Archive for the shyness Category

Rejection! Hoorah!

Posted in genre fiction, Science Fiction and Fantasy, shyness, Tokyo, writing with tags , , , , , on October 10, 2010 by katekanno

Came home from Japan Writer’s Conference to a rejection email today.

Why am I happy about it?

I had little hope for this story after I’d sent it out. The high and confidence that came with completing it dissipated the second I hit submit and saw the typo on the first page.

I’ve been rejected by this publication before, but usually it’s a form letter. In fact, on their blog they posted an email defending their use of the form letter.

This was not a form letter. It was a brief, but friendly personal note telling me that their decision had been difficult, before proceeding to complement specific parts of the story and encouraging me to submit again.

So…yay!

The conference was a lot of fun. One thing that is good about being part of an expat writing community is that you’re more accepting of others’ differences, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to open up to people.

On books and pretending to have read them.

Posted in blogging, books, education, ill effects of computers, memory, shyness, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2010 by katekanno

I’ve always been inarticulate, particularly in groups when the social anxiety ramps up.  I have a tendency to lock onto some obscure, often not very meaningful detail, and wax incomprehensible. Summarizing is not a strong suit, and  I cannot, for the life of me, exude an air of mastery over anything so much as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Yet, what baffled me when I returned to the States five years ago, was how much that skill, online or off,  has usurped genuine knowledge. There seemed to be more value placed on knowing about something, more so if that thing could be dismissed with a clever reference to theory or more appallingly,  a wikipedia link.

Before the internet we called that jousting with a trashcan and a garden hoe.

Even worse is that it now gets the nod from self-help manuals like Pierre Bayard’s “How to Talk About Books that You Haven’t Read,” which Tracy Seeley, a vanguard in the slow reading movement, sees as a more sinister sign of our fraying focus.

Agreed.

And it’s phony as all get up, too.

I’m the first to admit that I’m as insecure  as the next person, but I’d prefer to use that anxiety as a guide. What haven’t I read? Where am I woefully ignorant?  And then I’ll go out and pick up a book, try to gain at least a meager grasp over what I know I don’t know.  It’s not a very efficient system, a little too random, but more often than not the serendipity pays off in ways that I would hope are more creative than the simple art of name dropping.

Knowingness vs. Knowing: 7 pointers on surviving academe if you're not an academic

Posted in academic speak, genre wars, ghost stories, shyness, writing with tags , , , , , , on September 30, 2009 by katekanno

This week there’s an article about inarticulate writers in the New York Times. I was pleased to see it, having struggled consistently to voice my opinions in groups, and because it reveals a very marked difference in how we assess intelligence today. Once it was fine to make a few, if not a lot of conversational fumbles. If you could write clearly and beautifully, all the better. Now, what is considered to be intelligent conversation is a blanc mange of overly mannered, dispassionate, and often chilly “discourse” that likes to claim moral high ground by disclaiming itself into a corner.

This situation is exacerbated by the university setting, a place where people are introduced at even social gatherings with their fields attached to them like gravy bibs — comp-lit, urban planning, art history. What you say or do later will most likely make no difference, you’re ranked before you say hello. It reminds me of Harold Brodkey’s New York where it’s agreed that a few clues, regarded with sophistication render “everything about one another’s lives knowable.”

When we first came here, I had a hard time with this. I deliberately avoided social functions. I was used to the instant and intense connections I’d had abroad, my strong friendships with people who were opposites, and who are still close. Here being open is a liability, and everyone assumes a cold veneer of abstraction that takes precedence over any enthusiasm they might harbor for their subject area. This situation is captured perfectly in the opening scene in Merrie Haskell’s Almanac for Alien Invaders, wherein a group of drunken academics, discussing a world crisis about which they too know nothing, slam a faculty spouse for daring to add to the conversation. Chalk one up for genre, again.

At any rate, here are a few things I took away from my experience here

1.If it’s something important, don’t dilute your meaning with awful grad school euphemisms such as problematic. Call a spade a spade. This tendency to speak in watered down, abstracted terms is partially at fault for neutering social progress in this country. No one, no matter how many degrees he or she has, has the right to cut you out of the conversation for not playing to an ultimately class-based and isolated conceit.

2.Don’t ever let what others think, particularly those terrified of what others think of them – and there is nowhere that this is more rampant than academe – keep you from speaking your mind.

3. There’s no need to disclaim every thought, sometimes you need to make a point. If you want you can go back and reevaluate, but it’s your character that is at stake here. This doesn’t mean don’t question yourself, but let your thoughts follow to their logical conclusions before stepping back. Some people have defined intelligence as halting mid-thought before coming to any meaningful end. This is not thought: it is a nimble form of gibberish.

4. When forced to attend one of these stilted gatherings, just remember that no matter how awkward you may seem, it is your conversation partner who should be pitied for not being able to handle a conversation with someone outside of his or her narrow field of study. Besides, they could probably use a little of your humanity.

5. Theory isn’t a bad thing, but nor is it a moral or intellectual high ground taking priority over literature and art. Paul de Man was a Nazi, and the great Derrida equivocated on his behalf until he was blue in the face. Furthermore, a professor here who often uses feminist and queer theory in his work, just laughed about the murder of a woman on campus, claiming that California custody laws drove her ex-husband to kill her. Theory did not make this misogynist a progressive or even a decent human being.

6. A lot of that studied nonchalance comes from money. Be happy that you’ll never take your books or travels for granted.

7. And if you hear anyone referring to those outside of graduate school as “common readers,” go ahead and toss a drink in that person’s face. Just make sure it isn’t a good one.