Like I said before my initiation was twofold.
I took a creative writing class with Molly at Butte College, and I loved it. My peers were amazing, my teacher was amazing, and fuck even the textbook was amazing. We quickly figured out that we had a lot to learn. The semester was broken up into 2 parts.
The first half of the semester was dedicated to “The Elements” of writing. We covered things like Diction, POV, and Imagery. I think all of us were overwhelmed by the idea that all these elements and the individual writer’s own personal mojo had flow in concert with everything else to be truly stunning… were we talking about story craft or alchemy? Sometimes the lines blurred.
I was forced to reevaluate my favorite stories, the Lord of the Rings, Dune, 1984, and so many more. As much as I love the class it ruined television and movies for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy all mediums including cinema, but now I watched and analyzed with an eye more critical than I’d ever previously honed. What worked? What didn’t? What agreed with my own aesthetic? Where did my aesthetic clash with what’s popular today? These questions consume me to this day.
The highlights of the class were by far my peers. Three incredibly talented and intelligent women stand out in my mind. One wrote a trippy story about a giant Koi that ate a fisherman, another about graphic murder, and the other offered sound critique again and again and challenged me to be more thoughtful with my own. For myself my favorite piece was one about a Gorilla standing up in his pen at the SanFrancisco Zoo and shouting at the people he perceived as his captors (I’d just wanted Rise of the Planet of the Apes, so talking Apes was on my mind)!
The other nugget of hellsyeah I left with was a six page short story with seven identical sisters, a cyborg named Thompson, and a young girl named Kiddow marching into the belly of a Necropolis located a mile beneath the sands of Death Valley to hand Thompson, a man the seven sisters (The Hebdomad) considered a traitor. Kiddow was made to lay the noose around her daddy’s neck… I remember reading this aloud to my class and evoking sadness within myself at this point in the narrative. Sometimes the feels get you, even when it’s your own work.
That short story is what gave rise to Beyond the Southerly Weepers, and to this day I am grateful to my creative writing class. Without it I should never have seen this world of vast potential and grim realities that is New Haven (formerly know as California). Yes it was a good class, but there was even more to be offered.
It seemed Molly and an unknown group called Northern California Novelists, a novel writing group that has been instrumental in my continued and ongoing development as a writer and as a person. One day Molly approached me after class, as she does with students every semester and invited me to come check out the group (She insisted the group wasn’t her group, but a few of us wonder from time to time :P). I accepted.
There were six members of NCN when I first met them. I’ve told you about most of them before. Molly, a woman who enjoys horror novels and is currently writing a YA trilogy, was known first to me as teacher… I took quite awhile for my mind to accept her as peer, and now I view all my teachers as peers along with all the greats of Literature which can get me into trouble with other profs from time to time, but hey, that’s another story. There was Tim, big burly fellow who at the time was writing a fantasy bit about a thief with a worm in his brain that talked to him. It was good fun to be sure! Now he’s writing an alternate, steam punk history of America circa 1812. Also, good shit! There was Ian who at the time was also rolling a fantasy novel… he described it as “Clint Eastwood meets High Fantasy” and I must say his Outsider and his Lyzo Gyo magic is just about as fantastic as they come. Ian is currently working on a sci-fi bit about an ice-moon and a cyborg named Zed (…jerk thinks he can muscle in on my territory, huh!?). Another is Jon, you’ve heard of him. He’s as dense and thick in the skull as he is talented. Sometimes he sees in black and white, but I suspect he would say he sees the truth, and if you disagree with him you’re either stupid or an idealist, equal propositions in his book. He was writing a galaxy-hopper sci-fi bit about an intergalactic, religious zealot, cockroach that traversed the universe to snare escaped property, a man named Dean Devlin. Now he’s writing about a WWII era Wight… yeah, this guy’s messed in the head to be sure. Then there’s Brittany. She was shy when I met her, and can still pull an awkward card like pro if she has to, but she’s warmed up to me. She is a horse sketching enthusiast, who dances, practices martial arts of one variety or another, and weaves complex prose together to create daunting and daring plots, and she loves high-fantasy brand magic. The first novel she was working on she was presenting backwards (she’d finished the novel but was presenting the story to us from last to first like it was the fantasy version of Memento!). Highlight: A fire demon cutting the rings of a King, the rings gave the user power, and this particular fire demon symbolically castrated the gentleman in front of his whole court! Good show, no? Finally, before there was Liz, there was Annie. Annie’s novel was one part snooze-fest, one part action packed rumpus through a post apocalyptic future world, and two parts crazy. “Insert the mind hooks and turn 90 degrees,” is a line that will haunt me to my dying day. Stan’s is the man, and the other… not so much. I owe these folks a great deal, and I respect them all tremendously.
Next time I’ll tell you about my very first meeting with NCN, and the impossible Herculean task they laid out for me to perform before they would give me a shot at the group.
Thank you for reading,
Note: I am not the original owner of the image appearing above this article.