Dream of the Dolphin
Confessions of a Post-Graduate Pity Whore
For JenStopped by Jen's Dairy today, and she mentioned a poem that I wrote in high school, when I'm pretty sure I was suffering from major depression. I do remember that there were very few nights I didn't spend crying. It's a piece of high school poetry and the quality reflects that -- it was the age of much hormones and not so much artistic ability. So here, for Jen, is the depressing high school poem she's talking about:
There is a mask I wear.
I have borne it since I was a child.
It looks a lot like me, this mask;
It has my face, my nose, my eyes,
But the painted face is smiling.
I like the mask I wear,
Though I have long forgotten why.
I thought it protected me, this mask;
When I donned it, neither actions nor words
Had the strength to hurt me.
But they tried.
I need the mask I wear,
Though its protection comes at a price.
It has a frozen, smiling mouth, this mask;
No matter how loud I call,
It stops me from being heard.
I pay the price of silence.
I tire of the mask I wear.
It seals my true self in.
It lets nothing through, this mask;
Though sometimes a single tear
Escapes the prison of its sightless eyes.
I want to be free.
I dislike the mask I wear.
It does not protect me as it ought.
I want it off, this mask;
It grows heavier with each passing day.
It is a terrible burden to bear.
But I bear it.
I fear the mask I wear
But I cannot take it off.
It is held in place by chains, this mask;
Chains forged link by link, stronger every year,
By the tireless hands of loneliness, sorrow, and fear.
Their work is very strong.
I hate the mask I wear
And I strike it to get it off.
It is lined with cracks, this mask
Though the sharp edges of the shattered face
Let blood through now, as well as tears.
I cannot get it off.
There is a mask I wear.
It becomes more painful every day.
Even if I could remove it, no-one would want to see me.
It has cut and scarred my face, this mask;
Though it still resembles me,
The shattered face keeps smiling.
The face is always smiling.
Help me to be free again.
The face will not stop smiling.
--Copyright 1997, Sarah Jane Elliott
( 10:22 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Happy Easter?So I did manage to make it home for a cameo easter appearance (worked at the lab till 4, went home, had dinner, was back at the lab by 3 today). It was a strange experience.
First off, the Grandparents were over (they get traded off between my parents and my aunt and uncle for dinners now), and the mood was already heavy -- they'd just found out about the Queen Mum and were watching the endless reporting and retrospectives on CBC. But it was my Grandmother that really threw me. I've watched the Altzheimers get worse each time I visit home, but it was really bad this time. She's so lost now, and all I can do is stand helplessly by and watch. I don't know what to do or say or how to act, so I ignore it. I know, it's a horrible thing to do, but I have no idea how to cope with this. So I don't.
And my poor sibling is having a horrible day. He dropped his monitor when he was carrying it back into his room and cracked the circuit board, and he has even less money than I do. He doesn't want the parents to pay for it (they offered), so I suggested he let them pay and then pay them back when he gets a job this summer. He would, but he doesn't want to settle for the kind of monitor my parents can afford (the same reason that I have my beautiful monitor). I offered to pay for half, but he said no. He also nearly electrocuted himself when he opened it up to discover the problem (static shock). I felt so bad I took him out for bento, and then we went to see Ice Age, which cheered him up.
And now, for no particular reason, here are my Three Guilty Pleasures:
1. Food -- And even though the podiatrist says I'm fat, I don't really overindulge -- typical meal is salad and pita with hummus. But I really look forward to it.
2. Jewelry -- I was a magpie in a former life.
3. Chocolate -- No, this doesn't go with food. Any true chocoholic knows that chocolate is not a food, it's an experience.
And yes, I'm aware that Farscape is not on this list, but that's because it's not a guilty pleasure -- there is absolutely no guilt involved with a show like Farscape. It's a great show.
( 9:39 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Thursday, March 28, 2002
Warning! Warning! Serious thought ahead!So I've been thinking about WHY I want to go to Clarion so bad.
What it boils down to is this. There are two kinds of SpecFic I can see -- the serious, thoughtful, structured, commentary kind, and the freer, character-driven kind. I don't see these as better or worse than the other -- I see them as different genres in which I can write. I can do the latter. I could use Clarion to help me with the former.
Here's what it boils down to:
"Museum" SpecFic is the high, cerebral kind that wins craploads of awards and everybody signs out of libraries to read so that they can say they have, but only the serious scholarly types like to buy. These pieces I see, collectively, as a museum. They're full of breathtaking, beautiful pieces of art. In many cases, they're extremely fragile and tampering with them may damage the effect. In these types of stories, the form and structure of the prose is every bit as important as the story they tell. But because of that, there is a distance. The stories sit behind velvet ropes. You want to see them, want to create them every so often, in order to expand your horizons and see what a true master can accomplish, but you can't get too close to them.
This is a place that can broaden your mind if you visit occasionally. But you don't want to live there. Too long in a museum and it gets cold, lonely, and a little creepy. Trust me, I know. Especially when everybody else has gone home.
And that brings us to:
"Comfy Couch" SpecFic is the kind that is told as a story, plain and simple, without much mucking about in prose. These are the comfort books. The battered, dog-eared copies lining everyones shelf that keep us company when we're sick, or waking from a nightmare. They are the ones we turn to when overwhelmed by the museum, to soothe our troubled and oversaturated souls. There are no ropes -- these stories become a part of your world, and the characters in them part of your family, curled up beside you on the couch. This is where you want to spend most of your time. This is where you live. True, sometimes your house is a little messy and cluttered and you don't necessarily want everyone to see it, but this is where you ultimately return. This is where you're happy. Some of those who've decided that living in a museum is the cultured thing to do may sneer down on your comfy couch, but you're the one snug in the cushions while they're still trying to figure out where the seat is on the piece of artwork someone has made out of a chair.
I want to go to Clarion because I want to better understand the works in the museum and perhaps have a piece or two of my own in there someday.
But I'll always come home to my nice comfy couch.
( 11:42 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
CoolJust took the "Which Endless Are You" quiz. Pretty accurate, too. :o)
Which Member of the Endless Are You?
( 12:57 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Wednesday, March 27, 2002
Aw, DammitI think my body and the weather are in cahoots -- their temperatures seem to be fluctuating at random.
Yes, ladies and gentleman, it was another of those schizophrenic weather days, with ankle-deep snow in the morning warming to balmy spring in the afternoon. And my temperature decided to follow suit and spiked, frightening my appetite into vacating the premises.
This would be funny if it weren't so damned annoying.
Added to the fact that I've just been informed that I CAN'T, as previously indicated, go home for Easter and must now cancel many fun plans because I have to work Sunday, I am in serious need of some chocolate.
( 9:28 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Mission ImpossibleI feel like I've had that theme running in the background all day today...
I decided to send off my application to Clarion, figuring what the hell, it's just the enttry fee cost (forgetting that $25 US is a $50 money order at the moment), I can worry about whether or not I can go if I get in.
First of all, I thought I had a week. Forgetting that Friday and Monday are holidays. So I realized last night that this stuff would have to be sent TODAY. No problem, though I, in my naive sort of way. I can do it at work.
I was on phones upstairs today, all frelling day because the staff meeting went long. So the application forms I was supposed to complete and the story I had to cut 8 pages from remained uncut. So I ran home in a panic, and realized that I could use the Mural instead of Mirror Mirror. Not the best, but I still have a soft spot for it. So I printed Jory's song while I checked it over and reshuffled the intro. No problem. Print. Then I tried printing the application form.
My printed decided to spontaneously run out of ink. Not having time to refill the cartridge, I grab the disk and sprint across the hall to Emily's room to print it on her computer. Which refuses to read the disk. After shouting a few obscenities at the computer, I run back to my room and refill the frelling cartridge, print the story, and run out the door.
I get to the post office, get my money order for the entry fee, and tell her it absolutely positively must be there by April 1.
"Well," says she, "there's only one way you can do that" -- BUZZZZZZZ -- "and that's the guy, so you can't. I'm sorry."
Stricken, I run across the street to Kinko's, where there's a FedEx drop box. Fine, said I, I can do it this way. So I start filling out the waybill and realize I need a FedEx account. It's now 5:30 and the pickup is at 6. So I sprint down the road to the chinese cyber cafe and use the phone to call FedEx and set up an account, sprint back to Kinkos, and found the guy already there. Problem. There's still stuff I need to scribble in. So I face off with the FedEx guy and won't let him out the door until he takes my letter.
I'm very, very tired now...
( 6:33 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Monday, March 25, 2002
Prelude of things to come -- I warned you! ;o)Thomas staggered wearily into the room and dumped his things on the ground, trying to ignore the ache that had been building in his head all day. But before he had time to take more than a step into the room, he froze. Something was wrong. The room seemed...smaller, somehow. He reached out and found the light switch.
The enormous griffin dominating the other end of the room looked up and reached out with a talon to shut the door. Thomas looked at the talon, realized it was bigger than his head, and decided that trying to get around it was probably a very bad idea. Sweat began to bead his brow as the unwavering golden gaze bored into him.
"Mr. Seay, I presume," the griffin said at last, in a remarkably congenial tone. "I have heard a great deal about you."
"Oh?" Thomas wasn't exactly sure what was going on, but he was fairly certain it was not a good thing.
"Yes," the griffin continued. "Ms. Elliott rather enjoyed meeting you. Under other circumstances, I'm sure I would approve of you." He examined a talon thoughtfully. "Unfortunately, there is the small matter of a certain unfortunate name."
Before Thomas could blink, the griffin's talon lashed toward the bookshelf. Thomas stood dazedly in a shower of books, staring helplessly as the bookshelf toppled in two neat halves to the ground. A hard talon closed on his shoulder, and he found his nose an inch away from a beak the size of his arm.
"I am just a figment of her imagination in this reality," the griffin breathed. "Imagine what I can do in her world."
( 11:08 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Museum BreakTyping up the herpetology training sign-up sheet, and browsing on my break. Hmmm, looks like the Toronto Public Library doesn't have Shockball or Vincalis. This must be remedied... :::typing away:::
( 3:29 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
:::Yaaaaawwwwwnnnnn:::So I made it back from Ft. Lauderdale in one piece (barely -- we hade a terrible landing) and I'm SO tired now, I'm fighting to stay awake. But it was a wonderful, amazing week that has thrown my life into even more of a turmoil than the ICFA did last year (and I didn't even WIN anything this time!). By Sunday afternoon, my brain was churning so much I wasn't entirely sure what I was saying. There's a lot to process, and it's finally starting to percolate down into some sort of order, so here without further ado is the
ICFA reportWednesday: Flew out at 2 pm, and couldn't find anywhere to change my money. Landed around 5, and still couldn't find anywhere to change my money. So I toddled off to the hotel, checked in, and started wandering around trying to find people. After a couple hours, I noticed Elan in the restaurant. I went in, where I was promptly introduced to David, Thomas (one of the new Asimov winners), Danny, and Genevieve. Felt only mildly awkward -- I was having something of an inferiority complex. "I couldn't win again, so why am I here?" Started wondering about Lena, but left her a note and wandered down to the opening night party. Found Rick, and it was great to see him again, and was terribly pleased to find out that most people remembered me from last year! Huzzah! Met Gary (another Canadian Asimov winner), and hung around till I got tired. On the way back to the room I bumped into Beth (big hug) and met Karina (Canadian!), and Amy, the remaining Asimov winners.
I wandered back up to the room, but still no sign of Lena, so I took Sheila's phone number, screwed up all my courage, and called her. And ended up talking for at least two hours. Topic of conversation ranged from professional to philosophical, and covered pretty much all things in between. She gave me a proposal that actually knocked me off the bed at one point (not telling!
Lena, who persisted in scaring the crap out of me, finally arrived at 2 am and we ended up talking until three. By the end of which time, the feeling of awkwardness was gone. Lena has a way of making you feel welcome no matter who you are or what you're doing. We talked about life, careers, and dreams, and finally decided that it would probably be a good idea if we went to bed.
Thursday: Got up to go to Beth's reading with Joe Haldeman and Elizabeth Hand. Beth is a wonderful reader. Some people are just REALLY good at it -- the kind that can grab your attention and hold it (and I'm talking delivery, here, not content, though Beth did have an abundance of both). Beth's up there with Neil Gaiman, Rob Sawyer, and Julie Czerneda. We went to the Guest of Honour lunch, where we had a very nice conversation with Ted Chiang, and listened to Joan Aiken talk about dreams (which was eerie, considering the conversation with which Lena and I closed the previous night).
Then, it was down by the pool to meet Sheila. Palms only a little sweaty, I began to get concerned, and at around 3:20 got a very, very strong feeling that I should go check my messages. Sure enough, there was a message waiting from Sheila, left at pretty much the same time as I got that feeling, saying she had arrived. I rushed down to the lobby to meet her, and rode the adrenaline kick for the next couple hours. She gave me a gorgeous Conference Bag (an S.L. Viehl original) which is going to follow me to every conference I go to from now on, it's that handy, a great CD (the first track of which has already kicked off a new story), and goodies. Lots of goodies. One of which is going to be hanging on my wall as soon as I find a suitable frame for it. I introduced her to the rest of the Tensors (active and initiate), and Lena and I gave our readings, after which Sheila had to vanish. When I came back, Lena told me "my God, she's like you!", which I found immensely cool. :o) Elan and Gary read their stories (Elan's with a finale that seemed to scare the crap out of Lena), and then we went off for a very expensive dinner (I had no money -- it was still Canadian) at a seafood restaurant (I don't eat fish). The garlic bread was very good though. Afterward, we schmoozed a bit, and went to bed.
Friday: Up bright and early for Lena's reading with Ted Chiang and China Mieville. Our Lena was in pretty heavy company, and held her own. We were all extremely proud of her. Afterward we went to a Kathleen Goonan and Kelly Link reading (both great) and off to the Scholar's Lunch with Rod McGillis (yet another Canadian). The lunch was interesting -- as soon as Rod opened his mouth to speak, lights started flashing and a loud voice from the heavens delcared: Attention! An emergency has been declared in the hotel. Please vacate the premises immediately. Turns out it was only a test, and we filtered back in for a really interesting talk. Then it was off to Rick's reading, after which Susan and Thomas and I went to the airport to try to get my money changed. We were fifteen minutes too late. Thomas and I figured that telling the nice man with the machine gun "Excuse me, I am a foreign national, give me large amounts of currency" was not a good idea, so we returned to Susan (who was circling the airport) and went back to schmooze by the pool, where Thomas and I helped Elan work out an idea for the Lizards and Wizards game. Afterward, we had a pizza party in Thomas's room.
The pre-party for the big schmooze was held in Alex Irvine and Dora Goss's room, where Kelly Link and Gavin Grant were given a matching pair of blue wigs, which promptly made a circuit of the room (I have many pictures). Everyone but Ted Chiang ended up trying them on, though Nalo Hopkinson needed both to cover her hair. When we suspected that security was on their way up (perhaps piling out onto the roof was not the best of ideas), we moved up to the 8th floor party. Since the 8th floor is keyed, however, we couldn't get up. Lena and I, separated from everyone else, ended up following John Kessel on a trek across the rooftops, which was pretty neat.
Had a lovely conversation with Ellen Datlow (she wants me to send her more stories), exchanged some sage words with Kathy Goonan on career possibilities, and then I wandered inside. I met up with David Lunde and was having a nice conversation with him when he introduced me to the cheerful woman sitting on the floor talking to Sheila Williams. After a stunned moment, I realized I was shaking hands with Betsey Mitchell! I had a wonderful conversation with her about my writing and Lena's (for which Lena was extremely grateful) and raved about Sheila's books, and then took her downstairs with me to give her Sheila's number. On my card. Betsey Mitchell has my card! :::happy dance:::
Saturday: Up ridiculously early again to see Elan present his paper, which was stunning, if way over my head (my eyes tend to start glazing the minute the words "post-modern" enter the conversation). But he's an excellent lecturer (REALLY engaging), and I actually managed to follow along. We went to Pat McKillip's reading, and I went to the front desk after to collect the delivery they had for me. Turned out it was a ginormous basket of fruit from Sheila. I took it poolside where the Tensors admired and exclaimed and wondered wistfully where they could get a mentor as cool as she is. Lena and Thomas and I jumped in the pool and had some nice conversation with Elan (ubiquitious camera in hand), and then wandered over to the Tensor alcove where Susan was doing a Tarot reading on Kelly Link.
We attended the reading with Nalo Hopkinson, Candas Dorsey, and Greg Frost (Nalo has the most exquisite reading voice). Kelly signed my book, promising to thwart my evil schemes, and we went back up to change for the banquet. Three very rowdy hours later (no bread throwing, though Bill Senior did get a napkin whipped at him, and there was a disturbing moment with a turkey sandwich), we went up to the party for more schmoozing. I took a moment off to go call Sheila and talk about the next day, at which point she delivered a bombshell that completely knocked me off my feet. A good bombshell. A really good bombshell. A bombshell which made me cry in a very, very good way. No, I'm not telling. :o)
Sunday: Lena left at an ungodly hour, which was probaly a good thing, because I was too damn tired to start crying. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone, though I did manage to distribute the last of the fruit (and Thomas, if you start calling me the fruit lady, I'll have to stick you in a book and do nasty things to you :o). This is a very close crowd, and even though you only see each other 5 days a year (and in some cases I'd only known them for 5 days), it felt like a whole lot longer. But Sheila came to get me, so I wasn't about to complain.
She took me to lunch, where we had a great shop talk (no, I wasn't nervous, just doing my best to sponge information into an already saturated, churning, thoroughly exhausted brain). This weekend was a blast, but also extremely educational. Then she showed me around Las Olas and did more really cool stuff for me that made me feel thoroughly guilty, if absolutely thrilled. :o) She bought me some really nice chocolate (yet another thing we have in common), and then we drove around for a couple hours to find a beach, during which we did a lot more talking. I still can't get over how easy this woman is to talk to. There are not many people with whom I can discuss life, the universe, and everything. Those five hours went WAY too fast, and I was on the plane all too early. So now I'm home, safe, and itching to get back to the keyboard.
As soon as I have a very long nap.
( 10:08 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Friday, March 15, 2002
Still NutsOnly minor things to update -- the hotel stuff is worked out, I still have a job, and I fly into Ft. Lauderdale next Wednesday (at which point I spend several hours trying to get the shuttle to the hotel).
There's still buckets of stress (enough that I'm on an unannounced break from HL.com, until I see how I feel after Florida), but as I'm sure you're all sick of me whinging, I'll shut up for a while and post something happy instead:
( 12:13 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Sunday, March 10, 2002
All right, all right
Yes, I just finished watching a LOT of Farscape.
Yes, I am feeling a bit better.
Yes, I am just probably going to start freaking out again tomorrow.
No, I didn't really expect any different.
Yes, I'm feeling better for the rant.
Yes, I'm glad that you're listening. :o)
( 12:32 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Saturday, March 09, 2002
AarghI'm getting really close to the breaking point again.
Mostly financial issues. The writing aspect of things remains in limbo (I don't know what's going on, don't know when I'm going to hear anything, or if), but the rest of my life trots merrily on around it.
I don't think I'm going to grad school. This is still not a concrete decision, but when I look at all the dreams I have in my life, none of them involves doing research for the rest of it. I don't think I could write fiction and do research without having 48 hours in the day, and I just don't have the passion for research that I do for writing. I still want to work with dolphins, but I'm not willing to spend years and years and years mucking about with other organisms to get there.
There's so much else I would like to do, job-wise. I'd like to work for Discovery or Space. I'd like to work in a publishing house. I'd like to work as a vet tech. I'd like to work at the zoo. Hell, Jen's job at Nelvana is looking good to me right now. I want to do something that lets me use my writing self in some way (though, as with Discovery, incorporating the science stuff would be nice). I'm just sick of not knowing where my life is going right now. I want to do something with my degree that isn't research, but I have a terrible feeling that for the zoo stuff, you need at least a Master's.
Health isn't great -- nothing major, just bad fatigue and kinda feverish (mono clings). I work two jobs, and my hours just changed at the lab, which means I no longer get to sleep in on the weekends. I'm waking up at the same time every day of the week, and my body (which used the weekends to catch up on sleep -- normal weekend waking time is 11 or 12) is not happy about it. At all. It's getting hard to remain functional. Which is why all of my other life commitments are falling by the wayside. What free time I do have is used for writing, because I want to get this book done, just so that I can prove to myself that I can. I'd love to be in a choir again, but I don't have time anymore. I'm tired all the time, and it's hard.
And money. Ah, yes, money. It really sucks when your computer decides to die, because then you have to spend a lot of it. Granted, some of this is my fault -- I didn't HAVE to go to Florida -- but my roommates are not helping. Nick has this annoying habit of sitting on things, so now two (possibly three) rent cheques are about to come out of my account at once. I didn't realize he hadn't cashed them. So now I have to transfer pretty much everything out of my savings account to cover it. I need a new printer badly, not sure when I can buy that one exactly. I have to go buy a new monitor today -- this one is so blurry that I found myself squinting at Sheila's workshop last night, nose an inch from the screen. Nick sat on the cable bill for two months, so now I have $100 of that to pay, plus student loans (about $500), plus my cellular bill. They keep eating my food, which is bad enough, but there's now an issue with water sitting at the bottom of the fridge (it's happened twice) that ruins my food and my food only, so I've had to replace half of my groceries, and now my grocery allowance is spent and I'm out of food. Etc., etc., etc., and there's not enough to cover it all.
I'm sure things will get better -- they always do -- but at the moment, it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel (ominous replay of Buffy -- "They were supposed to be my light at the end of the tunnel -- I guess they were the train"). There's not much I can do but grit my teeth, hang on, and watch the occasional episode of Farscape when things get really bad.
Having the mega huge super-big thing become reality and not possibility would be REAAAALY good right now, universe....
( 9:33 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Tuesday, March 05, 2002
Things are HappeningBig things.
Mega huge super-big things.
None of which I can talk about, I don't think. GVG rejected Jory's Song, so it's not that, but things are moving on the writing front. Big time. Super, ultra-big time. Sarah is a very, very happy girl right now.
( 12:13 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Monday, March 04, 2002
Back from the Depths...Success! Oh Joy! Oh Rapture! I'm back!
Yes, my wonderful, miraculous sibling has gotten the new computer up and running, so Bessie has officially been put out to pasture. And the new boy comes with all sorts of neat stuff like Windows XP and KaZaa, so I feel kinda like I've been stranded on a desert island for the last ten years, and now I've been rescued and given a spaceship. I'm gonna be a while figuring the new thing out, and there are some files I have to retrieve from Bessie (for some reason, none of my current e-mails have been transferred, yet it restored stuff I deleted over a year ago), but for the most part, I'm a happy girl.
And things continue to go well on the writing front, too. Elysium goes well, and another noted professional liked Jory's Song. Now, it's not that I didn't value the opinion of the first pro (in point of fact, I printed out said opinion and stuck it on me wall), but having TWO authors I like and respect say it's good gave me the immediate reaction of "IT WASN'T A FLUKE! IT'S REALLY GOOD!"
"Well, I can't imagine critiqueing it. "Jory's Song" is wonderful. Professional, flawless, and thoroughly entertaining.
I feel totally useless!!!! aHHHHHHH
Of course, I'm very happy about that. Such a treat to receive something I can simply read for pleasure. Thank you!"
And as if that weren't enough, when I mentioned that I'd sent it off to GVG, I got this in my inbox:
"I've emailed Gordon Van Gelder at F&SF about your story. Hopefully that will get him looking at it a little sooner."
And that thunk you hear is Sarah hitting the floor.
Sometimes my life is pretty cool. :o)
( 12:50 AM ) Sarah Jane ~