Miracle Worker

19 November 2001

Yesterday was a really good title day for me. Unfortunately, only two of them came with stories, so I'll just save the rest and let them percolate. "The Handmade's Tale" did that for years before the penny finally dropped. Anyway, I'm going to write one of them as a short-short today and possibly get it sent out -- I mean, GVG went to the trouble of hiring an assistant, right? We wouldn't want him to be wasting his money. And those other editors, they don't look busy. Probably sitting around eating movie magazines and reading bon-bons.

The other title that came with a story is kind of spooking me. I don't know how long it's going to be, is the problem. It could be a short story. It could be a novelette. (I discovered at the last writers' group meeting that I had, in fact, sold a novelette, without ever knowing how long they were. "Irena's Roses" is now 9400 words. I assumed the bottom cutoff was 10000, when in fact it's 7500. So. Go me.) It could be a novella, or a YA SF novel, or a grown-ups' SF novel. I just don't know. I know the characters, and I know the general plot. I just don't know how many times the plot is going to twist, nor how many subplots will rear their ugly heads. My plan just now is to start writing it and then figure out how long it is, well, when it's done, I guess. But to work on it like it's a short piece for as long as I can.

Ah well; I've wanted a YA SF novel, and I've wanted to do longer short stuff, so those would be good options. And if it's a short story, it'll have lots of markets. Also a good option. So, really, the only problem is if I've got another grown-up novel on my hands. Which, for those of you who are just tuning in, I definitively do not need. Actually, I don't need another YA novel, either, but I've wanted one that's SF, so I'd be willing to look the other way. And, really, how bad can it be if you discover 10 or 20K in that you have another novel? (Hmm. Well, I suppose Tim has an answer to that. But he doesn't seem to be suffering too greatly.)

So. Our foodishness is reaching an all-time high, I think. Timprov made his Cuban black-bean soup last night (to which he promises a recipe link), and in the process made veggie stock, which was much, much better than veggie bouillion. So we now have veggie stock in the freezer (taking up freezer space, ack!), mock turtle soup in the fridge, and cooked-down former black-bean soup that's now thick enough to be enchilada filling. We have the stuff for calzones, gumbo, lasagna, a traditional Lingen Steak Dinner, and much, much more.

Thanksgiving snuck up on Timprov. I was fretting about how many people will be here (still unknown) when we were getting ready to go shopping, and he said, "Relax! You've got a week and a half to do this." I said, "Um, nooo...." This explains questions like, "Are those brownies going to be okay when Sarah gets here?" and "What do you need to know if they're coming now for? You only asked them day before yesterday."

I didn't realize that when I started publishing articles on a small and now-defunct site that still owes me $30, I'd get e-mail of the following sort for years following: "Dear Marissa, I read your article [reprinted elsewhere], please work a miracle, Sincerely, Someone You Don't Know." But that's what I got this morning. This woman's godson is reading at a fifth-grade level in kindergarten and is resentful of having to trace letters and numbers with the other kids. (Well, wouldn't you be resentful? This is a sign that your kid is reasonable. At the very least, they should let him illuminate his letters, if they're going to make him trace them. Sheesh.) She wants me to tell her what activities he can do inside the classroom that will be challenging and will allow him to develop needed social skills.

Hah. What this woman needs is resignation and patience, because this kid is not going to "develop needed social skills." Or rather, he is, but she's not going to recognize them, because she thinks that needed social skills involves having genuine friends. Nuh uh. If the kid is very lucky, he may find two or three genuine friends in his class. That's very lucky, and I wouldn't count on it. What she should be hoping for is that he and his classmates can come to some kind of detente where he won't be terrified of recess and sleepovers because he won't have to go to them. Not being terrified of recess and sleepovers because his classmates will refrain from tormenting the Smart Kid? Not on the planet I grew up on, which I believe is this one, but I may be wrong. What she needs is quiet activities that let the kid not get on the teacher's nerves, because he needs to challenge himself -- the teacher just isn't going to have the time to do it.

I came up with a couple of suggestions, but man. Any time you have a kid reading five years above grade level at that age, you do not have a socially normal kid in a generic public school environment. You just need to deal with that fact, make "weird" a compliment at your house, and try to help the kid find genuine, actual peers sometime before his freshman year of college. It's not easy. I would know. Basically, based on my advice with my geek friends, my advice to parents whose kids are smarter than they are (whose ranks I hope to join, but not real soon): figure out the difference between odd and odious. Do not fight with your kid over the former category. At all.

I guess I get frustrated here because I feel like I'm not going to be able to change people's default assumptions. They're still going to think that there's such a thing as a normal childhood, and that any given child can be shoehorned into it at will with no adverse effects. And that I'm going to help them do that. Or that I'm going to be able, with one e-mail, to turn them around completely. I don't even know what I'm supposed to do here, to make the kid less miserable, but that's my priority, so it upsets me that I don't know.

Tracing letters and numbers. Honestly.

Having finished The Vikings, I progressed with a sigh of relief to Italo Calvino's Numbers in the Dark. And kept sighing with relief. Evan, if you want to read a good parable written since the Enlightenment, "Making Do" illustrates what I mean about parables and their uses. Some of these stories are as many as six pages. Some of them are not, by my lights, stories at all. That doesn't mean they're unpleasant to read, so! Onward and upward! Laundry, writing, and Italo Calvino!

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