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Neile Graham
This went out today to those who either emotionally or financially sponsor my Clarion West write-a-thon commitment. If you want to see the full poem, please send me a message here or through facebook or my email to let me know, or you can sponsor my efforts financially through my write-a-thon page by donating to Clarion West there.

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Hey, all--

Thank you so much for your support during the Clarion West Write-a-thon.

Ellen Datlow, famed editor of horror, SF, and fantasy was the instructor for our final week. The students were exhausted, but she helped inspire them and gave them even more to think about when they're working on their stories. The flow of the instructors worked really well, even if it changed from our original line-up. The students seem really happy with their time here.

It was very sad to pack up everything and watch the house empty of students, one by one. That is the hardest thing: since they come from so many different places--São Paulo, Singapore, Mumbai, Oxford, Halifax, Orlando--it's very unlikely that all 18 students will be in the same place again at the same time. But it can get close--11 of last year's 18 students attended this year's final party so I'm going to focus on the possibilities of seeing them all again. This is one reason to be grateful for social media. I miss them all, but that helps.

Myself, I'm poised to launch into novel revision frenzy, with a goal of completing a new draft in September before work gets too busy with orientation. I hope to make it because I have other projects I want to get to.

I'm embarrassed to say that I wrote this week's poem in class while the students were having their final critique session. This poem is for them.

Thank you once again for your support. I wouldn't have done any of this work without knowing I was accountable to you.

Love,

--Neile

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The Sense of Beginning

We swallow our secrets, choke down
longing's endless summer distances.
It's the season of everything fruiting
the amplitude of apricots, pulchritude of plums
of peaches, cherries—oh, the ambition
of the season...

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If you want to see the rest of the poem, please let me know by email, messaging, or Write-a-thon sponsorship (see link at the top of this message).
 
 
Neile Graham
This went out today to those who either emotionally or financially sponsor my Clarion West write-a-thon commitment. If you want to see the full poem, please send me a message here or through facebook or my email to let me know you want to support me, or you can sponsor my efforts financially through my write-a-thon page by donating to Clarion West there.

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Hey, all--

Thank you once again for your support here at the time-delayed version of the Clarion West Write-a-thon. I'm almost on time this week!

Samuel R. Delany was our fifth week instructor. This is the third time I've been with him in the classroom, and each time I'm struck both by how warm and delightful he is--and how brilliant. The students had another challenging, fun week.

Still no hands-on fiction work but I've been doing some planning for this major revision of The Empty City, which I hope and believe will stop me getting so stuck on each sentence as I was this spring when I first started working on it.

My poem this week is about St. Kilda, a small group of isolated and now-abandoned islands off the west coast of Scotland. For thousands of years the population there scraped a living off the islands, mostly by means of the vast populations of wild seabirds, but by the 1930s too many had left the islands and their lifestyle was no longer sustainable. The remaining people were all moved to the mainland. The islands are now a bird and cultural sanctuary and still very difficult to reach because of the wild seas and weather. I've been haunted by the story of these islands since I first heard it.

Thank you again for your support.

Love,

--Neile

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St. Kilda's

They stitched their clothes with feathers.
They hitched themselves unwinged
over the cliff-side dripping with guano
for the harvest of birds.
Gannets and guillemots and gulls,
fulmars, snipe, bonxies, plovers and puffins
and the pterodactyl skuas
fastening them to the ground
and to gray bounds of both sea and sky.
Trusting their lives not to slip.

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If you want to see the rest of the poem, please let me know by email, messaging, or Write-a-thon sponsorship (see link at the top of this message).
 
 
Neile Graham
This went out today to those who either emotionally or financially sponsor my Clarion West write-a-thon commitment. If you want to see the full poem, please send me a message here or through facebook or my email to let me know you want to support me, or you can sponsor my efforts financially through my write-a-thon page by donating to Clarion West there.

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Hey, all--

Thank you once again for your support here at the time-delayed version of the Clarion West Write-a-thon.

The fourth week of the workshop continued to be wonderful. Margo Lanagan is a sharp reader and teaches by example. She taught the students all kinds of subtleties about showing character through action and continued the lovely routine of reading the students bedtime stories, which made me jealous but I did get to hear one of them.

Oh, and we finally played Thing! One of the students died the Best Death Ever.

I've realized that for some reason (time, tiredness, and being over-committed mostly, I think) I'm not getting down to fiction the way I normally manage to during the workshop. There's stuff going on in my head about my novels but I'm not engaging well with the actual words. I've been doing this long enough to know that sometimes that's just how it works for me; however, I'm just disappointed that it's happening now during the Write-a-thon.

Still, I do have a poem for this week. It's a little didactic, so forgive me for that. I hope you like it anyway--especially since it means I did produce some words this week. It comes from this amazing place I saw years ago on the Orkneys, Tomb of the Eagles, and from thinking about mortuary poles, a kind of totem pole with elevated burials. It made me all philosophical. Ah well.

Thank you again for supporting my writing and for supporting the Clarion West Writing Workshop, without which I might be able to produce timely reports, but not the actual writing.

Love,

--Neile

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On the Excarnations of the Gods

The rush of water pushes time, eating the shore
and exposing it, tugging the bodies of stones
back and forth across unmarked lines
of life and death, time and tide. Sometimes
they gasp in the air and sometimes lie
under clear and peaceful blankets
measured in fathoms
measured in beats
of hearts

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If you want to see the rest of the poem, please let me know by email, messaging, or Write-a-thon sponsorship (see link at the top of this message).
 
 
Neile Graham
This went out today to those who either emotionally or financially sponsor my Clarion West write-a-thon commitment. If you want to see the full poem, please send me a message here or through facebook or my email to let me know you want to support me, or you can sponsor my efforts financially through my write-a-thon page by donating to Clarion West there.

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Hey, all--

Thank you again for your support here at the time-delayed version of the Clarion West Write-a-thon.

Obviously, I'm still in catch-up mode, but the good news is that my hard-drive replacement/restoration was clean, and I didn't lose anything except time. Yay, Time Machine!

Joe Hill was a delight. He's full of energy and an excellent teacher and sharp critiquer with lots of smart things to say about writing. It made for another powerful week at the workshop.

Hard to believe that with his departure, the workshop is half over already!

This week I didn't meet my fiction goal in the usual way--having my main machine with my current project out of commission for most of the week meant that I didn't have access to my current project. However, I read through parts and thought about parts, put some bits and tricks together, and had a revelation about The Road Between's resolution, which is worth more than gold to me.

This week's poem is from feeling a little at sea. And it's for Karen, because she understands and is always buoying me up.

Thank you again for supporting my writing and supporting the Clarion West Writing Workshop, without which I might be able to produce timely reports on time, but not the actual writing.

Love,

--Neile

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The Sea Roads

Here in my coat of skin I look down into the water, watch one sky leave
taking with it the rain. Another sky

follows close behind, deep in that clouded water where I am a shade
embodied, flesh-garbed and sailing

the sea-rumpled sky...

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If you want to see the rest of the poem, please let me know by email, messaging, or Write-a-thon sponsorship (see link at the top of this message).
 
 
Neile Graham
This went out today to those who either emotionally or financially sponsor my Clarion West write-a-thon commitment. If you want to see the full poem, please send me a message here or through facebook or my email to let me know you want to support me, or you can sponsor my efforts financially through my write-a-thon page by donating to Clarion West there.

Hey, all--

Thank you again for your past and present support of me, and of Clarion West.

This wasn't supposed to be late. In fact, it was ready to send just a day after my belated first week report. However, while I was writing this, the hard drive on my main computer decided that it was tired and had served long enough. Replacing and restoring everything took days which I could not spare. Luckily, it was easy. Just slow.

Having Neil Gaiman teach this week was such an eye-opening experience. I had something of a idea of the intensity of being rockstar writer from working with George R. R. Martin at the workshop last year, but since Neil was on book tour and doing a signing, I had the chance to see him interact with his fans. For hours. And hours. He is impressively there in the moment for the people who wait in long lines to have that brief time with him. He's there, and he's listening.

He's also the most charismatic and generous person I've been around in a while, and I was impressed to see how he uses those powers for good. He was also an impressive teacher, so the students had a great, if intense, week.

Again, chunks of time were rare, and my writing time was in bits, but because I had supporters and sponsors I made myself take advantage of those moments. Several members of last year's class were kind enough to give me comments on the first chapter of The Road Between, so I made some revisions, including lopping off a kind of prelude, which had been necessary in earlier drafts but because of other recent revisions no longer was. Buh-bye. Then some tightening and shaping followed.

I have a little more to go before I load it back up on my kindle app on my iPad to see it afresh and get back to the second draft of The Empty City.

This week's poem comes from me losing one of my favourite earrings, made by a jeweler from Orkney. The design is called the Finnish beast, and though I still have one, I really miss having the pair. Hope you like this beast.

Thank you again for supporting my writing--and for supporting Clarion West, which inspires so much of my writing.

Love,

--Neile

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The God of Lost Things

Is a small beast with a body of Celtic knots. Ears twitching
soft as a doe's.
Lively-eyed, narrow-eyed. His hunting nose is long and
wide, wide open.

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If you want too see the rest of the poem, please let me know by contacting me or donating following the instructions at the top of this message.
 
 
Neile Graham
This went out today to those who either emotionally or financially sponsor my Clarion West write-a-thon commitment. If you want to see the full poem, please send me a message here or through facebook or my email to let me know you want to support me, or you can sponsor my efforts financially through my write-a-thon page by donating to Clarion West there.

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Hey, all--

Thank you so much for your past and present support of me, and of Clarion West. I apologize that this is so very, very late. It's not just that things have been so busy (though they have), but also that this week's poem is a birthday present for my husband, Jim, and his birthday wasn't until this Saturday, July 6th. He's also a sponsor, and I didn't want to give it to him before the day because I like to make a fuss on his birthday (even though he'd rather I didn't).

It's thanks to supporters and sponsors that I wrote anything the first week of the workshop. Writing would not have happened had I not had this commitment.

My writing time was in bits: fifteen minutes here, a half-hour there, mostly because of losing expected time and grabbing other time when I had it. I'm certain it adds up to at least my seven-hour promise, but lost track of the pieces along the way, and was a day late with the first draft of the poem.

The fiction I had intended to work on (and did, a little) is my novel, The Empty City, which needs a second draft. See my write-a-thon page to read the opening of the novel, should you wish to.

However, I have once again been distracted by re-reading the early chapters of The Road Between, my Gypsy Davey novel, and with much despair realized that the beginning wasn't quite right.

I wound up spending much of the week on it, but I'm very happy with the work I did.

The first week of the workshop, guided by the brilliant and amazing Elizabeth Hand and enhanced by cogent, eye-opening comments by writer and critic John Clute, was a wonder. The students had a great week and it was terrific watching Liz and John work with them. This is an intense and accomplished group with tons of promise and I'm enjoying getting to know them all and am honoured to be helping this workshop happen for them.

As I mentioned, this week's poem draft is a birthday present for Jim. It was also sparked by a comment from a student about books she loved that I misunderstood, which sent me looking for a book called The Summoning Spell. I was astonished to find that there is no book with that title. Someone needs to write that.

When I began I thought that was the title for this poem, but that shifted once the first draft was completed when I was driving Neil Gaiman to an appointment and had some time to kill before picking him up. On the way there we were talking about climate (as one does in Seattle when the weather is un-Northwest-like hot) and he was saying how he's used to the British (and *usual* Northwest-like climate) while his wife prefers the heat. So this poem is also for them.

Thank you again for supporting my writing. And for supporting Clarion West, which inspires so much of my writing.

Love,

--Neile

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Summering Spell

Come layer of prickle-sweat masking faces
Come the trickle into hollows, down the spine
sharpening each body's scent--

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If you want too see the rest of the poem, please let me know by following the instructions at the top of this message.
 
 
Neile Graham
31 May 2013 @ 07:24 pm
Haven't been writing journal entries, though. Not totally sure why, except this has been an exceedingly demanding year. It wanted a lot of me.

So tomorrow is June, which is the month another Clarion West workshop begins. So, yes, I'm busy. Getting ready for the workshop (only three more weeks), trying to wrap up my U of WA projects by the end of the academic year (only two more weeks), writing, reading.

Also, tomorrow being June means that today was my grandmother June's birthday. Were she still among us, she would have been either 109 (her count) or 113 (the world's count). Not sure why shaving four years off her life made a difference to her, but at some point it did and she stuck to it. We didn't find out until after she died that she'd been doing that. We also found out a whole lot of other things but that's family stuff and of little interest to anyone but us so I won't go there.

But here, let me show you my grandmother, so you can see why despite her eccentricities about age, she inspired me (as she was clearly inspired by Isadora Duncan):

June_1919

and here's my poem about that photograph.

My Grandmother's Photograph



The wind tonight is not quite spring but holds
a fragrant hint of soil, and blind shoots
wake to that scent.
                             In gusts at once warm and cool
there is no room for bare feet or women like white birds
in Grecian gowns. It's not yet May and sixty-five years
have spun by. She's dead, who in this photograph presses
naked feet against grass, raises arms to dance,
a white shawl drifting like feathers from her hands.
She knows nothing yet. Her confidence, tender
as a bird's.
                  I can't trust the web spun between us
to bind her, it's stretched over so many years.
Looking at this girl, I wonder how much I would explain to her,
how I could warn her that her first child will be still-born.
Defying the doctor to conceive another, she'll take a pin
to the French safe he made her husband wear. Her daughter
will bear me and I will remember her old in the mahogany bed
lying in regal darkness at the curving hall's end,
never dreaming of this white-gowned girl with waist-long hair
stepping into the history of her life

and mine. The wind pushing through her to me
is fecund with dreams and mud and doesn't tie us. Each movement
I make toward her is another step in her dance, another breath
of wind pressing her forward into the season.
                                                                         I remember gathering
her sweeping hair into a widow's bun. Her hair still dark as
distance, yet light as birds and the girl I create of her.

 





Copyright © Neile Graham, 1994.
Previously published in Spells for Clear Vision and Dandelion.


 
 
Neile Graham
18 November 2012 @ 07:15 pm
A month ago I wrote myself this email, but I thought I'd copy it here to remind myself (and get it out of my inbox). Note that I rarely remember my dreams.

Last night I dreamt of the most beautiful islands. They were enchanted.
The colours of the landscape were so beautiful they were almost surreal.

I was on a ferry headed toward them, then I got separated from the people
I was with and had to run around looking for them and it became a more
normal dream. But those islands!
 
 
Neile Graham
Hey, all--

It's over. So soon. I'm missing this year's students, and having trouble adjusting to the fact that the 100%-writing-enabling time of my year is already done. It feels like we just started. There are still a few things to wrap up, including a sorority house's worth of pillows piled up on my bed so I can be sure they're totally dry before I pack them up, but that's all.

I managed just the bare minimum seven hours unplugged working on the novel this week. The main excuse for not managing more time was (as I mentioned in last week's report) that I spent a few days days fighting off a bad cold--the first time in the twelve years I've been working with the workshop that I got sick. It meant that I missed a day in the workshop and worst of all, I missed Chuck Palahnuik's reading, which I heard was wonderful and included flying tigers. Flying tigers! Damn.

I am pleased with the novel progress I made--it's moving along rather than trudging right now, which feels good. I'm just at the cusp of one of the big, fun plot events, so it's good to know where I'm going. All the weirdnesses of my protagonist's experience thus far are coming to a head.

This week's poem is a glosa, which is a poem where you take four lines from another poet's work, and build your own poem around them, using each of the four lines for the last of a ten-line stanza. There are also end rhymes on the 6th, 9th, and 10th lines. I've had these four lines from Orkney poet George Mackay Brown in a file for a couple of years, waiting for the right moment to strike me, and when I opened file on Wednesday, this poem spilled right in. I hope you enjoy it.

Thank you all again so much for your support of me and of Clarion West!

Love,

--Neile

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The Lark, The Peat, The Star, and Our Time

And a lark flashed a needle across the west
And we spread a thousand peats
Between one summer star
And the black chaos of fire at the earth's centre.
—George Mackay Brown

It was the year when there was no summer,
when it hid under banks of rain, ducked
behind fog, dashing across the street
in front of us, rolling under a car and out
the other side, its face flashing in a side mirror,
flirting for our notice, as though it were a test
of our worthiness. We weren't. Worthy that is.

...

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[The full text of the poem is available to anyone who sponsors me in the Clarion West Write-a-thon or who cheers me on.]
 
 
Neile Graham
Hey, all--

Thank you again for supporting both me and Clarion West.

This was a wonderful, totally packed week. We had the incredible Kelly Link and Gavin Grant team teaching as writers/editors, and they brought along their lovely daughter, Ursula, and Kelly's delightful mother, Annie. It was great, but oh so busy.

So busy that for the first time ever, and most inconveniently, I have gotten sick during the workshop. Just a bad cold with a slight fever, but today I missed class and will likely be missing tonight's reading because I don't want to subject people to my charming sound effects when they're trying to listen to Chuck Palahniuk.

This means I will miss not only Chuck's reading (boo!), but the public announcement about next year's line-up. Sigh.

Because of all the busy, once again I barely managed to complete my seven hours offline. I made some progress, and the beginning of the novel is starting to feel solid. Better yet, I'm beginning to feel my way into forthcoming events, so the shadow of the novel-to-come is taking shape. Yay!

However, the poem I was working on for this week stalled out entirely. It sat there sullenly with five not-very-exciting lines until I gave up on it for now.

At the last minute I asked Jim for a number between 1 and 20. He said 14. So I went to my Child's Ballads, opened up #14, and took every 14th word from all the variant versions printed there. I stirred those words with a big stick and this is what I came up with...first draft, remember? Maybe the first word of the title is a clue to the poem, though it's the title of the ballad the words come from.

Babylon; Or, The Bonnie Banks of Fordie

fair Marjorie was an outlyer and went by the knife
but John the ploughman He taen her for life
there from his house she took her stand
"will ye rather me stand by Whan
...

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[The full text of the poem is available to anyone who sponsors me in the Clarion West Write-a-thon or who cheers me on.]