Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Turkey City off the port bow

There's a venerable writers' workshop of ill-repute, semi-permanently situated in Austin, known as Turkey City (for the sticklers to tradition, the full and formal name is the Turkey City Writers' Workshop and Neo-Pro Rodeo). Writers of note who've braved this august meat grinder on occasion include Howard Waldrop, Steven Gould, Lisa Tuttle, George Alec Effinger, George R.R. Martin, Connie Willis, Jeff VanderMeer... well, the list is long and impressive. It's held irregularly these days, often coinciding with Bruce Sterling's whirlwind trips through town, and this coming weekend just happens to be one of those irregular days.

Historically (which is to say, by unofficial yet no less sacred tradition) Turkey City participants put off writing their sacrificial piece of fiction until the last possible moment, in some cases scribbling feverishly until the wee hours of Turkey City eve before staggering in the morning of with a crumpled sheaf of still-wet mimeographed copies, smelling strongly of carcinogenic chemicals with enough purple ink to stain your fingers for a week.

Some participants in this weekend's shindig apparently have no respect for tradition, and have used email (aka Tool of the Devil) to distribute their story early. For shame. I, for one, will and am continuing to follow precedent slavishly. In fact, with the deadline staring me down at the end of the week, I broke down Sunday and began to write. Not too terribly much, mind you, but it was fiction, and it was short (or shortish. By my standards). I even have a title: "Where the Rubber Meets the Road." This is, by my reckoning, the first writing that I've done this year that wasn't A) an interview, B) a book review, C) an installment of Memory or D) related to my Chicken Ranch non-fiction book project in some way. It's somewhat startling to realized that here it is, October, and I haven't written a single piece of short fiction for the entire year. Not that I've ever been a prolific writer by anyone's definition, but still.

Last night things started clicking a little bit, story-wise. Word production topped 1,500, which is a good number for me. Some character details surfaced that give the tale much-needed subtext. The ending, which had persisted as an undefined "something poignant happens" vagueness, has begun to coalesce into something verging on tangible. And I've even twigged on the general mood the piece needs, as opposed to the mood I thought it should have. There's still a long haul between now and Saturday, but I'm slightly more optimistic today than I was yesterday that I'll have at least a coherent first draft ready by then.

And if not? Well, I'll have to burn that bridge when I come to it.

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