It’s shocking how helpful Sewanee has been. And it’s been helpful in exactly the way that I thought it would be. When you’re in an MFA program, everyone is either at your level or they have mature 30 year old careers. You never meet anyone who’s just a few years ahead of you. At Sewanee, it’s been great to see people who’ve published a few stories or who’ve just published a book or two. You see how the business works in practice.
On the other hand, it’s also a really intense experience. A constant party. Alcohol everywhere. So many 5 AM nights. I haven’t been writing much. I haven’t even been doing much reading! And I’m just burning down. It’ll be really great to get back to waking up at 7 AM and doing my few hours a day.
And, just on a deeper level, it’ll also be nice to leave the business of writing behind a little bit. In general, I’m very practical-minded and I’m pretty good at sorting out what a person needs to do to move ahead. But it does sometimes feel like a bit of transference. Like, it’s harder and, in some ways less satisfying, to think about the work itself. But that’s also what I want to do. If I wanted to think primarily about business and maneuvering, I’d go into an actual business of some sort.
One thing I hadn’t quite grasped about being here: there are a lot of people here. Like a hundred and fifty of them. It’s kind of nice. Most SF summer workshops are about 15 people, which is great and all, but that’s a lot of togetherness. Here, it’s basically a party all the time. And you have the space to retreat and seek relative anonymity if you want.
Actually, it’s quite literally a party all the time. The amount of free booze is astounding. Two receptions a day w/ beer and wine. Alcohol at dinner every other day. And then booze at a house nearby until maybe 12:30-1 AM every night. It is crazy. Oddly, not drinking allows me to keep pace much better than if I did drink =)
Sewanee is so far away from somewhere that even the people I know who live in Tennessee think it’s remote. It’s also huge. And I got lost. A little less intense than most SF workshops, though. Our time is pretty unstructured. There are events we can choose to go to or not go to. Workshop is only every other day. We’re not expected to workshop anything we write while we’re here. So that’s good.
Ugh, I hope that I recover my bearings and regain the ability to do substantive work. I blocked out this time for being unproductive, which is why I finished everything before coming here, but it’s still nice to be able to do _something._
I am still making my slow, but steady, way through Ulysses. But a splitting headache impelled me to take the afternoon off and read The Hedge Knight, which is the first of the prequel novellas George R. R. Martin wrote for the world that inspired the Game of Thrones TV show. This is probably one of my favorite-ever short novels. It doesn’t really have the punch that one associates with a short story, but it does tell a perfectly contained little adventure story: basically, it has all the virtues that Martin’s high fantasy novels have and many virtues (compression, precision) that they do not. However, the kid in it is 8 years old. And, well, I don’t have extensive experience with children, but he just does not seem like a second or third grader. He’s way too witty and worldy-wise. I mean, some kids are precocious, but it just doesn’t read right. He ought to be at least 11 or so.
And this holds true for all of the kids. Does Joffrey really seem like a 12 year old? Does Robb really seem like a 15 year old? Is Arya really 9? Is Daenerys really 14? What’s weird is that all of the kids definitely seem like kids–they just feel like kids who are about three years older than their characters’ stated age. This is yet another way in which the TV series is better than the books, since–even if they kept the stated age in the same place–the actors tend to be a few years older than the characters they play. Thus, on a visual level, the actors seem to match up with our mental conception of where the characters should be.
However, the weird ages of the characters in Martin’s novels turn out not to matter very much, since almost every reader just tends to imagine them as being older than they really are. This is yet another example of the effect I noted with regards to black characters: you can say whatever you want about the characters, but you’re going to need to say it again and again and again if it’s going to override the reader’s biases (in this case, the reader’s conception of what characters of various ages sound like).
In other me-related news, I did only very light writing for a few days because I was worn out from finishing the novel, but then I realized that I have only eight days left before Sewanee! EEEP, I still need to do another round of edits for This Beautiful Fever. Luckily, I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do, and I feel like I should be able to get it done in under 15 hours of work. But still, I gotta get cracking!