Posts Tagged ‘taos toolbox’

6/27/08: Taos aftershocks

I had a big list of things to do on Monday after getting back from Taos. It’s now Friday. How’d that happen?

We did attend a delightful lecture by Peter Schickele (of P.D.Q. Bach fame) on humor in music, and a performance of Avenue Q. I greatly enjoyed the latter, and I was particularly impressed with the performer for the puppets Kate Monster and Lucy The Slut. Not only did she play two vertices of a romantic triangle, sometimes both on stage at the same time, but she was visibly pregnant — not something the romantic lead could get away with in most shows.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I learned at Taos Toolbox. Although it wasn’t the life-changing experience that Clarion was, I did learn a few things…

The (unplanned) theme of the workshop seems to have been that one’s greatest strength often turns out to be one’s greatest weakness. This is true of characters (for example, the character who is most kind and trusting is taken advantage of by the bad guy) and of writers (for example, the writer whose dialog is the most natural and powerful is tempted to use it to paper over plot holes). For me, this strength and weakness is plotting — I am constantly amazed how much difficulty some writers have in figuring out what happens next (for me, it’s always inescapably obvious) but the downside is that my plots tend to push the characters around.

Beginnings are really, really important, because they set the reader’s expectations. For example, we read a YA novel excerpt which opened with the main character diligently sorting jelly beans by color. Many of us figured she was autistic, obsessive, or just preternaturally tidy, and assumed that this would be significant later on. But no — according to the author, it’s just what the character happened to be doing when the story started. The thing is, at the very beginning, a story has no forward momentum. It’s standing still, and from that point it could go in any direction with equal ease. The opening tells the reader which direction the story will be going, whether deliberately or not, and once the reader understands that direction it takes a substantial effort to redirect that momentum. A beginning that points the reader in the wrong direction can cause them to make incorrect assumptions that will make them throw the book at the wall later when the book doesn’t line up with their expectations.

Symbolism and foreshadowing are powerful tools, which I do not yet know how to use consciously. The opening of Casablanca, in which the viewer is prepared by the cinematography and the other characters’ reactions to understand how significant Rick is before Bogart even appears on screen, is one example of foreshadowing, but Nova uses it over much longer stretches of the book. Symbolism… it’s like radioactivity to me. It’s always present in the environment, I know that it is powerful and can be used safely if appropriate care is taken, but I’m afraid of it.

Too much dialog in works by beginning writers is “on the nose” — characters saying exactly what they mean. Dialog that is “indirect,” that is, in which the character doesn’t say what they mean or says something that could be interpreted in multiple ways, is more realistic and also increases the density of the prose (by, for example, imparting information and revealing the character’s emotional state at the same time). I use indirect dialog some of the time but I want to use this tool more effectively.

I am very fortunate to have a community of genre writers here in Portland. Most of the other people at Taos Toolbox lacked an in-person critique group back home, even the one from Los Angeles. I have an in-person critique group, a bunch of writers to hang out and write with at the coffee shop once a week, a semi-monthly authors’ lunch, and two local writers’ organizations, not to mention OryCon, Wordstock, and the Writers’ Dojo. I’m aware of two or three other in-person critique groups in Portland just for SF/Fantasy writers, not to mention the Wordos in Eugene.

Now I have two stories and a novel to revise. I hope to have both stories in the mail in the next couple of weeks, and the novel done and out the door by the end of August. This plan is complicated by the upcoming square dance convention (July 1-8), trip to Seattle for a Clarion West party (July 18), Launch Pad workshop (July 30 – August 5), Worldcon (August 6-11), and Farthing Party (August 28 – September 1).

Oh, and we will also be putting out an issue of Bento and continuing to plan a bathroom remodel during that time.

This is fun. Really it is. But next year we will not be traveling quite so much.

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.

6/18/08: Taos Toolbox, days 10-11: Some have broken under the strain of it

Two critiques Monday, a talk by Walter on characterization, and a talk on Kelly about some reasons that submissions get rejected, leading into a discussion of reversals, the proper use of cliches and stereotypes, and the use of accents and diction to indicate characters’ class. I did a couple of critiques in the afternoon… not quite sure where the time went. There was an exercise I was supposed to do, taking a personal anecdote and expanding it into a story, which I could not do because I couldn’t think of a single anecdote. I’m usually slopping over with anecdotes, but they are invariably triggered by something in the conversation… “hey, think of an anecdote” gets me nothing.

In the evening some of us watched Father Goose (1964, with Cary Grant). Movie night was a little underpopulated because lots of people were trying to complete stories or critiques.

Today we had three critiques, including my lesbian magic plumber story. It was very, very well received. There were some suggested improvements, including building up the growing love between the plumber and the undine, mentioning earlier that undines are incurable romantics, and changing the plumber’s ex (who shows up several times) into several separate exes to demonstrate the plumber’s previous personal history. A few people didn’t understand the references to Hawthorne and U-Hauls.

After that, Walter talked about worldbuilding. Walter’s special tip for creating a world: follow the money! If you understand who raises the food, how it is transported, where it changes hands, and how much it costs, you will have a much better sense of how your invented world works. Also: “Things are the way they are because they got that way.” What is the history of your world? Kelly then talked for a bit about the mainstream story “A Conversation with My Father” by Grace Paley, which I personally didn’t care for. In the afternoon some of us drove to Arroyo Seco, the nearest town, for coffee, gelato, french fries, and a little souvenir hunting (I didn’t find anything).

In the evening, most of us attended a round-robin traumatic reading of Micah (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter: Book 13) by Laurell K. Hamilton. We were able to read half the book (in which the main character takes a phone call, drives to the airport, talks with the FBI guys, checks into her hotel, and has sex — yes, that’s all she does in 140 pages), aloud, in only two hours. By explicit request, I read the infamous Chapter 6 using Charlie the Purple Giraffe’s voice for the character of Micah.

If we are lucky we will not be thrown out of the hotel in the morning.

6/16/08: Taos Toolbox, days 8-9: Magic, wizardry, and big dinners

Word count: 5830 | Since last entry: 2026

I should really be asleep right now, but I don’t want to get too far behind on the blogging.

Sunday was largely devoted to writing. I wrote 2000 words and did a couple of editing passes to complete what I am now prepared to call “the magical lesbian plumber story.” I like it. We’ll see what the rest of the gang thinks in a couple of days.

Sunday night Stephen R. Donaldson came to give a guest lecture. I thought we were only going to dinner, so I didn’t bring a computer or notebook. Fortunately, one of the other students agreed to share her notes with me. He talked about various forms of writer’s block and a variety of literary techniques. Interesting tidbit: he only works on one thing at a time, ever since he took a little time off to write a fantasy novella between books 3 and 4 of the Gap series. That effort drove so much of the Gap universe out of his head that, when he was halfway done with book 4 and proofread a copy of book 3, he discovered he’d completely forgotten half the plot threads from the earlier books. Never again, he swore.

We all went with Donaldson for a very nice dinner at the Apple Tree restaurant in Taos. He didn’t talk much at dinner, but just as we were getting up to go I asked him if he was familiar with Northrop Frye’s theory of modes. He was (he was working on a doctorate in English Lit when he stopped to write full-time), so I asked him to comment on my idea, which I had way back in high school, that Thomas Covenant is an Ironic character in a Romantic world. He replied that that’s a valid way of looking at it, but his original concept of Thomas Covenant was as the inverse of King Arthur: where Arthur was a perfect man brought down by imperfect people around him, he wanted Covenant to be an imperfect man raised up by perfect people around him. Glad I asked!

A full day of classes today: three manuscripts critiqued, a lecture on synopses, and another lecture on contracts. Right after class I had my one-on-one with Walter. I didn’t really have a lot of questions, but he did say that I am a “very talented writer” (gawrsh). I wish I had had a novel ready for this workshop, because we’re mostly focusing on novels, but novel #2 has already gotten plenty of feedback and novel #3… well, I don’t even know what novel #3 is going to be yet. But based on my conversation with Walter about how careers work, it should probably be SF rather than fantasy. Although I have a more fantasy ideas, it seems to be my SF stories that sell more consistently and attracts more critical attention.

We had only a couple of hours free in the afternoon, with two manuscripts to critique for tomorrow and a brief exercise to write (describe an office three times: from the perspective of a character whose mother has just died, a character who has just had a proposal of marriage accepted, and a character whose rival has just been promoted over his/her head).

After dinner (spare ribs and corn on the cob) we got together for readings and movie night. Everyone was asked to prepare a three-minute reading of their own work. They were all astonishingly good! Then the movie, which was Trouble in Paradise (1932). I had never even heard of this movie before, and the only actor I recognized was Edward Everett Horton (the narrator of Fractured Fairy Tales), but it was delightful.

After the movie, hot tub. We talked about agents and conventions and solved the problems of the world. And so to bed.

6/14/08: Taos Toolbox, days 6-7: Nellie Goes Spung!

Word count: 3804 | Since last entry: 3804

Friday morning we critiqued three stories, the last of the batch submitted before the workshop started. Four people have already turned in stories for next week, and the rest (including mine) are due by noon Monday.

Friday afternoon we engaged in a group plotting exercise, kind of like television or movie writers in a writers’ room. Starting with the concept of “steampunk to the stars!” we wound up with Nellie Bly, Oscar Wilde, and Prince Edward on a colony planet where alien celery (we never nailed down whether or not it was intelligent) gave women intense orgasms and caused mutations in their children. We also had some made-up characters, including a Doctor (the villain) who was an ex-lover of Nellie’s and a gay Archivist who was in love with her in male disguise. The “act outs,” or big finishes to each act, were as follows: Act I, Nellie’s true identity is revealed by the Doctor; Act II, Nellie has her first experience with the alien celery (see the title of this post); Act III, Nellie and the Archivist form a mutually satisfactory relationship with the alien celery, world is changed, happy ending. Very silly, yet educational.

The workshop fee includes basic food for breakfasts and lunches and a nice catered dinner on Monday through Thursday nights, but for Friday through Sunday dinner we’re on our own. This Friday, at Kelly Link’s suggestion, we had a progressive dinner in which each condo (we are divided into several two- and three-bedroom condos, each with a fully equipped kitchen) would prepare a course. It was fabulous. We wound up with an overwhelming amount of food, including a great Greek salad, gaspacho, fennel-carrot soup, stirfried beef with mushrooms and celery (that was me, and the rice turned out fine), and rhubarb-strawberry pie a la mode. Even the condo that consists of three guys who can’t cook produced a three-bean salad, with Kelly’s help.

After dinner I finally started drafting my week 2 story. For a variety of reasons I decided to use on a story idea I had a long time ago about a magical plumber who meets an undine. Yes, it’s a story all about water, it’s set in Portland, and I’m writing it in the desert. Go figure. I stayed up until 1am and got about a thousand words down.

I promised myself if I got to 3000 words before lunchtime today I’d allow myself to get out and do some touristing. I made 2300 words — close enough. Six of us went to Taos Pueblo, which claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the US (1000 years old). The guided tour emphasized how many awful things the white man has done to them (reserving greatest scorn for the Spanish who imposed Catholicism, and Roosevelt who turned their most sacred lands into a national recreational area), and yet St. Jerome’s Church is the central structure of the pueblo and the people are buried under crosses in the graveyard. They strike me as being like the Amish, but more extreme in their rejection of the white man’s technology and culture. Also, the Amish came here on purpose, while the pueblo dwellers were here first. Anyway, after that we hit Taos itself, a touristy little town, for lunch and a little shopping.

I’ve been writing pretty steadily since then, with a brief break for dinner, and I’m up to 3800 words (3400 if you don’t count the outline of the second half of the story that’s lurking at the bottom of the file). I’m stopping now because my brain has stopped working, but I anticipate I should be able to finish tomorrow without staying up too late.

Exterior view of Snakedance Condos

Our condo’s kitchen

Our living room — the spiral stair leads to my loft bedroom

6/12/08: Taos Toolbox, days 4-5: It’s Chinatown, Jake

Just got back from a group viewing of Chinatown. Walter pointed out how many aspects of the ending are foreshadowed, including the way Faye Dunaway’s head falls forward onto the horn. Creepy.

Yesterday my global-warming honor-killing unreliable-narrator second-person-present story was critiqued. Reviews were mixed. I was applauded for tackling such a difficult subject and technique, and the second-person-present narrator seems to have worked. But the murder was insufficiently motivated, the setting (which was praised) vanished in the second half, the husband was cardboard, and I was chided for turning the abused wife into a monster. Also, the twist ending didn’t work for most people, and the honor killing wasn’t really one (apparently real honor killings are community-motivated, not individual). It was sugggested that I rewrite the story without the twist ending, but I’m not sure there’s any plot at all without that… just despair. I will probably patch it up a bit and send it out, but I won’t make extensive changes and I won’t really expect it to sell. If it does sell, I guarantee some readers will hate it.

I remind myself that I deliberately challenged myself and risked failure; I appear to have succeeded. Or something like that. I have talked with Kelly Link about the exercise (and a number of other things, such as how to make the story I’m working on now weirder and more unique) and it’s been helpful. I’m still feeling a bit down. Though nowhere near as bad as I did at Clarion.

I have written over 3000 words of notes and outline on the next story, which I must turn in by Monday. It’s much more conventional in structure and style, but I’m trying to make it as rich and personal as I can. There’s also one voice trick I have in mind, which will require a little more research before I even know whether or not I’m going to attempt it. I’m going to be doing a lot of typing in the next 3 days. Also preparing a dish for a progressive dinner Friday night. I’ve never made rice before without a rice cooker, never mind at an altitude of 9200 feet. It would probably be a good idea to fix the rice in the afternoon, in case something goes wrong, and heat it up just before dinner.

Yesterday we went out around sunset to see the space station and space shuttle go by. They never did appear; either they were behind the mountains to the south or we were off by an hour on the time. Oh well.

We’ve had a talk by Walter on plot structures and techniques, and another talk from Kelly on how publishing works. Not much new for me there. Walter also gave us a detailed walk-through of the plot of Nova, showing that it was richer and more carefully structured than I thought it was. My first reading of the book came off as a very thin plot padded out with a bunch of unrelated incidents and infodumps, but rescued by a number of extremely cool scenes (like the party on the Ile de France, which reminded me a lot of The Stars My Destination). I missed most of the parallels, most of the foreshadowing, much of the symbolism, and the fact that the main character was black. I don’t fault myself for missing the implied homosexuality — the book was written in 1968 and it was really deeply coded.

We’ve also had a couple of brief exercises. One was to outline a published novel, find the turning point, change the turning point, and write a new outline from that point forward. I chose The Mote In God’s Eye, identified the turning point as the point at which MacArthur‘s sailing master deduces the existence of the Warrior caste, and wrote a new ending in which the humans do not learn about the threat and enter a trading agreement with the Moties. The Moties expand into human space, gradually building up their numbers and covertly breeding Warriors towards the point where they are powerful enough to decapitate the Empire. But Kutuzov, who never trusted the Moties, discovers and exposes their plan at the cost of his ship and his own life. Blaine, realizing he’s been played for a fool, assembles and then launches a massive attack on the Moties; he succeeds in destroying the Moties in human space, at a cost of billions of human lives. The remaining Moties, penned up in their home system with a massive Warrior breeding program already underway, immediately go to war with each other over the remaining resources. Due to the savagery of the combat and the addition of human technology to the equation, Motie civilization falls so hard that it may not ever rise again. The book ends with Blaine looking down on the devastated Motie homeworld and regretting that they were unable to overcome their own biology; he hopes that humans will be able to do better.

Mine wasn’t nearly as funny as the one that rewrote the last act of Romeo and Juliet with mass arrests and executions. Really. You had to have been there.

This afternoon I wanted to make sure to get out in the sunlight, because it is supposed to help one sleep (I’ve been waking up much earlier than I’d like to). I passed on the group hike, because it involved a river crossing and I don’t have the right shoes for that, but I did get out for a nice 20-minute walk by myself. The wind up here right now is amazing, roaring across the landscape picking up large quantities of dust. It feels like a storm’s blowing in, but so far there have been no clouds and no rain.

We’ve been warned that New Mexico is #1 in the USA for deaths by lightning. If the bears don’t get you first.

6/10/08: Taos Toolbox, day 3: Casablanca

I’m going to say right now that I don’t promise to blog every day.

Three critiques today. On one of them I was the only one who spoke about a particular issue that I thought was pretty serious. I must ponder the significance of this (there may be none). After critique, Kelly Link spoke about the economics of publishing. Much there that I already knew, but it was interesting to get it from the perspective of a small press publisher.

In the evening, a guided viewing of Casablanca which I found out I didn’t know as well as I thought I did. For example, I thought Peter Lorre had a much bigger part. Walter pointed out that most significant characters are prefigured before their first on-screen appearance (the long, long build-up to the first time we see Bogart’s face is delicious and shows you just how important he is). The young Bulgarian couple (for whom Bogart cheats at roulette) appear many times before their first significant appearance; their situation with Renard parallels and inverts Bogart’s situation with Ilsa and Victor. Victor’s super power is that he makes everyone who comes in contact with him a better human being. And the plane in the background during the final scene? Tiny cardboard mock-up, with midgets as aircrew. They just don’t make ’em like that anymore.

I should be writing now…

6/9/08: Taos Toolbox, day 2: Begin as you would continue

The first full day of classes began with a nice breakfast, though the butter wouldn’t melt on my English muffin right out of the toaster. I assume this is an effect of the altitude. Most meals are provided; I’m not sure what the options will be for Friday and Saturday’s dinners, which aren’t.

We convened in the lobby at 10am for opening remarks by Walter Jon Williams and Kelly Link and introductions all around, then jumped right in with critiques of two novel excerpts (everyone had to submit something for week 1 before the workshop started). Both works were of high general quality but interestingly flawed. The quality of the critiques was also quite high, with almost every one adding something interesting to the conversation. After lunch (I had cold leftover pizza from yesterday’s dinner, a rare indulgence) Walter gave us a brief lecture about Two Surefire Ways to Keep a Reader Reading.

In the afternoon Walter led a hike; Deborah Jacobs, Allen Moore, and I came along. (Many of the other students ran off to Taos to purchase supplies, but I think I have everything I need.) I was a bit nervous about tackling the exertion, after the way the altitude kicked my ass yesterday, but Walter promised a fairly easy hike and, indeed, I had no difficulty. It was almost entirely uphill, but not too steep, with crisp mountain air and gorgeous views.

We also met a very cute dachshund-chihuahua mix on the trail. We have been warned about the dangers of the local wildlife (Giardia! Hantavirus! Bubonic plague! Bears!) but this one seemed harmless enough.

I’m drinking Gatorade, taking lots of naps, and generally taking it easy. Lots of good, juicy conversations over meals, on the hike, and in the hall between sessions. So far so good.

Also: is blogging from Mexico! Go say hola.

6/9/08: Taos Toolbox, day 1: Clarion Deluxe, now with 50% less oxygen

Long day yesterday. Up at 5am, cab to the airport, uneventful flights to Albuquerque via SFO, picked up rental car, drove 130 miles to Taos Ski Valley. Some confusion over the various Taoses (Taos, Taos Pueblo, Taos Ski Valley, Taos Ski Valley Village) but we only got lost once.

Looks like a good bunch of people. As this is a “graduate-level” workshop, almost everyone here has attended Clarion or Odyssey or Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp or some such. It’s also an older crowd than my Clarion and Writers of the Future classes (for once I am not the Old Guy).

The accomodations are fabulous. I have a huge loft bedroom with a spectacular view, sharing a 3-bedroom 3-bath suite with Jerry Weinberg and Allen Moore (no, not that Alan Moore). The spiral stair is very keen but getting my humungous bag up to the loft was a trial, especially as I was suffering mightily from the altitude, with a wicked headache and dizziness verging on nausea.

I fell over hard at about 10pm, and after a good night’s sleep the symptoms are greatly reduced. I will strive to keep hydrated, avoid alcohol and caffeine for the first few days, and not overexert myself. First critiques at 10am today. Whee!