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Kansas: Vignettes

It’s late and the workshop begins in the morning so this will be things I noted along the way, perhaps in order.

I found out that your bra can set off the airport security system. Seriously. I took off all my jewelry (except my rings which never set off the alarms) and I still buzzed the thing twice. They said, something up high is setting it off and when they ran the little wand over me it was the wires and clips on my bra. I bought it on sale but it’s well made.

I sat beside a horse rancher who had fingers the size of breakfast sausages and then some. Several fingers were bent to the side and I didn’t know if that was just from arthritis or from breaking horses all his life. He was a nice guy and we chatted about geography, him showing me the copper mine by the great salt lake (which I certainly wouldn’t have noticed) and talking about how the land had changed and cities come up. We talked about floods in Iowa and about the land flying over. He told me if I talked about sports in Lawrence I couldn’t go wrong as they called it the “sport city.” I guess the college basketball team has won championships.

I’ve flown often enough and never fail to love looking down on the land and seeing its great scape and what tales it tells of time passing. The was the first time I saw a truly awesome alluvial plain. I could see where there had once been a great river, wide and high and lake like in its middle, how it pushed might torrents of water along and through the land, carving out veins that branched and branched, growing ever smaller. The dark lines of those veins and the rivulets, even now long dried out, were still there to tell the tale. It was amazing. Then as the land flattened past the Rockies, there was evidence of a great lake, where the banks were still built up and the water had overflowed, pouring down one side, then eventually shrinking in on itself, smaller and smaller over thousands of years until only a few streams and possibly rivers remain.

We then hit the flat farm fields of Kansas, beautiful in the chequered pattern of greens, golds and browns, quartered and sectioned. Even through the farmlands the evidence of rivers still reveal themselves. Those branches and veins still flow with life-giving water, and trees delineate and embroider the shapes of the rivers. This was one of the best histories of geography that I’ve flown over and I’ve flown into the British Isles, India, the Himalayan foothills, Mexico and Cuba.

Oro, one of the short fiction workshop folk who lives in Kansas City picked me up at the airport and gave me a ride. We got lost at first, going north instead of west. Oro apologized and for the fact his car didn’t have air conditioning but I just said, hey, it’s an adventure. I’ve amazingly looked at all the travel delays with pretty good humor, which is a good thing. In some cases I would get downright bitchy so maybe all that work I’ve been doing on my brain is paying off. I just took everything as part of the whole grand adventure.

The dorms in Lawrence are…well, dorms, but way more spacious than I thought. Rhea and I are sharing a room, which actually turns out to be a room with a wide kitchen space and bathroom in the middle and another room at the other end. If we were college students we would have another buddy in each room but we have the rooms to ourselves and doors to each bedroom. I nearly froze the first day because I hadn’t figured out the esoteric air conditioning.

I’ve met all the workshop people: Lane, Barbara, Jerry, Larry, Stewart, Eric, GS (and Rhea) for the novel portion, and Mannie, Mallory, Eric, Chuck, Kent, Oro, Ben, Robert, Jean, (Carolyn who I met the next day) for the short fiction portion (though I think I’m missing a name). Barbara, Larry and Jerry are doing both. And of course there is Chris, Kij who is teaching the novel portion,and Jim Gunn, saying what they wanted to get out of the workshop. I of course want fame and riches. But seriously, it’s great to brainstorm and get other perspectives and see if there’s something I’m missing in plot.

I drank some homemade limoncello by the novel workshop Eric. Very nice and strong stuff, actually better than the store bought, which doesn’t have enough tang for my tastes. Last night we ate at a Greek restaurant (the only one in Lawrence), which also serves falafel and pasta. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a Greek salad with lettuce in it. They asked me if I wanted the olives and I said yes. I was given a whole two. We then took a walk around a wee park and a wee-er Japanese sort of garden, then meandered along a street of cool shops. Last night was very pleasant and it was great to meet fellow writers tonight where we ended up talking new technologies, conservation, pollution, etc. My brain is happy.

I’ll soon be doing some poetry editing for Chizine so Sandra felt obliged to actually get to my poems before I come on board. She accepted “Trials of Lemons,” a poem about bitter fruit and dragonflies. I’m not yet sure when it will be up.

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Musings on the Muse: Early Inspirations

I always knew I wanted to be an artist (after brief thoughts of being a doctor, a nurse and police woman) from the age of six. At that time it was drawing. But the earliest influence on my mind and expanding my worlds was in reading.

I’ve already talked a bit about some of those books in Worlds of What-if. There were Aesop’s Fables, Br’er Bear and Br’er Rabbit, various fairy tales and myths such as the Norse tales. I began writing around the age of twelve, for myself, and like every teenager, some was emotional, angst-ridden. I still have some of these poems and it was only a small number like that. Many were exploring philosophies; time, infinity, death, birth.

┬áIn grade 9 I took a creative writing class instead of regular English. My spelling and writing were good enough that I could miss it. I think the class was actually called Communications. At that point, I began working on writing a book. It was handwritten and I managed fifty pages of single-spaced text. I still have that partial book somewhere at home. I think at some point in the past I actually typed it up but I don’t think it’s on the computer. I don’t remember a ton about it but the character, Carla Adamson, was in the desert and her husband (ex-husband?) was trying to kill her. But…I think there was going to be an alien intervention.

I was influenced by the fantastic from the beginning. Besides the articles in the newpaper of the future in grade 7, this was probably one of my first fiction scribblings. I continued to write poetry, which was less fantastical and just more straightforward. Then I got a job in a book store; comics, fantasy and SF. Ordering the books, reading the tales every day, cemented the genre in my head. It was then that I started to write a few stories.

I took a writing course at UBC. Then, I applied to the Clarion Writers workshop in Seattle in 1987 and was accepted. That was the true beginning of me taking my writing seriously. I began to send it out then. I’m still not sure it was the right thing, to take it seriously, but here I am, writing writing writing.

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Filed under fairy tales, myth, Writing