Daily Archives: October 25, 2010

My Very Sensitive Author Photo

For when I finally ditch this speculative fiction nonsense and buckle down to write a True Work of Mopey Bastardery. Can’t you sense my pain? My sad, bearded pain?

I think this shall be the book that I write for this author photo:

It shall be a stunning examination of the emptiness of the human condition. But with allegory! Because it can’t be a True Work of Mopey Bastardery without allegory. And quiet, desperate alcoholism. Also, meaningful silences. And pie. Allegorical pie.

I’m going to put on some Okkervil River and get right to work! Wish me luck!

The Yard FAQ

Pretty much any time I post a picture of my yard, I get the same several questions in the comment thread from folks who are apparently new around here. After most of a decade, I’m now officially bored with answering the same questions (sorry guys, it’s not you, it’s me), so I’m creating The Yard FAQ to refer people to in the future.

So, questions, in the order they come to my brain:

1. Damn, that’s a lot of lawn. How big is your yard, anyway?

Our property is five acres, and with the exception of the house, driveway and shed, it is entirely lawn. The dimensions of the property, as I understand it, are almost exactly those of a Manhattan city block.

2. How do you mow and how long does it take?

We have a lawn tractor with a 48″ blade, with an outboard attachment that adds an additional 60″ of mowing blades, which means (for those of you who don’t wish to do with math) that we can cut a swath of grass nine feet wide with each pass. The entire yard at that rate takes about four hours.

3. Do you mow your own lawn?

No. I did it off and on for the first couple years and then developed a righteous grass allergy. Since then it’s been done either by Krissy or by my father-in-law, although I think he may be retiring from the mowing game at some point. Athena’s a year or two away from being able to handle the tractor, so for the time being Krissy mows or we hire someone local to do it for us.

4. How do you water and tend your yard?

Water is provided by the sky; i.e., the grass gets watered when it rains. We don’t have sprinklers or any other such thing. If it doesn’t rain, the grass goes brown (as it did earlier in the summer). Beyond that, we contract with TruGreen to have their folks come by every now and then for weed control and aeration, which keeps the yard dandelion free and otherwise generally healthy. We don’t devote a huge amount of time to the yard aside from mowing; it’s grass, it knows what to do.

5. Instead of just having all the grass, you guys should really [insert favorite ecological/esthetic/whatever things for us to do with our yard].

Tell you what, if you want to come over and devote the time/energy/money to do that thing you think I should do with my yard, then we can talk. Otherwise, it’s very likely to remain in its current, yard-like state.

6. What do you do with all that yard?

The dog, child and cats play around in it, we use a small part of it as a garden, and personally speaking every once in a while I go stand in the middle of it and say to myself, Good lord, this is a lot of lawn. That’s pretty much it.

7. Why did you get such a large lawn?

When my wife first told me she wanted to move to Ohio, I was not for it — not because I disliked her family (they’re lovely, actually), but because as a native southern Californian then currently living outside of Washington DC, I didn’t want to move to Ohio. So I thought I would be clever and told her we could move if she found a place with five acres of land, under the reasoning that I could never afford that much acreage. I forgot that Ohio land values are not southern California or suburban DC land values. She found five acres that we could afford pretty easily. This is the five acres (and house) she liked the most. And here we are. With a big damn yard.

8. Do you like your big damn yard?

Yup, especially since I don’t have to mow it. More seriously it’s nice to have a lot of space for Athena to play in, and to be able to let the pets out without worrying about them wandering where they shouldn’t, and to have space between me and my (very nice to be sure) neighbors. I’m not in any real rush to move, and having a nice big yard is part of that.

Those are the basic questions and answers; if you have any more questions drop them in the comments and maybe I’ll provide answers there.

The Big Idea: Kathe Koja

“All the world’s a stage” – and in fiction, this saying is more true than elsewhere, with the author as director, moving her actors in and out of the floodlights, as the story demands. Kathe Koja, however, adds yet another dimension to the saying in her new novel Under the Poppy, in which the stage of the novel holds the stage of the theatre, and much more. Koja looks at how the stage inspires the writing, which in turn has inspired the stage.

KATHE KOJA:

The theatre is the locus of ultimate fiction: the one place on earth where normal everyday people, people you might run into at the café or the grocery store, people you might even know (their names, their fears and loves, the way they toss their underwear not quite into the damn hamper) – people like you, in fact – become indisputably someone else, someone completely different, right before your very eyes.  Change the lights, put on a mask, and voila: instant strange.  And instant license to behave in a way in which the world’s most stringent laws become just another part of the script, to be used, ignored, or flouted at will: under these lights, it’s story that’s paramount.

For a fiction writer, is this not heaven?

And when the actors themselves are puppets, the ultimate playthings and the ultimate in freedom on the stage – they can fly, die, pop off a head, literally break a heart, and come back whole and gleaming for the matinee … well.  Then the only limit is the bedrock challenge of the page: What can you make live here, writer, with your blank space and your choice of words? Let’s put on a show.

Under the Poppy is my response to that enthralling challenge. Set in a darkly shabby avenue of the Victorian age, its story is of Istvan and Rupert, childhood comrades, lovers, and puppeteers, as they make their lives and make their way by the uses and enchantments of theatre, by rendering their puppets of wood and wire so real that people will pay to watch them play at life, so real that when they themselves are parted, by jealousy, anger, and a most intimate betrayal, their only road back to one another leads across the stage: the artifice of approach and retreat, the exquisite humor of making a wooden man with a mocking grin speak for you to the one you love.

And because that stage is set in a brothel – a place called Under the Poppy with its own local reputation for play-acting and fantasy, where the girls and the boy can be whatever you like, as long as you pay the price; watched over by stern madam Decca, who keeps playing her own desperate, crumbling role as war takes over the town – the ante is upped by the unpredictable nature of sex and desire.  As Istvan says to Lucy, one of the working girls, “We are so much alike, you and I … Both of us vendors of the art of the moment, the impermanent pleasure,” which is the pleasure of fiction, too, isn’t it?

Writing this book was different, and special, for me in a lot of ways: my first novel of historical fiction, my longest novel ever, my first work specifically for adults (I also write YA) in over ten years.  As to the story’s theatrical nature, I have never been an actor, worked in stagecraft, or even watched a puppet show before this book, but I knew without question that this story, these people with their stages and feints and plots both before and behind the footlights, was for me.  I loved the research into the period and the puppetry, and I loved the details that I learned and incorporated (and a lot of things I learned and may use later….).  And I loved the writing itself, the absorbing daily act of imagining and making this book.

And when Under the Poppy was completed, I knew that there was even more to this story, more to do.  So I adapted the first half of the novel for a stage presentation, a work of immersive theatre that I and a host of talented collaborators – a filmmaker, a set and costume designer, a musician/composer — are working to bring to the stage in 2011.  Which means that I’m a playwright, now: another act of transformation-by-theatre!

The biggest idea of all here is the pure pleasure and play of imagination: of making believe.  Under the Poppy is a stage of the imagination, and it sits waiting for you to bring yours to the performance, to engage in the willful collusion of reader and writer, participating in this act of theatre-on-the-page, where you and I pretend that words are really people and that what happens here is really real: and as long as we both believe, the show goes on.

—-

Under the Poppy: Amazon|Barnes & Noble| Indiebound

Read an excerpt. See the book trailer. Read Kathe Koja’s blog.

The theatre is the locus of ultimate fiction: the one place on earth where normal everyday people, people you might run into at the café or the grocery store, people you might even know (their names, their fears and loves, the way they toss their underwear not quite into the damn hamper) – people like you, in fact – become indisputably someone else, someone completely different, right before your very eyes.  Change the lights, put on a mask, and voila: instant strange.  And instant license to behave in a way in which the world’s most stringent laws become just another part of the script, to be used, ignored, or flouted at will: under these lights, it’s story that’s paramount.

For a fiction writer, is this not heaven? 

And when the actors themselves are puppets, the ultimate playthings and the ultimate in freedom on the stage – they can fly, die, pop off a head, literally break a heart, and come back whole and gleaming for the matinee … well.  Then the only limit is the bedrock challenge of the page: What can you make live here, writer, with your blank space and your choice of words? Let’s put on a show.

Under the Poppy is my response to that enthralling challenge. Set in a darkly shabby avenue of the Victorian age, its story is of Istvan and Rupert, childhood comrades, lovers, and puppeteers, as they make their lives and make their way by the uses and enchantments of theatre, by rendering their puppets of wood and wire so real that people will pay to watch them play at life, so real that when they themselves are parted, by jealousy, anger, and a most intimate betrayal, their only road back to one another leads across the stage: the artifice of approach and retreat, the exquisite humor of making a wooden man with a mocking grin speak for you to the one you love.

And because that stage is set in a brothel – a place called Under the Poppy with its own local reputation for play-acting and fantasy, where the girls and the boy can be whatever you like, as long as you pay the price; watched over by stern madam Decca, who keeps playing her own desperate, crumbling role as war takes over the town – the ante is upped by the unpredictable nature of sex and desire.  As Istvan says to Lucy, one of the working girls, “We are so much alike, you and I … Both of us vendors of the art of the moment, the impermanent pleasure,” which is the pleasure of fiction, too, isn’t it?

Writing this book was different, and special, for me in a lot of ways: my first novel of historical fiction, my longest novel ever, my first work specifically for adults (I also write YA) in over ten years.  As to the story’s theatrical nature, I have never been an actor, worked in stagecraft, or even watched a puppet show before this book, but I knew without question that this story, these people with their stages and feints and plots both before and behind the footlights, was for me.  I loved the research into the period and the puppetry, and I loved the details that I learned and incorporated (and a lot of things I learned and may use later….).  And I loved the writing itself, the absorbing daily act of imagining and making this book.

And when Under the Poppy was completed, I knew that there was even more to this story, more to do.  So I adapted the first half of the novel for a stage presentation, a work of immersive theatre that I and a host of talented collaborators – a filmmaker, a set and costume designer, a musician/composer — are working to bring to the stage in 2011.  Which means that I’m a playwright, now: another act of transformation-by-theatre!

The biggest idea of all here is the pure pleasure and play of imagination: of making believe. Under the Poppy is a stage of the imagination, and it sits waiting for you to bring yours to the performance, to engage in the willful collusion of reader and writer, participating in this act of theatre-on-the-page, where you and I pretend that words are really people and that what happens here is really real: and as long as we both believe, the show goes on.
The theatre is the locus of ultimate fiction: the one place on earth where normal everyday people, people you might run into at the café or the grocery store, people you might even know (their names, their fears and loves, the way they toss their underwear not quite into the damn hamper) – people like you, in fact – become indisputably someone else, someone completely different, right before your very eyes.  Change the lights, put on a mask, and voila: instant strange.  And instant license to behave in a way in which the world’s most stringent laws become just another part of the script, to be used, ignored, or flouted at will: under these lights, it’s story that’s paramount.

For a fiction writer, is this not heaven?

And when the actors themselves are puppets, the ultimate playthings and the ultimate in freedom on the stage – they can fly, die, pop off a head, literally break a heart, and come back whole and gleaming for the matinee … well.  Then the only limit is the bedrock challenge of the page: What can you make live here, writer, with your blank space and your choice of words? Let’s put on a show.

Under the Poppy is my response to that enthralling challenge. Set in a darkly shabby avenue of the Victorian age, its story is of Istvan and Rupert, childhood comrades, lovers, and puppeteers, as they make their lives and make their way by the uses and enchantments of theatre, by rendering their puppets of wood and wire so real that people will pay to watch them play at life, so real that when they themselves are parted, by jealousy, anger, and a most intimate betrayal, their only road back to one another leads across the stage: the artifice of approach and retreat, the exquisite humor of making a wooden man with a mocking grin speak for you to the one you love.

And because that stage is set in a brothel – a place called Under the Poppy with its own local reputation for play-acting and fantasy, where the girls and the boy can be whatever you like, as long as you pay the price; watched over by stern madam Decca, who keeps playing her own desperate, crumbling role as war takes over the town – the ante is upped by the unpredictable nature of sex and desire.  As Istvan says to Lucy, one of the working girls, “We are so much alike, you and I … Both of us vendors of the art of the moment, the impermanent pleasure,” which is the pleasure of fiction, too, isn’t it?

Writing this book was different, and special, for me in a lot of ways: my first novel of historical fiction, my longest novel ever, my first work specifically for adults (I also write YA) in over ten years.  As to the story’s theatrical nature, I have never been an actor, worked in stagecraft, or even watched a puppet show before this book, but I knew without question that this story, these people with their stages and feints and plots both before and behind the footlights, was for me.  I loved the research into the period and the puppetry, and I loved the details that I learned and incorporated (and a lot of things I learned and may use later….).  And I loved the writing itself, the absorbing daily act of imagining and making this book.

And when Under the Poppy was completed, I knew that there was even more to this story, more to do.  So I adapted the first half of the novel for a stage presentation, a work of immersive theatre that I and a host of talented collaborators – a filmmaker, a set and costume designer, a musician/composer — are working to bring to the stage in 2011.  Which means that I’m a playwright, now: another act of transformation-by-theatre!

The biggest idea of all here is the pure pleasure and play of imagination: of making believe.  Under the Poppy is a stage of the imagination, and it sits waiting for you to bring yours to the performance, to engage in the willful collusion of reader and writer, participating in this act of theatre-on-the-page, where you and I pretend that words are really people and that what happens here is really real: and as long as we both believe, the show goes on.The theatre is the locus of ultimate fiction: the one place on earth where normal everyday people, people you might run into at the café or the grocery store, people you might even know (their names, their fears and loves, the way they toss their underwear not quite into the damn hamper) – people like you, in fact – become indisputably someone else, someone completely different, right before your very eyes.  Change the lights, put on a mask, and voila: instant strange.  And instant license to behave in a way in which the world’s most stringent laws become just another part of the script, to be used, ignored, or flouted at will: under these lights, it’s story that’s paramount.

For a fiction writer, is this not heaven?

And when the actors themselves are puppets, the ultimate playthings and the ultimate in freedom on the stage – they can fly, die, pop off a head, literally break a heart, and come back whole and gleaming for the matinee … well.  Then the only limit is the bedrock challenge of the page: What can you make live here, writer, with your blank space and your choice of words? Let’s put on a show.

Under the Poppy is my response to that enthralling challenge. Set in a darkly shabby avenue of the Victorian age, its story is of Istvan and Rupert, childhood comrades, lovers, and puppeteers, as they make their lives and make their way by the uses and enchantments of theatre, by rendering their puppets of wood and wire so real that people will pay to watch them play at life, so real that when they themselves are parted, by jealousy, anger, and a most intimate betrayal, their only road back to one another leads across the stage: the artifice of approach and retreat, the exquisite humor of making a wooden man with a mocking grin speak for you to the one you love.

And because that stage is set in a brothel – a place called Under the Poppy with its own local reputation for play-acting and fantasy, where the girls and the boy can be whatever you like, as long as you pay the price; watched over by stern madam Decca, who keeps playing her own desperate, crumbling role as war takes over the town – the ante is upped by the unpredictable nature of sex and desire.  As Istvan says to Lucy, one of the working girls, “We are so much alike, you and I … Both of us vendors of the art of the moment, the impermanent pleasure,” which is the pleasure of fiction, too, isn’t it?

Writing this book was different, and special, for me in a lot of ways: my first novel of historical fiction, my longest novel ever, my first work specifically for adults (I also write YA) in over ten years.  As to the story’s theatrical nature, I have never been an actor, worked in stagecraft, or even watched a puppet show before this book, but I knew without question that this story, these people with their stages and feints and plots both before and behind the footlights, was for me.  I loved the research into the period and the puppetry, and I loved the details that I learned and incorporated (and a lot of things I learned and may use later….).  And I loved the writing itself, the absorbing daily act of imagining and making this book.

And when Under the Poppy was completed, I knew that there was even more to this story, more to do.  So I adapted the first half of the novel for a stage presentation, a work of immersive theatre that I and a host of talented collaborators – a filmmaker, a set and costume designer, a musician/composer — are working to bring to the stage in 2011.  Which means that I’m a playwright, now: another act of transformation-by-theatre!

The biggest idea of all here is the pure pleasure and play of imagination: of making believe.  Under the Poppy is a stage of the imagination, and it sits waiting for you to bring yours to the performance, to engage in the willful collusion of reader and writer, participating in this act of theatre-on-the-page, where you and I pretend that words are really people and that what happens here is really real: and as long as we both believe, the show goes on.