Stephanie Burgis
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The cutting edge of art, and strawberry tarts
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You know it's going to be a good Sunday when you wake up to the smell of freshly-baked chocolate brownies (baked by your husband while you sleep), and the soft feeling of a dog licking your face. Talk about good reasons to get up in the morning! And perfect writing motivation, too - Patrick promised I could have a brownie as soon as I finished writing my 1,000 words for the day, so I ate my breakfast as fast as possible, tossed my latte down my throat, and launched myself back into Chapter Sixteen, also known as The One With the Highwayman. Best of all, I got a little carried away and kept going after the 1,000 words were up. (Then I stopped, of course, because I wanted the brownie! But that's okay. It was a good stopping-point.) So in other words, it was a good start to the Clarion West Write-a-thon. Six years ago from today, also on a Sunday, I was sitting nervously in a room full of strangers, listening to Octavia Butler, one of my lifelone writing idols, tell us we all needed confidence in ourselves, and giving us our first exercise: to write a story that really harnessed a powerful and true emotion that we had felt in the past. I was terrified I wasn't up to it. But I really, really wanted to. And by the end of that first week, I'd written my first short story in nearly a year.

I also had my first conversation with Patrick six years ago from today. He told me he was from Bristol, England. I tried and tried to come up with an image in my mind of where Bristol might be, or what it might be like. All I could think of was that section of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park where Fanny goes back to see her real family in Bristol and finds them living a horrible impoverished sailors' life near the docks.

"Bristol," I said knowledgeably. "Of course. That city has docks, right?" Of course, we were equally ignorant in different ways, since Patrick had never read Jane Austen back then, both of us have learned a lot since then! :)

Now we've just come back from a couple hours spent in Borders, where Patrick wrote a fabulous start to Chapter One of his new novel, and I drank tea, ate an illicitly-smuggled-in brownie, and read Diana Souhami's Wild Girls: The Love Life of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks, which makes turn-of-the-century Paris sound crazy, fun, and completely wild. I've always been a big fan of fîn-de-siécle Vienna, which had Gustav and Alma Mahler, Klimt, Otto Wagner, Schoenberg, and plenty of wonderful weirdness going on, but this book definitely makes Paris sound like The Place to Be, especially for American expatriates. I love the description of Natalie Barney's salons: "Pierre Louÿs brought André Gide and Paul Valéry...And so it snowballed. Romaine Brooks, Janet Flanner, Djuna Barnes, Dolly Wilde, Nancy Cunard, Peggy Guggenheim, Radclyffe Hall, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Gabriele D'Annunzio, Rabindranath Tagore, Jean Cocteau, Rainer Maria Rilke, all called at Natalie's salon for the cutting edge of art, and strawberry tarts."

It sounds like an awful lot of fun...

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