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Revised "The Densities of Hearts" and sent it out. That makes six stories out to markets right now, which is a personal record.

Also a personal record: I have already made more submissions in 2012 than I have in any other year. (Just in short stories, not counting the 26 queries I've sent out on A Returning Power.) I guess...maybe I have actually done some things this year? Weird.

In other doing-things news, I have found housing in London and copied a bunch of pages out of the new edition of the Conway Letters and fought with a microfilm machine (the microfilm machine won) and attempted to read 17th-century invoices. The operative word in that last clause being "attempted". (The 17th-century invoices won, too.) My advisor thought I should practice reading seventeenth-century handwriting, and he was right.

This weekend is WisCon! I am on one panel:
Are Children People? Sun, 8:30–9:45 am Capitol A
Benjamin Billman (M), Tuppence, Alena McNamara, Jack Shoegazer, S. Brackett Robertson, Kate O'Brien Wooddell
Are children an oppressed group? Certainly our justifications for treating children as we do (deciding for them, speaking for them, requiring compliance) sound familiar: Their biological differences from us make them incapable of self-determination; we must coerce them for their own good. A few SF futures imagine children commonly emancipated (Triton); more often, groups of exceptional children rebel (Slan, Beggars in Spain); and of course the single exceptional child who escapes adult control is a trope—glorified (Matilda, Ender, Lyra)—or terrifying ("It's a Good Life"). SF has an uneasy relationship with children's liberation. Are we ready for children's liberation? And what would it look like?

At times when I am not on a panel, I will go to lots of other panels, hang around in the hallways chatting, go to the Tiptree Auction (but not actually bid on anything, based on previous evidence), try not to buy the whole dealer's room, dance at the Genderfloomp party, etc.

Two weeks from now, I'll be in England. What...is this life? (I don't know.)
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I want to bring library books with me to return when I go to meet a friend this afternoon. This means I should probably type up Books Read. Which, in my brain, means I ought to write up everything else that happened this weekend because that's more important. Instead I will type up books read, wander off to do things, and come back to complete the post later.

WisCon )

China Mieville reading )

Books read )
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However much time I spend lying about making plans on how my next novel is going to be high-concept and awesome and have this structure sort of like sunlit glass...

...somehow I always end up back at, "Okay, so now I am going to write a gimmicky, queer YA paranormal romance/urban fantasy". Probably because, well, I like this stuff, and it's just fun to write. So this is self-indulgent novel number whatever I am on--complete with trickster-ish love interest, prestidigitation (which is worth it just for that word), magic, arts school students, nice clothes, queer romance...

It is currently two thousand words and rather a lot of plans. It may not actually turn into a fully-drafted novel, but on the other hand it might. Like the short story I haven't finished drafting yet, it is being written out of order; watching my brain change writing tactics is weird. Just a few years ago, it was "no, I will not write anything out of order, ever!".

In other news, I finished reading Welcome to Bordertown last night and it was splendid. Given the table of contents I knew the stories in and of themselves had to be good, but it was awesome as a whole, too. See, if the stories in an anthology are good, I always want to keep reading straight through; with a lot of anthologies, this means that I get kind of tired of whatever central concept there is by the end of it. (Zombies vs. Unicorns sort of avoided this by having two central concepts and switching off stories.)

With this Bordertown anthology, though, the only reason I kept stopping and putting it down was so I could have more of it to read later. Even though the stories were all set in the same world, they were so ridiculously different from each other--and yet clearly all part of a whole--that it was a joy to read them next to each other, find the differences, the connections...

...man, I love Bordertown. I do hope that this one does well enough that there can be another one. And maybe another after that. That'd really, really rock.

Oh! And I'm going to be at Wiscon this weekend, but I won't be on any panels (because me-going-to-Wiscon-this-year is sort of a last-minute thing). Um. Relevant information, for anyone who will be there who I have not met in real life before... I look pretty much like my icon of myself, except I am not usually wearing a tuxedo. I have lots of food allergies, but I like eating meals with people and will happily bring my packed food to a restaurant and order juice or something. Please ask before you pet my head.
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Today at work I was pondering steampunk. (While making preservation boxes/wrappers for old books. It works in my head, all right?) On the Politics of Steampunk panel at WisCon, there were several different descriptions of what exactly steampunk is.

Someone (I'd have to go back to my notes to figure out who) said it was "retrofuturism". That word stuck in my head for a while, and something wiggled loose today.

Namely: what does steampunk do, what is steampunk, that isn't in Wells and Verne? What is steampunk, qua retrofuturism? What does retrofuturism mean? What does it mean in this context?

And: okay, so say that we have some ideas of what steampunk is, qua retrofuturism. How do we apply that to today? If there were a future society, can we postulate what kind of retrofurutistic SF they would write about our world today, and what would that look like?

Then when I got home Tordotcom had a post about Alex Varanese's Alt/1977. To me, this exemplifies some things I was thinking about (eliding a few decades into each other, distilling the essence of what 'we' like or see ourselves in from it, romanticization to a certain extent), but I'm sure there are lots of ways that people could take this concept. And, of course, this has an entirely different stated intent--but it's somewhere to start with imagining it.
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Some Things of Awesome, numbered and cut-tagged:

1. People )
2. Panels )
3. Parties )
4. Assorted )

I could call that a con report.
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This is unfortunately not an "awesome things I did at WisCon!" post.

On Saturday afternoon, I went to the "Lesbians in SF/F" panel. I learned that basically without even trying very hard I have covered pretty much all of the extant lesbian characters in SF/F proper; and that I have no idea about "lesfic", which apparently grew out of Xena fandom and which I will probably look into now--it sounds like it's mostly erotica/relationship focused, so I'm not certain I'll love it to bits, but it will be interesting at any rate.

But that is not what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about being queer. )

tl;dr: Hi. I'm Alena. I'm gay. I'm going to go suggest a panel topic for next WisCon now.
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113 / 350

That is kind of like progress.

Timesinks for today: wandering through TVTropes noticing ones I'm using in this novel; interviewing at the library for my volunteer position. Hooray!

Timesinks for tomorrow - Monday: WisCon and the trials of not bringing my laptop. (The horrors!) It is possible to write, though very slowly, on my iPod touch, which I do plan to bring. Maybe I'll compose some haiku.

The math prize that I won proves to be a book. There is something very soothing about this kind of circular connection. (Now I just need to win a library/book/writing prize that gives me some math or physics, and I will be all set.)
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98 / 350

No progress yesterday, due to making pancakes and taking long parky walks and seeing two different kinds of music (Schubert and Weill and a guy on the ukulele--okay, I guess that's three, but in two concerts). Today: progress!

A hundred pages before Wiscon looks imminent. Hooray! I am making everyone's misconceptions and assumptions even more complicated than they already were, and not bothering about describing places or the weather adequately. That will come later.

I'm still drafting in MS Word, but copying into Scrivener as I go. We'll see how this works out for me. Plausibly, I'll spend some time this week putting the novel I wrote last summer into Scrivener and see if that gives me any ideas or inspiration for revision.

Speaking of Wiscon: it will be awesome. Somehow I am on two panels. Which are... )

Hopefully, I will not die! (Or say anything terribly stupid.)
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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–age 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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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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summaries of panels I attended; things I should have said at panels )

Of course, the weekend wasn't all just panels.

things that were not panels )

Today, I had to go back to school. Eight more days.
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Getting to school much too early. Finding a sentence trapped in the empty halls; walk it out, feel it beat. Hearing "Rhapsody in Blue" from the band room and still feeling uncertain whether it was a recording or live music.

Taking the AP Calculus test in the east gym. Filling out bubblesheets for five hours. Walking out of school like we own the place. The sheer beauty of spring. Debating rules of childhood games at the park. Taking over the playground. Playing freeze tag.

The way intent and determination can change a friend's face into that of a laughing hunter. Seeing a friend for the first time in months. Sitting on green grass.

Finding sand from the playground in your shoes later. In your socks. Between your toes.

It looks like Odyssey is on. Now I just need to survive the rest of the school year--AP physics test on monday, and another test the week after that. The good side is that many of my classes are winding down, which means More Time For Writing. (The bad side is that my English teacher has decided to make up for all the homework we don't have in other classes.)

Wiscon is the weekend after my last big test. I don't know yet whether it'll work out to go. Of course, I want to go, but I don't know if I can.

Related Odyssey things: a second story is due May 23rd. I'm struggling with it--I don't want to send "story #1" because it seems too thematically similar and I'm not sure if it's up to the level that my "story #2" was when I sent it with the application; certainly it doesn't have as strong of a voice. However, if I'm going to write a new story, I should have already done it, and I don't have anything.

I found a first line this morning while wandering around the empty school and waiting for my AP test to start. This afternoon I tried to do something with it, which didn't seem to work too well. It almost seems like a long premise for something, but I'm not sure what yet. I might just scrap everything I have except the first line and try again, because I have a couple of ideas of things I could do with it.

(Of course, writing is rewriting. Maybe I should just finish a rough draft already and do what needs to be done to it.)

My other recent idea seems like it won't be going anywhere for a little while. It needs a lot of time devoted to it, I think. The main problem is that (in my head, at least) the narrator is somewhere in the gray area between male and female, and said narrator doesn't have a strong enough voice in my head yet to write a rough draft in first person.

Under most circumstances, if I have an idea, I can rattle out some sort of rough draft. However, in these circumstances I've been having some problems--I hate writing first person without a clear voice, because every sentence ends up starting with "I" and I cringe every time; in third person, to use "it" seems impersonal and "they" too collective, while "he" and "she" are both inaccurate and the nongendered pronouns that have been offered to me sound awkward to my inner ear--so I'm thinking of letting it simmer for a while in the back of my head, and maybe doing some exercises to figure out voice a little more.
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To a certain extent, this journal has lost its point.

Originally, it was to chronicle my adventures in applying to the Clarion workshop in 2008. (Owing to their last-minute clarification of policy, of course, I didn't apply.) It then fell back on the other workshops I was applying to: Odyssey, Alpha, IYWS. All three have now replied, and all three accepted me.

With those deadlines gone, it feels like there's time to relax. There isn't, really. For one thing, it's the Season of the Standardized Tests. The ACT is over; so is the state math standards test, which may or may not count toward graduation--depending on whom you ask. The SAT, SAT IIs (the day before Odyssey starts!), AP and IB tests are all still yet to come.

And then Odyssey wants a second story from me, and a third on the first day of the workshop. Having heard some of the comments and compliments on Story #2, which I sent them, I am nervous that it will prove to be a brilliant fluke, and not representative of my greater work. I feel, in effect, nervous and uncertain. I don't think that they'll kick me out now--well, I hope that they don't--well, they probably won't.

But several people have commented on the voice in story #2 especially. I don't think that either story #1 or the potential story #3 that I'm currently sighing over (in the midst of homework! and tests!) has as distinct a voice as does the narrator in story #2. I don't even know where I found that voice.


I have realized lately that I have two houses and no home. I think that this happens a lot, with kids who have divorced parents with equal custody, but it was a shock in some ways to realize this. I'd thought for so long that my parents' divorce was an entirely positive thing that this negative aspect of it really was, well, a surprise to me.

And I'm not sure how to fix it, except maybe to write about it, which is sort of what story #3 will be, if it ever gets out of my brain.


Other things that have happened:
- My mother has agreed to take me to WisCon. (I will be sad when I go off on my own and I have to pay for all this stuff myself. From, uh, my writing. ... Or just not go to this sort of thing.) I'm excited, because going to Odyssey means not being able to go to Fourth Street.
- I've finished working on the school's musical and begun a sort of apprenticeship in lights in our student-run black box theatre. It's interesting. They do it, once, and then go off and leave me to it, assuming I've watched carefully enough to learn.
- We had our spring break, and I spent an exhausting week visiting colleges in NYC and western MA, bracketed by late-night flights. On the one back, the woman sitting next to us had a cat. Good job at preventing allergies, Airline That Shall Not Be Named. Good job.

May 2017



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