Wednesday, August 18 2021

Quote of the Day

Why, when a protagonist faces the world, does she need to win, lose, or draw? This is a Western idea of conflict…What if she understands herself as a part of that world, that world as a part of herself? What if she simply continues to live?

Matthew Salesses, Craft in the Real World

Have been feeling under the weather, so a quick post

I’ve gotten Craft in the Real World from the library, and I love it, but I recognize it’s too advanced for me right now. I think I mostly understand the concepts, but I just don’t have enough experience transforming theory into craft to apply any of this to my writing.

So what I will do is keep reading this book. A half an hour a day, over and over, until everything does make sense and I can apply it, because it’s really really really important to the writer I want to be.

And speaking of that writer, I’m feeling really discouraged at ever having a finished piece to show the world. I have to believe that working on it a little bit (or a lot) every work day will get me there. Even if it doesn’t feel that way. Especially when it doesn’t feel that way.

These sound tasty: Blueberry Cookies

Lastly, a very excellent video essay about Bo Burnham and white liberals: Bo Burnham’s Inside and “White Liberal Performative Art” | Video Essay (Black Media Breakdown #12) by F.D Signifier.

And I say that because I do–sometimes to my detriment, sometimes in a way that brings me into conflict with some of my friends–I greatly empathize with what white people are going through right now in terms of this awakening to the reality of the world around them. And, just because of my morbid curiosity I am super interested in seeing how this will continue to effect their art and music and everything else. Especially if it means getting art that is not just a less-seasoned version of the stuff I’ve been seeing and growing up with my whole life. To me, Inside is like the perfect distillation of all those things.

Seriously just go watch it.

Thursday, August 12 2021

Quote of the Day

We must reject the mystification / mythification of creative writing. The mystical writer uses the myth of his genius to gain power. He (since it is almost always a he) benefits from keeping up the illusions that he has natural talent and that writing cannot be taught. If writing is not beholden to culture, then he is free from the constraints of actually being a part of (or responsible to) the world in which he and his readers live.

Make no mistake–writing is power. What this fact should prompt us to ask is: What kind of power is it, where does it come from, and what does it mean?

If we take from Aristotle his idea of plot, for example, we should also remember that he believed art relied on slavery: slaves freed their masters to think and create.

Matthew Salesses, Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping

I think I might know what I want to do when I grow up

I’m going to try to ignore the fact that I am still asking this question at my advanced age. But I’m starting to think that the reason it’s taken me so long is that what I wanted to do didn’t exist yet.

I’ve only read the sample preface of Craft in the Real World, and I am in love. Since my first workshopping classes in the 90s, I’ve been angry over what passes for writing instruction. The first paragraph in the quote above has been my feeling on it for decades: this is some BULL SHIT. I’ve always been convinced that if you can teach someone how to draw or how to math or how to science or how to philosophy, you can teach them how to write. But for some reason creative writing classes are set up to put as many blocks on the road to learning as possible. And Matthew is right–that “some reason” is power.

Just this preface is starting to contextualize so many of the disconnects I’ve felt between what I’m interested in exploring in story and what I have been told in workshops about why I should not. And Matthew’s articulating of writing to cultural expectations (and whose culture is acceptable) just blew my mind:

To sum up, what we are telling the writer from a “query” culture who learns to write “ask” is (a) she must either write to people from our culture, instead of hers, or learn how to write to people from our culture if she wants to write to people from hers; (b) she should accept our normal as her normal; and (c) she is at a disadvantage toward the shared learning goals, since writers from our culture don’t have to learn new norms; they only have to recognize the norms they already understand.

I made the instant connection upon reading this that the definition of story elements can change if you look at them through different lenses. All this time I’ve been looking for the bedrock of what story is to gain enough of an understanding so that I can use that information to craft stories. Because I seriously have never been able to pull a story apart and look at all the elements of it that make it work and replicate those elements in a story of my own. I’ve tried, and it comes out not-quite-right. Because even though I am mixed and was raised in culturally white environments, I guess I didn’t internalize those underlying cultural norms clearly enough…..

…because the reason I am starting to understand story now, I am realizing, is because I stumbled across definitions of story elements as seen through a lens I consciously spent years learning and immersing myself in through grad school–depth psychology. Since I wasn’t getting the cultural context lens, it took a humanities / literary theory lens subbing for a cultural lens for me to finally make some headway with this shit.

(Which makes me think, how many other mixed kids have the same problem I do? How many POCs / queer people taught only cis white people Greatest Works novels who don’t have the time or resources to read books by authors from their culture? What about white people who reject or were raised to reject the standard white people cultural narrative?)

So is there no bedrock? Do we need to teach loosely codified story element definitions as lenses? Lenses that can be used to reach out to the audience you want to reach? How many lenses are there, and what are they? Does audience then become the entire purpose of story writing? Where do appropriation lines stand in using cultural lenses? Do they function more like different languages or different cultural references? What could understanding these lenses mean for finding common ground between our American communities??

Ok ok ok. You see? I think this is what I want to do when I grow up. Study creative writing. Teach creative writing. And of course, write–if only to put all these theories to test. I don’t want to write 25 books a year as an indie author on Amazon. I don’t want to trad publish and churn out series after series after series. I do want to write, but I want it to in the context of learning and experimenting. And I’ve honestly always wanted that, but I never felt that it was a possibility because I couldn’t ever figure out the damn basics.

I HAVEN’T EVEN FINISHED READING Craft in the Real World yet. I’ve only read the f’ing preface!!!!!

Ok. Calm. To make any of this remotely possible, first I need to add in my Worldbuilding piece, then I need to write a novel. Because it’s still true that I can’t teach something I don’t understand and can’t do. Have to bully my way through this writing step first.


Matthew Salesses on Twitter

Matthew Salesses new syllabus

Matthew Salesses for writers

Maybe I could someday take a class from him? Arg, focus.

Tuesday, August 10 2021

Quote of the Day

They both court dysfunction like it is the cutest debutante at the ball.

Kaylen, friend of awesome

I looked it up twice

How the Climate Crisis Will Force A Massive American Migration

Therefore in the blog it shall be.

Quel surprise.

It’s Grim: The latest UN report is clear: Climate change is here, it’s a crisis, and it’s caused by fossil fuels

I mean….yeah?

And it’s really bad. Also….yeah?

It’s exhausting how inactioning we are actioning about this.

Worldbuilding: A Primer

I’m attempting to build a cohesive set of ideas around worldbuilding, ideas that can then be distilled into questions that I can make a worksheet out of. While I understand that there are as many ways to approach stories as there are people, I’m finding it very helpful to stick to one approach while I better learn my storytelling craft of how all these elements fit together. I have worksheets and a solid set of interlinking ideas around plot and character, so now it’s time to work worldbuilding in there. Here are the references that seem to be speaking to me the most right now:

Lecture #6: Worldbuilding Part Two — Brandon Sanderson on Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. I like this for Brandon’s realistic approach. I have no desire to think out every last piece of my worlds, and that’s why I find most worldbuilding worksheets useless. I want to focus on the pieces of the setting that help me tell my story. Figuring out the powers of every last god in a made-up religion or how clothes get made in my world is not going to be relevant for every single story.

Fonda Lee on Twitter: The most powerful tool in worldbuilding is POV. This is such excellent advice that I really want to be aware of when worldbuilding. Now to make it into questions that make me think about it.

From The Inside Out: Worldbuilding Through Extrapolation. This is also a method that starts small and doesn’t focus on figuring everything out–just what’s relevant to the story.

The Ultimate Guide To World­Building: How To Write Fantasy, Sci­Fi And Real­Life Worlds. I really like this one because it differentiates between building a world completely from scratch and an alternate reality world, where some real-world things inform your setting. I’m finding a lot of guides are for completely from scratch, and for the novel I’m working on now, that’s not what I’m doing.

N.K. Jemisin’s Worldbuilding 101. If I need to go further down the rabbit hole than the simpler approaches suggested by the other resources, this is the guide to do that without going completely overboard.

Teaching Talk, Models, Pyramids & C.S Lewis…. This is a blog post about teaching, but the last bit is about the model of the Cultural Iceberg by Edward T. Hall. It’s a completely brilliant way of breaking down the individual parts of how culture is expressed and a great resource for how to show all that worldbuilding. So much so that I’m popping the graphic in here.

For More Inclusive Writing, Look to How Writing Is Taught. I am SO EXCITED to read this book, as it bashes traditional workshops, which I loathe, and explains exactly why I loathe them. And suggests ways to do it better! And re-defines all the elements of story?! Seriously, I need this book.

I haven’t read it yet and already I want to try running a workshop based on Matthew Salesses’s recommendations. That should go in the Another Idea For Another Day pile.

Thursday, June 17 2021

Quote of the Day

It is my solemn and important duty to bring happiness, light, and joy into your world when you’re being a dour idiot. Which is most of the time. So there.

Brandon Sanderson, Oathbringer

I Could Use Some Help With This

Kate Cavanaugh, “reading & reviewing less common writing craft books!”, YouTube

One of the books Kate reviewed was Ursula K LeGuin’s Steering the Craft, which has been on my Amazon list for a while. Kate really loved it, which confirms my thought that it is probably great and I really should read it one day.

One of the books I had never heard of, but I will likely need at some point, which Kate also recommends: Diana Gabaldon’s “I Give You My Body..”: How I Write Sex Scenes. No throbbing, glistening members or opening love canals for me, thank you! Hopefully this is the sort of book that can help me Do Better than That.

Juneteenth acknowledged!

Biden Signs Juneteenth Bill, Saying ‘All Americans Can Feel the Power of This Day’

Juneteenth is now a federal holiday. Many Americans still get the history wrong

Biden got down on one knee to welcome the 94-year-old ‘grandmother’ of Juneteenth to the White House

Yesterday’s Research Today

Getting back to ecosocialism:

Ecosocialism is a vision of a transformed society in harmony with nature, and the development of practices that can attain it. It is directed toward alternatives to all socially and ecologically destructive systems, such as patriarchy, racism, homophobia and the fossil-fuel based economy. It is based on a perspective that regards other species and natural ecosystems as valuable in themselves and as partners in a common destiny.

Ecosocialism shares with traditional socialism a passion for justice. It shares the conviction that capitalism has been a deadly detour for humanity. We understand capitalism to be a class society based on infinite expansion, through the exploitation of labor and the ransacking of nature. Ecosocialists are also guided by the life-ways of indigenous peoples whose economies are embedded in a classless society in fundamental unity with nature. We draw upon the wisdom of the ages as well as the latest science, and will do what can be done to bring a new society, beyond capitalism, into existence.

Ecosocialist Horizons, “What is Ecosocialism?”

Urm. Well, there’s a lot there about what ecosocialism is against, but not a whole lot about the how to transform society to be “in harmony with nature.” Perhaps by first realizing that society is a part of nature? Also: “guided by the life-ways of indigenous people whose economies are embedded in a classless society” feels pretty sus to me. I’m interested to know which indigenous people exactly they are talking about; I know my ancestors had slaves pre-contact. They also had and still have a leader (sachem). Perhaps they don’t mean pre-contact, and are referring to tribes today, who are made up of people, people who are just as likely to do shitty things as any other person. I worry that they mean something more like the idealized image of the Crying Indian, and ooof, that’s a bad look if they do.

In synthesizing the basic tenets of ecology and the Marxist critique of political economy, ecosocialism offers a radical alternative to an unsustainable status quo. Rejecting a capitalist definition of “progress” based on market growth and quantitative expansion (which, as Marx shows, is a destructive progress), it advocates policies founded on non-monetary criteria, such as social needs, individual well-being, and ecological equilibrium. Ecosocialism puts forth a critique of both mainstream “market ecology,” which does not challenge the capitalist system, and “productivist socialism,” which ignores natural limits.

As people increasingly realize how the economic and ecological crises intertwine, ecosocialism has been gaining adherents. Ecosocialism, as a movement, is relatively new, but some of its basic arguments date back to the writings of Marx and Engels…

The core of ecosocialism is the concept of democratic ecological planning, wherein the population itself, not “the market” or a Politburo, make the main decisions about the economy. Early in the Great Transition to this new way of life, with its new mode of production and consumption, some sectors of the economy must be suppressed (e.g., the extraction of fossil fuels implicated in the climate crisis) or restructured, while new sectors are developed. Economic transformation must be accompanied by active pursuit of full employment with equal conditions of work and wages. This egalitarian vision is essential both for building a just society and for engaging the support of the working class for the structural transformation of the productive forces.

Ultimately, such a vision is irreconcilable with private control of the means of production and of the planning process. In particular, for investments and technological innovation to serve the common good, decision-making must be taken away from the banks and capitalist enterprises that currently dominate, and put in the public domain.

Michael Löwy, “Why Ecosocialism: For a Red-Green Future“, Great Transition Initiative

Now we’re getting to it. Ok. So this is really Marxism + green initiatives. It feels like less of a plan and more like laying out some ideals. Some ideals which really should be self-evident at this point. Capitalism is exploitative and unsustainable, tiny number of people in power wanting to stay in power is bad. Yes, yes, but solutions?? Putting decision-making in the public domain reminds me of both worker-owned businesses and participatory democracy.

Again, not enough time to read all the links I found about ecosocialism, so here are the extras: