Excerpt: First Causes (Quarterly West # 89)

Yesterday, someone on Twitter posted a question to the Asian American writing community: share your 2018 achievements. Self’s response began with: “I am an experimental science fiction writer.” Which she’s sure had people scratching their heads.

To explain what she meant by “experimental science fiction writer”, here’s an excerpt from a story that Quarterly West published in Issue #89. The story takes place in a classroom of the future. The narrator is a boy named Dragon who is NOT a dragon. The professor, who really IS turning into a lizard, is named Fire Lizard. The other characters are Drinker, Knot, and Big. Big’s just gone missing.

Drinker says, low, “Big passed.”

I answer: “Fucker. Big’s not Big. He’s Big XXX. Mark it.” I slash three quick XXX’s across my screen. Knot looks to the side quickly, then glances down.

“The All-Powerful, the Everlasting,” I start to sing, lowly.

Drinker shudders, pulls slightly out of his seat.

“You!” Fire Lizard screams, pointing at Drinker. “What’s your issue?”

“Obscure,” Drinker mutters.

Fire Lizard’s eyes seem to bug out of his head. “Who remembers rain?” he shouts. “Last rain? Who remembers?”

I hold up my hand. “Ghost of,” I say. “243 days since.”

Self would like to take this opportunity to express her gratitude to Quarterly West for taking a chance and accepting this story. It’s wild, it’s crazy, it’s not easy to understand. But did she ever have fun writing it.

Stay tuned.

Writing is Process: KUDOS, p. 54

The narrator has an interesting conversation with a fellow writer:

  • “. . . every day, when he sat down to write, he would think of an object that didn’t mean anything to him and would set himself the task of including it somewhere in that day’s work. She asked him for examples and he said that in the past few days he had chosen a lawnmower, a fancy wristwatch, a cello and a caged parrot. The cello was the only one that hadn’t worked, he said, because he had forgotten when he chose it that his parents had tried to make him learn the cello when he was a child.”

Love it.

Stay tuned.

 

More Hilarity in KUDOS

At home she generally avoided doing housework . . .  because those kinds of chores made her feel so unimportant that she wouldn’t have been able to write anything afterwards.

Kudos, p. 51

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: LIGHTS

Cee Neuner, thank you for coming up with such interesting prompts.

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When Self Can’t Sleep: 3 a.m. in her cottage at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig

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Late October: Walking back to the cottage after dinner in the Main House, Tyrone Guthrie Centre

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The cottages at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig make maximum use of natural light.

Self was able to keep working on Blue Water, Distant Shores, her novel-in-progress about 18th century Philippines (As of now, 322 pages)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Novel-In-Progress: Hard Pruning

Self has cut so much from her novel-in-progress, Blue Water, Distant Shores, it’s now just 314 pages.

The parts that stay, that made it through three drafts, will be part of the end manuscript now. For sure.

Such as this passage:

The new Gubernador-General announced his intention to establish a system of garrisons ringing the southern Philippine kingdoms of Maranao and Sulu, to contain the Moslem threat. Everyone knew this was idle talk. Spain could not send more soldiers. As the situation stood, she could barely hang on to her prize, the Most Holy City of Manila.

Matias’s watchtower preceded the Church. The site he found was a narrow spit of land that followed the Bago River from its mouth to the Guimaras Strait, which united the Visayan and Sulu Sea.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Work-in-Progress: “Residents of the Deep”

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Map of Oceania

Self began this story on her very first visit to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig and has added to it, bit by bit, over the years. She was in Unit # 4 and there was an old maritime book in one of the cupboards.

She doesn’t worry about finishing this story. It will always be “in progress” — it will always exist in middle time, like her visits to this part of Ireland and beautiful Annaghmakerrig.

Here are the opening sentences:

There is something singularly impressive and affecting to the imagination when, in a perfectly calm tropical sea, under a vertical sun, one is able to look down through a depth of thousands of fathoms of clear water and see on the ocean bottom glimpses of the City and all its strange and wonderful objects. The discovery of a populous City existing under fathoms of ocean is an occurrence with no precedent in the annals of exploration, one that overshadows even the discovery of the Americas by Columbus.

Self’s stories are always birthed this way: with the opening sentences. No matter how many drafts her stories go through, the opening sentences never change. If the sentence is strong, it is like a fine, big engine that can power her through — even 20 or 25 pages later — all the way to the end. See the interview she gave to Bellingham Review, the Contributor Spotlight that accompanied their publication of self’s story, Ice. (The first four or five paragraphs of Ice were unchanged from first draft)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Early Draft: Matias, 1746

Self found an old chapter of her novel-in-progress (which is right now 310 pages; it used to be 323 pages)

This chapter is titled “Education, 1746” and begins:

The Bishop schooled Matias carefully. He gave Matias instruction on the governance of the Islands, and the manner in which the archipelago had come under the tutelage of Spain.

And then the history of the Islands unfolds, from Magellan’s voyage to the succeeding century, and all is told in dialogue.

“I must rest,” the Bishop said. “We shall continue on this topic tomorrow.”

Matias returned to his room and lay, restless and wakeful, far into the night.

Self loves, loves, loves these early drafts. That is fine writing, even if it was done by herself (lol). There is almost no backstory. Matias, the young priest, is being schooled by the Bishop. And it is only the two of them, chapter after chapter. There is a garden, and an old house, and birds, and heat, and the Bishop sometimes takes middle-of-the-night walks in just his nightshirt, and Matias catches him, and there’s light from a thin moon. And then nothing.

The parts self added, she doesn’t really like that they spell out so much history. In fact, the only new parts self likes are the parts during the ship voyage from Cadiz to Manila. And the introduction of four soldiers who escort Matias to the island. But these soldiers serve absolutely no plot. They simply take Matias and leave him there, on the beach. Then an old woman emerges from the forest and dances for Matias, and leaves again. And Matias lives in a swamp with another old woman. And finally he meets a half-breed named Diego.

That’s it! There are no big, dramatic scenes. But maybe that’s the story self wanted to write. Maybe that’s the real story: colonization in a hypnotic state, with no drama.

Ugh, writing in long form is truly difficult. She has to get the words down, but those words mean nothing. It’s only after, when she has to carve them into some kind of meaning. She’s not talking about plot, she’s talking about meaning. Her kind of writing is truly writing without a safety net, for she never has a road map.

She has a friend, Caroline (a member of her writers group, and a fine, fine writer herself) who read her short story collection. Last week, Caroline and self met in a café and Caroline told her which stories in the collection could/should be expanded. Caroline is the mother of three young children (all still in grade school) and has just started a graduate program at St. Mary’s, yet she read almost 300 pages of self’s work. That kind of generosity is priceless. These stories are not new, but because of Caroline, self knows which ones she has to try and work on some more.

She hopes she can do all this work in Annaghmakerrig. If she can just. Get. There. Without. Falling. Apart.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Seeking Comfort Again From a Woman Writer

Lately, self has found comfort — great comfort — from reading Daphne du Maurier. A woman whose life self instinctively understands (Thank you again to Tatiana de Rosnay for writing Manderley Forever, which led to her discovery of the writing of du Maurier)

This evening, though, she’s reading a quote from Gail Godwin, a writer whose work self has read, but not in recent decades:

  • This account of my unfolding as a writer has been the truth. But it is also full of lies, many of which I’m not aware. But in one sense, perhaps the most important, it is all true. It could have been written by nobody but me. What I have chosen to tell, how I have chosen to tell it, and what I have chosen not to tell, expresses me and the kind of writer I am.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Words: Rosario Ferré

I write because I am poorly adjusted to reality; because the deep disillusionment within me has given rise to a need to re-create life, to replace it with a more compassionate, tolerable reality. I carry within me a utopian person, a utopian world.

— from the essay The Writer’s Kitchen, Feminist Studies 12, no. 2 (Summer 1986), translated from the Spanish by Diana L. Velez

A minute ago, self decided to google Ferré and learned she had passed away, 18 February 2016. She was 77.

Noooooooo!

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The View Across the Street From the Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino, 21 April 2018

Stay tuned, dear blog writers. Stay tuned.

Blair & Robertson’s THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, 1493 – 1803

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1000 sets were printed of this massive series.

Self has Copy No. 179 on her MacBook Air.

60 volumes.

She does all her writing in son’s room, where daily she looks at the map of the Philippines that’s been hanging there for over two decades. She doubts if son even knows the names of the two main islands, Luzon and Mindanao. This is self’s failing.

No woman is mentioned in the first nine volumes.

Later, there is a decree about educating the sons of Spanish civil officials. And in volume 10, a mention of nuns.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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