Tonight I'm at the central library in Stockton-on-Tees. Come on down!
Wednesday 1st October
Church Rd, Stockton-on-Tees TS18 1TU
7:30 - 8:30 pm
This week I'm in Yorkshire and Teeside. I'll be spending most of my time with family and friends. But I'm also doing some business, and three events. So if you're in the north, take a look:
Wednesday 1st October
Church Rd, Stockton-on-Tees TS18 1TU
7:30 - 8:30 pm
Thursday 2nd October
Central Library, Northgate, Halifax HX1 1UN
7:00 - 8:00 pm
Sunday 5th October
Ilkley Literature Festival
St Margaret's Hall, Ilkley LS29 9QL
4:30 - 5:30 pm
I love doing these things. I hope you'll join me.
A conversation we had in our house many years ago:
"I think I'll try that brand new recipe when so-and-so and such-and-such come over tomorrow."
"Only if we cook it for ourselves today. Because it's rude to experiments on guests."Don't experiment on guests. If you have invited someone into your space for an evening, make sure you know what you're doing and can steer them safely through it. This applies tenfold if you've never met them before.
|Nicola and Helena, Hull, 1982|
On Kelley's birthday, just nine days before mine, I phoned her for the first time and for five precious minutes, all I could afford, I clutched my grey plastic phone to the bones of skull and jaw and listened to the marvel of the pressure of her breath on the handset microphone membrane, of her hand repositioning itself on the receiver.
The next day, on the same grey plastic phone, I listened to my mother tell me Helena was dead.
It was about dinner time. Carol answered the phone. She passed it to me silently.
As my mother spoke I felt a vast internal shudder. This was not the soft shock of falling in love, but a much more brutal metamorphosis. My bedrock shifted, and the world was poised to fall on my head. I took a breath—I remember that breath, every slow-motion swell and stretch of muscle and expansion of cartilage—and stepped to one side.When I remember the anniversary of Helena's death consciously I can label and identify the weirdnesses, I can take into account what's connected to the here-and-now and what is being reflected through that emotional wormhole to the past. When I forget, it's much harder. I don't think I'll forget again.
She's dead, I told myself. Cope.
So I coped. I switched to automatic pilot—very calm, very reasonable; I told Mum I'd be with them the next afternoon. In the morning I went to work, and negotiated time off, and took a train to Leeds, where I began the process of phoning relatives, and helping to bring Helena's body back from Australia, and mediating the sudden deadly family squabble about whether she should be buried or burnt.
Two days later, the autopilot failed. I felt as though someone had ripped my skin off: red raw, so exposed I couldn't bear light, noise, smells, people.
Helena was woven into my earliest memories. I couldn't understand a world without her in it. Helena would never read my first novel. She would never meet Kelley. She would never see America. Everything I ever did from now on would be less real in a particular way because she wasn't there to share it. My life in England felt even more dreamlike now because Helena, the only one in the world with whom I'd shared much of it, had vanished.
I had already felt as though I were living in a strange double-printed story. Now I felt unmoored, lost between worlds.
Kelley was farther away than ever. I wrote to her, told her about Helena, but I knew she wouldn't get the letter for about ten days; her world strode on without me at her side.
On my birthday, my entire family showed up at Stepney Lane to celebrate, to prove that life goes on. I let them in our seating-for-four living room. I made tea. I sat on the carpet in a daze.
The phone rang. Everyone—Mum, Dad, Anne, Carolyn, Julie, Carol—looked at the phone, looked at me: Who was this outsider disturbing our grief? I answered.
"Hi, honey," Kelley said. "I love you, Happy Birthday! How..."
"Stop," I said. "Wait. Helena's dead."
A moment of satellite-bounce silence. "Dead? Oh my god. Are you—"
"Everyone's here." None of them even knew who the stranger on the phone was. She wasn't real. But they were all looking up from their tea: they had heard the tone of my voice. Something was happening. "I can't talk."
"I love you," she said.
"Yes," I said. "Oh, yes."
Carol put down her tea and left the room.
"Everyone's here. I have to go."
I put the phone down and met the Griffith family basilisk stare. I stared right back. It had now been seven weeks since I'd last seen Kelley--longer than the time I'd spent with her at Clarion.
I've been hearing about colleges in the US and UK that are teaching Hild from a variety of perspectives: history of English, gender and history, landscape history, and so on. This pleases me enormously.
I'm a big fan of what in the corporate world are called communities of practice, so if you're teaching Hild please let me know, and if you like I can two things:
Tickets are on sale for two of the UK events, Ilkley and Stockton. The others are free. But the one to pay attention to right now is the Ilkley Literature Festival. They've almost sold out my event already, so if you want to be there, go plunk down your £6 now (£4 for some).
On Tuesday, 23rd of September, Kelley and I will be at Seattle's Project Room to talk to Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of Powers of Two, about what it's like to work as creative partners. (We're both quoted in the book.)
Real Change is a street paper that focuses on poverty, homelessness, and social justice. It's also a social justice organisation that gives a voice to and provides opportunity for low-income and homeless people.
I did an interview with them. It's a bit looser than usual: I'm sugared up and highly caffeinated and just let rip. Normally, when someone asks me how Hild changed the world I slip the question. This time I slipped the leash, went for it, and ended up getting a bit, er, grandiose. You'll be pleased to know that without Hild we wouldn't have democracy as we know it...
I'm delighted to announce that Hild is one of the five finalists for the Washington State Book Award. The winners will be announced the evening of Friday October 10, 7:00 pm, at the Microsoft Auditorium at the central library, at 7 pm. Tickets are free, and there's a reception and book signing afterwards upstairs in the Central Library Living Room, complete with music by Seattle7Writers rock band.
The full nominee list, plus nominees for the two children's awards:
I'm on the cover of this month's Locus magazine. I've been on it before—eighteen years ago*. It occurred to me that you might like to see how I looked then.
|Taken aboard the Queen Mary, Long Beach, at the Nebula Awards weekend, 1996|
You've probably noticed that I've been quieter than usual for the last few months. I've been dealing with health issues.
Two main things: my vision and my MS.
My vision problems have nothing to do with MS and everything to do with being what my surgeon cheerily refers to as a "high myope." High myopia is defined as -6.00 dioptres or more. My most recent prescription isn't far off three times that; I'm a super mega-high myope. One of the problems associated with high myopia is posterior subcapsular cataracts (age-related cataracts are more usually nuclear). My vision is no longer wholly correctable with glasses or contact lenses. In fact, even without the cataracts it was getting dicy: most contact lens manufacturers don't make them in my prescription; those that did charged about $800 a year (which usually ended up being closer to a thousand when you factor in damage and loss—you lose a lot of contact lenses when you can't see...).
Not being able to see sucks but not being able to see when you walk with crutches is dangerous. So I made the decision to have surgery: total lens replacement in both eyes. I now have accommodative intra-ocular lenses and I'm busy teaching myself to read again. Well, I will be, when I've healed. I've only just (Tuesday) had the second eye done. And according to the surgeon it can take three to six months to get your best vision.
Right this minute I can see...everything. Distance brilliantly with one eye, up-close fabulously with the other. Mid-range pretty damn good with both. But the seeing is intermittent. The post-operative inflammation plus the various drops (two anti-inflammatory, one antibiotic) I have to take four times a day for the next few weeks make everything look smeared with vaseline. Or maybe that's the actual vaseline in the ointment I also have to use. But, bloody hell, I had no idea the world was so bright! Colours are really different; who knew I'd been seeing the world through a yellowish filter for most of my life?
For fellow high myopes: if you can afford it, do it. It will change your life. Three caveats, though.
I'll be in the UK from October 1 to 10 to do Hild-ish things.
In the north I'll be doing events for two libraries and a literature festival:
Every now and again I come across a project I really want to support. Here's one: Accessing the Future, an SF anthology exploring disability and how it intersects with other factors, edited by Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad.
Disability—and those other factors—is something that concerns me deeply.1
Kathryn and Djibril are raising money at Indiegogo. They need your help. I hope you'll get behind and push. Meanwhile, here's Djibril to tell you a bit more about their goals (note: the footnotes are mine).