Ramblings from the Gryphon Rose

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Cutting some faulty ties

Long, long ago—and, at this point, moderately far away—I was in a writing class. It was an excellent class, both because of the teacher and because we had a good group of people. A few of us were loath to lose the synergy after the semester ended, so we started meeting on our own. And this became an actual writers workshop. At one point we had over twenty members, I think. Not all of them came every time, of course, but several of us were there every week, with our short stories or novel chapters or what-have-you. We ranged from published novelists to complete newbies, high school students to parents and working stiffs, but everybody critiqued everything honestly and without ego. It was a really good group.
After I moved away, I spent years trying to find another group. I tried a screenwriting group once, less because I was enamored with screenwriting than because a friend mentioned it to me and we both decided to give it a shot. That petered out.
Then, two or three years ago, I was talking to a friend who’s also a writer. She mentioned that she was in one group but that it was too large for her tastes. I mentioned that I’d been wanting to find a group. We agreed that this would be a good thing. She also knew that one of our other friends had wanted to find a group, and ran the idea of forming a new group past her as well. She was interested, and so were a few others in our extended circle of friends. And so we all wound up meeting.
Right away, there were some problems. I, and my friend, wanted a weekly meeting. The others felt that was too onerous, and pushed for every few weeks. One of the others wanted to name the group something in particular, and the rest of us didn’t really care so we said “sure, whatever.” Turns out later that was a big mistake. This same individual took our acquiescence to mean that she was now in charge—she’s the sort of person who tries to claim that in every situation. And the name was apparently a holdover from a previous group, so she thought that meant she was now the senior member and we were all her juniors. At least three of us thought this was a nice little democratic group—she thought it was a dictatorship. And a few of the others were happy to follow her lead, whether because they thought she really was in charge or just to avoid any conflicts.
The group meandered along. One of my friends wound up dropping out, partially due to scheduling conflicts and partially because she was tired of the Queen Bee. The friend who I had first discussed it with also backed out because she stopped being able to attend. Another friend joined—the only other male, which was a welcome change, but he was often too busy to attend. Because meetings were only every few weeks, every meeting ended with “when should we meet next?” That later shifted to emails a week or two after the last meeting, asking when the next one was. I often found myself without anything to submit, because I’d have turned something in just before the meeting and didn’t have anything new that was at the critiquing stage yet. And I wasn’t willing to submit things with the caveat “oh, it’s already turned in, so you can critique it but your comments won’t really matter.” Shame not everyone felt that way about their submissions.
As time passed and my daughter was born and I got a full-time job, I started missing more meetings. I was busy, I wasn’t writing fiction as often, but really I just didn’t care as much. The group wasn’t what I had wanted. It wasn’t as friendly as the old group, it was far more catty, there was a lot of grandstanding (always from the same people), and we didn’t meet often enough for me to remember the schedule or get into the habit. Several meetings took place at a restaurant, over drinks, which is fine except that apparently only those who had said in advance they’d be there were told where and when. Nice way to prevent anyone from showing up last-minute.
Things came to a head yesterday. One of my other friends is now in the group. Apparently he was invited last meeting. Without telling the absent members anything about this. And it wasn’t just a “hey, should we invite him? Yeah, let’s. Let me call him, then.” No, apparently there was an entire spate of emails about it, but Queen Bee kept it to the “currently active” members, as she later explained. I have no problem with my friend joining. I do have a problem with the continuing power-play. And, since I’m not known for keeping my mouth shut, I spoke out about it online. Got a lot of snippy little replies, including one from Queen Bee saying “Fine, you want the reins? Here they are.” Not that she’d ever actually relinquish any sort of control, but I didn’t even know there were reins. Obviously we were in two different groups that just happened to have the same members and the same meeting times.
So I did the smart thing, the thing I should have done a year ago. I quit the group. Got a few more snippy replies castigating my lack of commitment to my writing. Say it to my face, I dare you. It’s not the writing I’m not interested in, it’s the group. And boy, are those two not the same thing.
I feel good about my decision. One of my other friends also stepped away. We’re talking about a weekly group. It would be a lot more casual, a lot friendlier, and a lot more constructive, I think. And we’d all make the decisions together. I don’t know that I’ll ever get the synergy of my old group back again, but I’m pretty sure this one would be a lot closer to it than the one I just left.
One of these days I’ll learn when to cut my losses. I’m still working on that, but I still tend to hold out way too long.

Put down the mouse, please

This is something I’ve been saying a lot, lately.
And not to my cat.
No, my daughter has discovered the computer. Probably because my wife and I both spend time on it. Of course, it also has a pretty screen with lots of colors. But she’s fascinated. She runs eagerly toward my desk whenever she’s in the office, and starts playing with the mouse. And the keyboard.
Several times now I’ve come home, gone on the computer, and found that several of my folders and applications have been renamed. Often in binary.
And last week she figured out how to double-click. This is not a good thing. So, if not closely monitored, she will open windows, close windows, activate programs, rename files, and set up a variety of keyboard shortcuts. She’s still working on the CD tray—she knows that one of the buttons on the keyboard controls it, but fortunately it’s in the upper right corner where she usually can’t reach. Every so often she brushes it, however, and the tray pops open. I quickly close it again. Then she starts frantically pushing the other keys, hoping to repeat the process.
I love my daughter. I’m glad she’s very smart. I’m glad she’s demonstrating an interest in computer literacy. I did not expect to have to worry about her retyping my work for several more years. I thought only my editors would be doing that.

Monday, February 14, 2005


Sorry for not posting these past two weeks, but I had a very good reason. To wit:
I turned in the first draft today. It’s 85,000 words—not the longest thing I’ve written, if you’re wondering, but certainly the longest fiction. And my first full-length print novel. To say I’m thrilled would be an understatement.
This is something I’ve been working toward for the past twenty years, really. And, although I know people who have achieved it more quickly and more easily, many of them did so by being handed things they did not deserve, like book contracts when they had neither the experience nor the skill to make good on them.
I’d like to think—no, I’ll be brutally honest. I know that I earned this. I worked my *ss off for this. I’ve endured countless people over the years telling me that there was only one way to get a novel published—and it was a way I could not afford to take—and countless others saying that none of my prior work was enough for anyone to hire me to write a novel.
Well, to all of them out there—nyah!
Here I am, still standing, and I’ve just turned in my first novel. And I am beholden to no one for it. No one gave me a damn thing, which is the story of my career. And if it’s taken me longer than others as a result, at least I know that I did it myself, on nothing but talent and stubbornness. And maybe a little chutzpah.
That probably sounds a little arrogant, hm? Well, I’m a bit flush with victory right now, so perhaps it is. But it’s true nonetheless. I’m in a really good mood. I’ve just achieved one of the largest milestones I set in my life. And I reserve the right to celebrate that a bit.
Perhaps tomorrow I’ll go back to my usual quiet, unassuming self.
We’ll see.