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And in much nicer news ...

I just figured out that my SS/HG 2008 exchange entry, State Secrets, made a cameo appearance on the "Jack of all Trades" quiz at  quiz_sshg . How unbelievably cool is that??? Thank you so much, dear quizmasters!

P.S. Unfortunately, I was stymied by most of the quiz (except for the question about my story, naturally).

Now I must go read fanfic to improve my mind.

Summer vacation (?)

Yes, it's been a long crazy summer and I have been a fink, not posting or writing or anything.

RL has definitely been exciting, and not always in a good way. Mr. Scribliz unfortunately has joined the ranks of the unemployed a few weeks back, which has the household adjusting to a new budgeting strategy. It's known as: Hey, You Goin' To Eat That? Cuz If You Won't, I Will.

Seriously, things are not that bad, but it's been a bit pre-occupying, if you know what I mean.

I've been cheering myself up with songs that have given me that kickass, get-to-work-already feeling. Here's one that always gets me: Carly Simon's "Let the River Run." This is a nice live version, although the original video from 1989 is totally worth re-visiting for those grand '80s shoulder pads.

In which I am abashed

File this under New Author Idiocy:

I got a duplicate review on "State Secrets" at TPP. So I pushed the handy "Duplicate Review" button after responding to the first twin review, thinking it would just delete the extra review by itself.

Now I see it generates a form letter asking the admins to take care of it. ("I am Elisabeth, and I wish to request that a duplicate review be deleted. ... [insert specifics about review here] I would appreciate it if you could take care of this matter at your earliest convenience.")

Just know that I would have added:

PS: I am Elisabeth, and honestly, there is no urgency whatsoever about responding to this completely insignificant matter, about which I am mortified to have used up bandwidth.

PPS: Scribliz (a k a Elisabeth)  regrets that she used up LiveJournal real estate on this too, come to think of it, but she didn't have anything else to journal about today.

N.B.: Sorry if this took too long to read.

Review thoughts from a C- reviewer

By "C-", I'm talking about my own habits as a reviewer, not my opinions of stories I review.

I'm never going to be the Reviewer of the Month. I do leave reviews, but not hundreds.

If I'm going to review, I'm going to take the time to write a sentence that actually reflects the fact that I read the story and noticed a noteworthy thing that was going on. I'll totally admit it, I don't get the point of one-word reviews like "Wow!".

If I can't find something positive to say, I don't say anything at all.

 I don't write 5000-word reviews. Most of my reviews are maybe two sentences, tops. Short sentences, too. But I do try to *say* something.

Then I think, Who do you think you are, the honors English teacher? Nobody's being graded for reviews. Then I also think, What about those review counters? In a way, we are.

But *then* I think, I might be missing a basic point about what reviews *do* in fandom.

Is a review more important as a specific reaction to a story, or is it more important as an acknowledgment that I stopped by? 

God, I hate it when I haven't drunk enough coffee to pull an argument together. This is worse than the time in critique group when one guy asked, "If somebody writes but doesn't show anybody what they've written, can you really call them a writer?" I don't think we went home till midnight from that one.

Being your own boss sucks ...

... when you have to call the client and get the @#$! check in the mail, already.

This public service announcement comes to you courtesy of Scribzilla, the freelancer who occasionally roars.

The dwarfs that got away

From the Wikipedia entry on Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:

"The one name Disney always had in mind from the start was Grumpy, or something similar.

"Blabby, Jumpy, Shifty, and Snoopy were among those that were rejected, along with Awful, Baldy, Biggo-Ego, Biggy, Biggy-Wiggy, Burpy, Busy, Chesty, Cranky, Daffy, Dippy, Dirty, Dizzy, Doleful, Flabby, Gabby, Gloomy, Goopy, Graceful, Helpful, Hoppy, Hotsy, Hungrey, Jaunty, Lazy, Neurtsy, Nifty, Puffy, Sappy, Sneezy-Wheezy, Sniffy, Scrappy, Silly, Soulful, Strutty, Stuffy, Sleazy, Tearful, Thrifty, Tipsy, Titsy, Tubby, Weepy, Wistful, and Woeful."

Aren't you glad you know that now? I know I am.

First drafts (for work)

I'm lucky to be able to do some writing for a living, and luckier still that today's a first draft day.

Starting a first draft of anything always finds me dancing around the issue, taking just one more batch of notes or drinking one more cup of coffee -- anything but write.

Then I start the first draft and I remember how much fun this part is, with everything shiny and new, before the rewrites-by-committee start. This project is a script for a retail company, and there are always many opinions on how things must proceed. I have gotten much better at not taking things personally, Once this kind of writing leaves my desk, it's not really mine anymore.

It's kind of like being a parent and watching your child grow away from you. You can't dictate what happens next. The most you can hope for is that the body piercings and tattoos are more or less OK.

I'm usually crap at starting a project at the beginning, so today I wrote the ending first. Sometimes I start with writing the bit in the middle that seems as if it will be the most fun. After a while, I'm on track enough that I can just stop skipping around and take a more organized approach.

So whoa, I've done 10 pages, and I think I might actually know what I'm doing next. For me that's a great first draft day.

Swinish update: OFFS

Just got off the phone with one of my Brownie Scout moms.

She is wondering if I'm SURE it's wise to lead a meeting of my troop tomorrow. Not that she's alarmed or anything, but I did get back from Mexico on Saturday morning, and was I aware that there actually were cases in Cancun ... etc. etc.

So then we have the whole conversation where I explain what my doctor told me, and what the kids' doctor said, and what the CDC says, and what the WHO said. Only to be countered with the unanswerable "Yes, but, I heard somewhere ..."

OK, once again the Office of Something Somewhere has the best information. I knew it. What's more, Jon Stewart knows it too. You'll see.

I really want to model calmness and not panic for my kids, but with the rest of the world going crazy, it's getting harder every day.
And on that note, here's Jon Stewart with a look at the Center for Stuff I Heard From Some Guy:

Writing and guilt

Some of my very best stuff is based on some very bad feelings about people I have known. It makes its way into stories, and although the people in the stories are not the people I have actually known, the feelings are very true, and very recognizable. As in, I doubt  that some of these former acquaintances could read one of these pieces and miss the resemblance.

I just finished reading an interesting article about one of my favorite writers, the late novelist Laurie Colwin, in which her husband said that certainly some of the characters in her stories were payback for people she disliked at one point (I'm paraphrasing, obviously). I've wondered for years about some of the people who populate her stories, particularly some of the men, who really reek of Obnoxious Ex-Boyfriend.

Colwin's characters are hilarious and funny and alive on the page years after their author has died ... and behind them are identities of real people who might not agree with how the story turns out.

Well, that's how it goes, I know. But I've always been bothered by this special power the writer has, to set the terms of recollection. (And don't even get me started on memoirs.)

At the same time, what else is a writer supposed to do? Not write? Even if you write about things that obviously aren't your real life (say, a historical novel), someone is bound to ask, "Isn't so-and-so based on your husband/mother/ex?"

This is me, perpetually tied up in a series of knots. I wish I could feel better about some of my best work, though. I would like to share it, but I hate the idea of it hurting someone.

Back from abroad

I loved my vacation, apart from the fact that it put a blemish in my efforts to be a good sshg_exchange  citizen/conscientious reviewer. We got a fantastic deal at a Club Med family resort. I would never have thought us the Club Med types, before or after kids, but it was great and with the kids staying for next to nothing, we could not resist. We had a lovely, relaxing time and saw not a single newspaper headline the entire time. Not much Internet, either.

The thing was, we were in Mexico, which certainly did not give us a cause for pause ... until bad weather stranded us at O'Hare (a k a Doomsville) Airport on  Saturday night and we started picking up hysterical messages from our home phone.

One minute you're lounging on golden sands, the next minute you're the local Health Emergency of the Week. The world is very strange sometimes.

The thing is, everyone's fine. Everyone is likely to continue to be fine, physically. Emotionally, I'm not so sure.

I mean, it would help if my 11-year-old's classmates would stop warning her that she is likely to die on account of her stay in our Club Med pest house, which is a good 1200 miles away from the major cluster of the Mexico infections, by the way. If they're going to get concerned about clusters, they might start with the one that's just across the Hudson from us, for heaven's sake.

And I am trying, really I am trying to be nice about my Concerned Phone Callers. I know that concern is truly a motivator here. But so, I suspect, is a smidge of the drama factor. And that makes me cross. Maybe I can offer to come over to their houses to breathe heavily on them. I mean, I understand that life can get a bit flat. I want to help.

I do not want to make light of a situation that is clearly very serious and requires that serious measures be taken. But I've got to tell you, I'm really getting tired of hysteria masquerading as serious measures.

Look, I read up on the basic symptoms and incubation-period stuff. I'm washing my hands. I'm monitoring myself and the kids. If one of us gets sick, we'll get tested and treated.

Meanwhile, I am just not going to go nuts. (It's bad for the blood pressure.)