What I was going to post was the essay I had to write for as part of my application for a scholarship to the San Francisco Writers' Conference. Well, I found out this past week, I got the scholarship when I received an email asking for me for the story I'd submitted so it could be included in the conference anthology. Only problem is, the conference was in mid-February. Somehow, emails directed toward me and one other scholarship recipient went awry (the third did receive the group email, so go figure). Disappointment abounded. I was quite upset about the lost opportunity to practice pitching my novel to agents and editors and being able to strut around the conference with a ribbon on my chest proclaiming me to have been the fiction scholarship winner (I don't know if they have ribbons, but I've seen them at other conferences, so I'm assuming). The good news is, I get to go next year for free to make up for the techno screw-up. Which is fine with me, even though I'm hoping I won't need to be pitching my novel by then, having found an agent and sold the novel for a fabulous sum of money. Hah! The realist in me says, yes, next year will be much better timing.
Anyway...Altar got its first "virgin" read and the response was largely favorable. It wasn't a total first read since my reader knew the novel in its infancy as the short story "Choice." So, she knew the shape of the story but not all the ways in which it's filled out and grown in the intervening years. The best response was, after I sent it to her, she told me she'd opened the document in order to save it on her computer and started reading. Thirty minutes later, she was still reading and telling herself she'd just read until the end of the first section. "I did have other things to do today," she told me.
Now I'm doing some research. I still feel as if I am writing this book backwards, doing the bulk of my researching after I've finished the second draft, but that's just the way it's working out. I didn't know what I'd need to know until I'd written it. Or something like that (and I wonder what verb tense I just used?) A lot of what I'm researching has to do with making sure I haven't fallen into easy stereotypes of "ethnic" behavior. In an earlier draft, I got called out for Katami being the "stereotypical magic ethnic" character, which I'll agree with. He's less so now, but I still want him to be as real as possible, want the journey he's on to be authentic even as it fits within the context of the world I've built up. I want his journey to be emblematic of the journey Matt's on while still being true to his particular history. It's not so much being politically correct as it is wanting to make definite choices on who this character is so that his actions are correct for both my story and his story. I'm finding that a lot of the raw material is there already, the research I'm doing is allowing me to pull those elements forward and weave them more meaningfully into the themes of the novel.
I've also begun a new short story based off of the experiment I've been doing with Textual Archipelago - writing creative responses based off of the stories in Best American Short Stories of the Century. I've been a little stalled on it, so haven't kept up with TA again. I hate it when stories start to back up on me like this. It leads to a type of neurosis peculiar to artists - too many projects clamoring for attention at the same time so you wish you had three heads and six arms to take care of them all.
Oh, well, back to work.