Monday, March 15, 2010

Oddities and Reminiscences

Even though no one is buying my house, I am in the process of packing up a lot of things to ship to Seattle. This has involved going through a great many boxes, which in turn has resulted in finding stuff I forgot I owned. Among the recent discoveries:
  • A pair of Gardner Dozois's boxer shorts. These were won at a SFWA charity auction decades ago. Should I keep them? Send them back to Gardner? What?
  • My sixth-grade diary. Since I was not one of those kids who know they're planning on being a writer, this is not a strained attempt at being literary. Rather, it is an embarrassing compendium of crushes on boys, competition for grades with my best friend, and arguments with my long-suffering mother. Keep it? I can't bear not to, but am mostly embarrassed by the content.
  • My earliest stories. These are unremittingly bad. Really, really bad. How come I didn't realize that both a point of view and a plot are good things to have in fiction?
  • A piece of driftwood with a little piece of paper attached that says, "I will never forget this day." What day? When? I've forgotten.
What does one DO with this stuff? Move it to Seattle? Throw it out? I really don't know.


Steven Francis Murphy said...

I kept a pretty detailed journal during my year long deployment to Korea, a year that I consider to be the absolute worst of my life to date.

Last summer I opened the binder, took out the typed contents, marched over to the secured shredder at the campus copy center and destroyed it.

Which was an odd thing for a history teacher/small sf writer to do.

Yet on a spiritual level, it was strangely liberating.

S. F. Murphy

John said...

If you were asking my advice, this is what I would do...

Those earliest stories -- unless you want to risk them being published someday, I'd get rid of them. Quick.

Diary - if you think it might interest some family member of a future generation - keep it.

Boxer shorts - re-auction them off for charity?

Driftwood - Hold on to it if you think you might remember someday, otherwise, pitch.

Unknown said...

Take a photograph of it.

This is important even if you keep the item - things can get lost or crumble.

But if what you want is the memory, a photo will do as well as the object - and you can keep a CD with these treasures in several places.

That is what I have done so far with my daughter's T-shirts. I offered a quilt - but am glad she picked photos.

Peter Plantec said...

Hi Nancy, I think that Kelli's use of Cigarettes not only conveys emotion but also very much the era. I'm assuming you're reading City of Dragons. If not forgive my remarks.

Even in the 50's people used to punctuate everything with flicks of ashes, pointings, waggins and wavings as well as filter tapping.

She may have used it a bit overmuch, but she's addicted to old radio shows with hard boiled detectives who can see it in her Hammett style. But I think your point is well taken.

I teach a master class in writing character where I have my students spend two hours just observing people, looking for gestures that convey meaning, emotion, or punctuation.
PS I'm reading Beginnings, Middles and Endings as we speak. Excellent.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Toss the wood, keep the writing, sell the boxer shorts.

Never, ever throw away writing—I learned the hard way. If nothing else, it is a measure of who we were, what we thought, how we wrote, and can serve as a gauge of our growth.

Mary Robinette Kowal said...

Nancy, I archive things at Northern Illinois University as part of their SFWA special collection. I think you could send all of it, except the driftwood there.

TheOFloinn said...

Keep the stories. No product of such a mind is totally worthless. There will always be something -- a character, an idea, a setting, a bit of dialogue -- that you might use in another context. I turned a high school novel of no particular merit into The January Dancer.

Diary: likewise. In the future we will mine old landfills. Same principle.

Driftwood: use the memento without a memory as the seed of a story. That way you can take it with you without lugging the wood around.

Boxer shorts: re-sew them into tents for homeless shelters.

Nancy Kress said...

Those are all interesting suggestions (except possibly Mike's for the boxer shorts) -- thank you.

skyreiter said...

You could donate them to the next SFWA charity auction, although you might want to be selective here.

dolphintornsea said...

Well, as for the boxer shorts, Gardner probably doesn't fit into them any more.

The early, embarrassing stories? Absolutely do NOT destroy them. Any writer as good as you (and this isn't flattery, so shuddup) deserves to have her stuff archived for future generations. Somebody will want to study your work, 100 years from now. Yes, you will have students (if you write it, they will come).

Look at Ray Bradbury. Wheelbarrows full of his early (and often less than good) works have been published in recent years.

Why should the early stories be trashed? They say absolutely nothing about your later work, except that you grew a good deal, and what's wrong with that? Are we supposed to think that Nancy was a brilliant writer at 16 (or 20, or whatever it was), and then just sort of sat there?

I've also solved the driftwood. The piece of paper obviously refers to the day you rediscovered the piece of wood!

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Keep everything.

Your stories? Why, Nancy! Those are your =babies=! What kind of mother are you??

The shorts? There might be a clothing shortage someday. You never know.

The wood? You might need it to light a fire in Seattle. There could be a tree shortage someday, in the Pacific Northwest. You never do know.

(Oh yeah--I am a pack rat who suffers when he throws away a broken rubber band. "I can tie the ends together! I might need it someday! You never know...)