My lovely wife Sarah has been working long and hard to bring a hostel to Richmond, and the fruits of her labor are starting to pay off. Michael Paul Williams did an extremely nice piece in the Times-Dispatch. Check it out: Planned Hostel Would Bring World to Richmond.
This has been a wonderful year for me, though not at all in the way I expected or hoped for, but that’s the way with good years, isn’t it? Â I had just finished one novel with promising prospects, and was into another I had high hopes for. Â The marketplace shrugged at both. Â I shrugged back.
Then I literally was called back to teaching fiction writing in February, receiving a call a few weeks into the semester asking if I would take over an advanced fiction writing class for an ailing colleague. Â I’m not sure how effective I was, but I had a great time and met some wonderful young writers. Â That led to a summer workshop and two in the fall, and another this spring. Â I want to thank my students for showing me a wonderful time. Â The experience has energized my short fiction as well. Â I don’t know the publication date yet, but I just sold a story to Lightspeed Magazine which was particularly gratifying because it’s a new, ambitious piece that represents the kind of work I most want to do now. Â Besides, Lightspeed is totally cool.
I’m looking forward to attending ICFA this year again in March and returning to Readercon in July. Â I’ve been asked about other events, but nothing is confirmed yet. Â Now that I have finally licked the muscle pain that plagued me for a couple of years, I can travel againâ€”not to mention sit comfortably for a panel discussion.
About that pain. Â I had made the rounds of physical therapists, acupuncturists, spinal injections, etc., and though it would get better for a while, it would always come roaring back. Â Finally, my new cardiologist asked if I’d tried going off statins. Â I was taking Crestor at the time. Â I had, but had had the idea nixed by other medical professionals. Â When I quit, the results were dramatic. Â Within a few weeks of being off the statins, my pain steadily retreated. Â As I have stated elsewhere, I also changed my diet in response to my heart ailments instead of dosing it and I feel infinitely better.
Another reason this has been a great year is yoga. Â I have always hated any kind of exercise classes. Â It was only through Sarah’s persistent suggestion (some would say nagging) that I gave it a try. Â (Thank you, Sarah). Â When I found a really good instructor, Viktoriya Kosta, I quickly became hooked. Â Mind and body both are better for it. Â Namaste, Viktoriya.
I’ve started another novelâ€”I can’t help myselfâ€”and I have a half-dozen stories in various stages of completion. Â For the first time in years, there are no doctor’s appointments looming in my future. Â Sarah, Ethel, and I plan on lots of walks to the river. Â Life is good on Maplewood. Â I like 2013 already.
As anyone who knows my fiction knows, I love the James River running through the heart of the city, the most frequently recurring character in my fiction. Seems now that we’re getting the attention we deserve. Check out Outside magazine’s Best River Towns in America, and guess which city tops the list!
A couple of intense summer classes and the last-minute assignment of a graduate workshop starting Tuesday have left me too busy to blog, but I’ve been having a blast. Â The summer workshop was unbelievably good. A couple were so goodÂ I invited them to take the graduate workshop, and one has taken me up on the offer. I’ve met most of the members of the graduate workshop, and they are a smart, energetic, committed group. Â I can’t wait. Â Twenty-five years after moving to Richmond to take the VCU graduate fiction workshop, I’m teaching it. Â Not a bad way to celebrate my 65th birthday. Â Besides Medicare, of course.
I received a mailer from a cleaning company the other day with the slogan, Life’s Too Short to Clean Your Own HomeÂ®Â It sort of spoke to me.Â At my age, a cancer and heart attack survivor, the brevity of life is a real attention getter.Â I didn’t feel a great need to extend my life by foregoing housecleaning.Â I rather enjoy it sometimes, sweeping up dog fur and so forth, but with this heart healthy high fiber diet I’m on, sometimes I feel like I could use someone to wipe my bum for me, but I suppose we all end up there if we stick around long enough, and there’s no sense rushing things.Â After all, life’s too short.
But I did get to wondering if the women cleaning my home would suffer twice the life shortening effects of housecleaning by cleaning their own homes and mine too.Â I guess I could refinish the basement, put a little apartment down there, so they’d only be cleaning one home.Â This being a southern city, there’s already a toilet down there for the help.Â Sort of like Downton Abbey.Â It could be a real opportunity for someone.Â I could post flyers on the trees as I hike through some of the more obscure reaches of the Jamesâ€”Life’s Too Short to Be Homeless.Â Catchy, don’t you think?Â First, I’d need to get that toilet fixed, but life’s too short for that.Â Besides, plumbers cost a fortune.
I just read Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo, and I was completely enchanted.Â At first I was reminded of Amos Tutuola, but Lord brings much more to the narrative table than reworked folktale.Â Funny, wise, and cleverly constructed, this novel is a delightful antidote to the excess of urban fantasies whose heroines possess the ethical sensibilities of paid assassins.Â Karen Lord packs more skilled storytelling in this 188 page novel than most wheezy trilogies can crank out in a 1000.Â I loved it!
While thinking about my literary influences for Wilderness for a class I’ve been asked to teach on the novel, I thought of Timothy Tiger, about which I was deeply passionate at 4.Â The influence on my work is clear:
Timothy was a dear little tidy tiger who did not have a mother.Â He lived all by himself in the Great Big Jungle.Â What he wanted most of all, was someone who could cuddle him and play with him and purr him to sleep every night.Â So one day Timothy set out in search of a motherâ€¦
Canada Geese in Byrd Park
I’m moved by their dawn song, though I’ve grown to hate them,
a flapping, crapping infestation,
a non-migratory shit machine.
Still I’m a sucker for the splash
of their landing in the morning mists
upon the lake built to be so lovely in the 20’s
for man and goose alike. Only it’s
winter, guys, you’re not supposed to be here,
with more and more all the time,
a hazard to every water hazard,
destroyer of US Airways Flight 1549.
So where do you guys get off sounding so sublime?
Hired border collies roust you from the shit-slick promenade,
but still you keep coming back, determined. These are
your darkest days. The temptation must be strong to fly.
That must be what I hear in your song that moves meâ€”
That longing to be birds again and fly the whole world round.
Hang in there. It’s Sunday.
Your pals with the Wonder Bread will be round shortly,
their chubby eager children, churning through the slime.
Among the books I’ve read recently was the fine novel, Flanders, by Patricia Anthony, which I missed when it first came out in 1998. I was delighted to find it still in print from Berkley. She is one of my favorite sf writers, especially Happy Policeman and Brother Termite. The fantastic element here is ghostly and understated, but it is hands down the best novel I’ve ever read about World War I, a pitch perfect epistolary novel about a Texas sharpshooter in the trenches. I loved this book.Â If you’re weary of hip noirish steampunk mushrooms, give Flanders a try.Â It will break your heart.