Short-Listed!

Posted in ghost stories, writing with tags on August 15, 2010 by katekanno

Got word yesterday that one of my stories has been shortlisted for publication. I won’t know for another month, but news like that is enough to keep me going.

I will let loose now with a cautious “Yay!”

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Posted in Tokyo, writing with tags , on July 26, 2010 by katekanno

Sunday was a busy writing day.  Finished the middle draft of a 7,000 word story, and helped my partner edit a research article on Asian American art.  Now, I’ll let the story sit for a few days before peeking at it and probably running from the apartment screaming.

I’m working at being more prolific, which doesn’t mean I’m allowing myself to write crap. I’m trying to focus in short bursts, get more on the page.

Got 3,000 words down today. Gibberish, but gibberish that knows where it’s going, kind of like a determined drunk, I imagine.

Am now heading to the Tokyo Hacker Space to try out a new writer’s workshop. The one I usually attend is on summer hiatus.

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.

There’s hope after all

Posted in genre fiction, science fiction, Tokyo, writing with tags , , , , , , , on July 17, 2010 by katekanno

A blurry sign of encouragement.  I submitted two pieces to the Escape Pod flash fiction contest.

One of them made it through the first round. The other, at this moment, is in fourth place.  Regardless of whether I make it into the next one, it was a nice thing to wake up to. Even more impressive were the comments from members of the Escape Artists forum.  As a long-term participant of writers workshops, they are among the most insightful, focused critiques I’ve been lucky enough to receive.

I also got another rejection.  I’m getting tougher.

Tomorrow, I go to the Tokyo Writer’s workshop for one last meet up before the summer starts.

To be nitpicked is to be alive.

Hibernation over, hopefully…

Posted in blogging, lifehacking, Tokyo, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2010 by katekanno

It’s been a long three months since I’ve posted. Getting re-acquainted with Tokyo a new job, as well as a few writing projects, have been part of it.  The other has been our new internet situation.

When we moved into our apartment, we had trouble accessing our WiFi. We fussed and moaned for a few days, and then realized —  wow! — We were so much happier without it.

I’ve been more focused than I’ve been in years, and have not only completed two drafts of my first professional script, but three short stories of which I’m truly proud. I’ve sent them off, received one very hopeful rejection email, and am happily waiting for the rest to circulate back through the ether.

I’ve finally, finally reached that point where writing is a happy compulsion. I knew it was there; it just needed one tiny inconvenience to nudge it awake — in this case it meant having to carry my laptop to the kitchen and hook it up to a LAN cable.  The old stand and surf also has an added benefit of making me more focused about what I’m looking for online.

Other people have more control over their online life. I didn’t.  And when you don’t have control, particularly in cases of technology, it’s sometimes best to downgrade. Throw a shoe in the loom, replace that microwave with a conventional oven. The food’s still there. It’s just better.

Tangent Universes or Thomassons トマソン

Posted in Art, blogging, books, Discoveries, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2010 by katekanno

Ever suspect that a space in your everyday surroundings is the result of a failed teleportation test? A Philadelphia experiment involving office buildings and old movie theaters rather than human guinea pigs?

In Japan, they’re called thomassons, named by artist Genpei Hasegawa after a hitter for the Yomiuri Giants who could well…no longer hit. As anyone who’s spent time here knows, rapid postwar development and politicians’ love of public works projects has turned the country into an industrialized Winchester house full of half-built structures, stairways to nowhere, and water pipes jutting mysteriously out of telephone poles.

Thomassons are any human built space that has lost its use, but remains part of the structure that has taken its place.  Coming across one is mysterious and almost thrilling: Imagine you were suddenly able to see a sign for Platform 9 3/4 in Paddington station, and you’ll have an idea.

Now back in Japan with my trusty camera, I thought I’d follow up on that lost column and have some fun in the process. I’m in a rural area, and some of these photos don’t necessarily fit the definition of a thomasson, but they’re close enough.

I found this next to a rice paddy. A board jammed into a metal grate, almost as if it had teleported from some Home Depot of the future and gotten stuck. That someone would actually saw into the metal grate to insert the board seems the less likely alternative.

And this Tardis-like silo has a thoroughly modern door on its second story, but no stairs, not even a ladder. Who goes in? Who leaves? Who bumps her head or breaks his leg on the way out?

I’ll continue to update the blog as I find them.

Also, Hasegawa’s book HYPERART: THOMASSON  is finally getting an English translation.

Filtering distraction: how to use index cards to stay off the web

Posted in computing, lifehacking, Lists, memory, multitasking, social networking, stationery lust, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2010 by katekanno

“The mind that has no fixed aim loses itself, for, as they say, to be everywhere is to be nowhere.

Michel Montaigne  (From a blogshort essay on idleness that describes internet haze brain to a T.)

This is your brain on the web.

Or mine, anyway, and for the last several months I’ve been obsessed with finding ways to curb the impulse for distraction.

For writers, this problem is exacerbated by our own insecurities, that inner voice that tells us we’ve got a fact wrong, or that we simply don’t know enough about a subject to be blathering on about it like some blowhard in the Guggenheim.

One option I’ve tried is the Freedom application. You can find a better description of it here, but basically it cuts you off the web for a designated amount of time. If you want to get back on, you have to reboot your computer.  It’s an excellent way to get started, a sort of training wheels for willpower.

Another option I’ve devised myself is the use of index cards. Many writers praise them as an immediate idea recording device, but they can also be used, I’ve found, to keep my twitchy little fingers from clicking the browser icon. Here’s how it works.

One.

Obtain index cards, one stack will do, but you’ll find you’ll need more as you go along.

Two.

Place one of them next to your computer, and write the name of whatever writing project you’re working on across the top.

Three.

Close your browser, bring up word ( or whatever program you use), and start writing. Fend off the evil voice when it’s simply throwing rocks at you — especially do this when it sounds like your mother. However, if it asks a legitimate question such as “Is that really how internal combustion engines work?” or nags you that “you really need to elaborate more on cuttlefish anatomy,” you pick up that card and write it down. Now I usually number the questions, simply because I know I’ll need the order later, but now you are free from the urge to click your browser and thereby instantly forget what it was you were looking up in the first place.


Four.

Gather up your used index cards. You have a mission. Open your browser or go to a library. Find the answers to your questions — or decide that some of them weren’t really as relevant as you first thought — and write them down.

Five.

Return and revise your manuscript with your newfound information, and as a side benefit, a new sense of security because this time you have a better idea of what it is you’re talking about.  The really interesting thing that you’ll discover is that very often, your uninformed instincts about particular topics were more on target than you thought. For example, one of my characters was a 1940s Western director who had trouble finding extras who could actually ride horses. I’d worried that this wasn’t a legitimate plot device for getting another character hired on his film, but when I went to do my research, I discovered that this was indeed a common hurdle for directors of big budget Westerns; furthermore, they were even more frustrated by hiring limits set by the Screen Actor’s guild during the time. I was not only better informed, I was psychic!

This system has worked very well so far. If you’re in need of an extra boost of willpower you can use the index cards while Freedom is on. That should keep you away from the facebook/twitter vortex for at least a little while.