Friday, June 22, 2012

Taos Toolbox -- Days 11 and 12

This was the last day of Taos Toolbox.  Still no bear, and the chipmunk that David McAmis has domesticated is no substitute, even though it's cute:
Attendees had been assigned the "Chastity exercise," developed by Ursula LeGuin, in which you must write a page of evocative description without using any adjectives or adverbs.  Everybody did well at this.  The winner of the Oz Drummond Scholarship, given to a promising writer, was Sara Mueller.  Tonight we will all go out for a final gala dinner.

Memorable quotes from the last two days' of critiques:

"This has a nice light touch for a story about genocide."

"It's set in Genericville."

"Your solution to the plot problem has to be to skate faster."

"I love the shit out of this story."

"Let them miss the point.  It's literary."

"This future Iowa is why I'm retiring to Florida."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Taos Toolbox -- Days 9 and 10

Still no bear, although we did get marmots and hummingbirds.  Also people.  Here is the class photo.  Back row, left to right: Gerald Warfield, Lauren Teffeau, Chris East, Dinesh Pulandram, Pat Scaramuzza, David McAmis, Walter Jon Williams, Nancy Kress, Maura Glynn-Thami, Doug Texter, Corry Lee.  Front row (more or less): Catherine Evleshin, Sara Mueller, Sandra Wickham, Lis Bass, Fran Wilde, Rebecca Stevenson, Cath Scaff-Stump.

Critiques continue to be given, as do lectures; today mine was on work process and Walter's on how to write a good synopsis.  Memorable lines from the last two days of critiques:

"Any chapter that ends 'His crotch burst into flame' has my attention."

"Thank you for the smokin' hot ice elf."

"You were going for ambiguity and you succeeded far too well."

"I was a little concerned about her trying to hide a straight blade in her bra."

"You only pronounced the name correctly if you have a pile of phlegm on the table when you're done."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Taos Toolbox -- Day 8

Still no bear.

People arrived at the critique room looking slightly the worse for wear, since students are now all writing their second-week stories as the deadlines loom, reading each other's work to critique, and handling such normal chores as laundry and grocery shopping.  Not unlike real life.  But the critique session went well.  I lectured on tone and voice; Walter spoke on the Three Rs: reveals, reversals, and raising the stakes.

Memorable quotes from today's session:

"I meant to look at your synopsis again, but then I started drinking."

I wondered why the volcano took 30 years to get so pissed off."

"There are not enough vegetarians in science fiction."

"The good news is that I see potential in this story.  The bad news is that what I see in this story is potential."

"I've been reading a lot of writing books lately, searching for my soul."

"I'm suffering from Taos brain."

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Taos Toolbox: The Weekend

Yesterday Daniel Abraham, author of many books under many different names, arrived to give his guest lecture, which was entertaining and very well-received.  He spoke about "How to Have A Successful Writing Career."  One of his pieces of advice: "Publishing is not a meritocracy-- it is a casino.  Keep as many chips in play as you can."  By this he meant pursuing different sorts of projects, writing different kinds of books, and accepting all offered work.  There are writers who can do this (Daniel obviously among them) and some who cannot, or don't want to.  It clearly works for him.

Taos student David McAmis offered a different diversion: a computer game called "Angry Authors."  In this, you launch tiny avatars of Walter Jon Williams at "bad manuscripts" to make them explode.  It's great fun, and I was disappointed that I didn't get a launched avatar as well.  David said I'm "too sweet."  Ha!  If only he knew!

Saturday finished with a big group dinner at a local restaurant.  Sunday most people are writing, reading to critique, or hiking.  Tomorrow: back to the critique table for everyone's second submission.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Taos Toolbox -- Days 4 and 5

We have now completed the initial critiques for every author.  I have given five mini-lectures.  Walter has performed his exegesis of CASABLANCA and his index-card re-plotting of a student synopsis, a technique borrowed from Melinda Snodgrass.  It is Friday night, everyone is exhausted by literary aspiration, and there are plans for dinner, drinking, and/or hot tubbing.

But something is missing -- so far this year, no bear.   This is last year's bear, a used bear as it were:
Memorable quotes from the critique sessions:

"I could watch a person getting shot in the head, without having to vomit."

"It's always a mad hermit in the basement, isn't it?"

"All you left for me to critique is the cooking pots."

"This piece is Charles Stross meets a literary novel I never read."

"You have White Dimension Syndrome."

"Find a better disease."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Taos Toolbox -- Days 2 and 3

Taos Toolbox continues to chug forward.  We now, and for the first time ever, have a bar in the critique room, courtesy of David McAmis.  Many choices of liquor and wine.  The view from the lodge continues as gorgeous as ever:
This was a very long day.  I lectured on writing effective description and integrating it into a story.  We did four critiques, which means each student gets two minutes to critique each story, and Walter and I blather on much longer.  Then Walter did an exegesis on Samuel Delaney's NOVA for plot development, foreshadowing, and symbolism.

Memorable lines from the last two days' critiques:

"If they have extra ears, mention that earlier."

It's really hard to have an orgasm and stab somebody at the same time."

"Her being a serial killer is very inconvenient for them."

"If the title is THE DYING WORLD, maybe the first sentence shouldn't be 'Our world is dying!'"

"She's tumbling through these episodic scenarios like an eighteenth century heroine, only with less clothes."

Monday, June 11, 2012

Taos Toolbox -- Day 1

Each Taos class is different.  Last year there were 12 Macs and my pile of paper around the table.  In this group, at least half are taking notes on paper, like me.  Here we are in the critique room, ably led by Walter Jon Williams, looming large in the foreground:
Today we had a lecture by me on writing in scenes, critiques of three stories, and a lecture by Walter on plotting.  Then everyone, surfeited with information and coffee, staggered to their rooms to do the homework assignment.  Or do whatever.

Memorable lines from today's critiques:

"This story gave me a minor epistemological crisis."

"The character can't just be this cute furry magician that Sam wants to sleep with."

"If you could crank out the next 20 chapters by tonight, I'd like to read it in bed."

"Keep the perversity.  I like the perversity."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

On Saturday I leave for New Mexico to teach Taos Toolbox, a two-week intensive workshop in writing SF co-taught and organized by Walter Jon Williams.  I've been preparing manuscripts for days; for the first week's critiques, attendees may submit up to 10,000 words.  And all but one did.  

The only problem with Taos is that much of New Mexico seems to be on fire.  Nonetheless, we are going forward.  Science fiction people are tough.  So future blogs will come from this lovely, off-season ski lodge in the Carson National Forest: