Monday, May 31, 2010

More Pieces

I'm always anxious to spell people's names correctly when I'm signing books, and in a foreign country where the names and pronunciations are unfamiliar, I really need to see names written in order to understand them. The two French phrases I used most often over the past few days -- even more frequently than Désolé, je ne parle pas français (Sorry, I don't speak French) -- were À quel nom? (To what name?) and Pouvez-vous l'écrire? (Can you write it?) And people did write their names for me, very graciously. And now I have a ratty souvenir:

I'll put it on my bulletin board!

One thought as I prepare to leave Épinal: how I wish that English-language publishers would take the trouble to translate and publish more contemporary foreign books in English. Yes, I know it's difficult and requires foreign-language readers in the acquisitions department. Yes, I know there are gazillions of books in English already on the market. But honestly? It's a tragedy that readers of English are missing so much of the literature of other places and languages, and it's a shame that writers in other languages don't have the opportunity to share their books with English readers. I can't tell you how many times I've met foreign authors who've read my book in translation, or plan to do so, and who've written books that sound fascinating -- but I can't read them, because their books have not been translated into English. The English language seems to be an insurmountable wall when it comes to foreign rights deals. Not only is it not fair, but it's a terrible loss to readers who read in English.

If you can read French, please read Charlotte Bousquet's La Marque de la bête and Alain Damasio's La Horde du Contrevent, and enjoy them for your own sake and mine, too, because I can't read them! Maybe someday....

Next time I blog, I'll be home again.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pieces of My Journey

The more time I spend in France, the more determined I become to spend more time in France. I keep telling myself, "When I have time, I'm going to learn French," but I think I need to admit that I'll never have time. What I'm going to have to do is MAKE time.

Have you heard of, or seen pictures of, the tapestries of the woman and the unicorn? They're in Paris at the Musée National du Moyen Âge, a.k.a. the Cluny Museum. A wise friend suggested I visit them in my little bit of free time, so I did, and... how can I describe it? The museum is small, full of tapestries and sculptures, weapons, all sorts of neat stuff from the Middle Ages -- and one magical room that contains all six of the tapestries in the Lady and the Unicorn series. The room is darkish (to preserve the colors of the thread) and cavernous and peaceful, and you just sit there, looking at them. I got to spend a restful few minutes there before running off to catch a city bus to catch a train... but I could have stayed there for an hour, and I will go back. (If you follow the links to tapestries and the Lady and the Unicorn, you'll get to [an unlinkable] page that shows pictures and talks about them more.)

My hotel in Épinal could be the picture in the dictionary next to the word "eclectic." It's a renovated Tudor mansion, basically, and I understand that each room is decorated in a particular style. Mine is red and gold and if I knew more about architecture and design I could probably name a period for you. (Yesteryear? Days of yore? [A little reference for the Friends fans among you.]) Another American author in the hotel tells me that his room is full of teddy bears. (?) Anyway. The hippopotami on the left greeted me in the lobby, which made me happy indeed.

So, Imaginales is a French fantasy/SF conference featuring 120 authors, artists, and illustrators, mostly French. Today I had my first experience of simultaneous translation. I sat at a presentation table with one French moderator, one French author, three native-English-speaking authors (including me), and three interpreters. Whenever French was being spoken by the French moderator or the French author, all three interpreters were also speaking English, so there was this constant hum of languages happening all at once. Maybe I'm easily amused, but I really enjoyed being a part of it. The conference room where the panels take place is as difficult to describe as the hotel.... It's a magic mirror room. Circular, mirrors on lots of surfaces, velvety walls and ceilings, lots of deep reds, blues, and golds, and lovely golden lighting. When I walk into it, I am immediately calm.

On these work trips, there's always a lot going on and I feel pulled in a lot of directions at once. Nonetheless, I am gradually falling in love with France.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Flying Post

At midnight ET, when this post is set to publish, I will (presumably) be in the sky, flying to France. You know what was invented in France? The flying trapeze! Obviously, this calls for a trapezey post.

Warning! To those afraid of heights: this is a trapezey post!

(Hello. Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while know I get a little batty before trips, right?)

(Bat: another thing that flies! See, there's a THEME here.)

Okay, *ahem herm* let's get serious. The flying trapeze was invented in 1859 in Toulouse by a Frenchman named Jules Leotard. Guess what he wore? Instead of a net, in the beginning Leotard used a swimming pool. I bet a soaking wet leotard is clammy and cold.

And that's all the history you're getting, because I'm about to leave for France and I haven't packed yet and I DON'T HAVE TIME.

So, I've got two videos for you today. The first is a little local news piece about my trapeze school. I can't seem to embed it, but the link for the video is here. It's 4 minutes long with a 15 second cheese commercial at the front, and basically, it's about someone's first trapeze lesson. What this video does a decent job of, IMO, is demonstrating how the teaching is done at TSNY Beantown, and how okay it is if you bumble during your lesson. When you're up there doing something that's a little confusing and a little scary, a calm voice telling you what to do and acting like nothing is wrong goes a long way. (Unfortunately, some of the vocal instructions are cut out of the video, which is a shame, I think. There's a lot you're not seeing or hearing.)

What the video doesn't do a good job of, IMO, is showing what the point of the lesson is. It kind of creates the impression that the idea is to go up there, swing a little, flip around here and there, and then jump off. IOW, you don't get to see a catch attempt taking place. The catch is the point of the lesson. (I explained more about this in an earlier post, if you're interested.) So if/after you watch that video (here's the link again), I recommend you watch the one below. It's a collection of random moments at my trapeze school, and it might be a little confusing if you've never seen or done this, but at 1:03 there's a series of slo-mo catches that show what it's all about.

(I also love the series of take-offs at 0:35... and I get a rush from the jumping feet at 1:39! That, right there, is the scariest moment on the trapeze -- at least for a beginner like me who's wearing safety lines at all times and doing relatively simple tricks.)

And now I'd better go pack.

P.S. I'm in the middle of reading two middle grade fantasy series and recently finished, and thoroughly enjoyed, the second book of both: The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas (book 2 is called The Magic Thief: Lost), and The Kronos Chronicles by Marie Rutkoski (book 2 is called The Celestial Globe). Recommended.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Some Glee Links for a Thursday (Updated!)

Here's a weekly routine in my household:

I sit down to watch Glee. Maybe five minutes in, I start to cringe. Maybe ten minutes in, I start banging my head on the table, because I cannot believe the writers and producers of Glee have really, truly, actually decided to take the episode where they've taken it. Such a talented cast! This show could be so great! Why do they keep mucking it up? I swear to myself that this is the last episode of Glee I will ever watch. I pause my TiVo so that I can get up and rant to a few friends (who I'm pretty sure wish I would stop watching Glee) about why Glee offends me. I sit back down. I start the TiVo up again. The show (finally) gives a solo to one of the characters I care about (Kurt gets me every time) and the solo is GREAT, voice, emotion, performance, the way it fits into the plot, wardrobe, set design. I watch it numerous times. Then, at the end of the show, they air an ad for next week's episode, in which Neil Patrick Harris is singing Aerosmith, or Kurt is wearing something fabulous, or Mercedes or Puck or Quinn finally get to sing, or something else tempting happens.

"No more Glee," I tell myself. "NO MORE GLEE."

I set the TiVo to record the next damn episode.

There's a lot of chatter on the internets about Gleefail. If you're not aware of it, or if you disagree with it, or if you're curious, or if you're just like, "Huh? What's she talking about? I love Glee!" -- well, don't forget, I watch it, too, and can't seem to stop -- and now I'm going to link you to three short posts that explain (only one of the reasons) why the show disappoints me. (Hint: in this case, it has to do with disablism.) They're all from the blog Dis/positional. The first isn't about Glee specifically, but has relevance -- do read it before you read the others!
  1. iSpire. Inspire.
  2. Fox: You're Doing It Wrong. Again. (Click through to the links referenced in that one, too -- also good reading specifically about Glee.)
  3. I dreamed a dream... that you'd stop making disability depressing.
I leave for France on Sunday, so off I go to do preparey things.


ETA: This just in -- a few more bloggy links to thoughts about character representations on Glee, this time about representations of gay characters and casting choices. These are from Lee Wind's blog, I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? Thanks, Laura, for the links!:
  1. Why the Gay Teen on "Glee" drives me nuts... and makes me want to sing at the same time.
  2. Gay for Pay: What's Missing From the "Straight Actors Can Play Gay But Gay Actors Can't Play Straight Convincingly" Dust-Up

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Author Is Dead. (Not Literally. Though I Do Have Sore Arms.)

Here's something that happens to me all the time: someone expresses an opinion, and I have this feeling in my gut that I don't agree, but I can't figure out why not, or how to express it.

This is only one of the reasons I'm happy to have smart and articulate friends.

If you write or read fan fiction, or maybe even if you don't, you might have noticed the recent explosion of posts on the internets about the relationship between authors and fanfic, especially authors who don't want people writing fanfic about their characters. I've said before on this blog that I don't write fanfic. And I would never read fanfic about my own characters or worlds, for legal reasons and because it could interfere with my process. Please note that if you send fan fiction of my own books to me, I will not be able to read it!

But -- all that being said -- I like the concept of fanfic, and I'm glad people in the world are writing it. I've got no problem with fanfic writers writing about my characters, as long as I'm not reading it and as long as they're not making money off of it. The author is dead, you know? Once I put my characters out in the world, yeah, they're still mine, in the sense that I created them, they are my livelihood, and only I can decide what will happen to them officially in print, in the books I haven't yet published... but they're also yours to interact with and interpret, and if you want to write non-commercial fan fiction of my work, you're welcome to.

I'm going to link you to the post of an online buddy who wrote something recently about the relationship between fan fiction and literary criticism. When I read this post, I had an Aha! moment. "Aha! This is why there must be fan fiction!" After all, as authors, as book lovers, and as intelligent, curious explorers of the world, shouldn't we consider it a GOOD thing when people engage intellectually with our books? Check out fox1013's post here.

(Note: the links in that post no longer work because the author to whom fox1013 linked took down her original posts. Sorry about that! Also: if you're not a LiveJournal user, you'll get an "adult content notice" when you click on the link to fox1013's post. Just click on through. There is no inappropriate content in her post; this is a routine LJ thing. *growls at LJ*)


In other news: next week I'll be in Épinal, France for Imaginales, a book fair all about imaginary worlds in writing and illustration. I've updated my Appearance Schedule -- go there for details.

I am still on a blog break. Sort of. :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In Which I Am Neither on Twitter Nor on Facebook

Hi there. This is your friendly non-tweeting and non-Facebook-using author here. I was rather surprised to stumble upon a Twitter account in my name this weekend, and even more surprised to discover a Facebook page in my name. I expect there's an innocent explanation for both of these accounts, and I'm looking into it. In the meantime, I just wanted to make sure that everyone knows that those accounts are not me. In fact, my only online presence is this blog, so if you see me appearing in any other guise, then it's not me.

That is all.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Photos for a Thursday

In keeping with my blog break, here's a link from "The Big Picture," which tells news stories in photographs -- but I'll warn you that it might break your heart. It's photos of what BP's oil spill has done to the Gulf of Mexico. Some of them are gorgeous and all of them are depressing. Here's a preview photo for you. It's not one of the beautiful ones, but it's the one that made me furious. If you've been reading my blog for a long time, you might know why.

Thanks to my pal Jen for the link.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Popping in Again with Stuff and Things (and Orchids)

As you can see, I am very good at taking an enforced blogging break. Like last week's post, however, today's is mostly full of worthy links to other people's websites. Plus, orchid nonsense that has no relevance to anything.

Three things.

1. I'm a little behind the curve on this, but May 1 was BADD, or Blogging Against Disablism Day. What is disablism? It's discrimination against people based on a disability. That's an inadequate definition for something complex, really, so here's a short BADD post full of a whole bunch of powerful definitions for disablism. (Also, here's the wikipedia definition.) On BADD, people with and without disabilities blog about their experiences, observations, and thoughts about disablism. Here, at Diary of a Goldfish, you'll find an archive of posts from this year's BADD. To give you an example, here's a post on Rebecca Rabinowitz's fine blog. Also, here's Sarah Miller's reaction, which spoke to me as a writer in the world. And, relatedly (though not BADD-specific), here's a video I like that serves as a reminder that service dogs are working dogs, and for heavens sakes, we should please not pet, speak to, or otherwise distract them:

2. Writer Sandra McDonald is writing a series of posts at Diana Comet Presents on the topic of "75 Years of Fabulous Woman Writers." The first post, about Alice Mary Norton (you may know her as Andre Norton), was eye-opening. Why are so few female F/SF writers given the props they deserve?

3. If I'm sitting in my rocking chair and I look to the left, here's what I see:

Three of my orchids are flowering! THREE! (If you can't find the third one, look high.) And the thing at the far left that looks like a dead stick is another orchid that's growing new buds. The tallish thing just to the left of the corner is a dendrobium orchid that's growing a new shoot, so I have high hopes for that one, too.

There seems to be this idea out there in the world that orchids are difficult to care for. They're not. I water my orchids once a week, exactly the amount that makes me feel like I cannot possibly have watered them enough. I don't use fertilizer. I've never repotted them. I monitor their light, giving them full day-long daylight in the winter (that's not a lot of light, here in Massachusetts), but not opening the blinds until about 11 or 11:30 in the summer. (They sit in an east-facing window, and the light is too strong and direct until about 11 or 11:30 in summer.) When the flowers fall off, I don't do anything. They seem to like to reflower, or form new shoots, off of the old stem. Mostly, I'm patient, and careful not to overwater them. And, yes, every once in a while one of them dies completely. (I probably should have gone and got some medicine for the one that had mold all over the roots.) But they really aren't the hassle people think! Especially phalaenopsis orchids. In the photo above, there are 6 orchids. All but the dendrobium are phalaenopses. (I should probably have specified at the beginning of this paragraph that I've mostly been talking about phalaenopses. Though I do all the same things with my dendrobium.)

If you're buying an orchid, check that it has happy green leaves and also some happy green roots, and no fuzzy mold. (It's okay if it has dried-up roots, too, as long as it also has some plump, pale green roots.) And don't freak out! Don't be afraid to experiment. The world won't end if a couple of orchids don't make it as you learn how to care for them. It's normal for them not to flower much, if at all, during the cold and dark times of year. It's normal for them to take forever to do anything. They're so worth the wait!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog break.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Stepping in with Some Recommendations

I'm still on my blog break, but some things need to be shared. Have you ever read any Alice Munro? I'm not usually a short story reader, but Munro is one of those writers whose collections I can't put down. I just finished The View from Castle Rock, which was as good as a book can get. If you start it and find it's not the thing for you (too memoiry in feel?), try any of her other collections.

Also, the weekend's This American Life contained two segments that pretty much embodied everything I love about this radio show. The episode is called "Return to the Scene of the Crime," and the two segments were Mike Birbiglia's and Dan Savage's.

Follow this link to read more and to listen, but beware: This American Life is habit-forming!

And now, I will back away from the blog.