My story Good Girls is now live online at Shimmer! It’s about friendships and manananggal and the dark hearts of young girls. It’s also about crossing the ocean and losing home. Sort of. It’s got a lot of things I particularly enjoy writing, like alternating narratives and roommates. (In the ebook version, there’s an author interview with me where I discuss this in a bit more detail!) It’s also, as some reviews have pointed out, grisly and disturbing in parts. When I was rewriting it, I strengthened those disturbing elements, because they would make a better story. But I very nearly squicked myself out writing it. I heard my brain going: that’s messed up. People who read this will think you’re messed up, imagining that. On the other hand I could also take a look at it and say it’s not that bad – it just depends on what is tough for someone, personally, to read.
There are also just some times, some frames of mind, when certain ideas – or even just words – can make you pause, go, wait. Go oh. Go that actually hurts me, scares me. Or this isn’t okay for me right now. And it could be a temporary thing, or not. It’s happened to me as a reader. Last year a beautiful story caught me unawares and made me clutch my wrists, because – well, I wasn’t totally sure I wanted that thought creeping into my mind right then. And I realized: if it’s this bad for me, it’s likely worse for someone else. It would’ve been nice to have a heads-up – I would have probably kept on reading, anyway, but at least I’d be able to brace myself a bit.
That’s why I felt it was important to put a content note at the beginning of this story.
Of course, I think writers can choose whether or not they want to do so.
I’m glad the Shimmer editors were totally cool with it. I am grateful to the editors for the notes they provided during their rewrite request; I also want to thank Angus, Andy, Kelly, Bob, and Cory, who all gave me useful revision notes.
Also recently: Apologies for breaking the glass slipper, my Cinderella-in-Tokyo poem, is live at Uncanny Magazine! And Amal El-Mohtar does a wonderful reading of it in the Uncanny Magazine podcast. This is one of the few poems I’ve written that I thinks works well read aloud, so I’m super happy it’s found a home in such a good magazine. (And that it had such a great reader!) I wrote this while I was on study abroad in Tokyo, so it’s dear to my heart for that reason alone. (It was, in fact, part of an assignment I turned in. Thank you for indulging my random final projects, Adachi-sensei!) I had so much fun while I was there, and I’m glad if this piece captures some of my love for that city.
Last week I became a huge fan of Elizabeth Knox on the strength of her one novel I am currently reading, called The Vintner’s Luck. Her prose and the vividness of her characters had me enraptured from the first page. The first line, even:
A week after midsummer, when the festival fires were cold, and decent people were in bed an hour after sunset, not lying dry-mouthed in dark rooms at midday, a young man named Sobran Jodeau stole two of the freshly bottled wines to baptise the first real sorrow of his life.
Setting aside the fact that human/non-human relationships are one of my jammiest jams, it’s lovingly paced and the setting is beautifully realized. YOU ALL SHOULD READ THIS BOOK. (I’m only about 1/3 done, and savoring it.) Also check out the other things she has written.
I love that joy of discovering a writer whose stories appear to be written just for me. (Even when I know that isn’t the case. IT'S ALL FOR ME. *greedy reader eyes*) It happened with Diana Wynne-Jones, and Kelly Link, and Zen Cho, and now Elizabeth Knox.
I had the pleasure of attending her world-making workshop at the Australia/New Zealand Literary Festival held at King’s College recently. One of my co-workshoppers summarized the experience here. It was a lot of fun, and at the end we all shared some story problems we were currently struggling with. I had a major ah-ha moment when she pointed out that it seemed like I hadn’t pinned down my characters' actual problems in my WIP. Which sounds crazy, but she was totally right.
So I’ve been wiggling at the character problems like a tooth for about a week now. No epiphanies yet (come on, subconscious!) – but I am really glad that now some tangible problems are laid out, so that I can keep poking at them. If anyone else has character-problem-making exercises, I’d love to hear them.