So I'm beginning to see people listing the works they've done for 2014 that are eligible for awards. My short story "21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One)" , published in February 2014 by Strange Horizons, has been generating a lot of buzz, so I thought I get it out there. (and hey, I'm actually on time on making this type of announcement, too!)
You can both read and listen to it on the Strange Horizons website. Also, if you are a Drabblecast B-Side subscriber, you can listen to a reading there as well as view new art!
You may also want to check out my story "Sun-Touched" published by Kaleidotrope in March 2014.
Thanks for reading!
- Current Mood: accomplished
So I'm back from ICON 39. It was wonderful and intense.
The intense portion was more due to the fact that I was taking part in Paradise ICON, a mini-workshop for neo-pro writers. Basically think Viable Paradise shrunk into two days. The first day we spent critiquing each others' manuscripts; the second was spent being taught by the Guests of Honor, Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch (my instructors at VPXV) and Toastmaster Jim Hines, whom I met at Mo*Con.
But really, I was there to learn how to be author.
The day before the con started, there was a Barnes and Noble signing that was sponsored by the con. I was asked to attend and to bring books to sign. This was something I've never really done before. The only books I'm in are anthologies. Normally, I'd get a reader's copy along with my pay, but I never really thought to actually purchase more copies to sell at cons. I knew people who've done it though. If I did this, it would involve spending my own money to buy copies to sell. And I always had that adage beat into me: money always flow towards the writer.
But in this case, would it be profitable? Would it be worth it?
I decided to do an experiement. I bought five copies from my publisher to take with me. I figured, at the worst, I'd sell one, maybe two copies. The rest I'd either give away or sell at other cons. At the end of the con, I sold not one, not two...but three. Yes, they were to people in my workshop, but still...three copies!
It was a good learning experience. Made me think, okay, maybe I can handle the book thing. Which means I need to finish it.
It was wonderful to hang with Bear, Scott and Jim, as well as make new friends. I really enjoyed meeting the Paradise Icon folk. They're great writers, and hanging out with them was such a delight.
Because I was busy with Paradise Icon, I only saw a little of ICON itself. But I did see some great costumes:
I also met this wonderful lady, Felicity, who was selling hats she made in the dealer's room.
It's becoming a tradition now that whenever I go to a con, I get a tiny hat. I was most delighted to purchase one from Fine Hats by Felicity . After purchasing it, I had gone to talk with some writer folks. We were standing outside another room which was being used for a wedding reception not related to the con. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see two young black girls in waiter uniforms who were standing at the door of the reception, ushering people in.
"Excuse me," they said. "But we looooove your hat! Where did you get it?"
Grinning, I pointed to the dealers' room.Their faces fell. "We're on duty, so we can't go in."
"No prob," I said. Went back to the dealer's room, grabbed a few of Felicity's business cards and gave them to the girls. "She sells the hats online. She has an Etsy shop. And..." I lowered my voice. "She's black, too!"
Oh, you should have seen their faces light up. I wished I could've talked to them more about the con, but they had to go back on duty, but it was nice to see them geeking out over the hat.
So, all in all, it was a good time. I had lots of fun, and who knows, maybe at some point I'll visit again, just so I can see Sailor Bacon.
If that's not a sign of a fun con, I don't know what is.
- Current Mood: exhausted
This Thursday (that's tomorrow), I'll be heading over to Cedar Rapids, IA to attend ICON 39. Most of the time I'll be attending Paradise ICON, the writer's workshop portion of the con, but you'll still be able to see me off and on throughout the con.
One of the things I'll also be doing is attending the Barnes and Noble Book Signing Event Thursday evening, 6:30p to 8:30p, at the B&N located at (333 Collins Rd NE Bldg 1, Northland Square SC, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402). I will have copies of What Fates Impose anthology, edited by Nayad Monroe and which has my story "There are No Wrong Answers".
(BTW...did you know Nayad's got a new anthology coming out? It's called "Not Our Kind" and the Kickstarter for it is happening now. Check it out!)
Here's the rest of my schedule for ICON:
9am - 5pm Paradise ICON
After dinner I should be wandering around the con and/or hanging out at BarCon.
9am - 10am Paradise ICON
- Current Mood: working
This has been a year of change. February, my status at work changed to full-time. It's been ten years since I've been full-time at a job. March, my inlaws, who had been living with us for 3-1/2 years, moved to their own place. May, FrenkelFail happened. July, my gall bladder was removed because they found a gallstone.
It is now October, and I can almost say the dust as settled. I know there are a couple of other things that are coming down the pike, but I'll wait until they appear before I mention it. Right now, I want to write about how my writing life adjusted (and trust me, it was a huge adjustment.)
I did a guest blog over at Sarah Hans's website (and yeah, it's been so busy, I'm just now getting around to mentioning it). In it, I mentioned that I started getting up at 5:30am to write. Yeah, that didn't last long. Turns out, I'm really not a morning person. I was only able to do it for two weeks before deciding I really, really like getting my sleep in the mornings. And when I did try to write, I would write well for about 15 minutes or so, run out of steam, then sit there staring blankly for the rest of the hour or so, writing whenever something came to mind.
Come to think of it, that was how I wrote. Period.
A couple of years ago, I was chatting with Sarah Monette about her writing process. Her method was to leave a story project open on her computer and work on it in bits and pieces throughout the day. At the time, I thought it was a slow process. After all, there are many creatives who say to schedule at least an hour to work on a project. Writing in shorter increments won't work because it takes you 15 minutes to warm up and get into your stride and then by the time you are all warmed up, stopping kills the flow.
But...as I thought about it...that's how I was if I was working with a time crunch deadline. When I don't have that, or if I'm brainstorming, or revising? It doesn't take an hour and a half. Before, I would sit at my desk for an hour, slowly going through the text line by line. If I wrote in shorter time chunks, how would that work? How could I arrange things so I could write in shorter bursts? What I needed was more than just adjusting to writing in a shorter time period. I needed to change my entire writing process.
In a sense, it's like going back to basics with Barbara DeMarco's book: "Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within". In it, she suggested to set aside 15 minutes to work on writing. I can find at least 15 minutes during the day. Can I write during my morning break at work? In 15 minutes, I sure can. What about lunch? 15 minutes there? Afternoon break? 15 minutes At home? another 15 minutes. Hey, that's an hour right there.
- Current Mood: hopeful
I’m not going to go into the ban itself other than to say it was sorely needed–again, others did a better job of it of explaining why. Also I’m local, so I feel I’m too close to things to share my opinions in public. I’m also a relative newcomer to the con scene, so I don’t think anything I say about Wiscon will have much impact. But there is one thing I do want to say:
In the past few weeks I saw a lot of expressed anger and hurt feelings. I saw turmoil and disappointment. I saw several people step down from the concomm. I also saw a lot of people who said they were angry, but they weren’t going to give up on Wiscon. They were going to work to make things right.
These are the people I want to give their due. Because they worked hard, and they’re still working hard as I write this. And it’s not just local people. It’s people all over the country, people who could’ve just as easily boycotted Wiscon…
(…although this was probably the first time I saw the use of boycotting actually affect change. I’m so used to hearing people decry, “I’ll boycott X or I’ll boycott Y” and for the most part, everyone is like ‘meh’. Many of the people I spoke to who announced they were boycotting Wiscon wasn’t doing it out of spite. They were genuinely concerned for the con and the safety of its attendees. And that helped spur the change within Wiscon itself.)
An institution is only as good as the people that make it up. The Wiscon concom is not perfect, as so many of you pointed out. But they are working on it. And because Wiscon is my home con this is one of the few cons I can go to, the fact that there are people here who are willing to humble themselves, say they’re sorry, then work on change, makes me appreciate them. Deeply.
So thank you, Wiscon, for doing the right thing.
- Current Mood: hopeful
So I've been following with great interest the discussion about dialect in fiction. It started off by Daniel Jose Older's comments of a review of his anthology Long Hidden in Strange Horizons, and followed by Abyss & Apex doing an editorial post on the decision to post two different version of a story with a Carribean dialect. There have been many thoughtful essays on it, including Tobias Buckell, Amal El-Mohtar, and Ferrett Steinmetz, so I don't think I have anything to add except to tell my experience. Which isn't much, but it's my two cents, so take that as you will.
Personally, I've struggled with dialect in my fiction. Growing up, I was the kid who was teased for "talking proper". I understood Shakespeare better than the slang kids used around my neighborhood. So when I write fiction with black kids, I always worry that they don't "sound black enough". But now that I'm thinking about it, I was at least aware of it--we tended to drop our 'g's a lot, mainly in -ing suffixes. "I'm goin to the store." Using the d sound for th--what's dat? Is it over dere? You know what I miss? 'Fin'. As in "She finna go to the store." "Did you wash the sheets like I axed?" "Man, I FIN to!"
Interesting aside #1--my mother always mocked us when we said "ovuh dare" for "over there". She said it made us sound like country hicks. That was the only thing she corrected our speech on. Either that or I've blocked out what else she corrected us on.
Interesting aside #2--in college, I dated a white guy who one showed me how to use the 'th' sound. Up to that point, I didn't think there was a difference until he showed me how to place my tongue at the back of my teeth. And by that, he showed me using his tongue. Looking back at it now, I have super mixed feelings about it: on the one hand, there's the dynamic of a white guy teaching a black girl how to speak 'properly' (I'm sure he didn't think about that at all--only thought he was doing a good thing). On the flip side, damn if that wasn't the sexiest linguist lesson I ever had....
So I just wrote those two asides, and I thought huh. Actually, those two asides play a lot into how I write. I'm coming from a background where "proper English" was correct, not just grammar, but also pronunciation. My mother didn't want me and my sisters to sound like uneducated hicks because she wanted us to have clear diction, which in her opinion would get us better jobs than working at McDonalds.. My boyfriend wanted me to speak the way he did. And in the African American community, we don't have the option where the way we speak is consider a "second language" or a "foreign dialect". With us, "white english" equals proper and preferred, "black english" equals ghetto and uneducated. I could show proof, but ain't nobody got time fo dat.
Angry aside #3--I once dropped a white ex-co-worker from Facebook because of that. Seemed to be a nice guy, went to church, volunteered at our community center. When he learned that Obama had been re-elected, he wrote on his wall "Mo welfare fo us all!" I wanted to say, "How can you mentor those kids at the community center and then turn around and write such a thing?" but I was too upset to respond to him Instead, I dropped him like a hot potato.
It would be good to change black english from being a stigma to something more legitimate. One way we can do so is through stories, because it allows us to tell our own narratives. The problem is that there are those who will always see those dialects as low brow and ignorant. How can we move beyond that? I don't have an answer. It's something that is far larger and deeper than I can touch on. The notion that I've been bending towards the white dominant culture is something I'm just now beginning to recognize in my life. I'm working on a separate blog post about it--it's pretty long and deep, and I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to post it here or somewhere not as public
But what I can do is strive to have more black dialect in my writing. And for me, that means becoming more aware, paying attention, listening. Advocating it more. And having more conversations about it. I liked what Apex Abyss did in putting both versions of Celeste Rita Baker's story "Name Calling" on their site. (Interestingly, I found the original patois version more engaging. I could hear her voice in my head, whereas the edited version was okay, but more muted.)
Isn't that the point of stories? To push us? Transport us? To take us out of our lives and put them into another's?
We also need to give writers a safe space to write stories in their own voices. I thought the point of Long Hidden was to give marginalized voices a chance to be heard. And those voices should include 'black english' because that is just as legitimate. It has its own rhythm, its own music, and to erase that is to erase voices that groaned in captivity, that sang in both joy and sorrow, that shouted for justice, and to this day continues to unsettle, unnerve, and push comfort zones to make itself heard.
Now, if you excuse me, I finna go work on my writin, cause dat’s wha’ its’' ‘bout, son.
- Current Mood: bitchy
It’s that time of year again! I plan to be at Wiscon 38 this year, with GoHs N. K. Jemisin and Hiromi Goto. And of course, I have a schedule!
Friday, May 23
Reading at Michelangelos
Come join me along with Greg Bechtel, David D. Levine and James P. Roberts as we read short stories. I’ll be reading “21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus 1)”. Also, there will be chocolate!
POC Dinner, Room 629
Are you a Person of Color? Going to Wiscon? Come to the POC dinner! Details can be found on the official FB invite. If you're not on Facebook, we also have a Google Doc where you can sign up and specify the type of meal you want.
Dream Apart: A storygame of the fantastic shtetl, Solitaire
I'm participating in a storygame with Benjamin Rosenbaum. A GM-less, collaborative, rules-light, historical fantasy storygame of sorcerers and scholars, midwives and matchmakers, soldiers and klezmers, dybbuks, gossip, pogroms, trolls, rebels, betrothals, demons, angels, blood libel, lusts, and secrets in an Eastern European Jewish shtetl, circa 1850. There's still a slot open!
Complexity in the World of Jem, Conference 4
Join me, K. Tempest Bradford, Isabel Schechter and others as we talk ALL THINGS JEM! Let’s explore all this plus the show's gender roles (why are Rio and Eric so controlling), how not to run a business (Starlight Records is a mess), and Jem's curious distrust of the police and law enforcement (the Misfits never go to jail).
No panels for me!
Monday, May 26
11:30a to 12:45p
Stop by and say hi, and if you have the What Fates Impose or the Dark Faith: Invocations anthologies, bring them by and I'll sign them!
You can thank Neil Gaiman for this one. In 2010, I was invited to attend “The Gathering of American Gods” at the House on the Rock. I was trying to think of a cool costume to wear and, well, okay, I was looking for an excuse to dye my wedding dress with tea. I came up with going as the Moth Queen, because I had a pin shaped like a butterfly, but this party would be at night, so moths fit better.
Well, the costume idea petered out, (I wound up going as a vaguely steampunk lady). But the idea of a Moth Queen stuck with me, and I began to play with the idea. How I went from a Queen to a Princess, Queen and Dowager, I don’t remember. but when I came up with the idea of butterfly people (papilion) being enemies of the moth people (doptera), and how the moth people are attracted to light, I knew I had a story.
I will confess, coming up with the backstory and history of the world was somewhat difficult. After I finished it, I shopped it around. One of the rejections I got mentioned that it was a very good story, but the editor wished the doptera and papilion were more insect-like. And this is true. But I had no clue how to make them more insect-like without making them relatable. And besides, I had a selfish wish to keep the figurines as is, which play a part in the story.
Hmm. Writing that though makes me wonder. Can I make a lead character that’s not human, completely alien, and yet make them relatable? At the time I wrote Sun-Touched, I didn’t think I could. Now? I might be able.
In the meantime, enjoy "Sun-Touched", and let me know what you think!
- Current Mood: pleased
It’s now up! “21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus 1)” is up now at Strange Horizons! It has an illustration! It has a podcast! It is so cool!
The inspiration for this story came one day when I was on Google Plus (why yes…I do go there from time to time). Someone had posted an album of different spiral staircase pictures, and when I clicked on the album, it posted all the staircases at once. Seeing all those staircases and spirals got me wondering: what if spiral staircases appeared at random, with no reason whatsoever. What would be at the top? And then I wondered…if spiral staircases could appear out of nowhere, who to say it’s just a normal staircase? What other materials could it be made out of? How fanciful could I make these staircases?
Oh, I had a fun time coming up with the different kinds of staircases. But I didn’t have much of a plot until I came up with the idea that the staircase was a metaphor for epiphanies and enlightenment. Around this time, I had visited my folks back in Chicago, and wound up watching the Help with the womenfolk of my family, including my grandmother, who is awesomely badass. Talking with her and my own mother about growing up and raising kids, made me want to commemorate their strength, while at the same time showing how opportunities seem to open up more for each generation. So I decided to make the spiral story more personal.
The Momma in the story is a mash-up of my mom and grandmother. There are other true parts too; if you know me, you’ll figure it out. I never snuck out of my house, for instance. But the boyfriend part? That’s mostly true. So was the feeling of optimism. My dad never wanted to join the circus though.
Anyway, check it out and let me know what you think. What would your spiral staircase look like?
- Current Mood: giggly
I've been busy the past few weeks, and I'm about to get even busier. I'll do another post about that, but real quick, here's what I've been up to:
I did a guest post over at Bill Bodden's blog about keeping yourself going when you're in Revision Hell. Warning: I make a confession about Digimon.
On February 3, I have a short story, "21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus 1)" appearing on Strange Horizons, and it will be illustrated!
Finally, in February, I'm planning to participate in the 2014 Month of Letters Challenge. You may remember I attempted the challenge a couple of years ago, but barely got into it before quitting. Well, I'm going to try it again, and this time, I'm going to be tracking my progress over at HabitRPG . If you're interested in joining me, I have a challenge all set up at the Tavern. (Did I mention that you should check out HabitRPG anyway? They've really changed it the last time I posted about it, adding quests, checklists, pets, cool armor. Making a task list has never been so much fun!). nd if you're not on HabitRPG, check out the Month of Letters Challenge anyway. It's a fun way to get back into the habit of sending snail mail. And if you’re interested in getting a letter from me, leave a comment below and I’ll connect with you to get your address. I’d love to write to you!
- Current Mood: busy