Some Musings by Jo Clayton
(The Short Version)

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These thoughts came from Jo's newsgroup on Genie. They show the variety of interests Jo had, and how she loved to mentor those who wanted to learn. We invite you to enjoy a few moments with Jo.

November 22, 1993

No snow yet.

The sky is a blanket of thick greywhite cloud.

The day is hushed and cold, hardly a leaf moving, voices are muted, sounds fall dead next to whatever created them.

When I walked down to the mailboxes, I passed that rose pink car again. It was parked next to one painted a dark brownish red — a combination that shrivels the optic nerves. Ghod is that car awful.

(Shouldn't talk, I suppose, the ‘ol Van is that gloppy yellowy-cream color that looks scatological to one brought up on a diary farm and having to deal with calves with the scours — calf diarrhea to the uninitiated. But I'm not responsible, I bought the thing used. (g))

February 17, 1994

I'm really most comfortable when surrounded with clutter. It takes me about three days to get a satisfying amount of glunk scattered over floors and everything around with horizontal areas. But I would DIE if I had to let other people see that. Can you say dissonance?

April 13, 1994

Watched the John Larroquette show tonight. (Lovely show by the way, some excellent writing there and very funny.) He was depressed. A gun to his head convinced him he really wanted to live, then he got obsessed that this life he suddenly discovered he really liked was going to end.

Funny what you can come up with, when you're avoiding work. (G)

I started thinking I didn't really understand why people worry about some sort of external meaning to life. To me, the meaning of life is the process of living it. Not big things or little things. Just everything.

Then I started wondering. Did I have the kind of outlook in the 1970s when I was in the process of burning out as a teacher? I think so, but it's hard to go back to those times and figure out where I was. Right now I'm doing what I love at the limits of my ability, doing my best neither to cheat myself nor my readers. I might chew my nails off to the elbow some months worrying if I'm going to have the next month's rent or be out on the street, I might have to bag things I really want to do — bu that's just part of the game.

Why _do_ people seem to need more meaning than just being?

(Hah. Just killed another 20 minutes before I have to go back to walking Shadith into a place that's going to make her grit her teeth and think seriously of murder.)

April 28, 1994

Grmp. Have reached a place in this chapter where in the outline I said Shadith starts looking for clues to the smuggler in the night world of Marrat's Market. Which is real easy to write as a note, but now I've got to come up with clues, the physical descriptions of places and people, conversations that are plausible and informative, but oblique enough not to draw unfavorable attention from the local authorities who already don't like her being there uninvited. And I've done things enough like this before that there's that added complication sitting on top of the rest and squashing them down. I have to come up with a NEW approach, different feel, smell, all that kind of impossible thing. I refuse to repeat myself (other than unconsciously, of course. That happens to us all.) Sigh.

Kept writing all sorts of stuff as prologue to this, being clever as your basic barrel of monkeys — and most of it will have to be junked because what it is is avoiding the hard part. Sigh.

Right now my head is empty. Think I'll play some solitaire then go sleep and see if good old reliable subconscious can come up with something.


May 2, 1994

I have a rough idea of the end and its emotional tone when I start [a book] and generally end up somewhere in that neighborhood — but I suspect that may be a byproduct of my habit of multibook writing. The details about how I'm going to get there are ... um ... hazy (to describe the state politely) or in may cases wrong. Things evolve. But my writing world is theological, unlike the real world, and the end I'm aiming for is always there.

May 26, 1994

Really lovely report on the scribing of a new Torah on ATC just now, especially the part where a woman remembered her father by putting her hand on the scribe's hand as he wrote an alef. Her father's name was Abraham. And how the scribe said now the father's memory was written into that copy of the Torah.

... The scribe sang the songs for each letter he wrote and told the prayer he said each morning and there was a scene with him talking about scribing the Torah with a class of school boys. I'd call it a radio essay rather than just a report.

I got rather teary when the woman described what she felt after the letter was finished. She was middle aged, just your average woman, but her feeling trembled in her voice.

May 30, 1994

The way I work this is to have the non-viewpoint character betray his feelings through body language. The viewpoint character can think about those and draw silent conclusions. And of course the reader should know enough about the non-viewpoint character from earlier in the book to add their gloss to the viewpoint character's ideas.

Negative things can be fairly subtle — like having the non-viewpoint character look away at a certain point of the conversation or his hands tighten or his fingers twitch a little as if he wants to close them into fists. He could smile in that artificial way without involving the eyes. He can feel greasy or smarmy to the viewpoint character.

Remember how you yourself pick up on things that people DON'T say when you know what they're thinking anyway.

June 17, 1994

It's one of the "benefits" of living 55 years with this &&***%%$$## up-down tick that I know it ends. Doesn't help the gut a whole lot when I'm wallowing in the thoughts, though. And I paid bills today and my bank account is going to pull an O.J. on me any day now (I can't _believe_ I said that and plan to leave it in (glyph of raised brows directed at self)). And then when I got back from the post office, management is cleaning the parking slots so I can't park there and have to go hunt another slot, which will probably piss off whoever's slot that is. Grmp.

June 30, 1994

You know, a person can get really good at the art of not-sleeping if she practices it long enough. Trains of thought turn into party balloons and go boompa boompa boompa off, riding for the horizon in all directions. The check is in the mail, now hear this, the check is in the mail or will be in a day or two, the strain is off the belly, sing the ulcers to sweet sleep.

Yawn. My head's been training to the tune of hamster wheels. And it won't shut off, won't won't won't won't .... yawn.

Lovely day outside, but I'd better water the geraniums and the roses and my baby oak tree sometime today. Rain is passing us by a while.

Good night, sweet lurkers, while I go knit up some exceedingly raveled sleeves. (G)

September 22, 1994

... A number of reasons for reading aloud.

The sound of my sentences means a lot to me, the words have to flow with a degree of lyricism, but emphatically not too much of it. Reading aloud also catches typos that even spell checkers miss. It catches errors in logic and sentence structure. It catches awkwardnesses; words that I stumble over might jar a reader out of the story. It slows me down and helps me see the movement of story more accurately because I don't slur over things I've rewritten so often the words feel like they're engraved on my head.

The few times I've got impatient with this and sent [the manuscript] off without doing that last read aloud, I have regretted it when I went through the page proofs.

Copyright © 1998-2006, The Estate of Jo Clayton