So yesterday I finally got around to seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Fell in love with it immediately--particularly the character of Finn. And in a way, seeing it has been useful in processing Urbana 15. Spoiler ahoy!
So what I loved most about Finn's characterization is that he's not strong from the offset. He's just 'awakened' to himself and realizing that what he's doing is wrong, so he wants out. But not so much to fight. He's more about self-preservation, which is totally within his right to do so.
But when Rey gets captured, suddenly, his self-preservation no longer matters to him. Because he connected with her, instead of taking the easy way out, he goes to save her...and he is badly hurt because of it. There's no reunion of them at the end. Our last shot of him is him unconscious in a medical ward. His worst fear comes true. But the point is...he went anyway, even though he was scared, even though he knew he wasn't a hero.
For the past 14 months, I've been pretty much in "keep your head down" mode. Most of that was due to my dayjob spiraling up in stress, but most of that was also just seeing so much happening in the social media world over the push for diversity. The Hugos and the Sad/Rabid Puppies. Stuff with my dayjob. News media and shootings and open carry and outrage and more outrage and doxing...until it felt like my voice didn't matter. Anything I said would be said in vacuum. And too much was being said anyway, by people who said it much better than me. What more could my voice add?
So I kept quiet and hid. I stopped writing on my blog. I only posted on Facebook to my closest friends. And that intermittedly.
At Urbana 15, one of the sights that stuck out to me was catching a glimpse of Greg Jao, our VP of Campus Engagement, talking with Michelle Higgins, who spoke at Urbana on the #BlackLivesMatter movement. She was already getting pushback from her talk, so she and Greg were talking about the clarification statement IV was putting out on their website. What struck me was how they wanted to make sure they were communicating things right, in that Michelle wasn't speaking for InterVarsity, but at the same time putting weight on her words as a guest of Urbana. They were getting so much pushback (and by default, so was our office. Can't tell you how many phone calls and emails we got, including some from 'concerned Christians' who pretty much told us to go to hell, along with other words that pretty much wasn't Christianly.)
But Michelle was willing to take the heat. And so was Greg.
When I went to Ferguson and saw with my own eyes the place in the street where Mike Brown's body laid for hours, I was startled by the sudden rage I felt--not just for his death, and his narrative will be that of someone 'deserving' of such a death, but also for the people living in the apartment complex near him who had to see such and act. And, yes, also for the police that their own narrative was knocked awry. That now, they will no longer be seen as protectors, but oppressors. That no one will ever trust them.
At one of the Urbana Seminars, Rev. Karen Anderson, who was also one of the pastors who marched in Ferguson, talked about finding a space and fitting in. "There's more to #BlackLivesMatter than just marching and protesting. Look for what is needed, then fill it." It resonated with me because I'm not the marching type, but I'm good at helping behind the scenes. I guess, for the past fourteen months, I've been trying to figure out how I'd fit within the whole movement. But doing my dayjob helps. and being a writer helps.
And that my job, as a writer, is to change the narrative.
So many people are working to change the narrative. From those working with #BlackLivesMatter, to those working racial reconciliation, to those fighting to get diverse books and games out, And they're doing it, not because they're heroes--some are quite frightened to do so, and they bear so much hate. But they also know that people are dying, so they're, to use a Christianese phrase "counting the cost".
Just like Finn.
So, uh, Star Wars. I loved it. And Urbana...I loved that too. And I can't believe I was able to meld the two into a semi-coherent post.
- Current Mood: thankful
2. Writing for Urbana Today: Probably the most balanced Urbana Assignment I ever had for my introvert and extrovert side.
3. Being in a black space to process #BlackLivesMatter through the use of song, spoken word, and poetry. Wow. Wowwww...
4. My hotel had an underground casino. Did yours?
5. My hotel had so many more black people chillaxing by the casino. Did yours?!
6. BLACK PEOPLE BLACK PEOPLE SO MANY BLACK PEOPLE IT WAS AWESOME.
7. Being with my family for my uncle's funeral completely fit in with Urbana's unspoken "Being Present" theme.
8. Ferguson looked exactly like my neighborhood. Not the one I grew up in. The one I live in now.
9. Still processing the trip to Ferguson. So many feelings.
10. I am incredibly tired.
and 11. So. Many. Black. HAIRSTYLES.
- Current Mood: exhausted
Currently in St Louis, attending the Urbana Missions Conference, and based on my job here, thought I should get back into the habit of doing quick journals. So I'm going to post these at my journals and FB. Let see how it goes.
So. Urbana. This is going to be a most interesting week. My job here at the conference is writing articles for Urbana Today, the daily newsletter. My schedule will basically be like this: at 7pm, all the writers meet with our editor Lisa, who will give out assignments for the following day. The assignments range from quick statements from students focused on a question of the day, to full blown interviews, to seminar write ups. The next day, we go out to our respective assignments, then first drafts of article write ups are due by 4pm. The articles get sent to proofreaders, yada yada yada, and we re-convene at 7pm to get our next assignment. The articles go to print at night and are ready the next morning.
This works well considering that tomorrow I'm going to be taking the Greyhound to my Uncle's funeral and coming back the same night. Our assignments are flexible, so I can make it super light, such as just talking to students, or more involved. Wednesday, I'll be covering the "Ferguson is Now" panel. I also hope to get to the different ethnic lounges.
It feels weird that I'm finally putting my Journalism degree to work...19 years later.
Right. Off to my first assignment, which involves interviewing the IVP bookstore. BECAUSE BOOKSTORES.
- Current Mood: sleepy
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.
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.
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.
- Current Mood: grateful
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::
- Current Mood: relieved
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.
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.
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 day. It 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!
- Current Mood: morose
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