So it seems somewhat silly to repost here about PodCastle’s upcoming flash fiction contest, because let’s face it, who is going to find out about the contest here that didn’t already know about it from somewhere else? However, since the prior Escape Pod contest resulted in one of my two published pieces, I can’t help but feel a warmth and fondness for the whole endeavor.

Yes, after many years, Escape Artists is doing it again: a flash fiction contest voted on by listeners. Actually, there’s a separate contest for each of the podcasts, so technically it’s three flash fiction contests. PodCastle goes first, and subs open April 1 (on the two year anniversary of PodCastle!). Get your pencils sharpened and write us something new and glorious! Editors will quietly stand on the sidelines while listeners of the podcasts vote up their favorite submissions. Each writer may submit up to two flash pieces to each contest (so two times three: that’s six opportunities to flex your succint writing powers). May the most evocative, well-written piece of flash fiction win! Details about the schedule and the rules and the voting procedure can be read in the relevant forum post. As an editor of PodCastle, I cannot participate by submitting stories (or even voting, actually), but I’ll be observing, reading, and smiling. Go to it!

Meanwhile, I’m on spring break, and instead of doing my taxes, or something useful, I took care of all the submissions that had returned to me but I had failed to send out again. Total number of items I subbed? Five. Number I already had out? Two. Five plus two? Still seven, even with new math. Which…I’m not sure about this, but I think may be the most things I’ve had ever out at one time. Pretty awesome!

Have I been writing? No, not much, not really. But I am thinking about writing. Ideas are arriving in my head uninvited. I spent thirty minutes at Sophia’s piano lesson making a list of all the things I need to know to start working on the next novel. Long list of research ahead of me. Questions to be answered, such as: are there any underground rivers or lakes with significant salinity (say, 2 percent or more) ? Some of my unedited stories have been calling to me to fix them. And the post-apocalyptic Córdoba story has recently reminded me it is not happy about being shoved in a closet unwritten. Even Chelia has been making appearances, asking me to revise her story and finish the prequel.

Also as part of spring break, I aggressively tackled the submissions pile at PodCastle. We are within ten subs of having nothing to review in the editorial consideration folder, which is the lowest pending subs point since January, when we took over PodCastle. There’s no slush more than three days old (though honestly, credit for staying current with that goes to the ever awesome Ann Leckie). In other PodCastle (and Ann Leckie) news, Ann Leckie month seems to have gone off beautifully, bringing a different sensibility and range of stories to the podcast, and showing us what PodCastle would be like if she were running it. And if we learned anything during February, it was that Ann should definitely run her own magazine! Meanwhile, co-editor Dave and I are excited to see some of our favorite story selections finally coming into the rotation (production lead time is longer than you would think), such as Samantha Henderson’s chilling “The Mermaid’s Tea Party“. We’ve got some more great stories coming up, ones that we are really eager to share. So, as always, if you have fantasy story reprints, we’d love to see them! Check our guidelines, and send us the story we wish we’d written!

“En cuanto a la sociedad, iba arraigándose la idea de la desprotección, el oscuro temor de que cualquiera, por inocente que fuese, pudiese caer en aquella infinita caza de brujas, apoderándose de unos el miedo sobrecogedor y de otros una tendencia consciente o inconsciente a justificar el horror: «Por algo será» , se murmuraba en voz baja, como queriendo así propiciar a los terribles e inescrutables dioses, mirando como apestados a los hijos o padres del desaparecido.”– del prólogo del informe de la CONADEP.

Nunca Más

Rough translation, for my English speaking readers:

“In terms of the society, the idea of defenselessness began to take root, the dark fear that anyone, innocent as they may be, might fall into that infinite witch hunt, seizing some people with overpowering fear and other people with a tendency – conscious or unconscious – to justify the horror. “It must be for a reason,” justifiers murmured in low voices, as if through these words they might avert those terrible and inscrutable gods, and meanwhile looking on the sons and fathers of the disappeared as on lepers.”– from the prologue of the CONADEP‘s report, Nunca Más.

Hello, friends!

It’s been too long, hasn’t it?

The operative mode of my life right now is busy. I want to let everyone know, however, that I’m getting my own classroom in the fall! It will be a tiny classroom, far from the ideal number of students for a Montessori elementary, but we expect it to grow in time, and personally, I’m so incredibly excited about it that I cannot describe how I feel. Euphoric, maybe? Grinning like a damn fool? Eager, pleased, jingling with joy? All of that.

The other day I gave a group lesson for the first time. — Explanatory note for the non-Montessorians among you: at the primary (3-6 years) level, children are given individual lessons, at the elementary (6-12 years) level children are given all their lessons in small groups instead — The students loved it, and they started working with the material immediately, and worked with it for days straight. It was great! Love those materials, love seeing the kids work with them. On Friday, a student actually asked me if she could please also have a spelling test, like the other student whom I give spelling tests to. Yes. She ASKED for a spelling test. Children (and people, really, but that’s another discussion) want to learn and want to be challenged. I see it every day. I love it.

The first of the six changes went off without a hitch (that was walking Sergei regularly, using the trigger of when I get home from work), but then I didn’t start in on my second change, because I didn’t know how to break it down into baby steps so easy I couldn’t fail. More on that when I figure out what to do next. Anyway, if I only end up with five changes this year instead of six, I will still feel quite accomplished. I’m still walking Sergei every school day but Thursday (because yoooooga makes walking him complicated), even when it’s miserably cold, or miserably raining, or miserably sunny. It has not actually been miserably sunny much, or at all.

The editing gig is working wonderfully. I’m gratified to see some of my and Dave’s story picks making it out into the world to be heard and commented on by listeners, because the lead time on story selection and production is a lot longer than I would have imagined before I started running the podcast, so even though we’ve been working since January to make sure the podcast comes out as it should, not much of what has come out thus far is stuff we picked out on our own (also there was Ann Leckie month in February, which was awesome. You need to check out Sir Hereward and Mr. Fitz go to War Again by Garth Nix to see what I mean). I’m excited about what we have selected and in store, and excited that we’ve picked several stories where narrators, when asked, have responded gushingly with “I love that story!” Narrator, we love that story, too!

So that’s me in a nutshell. How about you?

I took the dog out again today!

Have I mentioned that I’m the playground lady at school? Yeah, how weird is that? And it’s Montessori, so there’s all that connectedness to nature focus, which means we go out every day without fail.

For two days I have driven over the Missouri, amazed at the huge blocks of ice floating in the dark murk of the river. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anything quite like it, that half clogged with ice river, its frozen patches floating up white and slowly drifting, supported by the muddy flow, deeper and shadowed. It’s quite a contrast, lovely to behold, and I have to remember that I’m going 70 over the bridge and need to pay attention because the sight of the river draws my eye.

Also, every day I watch the oncoming traffic, crawling or sometimes stopped, and I think the person who told me that it wasn’t so much of an advantage driving against traffic was out of her mind.

There’s this cute kid (heh, that’s not really identifying, they’re all cute in their own way) but she’s new and she’s totally into the Montessori thing. Some kids just seem to fall right into the paradigm, they just get it on a deep fundamental level. Others have to be coaxed a little more, but this one kid, she gets it, and I wouldn’t even think she’s new except for: they told me she was new to the classroom, and after each cycle of activity she comes up to me and says, “What can I play now?” Should I tell her she’s actually working, not playing? Naaaaaah.

Oh, only one toilet accident today, and that was an older kid, so I could just tell her to go clean up, get her spare clothes out of her cubby and change. So that’s about as hassle free as it’s possible to get.

I’m really tired. Is it too early to go to bed?

Took the dog out again today. Thought about how nice it was that I wasn’t going on a twenty minute walk with him. Believe that’s probably not in the spirit of forming a habit. Just realized that I’ll be gone on Friday and won’t be able to take him out then.

Down to two toilet related accidents today at work, even though I made every effort to put the child who had both accidents on the toilet. And he went! But then, as happens, he had to go again and didn’t make it. Twice. In four hours. At least it was all urine and no excrement today.

Wow. I really hope this blog doesn’t turn into a litany of the eliminatory antics of a bunch of three year olds. Let’s hope I’ll have not much to say in this regard in the future!

Tomorrow, I’m on my own, without the prior assistant, who is going on to her own job now.

Also, amazed at how the properly prepared environment invites the children to work. I know, that’s straight party line Montessori, but it’s just that it happens over and over and over again in the classroom and it never stops being cool.

I took the dog out, even though it’s very, very cold.

There were five separate toilet accidents today at work. Granted, one was a repeat customer, but still. Also, it was not actually my job to clean up after the children who had these accidents, but that’s only because the prior assistant was still there today, and I was just supposed to observe, as part of my training. They promise me it is not like this every day.

I am not joking when I say bodily functions is one reason I prefer elementary children.

And I don’t find scatological humor really works for me usually, but there is something funny about the endless river of poop today, my FIRST day. One could make all sorts of jokes about it.

Also, cute kids! CUUUUUUTE!

Tomorrow, I am supposed to shadow the prior assistant. Toilet issues not my sole responsibility until Wednesday. Wish me luck. Send gloves and wipes.

So. It’s that time again. The resolutions time. I waffle a lot on doing this, some years yes, some years no, and I have the same rough success with resolutions everyone else has, which is not much…starting off strong and petering off, or just trying to do too much in one fell swoop or being totally vague and setting oneself up for failure and so on.

But this year. I have A PLAN. It’s not my plan, it’s the zen habits guy’s plan. It’s called 6 changes. On the theory that it takes roughly two months to build a habit, you take a habit you want to develop, work on it methodically for two months, then go to the next one.

Everyone loves a list, so here’s Anna’s 6 changes for 2010:

  • Walk Sergei five times a week for 20 minutes. When in KC, just walk for 20 minutes. Sadly, Sergei cannot come with me to KC.
  • Meditate for five minutes a day, weekdays. Maybe every day?
  • Unclutter ten things every single day. When in KC, this uncluttering can be computer related, since I won’t be with my stuff.
  • Write fiction in some consistent way I haven’t decided on yet. What? I’ve got a couple of months to nail this down, it won’t be the first habit!
  • Do regular yoga, which includes a challenge pose (headstands/handstands, danurasana, whatever. Interval yet to be decided. Also not first on the list!
  • Something I haven’t decided on yet. My priorities point to something in either the area of my Montessori training, my family, or daily reading. But in the first two categories not sure what I need to be doing daily, and in the third, I think I got it covered, since I already do this daily. So. Bears some thinking about. But I have time, which is the beauty of this method!

Hey Anna, you’re saying, I notice blogging is not one of your habits. Ah, so astute. I can never get one past you, can I? Yeah, you’re right. It’s not, and I’ve started with a mad dash out the gate that I can’t possibly sustain over the rest of the year. I realize that. But here’s the true fact: blogging is not a current priority for me. I like doing it, and with my new shiny website, I want to do it. But I’m not resolving to. Not this year. However, if I play 6 changes right, then I have to do the pubic accountability thing. This is where I do the public accountability thing, so…see what I did there? Built-in blogging. It might not be riveting blogging, but then I never promised riveting, did I?

So ok, the six changes method works as follows. You take the first habit on the list. You announce that you’re doing it. I hereby publicly declare that I want to walk Sergei every week day. Then, you set a trigger. Something that happens every day or a habit you already have to piggyback the new habit on to. So I will come home every weekday, and coming home will be the trigger to walk Sergei. But at this point, it diverges from a normal resolution. Because I don’t come home tomorrow and walk Sergei for twenty minutes. No. I start with something way easier. Like I might just say “Oh, this is when I walk Sergei,” and take his leash down from the hook and then hang it up again. Something I totally couldn’t fail at. However, because it’s cruel to handle the leash and not put it on Sergei, I’m going to have to step up my game a little from what is recommended. So, for this week, “walking Sergei” will consist of putting on the leash and taking him outside. That’s it. Not actually walking him. That comes in week two. In week two, I will walk him for five minutes, tacking on five minutes every week until I hit 20 minutes, which will be by week 5 (not week six, but it’s close enough!). Anyway, I’m supposed to tell you every day whether I walked him or not, so you have that excitement to look forward to.

And that’s what I’m resolving.

So now that it’s official and all, I can tell you the thing I’ve been hedging about in the last few posts. As of today, I am co-editor of PodCastle, sharing duties with the excellent Dave Thompson. As we like to joke: he’s the nice one. Rachel Swirsky, former editor, is moving on to focus on her writing (which is everywhere, and you should probably read some if you haven’t already).

If you haven’t checked out PodCastle before, now is an excellent time to start! In addition to providing a weekly dose of free fantasy audio fiction, you also have access to all previous 83 episodes and 45 pieces of flash fiction. There’s some excellent stories there, and a good chance at least some of them will please you. My daughter’s favorite one, for example, is In the House of the Seven Librarians.

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