Sunday recs

Here are three stories I’ve read and enjoyed recently:

Selkie Stories Are for Losers, by Sofia Samatar: a gorgeous contemporary take on selkies.

The Flying Woman, by Meghan McCarron: a delightful atmosphere, an aching and haunting story.

And Their Lips Rang with the Sun, by Amal El-Mohtar: a lovely, poetic piece, strange in a good way and with a great narrative voice.

All three of these happen to be from Strange Horizons. What can I say? – they publish brilliant stories there.

* * *

And what of my own writing? Well, I just realised that I haven’t written any prose at all yet in 2013 (although I’ve written more than 15 poem drafts), so I should work on that soonish. There is that one novelette that needs to be finished and then edited; and I should edit the snail story. Also, there’s one burgeoning short story idea that I should get out at some point.

As for what’s left of today: I should clean my flat, do the dishes and various other useful household tasks. But earlier today I started a long poem – fragmentary, linguistic and deeply personal – and to be honest, I want to work on that more than I care about my home being spotless. I always care about writing more than cleaning.

But we’ll see. I’m tired enough now that it may be that my brain’s not in the mood for poetry any more. In which case, dishes and hoovering, perhaps some fiddle practice too. But first of all: tea.


Some links for this cold Sunday!

Story rec:

* Go and read Carmen Maria Machado’s amazing story Inventory at Strange Horizons. Note: it’s somewhat sexually explicit, just in case you want to read it at work or something. :D But a wonderful, gripping story.

Stuff I’ve been meaning to link for the past age:

* A great post by Kate Elliott about the male gaze in sf&f. (Incidentally, I recommend reading Kate Elliot’s Spiritwalker series – wonderful worldbuilding and great characters. I’m eagerly awaiting the next instalment.)

* A Magical Words post by David B. Coe about the impostor syndrome in writing. Magical Words is a great specfic writing blog that I regularly follow – lots of great posts about the craft and life as a writer. In this post, David B. Coe deals with something that’s all too familiar to perfectionist me: the “impostor syndrome”:

Impostor Syndrome is the belief among people who have accomplished something — anything — that their accomplishment is in some way a fluke, a mistake, or the result of a random act of charity from someone in a position to advance their career. It is the belief that, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, they do not belong, they have not truly earned their success. They are, this syndrome leads them to believe, impostors who are merely pretending to be skilled or talented. Any moment now, others will see through their deception, and they will be subjected to abject humiliation before being thrust back into the dim obscurity that they so obviously deserve.

I’m trying to get over the Impostor Syndrome. Most of the time, I can see myself as a “real writer” (and did even before I got published). After all, I write. But insecurity combined with perfectionism too often leads to the sort of questioning that David writes about in his post.

* Theodora Goss writes about writers and families: how the people closest to a writer relate to their writing. I’m going to take this moment to say: Dear family and other close ones, in case you happen to read this: even when I draw inspiration from a real person or event, it’s usually always fictionalised. Sometimes something that seems to be inspired by my real life is actually just my imagination. Sometimes something that seems imagined is actually real. Eh. This is all disjointed; I blame the weird allergic sniffles and sneezes I’ve been suffering from all day. Perhaps this: writing is writing; and I am me. Sara the writer is partly the same as Sara the person you have dinner with. We overlap, we’re the same person, but what the writer writes is certainly not always what the person thinks.

Was that confusing enough? :D

edit: Just found this amazing story in the form of footnotes: Footnotes, by C. C. Finlay. I love using non-narrative genres to convey a story. Also, ♥academia♥.


Lately I’ve been remembering my dreams quite vividly. They’ve been strange and powerful dreams, too, some of them. Those often tend to turn into poetry or inspire stories, if they’re adventure dreams. My latest dreams have been poetry inspiration. I’ll have to see if I can get the very latest (today’s) into a good enough shape to be able to read it at Friday’s writers’ group meeting. Vast landscapes, black sand, robots striding across the remote planet’s surface with giant’s legs… Powerful visual impressions and a feeling of desolation. How to convey these things in a poem?

One day I’ll get round to posting a couple of posts that I got the idea for many moons ago – posts that properly deal with writing, instead of random babble – but it is not this day. This day… is approaching tomorrow too fast. I should start preparing for bed, since tomorrow is really not a good day for feeling zombietastic at work. Tomorrow evening, though, I plan to make time for writing. More poetry submissions, perhaps (did some yesterday), or then continuing work on an old story that itches to be finished.

Poetry experiment

Am on sick leave today because the wretched remnants of illness still lingered this morning. My New Year’s Eve was spent with a fever; I was so out of it that I was extremely content to be alone, and toasted the new year with a cup of peppermint tea. I’ve been under the weather ever since. But since I feel okay right now (finally, an appetite and less nausea!) I’m hoping that I’ll be fully well again tomorrow.

Anyway. Due to being alone on NYE, I was able to start off the year with a poem. Nice. Wasn’t a good one, but it was good to write.

Today I’ve been trying to get back into a specfic-ish story (well, novelette, really) that I started back in December 2010. It’s got potential, I think. I need to finish the actual plot and then get to editing.

But so far I’ve been too tired and headachy to get into the novelette. Bleh. Instead I decided to do a poem challenge from Joseph Harker’s delightful blog (I’ve been reading through the archives. Damn, that man is a talented poet!).

The basic premise of this particular prompt is to create a little series of “poemlets”, like charms on a bracelet. See the original post for the full instructions. I chose seven of Joseph’s themes (childhood memory/linguistic beauty/keeping a secret/romantic encounter/discovering laughter/life goal/telling the future) and started playing. Here are the extra elements (quoted from his blog post):

first poemlet: mention your birthstone
second poemlet: use a word with three or more syllables
third poemlet: mention your zodiac sign
fourth poemlet: use at least three capital letters (“I” on its own, and the beginnings of lines, do not count)
fifth poemlet: pick a color and use at least two synonyms/varieties/shades of it
sixth poemlet: use as many different kinds of punctuation mark as you can
seventh poemlet: surprise us with something fancy!

Anyway, this is an experiment that I’m unlikely to end up submitting to be published, so I thought I’d share it with my readers. :)

[I would’ve wanted the roman numerals to be on the same level as the first line of each charmlet, with the rest of the stanza indented, but apparently that’s beyond my html skills and I’m too tired to figure it out now. So have this version, with the numerals above. /end perfectionism]

* * *


sticky summer, eating watermelon
by the bucketful, the richness
of it, like gobbling down
soft tourmalines

peeling back the centuries
to Caedmon’s hymn
I shiver
at the reconstructed sounds,
the stark vowels
humming down in my throat

Scorpios keep secrets well, they say.
Perhaps I do, although I toss
horoscopes down the drain.
After all, some secrets I kept
for years.

when I first met you,
and You, and YOu, and YOU,
my heart didn’t know
what wonders were ahead
on this winding road
leading downriver

That summer I learnt to laugh again.
The grass seemed greener
than heaven, as I sank down
onto the malachite bed
prepared for me
by nature –
that moss-fingered mother.

Oh – to struggle for it
and grasp it too! No fear
(no fear); just the blossoming woods
of my work: beauty written
down onto each petal…
dare I? dare I?

I could
reach down into my soul,
grasp a surety beyond the shoal
of slippery wishes, and see
my future before me –
if I could,

* * *