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My whopper of a doozy Wiscon 39 report

It's done! It's all over! I can finally relax!!! Actually, no I can't because my brother in law comes in two weeks but ALL MY CONS ARE DONE (for now).

This was the most intense con season I had. Not so much because of the work I had to do as WisCon's GoH Liasion for Alaya Dawn Johnson. That was fun and easy. A big part of it had to do that that WisCon took place during the same week that my dayjob moved to a new building, which was a culmination of six stressful months in the making. But the biggest part of why it was intense was because WisCon, like so many other things happening in other circles of my life, is going through a shift, mainly due to fallout from the last couple of years and people leaving the concom, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Too long a story: you can catch it here and here.

Being on the ground here in the Madison, I got to hear a lot of views .I listened to those pushing for change. I listened to those who were hurt and outraged at what was going on. I listened to those who didn't understand what was going on. I listened to people on the concom, those who left and those who came on. I listened to people here in Madison and those who came to WisCon from far off. I've listened and watched and had numerous conversations with people. 

I'm going to be up front. I don't know feminist movement history well. I can't even say fully that I'm a feminist. My reluctance of labeling myself as such falls in line with the whole feminist/womanist discussion, the latter of which I gravitate more towards. (Note to self: add Alice Walker's In Search of Our Mothers’ Garden: Womanist Prose to the to-read pile.) So it was interesting to hear all the different opinions of how WisCon was in regards to first wave feminism versus second wave feminism versus...whatever wave we happen to be in now. I think, however there's more to it than that. 

Before I get into that, first, I feel compelled to give you a back history on my own experience with cons. Because context and all. 

My first con was OddCon in 2009. It was the first time I met an editor, Jim Frenkel. We wound up talking for a while about the writing biz. I thought him an odd bird who swore too much, but it was neat to learn that there was an actual editor who lived in my town. Later, I was taken aside and given the missing stair talk. You know what I mean. Since I had just met him, I duly noted it and decided to keep an eye on him, just in case. I should also note that to me, he was professional, courteous, and generally friendly.

To me. That's something you should note.
My next con was Wiscon. Although Oddcon was my first con, WisCon I consider to be my home con because it was there I meet other geeks of color. I didn't feel like I stood out in the crowd as the only token black geek person. For someone who grew up in a Christian household, WisCon shook my worldview by introducing me to people I would have never met otherwise: atheists, Muslim. queer, trans, poly and yes, feminists, mingling with straight, Christian, monogamous folk. For the first time, I begun to get a glimpse of what the words 'mullticultural' and 'diversity' meant. Not just in a racial sense, but in a community sense.
Here's the thing about diversity, though. When people talk about wanting more "diversity", they seem to have this this magical kumbaya utopia of happy smiling people of all hues holding hands. Look at us, we're all different and yet look how we're all the same. In reality though? Diversity is messy. Complicated. Filled with groups stepping on each others toes and then looking hurt when those groups yelp in pain. A community could either let that happen and alienate the very diversity it is trying to draw in, or they can work to make all the groups within itself feel safe. It's a tricky balancing act, especially when have a group who have worked for years to get the community to its diverse state. 
In the case of Frenkel, that was a no-brainer. With all the testimony and evidence that's out there, there's no question that he needed to be banned from Wiscon. The problem with that is that it felt to me that everyone dusted their hands off and said, "Well done. We don't have to deal with Frenkel anymore." And that was that...until I saw him at a local function three months later. Just because he's barred from Wiscon doesn't mean he's barred anywhere else. 

And that's the thing. Being local, Frenkel always shown me that side of professional courtesy because 1) I'm local, 2) I'm not his type (thankfully). A lot of people are yelling online for his head, but here, in Madison, he acts different. There are people who've known him in Madison and have always seen that friendly side. And if they never go online, they don't know. So yes, they find it hard to believe when they hear the stories. I'm not excusing his behavior. Nor of those of his supporters. But I want you to see what I'm dealing with. 

So what do I do? Treat him like a pariah? Go out of my way to avoid him forever and ever? Or do I keep on doing what I'm doing now, keep a wary eye on him,  Those who know his harassing side have done their best to warn others of his behavior. I reckon I'll fall in the same boat. I don't know.

And if you are someone like me who's conflict avoidant, that can be a hard thing.
It's almost the same thing with Richard Russell, to a lesser extent. I've only seen Richard at cons. In fact, got to play a zombie game with him at this year's Oddcon. I also was on WisCon's concom last year, so I got to see the emails he were sending regarding the POC safer space. That was disappointing, because I remember him coming to the first panel I ever moderated (Why are all the Black Kids Sitting in the Middle of the Cafeteria). I could've sworn he was the one who sat and listened to our stories, and then him speaking up saying now he understood why safer spaces were a good thing. Maybe that wasn't him. I don't know. I do remember the emails from him in the concom leading up to that panel, which intimidated me a little.  He saw POC safer space as us 'segregating ourselves'. 
I don't heavily use the POC safer space, but as a black woman, I totally understand why there's a need for one. We have something similar at my dayjob when we do conferences in that we present 'lounges' for staff of different ethinicities to sit, chill, and process what's happening at the conference in a safe place. It's not exclusive; technically, anyone of any ethnicity can come into the lounge at any time. But here's the thing--the privacy is honored, because everyone respects the space and its purpose. Everyone knows it's to provide a safe surroundings for those People of Color to talk and process what's happening around them in a safe environment, without the eyes of other (read: white) staff.
I would love to have the same thing happen at WisCon, but I don't think we're at that point. I would love to explore more on how culture dynamics change when another group that is not the normative comes in and grows, but that's a whole other blog post, and this is supposed to be a con report. Interestingly enough, at this year's WisCon, I don't think the POC safer space room wasn't used all that much. Because this year's concom was committed in limiting microagressions, a lot of POC felt safer and were able to interact more outside the room. That didn't mean everything was hunky dory, but it did feel that this year's WisCon was a lot more relaxed, at least from my perspective. 
Which in itself was interesting, because again, I was hearing reports from those who were local who weren't having the same experience--they reported that people were being rude, challenging them when they brought up Richard Russell. There was one point where I was checking out my social media, and it was as if there were two WisCons--the first being where a lot of my POC friends were saying this was the best WisCon they've been, and some of the local friends saying that they would never attend WisCon again. I don't know how to bridge that. I doubt if I have the responsibility. And right now, frankly I just don't have the time or the energy to do so. 
There was a panel that addressed the whole thing very well, I think: the "What Happened at WisCon Last Summer" panel on Sunday. I was only able to attend the last 20 minutes of it, but I was heartened to see it packed with people from all different sides of the issue. There were many people who spoke at the panel, including myself, who shared some raw things and feelings that should not have gone outside of that room. And as I tweeted, it was a hard panel. But it was a necessary one. Jeanne Gomoll was up on the panel, bless her heart. She did a hard thing, being up there in front of everyone, but I was glad she was there, as well as Mikki Kendall--who, may I say, was absolutely a rock star as a com chair. She took a hard hard job, but she did it. A lot of people voiced their hurt, and there were misunderstandings that needed clearing up. Debbie Notkin was also on it. I wanted to hug her.
I wished it was taped, though I understand why it wasn't, but Kat Tanaka Okopnik tweeted most of it and its up in storfied form, thanks to Sasha_feather. I highly suggest reading it, even if some parts would be difficult to take in. But that is what the true meaning of living in diversity means. It's recognizing that there are others who don't see things the way you do, and then working through those hard bits to make things easier for everyone. I was so heartened to see not just remote fans, but local fans, in that room, and it gave me hope. It showed me that both sides were willing to fight for WisCon. The direction it's going is ultimately going to be awesome. And for those who said that they aren't going to Wiscon ever again, that saddens me, but it's within their rights. There's always Oddcon, and that seems to be where they're gravitating to.
I had the privilege of going through not one, but two rough church splits. This is a pretty much par for the course.
One more thing. There was almost a period last summer that I seriously did consider stepping down from the concom--that was when I saw I also saw people railing against others on the concom who, while not innocent, were also working the best they could under the circumstances. But the amount of anger was so great, so vitriolic, that it made me wonder: if I screwed up in my job, would they talk that way about me?
I'm not going to wring my hands and cry out "Can't we all just get along?!" I'm not that naive. If there is one thing I got out of what happened last year is that anger can have its place, and when it's used to address a wrong, it has power to bring about change for the good. I don't show anger easily, but I respect the ones that do. We need their voices, desperately, otherwise the harmful things will continue unabated.
On the flip side, it doesn't do any good to attack people just because you don't like the way they do things. I had enough going on in my life without watching the people I care deeply about trash other people who I care deeply about. So because I am nonconfrontational in nature, I disengaged. I don't speak for all concom volunteers, but I'm pretty sure many are conflict averse people like me, preferring to keep quiet, stay to the sidelines, and if things don't look like they're going to change, they quietly slip away. You get enough of that happening, and that can kill a con. 
The reason I stuck it out was because there were a few who, despite their anger, were dedicated in making WisCon safe for everyone, even those who made them angry in the first place. They also acknowledged the hard work that the former concom members had done, and wanted to honor them. It was those gestures that made me stay on. And thus, I've come full circle to the main point of this report. It's all about respect. Cons are hard work, and there needs to be a balance between anger and restoration. And yes, I'm letting my Christian tendencies show, but really. If WisCon is going to move full steam ahead, we need to acknowledge the hard work the local fandom has done to get Wiscon to the point where it is now. And yes, local fandom needs to understand that WisCon needs to change, needs to make itself safe for all participants, if it is to make any difference in the future. 
So how was my WisCon this year? I had a blast. It was a real joy to serve as Alaya Dawn Johnson's liaison. It was good to see friends again, and make new ones, and even see ones that weren't attending Wiscon. I am looking so forward to next year, with Justine Larbalestier and Sofia Samatar and (gasp) Nalo Hopkinson. 
And I'm going to keep on figuring out how to do the local con thing. And oh yeah...I went to the Nebulas. Fabulous. Absolutely fabulous. But that will have to be in the next post. This con report has been two years in the making, see, and frankly, I'm exhausted. Y'all can wait until next week for that report, can you?
Sure you can.

Hey, remember back in December when I said I was going through some stuff and at some point I'll write a blog post about it? Looks like today's the day. I wrote about it at my dayjob's blog entitled Peace in the Changing".

For those who want the shorter, less Christianese, tl;dr version: I had an early miscarriage back in December. It happened smack dab in all the Ferguson and New York turmoil. And it pretty much messed me up good.

If there's one thing I've learned about the writing community, it's that we are serious when it comes to taking care of ourselves mentally. When I realized I was at a point I couldn't deal, the first thing I did was talk with a couple of professionals (read: doctor and chaplain). I also gave myself permission to lay low...real low. Played a lot of video games. Read a lot of books. Stayed away from Twitter, although I did a little interaction on Facebook. I also realized that there were a lot of things I were doing that were just too much for me, so it was time for me to let them go. One of those things were, sadly, Podcastle.

So if you listen to today's podcast, you'll hear that, yes, I've decided to step down as Associate Editor. A bummer, because I looooooved being part of the Podcastle family. But it was a good time to go--Dave and Anna are also stepping down (and if you haven't heard Dave's love letter to Podcastle readers, please, have a listen. It reduced me to a puddle of gooey tears, but in a good way this time). It's been an awesome run. I had so much fun at Podcastle, and it gave me insight into the editorial process. I still might do a narration every now and then, but for now, I'm gathering the little time I have to redirect it towards finishing the novel, and I'm getting close. I'm getting surprisingly close.

At some point, I'll talk more about the miscarriage. Yes, yes, I know, there's a culture of silence that should be broken about it. But you know what? I don't feel like talking about it in public yet. As I said in the blog above, I'm still healing. But you know what I would like? Stories about 'onlies'. I think that would help tremendously. 

Also, let me tell you this. My son has been an absolute trooper during this time. He's been sweet, helpful and caring. Just like his father. Who has also been absolutely wonderful. I'm going to slip back into Christianspeak and say that God has blessed me with two wonderful guys who took good care for me. And it was God who kept me sane throughout that entire time. Well, okay, there was that moment when I had that breakdown on Christmas Eve...but there were reasons for that...ask me about it offline if you want to here me go off on a nice long rant).

So anyhoo, that's all I wanted to say. I've been easing myself back onto Twitter again, slowly. And I've been writing a lot. A LOT. So thank you all for being patient. Oh, and other thing about taking care of myself? Shorter blog posts.

Jim Hines has been running a series of guest blog posts on Representation in SF/F. And oh, hey, look at that, here's my contribution on black representation, "The Danger of the False Narrative". Check it out, and definitely check out the other essays on there too. 

Oo, short post. I should do this more often.

ETA: Oh, and I updated the nonfiction section of my "LaShawn's Works" page to include links to this and other guest blog posts I've done. Because, yeah, I did those things. Also I suck at updating things.

ETAA: Well, no, I don't suck. I just forget and...crap...this was supposed to be a short post. Never mind. Forget this. You're not reading this. YOUUUUUU ARE NOT READING THISS.....

::performs handwavy gestures::

::runs off::

So Wizard World finally decided to stick a Comic-con in Madison and see how it goes. Now mind--I've been going to cons since 2008, butI've never been to Comic-con, so seeing that there's one now pretty much in my backyard. I had no excuse. I had to go see it. I also took my 10 year old son and his friend, because kids 10 and under were free. Couldn't pass that up.

 Boys at Pokemon booth

Size: So, obviously, Comic-con is larger. Much, MUCH larger. I don't know what the final total was, but I can easily see 10,000 people alone being at the con. 

Venue: They held most of Comic-con in the large Alliant Center exhibit hall, which is pretty big until you realize what it really is: A gigantic Dealer's Room. I mean, big, big biiiiiiiiiiiiig Dealer's room. And I've been to Chicon, and that was pretty huge. But at the same time, they had things in there that you wouldn't necessarily find at a regular con's dealer's room. For instance, they had a gaming area towards the back where you could do board and card games. I had read in the programming that they would have Pokemon card battles, but I didn't see anyone playing it, so I was disappointed. But the boys and I had a rousing game of Clue, so it actually turned out all right. 

The rest of the floor was devoted to dealers, comics...and celebrities.

Celebrities: So this is something that I absolutely have not experienced before. When I first started going to cons, most were all literary, so there were many places that had my favorite authors right there. In fact, the very first person I met at my very first con was Nisi Shawl, where I proceeded to have my very first fangirl experience (and startling her in the process, I'm sure). But most of the cons I've been to have been literary, and my celebrities--famous authors--were mostly down to earth folk who were easy to approach, and love hanging out in bars. 

Comic-con is so very different. It's a pop-culture con, so no literary folk. Heavily media oriented, particularly film and TV shows. And they had stars. William Shatner and Edward James Olmos stars. And we saw them all from a distance. Because the difference between authors and celebrites are a good $50 to get even close to a celebrity. 

That had to suck for them. Because for the most part, you had to pay to even get in line to talk to them. Which worked I guess if people are watching your show, or if people still love you. But if you're a nobody, or worse, a has been, well, no one pays to see you. I saw a lot of celebrities sitting there, looking bored, playing on their phones. (Omigosh, George Wendt. For the longest time I was trying to figure out why the heck George Wendt from Cheers was there. I learned that he had actually done a lot of cartoon voices, but come on. George Wendt? Really?)

That said, I was able to wave at Ernie Hudson. And shoot, I totally missed Billy Dee Williams. But really, ain't no way was I going to pay to get up close to them. Which is sort of sad.  But I did get to see Shatner and Olmos.

Panels: So Panels were held in the meeting room portion of the Alliant Center--meaning one large room and two smaller rooms. Which means the panels were pretty much held one after another. I actually liked that. Single panel programming made it easier to attend. The panels with the celebrites were short--only 1/2 hour long. 

We got in line for the first panel, which was Edward James Olmos. I was thinking that would be packed, but surprisingly, all of us was able to get in with room to spare. I really enjoyed Olmos's session. He talked about not just Battlestar Galactica, but also Blade Runner, West Wing, and other shows. And he also talked about the value of diversity in shows and even a bit about how BSG was used to explore racial tensions, which could be used in Ferguson (I was deeply, deeply impressed by that. Even Olmos gets it).

After Olmos's time was up, Shatner was next in the same room, so we basically stayed put. Which was awesome. Okay, yeah, I did feel a litttle bit sorry because I heard the line for Shatner coming into the room was twice as long. But NOT SORRY ENOUGH.

Besides, they showed Shatner's session on a big screen TV in the food area, so it all worked out in the end.

Shatner. Well. What can I saw. With Olmos, he and another guy sat on stage across from each other and talked in an interview format and also took questions from the audience. Shatner came out and dragged a stool out to center stage, where he talked to the audience--well, monologued the audience for most of the session. But he's a showman, first and foremost, so while it wasn't much about Star Trek, and more about this motorcycle he's building he still had us rolling in laughter.

There was a moment thought that I considered to be my favorite part of the day. As I mentioned, I had brought along my son and his friend. So whereever I went, they had to go with me. This included Olmos, which neither of them had heard of (because no I did not to show my son the rebooted BSG. What's wrong with you?). So while I was listened to an engaging, thoughtful commentary on race in media, they were bored as rocks.

My son, on the other hand, did know Shatner from watching the old episodes, so he was quite excited. So he clapped and cheered when Shatner came. Then he started talking, and he's talking about UFOs and riding his motorcycle in the desert and hallucinations and quantum physics and so on, and at about a good seven minutes into his monologue my son, my beautiful, darling son, heaves a sigh and says in a whisper loud enough for everyone around us to hear: "I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT."

Which, let's face it, we were all thinking that.

The evening panels were more indicative of ones I was used to. Attended a hilarious comedy show put on by Cthulu's Comedy Collective, and I checked out the costume contest, which was fun. Speaking of which:

Costumes: I like this part of science fiction cons. The ones I go to are usually geared towards serious discussion (and there are a few who outright discourage wearing costumes). So was neat to go to Madison Comic-con and satisfy that part of my inner geek. Not just seeing all the awesome costumes, but participating in it myself along with my son. It's not everyday that I get to dress up as a delinquent catholic school cat girl.


But the costumes were phenomenal.

















Of course, many selfies:


And of course, Dr Who. 

The boy was in heaven. There was a moment when we came to an intersection in the exhibition hall right at the same time as two other Dr Whos and a walking Tardis. My son and the other Dr Whos all looked at each other, then whipped out their sonic screwdrivers and pointed them at each other. I'm still trying to decide if that was a geeky Dr. Who thing or a male thing in general.


Also, for some reason, a whole lot of Harlequinns. Which is interesting, because none of the movies have featured Harlequinn. But a lot of women apparently like dressing up as her. Huh.

Overall: I had gone to Comic-com with low expectations and left pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had. Would I do it again? Hmm. I don't know. The steep membership (or weekend pass, however they call it) and all the add-ons you have to pay for to get like VIP access to events to me wasn't that much worth it. I'm not a big TV person, so I didn't care much about the celebrities who were there, and the ones I did know, I was like 'meh' (well okay, I was bummed I missed seeing Billy Dee Williams, but even there I would've seen him from a distance.) Also, there was the fact that there were TOO MUCH PEOPLE. There were no quiet places for introverts like me to go and recharge. I also missed my standard author hangout at Barcon. In fact, the Comic-con pretty much shut down after 9pm. There were several bars that hosted afterparties where you could get in free with your wristband, but by then, I was so burnt out, I didn't want to hang out with a bunch of other strangers at a bar blasting loud music. I just wanted to go home. And finally, yeah, the comic-con felt pretty...commercial. Many of the emcees were obviously not from Madison, and they were pretty blatant about it. It got irritating after a while. Most of the panels were celebrity based. There were only a few panels that had local people--the aforementioned comedy troupe from Milwaukee, for instance. (Okay, Milwaukee isn't considered local to Madison, but I'm not complaining).

That last reason, though, is something that absolutely can be fixed. I think the good thing about the WizardWorld comic-cons is that they conform to whatever cities they're in by the use of local volunteers. For instance, I know at the Chicago Comic-con, there is a whole group of authors who appear as special guests, and the panels are more numerous and diverse--heck, they even had a few panels that discuss diversity in fandom. So if I do go back, I wouldn't mind going in as a volunteer panelist or something. The thing I liked about Madison Comic-con was that it pulled in a bunch of people who aren't necessarily into the local con scene, but want that con experience. And if they come back next year, that might actually boost attendance at the local cons. Win all around. So yeah, I'd go back to WizardWorld Madison Comic-con in 2016.

Especially if Jesus comes again.



LaShawn's 2014 Year in Review

So, um...stuff happened in 2014. Lots of stuff. Some good. Some bad. Probably the worst of it was during December. Don't worry. The boy is fine. Hubby is fine. I, physically, am fine. My mental health...still in recovery mode. 

It's why it appeared that I dropped from social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, during November and December of last year. Too much for me to deal at that point. There's a few people who knew what's going on and been walking with me and my family through it (to use a Christianese term). At some point, there will be a blog post going up that goes more into it, but it's still a little raw right now. Sorry for the vagueblogging.

That said, I'm doing better. Not great, mind, but better.

So then, how did 2014 fare for my writing?

Well, that year saw my most popular story to date, 21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One). Seriously, I had no idea how many people would love this story. So much so, it made 3rd place in the Strange Horizons 2014 Readers Poll. How crazy is that? I wasn't expecting that to happen--I was just having fun with spiral staircases.

Interestingly, a month after 21 Steps came out, my other short story, Sun-Touched, was also published. That one dropped like a stone in water. I'm still puzzling over it, because I would consider that one the more ambitious story. I was trying hard to push myself out of the fantasy box and stretch my imagination. But ah well. Ultimately, I have no real control whether a story is liked or not. The only thing I can do is to keep writing and putting stories out there for people to read. 

That grew more challenging in 2014 when I moved to full-time work. Writing during a set time period dwindled to writing in short bursts. I've already written about that, so I'm not going to rehash it. Nowadays, I'm taking the advice of Jeff VanderMeer in his awesome book Wonderbook: write whenever I can, however I can, using the least obstacles to get my words to the page. (And here's a plug--if you're a writer, get Wonderbook. Get it now. Omigosh it's so AWESOME.) Currently, my writing media is 8x5 notepads. Not as daunting as full spiral notebooks and easier to carry. I write at home. I write at church. I write during breaks at work, when I'm waiting on the phone, when I'm cooking dinner (I'm simmering chicken korma curry as I write this up at hand). Evenings I enter my handwritten work into Scrivener, rinse, repeat.

I grant you, it's slow--work has gotten extremely busy for me, and there are days when all I can get down is ten words. But I've made it a rule now that I write something--anything--every dayIt may be only a tidbit, but get enough of those going and...well, in September, I was able to finish the first draft of a new short story, which was something I didn't think I could do. Right now, I'm working on the second draft of another story. And I'm still working on Willow. 

So, writing wise, 2014 was a year of changes, even for my writing. I'm hoping they're good changes though, in that it's forcing me to write tighter and better. We'll see how it goes this year. And, just to remind you, 21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One) is eligible for awards. Let's see how far this baby goes!

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!

Via Tardis, no da.

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!

My first book event!

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.

ICON 39 Schedule

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".  

What Fates Impose

(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:

Friday, 10/31

9am - 5pm Paradise ICON

After dinner I should be wandering around the con and/or hanging out at BarCon.

Saturday, 11/1

9am - 10am Paradise ICON

10 am - 12 pm Author Meet and Greet 

1 pm - 3 pm Paradise ICON
4pm - 7pm Free time
7pm - 9 pm, Rapid Fire Reading, Chestnut Room
9pm -- Barcon!
Sunday, 11/2
If you're coming to ICON, if you can catch me, say hi!

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.

Now that I'm writing now at odd times, I needed something that I could have accessible at any moment, at any time, where I could jot down thoughts and lines and words as they came to me throughout the day. Something so accessible, I could use it even when I didn't have access to internet. Get ready, because this will blow your mind.
Ordinary pen and paper. Who'd thunk, RIGHT?
Having a physical notebook means that I can write anywhere, anytime. Which, if I'm brainstorming or jotting notes or playing with sentences, it's awesome. I can be thinking about my work, honing it in my head, then jot a few phrases down. Get enough of those, and I got me a working draft.
Revisions are a little trickier. It's easier for me to edit drafts on the computer, therefore I needed a way to do it so I can access those drafts anytime, anywhere. This meant changing the place where I stored my work from my local computer to the cloud. Currently I'm using Dropbox, and it's nice. I still back up to local though, because backups are good.
This also meant I could no longer bounce between three programs: Writer's Cafe, Word and Scrivener. I had to stick with something that could contain all my work and notes and word processing in one place, that I could access from anywhere. 
I loved Writer's Cafe. I really, really did. I even wrote a blog post comparing the two programs, saying I couldn't give up Writer's Cafe even though Scrivener was the better choice. Well, that changed this summer. Scrivener was overwhelmingly better in keeping all my notes, drafts, storyboards, annotations and working drafts in one spot. And as I used Scrivener, I began to discover new ways to keep my writing on track: utilizing the outliner, working with meta-data. You know the best feature I'm loving right now? Color-coding the annotations in my drafts to show what needed to be done in the texts. A sort of to-do list, if you will. Parts I need to brainstorm are in blue, sentence rewrites in white, facts to research in orange--even if I'm not actively writing, I can open Scrivener, choose a color, and work on those in bits and pieces throughout the day. Then, when I'm done, I delete the note. It's nice to see all those notes and comments vanish as the story firms up.
Sorry, Writer's Cafe, but from now on, I'll have to go with Scrivener.
So that was my summer--figuring out Scrivener and the new writing process. Write in bits and pieces, get them into Scrivener. Expand. Set myself a limit of 500 words. (Oh, yes! Scrivener is awesome for setting daily writing goals). Work on the text in bits and pieces. And, if needed, use a couple of vacation days as writing retreat days, go to a coffee house and write like mad all day.
All of this to say, October 1, I finished the first draft of a new 6000 word story. I didn't think I would have time to do that, and I'm quite pleased with it. I've also been working on Willow (because oh gosh, that never ends), and now that I have everything in Scrivener, I find working on it much MUCH easier. 
I may have lost time with the expansion of the day job, but nowadays, I've been feeling way more productive than the past three 1/2 years. We'll see how things go.

A Brief Note of Thanks

 There’s been a lot happening with Wiscon the past few weeks. I won’t go into it–there are other places you can read up on it– but this week the Wiscon Concom released this statement that Jim Frenkel is permanently banned from Wiscon.

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.


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