really ever get any guidance on it from my adviser (which, all right, I knew would probably happen when I picked him), and I wrote it in two drafts, in furious weeks of rereading and taking notes and restructuring. They were awesome weeks.

Personally? I think it's awesome. But I wasn't sure that the IB graders would think the same. So I'm very happy about that.

Beautiful weather this whole weekend. I was up near a lake--got to hang out in a pontoon boat, drive a pontoon boat, crash through the woods on an island and discover picnic tables and a forest of milkweed plants. My mom made a good half-gallon of fantastic lemonade, which we are still consuming. There were lots of lovely wildflowers, whipping past on the drive up, on the island, just around. There were many many berries consumed. (This is one of my favorite eating times of the year. Fresh local berries? Yum.) There was a fire, and marshmallows, and deliciousness resulted.

There was time for me to sit out on a dock and read, to write and to stare at the water and think. Or just stare at the water.

And today? Today I have not decided yet what will happen. I know what the next little bit of the novel is, so I might write that. I might work on the poem that's started to climb out of my brain with its little spindly claws, or the couple of short story ideas that dripped out of my mind. (I know I shouldn't--I have a novel to finish--but I might.) At some point I'll go through some slush for Ideomancer.

After reading [livejournal.com profile] matociquala's post here, I have been thinking about writer peer groups, and what is my peer group, and what are peer groups anyway? I seem to have a lot of writer acquaintances, but not very many writer friends.

And some people, I think (or hope?), feel the same way. I meet people at cons and think they're cool, friend them on LJ or whatever, and end up just reading their posts and being uncertain if I should comment, because maybe I just had a tiny conversation with them or maybe not even that. Maybe I comment, and they maybe remember who I am, or maybe they don't, and anyway it fizzles out.

So! If you are a writer, and want writer friends--i.e., me and whoever else comments on this post--comment! (Hey, it might not work out, but it's something.)
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"Graduation practice" yesterday turned out to be their method of trapping us all in the school auditorium for two hours while we waited in line to get our caps and gowns. I am deeply disappointed that the said caps and gowns are in fact purple--I had been looking forward to having a ready-made wizard costume.

However, if all goes well that is the last time I will ever be forced to go to that building, which is awesome.

Then I went with friends to see Up, which I liked quite a bit (though I noted some not so feminist things about it), and then hung out with them until one in the morning.

We've all taken to hugging each other fiercely when we say goodbye, even if we know with absolute certainty we'll see each other later that afternoon or the next day. Because now--time is limited, all of a sudden; and maybe that certainty isn't so certain any more.

The funny thing about going to bed at one a.m. is that you feel absolutely no desire to wake up at five thirty to work on your not-a-novel. So I slept in (which for me means eight), and then had a lazy breakfast and a lazy day, nursing the bruise I got from biking to school last week and the scratches I got on one arm from a failed attempt to climb a gigantic tree last night. I cleaned my room; it's amazing how quickly it becomes clear that all of the paper in which your desk is submerged is, in fact, programs from plays that you went to see five months ago, and assignment sheets for homework which has been done, turned in, and returned graded, and old college mail and information booklets from when you were still searching for a college.

By now I've kind of given up on getting any writing done today. I attempted to make a playlist for a story I want to write, but it turns out that I have exactly zero trickster songs. (Recommendations?)

So, on the whole, a peaceful day. I think I get one of those once in a while, right? Later I will go and drop in at my friends' grad parties, and maybe wander out 250 words on the not-a-novel just so I can say that I did something today, at least.

And tomorrow is a new day, and I don't have to go to school that day either. Or the day after that, ad infinitum until September.
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Victory, victory, victory. I wrote a first draft of a short story this past weekend. It's not a terribly good draft, or story, but it is a first draft of a new story, and it's complete, and sometimes that's what counts. I have a few ideas on how I can start to revise it, too. These have partially been put off until I don't have to go to school any more. (That is, until Thursday. That is to say the day after tomorrow. Ack.)

I always thought I would be one of those people who disliked high school without exception, who were relieved and glad and happy to get out. And to a certain extent I am. But there are pieces of this place that I will carry with me forever.

Today in theater class I did a 'senior farewell' piece. I might post it here when I type it up. It's said that anything that goes up on the Internet can never be taken down again, and I kind of like the idea of that piece going out and on into forever.

Also, on a less maudlin and self-centered note, the June issue of Ideomancer is up. I did not help edit this one, but it's awesome anyway. (Okay, maybe a little bit of self-centeredness.) You should go read it.

Note: strawberry popsicles are awesome.
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Firstly, Ideomancer has hired me as a Junior Editor. I am super excited, because Ideomancer is awesome.

I would say more here, but I think that this pretty much speaks for itself.

Secondly, I have helped to edit my school's literary and arts magazine and have coded a webpage for it. My goal was to get everything coded and uploaded before my term at Ideomancer starts (which is Monday).

This was harder than it sounds because my school district uses a particularly annoying form of content management which is intended to make it easy as pie for teachers who don't understand computers to put up tiny websites for their classes. This makes it almost impossible to code a decent webpage if you actually know what you're doing with HTML.

However, I have emerged triumphant.

Y'know, this editing thing is actually kinda fun.
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There is something eminently satisfying about learning something from your senior-year English class that turns out to, in fact, be a quote that one of the characters quotes in a book you read as a child, and reinforces the Awesome that you have always found in those characters.

(The book, for those of you who haven't read it or don't remember, is A College of Magics, by Caroline Stevermer; and the line is from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.)
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I am back from Wiscon 2009. I hung out with awesome people and met people who I previously had only known on the internet (hi, guys!) and re-met people from various places and times. I ate a surprising amount of strawberries.

In the way of cons, by halfway through the weekend I was going "I can't possibly write sff novels--how ever will I write something that is true to my experience that is not straight-up realistic fiction?" and by the next morning came up with an idea that I can't think about too hard because I'm going to finish this novel first, darnit.

An observation on cons: Last year at Wiscon was "see a panel, hang around for half an hour trying to look inconspicuous, see another panel". Last year at Readercon was, well, "run around on five hours of sleep, talking to friends and other people with wild abandon, miss almost every single panel and event and not care". This year at Wiscon, I got to panels quite often, but we also had the hour-and-a-half-long lunch break conversation about the philosophy of writing.

I took notes on some of the panels, but they will likely be singularly unhelpful to anyone except for me, as I wrote down chiefly things that I found fascinating.

Tomorrow I have to go back to school for the last seven days of high school. Ever.
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Five things make a post. (Where does that phrase come from? We need a Wikipedia for the Internet.)

1. I am all done with IB forever for the rest of my life. As much as I grew fond of it in the last couple of weeks, I am glad to see it gone.

2. Wiscon! Just a week away now. I will be on one (1) panel, to wit:

Young Writer Q&A
Sun 2:30 - 3:45PM
Conference 4
Kelly Jones (M), Vylar Kaftan, Naomi Kritzer, Alena McNamara, Diana Sherman
If you're a writer under age 18, you may have a set of questions that most writing 101 books and panels don't typically answer. Should you mention in cover letters that you're a freshman in high school? Is there a way to mention your fiction writing in your college applications if you haven't actually sold anything? Should aspiring writers major in English? Where can you find people who will give you feedback on your writing without being patronizing? This panel is designed for young writers, college‚Äďage and under. (Panelists may be older, but we all started young.)

(I am not older.)

3. My "secrets" tag has been being used to denote posts which are about the Novel I am writing. For a long time it was a Notanovel, because my brain freaks out with all the rules about What Novels Must Do and What Novels Must Be if I admit that I am Writing A Novel. Now it is 20k words long and it is time for it to grow up and be a real novel.

4. I am, for once in my life, dressing up. I am even wearing high heels. I am, in fact, going to prom. I am not constructing my mental scenarios for the Perfect Prom Night. My feet will get sore, and I will spend a lot of time being bored and/or annoyed, but it will be okay.

5. I have registered for Fourth Street Fantasy convention.

Bonus number 6 is a secret.
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This has been a good news, bad news day.

Good news: I feel like I did at least all right on the first half of the IB English test yesterday, and the first 2/3 of the IB History test today.
Bad news: I had to finish my IB History essays early and then run back to school from where we were taking the test (and ask the bus driver to wait for me while I ran inside and grabbed my stuff to study for the last 1/3 of the History test which is tomorrow morning) to actually be able to ride the school bus home. Otherwise I may have had to hang around school for another two hours, and I am not yet so nostalgic as to enjoy that.

And, when I got home,
Bad news: I am not a Presidential Scholar; they picked a different girl from Minnesota. (Tell me, what does she have that I don't? Tell me.)
However, Good news: This means that I will be in town for Fourth Street Fantasy Convention, which I have wanted to go to lo these many years since last year when it was revived and I went to Odyssey instead.

And, you know, I am sitting in the breeze and in the sunlight, full of blueberry muffin and chocolate, and there are a lot of worse ways to be on the afternoon before the last part of a large test on the History of the Americas. (Even if this chocolate apparently isn't okay for me any more. Boo.)
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My Giant Tests Wot I Have Been Preparing For Two Years For begin on Monday, though the first one I am worrying about isn't until Tuesday.

I also have ideas on how to rewrite "The Mermaids, Singing", also known as the cannibalistic mermaids story.

What am I doing?

Posting on LJ, of course!
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Some of you may have seen this already, but probably not twice.

I am Presidential Scholars semi-finalist. (One of, oh, 560 in the country.)

The best part? I don't have to write any more essays for them.

(The bad news is that I don't know yet if I'll be able to go to Fourth Street Fantasy Convention--because, of course, the Presidential Scholars all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC is that same weekend. Last year I said wild horses couldn't drag me away from Fourth Street in 2009, but they appear to be doing their best.)
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Today I went to the bookstore. )

I have been watching the TV show Criminal Minds lately. I blame [livejournal.com profile] matociquala. As a reader of Shadow Unit, it's particularly fascinating to mark the ways in which Criminal Minds is an influence on SU. Although maybe some of them are general to all such shows, and I just don't watch enough TV to note the difference.


Colleges, if you were wondering how to make me stop freaking out, at least momentarily, about the admissions process? Follow Mt. Holyoke College's example and send me a soothing letter about how much you like me.

I think perhaps this tactic has wider applications in society, too.


Ramblings: school, participation, life )

... which is tantamount, in my roundabout way, to beginning to say: I am listening. I am here, present, with you.

I don't think I have much else to contribute to the discussion, which is why I haven't posted before.
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Lately I've been thinking about context in writing. My writing teachers from a while ago would do a context exercise with the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice"; first they played the song, and then they played a clip where it was used in a documentary, with clips of a town dying because the auto plant that had kept it alive was closing.

The story that I'm working on right now depends on context. The trick, of course, is creating that context within what the readers get of the story. The first scene is one that has happened to the main character before: he is where he was before, seeing the same things and smelling the same things, but you can't step in the same river twice, and he is not who he was before. That context, that contrast, creates the tension between who he was, who he is, and who he's trying to be.

In some sense, all stories depend on context, certainly inside the story's action (we expect characters to be the same person the whole way through, bar revelations). Many stories also depend on exterior context--from actions taken just before the story starts, to backstory of characters, to the entirety of the genre. How much they depend on context, and how many layers of it exist to be unraveled, depends on the story and the writer.


Another observation about stories: usually, they leave out the waiting. (Waiting For Godot being the exception which proves the rule.)

In an unscientific study of two anthologies of short YA fiction about GLBT people (from the '80s and today), there are a lot of stories about "main character encounters gay parent/other relative/teacher/neighbor, has perceptions changed", and a lot of stories about "main character discovers he/she is gay through mutual falling in love with someone of the same sex".

The second kind irks me more than the first. Self-discovery is not always like that; in fact, probably it rarely is. (And the circumstance in those stories is not required by self-discovery, hence the 'self-'.)

This connects to waiting, I swear--due to proportions, if you're gay, you're going to spend a lot of time waiting. Even if you're straight, you're going to spend a lot of time waiting.

Waiting is boring.

We want to read the glorious moment, the moment when everything changes. But it isn't that 'nothing happens' when you're waiting. It's that other things happen. Still, the waiting goes on, underneath.

(I would feel bad about the relative teen-angst quality of this section of my post, but, after all, everyone who's here signed up for it. Hi. I'm Alena. I'm a teenager, as much as I like to deny the fact.)
(ETA: Okay, so waiting is what builds the context for stories. Still, everyone is always waiting for something; it doesn't go away just because the current story is taking place in some other aspect of life.)

School is, as always, school. As my last posts indicated, my big papers are in, but that doesn't mean that they're done with me. Oh, no. Never that. So we have projects to do, and presentations to prepare, but I am writing a story--well, I am writing this post, but I've written five hundred words tonight, which is more words of new fiction than I've written on any story for quite a while, and I'm not sure how the next scene starts.

I had an overnight at a college this weekend. It brought college crashing through "well, in September; that's a while away" right up to now. I wish that it were now; I wish all my hard choices were over and done with. But it's not, and it won't be for a while, and I have to take it one day at a time and move on.
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So one of my recent accomplishments was finishing this long essay. (For those of you playing along at home, it's the first entry on this list.) It's about DUST by Elizabeth Bear, and PARADISES LOST by Ursula K. Le Guin, and fate and free will and angels and SF.

Now I am done, and so, because I am simultaneously proud of it and want to stuff it down a well, I am posting about it here, and saying that I will send it to people.

Which I will. Send it, that is. I have a whole bucket of excuses for it, which I will not give.

details and how to get it )
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I appear to have emerged victorious from the morass of essays, papers, and college applications in which I was temporarily submerged. This weekend, which is three days long, has so far done much to recover me. (Books, for one thing. For another, new boots. I usually hate shopping, but I am pleased with these boots.)

My theater class appeared to at least not detest the scenes I put in front of them on Friday, which is a good sign. It's an Icarus telling, twisted and spun through the way that I think about things, and so it both is and is not speculative theater, if I am allowed to make up that awkward phrase. I plan to work on it this weekend, despite the fact that that means sinking myself into his world and not coming out until I feel like I've drowned.

I also want to work on an entirely uncomplicated story. My hope is that the two will balance each other; the Icarus play is exactly the sort of overcomplicated concept that I usually simultaneously delight in and suffer from. Also, it's theater, which I am absolutely certain I am terrible at writing, but I think I have to write it anyway; I've been dancing around the concept since Odyssey, when I was trying to write my slam piece.

We'll see if the theory works, I suppose, though my guess is that if I can figure out the characters in the uncomplicated story, I could at least attempt the balancing act.

Unrelatedly, I've now registered for Wiscon and, apparently, reserved a room to stay in. I'm planning to also register for Fourth Street, but I haven't done that yet. Anyone on here that I can expect to see at either of those places?

Expect more posts to follow, things that I think deserve their own posts, or at any rate will get them.
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The Universe:

No school for two weeks.

Papers I have to write over winter break:

* ~4000 word essay on the motif of angels in Ursula K. Le Guin's PARADISES LOST and Elizabeth Bear's DUST (final draft; I have a rough draft and a promise of comments)
* 1200-1600 word essay on the usefulness of simplifying things in one's life (final draft; I have a rough draft)
* 1200-1600 word essay on the representation of Iago (OTHELLO) and Raskolnikov's (CRIME AND PUNISHMENT) characters through their monologues (rough draft)

Also, my college applications.



Rejections on "Sun and Spirits" have been piling up lately. Strange Horizons, Fantasy Magazine, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies have all passed on it within the space of a couple of weeks. I'm not sure where it's going out next, but it's going somewhere.

My Writers of the Future entry for this past quarter received no recognition--but then, I knew that it probably would be.

I managed to get "The Mermaids, Singing" together in time to submit it to Interfictions 2.

I need to start another story. Rewriting stories from Odyssey is fine and dandy, but I also should be writing new pieces. Winter break should help with the having-time thing.
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Final revisions on "The Mermaids, Singing" are done, such as they are; the story is off to Interfictions for consideration.

Next project? My homework.

... seriously, though, after that, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I know I should write something new now, and I want to, but it's always been difficult for me to get ideas and start writing stories during the school year. Continuing stories, finishing stories, revising stories, those have historically been fine for me to do; but starting stories, for some reason, eludes me a lot of the time.

So far I don't have any particular strategy for how I'll reverse this trend, unfortunately. Trying a lot of things and seeing what works could be good; additionally, if anyone has ideas or suggestions of what they do to get themselves going, that would be great.


In other news, it's snowed here twice in the past few days. It's beginning to look a lot like winter.
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I'm supposed to be writing my NaNoWriMo novel, but I'm not.

In fact, I'm three days behind on word count. I think this is the furthest behind I've been this early in the month, without flood, (homework) storm, or having to run lights for a show physically preventing me from writing.

Instead, I am attempting to rewrite a story from Odyssey. So far it's going better than the last time I tried to rewrite it; my theory is to be blatantly obvious with everything. After this, I think I'll have to test it out on some poor unsuspecting victims who'll tell me if I'm hammering the point home too fiercely or if it just makes sense for a chance.


In other news, it's flurried here twice already.

I'm glad the snow is coming. Summer was nice, fall is good too, but it's time for curling up in blankets with warm cider and watching the snowflakes now. To me, snow justifies the winter: the grey days, the lack of light, the cold air coming through the window right in front of my computer so that my feet feel like they might freeze up while I'm typing LJ entries instead of rewriting my story or doing homework or going to bed.

That's why I separated out colleges by "Does it snow there?" Anywhere I go, there'll be some change in the seasons. The least I can do is make sure that I'll have snow to keep me awake and dreaming.
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Breaking radio silence (because of Way Too Much To Do and Way Too Little To Talk About) to celebrate.

I entered the Writers of the Future contest this summer while at Odyssey, with a story written and, with the help of my classmates, revised there. It was the first time I'd entered.

And guess what? I got an honorable mention!


Okay, so it's not finalist, and it's not semi-finalist, but there is time, there is time. For right now, I'm pretty pleased with my result.

Maybe this will give me the needed momentum to start revising, writing, and submitting stories. School provides a much-too-easy excuse to me--oh, I couldn't possibly do that, I've got homework! I've got extracurriculars, and college applications!

On the one hand, yes, those are still important. But I do want to keep writing.
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Since it's been long enough since my last post that I've forgotten what I intended to next post, I'll just pick up where I am now.

I recently realized just how old my last summer reading book is:

"This uncertainty was dramatically illustrated quite recently when a party of explorers diving in a bathyscape declared themselves unable to judge the size of the unknown creatures they had seen in the deep."

(Art and Illusion, E. H. Gombrich)

Bathyscape. BATHYSCAPE.

Strangely, this has made me much more charitable toward the book as a whole, so it's a pity that the revelation came on page 259 of 389.


Small World Moment:
The weekend after I got back from Odyssey, I went to the farmers' market, wearing my Eddy and the Fey t-shirt. Usually I save it for times when I know someone will appreciate it, and I didn't have any plans for the day, but I put it on anyway.

And it turns out that the didgeridoo player at the farmers' market knew Emma Bull when she (Emma Bull) lived in the Twin Cities, from playing at the Renaissance Faire.


I haven't written a word--well, of fiction--since Odyssey ended. I want to write.


One of the reasons why is summer homework.

A list, more for me than anyone else:
- 2 quarters of health class online (complete)
- read a required book for the Theory of Knowledge class I'm taking (done)
- 3 summer reading books, with three pages of notes on each one (I've read all of the books now; I just have to do the notes)
- a large math packet (which I am partway through, and did not know about until after I got back)
- an extended essay (switched my topic, am currently trying to forget about it because a constant state of freaking-out is not good for me OR the essay)
- a long form intended to help my school counselor in writing me a recommendation letter for college

As I keep telling people, if I had the whole summer, it would still be a lot, but it wouldn't be a huge deal. With two weeks until school starts, though . . .


Another thing I've been doing is watching the Olympics. I started mostly hopeful that I would get to see some Olympic fencing (they don't usually put the medal bout footage on the website), and kept watching because what these people are doing is truly phenomenal. More than half the time, I'm rooting against the American competitors, and it's lots of fun.


I need to type up my notes: from Wiscon (it seems like an age ago), from Odyssey, and from Readercon. I need to compile the lists of Books I Have Been Instructed To Read. I need to find said books . . . and then find the time to read them, of course.

I've managed to read a few novels since I got back, mostly the things I'd been wishing for while at Odyssey--some more of Nancy Kress's novels, Elizabeth Bear's new books--but I know I have pages of book-recommendation lists scattered through my notes.


There are a lot of things I have intended to do which I have not done. I don't know when I'm going to do them. Today, and for the past weeks, being a high school student has won out over all the other selves I have. The high school student has to win out tomorrow and the next day, too, if I'm going to get all of this work done.

Conflicting notions are battling: my writing got six weeks, so my school career is surely due for a few now; if I want to be a writer, I have to fit it in with everything else in my life; my life isn't going to get less busy when school starts, and on the contrary, it'll get busier, so I'd better get used to it now.

Will it get easier?

Somehow, I don't think it will.
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It's nice to know that I still have it.

--well: I guess I don't know, necessarily, whether the story's any good. But I wrote a story today, and it felt good, like stories should feel coming out of my brain. It needs work; oh, it definitely needs work.

But school squashes my creativity so much that sometimes I despair of ever getting it back, and I love the moment when I realize, No, I still do have that. It's just tucked away for the moment.

Tomorrow is my last day of school for the year. I've managed to fight my way through most of everything I had to do, which of course means that I discovered another fifty things I have to do.

I leave for Odyssey on Sunday--my plane leaves at, er, six a.m.

...that's a little early, even for me.

May 2017



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