Archive for June 22nd, 2008

6/22/08: Taos Toolbox, days 12-14 and wrap-up

On Thursday we had three critiques and Walter talked about magic (magic is the violation of natural law by human will; it can only be used by certain people or in a certain spiritual state; if anyone can do it by following a formula it’s really a technology) and aliens (Hegel said that you define yourself in regard to other people, e.g. the definition of Me is that I am not The Other; Sartre said that if another person views the same landscape as me, in some ways every object in the landscape is shared between me and The Other).

Thursday afternoon we found that nobody could get online. The hotel’s wireless servers were providing a signal but not an IP address. A few of us, depending on location, were able to get an intermittent and weak connection from an open network nearby, but it was rarely enough to download an entire web page. I finally gave up and used my phone to check my email. That worked okay, but when I sent a reply and Cc’d myself, I got a bounce: my mail to myself had failed because my mailbox was full. Argh!

It was time for dinner. I couldn’t get online. I knew that anyone trying to send me mail was failing. And I had no way to correct the situation.

I went down to dinner (steak night!), where someone told me that the convenience store had a pay Internet terminal. It was working, though it was a terribly slow Windows 95 machine, and I was able to get on and delete a few very large and replaceable emails from my inbox. That fixed the mail bouncing problems, for a few days at least, and because it took me less than two minutes I wasn’t even charged. I felt much better and enjoyed my dinner.

After dinner we got together and watched Cloverfield. I was leery of it, because I’d had some motion sickness problems when I saw it in the theatre, but someone said he hadn’t had any problems watching it on video, and indeed it was no problem at all. Though the characters were equally stupid on the small screen. Also, though I looked as carefully as I could in the very last shot (and we watched it a couple of times), I was never able to spot the meteor which you can supposedly see descending.

Friday was the last day of classes. We had two critiques and Kelly talked about the Young Adult market (including picture books, easy readers, and middle grades). As near as I can tell, the only significant difference these days between a YA novel and an adult novel is that a YA novel is shorter (50-60,000 words) and has a young protagonist (typically 15+ years old). The only firm rules in YA seem to be: don’t be boring, and no bestiality (but there are a few exceptions to the latter rule). After that we had a general Q and A, where Walter and Kelly answered questions about pacing, person and tense, and challenges. Mostly, though, we sat like a bunch of clubbed seals.

We had a couple of options in the afternoon: a trip to town and a mountain hike. I chose to stay home, pack, and write up my requested evaluation. These didn’t take nearly as long as I’d expected, and the Internet was still down, so I found myself reading email on my phone and wishing I’d gone out. That’s when the thunder crashed and hail started rattling the windows. The hikers came back a while later, shivering, and immediately hit the hot tub.

Friday night we all went out to dinner at a fancy Bavarian restaurant, located a mile and a half further up the mountain on a scary dirt road (posted “four-wheel drive only”). I really have to wonder who their customers are, especially during the summer, but the food was good; I had sauerbraten with spaetzele and rotkohl. We presented Walter and Kelly with gifts and certificates of appreciation. Then we all came home and gathered in one of the condos to finish off the wine, beer, pie, and ice cream. Eventually the group dwindled down to just a few, dishing industry gossip, which was great fun but I fell over around midnight.

Woke up too early this morning. Nobody was around: they had all either left already or weren’t up yet. I ate breakfast alone, took my bag to the car, sat around for a while looking at the place the workshop used to be. Very sad. Still no Internet. Eventually Walter came by and I helped him pack his stuff out to the car. A few other people did come by for goodbyes, then we (meaning me and two other people whose flights were at about the same time) hit the road. It was a little earlier than planned but there was nothing to do here and we figured we’d make use of the free wireless at the airport.

Three hours’ drive and a nice lunch later, we arrived at the airport. Our flight was delayed, and delayed again… my traveling companion will almost certainly miss his connection, but I have a three-hour layover in Denver so it’s no crisis for me. But there was no Internet! Argh! I had a good strong signal and was able to get a connection and an IP address, but no web pages. Pinging the router whose address was provided by DHCP gave the error “Host is down” or nothing at all. I tried manually configuring a few other likely addresses, but that didn’t help. Weirdly, a few other people were online. My guess is that they got on before the router went down, and are working with cached DNS data.

So I sat in the gate and wrote this, to be posted later…

…and, it’s later. I’m in Denver. I found a cheap, quick, fairly healthy dinner at Itza Wrap, and DIA now has free (ad-supported) wifi. But the ads on the free wifi prevented me from using FTP, so I could check my email and such but couldn’t update this blog.

…and, it’s later still. The plane from Denver to PDX pulled out of the gate right on time… and then someone a few rows behind me was violently ill. The plane returned to the gate, paramedics took her off, and then a clean-up crew had to be called. We finally left DIA an hour late and I got home about 1am Sunday.


Anyway… that was Taos Toolbox. In some ways it was like another two weeks of Clarion, but with better accomodations and less oxygen. I didn’t learn as much as I did at Clarion (not too surprising, as I’m starting from a much more experienced place), but I did learn some new things, especially about novel-writing, and I think I had more fun. I made some keen new friends, some of whom I would label as Writers To Watch (at the risk of alienating those not mentioned, I’ll say that the two whose writing impressed me the most were Will McIntosh and Deborah Roggie). I wrote two new stories, one of which was risky and experimental and may not be publishable, the other of which was much more like my usual and came out really well. I probably gained a lot of weight.

It’s been a workshop. Now it’s good to be home.