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While digging around for the fine distinctions in French between embrasser (which should be "embrace" but sometimes means "kiss"), baiser (don't ask!), bisous, calîn, etc., I found this highly useful note in an old WordForum:

As I see it, the confusion about kissing and hugging got started in the 17th century. The exquisite preciosity (and hypocrisy) of the Versailles courtisans - who called teeth "the furnishings of the mouth", for example - made it popular among them to describe having sex with someone as "kissing" them. It was less crude, but more ambiguous too, and it soon lost its euphemistic sense and became a word just as rude as f---. The result is that, until today, if you say that a couple is baise-ing, it means they are fucking, et point finale!

This expropriation, however, created a need for a substitute to describe the simple act of kissing someone, now that “baiser” had been irretrievably expropriated for another purpose. The solution created even more confusion - the verb "embrasser", to embrace, began to be used (or misused) instead.

The result of all this is that in current French one has to find all sorts of round-about ways of describing these simple acts. For example, to say "I want to kiss you", you can choose between "Je veux t'embrasser" or – curiously - "Je veux te donner un baiser", since the noun did not meet the same fate as the verb.

“I want to hug you” is even worse, since this gesture is not very French and, what with “embrasser” now meaning “to kiss”, has to be described in detail: "Je veux t'entourer des bras", "Je veux t'enlacer", or still "Je veux te serrer dans mes bras". Curiously again, the noun retains its original meaning – the seldom used “une embrassade” still means “an embrace”.

It's a lot simpler in English - and in Spanish with "besar", "abrazar" and "abrazo" - but that is the state to which the French mania for "la délicatesse et la discrétion" has led them and their beautiful tongue. It's one of the reasons that immigrants find it so difficult to learn French, and even leads native-born youngsters to butcher their own language and stuff it with English words. The alarming result is not just the much-decried "franglais" but a kind of pidgin which is inexorably forcing out the 17th century form of the language which we, who have laboriously learned it, still speak.

The proof that this last statement is true, whereas current English has immeasurably evolved over the last few centuries, is that the plays of Racine and Corneille are still clearly understandable to us, while those of Shakespeare are a minefield of misunderstandings that cannot be read without footnotes.
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...And the story of how we got here - after time in Devon with Terri, then WFC in Brighton, then visiting David Almond in Northumberland, Lizza Aiken (and Geoff Ryman) in London, then flying to Marseille where Brutish Airways lost my luggage & everything went pear-shaped for a couple of days til we were able to retrieve it and find a place to stay that had actual heat (and a huge fireplace) in the face of a sudden brutal Mistral wind . . . Well, I've been putting up posts & photos on Facebook, but I know some of you do not Indulge, so here is my latest post, because it seems more LJ-ish than FB-ish, quand-meme:

OK, behold me justabout weeping with simple joy. Did I mention that our  gîte is in an old stable? (Which is why we have big plate glass window looking out onto walled garden) Owner lives on the other side, in the house that would have owned the stable.  He just appeared with a jar of his wife's fig jam, and a bottle of white Minervois wine - because we said how much we'd like the red wine and the amazing celestial plum preserves he presented us with when we arrived.  His Sister-in-Law, who speaks great English, just turned up to ask if we needed anything. And then he reappeared & invited us to tea in an hour. Where I bet his wife has more treats in store.... Poor Delia is trying to write her novel.  I'm just looking out the window at the olive tree, the clouds scudding before the howling wind, and trying to get a grip on myself.... Maybe I'll write tonight.  Or maybe I'll just suck in more happy goodness, and let it all out in a novel someday.

Here is the gîte we are renting for the week.  I feel like I could stay here a month.  Maybe next time?
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Last night, we went to Town Hall to see Richard Thompson solo acoustic concert of perpetual bliss.  He always does that to me.  A genius songwriter and guitarist - but also a performer of tremendous generosity.  The air changes when he's in it.  I love his albums, but LIVE . . . I swear to you, he cured my flu one night in Boston - for 24 hours, anyway.  Miraculous.

Opening last night was his perfectly competent, rather dull son Teddy. Never mind, I thought; it's the perfect chance to think about all those thorny issues in the book you're writing.  No distractions, you know?

But, no.  I was just bored.

And then RT came on.  He started playing, and my brain & heart cracked open like a John Donne or George Herbert poem!

I was glorying in the songs, I was thrilling to the guitar riffs - and the novel started marching through my brain, throwing off sparks - I was watching it all happen - I was seeing all the connections - and during the guitar solo on "Vincent Black Lightning," not only Delia but probably my poor neighbors heard me shout, "Yes! That's it!" followed I'm afraid a few beats (and visions) later by a chuckled, "Of course! Damn I'm good."

And then I just enjoyed the show.  Because I now had the entire second half of my novel to hand.

Oh, dear, and now I want to write a long screed here about how the Power of Richard has moved in me, from the stormy cross-country drive where my friend Nick popped a cassette of Shoot out the Lights in the car stereo, and I went: Holy crap!!! This is just like that book I'm writing (Swordspoint)!!!! . . . . to the chance meeting I had with RT on the shuttle plane from NYC back to Boston where I was making Sound & Spirit . . . to last year's City Winery all-request show where kind friends saved me a seat down front . . . . .

But I must march myself and my backpack back up to Butler Library, where a long table in a quiet room awaits me, smelling of brass and old wood and many, many books, and tall windows let in the sun over 114th St.   After all, I've got the second half, now!

Oh, what the hell:
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Had a great time at Sirens - so many fine colleagues! So many great talks about writing & books & what it all means.... And, since I was "Faerie GoH,"  I got to dig out my folklore self, and, armed with a borrowed guitar, do a semi-performance of the words and ballads of my novel THOMAS THE RHYMER, and talk a lot about that end of the EllenVerse.   Good to get back to it.

So when I came across this, from our beloved David Almond, I was moved to post (on FB, reposted here) - a sense of continuing the conversation.  David Almond was Writer in Residence when we taught at
Hollins University Children's Literature this summer, and really reminded me of why I wanted to write in the first place - and galvanized & put heart into my students, as well.  A little shot in the arm from him, as ever:

'I got a scholarship to go and live in a Scottish castle for a month to write. I wrote a lot of the first half of Kit's Wilderness when I was there. .... I walked through the castle one day thinking, "I can't do this. It's too hard." But then I thought, "Well, yes, you can, of course you can." And I also had this feeling that maybe the story was a bit too dark and maybe it was a bit too difficult for young readers, and I just had to say, "Well, you can write it. You have to challenge yourself to write it, and you have to trust your readers, so get back to the desk and write it."'

And also: 'I think of writing as being very similar to music. And a lot of the things that I write down, I'll write down because they sound good. I hope they have a meaning and they have help to carry the story forwards. But, I'm also interested in the sound and the voices.'

More here: http://www.teachingbooks.net/interview.cgi?id=2&a=1
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Our fine friends at Tor.Com are offering a complete set of Riverside Audiobooks, plus extra goodies including Neil Gaiman's signed script for his Introduction to The Fall of the Kings audiobook, and a photo of all of us in the studio the day we recorded Neil's part (to be signed by Delia & me).

It's a Sweepstakes you can enter just by Commenting there on their site.

Photo:  Me, Neil, Delia & producer/director Sue Zizza

My co-author, Delia Sherman, & I are just thrilled. Thanks again to all the actors who took part in this ambitious project, and to everyone at Audible, Tor.Com & SueMedia who made it happen.

The Sweepstakes runs through Sept. 1.  To enter, click here.
--And don't be churlish:  Tell your friends!
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Ah, this thrilling transfer process!


If you've got a minute, could you please type www.EllenKushner.com into your address bar?

You should get the glorious new website! But you may not.  If that is the case, could let me know (in COMMENTS here below) what does come up? and where you're doing this from? & which browser you're using?

Many thanks!

ETA:  If you're not getting the new website, you're probably getting the PairNIC page. Which is - kinda - as it should be. My web pal explains: "DNS servers will take some time to re-direct. They all need to talk to each other and these high level changes take some time to percolate. Let's hear back from the Livejournal crowd and see what they say. If by 2:30 or so there is still some "404"s and the PairNIC page, I will call Pair and get the lowdown. They are very responsive."

So with luck, by mid-afternoon here everyone will be reporting a good connect - and if not, we'll take action! Thank you very much for taking the time to check.

ETA #2:  Do please keep letting me know if you're NOT getting it! Though most people are by now, hurrah!
IF you're into the new site and you find a bad/missing link or confusing page . . . drop us a Comment & we'll get to it! Many thanks.

And thanks for all your nice comments about the new website.  The designer is the fabulous Tara O'Shea!
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Thanks so much to everyone who contributed culinary delights to the Riverside Series Recipes-and-Menus Contest! You must now click through and see them all, for they are a wonder to behold.

They ranged from the witty to the more-ish, the stunningly artistic to the heart-meltingly "I can't believe you read my books and know them so well....!" Last night at midnight, we read them all, and immediately went on a snacking binge that has lasted . . . well, let's just say it's not over yet.

Congratulations to our Winners:

Lynn A. Aderholt
Daphne Knudson
Nightwing Whitehead

You will each receive a download code by e-mail for your free copy of the new audiobook of THE FALL OF THE KINGS.  We'll need a working e-mail address to send that to you, so please drop us a Comment here with your preferred e-dress. Don't worry:  We have LJ comments on this post screened so no one but my assistant, Laura, and I will see them. If you'd prefer to DM me at Facebook, that's OK, too.

And while we're on the subject of things we need from our winners:
We'd also like to include as many of the recipes & menus as we can on my forthcoming NEW website (!!!) in the all-new, all-revised CUISINE section of "The World of Riverside" (designed by the fabulous Tara O'Shea!).  Please let us know if you are willing to let us post your recipe there, possibly along with your original note from my LiveJournal explaining your entry.  We will give credit where credit is due, so if you're willing, just let us know how you'd like to be credited:  your real name? your blog name? or even "Anonymous?" -  and what link, if any, you'd like us to link your name to.

Again, thanks to everyone who participated by entering or helping to spread the word!

Hmmm.....speaking of SPREAD . . . do we have any of that goat cheese left?
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Aaaaaaand my life just got 1000 times better:

thanks to my dear friend & colleague Maureen McHugh, who sent me this on Facebook!
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To celebrate the advent of a new Riverside Audiobook - narrated by your humble co-author - we like to throw a little contest, to give you a chance to win a FREE download of our latest from Neil Gaiman Presents: The Fall of the Kings, by Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman.

Last time, it was Book Covers – this time, it’s CUISINE!

We invite you to create a
for food described in any of the "Riverside" books . .  or food that you think one of our characters would enjoy--
or a MENU for a meal they might eat . . . . You can even name a new dish for a character (What would Cherries Tremontaine taste like? what’s in a Riverside Fool?) . . .   And, of course, we welcome all recipes for how to make a really decent cup of chocolate.

1) Post your recipe (or menu) somewhere online on one of your own social media sites (LJ, Tumblr, FaceBook, blog, whatever--but your site, not mine!) where all your friends can see it, explaining what it's for (either by referring back to this post, or to the audiobook itself)

2) Post a link to that in the Commments on this page, below

The most delectable 10 entries will each get a FREE DOWNLOAD of the new audiobook!

And don’t worry – if you’ve already pre-ordered your copy, you’ll be able to give your winning Download to a friend.
The winning recipes may also appear (with permission) on the CUISINE section of my new website (currently a WIP, but coming soon in all its glory!).

Contest ends at 5:00 pm EST on FRIDAY, August 23rd
-- in time for us to judge them, & to send out the Secret Audiobook Prize Code in time for you to for
THE FALL OF THE KINGS AUDIOBOOK Release Day: Tuesday, August 27!
FOTK final NGP cover
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I'm pretty easy to manipulate.  If you know which buttons to press.

I'm also pretty easy to invent:  Over the years, several people have clearly been playing to (sometimes unflattering) versions of an Ellen-Shaped-Object, which is not very pleasant, I can tell you!

Unless you are  TRICKSTER!!!


This insight brought to you by a person I know who keeps trying to manipulate a (fairly nice, for once) version of me who does not, in fact, exist - and it is utterly hilarious to watch them try.

So if you were Jessica at age 15, of course you would figure this out, and create different versions of yourself for all the people in your world, and then watch them try to manipulate that construct - while you stand off to the side, laughing your fool head off and then doing exactly what you like.

Wow.  I'd sure rather write about her than be her legal guardian - poor Katherine!
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Looking at these pages, I realize I posted nothing between our leaving Hollins & our return to NYC, deeply embedded in the final hours of perfecting the minutiae our forthcoming audiobook (which seems to be scheduled for AUGUST 27th!!).

Obviously, Stuff Happened then.

Including: We stopped for a few days in rural Maryland for a writing retreat with Ysabeau Wilce, Tiffany Trent & the fabulous [personal profile] csecooney, who takes up the tale here.

I probably should not admit that there I made a foolish Pact with Madama Wilce, wherein we both pledged our Sacred Honors to produce Complete First Drafts (including, of course, the many inevitable holes & "place-holders") of our respective WIP novels by the time we next meet, at Sirens Coference in Oregon in October!

But there:  I've said it.  And now you all know, and can mock me mercilessly if I fail.

ESPECIALLY if you come and join us at Sirens!

Which you should do.  It is small, and choice.
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EK: You're such a schmuck . . . I can't believe you killed [him]!

DS, calmly knitting a sweater for Holly & Theo's new baby: Can't go to jail for killing a character.  There's not a jury in the land would convict me.
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For the first time this summer, the wild geese flew over Hollins. I looked up, and saw them in a perfect V - and I felt like someone in a Caroline Stevermer novel.

I guess it's time to go.

So I walked the hills that surround the campus at sunset - and I guess that tells me where I got Alec walking the bounds of Riverside in my recent-ish short story, "The Duke of Riverside!" We always find these things after the fact.

And then I went to Writers' Living-room, which I kind of founded when I was here 2 years ago (astonished that all the various writing MFA students didn't have a regular hangout for mutual support), and they all had lyrics sheets and sang "Die Vampire, Die," which I kind of introduced them all to - and I cried, watching this room full of (mostly) women writers belting out that crazy affirmation together. I don't think anyone noticed - or if they did, they were too polite to say so.

For dinner, Delia had made us fresh pasta with local leeks from the Blacksburg Farmers' Market, and ground venison provided by Tiffany Trent's wildlife management husband. It was insanely good, and I ate too much of it, and I'm not sorry.

Tomorrow we pack up to go.
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In the home stretch of a very elaborate music-voice-and-SoundEffects (SFX) mix for the forthcoming audiobook of THE FALL OF THE KINGS (for Audible/Neil Gaiman Presents). Delia & I listen to each chapter hot off the producer's mixing board (thanks to the magic of YouSendIt), and either crow with glee, or make suggestions.

We have just had to take out the actual Owl Hoot that she put in for "The door opened slowly, and the man announced his presence by hooting like an owl." (p. 358, Trade Paperback)

Delia: It's just 'hooting like an owl in Book Land.'
Ellen: No; it's 'hooting like an owl in Theron Crazy-land.'
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I am deeply in love with my Hollins MFA students - a 2nd year Seminar of 6 wonderful women!  Watching them learn & write together is miraculous - like watching leaves unfurl from seeds in those time-lapse photography films . . . And about as quickly, since an entire semester is crammed into 6 weeks!  This week (#4) was notable for being the first time I felt I could tease any of them, secure in the sense that everyone felt safe & supported together, and all laugh without risk!  Wonderful, for me - and, I hope, for them.

Today I had 3 back-to-back one-on-one conferences, during which we did everything from discuss whether starting a new novel is harder than revising a broken one, to playing "The People Game" (asking direct questions to a character until we both felt we knew her well).

Yeah, I'm missing REadercon - but I'm basically getting the same high:  Talking About Writing all day!  (This will continue this weekend, when we go up into the mountains visit Tiffany Trent - with the added bonus of getting to see her chickens! You don't get that at Readercon, baby!)

So here's my question for YOU:

One of my students is writing a middle-grade SF novel about Earth kids who visit another planet (kind of a work-study program, only Top Secret).  I love her work, but was surprised that the SF elements feel very retro - kind of 1950s-style - since she's so young.  I finally found out from her today that while she LOVES SF film & TV, she has read virtually no actual SF novels.  We're going to fix that.

I realized that, in order not to reinvent the wheel - and to catch up to current publishing standards - she needs a crash course in YA/MG "interplanetary" SF!

Which I am sadly deficient in.

On the spot, I remembered (and recommended) John Christopher's TRIPODS trilogy (OK, it's not Interplanetary, but I remember its being very powerful), and some William Sleator. I'd already recommended Panshin's RITE OF PASSAGE, which is thematically along the lines of what she's doing (she's interested in Colonialism - and also in Morality:  What makes a good human being?) . . . . And then . . . I kinda fell off the map.

Can you help?

I'm looking for work that starts with contemporary(-ish) Earth kids, who then encounter either Space Travel or Aliens - either classics or recent much appreciated.  Suggestions?

**Andre Norton's great, but did she ever start with that premise?  And here's where I blush to said I never read a Heinlein juvenile - which is the right one, if any?  Is anyone still writing this sort of thing....?
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Have returned from one of my periodic hunts in the tall grasslands of Roanoke, having hit the GoodWill, two Dollar Stores, a Mexican Grocery, Walmart & Target, in search of things like matching wine glasses & boxer shorts (don't ask). When I walked into Target I felt like a 16c peasant in Elfland:  "We don't have this kind of thing where I come from!" I told the cashier as I left with my adorable wine-stoppers in Now Fashion colors, off-brand Brita filters, and, well, ya know, Stuff.  She was very sweet; heaven knows where she thinks I was from.  I still have to find one of those thingys you put on the sink faucet so it doesn't spray all the hell over the place!  But I found wall plugs, citronella candles & cilantro. A good hunt.

(Reposted from my Facebook page, which you are welcome to join.)

At Hollins

Jun. 18th, 2013 10:39 am
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A cool, rainy morning at Hollins U., just outside Roanoke. Everything is green and quiet. Delia & I are sitting at our Dining Room table (AKA EK/DS Command Central), checking email & FB, waiting to wake up enough to be hungry & start talking to each other. And occasionally jotting something down on the "To Get/Do" list for our 6 weeks teaching here for Hollins University Children's Literature MFA.  All of my writing seminar students got their first assignment in early, so I have 6 story fragments to read today; then maybe I can dig into some of the library books I grabbed last night. The most beautiful library in the world!  Hmm, might be time for cereal. 
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'Cole was still full of the diet question.  He now lives chiefly on rhubarb tops--they have such a "foody" taste, his son thinks.  "Dear me! Poor fellow!" Whistler told him, "it sounds as if once long, long ago he had really eaten, and still has a dim memory of what food is!"  "And spinach," Cole added, "it's fine. We eat it raw.  It's wonderful, the things it does for you!" "But what does it do for you?" Whistler asked.  And Cole began a dissertation on the juices of the stomach. . . . . As he talked Cole was eating meat and drinking wine quite heartily.  The evening was not over successful.'

-- Diary entry, June 10, 1900, of Elizabeth & Joseph Pennell
ETA:   ALSO  posted this   on my Tumblr, if you are that way inclined, for easy   Reblogging

* * *

Packing for our drive down to Hollins University to teach for 6 weeks.  Great program: summer MFA/MA in Children's Lit!  Can't wait to get there - and cannot beliiiiiiieve how disruptive it's been to plan & pack for our absence.  We are just like that.  Probably has something to do with the fact that we live in state of constant chaos, so trying to live our regular lives and trying to get everything under control that we failed to do in the past 6 months while trying to anticipate anything we might wish we had done here or hope to get done there is a bit . . . . deep breath . . . . much.

Nonetheless, we will be in a car tonight.  I go to La Guardia to pick up the rental, which I absolutely hate doing, but I hate paying an extra $200 or so just for the chance to pick it 2 blocks from my house even more. (See?  New York isn't all Fun & Subways!) We will then pack it up, drive for a couple of hours, and then hit a roadside hotel.  This is because we are incapable of getting out of the house on a road trip before 3 or so. We've tried. It's hilarious.  And then we hit rush hour traffic, and are very demoralized.  So since we're both Night people, we thought Why not just give in?  And we wake up the next morning in a dingy hotel we can't wait to get out of, and are on the road right away!

Wish us luck.

The only thing I can't figure out is how to do Priceline when you don't really know where you'll be stopping.  Even with iPhones, it seems the 21st century penalizes for some kinds of spontaneity.

October 2014

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