but enough about you, here’s a bunch of stuff about me

My friend Suzanne Stefanec is writing a book about blogging called Dispatches From Blogistan. As part of writing that book she’s been interviewing all kinds of important internet luminaries with good intelligent things to say about blogging and the future of the web. So far she’s got Cory Doctorow and Jamais Cascio and Bruce Sterling and Craig Newmark and Denise Caruso…and, um, me. (I think I’m the comedy relief.)

The interview with me is up on Suzanne’s site now. I got kind of carried away writing it so before you click over you might want to go fix yourself a sandwich and a big cup of coffee first.

Actually if I can put down the sarcasm stick for just a second: this interview is some of the more personal writing I’ve ever done. It took a lot of time and thought for me just to answer the first question — I have told the story about how I got into computer books a lot of times, but I’ve never really explained why I stopped. That’s always been a hard story to tell. I told it here.

One of my goals for this blog for the future — and for my writing in general — is to try to be a more honest and open writer. Its something I’ve been particularly bad about here. I almost never post anything really personal, hiding behind humor and arguing to myself that someone who might hire me might read this blog and thus I shouldn’t be “unprofessional” (and yet just this morning I posted pictures of knitted internal organs… right.) I think I can’t be personal because I might embarass myself, or I might piss of someone close to me, or someone random might get offended and send me angry email. (I’m not so good with the angry email.)

And yet as I pointed out in the interview above my favourite blogs are the ones that tell good stories, that are well-written and interesting. The other common thread of many of them is that they are deeply personal. It gives them a strong emotional connection that I really admire.

It’s something I want to work on.

the things you find while wandering through wikipedia

pyrogymasmata, verb, the practice of setting fire to the balance bar.

No, no, alas, I misread it and the word is actually Progymnasmata. Wikipedia says:

Progymnasmata (Greek “fore-exercises”, Latin praeexercitamina) are rhetorical exercises gradually leading the student to familiarity with the elements of rhetoric, in preparation for their own practice speeches (gymnasmata, “exercises”) and ultimately their own orations.

The traditional course of rhetoric gave the progymnasmata in this order:

1. Fable
2. Narrative
3. Chreia
4. Proverb
5. Refutation
6. Confirmation
7. Commonplace
8. Encomium
9. Vituperation
10. Comparison
11. Impersonation
12. Description
13. Thesis
14. Defend or attack a law

Hm. I think I’ve made it up to anecdote (chreia) but not sure I’m so great at proverb or refutation (shouting “You’re WRONG” repeatedly doesn’t really count as refutation, does it). Yet another example of my ongoing failures as an english major. Flunked progynmasmata, became a technical writer. Ah well.

translation bots: always funny

iiyama USA display solutions

Who spends deferment of payment and several-day-long in front of the screen, its and puts value would like to as little as possible straineyes on optimal ergonomic tuning features, for example for the placing height.

Although modern LC displays in punkto efficiency keep up meanwhile loosely with simple tube monitors – the CRTs of the Highbrightness® series possesses advantages, which make her the first choice for computer players and Videofreaks.

Who enjoys e.g. DVD videos via PC or frequently (the majority of the 3D-Adventures and the 1st-Person-Shooter play in the twilight), without the superiority of the Highbrightness® devices any longer will not want zockt to do to Computergames with dark atmosphere.

This is the writer’s equivalent of bamboo under the fingernails. I do not want zockt to do with it.

(I got it from Geekward Ho.)

transmission, a short story

I’ve put a new short story called Transmission up on my main web site.

I wrote this story earlier this year after spending time with my cell phone carrier’s tech support line when my phone was behaving strangely. They told me to reboot my phone. Given that I work in high tech this should not have surprised me but the notion of rebooting the phone seemed kind of funny. (This was, of course, before I got my current phone which requires rebooting and debugging and virus scanning and and and….hooray for progress).

I put the story away after Strange Horizons said that funny futuristic tech support stories are way too much of a cliche and they never want to see any more. But then I dug it out again recently and thought well, it isn’t that bad. My cliches are your gain.


I wish I had time to read The New Yorker every week, because I usually discover terrific essays and articles that have appeared in it months and months after the issue has come and gone. Fortunately, TNY is online, so when someone tells me that “you should read that fabulous article that was in the new yorker a few months back about organic sheep’s milk cheesemaking methods in Northern Vermont…” (or whatever) usually I can find it.

Here’s an article from the June 14 and 21st issues of this year, called Blocked, by June Acocella, about the phenomenon of writer’s block (I can’t remember who told me to go find it, I’m sorry if it was you) .

This article is a great read, even if you aren’t a writer (of course I like it for obvious reasons). It not only discusses the strange psychological phenomenon of writer’s block itself, but also delves into the other reasons that writers stop writing: depression, alcoholism, and my own personal favourite: too much success.

It also includes many of the classic stories of writers who, frustratingly, seemed to do so well and then…didn’t: F Scott Fitzgerald is here, who wrote some of the best fiction of the twentieth century and then drank himself to death; Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird and then nothing else for the rest of her life (so far); and Jeffrey Eugenides, who wrote the Virgin Suicides and Middlesex — nine years apart, because he needed some distance and anonymity from the huge success of the first novel to write the second.

Check it out. And if you do find that cheesemaking article, I’d like to know about it.

on writing

it’s December 1st, and National Novel Writer’s Month is over. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, November is a month in which one is supposed to sign up to write 50,000 words of a novel. The novel doesn’t have to be good. It just has to be 50,000 words. Unbeknownst to absolutely everyone, I was doing it.

I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, as it is called, a few times before. I’ve always sucked atrociously. This year I was true to form: I sucked atrociously. But I sucked less this year than I did in previous years. I did 10,000 words this year, which is three times as many as I did the last time I tried nanowrimo and way more than my first attempt. And each year I do it I learn something important and something new about myself and how I write, so I consider that a good thing.

Amongst the things I learned this year were that not telling anyone was the right thing to do. I suffer from a malady one could call Expectation Fear. If I think too many people are expecting something from me, then I can’t do it. The first time I signed up for nanowrimo, I told everyone I knew I was doing it and got them all excited about it. They wanted to know all about my idea and told me it was fabulous and they wanted to read my novel as soon as I finished it — as soon as I finished each chapter, if possible. Could I post it to my web site? Could I send it out to an email list? When would the first chapter be ready? And so on November 1st I wrote 300 words, froze up, and then spent the remainder of the month drinking heavily. Eventually people stopped asking about it.

Related to Expectation Fear is the Internal Editor. The Internal Editor is a known problem with a lot of writers. You’ll be typing along madly and the Internal Editor will pop up in your head and say “that sentence runs on too long.” or “you are using too many adverbs.” or “your dialogue is wooden.” or, more generally: “you suck.” and then next thing you know you’re carefully crafting the same sentence over and over again for the next week. One thing writing 50,000 words in a month is supposed to do is get you past the Internal Editor because when you have to write 50,000 words, there just isn’t *time* to carefully craft every sentence.

I have a lot of trouble with the Internal Editor. I don’t finish a lot of stuff I start because of the Internal Editor. Sometimes I can keep the Internal Editor quiet and actually accomplish something by, yes, drinking heavily, and before you point it out to me I know all too well how much of a damned cliche the writer who drinks too much is. The second time I did nanowrimo I wrote about 3000 words before my Internal Editor told me my novel was so incredibly tedious I might as well stop now. So I did.

By not telling anyone I was actually doing any writing this last month, I found I could keep the Internal Editor quiet. The Internal Editor would pop up while I was writing and say “this is the stupidest thing you’ve ever written; you suck,” and I could spit back ha ha! No one knows I’m doing it! No one is ever going to read it! It doesn’t matter! Screw you, Internal Editor! And the Internal Editor would slink back off into whatever filthy brain cave he lives in when I’m not writing.

(As a side note, I know exactly who my Internal Editor is. He’s an instructor I had in college who subscribed to the “be vicious to your students” theory of teaching (the theory goes that if you write fiction professionally you will be abused every moment of your career so you should be abused while you are learning. This will weed out the weak). This particular instructor told me I would never amount to anything as a writer. For years now I’ve been wanting to send a copy of my Java book to him with a note that says “This book sold a zillion copies. Ha. Ha.” But being that he is my Internal Editor and I’ve been listening to him criticize me for the last eighteen years, I know he would just peer scornfully down at my book through his glasses and then scribble a note back to me that said “And how many copies of works of FICTION have you sold recently, Miss Lemay, hmmm? Any hack can write about computers. Real writers write fiction.” Now you know why I hate my Internal Editor. Now you know why I drink.)

Besides managing Expectation Fear and murdering the Internal Editor, however, probably the most important thing I learned this time around doing nanowrimo, is that it’s not actually writing unless it’s written down. Duh, you say. Well, it was non-obvious to me. Thanks to nanowrimo this month I realized that I spend a lot of time writing in my head. I think a lot about writing. I plan lots of writing that I’m going to do, down to actual sentences and description and dialog. But very often: I don’t. actually. write. anything. Sometimes I get bored with a story before I write it. Sometimes stories are harder to write than they were to think about. Sometimes I just have just bits and pieces of stuff that don’t make a story. Sometimes the Internal Editor comes along and that’s that.

And conversely, because I spend so much time thinking about writing, doing a novel has often felt like a huge unconquerable chasm of a thing, way beyond my capabilities, because I just can’t fit the whole thing into my head.

What my 10,000 words this year taught me is that I just have to do the work. I have to put the words down. Think less; write more. I have to stop trying to figure out if I can write a novel and just try. I have to stop worrying about readers and editors and whether or not I suck. I just have to write. Just write. Just write. Just write.

I hope not to wait until next November to put this insight to greater use.


@)(*#!! (@**@#&*@#(*!!!

I had this great post all composed about the differences between writing computer books and fiction, inspired bySimon’s post on the same subject. I had all these great metaphors about gardening and flinging yourself off a cliff naked and screaming. And then my weblog editor ate it. This is the third dedicated weblog editor I’ve used, and they all suck. Every single one of them! They suck! Argh!

That’s it, I’m going back to emacs. At least when emacs eats my writing I kind of expect it. Emacs is supposed to be hostile. I make adjustments.

Grumble. It was a good post.