Category Archives: musings

New Year’s Resolutions

I’m not the sort of person who makes new year’s resolutions.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever made any new year’s resolutions. Ever.

But yesterday, I wandered onto goodreads and fired up this little “reading challenge” widget they have. There’s not much to it. You set a goal for how many books you want to read over the course of the year, then this thing tracks your progress.

Last year I tried it on a whim and made my goal of 150 books even though I was sloppy about keeping track. This year I decided to shoot for 250, which is probably closer to what I actually read in a year.

Ever since I fired up that silly little widget, I’ve been thinking about new year’s resolutions. Which is odd, because, like I said, I don’t typically go in for that sort of thing.

Philosophically, the concept of making a resolution has never made much sense to me. It seems to me that if you really want to do something, you should just fucking do it. Resolving to do it is sort of a bullshit intermediary step. If I’m hungry, I don’t *resolve* to go eat lunch. I just find food and put it in my mouth. Simple. Problem solved.

So why am I thinking about New Year’s Resolutions?

I think the main reason is that I had a really great New Years. Some friends came to visit. We played board games, did some tabletop role-playing, and just hung out.

It was the most fun I’ve had in ages. And after everyone went home, I felt good. Not just happy, but physically and emotionally healthy. I felt like a million dollars.

No. I felt better than that. I felt like a second season of Firefly.

Seriously. A full 22 episode season. I felt that good.

Ever since then, I’ve been rolling it around in my head. 2011 was a pretty good year for me. Book two was finally published. The Wise Man’s Fear hit #1 on the New York Times. I met Terry Pratchett, got to perform at Wootstock, and attended some very cool conventions.

(Speaking of conventions. I’m Guest of Honor at Confusion later this month. You should swing on by if you can. Jim Hines is going to be there, as is Joe Abercrombie, Peter V. Brett, Brent Weeks….

Holy shit. Robin Hobb is going to be there too. I didn’t know that until I just checked their website. How awesome is that?)

But anyway, yeah. 2011 was my first official signing tour. I met thousands of my readers all over the country. (Though I realize now, as I go looking for a link, that I never got around to blogging about that. I probably should at some point.)

For now, a picture will suffice. Here’s a shot I took from the podium at my first signing of the tour in Seattle.

(They were a great crowd.)

If you look at the highlight reel of 2011, it looks like I’m living the dream.

I’ve actually had people say that to me over this last year: “Congratulations! You’re living the dream!”

I know they’re just excited for me. But whenever I hear that, I think, “Whose dream? I don’t ever remember dreaming this….”

Now don’t get be wrong. Parts of this year have been profoundly cool. I love conventions. I love talking about writing and hanging out with readers. I love getting to meet authors that I’ve been reading my whole life.

But the fact remains that a lot of times, after going to a convention I feel exhausted and hammered flat on both sides.

On the other hand, after hanging out with my friends on New Years, I feel like I could lift a truck over my head with one hand, then go write for ten hours straight.

Looking back over these last couple years, I realize that most of my close friends left town back in 2007, just as my first book was getting published. They were getting jobs in other parts of the country, going to grad school, joining Americorp….

I missed them, of course, but I was plenty busy getting used to the whole published-author life. I started writing this blog. I signed up for Facebook. I did some signings, started attending conventions….

At the same time, I quit teaching at the University. Quit coaching fencing. Quit acting as advisor to the College Feminists.

When I look at things with the clarity of hindsight, it’s blindingly obvious what the end result of all this is: I’m suffering from a rather specialized sort of social isolation. The sort of isolation where I can go online at any point and interact with 10,000 people.

I never thought of it like this before, but hanging out with friends is psychologically healthy. Facebook and blogging and going to conventions is the social equivalent of eating Pringles. It’s fun. It’s tasty. It’s relatively harmless in moderation. But if you eat nothing *but* Pringles, you die.

Similarly, lack of genuine hanging out with real friends must lead to a sort of psychological scurvy.

This is the situation I’ve accidentally backed into.It wasn’t until I hung out with my old friends again that I realized how much I missed that. How much some part of me was starving.

So. Over these last couple days I’ve been thinking about my life. I’ve been thinking about the difference between things I do that are fun, and things I do that actually make me happy.

For example, playing some stupid flash game on my computer might be fun, but playing board games with my friends makes me happy.

Or, for another example, it might be fun to do a reading at a convention, but hanging out with little Oot makes me happy.

The difference seems to be this. If something is merely fun, it’s mostly enjoyable while you’re doing it. Something that makes you happy is different. It’s enjoyable afterwards, too. Minesweeper and cocaine are fun (reportingly.) But talking with Oot about ducks or watching Buffy with friends make me happy.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that fun doesn’t have its place. I plan on playing the hell out of Skyrim when I have the chance.

What I’m saying is that my priorities have gotten seriously out of alignment. These days, flying to San Diego for a convention don’t just feel easy, it seems like a  professionally responsible for me to do. At the same time, driving down to Madison to hang out with friends, have dinner, and watch Avenue Q seems like an extravigant and impractical use of my time.

That’s some fucked up mental arithmetic.

So, in an effort to de-kink my thinkings, I’ve decided to make some changes to my life.

In fact, I’ve done more than merely *decide* to do these things. I’ve built up bad habits in these last years, and it’s going to take some effort to break them. So I’m going to *resolve* to do them.

Here they are:

1. I’m going to hang out with Oot at least two hours every day. I’m going to make it a priority, rather than something I try to fit in around the edges of the other stuff I have going on in my life.

2. I’m going to do my damnedest to hang out with my friends at least twice a month for the express purpose of playing games, hanging out, watching movies, and just generally dicking around.

3. I’m going to start exercising at least three times a week. Because, y’know, I don’t really want to die from author-related sitting-on-my-ass-ness.

At this point, the righteous self-improvement impulse starts to gather steam and I’m tempted to continue adding things. Turning this into a laundry list of me-betterment that include things like, “pet more fluffy kittens,” “smell even better,” and “floss regularly.”

But no. I’d rather pick three important things and actually do them, rather than list 50 things then get frustrated and quit after a month.

Why am I posting these things here on the blog?

The simple answer is because… well… writing things out helps me figure out where exactly my head is on a particular subject.

In fact, I just now realize that’s a lot of the reason I bother with the blog. If my friends still lived in town, I’d hang out with them and chat about this stuff in my living room, using them as a sort of sounding board. But since they don’t, I kinda hang out in my head with y’all and write blogs.

Which, now that I’m thinking about it, might be kinda crazy behavior.

The other reason I’m posting this up here is because I know myself pretty well. I’m prideful. If I make a public declaration like this, I’m much more likely to follow through with it.

Lastly, I figured I might as well post my musings up here with the hope they might be interesting/helpful to anyone else who is having trouble adjusting to this whole living life as a grown-up thing. I was really good at being a broke, mouthy, irreverent college student. But this being-an-adult shit can be really hard sometimes….

Feel free to post up your own resolutions in the comments. Especially if you’re like me, and think that going public might help you keep them.

Keep on tranglin,

pat

Also posted in meeting famous people, social networking, the man behind the curtain, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat96 Responses

Vision and Revision: Geek Redux.

So yesterday I read Just a Geek.

I found the book strangely moving, so when I finished writing it, I hopped online to write a review on Goodreads. When I enjoy a book, I like to spread the word about it.

I started to write the review, but it kept getting longer and longer. So I figured I should probably write it as a blog, instead.

So I wrote a blog, and it went terribly, terribly wrong. It was a complete trainwreck.

I considered not posting it. But when you spend two hours writing something at four in the morning, it’s hard to just erase it. So I shrugged and posted it up, figuring that while the blog itself was an embarrassing mess, the underlying theme was pretty clear: I liked the book.

But today I woke up and thought that I’d go onto Goodreads and actually write the review I meant to do last night. More to prove to myself that I could than for any other reason.

This time it came out fine. Easy as anything.

As a writer, this is extremely interesting to me. It’s important. If one day I try to write something and it sucks, then the next day I try to write and it works, something big is happening. There’s a secret here, something that’s close to the heart of my magic.

It took me a while to figure it out, but here’s what I think happened:

Generally speaking, I don’t worry too much about ripping off other authors’ styles when I write. It’s a common fear of newer writers, and I spent a couple years anxious about it, just like everyone else.

But eventually I got over that particular fear for the simple reason that I never found any real evidence that it was happening. At least no more than is strictly necessary and/or polite.

There was one exception to this. Back in 1997 I read every Sherlock Homes story Doyle ever wrote in about five days.

On the sixth day, I wrote a chapter in my book. And what do you know? Kvothe turned into Sherlock Holmes. He was deducing shit all over the place. Bast fell into an odd Watson role, too.

It took me years to get all the Holmes out of that chapter. Many revisions.

The point is, I’d soaked up so much Holmes in those five days, that I couldn’t properly assimilate it. So when I tried to write, it spilled into my book.

After a couple of days my brain managed to digest all the Holmes and get itself back into its baseline state. But I’d learned my limit. A thousand pages of compelling, distinctive prose in a week’s time is bound to influence my writing for a day or two.

(This is part of the reason I haven’t tackled Martin’s series yet.)

I suspect the same thing happened to me after reading about 150 pages of Wheaton’s strangely compelling anecdotal bloginess. I doubt very much it would have thrown a monkey wrench into my novel writing. But it sure as hell confused my blogging. What I wrote yesterday was probably some bastard hybridization of my style and his.

Why do I mention this? Partly because it’s interesting to me, and writing about things helps organize and clarify things in my own head. But I also mention it because I know a lot of you are writers, or are at least curious about the writing process.

Anyway, here’s the better write-up of Wheaton’s book.

*     *    *

I’ve always known Wil Wheaton as one of the greater internet Powers.

That’s how I think of people like Wheaton, Doctorow, Scalzi, and Jerry over at Penny Arcade. They are people who occupy the internet community on an almost deific level. They’re actively engaged in discussions about things like creative commons, and web freedom, and other bigthink information-age issues. When they speak on a subject, the air shakes, people tweet and link and perform other media-appropriate types of adulation.

These people are their own Metatrons. They’re like the totem spirits of the internet.

That said, I don’t tend to read their blogs with any sort of regularity. I poke around Jerry’s blog every week or so. I read Scalzi a couple times a month, or if someone sends me a link. Same with Gaiman. It’s odd. I find their blogs interesting and well-written, but I’m just not drawn to follow them in my regular compulsive way.

That means that when I picked up Wheaton’s book, I wasn’t wearing fan-colored glasses.

Don’t get me wrong, I know who he is. I liked Wheaton in Stand By Me and Next Generation. I loved to hate him in The Guild. I even wrote an epic poem about him, once upon a time. A poem I dream of reading in public one day, as he, Scalzi, and Felica Day perform an elaborate dumbshow, acting it out while dressed in period costume appropriate for a 9th century mead-hall.

During this reading, I would like to be wearing a fur cloak of some sort. And perhaps a crown. In this little mental fantasy, I look rather like a cross between Brian Blessed and an angry bear. I also imagine myself as being profoundly drunk on mead.

My point is, when I started reading Just a Geek, I didn’t know what to expect.

Quite to my amazement, I was sucked into the story. It’s autobiographical, and covers a time in Wheaton’s life when he was going through a bit of a rough patch, trying to come to grips with his life, his acting career, his fluctuating celebrity, and his feelings about Star Trek.

Simply said, I enjoyed this book to a startling degree.

It was funny, touching, snarky, and remarkably sweet. I didn’t start the book as a Wheaton fan, but now that I’ve finished it, it’s safe to say I’ve swung over to that side of the fence.

In my opinion, you really don’t need to be a fan of Star Trek to enjoy it. (Though it probably wouldn’t hurt.)

But this isn’t a book about a guy that used to be on Star Trek. It’s not a book about being a celebrity. Or being an actor.

Ultimately, it’s a book about a guy dealing with being human. That makes it interesting to everyone.

It’s worth your time. Check it out.

*     *     *

There. That’s a good write-up.That’s what I meant to do the first time around.

Goes to show that if you write something that’s a shitty mess, it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes all it takes to fix it is a night’s sleep and a willingness to get back on the horse that threw you the first time around.

Later space cowboys,

pat

Also posted in recommendations, Revision, the craft of writing, Wil Wheaton | By Pat68 Responses

Giving Thanks

One of my best thanksgiving memories is from 2003, back when I was still living my old student lifestyle.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t really a student at that point in my life. But the only real difference between 2003 and 2000 was that I was teaching classes rather than taking them. My habits, hobbies, and income hadn’t really changed from my student days, and I still felt like a student at heart.

A couple days before the real Thanksgiving, my friend Ian said to me: “We should get people together and have Thanksgiving tonight.”

“My stove doesn’t work,” I said. “And I don’t know how to make stuffing.”

He shook his head. “No. We should all go to the store and buy some kind of food we’re thankful for. Then we get together and share it.”

And that’s what we did. That night we ate taco dip and poppin fresh biscuits. We had fried mushrooms and shrimp and mountain dew. We had nutty bars and ice cream and a bunch of other things I can’t even remember.

We gathered round, ate these wonderful things, enjoyed each other’s company, and watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Times have changed since then. These days, most of my friend have left town. I miss them terribly, but I have a different sort of family now. More specifically, I have a baby.

I’m going to post up a picture of him. Because it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want.

Apparently megalomania is genetic.

Today I’m taking a break from copyediting and posting more Worldbuilders books. That means I have time to do one of my favorite things. I get to have lunch with Sarah and Oot at the Olympic.

The Olympic is a restaurant I’ve been eating at for years. Sarah and I had one of our first dates there. And she tells me that once, years before we met, she watched me from a nearby booth, eavesdropping, lust simmering in her innocent young heart.

These days going to the Olympic is fun for me because I get to feed little Oot.

For months I had nothing to do with this. Sarah breastfeeds, and because she’s stay-at-home Oot can get a snack pretty much whenever he wants, straight from the tap. But now he’s over a year old, and while he still loves the boob, he’s eating solid foods too.

I order the chicken soup and give him parts of it. A noodle. A little chicken. A bit of celery. A little piece of carrot that’s soft enough for me to cut up with my spoon.

Oot investigates these things. He pokes them with a finger, then crams them into his mouth. It is not unlike the way his daddy eats, though his daddy tries to be more genteel in public.

I have a lot to be thankful for. My first book has met with stupefying success. I have an understanding editor who has given me the time to turn my second book into something I can be proud of. My work is being translated into thirty languages. I have awards. I have money in the bank.

But none of that makes me as happy as lunch with Oot. I give him a piece of lettuce from my sandwich. A piece of tomato that I bite in half for him. A little bit of turkey. He moves them around on his little plastic mat, then pokes them happily into his drooly little baby maw.

I was a fan of Heifer International long before I ever considered having a kid. I donated money. I got weepy when I read Beatrice’s Goat.  I gave goats and chickens and sheep as Christmas presents.

But now that I have a baby, it’s something else entirely. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I couldn’t get enough food for my baby.

Actually, that’s not true. I have a very good imagination. I can imagine exactly what it would be like to not have enough food for my baby. It’s a horrifying feeling. It’s a huge feeling. When I think about not being able to feed my baby, my mind brushes up against the edge of something very big and dark in my head. Like nighttime swimmer who feels something firmly bump against his foot.

They say any civilization is three meals away from barbarism. And now, having a child, I believe it’s true. If I couldn’t get Oot the food he needed, I think I would do monstrous things. Barring that, I think some part of me would break and never, ever be right again. Not ever.

Still at the Olympic, I give Oot my whole deli pickle mostly out of curiosity. He pokes it, then picks the whole thing up and bites off the end. He makes an indescribable face. Then he takes another bite. At first it looks like he’s going to eat the whole thing. Then he holds it out to me, and I take a bite. I made a face and he laughs. He takes another bite, then holds it out for me again.

I am very lucky. I think this all the time. I have a warm house. I have a healthy baby. Not only do I have food for him, but we have food enough so that eating it can be a form of play.

This is why I started Worldbuilders.

When I started making serious money off my first book, it was nice. I paid off my credit card. I earned enough so I could get a mortgage on a house. But other than ordering a slightly better brand of frozen burrito, my lifestyle hasn’t changed that much. It’s nice to be able to order Chinese takeout whenever I want. But really, money hasn’t made me noticeably happier.

Matching donations through Worldbuilders makes me happy. It’s my new hobby. I look forward to it all year long.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I see the donation thermometer jump up by a thousand dollars and I flinch a bit.

Then I remember that 120 dollars buys a family a goat. I think about children drinking milk. Not just one morning. Every morning. I think about children eating eggs. I think about mothers and fathers selling the extra milk and wool and eggs to buy things they need to have a better life.

And then I’m happy.

After we finish up at the Olympic, I run some errands. At Shopko, I see a little bath set. It’s got a little comb, and some bubble stuff, and a yellow sponge duck.

Oot loves ducks. It’s one of his favorite words. We could play with this in the bathtub.

And I almost buy it before I realize how stupid this is. We have combs at home. We have stuff that makes bubbles. I would be paying twenty bucks for a bunch of plastic packaging and a sponge duck. For twenty bucks, I could get a flock of chicks from Heifer.

And once I think of it in these terms, it’s easy not to buy this useless piece of crass commercial shit. Oot is deliriously happy playing with a cardboard tube or one of the rubber ducks that we already have in the house. He doesn’t need this.

When I get home from errands, the first thing I do is check the donation totals. I’m really hoping we can get the thermometer up to 130,000 dollars again this year. Maybe more. It would be great if we could beat last year’s total.

The thermometer has gone up another 500 bucks. That’s good. That’s another $250 I’ll be kicking into the pot. That’s six goats and a bunch of chickens.

That’s a lot to be thankful for.

Have a good turkey day everyone,

pat

P.S. Just in case you want to wander over to the Worldbuilders donation page, here’s the link…

Also posted in day in the life, Heifer International, my student days, Oot, Sarah | By Pat31 Responses

House on the Rock Part 1: Deadlines and Ducks

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays.

When I was young, I dressed up and went trick-or-treating in my Grampa’s neighborhood because we lived out in the country.

Me, my sister Jamie (the witch), and two of our cousins.

When I was in highschool, I toilet papered people’s houses. (Mostly friends’ houses, honestly. It was a sign of affection.)

When I was in college, I started throwing parties. In fact, I think the first party ever threw was a Halloween party back in 1993. The theme was “Come as your favorite god.” I dressed as Pan, and later that night, downtown with my friends, I got into the only fight of my life dressed in nothing but a leather vest, horns, and a pair of furry tights.

Later in my life, after I had sold my book but before I was published, I went to the Penguin Halloween party dressed as a garden gnome. (Penguin the publisher. It was not a party for actual penguins.)

Note: this was before Anton Strout put on his costume.

I had a smashingly good time. It was the first time I met most of the folks I still work with to this day. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to start our professional relationships off on the right foot.

I mention these things to give you a frame of reference.  Halloween is one of my favorite Holidays.

Earlier this year, my lovely assistant Valerie brought some cool news to my attention. Neil Gaiman was having an event at House on the Rock over Halloween weekend. I was thrilled. I bought tickets for me, Sarah and Oot, my sister, as well as Valerie and several friends.

True, it meant I would have to miss the World Fantasy Convention again. And that’s a convention that, as as professional, I should really make an effort to attend. But this was all the coolness of Halloween, plus Neil Gaiman, PLUS House on the Rock. It was like some sort of mythic trifecta. On top of it all, the event was close enough for me to drive to.

How could I not go?

*     *     *

By the time Friday the 29th rolls around I am a complete mess. I’ve been revising The Wise Man’s Fear for months. Endless revision. Sometimes for fourteen hours at a stretch. My deadline looms over me, and the thought of having to finally let go of the book forever is absolutely terrifying.

At this point I know that planning on going to the House on the Rock was a huge mistake. I have to turn in the book on Nov 1st, and they’re going to use that version to print the Advance Reading Copies of the book. It’s not the final draft of the book, but it’s the version major reviewers and bookbuyers will read. This is a big deal.

Everyone says it will be good for me to get away for the weekend. I need a vacation. I’ve earned it. Etc. But the truth is, if I stayed home, I know I could get another 30 hours of work done on the book.

But I have to go. Sarah will be disappointed if I don’t. I’m meeting friends there, one of them I haven’t seen in more than a year. I’m part of a group costume. I’m moderating a panel on Saturday. I have to go.

We’re late leaving for House on the Rock. It’s my fault, I spent all night revising and didn’t pack. Since I only got four hours of sleep, Sarah offers to drive, and I ride in the back next to Oot. It’s nice, because I don’t get to spend as much time with him as I like. The two and a half hours in the car is more time than I’ve spent with him in the last three days combined.

Oot and I hang out on the ride down to Spring Green. I make up little songs for him. We both play with his feet. He can say “duck” now, so that gives us something to talk about.

Eventually he falls asleep, and I’m thinking of doing the same when the Magellan starts giving us bullshit directions. I don’t handle it well, and I’m bitchy at Sarah and her co-pilot Joyce. They deal with my bullshit with remarkable aplomb.

We make it to House on the Rock with time to spare. There’s some confusion with the tickets, but the House on the Rock people are cool and it all gets worked out.

I meet a couple of friends. I meet my sister. She’s one of my favorite people, and I don’t get to see her nearly as often as I’d like. Hanging out with her helps me settle my shit down a little. We share Oot back and forth, taking turns holding him. The three of us talk about ducks.

7:00 rolls around. The beginning of the festivities. Neil Gaiman is doing a reading and Q&A in a big tent next to the visitor’s center. We take places in the back, partly because I’m a lurker, and partly so that if Oot gets scrawbly we can take him out the back exit before he bothers folks.

Gaiman is charming as always. Gentle and funny and well-spoken. I’ve never heard him otherwise. Oot does get a little noisy. Not fussy, he just likes to talk and doesn’t understand that sometimes he just has to shush. He gets that from me. Sarah takes him out of the tent for a bit. Then she comes back and I grab Oot so she can listen to Gaiman for a while.

Oot and I go into the visitor center so he can take off his coat and walk around. He’s a pretty good walker now, and doesn’t fall very much at all.

Sarah comes in and checks on us ten minutes later. I appreciate that. Sometimes Oot gets unhappy, and nothing can make it better but mom. But right now he’s pretty content, and I’m having a good time too. As I’ve said, I haven’t spent much time with him lately. So I send Sarah back to listen to Gaiman. I’ve heard him speak a couple times before, but she hasn’t.

Oot and I explore a the visitor center. There’s a little wooden bridge that goes over a stream, and it’s really exciting to him. Unfortunately, he’s not too steady on the going up or the coming down. But that’s what makes it exciting for him, I think. I hold his hand and he goes up and down. Up and down.

I’ve brought along a wooden spoon and we play with it. There’s a lot you can do with a wooden spoon. Not only does it go in your mouth, which is fun, but you can bang it on things. You can also poke things with the spoon.

Sarah comes back to check on us. I give her the thumbs up and make a shooing motion. She goes back to listen to Gaiman.

Oot makes it clear that he is determined to explore the trashcan. It is on the floor, and therefore part of his domain. He will not be thwarted in his desire so long as he remains on the floor.

So I pick him up and we walk around for a bit. He can say words other than than “duck.” He can also say, “that.” To the untrained ear, these might sound the same, but I can tell the difference between “duck” “dog” “that” and “dad” though I doubt any linguist in the world could do the same.

So I carry him around and he points at things. When he points, he says, “that.” I’m not entirely sure what he means when he says this, though I have theories. Sometimes I think he’s curious about something he sees, so I tell him what it’s called. Sometimes I think he wants to touch it, so we go touch it.

But most of the time, I think he’s just enjoying being able to communicate. It has to be hard for babies. For so many months all they have is one way to express themselves. They can cry. They have one note, and they have to use it for everything: hunger, discomfort, frustration, boredom, loneliness.

Later on they learn more notes. They can laugh to express joy. They can grunt or suck or grab to express desire. But that’s it. Still very limited.

But now Oot can point and say, “that.” This is a big deal. This is levels beyond what he could do a few months ago. This is abstract.  He’s not just feeling something, he’s actively focusing his attention. He’s apprehending. This isn’t just expression, it’s communication.

What he’s really doing, I think, is saying, “Look. I can see a thing. I’m aware of it, and I want you to know that I’m aware of it.”

At this point in his life, this is the closest he can come to telling me a story.

This is a big deal. So we walk around looking at things. There’s a plant with a bright flower all yellow and red. There’s a wooden bench. There’s a wall. He points at them. He says, “that.”

I nod and point, too. “That,” I agree.

I put him back in his coat,  and together we go back to the tent. We listen to the very end of Neil’s Q&A. People laugh. People applaud. Oot claps too. He smiles. He doesn’t really understand what the applause is for. He’s not clapping for anything. When he claps, he’s saying, “I know something good has happened, and I’m a part of it. We’re all happy.”

And he’s right.

Part two [soon]

Also posted in babies, My checkered past, Neil Gaiman, Oot, the longest fucking blog ever | By Pat54 Responses

High School Writer’s Workshop

Back in the long ago. Back in the beforetimes….

Specifically, back in 1990, I submitted a piece of writing to a contest. It was a first for me.

I didn’t go looking for the contest, a teacher mentioned it to me. So I decided to send something I’d already written for class. I was proud of my last paper, mostly because I’d gotten an A on it.

I looked at the contest’s different categories: Formal Essay, Short Story, Poetry… In the end I shrugged and I decided to call my piece of writing “Familiar Essay” and sent it in.

I didn’t hold out any high hopes for winning, but since I was a senior, I knew I should start thinking about colleges. And the prize for winning this contest was a thousand dollar scholarship to the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point.

UW-SP also offered something called the High School Writer’s Workshop. If your writing was good enough, you got to skip school for the day, hang out on a college campus, and, presumably, learn something about writing.

The end of the story probably isn’t what you’d expect. I didn’t win. I was a distant runner-up. I was invited to attend the writer’s workshop, but I didn’t go. I can’t remember why, but given that I was a bit of an idiot back then, it’s quite possible that I simply forgot.

I did apply to UW-SP, because if the winner didn’t collect the scholarship, it went to the next runner up. If *they* didn’t go to Point either, it would continue down the line.

UW-SP was the only college that I got around to applying to. Again, I can’t remember why, exactly. But again, it’s safe to say that I probably just didn’t think of it. Or I forgot. Or I was busy watching Twin Peaks and playing D&D with my friends. As I’ve already pointed out, I was a bit of an idiot.

Later on, long after the application deadline had passed, I also applied to UW-Madison. Despite my obvious inability to follow instructions or read a calender, I got accepted there too.

That meant I had to chose between Stevens Point and Madison. Two schools that I knew absolutely nothing about.

I picked Stevens Point for the simple reason that it was 100 miles away. Close enough for a visit home, but not *too* close, if you know what I mean.

It’s strange the little things that shape our lives. The small choices that turn out to be so big in hindsight.

As many of you know, I stayed at UW-SP for nine years, taking classes and generally having a great time. Later on, after I got my Masters Degree, I came back to teach for a while. It’s where I still live.

Two years ago, they let me run the fiction category of the High School Writer’s Workshop. Last year I was the keynote speaker at the event.

And this year, for the first time ever, they’ve added a new category: Speculative Fiction.

(For those of you who don’t know. Speculative Fiction is what academics call Fantasy and Sci-Fi.)

And guess who’s running this new category? That’s right, baby. Me.

So if you’re a high-schooler who lives in Wisconsin, and you like to write fantasy and such. You might want to check out this link to the brochure containing all the information you need to submit something. (Hint: You need your teacher to help you submit.)

The deadline for submissions is Oct 15th.

I can’t say for certain why I didn’t mention this on the blog earlier. It might be that I was busy with book two. It might be that I forgot. Or it could be that after all these years, I’m still a bit of an idiot…

Have a good weekend everybody,

pat

Also posted in contests, my dumbness | By Pat33 Responses

Fanmail Z&A: (Zombie Apocalypse)

So just a couple minutes ago, I was reading through my fanmail and I got to the following letter.

Mr. Rothfuss,

I don’t know how to go about this, so I will just explain: I write a fictional blog set in the zombie apocalypse, and today in my post I referenced you… Since this is a work of fiction I have tried to get permission from any person I mention by name, and I wanted to make sure that this is alright with you. If you would like to read the entry, here’s the link.

If you would like me to edit you out, please let me know, and I will do so immediately.

I am a HUGE fan, by the way. I have purchased no fewer than four hardback copies of The Name of the Wind, and two paperbacks. People love them as gifts.

Looking forward to Wise Man’s Fear.

Joshua

My first thought was that Joshua was terribly polite. So I hopped over and checked out the link to make sure he didn’t have me dancing around in a leopard-print unitard or anything like that. Then, when I saw that I wasn’t, I dropped him an e-mail telling him it’s all cool.

My second thought was that while he didn’t ask me a question, there’s definitely one implied in his post.

Specifically: If there was a zombie apocalypse, and society collapsed, would I still keep working on my books?

It’s a good question. And after thinking about it, I’m a little surprised to say yes. I would.

The reason this is surprising to me is that I’m at the end of a long, LONG, jag of revisions.

How can I put this in perspective for you…?

How about this: I’m assuming most of you have written papers for school. And, because I assume most of you are kinda like me, I’m guessing you put off writing those papers until the night before they were due. (Or, in the case of more involved college research papers, you put them off until the weekend before they were due.)

So let’s go back and remember those long, desperate nights of paper-writing together: It’s late at night. You’re exhausted. You are absolutely fucking sick of the paper because you’ve been banging away on it for hours and hours.

Then you finally finish it. Relief. You are free. You can rest.

But then you think to yourself, “I should really read through it one more time to catch any last minute mistakes.” Because while you might be a procrastinator, that doesn’t mean you’re an idiot.

So you start to read even though you’re weary. Even though you hate your paper so much that re-reading it is like chewing sand. You read it one last time even though the topic you’re writing about fills you with such loathing that you could just shit yourself with rage.

And, as you read it one last time, you find a handful of mistakes that would have made you look like an absolute fuckwit. So you’re glad you put in the effort. But still, it was pretty excruciating.

Are we unified in our shared experience? Do you remember what that last read-through is like?

I did that read-through of the book six months ago.

And I am still working on the book.

Now in the interest of complete honesty, I should mention that I took a bit of a break after that sick-to-fucking-death read-through.

And I don’t mean to imply that every minute is excruciating. Sometimes I read a bit I’d forgotten about, and I think, “Wow, that’s really good.” Sometimes when I finally fix a long-standing problem (like how to plausibly arrange events so Bast, Ambrose, and Elodin can have a threeway) it feels great.

But the fact is that working on revisions is just that: work. What’s more, it’s work I’ve been doing it every day for months and months. I haven’t seen a movie since I caught Sherlock Holmes in the theater.

No. Wait. That’s not true. In a fit of madness I rented Transformers II about five months ago. While I was watching it, I remember thinking, “Huh? This makes no sense. Has it been so long since I watched a movie that I can’t understand them anymore?”

But no. It was just a horrendous pile of shit. Someone deserves to be punched in the neck for that movie.

Wait. What was I talking about again? Oh yeah. Revisions.

My point is that I’ve been doing revisions when I’ve really wanted to be doing other things. Like play with my baby, or re-watch Firefly, or go outside on the rare, jewel-like days when the weather here in Wisconsin isn’t like living in the crack of Satan’s ass.

Simply said, as I’ve mentioned before, everybody hates their job sometimes.

That’s why I was surprised when I asked myself that question. It only took me a few seconds to realize the answer: Yes.

Yes. If society collapsed, I would keep working on the books. I’d do it even if I knew they’d never be published.

And you know what? I’d still be every bit as obsessive about my revision as I am now. The only difference would be that my timetable would be more relaxed, and I’d probably have to work a little harder to find beta readers….

This was actually a rather nice revelation for me. It’s easy to focus on the fact that I *have* to work on the book. That line of thinking can get overwhelming for me sometimes. There’s a lot of pressure. A lot of stress.

It’s nice to remember that I also *want* to work on the book. It’s nice to remember that I love telling this story and that I’m lucky to have the freedom to revise obsessively, as is my nature.

But for all that, I have to say, I’m going to be really glad when it’s finished and I can move on….

pat

Also posted in Fanmail Q + A, Revision | By Pat86 Responses

Huzzah!

In some ways, I’m an optimist. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, a person doesn’t work on the same book for over a decade without a little glimmer of hope to keep them going.

But it’s more than that, really. I believe that the vast majority of people are good. Not just deep-down good, but good right up on the surface. That’s why I run these fundraisers. I think most people enjoy making the world a better place. All they need is an opportunity, and, occasionally, a little nudge.

But in other ways, I’m a pessimist. For example, I believe that most large corporate entities by their very nature tend to be malignant.

When I say malignant, I’m not saying that Global Corp is going to break into your house and kill you while you sleep. But they will make your pillow out of a fire-retardant chemical that makes you breathe toluene all night. Because they can be sued by a smoker who lights their own pillow on fire, but not by someone who gets cancer when they’re sixty.

What’s my point? Well, my point is that when my account got flagged by Paypal a couple of days ago, I really didn’t have much hope of being able to straighten things out with them.

In fact, I was ready to be all indignant about it. I’ve had a Paypal account since 2001, and I felt a little betrayed. I had all sorts of scathing things I was going to say. Names I was going to call them. Mud I was going to fling. How dare they take a crap on my fundraiser? Especially when it was going so well…

Despite this pessimism, I e-mailed them to straighten things out. I tried to work within the system. I talked to them on the phone.

So imagine my surprise when they were really nice. And today, all the limitations were lifted from my Paypal account. I really wasn’t expecting things to work out so quickly and easily.

The purpose of this blog is twofold.

First, I just wanted to say thanks to Paypal. You guys impressed me.

The second is to update everyone on the status of the name raffle fundraiser thing.

Things are going amazingly well. So far we’ve got about 150 people donating, and we’ve raised over 8000 dollars. Way better than I ever expected.

Because I’m drawing two winners, that means if you buy a ticket, you’ve got about a 1 in 400 chance of winning.

If you donate 50 bucks, which gets you 6 tickets, you’ve got about a 1 in 70 chance.

That beats the hell out of most lotteries, you have to admit. Besides, and all the money is going to a great cause.

(How can you not want be a part of this?)

I’m hoping we can finish strong on this. We lost a few days because of the Paypal thing, but if people help spread the word I think we can make up for it.

And one more time, here’s the link to the blog with all the raffle details and the now-functional online donation buttons.

And lastly, if you’re thinking of donating online. You might want to strike now while the iron is hot. A lot of Paypal’s system is automated, and there’s an outside chance it might flag my account again in a week or so. It would be shame if you missed your chance to donate because of that…

Frabjously yours,

pat

Also posted in Heifer International | By Pat45 Responses
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