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Amazon's Fanfiction Program

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Amazon announced a new program today called Kindle Worlds--a program for fanfiction writers to submit their stories for publication. The licensed properties are Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl, and Pretty Little Liars, and Amazon says they're looking forward to announcing more properties soon.

It's sounds too good to be true, and it is. Check out the rules, and you'll find catch after catch. Each owner of the properties will provide authors with a set of guidelines that must be followed. How much do you want to bet those guidelines will say "Do not put licensed characters in homosexual situations" or that Amazon's no pornography rule is going to include slash of any kind?

Then there is this paragraph:

Kindle Worlds is a creative community where Worlds grow with each new story. You will own the copyright to the original, copyrightable elements (such as characters, scenes, and events) that you create and include in your work, and the World Licensor will retain the copyright to all the original elements of the World. When you submit your story in a World, you are granting Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all the original elements you include in that story. This means that your story and all the new elements must stay within the applicable World. We will allow Kindle Worlds authors to build on each other's ideas and elements. We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.

Bold mine. I don't know if it's just me, but I see a huge contradiction here. First they say you own your original elements. Then they say fanfiction authors will get to build on each other's ideas, which seems to me to mean that other authors can use your idea in their books, which you won't be paid for. Finally they say the owners of the licensed properties can use your new elements in other works, so I'm assuming that means they can incorporate your work into the actual TV shows these stories will be based on.

There's also the part that says, "Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright." Global publication rights means Amazon can publish your story in different languages without paying you royalties for foreign copies sold.

So there are lots of reasons not to do this, but people will still sign up. How will this affect fandom? Not much, I think. Fans read  and write fanfic to explore scenarios that will likely never happen on the shows/in the books they love. They're not going to get anything rewarding out of stories written with guidelines from the property owners. Will these stories even be viewed as fanfiction? They're more like tie-in novels. Amazon never uses the word "fanfiction", but they are obviously marketing this program to fanfiction authors. Alloy Entertainment, the company that owns the three properties, is just looking for cheap ghostwriters.

And who the hell is going to pay for these? I can't think of why fans would want to pay for stories written with limited creative freedom. I think most people will be upset that Amazon is trying to monetize fandom. I've already seen posts on tumblr celebrating because they think Kindle Worlds will lead to fanfic getting the respect it deserves. But no one at Amazon or Alloy is going to respect the passion and creativity of fanfic writers with the rules they've laid out.

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mercury
I wrote this back in February, but forgot to cross-post from my website.

Onto Oz...Collapse )

Rejection!

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My Clarion West rejection showed up last week, and honestly it was a relief just to hear some news. The rejection was an encouraging one: We realize this is a disappointment, but our readers particularly commended your work and we sincerely hope you will apply again to Clarion West in the future.

Even though this was a form, I know not everyone received the "our reader particularly commended your work" bit so I feel like I'm on the right track, which is good with me. I don't know if I'll apply to CW again. It all depends on whom the instructors will be. Gaiman was the big draw this year. Some of the other rejectees have started a writing group on FB that I'm joining with caution. What I really want is a small critique group of 3-5 people. I have to put myself out there before I find other writers with strong critique skills whose work I feel comfortable critiquing in return.

I wish nothing but good luck to those who were accepted. I read some of their personal statements, and I am not surprised to find they sound just like me! I feel great that other passionate writers earned the opportunity to attend CW.

There is still the write-a-thon to keep me busy this summer. Six first drafts in six weeks, just like the actual workshop. :)

What I nominated for a Hugo

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I finished filling out my ballot last night after weeks of reading and re-reading and watching speculative media so I could fill in every. single. box. This is my first time nominating and voting so I was determined to fill out my entire ballot. I nominated a few works and people based on recommendations, which I'm perfectly fine with because if I decide I don't like it I can always vote for No Award.

The nomineesCollapse )
Picking out nominees for Best Editor, Long Form was the hardest part because names of editors are not readily available. I found little success looking up editors for the specific books so I had to go with editors at imprints that published those books.

Application sent. Now the wait...

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I just sent in my Clarion West application. Trying not to hyperventilate. I was totally cool making sure I had everything I needed. When it came time to actually press send, I had to stare at the button for a couple minutes, psyching myself up. Now I wait until the end of March to find out if I've been accepted.

The competition is likely to be even steeper now that Neil Gaiman announced he is teaching there, and the whole of his Tumblr followers blew up. I'm glad I've known about Clarion for a while so I had the advantage of getting materials in early. I don't think that means too much because obviously the best writers will be the accepted, but it puts me at ease knowing my stories won't be buried under the rush of last minute applications.

I submitted two stories; a 4-page piece told in second person, and a 23-page piece told in first with different narrators. I think it's shows a good range.

Tomorrow I am going to enjoy not writing anything. Instead, I will read and brainstorm for the Summer Reading committee meeting at the library on Tuesday. This year's theme is Dig Into Reading. I need to think of some activities for groups of children 5-10 and 11-13 to do.
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My goal in 2013 is to read all 14 Oz books written by L. Frank Baum. You didn't know there was more than one Oz book? Well, there is, and they are weird and delightful. I've only read two of the books, though I know a bit about them from friends and essays. I missed out on this wonderful series during my childhood (too busy reading Peter Pan over and over again) so I'm reading them now, and adding my commentary, which ranges from squeeing over how enchanting the story is to going "what the hell, that is terrifying" to actual critique. Spoilers ahead for a book published in 1900.

The American Dream

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an American fairy tale. We see the good guys are hard workers, and hard work makes you successful. All the Tin Woodman wants is to earn enough money to build a home for his bride-to-be who has specifically told him she will agree to marry him when he can provide a home. He gets to work chopping the wood that will make his home. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears are going into this house he plans to build. And time! First he has to earn the money, and then he has to build the house. He's also obviously dedicated the woman he loves because building a home is no small condition. Doing it by himself is admirable. It's that American idea of getting everything you have without help from someone higher up the ladder, which of course isn't possible, but I think it is displayed in the story of the Tin Woodman.

The villains impede the rewards of hard work. Tin Woodman relates his story:

But the girl lived with an old woman who did not want her to marry anyone, for she was so lazy she wished the girl to remain with her and do the cooking and the housework. So the old woman went to the Wicked Witch of the East, and promised her two sheep and a cow if she would prevent the marriage. Thereupon the Wicked Witch enchanted my ax, and when I was chopping away at my best one day, for I was anxious to get the new house and my wife as soon as possible, the ax slipped all at once and cut off my left leg.

Tin Woodman has the tinsmith make him a new leg, and then goes back to chopping wood. This makes the Wicked Witch angry because she promised the old woman she would stop the marriage. She enchants Tin Woodman's ax to cut off body parts until he is split in two, and must have his entire body made out of tin, which of course means he has no heart, and thus loses his love for the Munchkin girl. He supposes the girl still lives with the old woman, and waits for him. That's quite a romantic notion for a man without a heart who claims to have no emotion.

I wonder about the Wicked Witch's anger when the Tin Woodman keeps on going after he loses his leg. He says she is angry because she made a promise, but I don't see why an evil witch would care about promises. I also don't see why the ruler of Munchkinland would see two sheep and a cow as sufficient payment. To me it feels like a fairy tale trope turned around. Instead of a person in dire need making a deal with terms set by a witch, the old woman sets the terms of trade. The witch is the one held to a contract, so in fairy tale terms that means she should lose something if she can't keep her end of the bargain. There isn't any mention of the Witch having anything to lose, so I'll settle for it being a fun reversal of a fairy tale trope.

But the American Dream plays into this because nothing can get Tin Woodman down. Even after he loses his leg, he keeps going. His hard work gives him the money to fix his leg. Loss of his limb is a setback, but the ultimate goal is still in sight. It isn't until he loses his heart that he gives up. Without a heart, the pursuit of happiness doesn't have any appeal. Those who have read the book know Tin Woodman is a very emotional character even without a heart, and I'll address that in a future post.

The Wizard of Capitalism

When Dorothy and company approach Oz for help, he can provide something to each member of the party, but insists on payment. Dorothy and co. have individual meetings with Oz, and in turn all ask for their greatest desire. Oz asks each of them why he should give them what they want, and all four of them say it is because Oz is the only one with the power to do so. Our heroes believe Oz is divine. They think he should use his power for good, to help and heal, just because he can.

But it turns out Oz is an ordinary man. Perhaps less than ordinary because he is a liar and a coward. Instead of using his powers for good, he requires payment in return for his services. Appearing to Dorothy as a giant head, Oz says:

"Well," said the Head, "I will give you my answer. You have no right to expect me to send you back to Kansas unless you do something for me in return. In this country everyone must pay for everything he gets. If you wish me to use my magic power to send you home again you must do something for me first. Help me and I will help you."

He implores her to kill the Wicked Witch of the West, which she reluctantly agrees to when Oz will not grant any requests unless his is met. The Witch captures Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow and Tin Woodman are torn apart and scattered far away by the flying monkeys. The Witch makes Dorothy a slave, and locks Lion up in a cage and starves him because he refuses to pull her chariot. Dorothy sneaks him food at night. This arrangement goes on for an unspecified length of time.

Dorothy went to work meekly, with her mind made up to work as hard as she could; for she was glad the Wicked Witch had decided not to kill her.

Dorothy still retains a strong work ethic even when she is a slave. She and Lion try to plan an escape, but they don't think they can get past the Winkies, the citizens the Wicked Witch has enslaved. They remain at the castle, growing more and more depressed, until the Witch steals one of Dorothy's Silver Shoes. (Dorothy's famous shoes are silver in the book. They were changed to red in the 1939 film to take advantage of Technicolor.) Dorothy finally reacts with anger.

The little girl, seeing she had lost one of her pretty shoes, grew angry, and said to the Witch, "Give me back my shoe!"

"I will not," retorted the Witch, "for it is now my shoe, and not yours."

"You are a wicked creature!" cried Dorothy. "You have no right to take my show from me."

"I shall keep it, just the same," said the Witch, laughing at her, "and someday I shall get the other one from you, too."

This made Dorothy so very angry that she picked up the bucket of water that stood near and dashed it over the Witch, wetting her from head to foot.


Dorothy shows more anger when the Witch steals a possession--something she earned--than she does when her freedom is violated. It is her desire to keep what she owns that allows her to free herself from the Witch. That American Dream is at it again.

The group returns to the Wizard, who turns out to be a fake, but eventually keeps his end of the bargain. I'll talk about his methods and results in my next post when I break down the personalities of Dorothy and friends.

Best and Worst of the Books I Read in 2012

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Best Book: Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin. A little boy in Stalin's Russia witnesses his father being arrested, and proceeds to go about his day at school, convincing himself that everything is fine. Through an act of disobedience, his mirage of a perfect country begins to crumble. It's haunting and true, and I'm so glad they published this as children's fiction. I wish it had won the Newbery Medal instead of just an Honor.

Worst Book: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer. I wanted this to be good because it is a crossover fantasy about kids falling into faerie tale worlds. But it sucked because it was written by a guy who started writing the story when he was 10, and it wasn't edited. (I still maintain that the editor was a cat with narcolepsy.) Colfer's characters think they're better than everyone, go around telling leaders they suck at running their countries (and these people listen! "Hey these kids just told as we suck at governing. Let's change our entire way of life because they say so!"), and talk like either teenagers or 20-somethings when they should be 12. And the title suuuuuuuuuucks. Oh, and barf for the representation of women. Only women who are wives and mothers are treated well by Colfer.

Favorite Book: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. A young queen must heal her kingdom in the wake of the reign of terror left by her mad father a decade ago. Bitterblue is compassionate, smart, and able to find freedom while being suffocated by her royal duties. There are subplots to do with words and coded messages, and oh it's so much fun.

Other Favorite Books: Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough. Oh my gosh, I couldn't read this book at night because the ghost scenes creeped me out. I love this book for murder and ghosts and REAL DANGER in a children's book, yes! One little girl must risk her life to save her sister. Read it.; Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. This book is told in verse, and it taught me things about structuring a sentence that I never learned in my undergrad program.

Books that Would Be My Favorites if Not For...: Entwined by Heather Dixon has sweet sister relationships, funny girls, and a creepy villain, but the very last scene undermines the female empowerment the book worked towards. It also hints at cool ghosts that never show up.; The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater because it did not convinced me that the citizens of Thisby love the murder happy water horses and the races enough to let their loved ones die each year. Also, Puck seems to be the only teenage girl on the island. Where are her friends?; The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater because again, where are her girlfriends? I should note I did enjoy Stiefvater's books a ton, and can't wait for the next Raven Boys book.

Not-At-All Favorite Book: A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin. It was so boring and bloated, ugh. There were moments and chapters I liked, but it was a slog.; The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus because it is boring men going around being boring and not getting anything done. It still pains me that he named a character Esther whom is just a girl delighting in destroying her parents.

Best Ending: Feed by Mira Grant. She took a huge risk, and it worked. Grant does a fantastic job establishing character relationships so the ending is truly a moving and heart-breaking piece of writing.

Best Magic: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. The magic in this book is old and strange, and I don't think the characters realize they are using it.; The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. Time travel and ancient tree magic! People being ripped out of their skin! What fun!

Best Picture Book: Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett. This is dear to me because I'm learning to knit. The pastel palette and story enchanted me.

Favorite Reread: Psyche in a Dress by Francesca Lia Block. Okay, this was the only book I reread in 2012, but it was eye opening in how much I've grown as a person since I last read it as a younger woman.

Favorite Discovery: Iron: Or, the War After by S.M. Vidaurri. His debut about anthropomorphic animals struggling to be whole after a war sings. Beautiful artwork.

Books I Thought I'd Love But Didn't: The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare. It's the framework for several later plays. Manages to make cross-dressing boring.; East by Edith Pattou because two of the three narrators are superfluous, and it is an extended version of East of the Sun, West of the Moon that doesn't have anything new to say.; Goblin Secrets by William Alexander for being anti-climactic, and not being very clever with its theater gimmick. It does get points for a happy ending that comes at a great sacrifice.

Books I Thought I Wouldn't Like But Did: A Ball For Daisy by Chris Raschka. I was ticked off when this won the Caldecott over Grandpa Green, but the turned out to be a sweet story about a dog that loses her favorite toy. The other wasn't that bad, either.

Most Likely to Win Awards: Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a shoe-in for the Newbery. It might not win the medal, but I can't imagine it not getting an Honor. The book has problems with pacing and too many narrators, but it is about a young boy with a genetic mutation that means his face is not fully developed, and his journey into the tough world of middle school.; Extra Yarn for the Caldecott because beautiful art is beautiful.

Books I Wish I'd Read This Year: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern because everyone loves it, and I love the look of it. It is going to be the first book I read in 2013. I need to finish it by Thursday for book club.; Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein because everyone I respect is raving about it, and I hear there is a great female friendship.; Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. I know! I should have read it in 2011.; The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente because I am a huge Valente fan. What is wrong with me?

Italics indicate rereads.

January
.5 A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin (pgs. 514-959)
1. Ooku: The Inner Chambers Vol. 4 by Fumi Yoshinaga
2. Sew Kawaii! by Choly Knight
3. The Two Gentlemen of Verona by Shakespeare
4. Psyche in a Dress by Francesca Lia Block
5. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
6. Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
7. Chime by Franny Billingsley

February
8. Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
9. The Bremen Town Musicians by Brian Wildsmith
10. In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
11. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce
12. Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce
13. Pink Smog by Francesca Lia Block

March
14. Kokinshu: Book 1, Trans. Larry Hammer
15. Kokinshu: Book 2, Trans. Larry Hammer
16. Kokinshu: Book 3, Trans. Larry Hammer
17. The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus
18. Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter and Marjorie Priceman
19. Annie Jump Cannon, Astronomer by Carole Gerber and Christina Wald
20. Joan of Arc by Demi
21. Fiona's Luck by Teresa Bateman and Kelly Murphy
22. ABNA Manuscript #1
23. Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin
24. ABNA Manuscript #2
25. The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool and Alison Jay
26. Extra Yarn Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
27. Penny and Her Song by Kevin Henkes
28. And Then It's Spring by Julie Foligano and Erin Stead
29. ABNA Manuscript #3

April
30. The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castelucci and Nate Powell
31. ABNA Manuscript #4
32. ABNA Manuscript #5
33. The List by Siobhan Vivian
34. Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

May
35. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
36. Jim Henson's The Storyteller vol. 1
37. Entwined by Heather Dixon

June
38. Write Tight by William Brohaugh
39. Feed by Mira Grant

July
40. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
41. Among Others by Jo Walton
42. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, Graphic Novel
43. The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castelucci and Nate Powell

August
44. Deadline by Mira Grant
45. The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
46. Tinkers by Paul Harding
47. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
48. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

September
49. Nazi Games by David Clay Large
50. Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

October
51. The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
52. Burn For Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
53. Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself by Kieron Gillen and Doug Braithwaite
54. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
55. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

November
56. The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice by Todd Henry
57. The Fairytale as Art Form and Portrait of Man by Max Luthi
58. Iron: Or, the War After by S.M. Vidaurri
59. The Man Who Collected Machen and Other Weird Tales by Mark Samuels
60. A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka
61. Nightsong by Ari Berk (author) and Loren long (illustrator)

December
62. East by Edith Pattou
63. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
64. Goblin Secrets by William Alexander
65. Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself Fallout by Kieron Gillen and Rob Rodi
66. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Clarion West 2013, here we go...

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Clarion West is open to applications for the 2013 class. For those out of the loop: Clarion West is a highly competitive short story workshop for writers of fantasy and science fiction. I decided some months ago to apply this time around. It feels like the right time. I've been writing all year, every day, and I've been out of college nearly two years. It's time for a bigger and more challenging workshop. This will be my first time applying. I'm nervous even though I haven't even finished my application materials. The scariest part of the process isn't finding the right short story to submit. It's the scholarship form. Scariest for me, anyway.

I'm between jobs right now, and I have no idea if the job that starts next week will last beyond mid-January. The scary part is that I have to break down my expenses on the scholarship form, which could launch a nasty spiral of anxiety when I look at how little I make vs. how much I spend on student loans and other bills. What I'm trying to get out of my head is the voice telling me a full scholarship is the only way I can attend if accepted. Former students have found funding success with Kickstarter and bake sales. There is no reason I can't come up with other funding options.

But enough of money worries.

I'm very excited about applying to Clarion West. Looking at the body of work I've created in the past two years makes me proud. Accomplished, even, though I rarely feel accomplished on a daily basis. The story I have in mind is something I've been working on for a long time. It began as a writing exercise in Mastering Point of View at Pitt that I've molded into something vastly different from the original. This story is full of techniques I internalized from my writing program, but (I hope) straddles the line between non-traditional and accessible well enough to be memorable in a good way. It sits at 15 typed pages, which is 5 pages short of CW's minimum. That means I'll have to choose a second story to accompany it if the first doesn't expand in revision. There are a number of things I can use. I'll have to read through all of them again to find the strongest.

Then there is the matter of the personal essay. Why didn't I take even one non-fiction writing class in college??? I'm not sure the essay is considered in the application process. CW's website says it is how instructors will get to know students before the workshop begins. My personal essays always feel stilted to me. I'll never forget the comments from my Women's Health professor about my personal response assignments not being personal enough. XD

Long Lankin and Childhood Fears

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Long Lankin/Lamkin is a figure from the English ballad "Lamkin", in which he murders a woman and her child--sometimes for revenge, sometimes because he is a malevolent spirit. In the revenge versions, he is a stonemason whose employer refuses to pay him, so he kills the man's family when the man leaves town. In the the other version, he is a spirit who gets into your house when you accidentally leave a window or door open. The latter what scared me most as a child. Before I went to bed, I had a ritual of checking the locks and making sure the curtains were closed as much as they could be because if someone could even see into the house, that meant they could get in and hurt me.

I don't think my parents ever understood what I was doing. They never mention it when they tell "Remember when she was a sweet little girl?" stories. I played it off as saying goodnight to the dog at the back door or looking for the cat. Part of the ritual required me to not tell them what I was doing because the idea of danger in their heads meant they would be vulnerable. In my head it was up to me to protect the house and everyone in it.

Now that I'm thinking of it, there were rules I had to follow to keep monsters away that doubled as tactics to help me sleep. I could only open my eyes a set number of times in the dark before monsters or evil men would appear in my room. The longer I kept my eyes open, the closer they came to my door. The longer I kept my eyes closed, the farther back they were sent to whatever shadows made them.

None of this was helped by my parents telling me Dracula lived in the perpetually for sale house at the end of our street.

After reading about Long Lankin yesterday, I actually felt scared of someone coming into my house to "get me" for the first time in nearly a decade. Obviously I knew I was being irrational, but the descriptions of child murder in that ballad got to me. I dreamed I was in a house haunted by Lankin, and the people who lived there were trapped in wax statues of themselves. Just as when I was a child, it was up to me to get everyone to safety. It's a wonder what a good story can do to you.

All of this was set off by reading a review of Lindsey Barraclough's Long Lankin, a retelling of the ballad set during WWII.

Escaping Prison with a Cute Bob Haircut

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Last night I dreamt a friend and I were breaking out of prison/a psychiatric ward at which we were being held unjustly/against our wills. Her long blond hair and my short black hair reminds me of Angelina JoLie and Wynona Ryder from Girl, Interrupted now, but I wasn't thinking of that at the time. I wore an all black outfit that reminded me of beatniks in and out of the dream. The bob haircut was very Velma from Scooby-Doo.

We made an easy break, tunneling through the prison walls and into the hospital where people thought we were visitors. The voices of police and hospital officials reached me through telepathy in an old ragtime radio announcer's voice type of way. The voices were mostly notifying others about the escape, but one phrase kept coming up. "If she makes it, she'll be with the big boys. We'll never catch her." A cop caught my friend just before we reached the exit, but I made it through, and I ran through the parking lot to a depression that led to a vine covered cliff that meant permanent freedom if I could just get to the top. At the top was some sort of asylum (I kept thinking of Canada). Again, someone said I would be in league with the big boys, they'd never catch. And I started to scale the cliff, racing the police and the setting sun. And something pulled at my back, and I was afraid I wouldn't make it.

But I woke up, so I don't know.

In real life, I have a fear of climbing. Not of heights, but of the actual act of climbing. I can't climb a rock wall no matter how much I'm strapped in.