Monday, December 31, 2012

Interesting bits of an interesting year, Part Two

In Part One of this look back at 2012, I talked about the ukulele, a portrait of me, some teaching, and my travels. Here in Part Two I select some fabulous (and not) surprises, and many things Hild.

Gifts and surprises:

People give me stuff--books, music, odd items, and a wide variety of edible luxuries that occasionally make the difference between a relatively mundane existence and a fabulous life (many people think writers are rich--and of course some are--but we're not). I love presents. Love swag; it pleases my dragonish heart. We get caviar, wine, chocolate--delicious, and always welcome. But here I want to talk about three non-edible surprises.

The first one was waking up one morning last January to find I'd been presented with the inaugural Galactic Suburbia award, for my blog post, "Taking the Russ Pledge." It came with this lovely doll:

For those who know me, a doll is perhaps a surprising gift. I'm much more of an edged-weapon fan. The more deadly the better. And from one friend for my birthday this year I got a replica of an Anglo-Saxon longseax. A thrilling gift. I had a wonderful time putting together a juicy, ruminative post on seaxes in general and Hild's in particular (complete with a tiny excerpt from the book).
My seax: a replica of a 10th C longseax
Hild's seax: probably made in the 6th C
At the end of the year I got a different kind of surprise: a seriously explicit naked photo of a fan. Don't get me wrong, I like seeing women with no clothes on, but I prefer a bit of warning and something of a say in the matter. When I'm drinking a very hot cup of tea first thing in the morning and I'm opening an email from a reader which I think is about getting together for a Hey, pleased to meet you drink, it can have...interesting consequences.

All things Hildish:

The most important Hild-related blog post was the one in which I announce the sale of my novel to Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The deal actually happened in February (right before the first trip this year to the UK) but I couldn't announce until May. If you sensed a certain extra zesty delight in the early months of the year, that's what was going on. I was pretty fucking happy:
photo by Jennifer Durham
While the deal was being negotiated, I posted this piece about my relationship to Hild, historical novels in general, and the Matter of Britain in particular.

A couple of weeks after I could finally talk about that deal (oh, you have no idea how hard it is to bite one's tongue for months), I felt extraordinarily over-qualified to explain that Writing is not a race. Writers: at every stage of writing (both process and product) patience is your friend.

After reading that post, someone asked me how I balanced the risk and reward inherent in such a huge (I think she meant insane) project as Hild. I explain to the best of my ability the weird negative capability and psychotic self-belief necessary for every artist.

And then, as the result of another question, I ponder the apparent oddness of why so many lesbian writers are writing historical fiction. I come to the conclusion that, for me at least, recasting the past is about shaping the future. That writing literally changes the world.

The future is what I'll be talking about next time: more about Hild and other things (related and not). 2013 is shaping up to be an interesting year.
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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Some interesting bits of an interesting year, Part One

As always, it's been an interesting year. Despite rewriting Hild, a 200,000 words novel, more than once, I managed to do a few new things, go new places, and read new books (most of which, sadly, I didn't have the time to get around to talking about). Fabulously (and, one one occasion, not-so fabulously), I've also been surprised with gifts, and--best of all--found a home for the massive Hild.

I'll split this 2012 roundup into two posts. Gifts and Hildishness in Part II.

New things I did in 2012:

I taught my first one-day workshop, for Clarion West. I've taught short workshops before, but this was was different. Called Exciting Writing: making the reader believe, I designed it to force-feed information to 12 writers so that they could then go away and unpack/digest the lesson at their leisure--and also, hopefully, with their fellow writers to turn to (I designed the workshop in such a way that participants had to learn things about each other). I think it might have worked. I know that one participant has already attended the full Clarion West summer workshop, and I believe at least two others are applying in the future. To me this is what learning should be: tailored, focused, and delivered to willing, able, and eager students. I imagine we'll find out in a few years if it worked long term. (And if the guinea pigs have forgiven me...)

Also for Clarion West I designed and ran the organization's social media strategy for the two weeks running up to their annual Write-a-thon, and for a couple of weeks once it had begun. I love creating and building things; I hate running them for very long. So for me it was the perfect way of giving to an organization--and I'm delighted to say that CW broke all their goals and records for participation and fundraising. So, hey, a win all round. Especially for the people this whole thing was aimed at: the writers. If you're a writer, at any stage, do consider the CW Write-a-thon for 2013. Trust me, it's a great thing.

Probably the most lasting fun new thing of 2012 for me was getting my first ukulele. I had no idea I even wanted one, until a friend from Vancouver literally showed up on the doorstep, said, "Here, I made this for you," and gave me the most beautiful hand-built and hand-painted four-stringed instrument nothing like the cheap and nasty tinkling things I'd always imagined. I fell instantly in love. So, then, of course, I got another (with a low-D, which sounds pretty different).

If you want to hear what I sound like using Jeepster, the original, here are two songs recorded (with my phone) this month:

Another new skill hobby I picked up this year was making pictures with paints and pastels. Art (I use the word loosely) is not something I've dabbled with for decades. This time around, I appear to be obsessed with Bebbanburg, one of Hild's haunts.

If you want to see Art with a capital A, read about Chicago artist Riva Lehrer's creation (I just posed, and threw out ideas) of this most amazing mixed-media portrait of me:

New places:

I've been to Vancouver before, but not for more than ten years. So it felt like a new place. We had a lovely time there.

And I got to go to the UK not once but twice in 2012. The second time was a whirlwind trip to celebrate my sister's 60th birthday. It was fabulous all around, but perhaps the best part was seeing so much of my father--and seeing how much I'm beginning to look like him.

New (to me) books:

I read A Wrinkle in Time for the first time and, sadly, was not impressed.

However, I read an anthology, Beyond Binary, that did what the best anthologies do: became so much more than the sum of its parts. I was moved to do a three-part interview with the book's editor, Brit Mandelo.

And then, after a discussion with a friend who was looking for books for his teenage son, I went on a hunt for sfnal books for boys.

[To be continued...]
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Monday, December 24, 2012

A drunk in a midnight choir...

Guess what kind of day we're planning to have...
Christmas always makes me think of Midnight Mass. And in every Midnight Mass there were always at least two seriously drunk congregants bellowing at the top of their lungs during Adeste Fidelis or Silent Night. A kind of carol-off. When they had decided to their satisfaction who'd been loudest, the other one threw up. (I mean every single time. There were special ushers, provided with mop and bucket, for that.)

And so on Christmas Eve I think of "Bird on a Wire," by Leonard Cohen. As my holiday gift/torment to you, here's my version. Enjoy.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Annual Christmas tradition: blowing up the tree

In what has become an annual tradition at the Griffith-Eskridge household, Kelley lovingly selects a tree and drags it home.

We decorate it. That is, Kelley does most of the work while I half watch something familiar on TV--this year, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer ep ("Prophecy Girl")--and half watch the progress through the glass door that separates the TV room from the living room.

We admire it for a while.

Then I blow it up.

I'm definitely beginning to get into the holiday/apocalypse spirit. How about you?
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Monday, December 17, 2012

My portrait is finished

Riva Lehrer's portrait of me is finished (for a long, ruminative explanation of the project, read this post). Unframed, it measures 32 x 44 inches. Its formal title is MIRROR SHARDS: NICOLA/SNOW LEOPARD.

Riva sent me some snaps. Professional photos and, with luck, some video to follow. I'm really looking forward to the video; it'll be easier to see how three-dimensional the whole thing is. There are three layers. Take a look:

I don't know what kind of frame it will have (ETA, from Riva: "The frame will be a simple dark grey painted oak, 3" deep to accommodate the pins") or what paper Riva used but I know there are at least three kinds, and special pins, and feathers...

At some point next year, if all goes well, we hope to do an event together in Chicago and have the portrait on show. I've no idea of details. Maybe I'll read from Hild; maybe it will be just me and Riva talking about the picture and the process, about how it is for an artist from one medium to collaborate with an artist from another. (A bit like working with someone from another dimension: really fucking interesting.) Whatever we decide--whoever chooses to fund/host the event--I can pretty much guarantee there will be Champagne. Stay tuned.

I don't know if Riva has a buyer yet (I'm doing this just for the sheer curiosity of seeing myself through another artist's eyes). So if you're interested, get in touch.

Meanwhile, here are the snaps. Enjoy.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Love, life, and Hild

Yesterday I finished the sixth draft of Hild. The manuscript, excluding ephemera, weighs in at 1002 pages: 207,333 words.

In the next six days I'll be giving it one more smooth, things like changing POV on a couple of small scenes, restructuring one sequence, sharpening a moment here and there. Then I'll write the acknowledgements.

But not today. It's our anniversary. Twenty-three years ago today I moved to this country to live with Kelley. We will be having a selfish, satisfying and utterly sinful twenty-four hours.

I'd wish the same for you but, hey, I bet you can't match what we have planned...

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

What the SCOTUS announcement means for marriage equality

Last month I wrote:

In all likelihood, the case SCOTUS will take up will either be the Prop 8 case, or that of Edie Windsor, the 83-yr old lesbian widow whose wife died in 2009. If it were my choice, it would be the latter. And, indeed, the Department of Justice has asked the supreme court to prioritise the Edie Winsor case... I think this will happen very, very soon--perhaps early next year.
Today I am delighted because the Supreme Court has decided to hear both cases. They will hear oral argument early next year (most likely March) with a decision probably in late June.

In the Proposition 8 case (more properly known as Hollingsworth v Perry), some commentatators think that the Court has five options regarding its ruling, ranging from a decision that affects only two counties of California (which, of course, would eventually affect the entire state) to eight states (those that currently have 'everything but marriage' domestic partnership for same-sex couples). It's a complicated legal situation. For a nicely laid-out argument, see the SCOTUS blog.

The New York Times has a simpler, clearer overview of the Court's choices here. If I had to guess, I'd say that the court will strike down Section Three of DOMA and that from next June, those of us who live in states where marriage is legal will have full access to the rights and privileges of marriage. In other words, same-sex couples would have access to the tax, immigration, and social security rules governing other married couples.

If that happens, then at some point some lesbian or gay couple in a state like Mississippi will sue to get married, their case (which will be a challenge to other sections of DOMA) will creep towards the Supreme Court, and eventually we'll get a Loving v. Virginia-like ruling that will make it illegal in this country to forbid same-sex marriage in any state.

Many people believe I'm a crackpot, hopelessly optimistic. But that's how I read the evidence. As I've said before, though, I'm not remotely qualified to pose as an expert, so go read about it and make up your own minds.
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

New Star Trek teaser trailer

I mostly don't bother seeing movies in the theatre anymore, but this I will see. I will be there opening week. Enjoy.

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