Dream of the Dolphin
Confessions of a Post-Graduate Pity Whore
It's A Small World...Christmases at the Hostel are funny times. We get so many donations that they end up getting crammed into our basement office, so Ahmed, Barbara and I are stuck navigating through a maze of stacked boxes and bags. It's kind of like having our own little fort.
But somewhere, in this vast mass of donations, something is playing "It's a Small World". We don't know what it is. We don't know where it is. We don't know when the batteries are going to run down, but so far they show no sign of doing it. People come down to get stuff from the fridge, and leave singing or humming it. It's a conspiracy to drive us all mad. MAD!
Oh well. At least it's better than the small disembodied voice that was crying "that's grEAAAT!!" at random intervals from somewhere in the vicinity of Ahmed's desk before the holidays...
( 1:04 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
The Stork ManI'm standing in the doorway of a library -- the kind with all the gilt-embossed, leather-bound books lining the walls. Across from me is a huge fireplace, next to which is a table with books scattered across it.
He stands at the table, reaching for a book. His neck and torso are no wider around than my wrist -- I could circle them with my thumb and middle finger. His limbs are even thinner, about the diameter of a broom handle, and much, much too long, but his head is the normal size, or perhaps a bit too large. He is hunched over, bent in a curve, as though the weight of his head is too much for that slender body and is pulling it over. The book is in his hand, fingers as long as my forearm and tipped in claws the length of my fingers turning a page.
His head is facing the book, so he is in profile to me. I can't see much of his face -- his hair hangs past his shoulders in long stringy segments, sort of like Ian McKellan's in LotR, only with more brown, and somewhat dirty. It hangs in his face, obscuring his profile, but jutting past it is the top half of a long, narrow beak, as long as my arm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, and wickedly sharp.
Then the tableau begins to move. As I realize that the air coming from the fireplace is cold, his head turns toward me. I can't see how the beak is attached to his face, but his eyes behind the thick, dark-framed glasses he wears are enormous, and they meet mine...
THIS is what happens when I get insomnia. I lie in bed, my mind not wanting to sleep even though my body is exhausted. My mind starts running through things -- one hyperactive corner of my brain is singing and dancing (last night it was the frelling Sears jingle), another is busily reliving favourite scenes from books I've read recently, another is happily composing new scenes for my books, and the one section of my brain on standby, the one that's supposed to be sleeping, starts getting visited by these odd visions like the stork-man, just two- or three-second clips of scenes so twisted and bizzarre they'd be right at home in a Lewis Carrol book, which swim briefly into my awarness before vanishing when I try to reach for them.
Sometimes I just don't get the way my mind works.
( 10:24 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Insomnia SucksI don't get it! Before the mono, it only happened a couple times a month, but since the mono, it happens almost every night! Even on the days I DON'T spend asleep!
( 2:59 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Unexpected ComplicationsSo, what with all the Christmas rush and hubbub, I've roused the mono. It turns out it was only sleeping. When I pissed it off, it raised its head and said "exCUSE me! I said you were better, I didn't say you were well", and promptly hit me. Hard.
I'm all right, I just spent most of yesterday and today asleep. Which complicates matters of New Year's. See, usually Alexandra has a party in the city, but because she's working a nasty FT job, she can't this year. I thought I could go to my parents' as a fallback, but because of the mono wham, I can't now. Travelling for more than half-an-hour by car or bus is hard on me at the best of times -- trying to do it now, when I can't even take Gravol and I'm physically exhausted to boot, would kill me. So, I'm stuck in this big house, alone, for New Year's Eve.
Which is when I decided, screw it. Whenever I need company, I go to Holly's anyway, so I'm going to spend New Year's Eve in chat, with whoever else ended up planless, working on my story, not exerting myself physically, and having a much better time than I would at a party with a bunch of strangers.
So there, universe. :oP
( 12:22 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Friday, December 28, 2001
Dear God, it's earlyIt's early. Sooo early. Not even light out yet. I have to get up to get to Union to meet my Mum, who has my bag, with the ID and keys and such in it, that I left at home when I came back from the holidays. Let it never be said that stupidity is harmless. Ohhhhhhhh.....
( 7:31 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Thursday, December 27, 2001
A Very Merry ChristmasIt was, all said and done, a very good Christmas. Neither parent was a major health risk, my sib and I were home together with no fighting either between us or with the parents, and I got to see my best friend (usually kept apart by distance and a profound lack of transportation). A few surprises came my way as well -- seeing Nick for the first time in ages, a copy of Jon Anderson's "Three Ships" (after the formative influence of Legend on me when I was a kid, Three Ships is my favourite Christmas album, long ago thought lost), and a few more interesting things that warmed me in ways I can't describe.
Some things were not quite as they should have been -- Granny is more like a lost child every time I see her, my cousin is heading dangerously close to troubled teen territory, and the cat knocked the tree over, but I was determined to enjoy myself this time, and I did. It really made me take stock of the things I'm grateful for.
1. My family -- I complain, and they're not perfect, but I love them dearly and I'm glad they're all healthy.
2. My friends -- They know me, they care about me, and damn, do we have fun when we're together.
3. Holly and the community -- Jen found one of my old stories when she was cleaning, and I can't believe how much my writing has grown and matured since finding her page, and it sounds a little sadistic, but every time I hear I've made someone cry with my writing, I get chills. My writing actually has the power to move people now, and I owe a lot of that to Holly. Besides which, I love the support and companionship of everybody there. We have some truly great people among us.
4. My fairy godmother -- Okay, so she fits into friend category as well, but she's gone above and beyond to help me out and keep my head above water these past three months, and there really were times when her support was the only thing keeping me from giving up and hiding in bed until June. Getting to know her was, I think, one of the true highlights of my year.
5. Variel -- The characters who take on a life of their own are the best, and Variel is at the top. He's the character against which all others are measured, and although I'll never have any idea what convoluted corner of my mind created him, I'm so very, very glad it did.
6. Toronto -- Again, I may complain, but I really do love my city, and I came to realize this year that I'm happily Canadian.
7. Rick Wilber, Sheila Williams, and the Asimov Award -- More doors have been opened to me because of them than I can keep track of, and they should be very proud of what they're doing for aspiring writers.
8. Health and Food -- after losing both for nearly three months, I'm very, very glad to have them back (for the most part).
9. Good books and movies -- I don't know if it's because I'm a storyteller myself, but well told stories, be they books or movies, make me really really happy. Harry Potter, Monsters Inc., War for the Oaks, Shockball, Summers at Castle Auburn, Courage of Falcons, and LotR were just a few this year that went a long way to really cheering up my day.
10. Snow -- yes, I know, it's silly, but when it started snowing on Christmas Eve, I got all fuzzy inside. Christmas should be white, and even though it just BARELY scraped by, it was. It made me happy. Sometimes all it takes are the little things.
( 7:01 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Tuesday, December 25, 2001
( 12:25 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Monday, December 24, 2001
Sheila's blog is making me hungry...
( 5:43 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Okay, to clarify and put the angry messages I've been getting to rest, I'm fully aware that it's the thought that counts -- my point was, if the thought is going to count, you should probably put thought into it. I'm perfectly happy with dreadful gifts if I know the person really, really, honestly thought I'd like it -- that's why I still wear Katie's Horrid Plastic Bracelet.
In happier news, I've discovered that finding out I've made someone cry (in the good way), is a really great present. Both of the people to whom I dedicated the Christmas Story (No, Nick, for the last time, it has nothing to do thematically with Christmas!) cried when they got it. I'm a happy girl. I live for moments like this. :o)
( 4:01 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Sunday, December 23, 2001
Got the tree up yesterday night. Took me till 3am (cause I had to wait for the grandparents to leave), but I did it. I really am a Christmas nazi. I'm serious. Some artists work in oil or clay, my medium is tree. The family has learned to leave me alone while I do the tree, and they're quite pleased with the results. Dad refused to let me decorate the front hall (if I have my way, it looks like an elf exploded), but I did manage to get the angels with respective bead chains up on the mirrors, and I put lights on the ficus in the living room (he said not to decorate the hall). He grumbled about it, but left them alone.
Went and saw Lord of the Rings again today, with the parents, and it was still absolutely incredible. I frequently get called a heretic or worse when I admit I didn't like the book, but the movie fixed everything I didn't like about it (the dry prose and the complete inability to connect to any character, save Sam and Gollum -- I'm a very character-oriented reader/writer, and if I don't care about the characters, I don't like the book. Period.). Dad and I both came out weeping. It actually HURTS when you need to sob loudly, but are trying to be considerate for the other people in the theatre. The movie is absolutely perfect. If you haven't seen it, do so, and for the love of God, DON'T take any small children. And I'm still blown away by the use of CGI. Jen (my friend-who-wants-to-be-a-director) and I are constantly annoyed by the rampant overuse of CGI (are you listening, George?), and there was one point in LotR that was an "I'm animating this on a computer" moment, but that was completely overshadowed by the CGI manipulation of the main characters. THere are some scenes in which the characters who have been CGI shrunk (the hobbits and Gimli) interact with the others that still have me and my brother staring. It's absolutely seamless. You stop trying to figure it out after Bilbo takes Gandalf's hat, and just sit back for the ride. That is how CGI should be used.
Tami came by after the movie to drop off my Christmas and birthday presents (she, being another late December baby, is one of the few people besides my parents who make a point of NOT wrapping birthday presents in Christmas paper. Unless you happen to be Jesus, birthday presents in Christmas paper just wrong). It really hammers home who knowsyou and who doesn't. I've been named Queen of Presents because I'm really good at picking presents for my friends and family (my sib is vying for my crown with my Christmas present, but we'll see), but Tami is pretty good at it too. Case in point: one of my aunts, who hasn't really talked to me since my cousin Katie was born and I stopped being "the cute niece", bought me a Disney Birthday snow globe that plays When You Wish Upon A Star. Bear in mind, my shelves are overflowing with knick-knacks that she's given me over the years (many of which I see when passing the porcelain Jesus store in the city). I've kept the box, since it is limited edition 100th birthday, since it may be worth something someday. In my Dad's words, "you'd better have a daughter." Tami, on the other hand, gave me things that prove she really knows me. She had her Dad download and bind the books from Sheila's site for me (she knows reading from the computer hurts my eyes), she gave me a beautiful fairy garden plaque, for when I have the faerie garden I'm always nattering about. She did pull a Shannon and leave the Christmas present at home (she brought her niece's by accident), but I'm pretty sure the rest will be the same. I managed to retain my crown with her -- she got a CD she's been dying for for years, a hairclip she's now in love with, a copy of War for the Oaks (I guarantee she's going to love it -- watch the blog), and a new, very special copy if the annual Christmas Story, which is dedicated in part to her, and made her cry. Her expression when she saw it was absolutely priceless. Each present got a jaw-drop out of her (except War for the Oaks, because she doesn't know she loves it yet, but she was excited, since I've been raving about it for ages). I take that to be a pretty good sign.
That's one of the things I love best about Christmas. Not just giving presents, but giving presents that say to a person, "hey, look, I know you." It gets harder every year, but so far, the crown is still mine. I just wish it looked like Galadriel's..... :o)
( 9:44 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Saturday, December 22, 2001
My birthday trip to the hairdressers lead to a bit of a revalation about writing (yes, I do metaphysical thinking at the hairdresser).
Jenny, one of my hairdresser's assistants and a girl I used to tutor way back when in elementary school. She spent the whole haircut sweeping around my chair and asking to hear about Jory's song. It made me think about the whole mentoring thing. I didn't consider myself in any position to do it, on account of my current "I'm lost in a wheat field in Saskatchewan" feeling about life (that was in the blog that Bessie sacrificed to the cyber gods). But what Jenny made me realize is that sure, I may be unsure of what I'm doing, but I'm a hell of a lot farther than a lot of people I know.
It's like climbing a mountain. The people I look to may not be at the top of the mountain, but they're farther than I am. And I'm farther than the people below me. It doesn't really matter where you are in the chain, because you're still in a position to reach down to the person below you and give them a hand up to the next ledge. Okay, so I'm feeling like I've slipped down a crevasse in the mountain, so I don't even know where the top IS, save that it's up, and have no idea which way to go to get there. But I'm still better off than the person who slipped on the patch of ice at the bottom of the crevasse and is now lying flat on his back, and I've got my hook in the wall, so I can help him up without falling any farther (and I'm going to stop this metaphor right now before the rhetoric police come after me again).
( 3:41 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
I hate it when I can't get into Forward Motion. I feel like I'm standing on the stoop in the snow and can't get my front door key to work.
( 3:19 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Friday, December 21, 2001
Hey, it's midnight! I'm twenty-three!
( 12:14 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
It's times like this that I really believe in the power of names.
Sometimes, nothing I can do will make a character work until I find his or her name. Variel was like that. Variel, who was Astar in the first incarnation, Griffin, was pretty flat and boring. Then I changed his name to Variel. He gave me a look, shoved me aside, and took over. He started writing himself.
Sealach was like that. Sealach is Fiona's mentor, previously mentioned in this blog. She's been called Jane, Lily, Aria, Kylen, Vera, and counless other things, but she never actually came to life. She just sat on my bed, reading Cosmo (yes, she reads Cosmo -- she finds it unbearably funny), and occasionally giving me the same look Variel used to. Then, one day, it came to me. Sheila. Which is what she calls herself while in Toronto because people either pronounce it "see-lock" or "see-latch" (the actual pronunciation is something like "shaaaay-lahh"), or nearly bring up a lung trying to pronounce it "the Irish way". As soon as I hit upon it, she put down the Cosmo, said "it's about time, step aside kid", shoved me away from the computer, and started writing herself. Her first encounter with Fiona (who is REALLY hard to write in the pre-Allison days) came out as an exercise that made me happy. Sealach is no longer a two dimensional character. Sealach has come out to play.
( 12:11 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Tuesday, December 18, 2001
I got to do a great exercise today. It was really good to discover that the mono hasn't atrophied my brain completely. Man, I haven't had this much fun since Variel went to the bank. Actually, checking the date on that, it was almost exactly a year ago. Maybe I cycle into these moods on an annual basis...
( 9:42 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
An explanation of why Emily is not a fridge:
Late in chat last night, I was complaining about Bessie's belligerence (if you don't know who Bessie is, you obviously haven't been reading the blog), and Emily (my roommate) was in the room as it was happening. I ended up mentioning her, and the chat went:
"Emily? Is that the toaster?" (I can't remember who this was)
"No, George is the toaster. Emily is the fridge." (I know that one was Holly)
So now my computer is Old Bessie, the printer is Gunter, the fridge is Emily (not to be confused with the roommate, Emily-not-the-fridge, who had so much fun she joined the community), the toaster is George, and the VCR, for reasons I can't even follow anymore, is Ellen Datlow.
It was, hands down, the funniest chat I've been in. I love this community.
( 4:23 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Life goes in swells. Things go well, things go badly. Another one of my relatives just went into surgery to get an unidentified tumor removed from her lung. She made it through okay, and I've decided not to worry about anything until they figure out what it was.
Elysium continues to surprise me. I forgot my disk yesterday, so instead of starting on chapter three (which required the plotting notes), I wrote chapter twelve-or-so, a seen I've been wanting to write for a while. I thought, "let's just get it out of my head", and ended up with an entire pretty cool chapter. I've decided I really like Gavin and Mari. Elysium is a little different from what I've done before. It's still a fantasy (actually a retelling of a fairy-tale -- the identity of the original doesn't really come clear till the end), but there's less "fantastic" elements in it. Don't get me wrong, Variel is still my favourite character ever, but Elysium is a little more challenging. Because there's not so much fantastic stuff to carry the story, the characters have to do it, so they have to be really strong or it's not going to work. So far, Mari takes the lead and Gavin rises to meet her.
I can't wait to see where they end up.
( 1:23 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Sunday, December 16, 2001
The Canada Council for the Arts is a wonderful institution that has funded the work of some of the great Canadian writers. I, in my innocence, thought that perhaps I could look into a grant to fund my new computer, or a travel grant for the ICFA (travel grants are offered to collect awards) and use my Lightner Grant to fund Old Bessie's replacement. Right.
As it turns out, they offer the grants to help increase the number of professional Canadian writers -- by offering them to professional Canadian writers. Which means I can't apply until I sell one novel or four short stories. How's that for motivation?
Crossing my fingers that Old Bessie lasts at least until I finish Elysium. She damn near had a stroke when I told her to tell Gunter (the large, slow, printer with communication issues, a funny voice, and a definite unawareness of anything that's going on) to print the 47 page Savage Beast manuscript. Gunter, funnily enough, made it through without a stroke of his own, for once.
( 1:29 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
( 1:19 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Saturday, December 15, 2001
My computer is terminally ill.
I've been living in denial for a while now, but I can't turn a blind eye any longer. I can't say I'm totally surprised -- it's an 8 year old, thirdhand Toshiba laptop on extensive life support. The only original part of the laptop I use anymore is the CPU -- I've got a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and disk drive plugged into it.
It worked fine for a while, but it's about 110 in computer years and showing its age. It can't run more that one application at a time now, can't run audio or video files at all, takes two minutes to download a page with high speed internet (I don't even want to get into what it was like with dial-up), frequently gives my printer a stroke, crashes more often than Mars probes, and trying to chat is now hit-or-miss.
It's been a good little computer, but it's time to retire. The problem is, I have no way of replacing it. The two months of mono meant a lot of work missed, and since I only work 6 hours a day, which is technically part-time, I don't get sick pay. So the days I missed were full days of wages lost, and for those two months, when I DID work, I could only work three hours a day. It's really showing in my bank account. Turns out Nick hadn't cashed my November rent, just did it Tuesday, and I'm looking at my balance trying to figure out what happened. I'm frantically trying to squeeze in all the hours I can, with hopes that I can scrape January's rent together. Funding a new computer is completely out of the question now. I still can't bring myself to regret buying Mari's necklace, but I really wish it hadn't cost so much.
If there was one thing that I know I'd never get that I really wish I'd find under the tree anyway, it's a new computer. I hadn't realized how computer dependent I am until the old boy began to die. I'm thinking that maybe this not getting into grad school isn't so bad, because there's no way I can make it through without a functional computer, and it's going to be quite some time before I can save up enough to get a new one (I could probably replace it with a more affordable model, but if I have to get a new one, I want a good one that'll last me a good few years).
I'm frantically backing up everything of value, but I hope I'll get some warning when the old boy's ready to kick off for good.
( 1:16 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Wednesday, December 12, 2001
There is a large bit of the story in Elysium revolving around a certain piece of jewelry given to Mari by Gavin. Yesterday, I found it.
I was wandering around Yonge Street when the magpie in me (there's a lot of it) was drawn to Cat's Cradle (If anyone ever wanted to know where my characters shop, it's there). And as I was drifting through the store admiring the sparkling things, it jumped out at me. Mari's necklace. In perfect detail, exactly as I had imagined it.
Of course, I had to buy it, there was no question about that. The universe owed it to me. It cost far too much ($75, though the guy was nice enough to take pity on me because of my bad month and not charge tax), but it's worth it to see the expressions on people's faces when they see it. And it makes me very happy. It's Mari's necklace, for crying out loud!
Well, look at it this way, I finally have an heirloom to pass on to my grandchildren. :o)
( 9:57 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Monday, December 10, 2001
After a ridiculous amount of shopping (may do more tonight), I'm feeling better. And writing what is essentially "A Very Kichani Christmas" helped too. I miss Kayla and Variel. The story's not great, but it's them, which is really all that matters. The story is essentially Kayla wanting to be with family for the holidays, which kinda came out of me wanting to be with them. They can still make me laugh.
( 2:43 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Sunday, December 09, 2001
Letting an extremely depressed girl loose in a big mall selling machine-washable, flattering sweaters is extremely dangerous. But damn, my sweaters look good.
( 4:47 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Friday, December 07, 2001
Dear God, I'm depressed.
I mean, the universe can't give me one break? Sure, things were going great. I'm actually eating again, and my stories made it off to the Asimov Award on time. Jory's Song actually ended up working in the edits at the last minute, and turned out well. I still hate it because it's been plaguing me for seven months, but it's good.
But then, I come home today to find two pieces of mail for me. Thin mail. From the university graduate department. Very thin mail.
My plans for the future have always been kinda nebulous, but it's always been "I'll worry about it in two years, after grad school." Well, I'm not going to grad school.
They rejected my NSERC application, and since Universities with marine mammal programs are not, as a rule, wealthy, there's no way to fund my grad work. Hence, profs won't touch me with a ten foot pole. I don't get it. I slaved my ass off to pull my GPA up after my 3.0 standing in first year to graduate with high distinction, come in at the top of my classes, win a truckload of awards, get a job supervising students in a lab, and still the university rejects my NSERC application. It never even made it to NSERC. It got killed by the University review board.
This is hitting me hard. Very hard. I wanted this. I REALLY wanted this. I know that I'll probably figure something out when I've had time to calm down and think, but all I want to do now is have a good cry.
And if anybody calls this a sign that I'm supposed to go into publishing, I'm going to kick them in the shins.
( 11:54 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Sunday, December 02, 2001
My roommate doesn't know how close he came to losing his hand today.
The hunger came back. With a vengeance. One minute I was my usual un-hungry self, and then the next, BAM! Chinese food. The smell was everywhere -- N. and A. had ordered in for themselves from Garlic Pepper. And my God, nine days of not eating hit me in a cumulative blow. It was so bad, I wanted to cry. It got so bad that I actually had to run upstairs and beg Emily to go out and get me food (she's on shopping strike since certain roommates-who-shall-remain-nameless didn't hold up their end of the bargain and cook for her, so there's NO food in the house). She did, wonderful brilliant roommate that she is, but while she was out, N. sauntered into the living room with his plate of mu-shu and proceeded to consume it (loudly) in the chair next to me (anyone raised with the kind of parents and grandparents insistent of impeccable table manners knows how irritating chewing with the mouth open can be). I finally understand the kind of primitive drive that causes people to kill for food because I was entertaining some seriously gryphonic thoughts of attacking him for his food.
Of course, I'm hideously sick again and really regretting the food Emily brought, but my God, was it good to eat again.
( 11:44 PM ) Sarah Jane ~