In Which Our Heroine Writes From Home

16 February 2004

Even my non-writer friends sometimes send me thoughts on writing sometimes, usually things they've encountered elsewhere. This time, it was an article where a writing teacher was dealing with a student who didn't know where to go with his/her fiction -- the student would start projects but wouldn't finish them. And the teacher's advice was to find out where home was, and then you'd have something to write about.

It sounds a little bit psychotic to say that I make my home among the staaaaaars, or Underhill, or on rocky islands that are almost like a rocky island that actually exists. But I think that's where we find ourselves, spec fic writers. Some of us have literal, concrete homes that grab our hearts -- read Ursula LeGuin or Kate Wilhelm about Oregon sometime. Read Robert Reed and Bradley Denton and tell me they're not prairie boys. And unless this is your very first Novel Gazing entry ever (welcome!), you know that I am a northerner in my blood and bones, a Minnesotan, held together with snow and mosquito spit. You can watch the ice creep into my books one by one. But we're also at home in our own weirds. (Some of us are not so much at home in our own wyrds...but that's a Dwarf's Blood Mead flavored tangent, and we are staying away from those until the Not The Moose is finished and I can safely turn a hand to The Mark of the Sea Serpent without losing my head.)

I've watched others of us do it: we wiggle like puppies on the computer screen. We wallow. We just get so thrilled to death with our stories that we act for all the world like my dog rounding the bend to Grandma's house. And that wiggle isn't just "oh boy oh boy oh boy," it's "almost home almost home almost home." Some of us are at home in different historical milieus, some in various professions, some in types of characterization or relationship, and yes, some in location. Others in type of location: is it a mountainous world you've created, to "feel right" like your home in Colorado or Switzerland would? Or is it flat and parched so that you and your protagonist both look at it with strange and wondering eyes?

This unknown writing teacher really had something, I think, because he didn't specify that when you knew where home was, you would always write about home. But it's good to know where you come from and where you are, when you're figuring out where you're going.

Of course, I can talk about all this in the abstract, feeling at home in different theoretical constructs. But I didn't start my first real novel until I had lived in California long enough to know the difference. So maybe you should just take me literally and move along.

I just counted and realized that "Speed Dating" was the thirtieth piece of short fiction I've sold. Well. That's pretty neat.

So. I felt yucky all day yesterday, and it's easing up right on schedule today. At least my body is predictably mean to me. I finished reading The Merro Tree and scribbled and thought and scribbled and thought on the NTMB/Finland in the Twentieth Century (that is, I scribbled on the one and thought on the other, unlike the previous stupid library patron). I liked The Merro Tree, though it didn't knock me over as it apparently did Karina. Glad to have read it. I'm going to start Irresistible Forces while I'm having lunch, so that I'm not trying to read, eat, and take notes all at once, and also so that I can give it back to Stella when we see her Saturday morning.

You will note I don't seem to have posted pictures yesterday. Ah well. These things happen, or don't, as the case may be. I'll get to the list items eventually, or I won't. The ones that are essential tend to make themselves pretty clear. At least, I hope they do.

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