Dream of the Dolphin
Confessions of a Post-Graduate Pity Whore
The Year of Good TimesI don't know what it is about this month, or this week in particular, but it's just made me really, really happy. I have new necklace styles, Soufian (the lovely man who works at the Syrian place) asked me out, gave me free food, and told me I was very beautiful (hee!), I had a great time teaching the SMC kids about bats, Karina and I went to a bead show and not only got kickass affordable beads, but got HUGE compliments from industry professionals on our jewellery...
Oh yeah. Good times.
( 1:44 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
ChoicesI've recently come to a decision. It wasn't an easy decision, and it's one that is actually going to upset a lot of people.
I'm putting ELYSIUM on hold.
Now before certain persons call out a hit squad, I'm not abandoning it. ELYSUIM will be written and sent out. Just not at the moment.
There is method to my madness. I was talking to Karina during a recent lunch date about her need to keep rewriting the beginning of stories until she gets it right. Though many professionals will advise you to just write it down and fix it later (that's usually what I do when a beginning is stumping me), Karina can't, because it's the first lines that set the tone of the story, and she once tried to force past it, got 8,000 words in, finally found the opening lines of the story.
"And I realized that every sentence needed to be rewritten," she told me.
And it hit me. "That," I said, "is exactly how I feel every time I look at ELYSUIM."
I love ELYSIUM, don't get me wrong. I think it's a good story, and I like what happens in it. But it was written four years ago, just after Kichani and Savage Beast. You'll remember that I did a recent teardown and complete rewrite of Kichani (which was unsellable) and sold it as "Blood Ties". I just did the same with "Savage Beast", and it's being held for consideration at a major pro market (no decision yet, but cross your fingers for me).
Someone whose advice I care very much about recently posted on her blog about a self-sabotaging author she has unsuccessfully tried to help but couldn't, because though the author had a lot of natural talent, they keep finding an excuse to bail on the project in progress. I'm 90% sure that author isn't me, but this is why I've been hanging on to ELYSIUM for so long. I don't want to be that author who never gets something out the door.
But here's the thing:
The difference between 23 and 27 is big. My writing has changed a lot. "Blood Ties" was the first major illustration of this (and here's the fun part -- if you own "Blood Ties", which is in FANTASTIC COMPANIONS, and want to see what I'm talking about, e-mail me and I'll send you the first incarnation, purely for comparative purposes, which I wrote in 1999-or-thereabouts. The difference is staggering). And though ELYSIUM was a big improvement on KICHANI, I read it now and know that I can do much better.
And that's just it. I can do a lot better. But in order to do better, I have to do the same thing to Elysium that I did to Kichani. Which is read it, set it aside, and rewrite the whole thing. For a 10,000 word short story, it was hard. For a 160,000 word novel, it will be worse. And for the last two years, Elysium has become a weight hanging over me. I wasn't really writing anymore, because I knew I should be working on Elysium, and I couldn't stand to read it because all I can see are the mistakes that I've learned about in the interim.
That's the main thing that lunch with Karina made clear. It's like anything else in life: you improve with practice. Like choir. Kichani was the beginning of the season, when we first examine a piece of new music, and though everyone can sing, the song itself is a mess. Elysium is more like where the choir is now: halfway through the season, starting to take shape, showing that it's going to be great when we perform, though we still have work to do. "Blood Ties" and the new "Savage Beast" are a lot closer to concert-shape.
Elysium was great practice. But that doesn't mean I should send it out. I should not be sending out a novel that I know for a fact is not written to the best of my ability. There is absolutely no point in soliciting editors, at the beginning of my career, when I'm trying to establish a name for myself, with a work that is sub-par. ELYSIUM, as it is now, is good, but not publication-ready.
So why not rewrite it now?
Because I need a break. I need to get away from the story for a while, so that I can return to it fresh and fall in love with it again. It's what I did with Kichani, and "Blood Ties" sold. It's what I did with "Savage Beast", and I'm really hoping it will sell.
I need to be excited by writing again. I need to work on something that I really, really want to write. And at the moment, it's not ELYSIUM.
It's RAVEN SHADOW.
So I'm going to be working on RAVEN SHADOW for a while. And when my trippy little YA book is done and making the rounds, I'll go back to ELYSIUM, and discover Mari and Gavin all over again.
Only this time, it will be better.
( 11:18 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Monday, February 20, 2006
Nanny McPheeI went in to see this movie not really knowing what to think. I adore Emma Thompson and knew she had written the screenplay, so I was definitely intrigued. And I don't think I've ever seen Colin Firth in anything that wasn't made better for his being there. But the trailers left me lukewarm (I'm not sure exactly what it was about them, though I think the anthropomorphic donkey -- which was a very small bit of subplot which made a lot more sense in the context of the magic being worked at the time -- had a lot to do with it).
As it turns out, I'm really glad I went.
Mild spoilers:I have a great deal more respect for Emma Thompson as a writer after seeing this movie. Though I'm not sure how much of what I liked was Emma, the original novels on which the screenplay was based, or the production design team, but there was enough there to keep me very happy.
The thing I think I liked most was that, winking donkey aside, the movie didn't have that really annoying "I've been written for children" tone. A children's movie, yes, but not done in such a way that it talks down at the kids. The Quickly Tea pranks were truly disgusting (Jana was horrified, but the kids around me were delighted), but the writing was very smart. Lines like "now I know why there's so many of you" in particular had a very adult edge to them that surprised me, and I think one of my favourite lines was Angela Lansbury's "If there's one thing I cannot stand, it's loose vowels." The whole script was filled with a very dry sort of humour that was quite lovely and refreshing.
The acting was superb. I've mentioned the Colin Firth thing, and Emma Thompson, while always delightful, was even more so as she carried Nanny McPhee through the changes in her own character to reflect the changes in those around her. There was a great supporting cast (Derek Jacobi, Imelda Staunton, Celia Imrie), and the lead child, Simon (the kid from Love, Actually, looking like he's grown a foot without aging a day) was spectacular.
And I loved the visual touches. The whole thing is designed with a somewhat unreal, fairy-tale colour scheme (the lambs, heee!), and background details like Quickly's shepherdess fetish I found hilarious. But one of my absolute favourite moments, from acting to design to editing, was the final scene in the snow. It's amazing how very much the shadows of snow falling over an empty chair can say. I was crying at the end (which isn't sad at all, except in a Mary Poppins sort of way) because they'd managed to make that much impact.
It's not my favourite children's movie ever. I'm happy with one viewing in theatres (as opposed to, say, Peter Pan, which had me going back as many times as I could). But it was quite delightful and I'm definitely buying this one on DVD.
( 12:58 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Friday, February 17, 2006
Soliciting the Happy VibesAnyone who has been paying even the remotest attention to my journals over the years knows how very, very much I love working at the ROM, and how my dearest wish is to be working there full time so that I can wake up every single morning going "I get to go to work, YAY!", and that all I want is for everyone working or volunteering there to love it as much as I do.
One of our Assistant Coordinators in the gallery had to leave rather suddenly, and they're posting to fill his position. But I've just learned that they're creating a full time Assistant Coordinator position, to be filled shortly after. "Oh, hello Sarah, you know how you've been dreaming that impossible dream? Well here it is, HA!"
In Erin's words, "Oh my God, they have to give you that job."
I know competition is going to be fierce, from very, very deserving people, and my senority is still relatively very low. But I know I can do this job, I know I'm ready for it now, I have so many ideas for ways to make the galleries even better, and I want this so badly that there is actually physical pain involved.
So please, any good vibes you can send my way would be greatly appreciated.
( 10:16 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Thursday, February 16, 2006
GeoffismsWe love our choir director. He's just fun. He's a professional tenor, and very good at what he does, but he has a sarcastic streak a mile wide. Which means that when the choir sucks, we usually end up laughing about it. I've been meaning to to this for a while, but I thought it would be fun to start collecting "Geoffisms"
On one of the higher movements in Handel's Messiah:
"Think about elves. Elves have pointy, pointy fingers [wiggles fingers], and pointy, pointy shoes. And pointy, pointy noses, and pointy, pointy chins. And pointy, pointy hats, and pointy, pointy voices. When you sing this, it has to be pointy.
On the Agnus Dei in Missa Gaia, and any subsequent thing we sing that requires long sustained notes:
"This movement is the duck movement. It's like ducks on a lake. You watch them gliiiiiding serenely across the surface of the lake, but what you don't see is that underneath, they're paddling like crazy. [makes frantic paddling motion]. You have to work like that to keep this note from sinking.
On receiving the remote control for the animal noises CD in the Missa Gaia:
[grinning manaically] "I love this concert. I have my two favourite things. A baton, and a remote!"
On a descending triad:
"No, it's a decending triad, like the subway doors closing. Try it again." [we do] "No! It's still flat! Wait..." [hums TTC doors closing chimes] "The subway is flat! Damn the TTC! They're teaching an entire generation to sing flat on a descending triad!"
In Haydn's creation, when he made a huge, arms-over-the-head cuttoff gesture, and the choir ploughed on because nobody was watching him.
[Standing there, both arms still up over his head in the enormous cutoff gesture we completely ignored] "Perhaps I was unclear."
I love choir.
( 9:58 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Unbridled GleeHey Karina -- we have a business!
( 9:42 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Valentine's DayThis time of year has always been bittersweet -- up until two years ago, because I'd never had anyone to share it with, and after two years ago, because it commemorates the week-after anniversary of my ex dumping me. I've never had anyone to "be my valentine".
Well, enter this year. I may have mentioned, several times before, that I love my job. And one of the coolest things about it is that the kids who visit us actually provide us with a qualitative measure of how well we're doing our jobs.
Last Sunday, I met Kathleen. She's a very precocious six (she was able to figure out that the three vertebrae in the dino dig come from the dinosaur's tail), and she spent about an hour talking to me about dinosaurs before she apparently decided I was the best thing about the ROM. Her mom dragged her away, only to have Kathleen drag her back an hour later, and she spent the rest of the day following me around and helping me out, while her mom begged to be able to go home.
It's kids like Kathleen that not only make my job worthwhile, but remind me that I don't need "someone special" in my life to feel valued and complete. I am a kickass facilitator and the kids really like me, and in the end, that's all I need.
So for everyone else who's feeling a little down, I'd like to share this with you. I don't think Kathleen would mind.
Happy Valentine Day!!
( 12:38 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Sunday, February 12, 2006
A Day For LaughingI laughed a lot today. First at this thread that discovers when one removes the animal dialogue from Garfield comics, one is left with an odd, vaguely surrealist, and at times incredibly funny comic.
Then my sibling sent me a link to something that had me laughing so hard I almost needed my inhaler. First, go read enough issues of Dinosaur Comics to get a solid feel for it. Then go watch this. I realize it's only truly funny to the small portion of people who went to elementary school in Ontario in the mid-to-late 80s, but if you get it, it's frelling hilarious.
( 11:29 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
WeirdnessI got tagged by Elaine, so now I'm required to list five "weird" habits that I have. I'll admit to the same problems she has -- some people might consider going and spending a weekend hanging around with people dressed as Klingons and Jedi weird, but for me that's just par for the course. But I'll do my best.
Tagging whoever is interested enough to answer.
( 12:54 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Valentine's Themed Window!To co-incide with Bakka's Valentine's Day contest (if you send them your e-mail address, they enter you in a draw for a box of J&S bonbons. I have seen the box of contest entries. It is most impressive), I went down and did up a new Valentine's themed window. May I present: "Girl Cooties, Squishy Bits, & Stuff That Blows Up Real Good"
Here we have part one of the window: Girl Cooties and Squishy bits. In it, we will find all manner of cool squishiness and fluffy bits. See how pink and sparkly it is? All the books in this half of the window are books that I, personally, adore (except the Anne Bishop -- I haven't read it yet, so I have yet to make a judgement call, but I loved the Black Jewels books and how much squishier can you get than a book about an incubus?). Why? Because it's my damn window and I'll put whatever I want in there. (Yes, I love doing these windows, how can you tell?) We shall return for a closer look.
And here is the other half of the display: Stuff That Blows Up Real Good. Because Valentine's Day (aka Singles Appreciation Day) should have a little something for the people who want to take the next fuzzy pink bear they see and run it through a wood chipper.
Returning to "Girl Cooties", here is the first part of the window. Notice the white fluffy unicorn (bought at a discount at Shopper's Drug Mart after last Valentine's Day -- it smells alarmingly of Artificial vanilla) modelling the latest in
On the left, we see Enchanted Inc. (the review hadn't yet been added in this picture, but it's there now) sporting a pair of Stellar Magpie "Printemps" style earrings. Pink sparkles and swarovski crystals -- how can you go wrong? We move on to more squishiness -- "Ill Wind" and "Naked in Death" are definitely farther up the romance scale (well-written boinking, hurrah!), and I have "Sebastian" in my bag, to be read as soon as I'm done with "Urban Shaman" and maybe "Enchanted, Inc." again. Lady Cottington's calendar contains much more literal squishy bits, and is providing a good home for the wierd-ass pink ornament I found when packing up the Christmas stuff. "Castle Waiting" is Chris's pick again, though you'll notice another pair of sparkly Stellar Magpie earrings above them. That bear is one my mum sent me two Valentine's days ago (I love my mum -- she sends me stuff for Valentine's so I won't feel lonely, and has them couriered to my work). It makes kissing noises if you poke at it's tummy, cause, you know, that's always my first reaction to getting poked there.
Here we move into the other side of the window. The deneziens of this side are not too keen on the girl cooties or the squishy bits. Chris and Ben picked out the books on this side of the window, but I'm assured that stuff either blows up real good, or someone dies horribly. Notice the debris from the hearts that decorate the window on the Girl Cooties side. The hearts on the Blows Up side took some very heavy hits.
Notice the Doctor Who script book. It contains both squishy bits and stuff that blows up real good. And the DVDs arrive on February 14. How can you go wrong?
The Black Knight is not happy about all these silly hearts. See him express his displeasure by impaling one on his red sword (I later found his real sword, not his borrowed light sabre from the Star Wars Lego set, which has replaced it in the finished window). "Hey," says his dragon, "what is this really attractive Printemps-style Stellar Magpie necklace and earring set doing here? Get it away from me! Pretty things have no place in the land of stuff that blows up real good!"
The green dragon has been doing his part by taking small bites out of the hearts that it finds, but the Big Ugly Dragon Head is much more destructive. Warning to small fuzzy cute things like the blue bear -- stay away from Big Ugly Dragon Head.
The Alien Queen has been particularly vocal in expressing her displeasure with the squishy bits and the girl cooties. Mere tulle does not stand a chance against her. As soon as she has finished shredding the tulle and dispenses with that heart in her hand, I'm fairly sure she's going to eat that sheep under her foot. "Fie," she cries, "cuteness and love have no place in my domain!"
See her fury? This is one queen you don't want to cross.
So there's the grand tour, for those of you unable to make it to Toronto to see it for yourself. Silly, perhaps, but fun as hell to design. And Chris keeps laughing every time she sees Big Ugly Dragon Head, which really just makes my day worthwhile.
( 1:50 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
OuttakesI discovered tonight that it is extremely difficult to try to get a product shot of yourself in a necklace/tiara for your website, at 1 a.m., when you can't see the viewfinder in the camera and you're trying to make do with creative use of mirrors, and come up with one that a) is in focus, b) is in frame, and c) doesn't make you look stoned, insane, or posessed by the devil.
Of the 103(!) shots I took, I got a grand total of 2 that were useable.
Oddly enough, my three favourite shots were ones I couldn't use. One was way too dark to show the product properly, and the other two were just me goofing around, because it was 1 a.m. and 73 shots later I had yet to take one in focus. I don't know why I like these three more than the others. Any theories?
( 1:23 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Hurrah!Two good books in two days, hurrah! (Yes, I spent my entire supposed-to-be-productive day off reading. Shut up).
I wasn't sure what I was expecting when I picked up the ARC of ENCHANTED, INC. by Shanna Swendson off the shelf in the back room. I knew Chris had enjoyed it, but it didn't get the promotion that, say, UNDEAD AND UNWED did, so I was expecting some nice escapism like LOVE UNDERGROUND or some such.
I loved it. Not in the same way as I loved HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON (which has me climbing the walls in impatience for the sequel, and it's been a grand total of 48 hours since I finished it), but in a very different, curled up in a warm chair in slippers and a cup of hot chocolate kind of way. It's blurbed as "Bridget Jones" meets "Harry Potter", which is a really good way to describe it. Not just because the herione, Katie, receives the e-mail I think I'm secretly waiting for every time I check my messages at the hostel, but because it gives the same amount of warm fuzzy comfort that either of those two gives me (in book or movie form), and I think the duelling comfort vibes set up some kind of literary harmonic waveform thing that sucked me in and kept me reading all day, when I really ought to have been doing things like defrosting the freezer (seriously, I'm not being facetious -- it's now iced over to the point at which the open space in there appears to be smaller than a loaf of bread). I'm buying a copy when I go in to do the window at the store tomorrow, and I'll be most impatient for this sequel, too.
It's days like today that I really feel sorry for the people who won't read for fun.
( 6:16 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Monday, February 06, 2006
More Little ThingsThere's something about Matt. Much like the Bravia bouncy balls there's just something about his video that fills me with pure, childlike joy.
( 11:43 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Really Freaking Good BookI think Chris is doing the store review, so I won't go into too much detail (she's still way better at them than me) and I'll just link it when she does, but holy crap, did I ever enjoy "His Majesty's Dragon" by Naomi Novik.
It's a historical fantasy -- the Napoleonic Wars with dragons as the air force, complete with Captain and crew -- and it's absolutely wonderful. The language is dead-on to keep you within the period setting, our "resident" military history expert (we love it when he brings his little girl to the store) raved about it (he only found a few things to nitpick, and he's VERY picky), and it's something different with dragons, which is really rare to see this days and as welcome as a spring breeze would be right now (real spring, not scary global-warming spring).
And the characters. Oh, the characters. Anyone who reads this journal often knows about me and my thing for characterization, and I adore these characters so much that I actually want to break something because I have to wait for the next volume. And I can't even read it again right now, because I've got our only ARC and there's a line forming for it.
I'm just glad I finished writing "Cultured Pearls" before reading it -- duelling dragon-mythos in my head would have been just...weird. :o) Now I'm going to be waiting impatiently for my own copy.
( 10:50 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
A Pressing MatterOn our way out of the ROM yesterday, we got to musing on the subject of maternity wear, which brought up a question that's been bothering me for a while.
Does anyone out there know what pregnant women wore in the various corseted ages? Did you stop wearing a corset as soon as you found out you were pregnant, or did you keep squishing the poor kid in as long as you possibly could? And what would that do to a baby?
I honestly have no idea where I'd even start looking for this kind of information, but I'm hoping that someone reading this will at least know a guy who knows a guy. Because we're all really curious now.
( 9:42 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Sunday, February 05, 2006
DreamingIt's another ROM day, and I spent most of the morning being manically happy. I don't know if it's just a rebound from the odd depression (which I'm thinking had a lot to do with the shock my body went through during the system purging required for my endoscopy on Tuesday) or what, but I'm in a very big "Fuck, I love my job!" mood today.
It got me thinking, at any rate, how much I want this to be the year I can let the reception/admin job go, and just do the jobs I like: the ROM, writing, the store, and Stellar Magpie. I don't know if it's going to be possible, but I want it really, really bad.
And it will, if nothing else, be a year of changes. We're getting a new Discovery Gallery at the end of the year, so there's the potential for a position opening up. One of the senior staffers is going on maternity leave in July, so there's more potential. I don't know if they'll actually grant new positions, or if I'll get it if one does open up, but the potential is enough to keep me going. I fought hard to get as far as I have, and I've no intention of stopping now. I don't really care that I don't get vacation or health benefits, because the joy of being able to wake up every day of the week knowing I get to do something I love that day far outweighs that. It's not the case for everyone, but it is for me.
Fighting to do what you dream can be scary. And I'm sure I'm going to have to take more than one serious risk this year. But I think it will be worth it.
( 12:28 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Friday, February 03, 2006
Virtual RealityIn a fit of productivity, I finally finished the rewrite of "Cultured Pearls", the 999-word story (now about 4,300 words) that won me my darling and wonderful Palm. It was another really neat exercise (I'm getting a lot better at rewriting stories -- faster, too), both for the weird use of language that happened quite accidentally as I was writing, and for the odd warping of reality.
The story is set in what pretty much amounts to an Alternate Universe Toronto, as opposed to "Toronto, but with magic". Yes, there is a difference. This is why neither the city, nor the university (U of T), nor the museum (the ROM), nor the park (Queen's Park) are actually mentioned by name. It's implied -- the museum is across the street from the park and smack in the middle of the university campus -- but never specified.
The reason I chose not to name anything is because I changed things purely for my own practical and aesthetic purposes. In order to make things more plausible (to me, at least, who actually knows the layout of the museum), I got rid of the elevators. I also arranged the special exhibition gallery in a layout that was really cool, but would never actually be used for reasons of traffic flow. I renamed the European Galleries, mostly because using their actual name would be a dead giveaway that it is, in fact, the ROM, though the name (or variant thereof) I did use is not unknown to museums and galleries in Toronto (or, for that matter, to our Chinese galleries -- it seemed only fair, since I had to rename them too). I kept the museum ghosts (though I aged Celeste a bit and shifted her to another gallery, since the Planetaruim is now a storage space, and moved Dr. Currelley so that a) his poor spiritual assistant could take a break, and b) they demolished the gallery he usually wandered in), but made the tours a lot more frequent.
(Oh, great, now I have a MY Toronto story idea....)
Again for practical purposes, I made Queen's Park a lot bigger and wilder than it actually is, and for purely aesthetic reasons, I got rid of King Edward and replaced him with a dragon, surrounded it with a much nicer path, and added some cool street lamps. Because I liked it better that way.
I don't usually do this. Fiona and Allison, for example, live in my Toronto, but with magic. Yet something about this story just wanted me to change things. So yes, it's set in Toronto. But it's a very AU Toronto.
Actually, redesigning the city to my own specifications is kinda fun. They should let me do it more often.
( 4:56 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Heeeeee!David Hasselhoff is hooked on a feeling. This is even better than the "Michael becomes a rock star" episode of Knight Rider. Ow, I hurt from the laughing.
( 1:11 AM ) Sarah Jane ~