Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Owls and Cricket

It's entirely because of Neil Gaiman that I'm here at Clarion. Not just because I love his work (which I do), but because I only found out about Clarion through his blog. I had never heard of Clarion before, so when he mentioned that he was teaching, I followed the link and poked around the Clarion website and decided that this was a very cool thing and that I should apply, if only for the excuse to write two stories.

My supply of stories is very thin, and I didn't have any stories at all that fit the word limit for the application. So I wrote two new ones and had much fun. Thank you, Mr. Gaiman.

Neil is lovely, he really is. He is very kind and generous, with his time and thoughts, and he tells fantastic stories. He does these voices that are just hilarious. Some that I remember in particular: Harlan Ellison, William Shatner, and this wonderful, elderly librarian voice that made my stomach hurt from laughing too much.

Random reasons for happiness this week:

1. The cricket players and owls who arrived on Neil's first day.

2. The discussion of story, which broke all sorts of new holes in my head to let in more light.

3. Watching Liam McKean do breakdancing moves... The boy is a miniature Renaissance man and he can dance his feet off. I am such a fan.

4. A Saturday afternoon of NOT going to ComicCon and instead lounging about on the grass and getting lightly roasted while talking about radio plays.

5. Hearing about the Danse Macabre, the Mack-a-bray, in a chapter from The Graveyard Book which says, in a few sentences, what it feels like when you're really dancing, when it's going so well that you forget that you ever had to learn the steps.

6. Dancing until 3:30 in the morning to Neil's odd, and yet wonderfully appropriate, DJ-ing skills.

7. Getting picked up for a huge hug, which I've always felt are the best sort of hugs anyway.

8. Tea. Lots and lots of tea. The only way to survive critiquing SEVEN stories in one evening is to drink copious amounts of tea.

...And this is all on top of insightful and articulate teaching. Neil is very, very good at what he does, and he is able to articulate his thoughts about it, which is what makes for good teaching. He spots out the weaknesses in what you're doing now and points you towards other paths that you might not have noticed, but which you can explore, if you like, and find interesting things.

Some suggestions from Neil:
Angela Carter
Martin Millar
Gene Wolfe (Peace in particular)
"The Gardener" by Rudyard Kipling
Drowning By Numbers, a film by Peter Greenaway

I'll be missing him so much! Next up though are the wonderful Geoff Ryman and Nalo Hopkinson. Geoff has been around and he is very tall and very lovely. Nalo comes in later this evening and I can't wait to meet her.

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