WorldCon 76 Recap and Book Haul

Last weekend, I attended my first WorldCon!

For years I’ve been wanting to attend, but haven’t been able to travel to the many wonderful destinations the event appears at around the world. So, when I saw that WorldCon 76 was going to be in San Jose, California (practically my backyard), I jumped at the chance to finally attend — and not only attend, but participate in a reading!

During WorldCon, I still had to work my day job, so I didn’t get a chance to fully experience the event. But even just going in the evenings and on the weekend, I had a fabulous time. I ran into several writer and reader friends, chatted it up with some lovely strangers, and shopped for books and other goodies to my heart’s content (and pocket book’s misery). Here are a few highlights from my first WorldCon.

Watching the Hugo Awards

Rather than going into the grand ballroom, some friends and I gathered in Callahan’s to watch the live stream together — which allowed us the ability to grab some beers and snacks while we were watching. While the ceremonies as a whole were great, one of the best moments of the night was N.K. Jemisin winning the Hugo for Best Novel. She’s the first person to ever have one this award three years in a row, and her acceptance speech was a moving and funny and powerful. I cried seeing it at WorldCon and I cried again rewatching it on video. Check it out. It’s amazing.

Breaking Out of the Margins

Panel with Michi Trota, JY Yang, Foz Meadows, Caroline M. Yoachim, and Sarah Kuhn (moderator)

Breaking Out of the Margins was probably my favorite panel at the event. All of the authors were brilliant, pulling from each of their experiences to form a thoughtful, intelligent discussion on the subject of identity in relation to creative endeavors.

Both Michi Trota andCaroline M. Yoachim noted that when they were young writers, they had defaulted to putting white people as main characters. As they grew as writers, they began including characters who were more like them, representing their own experiences and backgrounds.

Sarah Kuhn noted the people will often ask why the author made the character black or Asian or gay, which reflects the default white straight perspective. But when an author makes a character white, straight, cis-gendered, this also is a choice that they’re making, although it’s not seen as such.

Kuhn also brought up the concept of “Rep Sweats” the stress of watching, reading, or creating a work that is the sole representation of a culture or group of people. Suddenly, there’s a lot of pressure for that work (she used Fresh Off the Boat as an example) to be perfect — in part because if the show fails, then it could be a years before anything like it comes around again.

Foz Meadows replied that when there’s a lack of diverse content in the world, then the little bit of content that is produced has a greater weight to it. So, the solution is to have a wider range of representation that allows authors and creators to have the room to fail.

Meadows also quoted a tumblr post talking about Jupiter Rising, which stated that it’s garbage, but it’s your garbage. The point being that some of the fun of fiction and film and such is being able to enjoy fun trash with characters who represent them.

“Yes,” replied JY Yang. “I just want to make stories about kissing and shooting things in space!”

In the end, “Let us write trash,” became a gleeful rallying cry — and I’m hoping we will all get to read some fantastic new trash from these authors in the future.

Research Rabbit Holes

Karen Joy Fowler, Andy Duncan, Lawrence M. Schoen, Ann Leckie, Irene Radford, and Sarah Pinsker (moderator)

Research Rabbit Holes was a delight of a panel, presenting for the most part stories of the ways the authors had fallen into such holes, how those holes had revealed surprising inspiration for their stories, and a multitude of fun facts they discovered over the years. I unfortunately wasn’t able to retain all of these stories, even though they delighted me.

The panel pointed out that there are two kinds of research — the brainstorming stage (before you start the story) and the plug-in-a-fact stage (when you just need to know one specific thing while you’re writing). The brainstorming stage is the hardest to know when to stop and each writer had their own take on when that moment is. Ann Leckie noted that you don’t need to know all the details before you start writing, while Lawrence M. Schoen explained that he likes to feel fully immersed in the research, knowing he won’t be writing it all out, but that that immersion allows details to come out naturally in his writing.

On being afraid of getting it wrong, Karen Joy Fowler said, “When someone sends me an email saying ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about’ because I’ve intersected two streets in a story that could never intersect, I just think, ‘I gave that person more pleasure by getting it wrong than if I had gotten it right.'”

Petrified Trees, Enchanted Mirrors: The Gothic Universe of Female Mexican Horror Writers

Raquel Castro, Andrea Chapela, Gabriela Damian Miravete, and Pepe Rojo (moderator)

The three panelists — each of whom write horror themselves — provided some fascinating insight into the long tradition of female Mexican horror writers. This is a horror that is specifically feminine, with women using the genre to explore the circumstances of their lives and the stereotypes and repression of women within the country.

There is something about horror that has to do with control,  explained Raquel Castro, a control that women don’t have. These stories help women deal with the horrors of their everyday lives that they don’t have control over — providing a way for them to exorcise these feelings. “I’ve heard so many stories of the women’s lives around me, and these stories haunted me,” said Castro. “I wanted to tell these stories — but coded through horror.”

Gabriela Damian Miravete said, “Horror is a place for of creativity and life. Even though it speaks of grim things, it is a safe space. It can give you comfort, as you read it, knowing there’s daylight and that in the end, you can put down the book and escape the haunted house. It’s a joy we must recover.” Miravete also pointed out that as horrors in real life increase, the horror genre tends to decay — but that she hopes that we can reverse the flow, compensating with genre.

The panel named a dozen or so female horror writers in Mexico, but unfortunately I had a hard time getting all the names down. However, The Outer Dark podcast will be sharing the panel in a future episode and plans to provide a list of all the writers and stories suggested. So, I’ll be sure to link to them once that list appears.

Poetry Readings

On Sunday, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) hosted a reading of speculative poetry. I always find joy and inspiration in hearing poems read, and I was honored to have been read alongside G.O. Clark, Sue Burke, John Phillip Johnson, Mary Soon Lee, Denise Clemons, and Alan Stewart (author website included where I could find it).

The SFPA Readers
The SFPA Readers (L-R) G.O. Clark, Sue Burke, John Phillip Johnson, Mary Soon Lee, Denise Clemons, and me. (Alan Stewart not pictured)

Several of the SFPA crew were also on the Science Fiction Aesthetics panel that followed immediately after the reading. I was able to pop in for half of the panel before running off, but enjoyed the discussion while I was there.

Book Haul

The first night I came home from the con, my roommate stared at me in confusion. “Where’s your usual stack of new books?” she asked.

I laughed. “What do you mean? It’s only the first day! I’ll have plenty of books by the end, I promise.”

And I certainly lived up to that promise. Here’s what I grabbed.

book stack

  • My Life, My Body, Plus… by Marge Piercy
  • The Atheist in the Attic, Plus… by Samuel R Delany
  • Skies of Wonder, Skies of Danger: An Isle of Write Anthology, edited by John Appel, Jo Miles, and Mary Alexandra Agner
  • The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
  • The Long Way to a Strange and Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  • Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic, edited by Eduardo Jiménez Mayo & Chris N Brown
  • The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison
  • Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

Announcements: New Poetry and an Upcoming WonderCon Reading!

I’ve been slacking, so there are so many things to announce!

Every Girl Becomes the Wolf

Every Girl Becomes the Wolf is now available!

This chapbook explores the received images of the feminine in fairy tales. The women and girls in this collaborative chapbook resist the common tropes of red riding hoods, gilded mirrors, and iced palaces. Every girl becomes the wolf because every girl has the power to tear apart the cultural conceit of wicked stepmoms, heartless mothers, and voracious monsters. Witches, hags, and mothers of damaged creatures from myth, movies, and lore prowl through this poetry. Lilith settles in to enjoy the county fair rib-off, Grendel’s mother holds her son close, and the Sphynx bears the weight of mythic secrets. Mothers demand their own freedom, daughters refuse gendered expectations, and wives leave what spoils with rot behind. As they wrestle with their place in these stories, they transform into figures outside of the victims or villains they have been perceived to be.

I’m so proud of this chapbook of monstress poems Laura Madeline Wiseman and I coauthored and its been a delight to see that friends, family, and strangers have been receiving the book.

I received my author copies this week — with their gorgeously smooth textured covers — just in time for WorldCon 76 this weekend! If you’re going to be there, consider stopping by Room 212C to hear me read some poetry-type things along with some fellow Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) members.


They Said – Undead Anthologies

Two gorgeous new anthologies have also entered the world in recent weeks.

They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing, edited by Simone Muench and Dean Rader, includes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as hybridized forms that push the boundaries of concepts like “genre” and “author.” Each piece is also presented with a afterward in which the collaborators describe their process for working together. The anthology includes “A Gathering of Baba Yagas” cowritten by Laura Madeline Wiseman and I.

Undead: A Poetry Anthology of Ghosts, Ghouls, and More, edited by Bianca Lynne Spriggs and Katerina Stoykova, offers over seventy contemporary poets contending with a time-honored topic: what lies beyond ‘the great beyond.’ It showcases poems ranging from deceased relatives and celebrities to other undead entities such as, vampires, automatons, angels, and yes, zombies. This anthology includes a reprint of my poem “Beware of Attics”

In other poetry news, Laura Madeline Wiseman and I have some new poems out in the world — “Reflection of the Blind” appears the Eye to the Telescope Issue 29 – The Dark, and “Pouring the Pennyroyal,” “Fish Bone Wishes,” and “Cento of the Golden Key” are up at Priestess & Hierophant

The latest edition of my newsletter is out, if you want to check it out!

The Voices of Spring Mother Tongue

Last night, I slipped out of my routine and to check out the Well-RED poetry showcase, featuring poets published in the Spring Mother Tongue anthology at Works/San José. The event was hosted in part by Poetry Center San José, a rad organization and a great place to turn to for more on South Bay Area goings on in poetry. It’s the first time I’ve been out to a literary event in months (probably, maybe, at any rate it’s been a rather long time).

Spring Mother Tongue is an anthology edited by Arlene Angeles Biala, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate. The collection provides a space for poets to share the stories behind each of of their own names. “You may recognize yourself in us. You may recall your own name(s) and stories around it/them and be moved to use your own poetic voice. I hope that you do,” writes Biala in the introduction.


Some of the poets whose work appears in the anthology read at the event — representing a variety of ages and backgrounds and a multitude of voices and poetic styles. These readers included: America Cihuapilli Irineo, ASHA, Arlene Biala, Jade Bradbury, Bill Cozzini, Kiana Del Rosario, Lorenz Dumuk, Parthenia Hicks, Larry Taylor Hollist, Joel Katz, Lita Kurth, Pushpa McFarlane, Quynh-Mai Nguyen, Nils Peterson, Anthony Santa Ana, Ann Sherman, Donna Steelman, and Jarvis Subia

The readings present a nuanced and layered exploration of names and what they mean. Some are funny, some are sweet, some explore the ways names are used to strip power away from us, and some are reclamations of power. It’s a beautiful anthology, one I recommend picking up, especially if you’re a local to the Bay Area, California.

What I’m Reading

I am about halfway through and entirely loving Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which is about vampires in Mexico City. The story is told from multiple points of view, both those of humans and the vampires themselves. I’m loving learning about the different species of vampires, each with their own evolutionary traits of abilities, strengths, and drawbacks. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a fantastic writer, quickly rising to the top of my list of favorites.

What I’m Writing

Over the past week, I completed a draft of a six page poem — the longest single poem I’ve ever written. Most of my poems tend toward the shorter side, 30 lines or less, and I’ve thought of myself as a poet who just wasn’t the type to write longer pieces like that — but apparently I’ve proved myself wrong. I’ve set it aside for the time being, letting the original flow of idea rest, so that I can come back to it for an edit later.

I also have episodes of a web series in progress — episode one has been done for a while, and I’ve started in on the opening scene of episode two. If I can focus and not get distracted by all the shiny poems I seem to be wanting to write this week, then I can probably finish drafts of at least two more episodes before I head out on my next big bit of travel in a week and a half.

The Running Life

Got my first run done in over a month on Saturday. It felt great to hit the pavement, good for my muscles and good for my soul. I was able to run a bit farther than I expected considering how long it’s been since I last went for it, which was reassuring. I need to get back into the routine. I can tell that my body needs it.

Total miles in the last week: 2.20
Total Miles for 2017: 70.84 miles

Linky Goodness

Kathleen Ossip explains Why All Poems Are Political:

“a poem is an utterly free space for language; no objective and definite criteria could possibly apply to evaluate it. In fact, poetry is the only utterly free space for language that I’m aware of, and that is what makes it indispensable to me, and also what makes writing it and reading it a political act: Any act where freedom is urgently at issue is a political act, and any space that makes us aware of our innate freedom is a radically political space.”

Leah Schnelbach’s fantastic essay “Sometimes, Horror is the Only Fiction That Understands You” is a wonderful exploration of what Stephen King’s writing has meant to her in life — and as someone who read every King book I could get my hands on in high school, I completely resonate with this.

3 Free Poetry Chapbooks to Read This Summer From Agape Editions

All Womyn’s Showcase

All Womyn's Showcase
Admist a great many other things that happened last week, on Sunday I attended and performed at the All Womyn’s Showcase — which featured five hours and more than 20 performers of poetry, music, and art, as well as booths for artists and community activism. It was a stellar day, one that I felt so honored to take part in.

Some of the amazing poets included Arlene Biala, Santa Clara Poet Laureate, with two moving pieces; Christina Springer; Jaqunasty, a spoken word poet with a powerful voice and words full of feels; and Aasha, who performed several kick-ass poems, as well as co-hosted the event alongside Estrellita Munõz. Also, Nicole Henares shared a poem from Madrid with Bianca Rodriguez performing flamenco alongside — there was something powerful about seeing two such different forms of art performed side-by-side, with ever staccato-ed flamenco step punctuating the words in the poem.

There was so much great music, too — Socorra floored me with her foot-stomping rock; Claymoon wowed me with the growl of the lead-singer’s voice and the emotion in their lyrics; Astralogik made me want to sway to their soulful electronica; Bird & Willow shared some lovely folk; and as always Q&A made my world a better place with their beautifully strange, folky tunes.

One comedian, PX Floro, also took the stage and she was hilarious.

This is really just the short list, as there were so many other amazing poets and artists who gave wonderful performances at the All Womyn’s Showcase as well. Thank you so much to Robertino Ragazza and Quynn Nguyen for organizing and hosting this amazing show!

In other awesome event news, I also attended Cito.FAME.Us hosted by the hella famous Lindsey Leong on Thursday night for the first time in many months. I read a few poems and listened to a variety of comics, musicians, and poets share their works. There have been some changes with Cito — the event remains a weekly, free open mic taking place at Iguanas in San Jose, but the hours now run from 8:30 – 11:00 pm, with signups starting at 8 pm. It a great venue for South Bay poets and artists to come share, with all forms of work welcome, from poetry to music to comedy and dance (as long as it’s family-friendly, i.e. no cuss words). Sometimes they even set up a screen to share short films and other media — as they will be doing this week with the screening of Through the Walls, a 45-min documentary filmed at San Quentin State Prison that shows how inmates are healing through music.

What I’m Reading

I’ve come back to Gateway by Frederik Pohl, a book I started reading many months ago but only got a few pages into before the time limit expired on my library loan. The story seems to center around a man, who continues to be haunted by his time working on Gateway, some sort of space travel station (though I’m not clear yet on how it operates, since I’m still in the beginning).

Still reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and the nostalgia is strong.

What I’m Writing

I honestly can’t remember what — if anything — I wrote last week. So, that basically means that I didn’t write anything, which is not where I like to be.

Goals for the Week:

  • Work on that short story or one of the poetry collection projects

Linky Goodness

Webster Dictionary on when words stray from their roots:

“Many complain when the word ‘awesome’ is used to describe things that are not, in fact, deserving of awe. Yet few object when ‘awful’ is used to mean something other than ‘full of awe.’ … There have been a number of people who have inveighed against this loose sense of awful over the years, but their ranks are thinning, and most of us seem to not mind its use very much. If you have taken these conflicting positions about awesome and awful, you needn’t feel bad about it (and you probably don’t); one of the only things that is as resolutely illogical as the English language is the way that most of us feel it should be used.”

The fabulous Ursula Le Guin will become one of the few living writers to be inducted into the Library of America canon for her literary work, The Complete Orsinia.

Why Do We Judge Parents For Putting Kids At Perceived — But Unreal — Risk?

FOGcon Recap 2016

A couple of weekends ago — has it been that long? — I traveled up to exotic Walnut Creek to gather with fellow readers and writers to talk about genre books, movies, and other bits of geekery at FOGcon. As always it was a fun event, which included tons of coffee and a little booze and karaoke and other such things.

Honored Guests were Jo Walton, Ted Chiang, and Donna Haraway, with Octavia Butler services as Honored Ghost.

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Panels

Lots of great thinky things at the panels this year to mentally chew on. Nom, nom. The panels tended to be more focused on science discussions that reading and writing discussions, but it was fascinating nonetheless.

The Developing Reality of Intelligent Machines looked at how AI is perceived in fiction and films as a self-aware being compared to how intelligent technology in the real world today is being used to provide better ways to solve problems. The intelligent machines of today are incredibly advanced in how they have been programed to serve human needs. But, as the panelists noted, these computers and machines are limited to their programming — they will do what they are programmed to do. So the concern is not so much about machines suddenly becoming self aware and taking over the world, but who is running the machines and to what purposes are they setting them to.

And even if a machine were to become self aware, it would be questionable as to whether human beings would recognize the moment when it occurred. It’s assumed (in movies and fiction) that AIs would think in the same ways that we do, however, that is not necessarily the case. Someone from the audience stated that the singularity is now, bringing up the game of Go (apparently more complex than chess) taking place between a computer and Go champion that evening (which the computer won).

The From Caterpillar to Butterfly panel delved into the weirdness of nature, from parthenogenesis to penis fencing flatworms to interesting mistakes in biology. We discussed the adorable tardigrade, or water bearer, an adorable micro-animal that is the only creature known to be able to survive in hard vacuum; a multitude of amazing plants (such as a vine that can change its leaves to match the tree they’re on); and animals that can change their gender (such as the clown fish, all of which are male, except for the biggest and baddest, which becomes the only female). The lesson, for me, was that in designing alien or strange species of animals with interesting biology and social structure, a writer can definitely turn to the natural world for inspiration of many kinds. Recommended Reading: The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins and Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson.

Other great panels (which I’m going to go into less detail on, because time):

The Ethics of Magic discussed how the rules of magic are presented in stories. For example, the rules of Star Wars present the Jedi as the “good guys” despite some deeply troubling and morally ambiguous aspects to their order. Recommended Reading: Wildseed by Octavia Butler.

Are 72 Letters Enough? In Search of a Perfect Language tried to define what was meant by “perfect.” For some this was a language that was unabiguous and complete, able to portray every thing in existence accurately. The discussion lead into how often the concept of the “true name” for things comes up in fiction, among many other things. Recommended Reading:  The Search for a Perfect Language by Umberto Eco and “TAP” by Greg Egan.

Homo Sapiens Tekhne: Assistive Devices and Body Modification in Science Fiction and Fantasy looked at the past and present of human body modifications, from tatoos and piercings to assistive devices and cell phones, as well as looking at how body modification is handled in stories. Recommended Reading: Runtime by S.B. Divya.

And finally, Domestic Fantasy: Transforming the Domestic looked at how the domestic scene, family and home, are portrayed in fantasy stories. Recommended Reading: Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick and Little, Big by John Crowley.

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The Book Haul

FOGcon book haul

I went rather light on the book haul this year, as I was trying to keep my bookshelves from topping down and crushing me beneath a ginormous pile of books. My grabs:

  • Rolling in the Deep by Seanan McGuire – a limited edition, signed copy, which I didn’t realize at the time
  • Trafalgar by Angelica Gorodischer
  • The Neat Sheats, poetry by James Tiptree, Jr.
  • The Fantod Pack by Edward Gorey
  • and three editions of Fantasy & Science Fiction

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*sleepy, happy sigh*

FOGcon is one of my favorite events of the year, and already I’m looking forward to 2017. The theme next year will be Interstitial Spaces (intermediate spaces between one thing and another), which is a topic I find fascinating.

SF Zine Fest book haul

Winner! I am pleased to announce that Skylar L. is the winner of The Walls Around Us giveaway! I’ll be sending out your copy this week.

On Sunday, I journeyed up to the city to check out the SF Zine Fest. It was a free event that housed two rooms packed full of independent and small press makers and creators of zines, chapbooks, art, and comics. It’s a very cool event (although there were so many people it was almost overwhelming) and I grabbed lots of goodies (spending more money than I probably should have).

SF Zine Fest 2015`

I was also happy to be there to support friend and amazing human being, Allie Marini, who has two new chapbooks out from Nomadic Press. While at the Nomadic booth, checking out all the 2015 poetry chapbooks on the table, each with its own gorgeous cover, I couldn’t help but swipe up the entire lot.

Cliffdiving and And When She Tasted of Knowledge by Allie Marini
On Sunday, A Finch by Cassandra Dallett
A Heart with No Scars by Brennan “B Deep” DeFrisco
Collective Regeneration and Universal Love by Dan Shurley
Nueva Cuenta by Freddy Gutierrez
We Shoot Typewriters by Paul Corman-Roberts

Other poetry chapbooks I picked up in my meandering included Caffeinated Fairy Tales by Heather Boyd and Milk & Servitude by Noelle Zappia.

Among the art and comics, I picked up were:

Raising Dion, written by Dennis Liu and illustrated by Jason Piperberg, which I grabbed because it tells a superhero story from the point of view of the mother trying to raise her powerful son to be a hero.
The Gecko and the Tree Grave Robbers (as well as some awesome notecards) by Cheez Hayama
Mythology Anthology by the Nijimafia, a group of artists including Adual, Akaibelier, Elaine Nguyen, Giselle Sarmiento, Madeline Zuluaga, Stephanie Hueden

I also learned about an documentary in progress called Secret Identities, directed by Mike Phillips. The doc is about GLBT fans and creators in the comic book community. The aim is to give voice to under represented groups, which is very cool.

What I’m Reading

Plowed through Volumes 18-20 of Fables by Bill Willingham. Oh, the terrible things that happen to my beloved characters. I am almost afraid to read the final two volumes because I know more terrible things will happen.

My next read is Divine Scream by Benjamin Kane Ethridge, which is a dark YA fantasy novel about a boy and a banshee. Can’t wait.

What I’m Writing

I’ve started putting together what I think will be a chapbook of prose poems based on the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale — which is partially inspired by recent projects I’ve read by Jessie Carty (Shopping After the Apocalypse, soon to be published) and Kristen Marie Darling (Failure Lyric) — both are fantastic. One poem is completed and two more are getting close to completion. I have the rest of poems loosely planned out.

Due to my new Twelve Dancing Princesses project, I did not get around to looking at and reconsidering Sincerely Yours, my chapbook which is currently out on submission. It’s been rejected twice already and I’m waiting to hear from two more publishers. However, I have two poems that I could consider writing and adding to the collection, and may remove or reorder some of the other poems

In other writing news, I was contacted by Clare MacQueen at KYSO Flash, who has requested to reprint “The Things I Own” — wow! What an honor and it’s a really cool market.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish two more poems in Twelve Dancing Princesses chapbook. Put together additional poems for KYSO Flash.

Linky Goodness

  • Zachary Wood writs on Cultivating Empathy and Open Mindedness — “To begin with, I think reading about the struggles of others helps us cultivate empathy. No matter what our experiences are, we can glimpse the challenges and crises our world faces every day on the news. Great literature offers us far more than can be captured in soundbites, news clips, and advertisements. Great literature gives us a platform from which we can explore all of what we see on the news in more depth.”
  • Michelle G. writes about empiricism, testing, and how differences in performance tends to be perceived as related to differences in math ability  — “It is true that men score higher on spatial reasoning tests, though you might have caught on that there’s a little bit more to this picture (why would a female MIT student publicize stereotypes that actively work against her?). If you’re now wondering whether I’m about to throw some kind of feminist rant at you, I’ll give you a “well, sort of,” because calling out factual misconception is just as important as promoting feminist ideals here, and because I think those two go hand in hand anyway. I’ll largely put the romance of egalitarianism aside, though, to talk about empiricism.”

YA Thrills & Chills

On Monday night I attended YA Thrills & Chills at Books Inc. in Palo Alto, where three fabulous women writers — Nova Ren Suma, Lauren Saft, and Katie Coyle — gave wonderful readings of their newly released books and talked about why they write YA and their writing process, and what books they’ve enjoyed lately.

Nova Ren SumaThe Walls Around Us

Book Description (from Goodreads): On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.

On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom.

Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries…

What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?

“I think it’s such a great compliment when people are scared,” Nova Ren said, explaining that she was too close to the process while writing the book to feel fear of what she was writing herself.

I attending this event because of my love for Nova Ren’s past novels, most notable Imaginary Girls, which I still obsess over from time to time. So, I was freaking out a little (read: a lot) to be able to meet her in person and it was fascinating to hear how she approaches the writing process, which she described as part pantsing, part outlining. Nova Ren said the opening was important for her. “I need a way in. To find the right voice.” For the The Walls Around Us, she explained, she spent several months of a writing retreat just working on the right paragraph, trying to find the right voice. Once she found that, act one of the story flowed out fairly quickly. Then, after completing the first 50 pages or so, she would outline the rest of the book heavily in order to work it to completion.

Book Recommendation: All The Rage by Courtney Summers

Lauren SaftThose Girls

Book Description (from Goodreads): Some girls will always have your back, and some girls can’t help but stab you in it.

Junior year, the suburbs of Philadelphia. Alex, Mollie and Veronica are those girls: they’re the best of friends and the party girls of the school. But how well does everybody know them–and really, how well do they know one another? Alex is secretly in love with the boy next door and has joined a band–without telling anyone. Mollie suffers from a popular (and possibly sociopathic) boyfriend, as well as a serious mean streak. And Veronica just wants to be loved–literally, figuratively, physically….she’s not particular. Will this be the year that bonds them forever….or tears them apart for good?

One of the fascinating things about Those Girls is that Lauren Saft wanted to step away from the good girls who tend to populate YA novels and instead focused on the party girls, the ones who drink and smoke and have sex and get into trouble, the ones who are most often get painted as the villain in stories. But they have their own stories, Lauren explained, they have their own insecurities and dreams. Although I ran out of funds and, thus, could not buy a copy of Those Girls, it’s gone on my TBR list to read at a future date, because I’m fascinated by those kinds of characters, too.

Lauren Saft said her writing of Those Girls started with the characters. She had a clear understanding of those girls, their voices, their relationships, and she was really clear on who they were. She mentioned that writing has been described as driving down the road in which you can only see so many feet ahead of you. “I didn’t really outline this book. I just sort of put my foot on the gas and drove,” she said, explaining that she was surprised when it all worked out by the end.

Book Recommendation: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Katie CoyleVivian Apple At the End of the World

Book Description (from Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed “Rapture,” all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn’t looking for a savior. She’s looking for the truth.

“I did what nobody should ever do,” Katie Coyle said about writing Vivian Apple At the End of the World, explaining that she join a writing contest, to which she submitted the first chapter of the book and a detailed synopsis. At which point, she proceeded to do nothing with it, assuming she wouldn’t advance any further. But lo and behold, the contest representatives called up and told her she was a finalist and the completed novel had to be submitted in three weeks — which she did. Another eight months of editing resulted in the novel I now have sitting on my bookshelf. Based on her reading from the first chapter, it’ll be quite good. As a fan of apocalyptic stories, I don’t often see rapture tales, so I’m excited to see where this goes.

Book Recommendations: The Metamorphosis Trilogy by Kate Oliver and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Amazing poets reading words

I attended two awesome lit events last week. On Wednesday, I visited a friend’s college classroom with Lorenz Dumuk, where we read poetry and listened to the students read poetry. It was awesome to see a younger generation take an interest. 

On Thursday, I attended friend Allie Marini Batts’ chapbook release party. She read from Before Fire: Divorce Poems and Pictures from the Center of the Universe, as well as some new works. It was no surprise to me that she was awesome. 

Joining Allie on the stage, were a handful of other amazing poets — B. Deep, Cassandra Dallett, Daphne Gottlieb, Joshua Merchant, and Jaz Sufi — each one with their own powerful and unique voice. 

 

Allie Marini Batts reading at the Octopus Literary Salon.
 
 
Me and the awesome.
 

What I’m Reading

I’m focusing on Don Quixote (in the midst of my short story reading) and am hoping to finish it by the end of the month. Part II is dragging a lot more than the first half did for me, so it feels like hard work at the moment.

Also still reading Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone, poetry by Annelyse Gelman.

What I’m Writing

Ummmmm…. yeah… so…

I need to come up with a new routine that involves me going to a coffee shop or library in order to get actual work done, because as soon as I get home after work I slip into relaxation mode. This week’s plan is to bring my laptop to work on Tuesday and Thursday for just that purpose.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish off poem inspired by the Arabian Nights for submission to Nonbinary Review. Submit the chapbook to a few more publishers.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Poets! Hearing poets read, both newbies in the classroom and professionals at the Octopus Literary Salon, had me reaching for my pen, wanting to scribble words onto the page. At one point, I even got so distracted in writing that I missed my metro stop and ended far from where I intended to go.

Nights of Words and Discourse

Meant to post this on Monday, but I got sick this week, which knocked me flat for several days. Since I’m starting to feel better, I’m posting it now.

* * * 

Last Thursday night I attended the fantastic Cito.FAME.Us Women’s History Month open mic, which featured the amazing folk duo Q&A and yours truly. I’ve been a fan of Q&A ever since I first heard them and so it was a great honor to have been paired with them for my first feature performance. I made a video of one of their new songs and hopefully I’ll be able to upload and share it soon.

Q&A includes Quynh and Alice

  

I also attended the Her Story to Call Her Own open mic, which was a wonderful grounding experience, full of many beautiful women singing or speaking many beautiful words.

What I’m Reading

I just finished Midwinterblood, by Marcus Sedgwick, which was beautiful and not at all what I expected. 

 
Blue by George Elliott Clarke, which is a powerful collection of poetry. 

 Still enjoying my slow read of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

What I’m Writing

I made it halfway through a chapbook submission, which I’m starting to feel fairly solid about. I’ve got some more work to do on it, some cleaning up of some of the poems and than I should be able to send it out.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit chapbook.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Amazing women and artists who live in this South Bay community and who open up their voices to share.

Linky Goodness

I think I’ll just leave you with From Tank Girl to Mad Max: The 10 Most Stylish Apocalypse Movies.

Feeling the Beautiful

My sister and I rocked the She is Beautiful 10K, both of us running the entire course for the first time.

I ran the She is Beautiful 5K last year, which was an amazing and moving experience. I just loved being surrounded by so many different women, of all shapes and sizes and abilities and ages — and all beautiful.

This year I decided to up my game and challenged myself by signing up for the 10K. Life has been hectic this month, so I haven’t been properly training over these last few weeks as I originally intended. I didn’t think I’d be able to run the entire event, but was joyful to just be there.

Mile One: The morning was misty, but not overly cold. My sister and I danced through the starting line and started into a stable, steady pace as we weaved through the crowds of walkers.

Mile Two: We smiled at our fellow runners. I felt strong, moving with this massive wave of women through the streets of Santa Cruz. My sister moves out ahead and I urge her on to run at her own faster pace.

Mile Three: The crowds thin out as the 5K runners and walkers head back to the finish line, leaving the rest of us to continue the journey. I wipe sweat and mist from my forehead and smile.

Mile Four: The tiredness started to set in and my pace slowed. But I pumped my arms and cheered as I past the mile four marker. I made it that far; might as well keep going.

Mile Five: As I rounded a corner and started into the only downhill section of the run, my legs got wibbly wobbly and my knees started to ache sharply. It’s important to respect signals from your body, so I slowed down to a walk. As soon as the ground flattened out again, I pushed back into a run and chugged up a long uphill stretch before the final mile.

Mile Six: Slow, so slow. Exhaustion sat my chest, urging me to stop. My legs felt numb. My hips ached. I churned my body forward at a tortoise-paced jog, watching the grey rolling ocean and the horizon beyond. I put one foot after another. One foot. Another.

Finish Line: I wore a mad smiled and shifted into a higher gear, finishing the race with every ounce of run I had left, with my sister cheering and joy in every fiber of my aching body. My sister and I were so proud of each other, both having run a 10K in its entirety for the first time.

What I’m Reading

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, which is intriguing and thrilling. A group of colonists living on another planet (I think) were infected with a disease that killed all the women and has made it so everyone can hear everyone’s thoughts in a constant stream of Noise. I’m finding it to be a page turner.

I’ve also started a slow read of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. The story is quite funny at some points with a surprising amount of toilet humor. Since a lot of the humor is based on the book’s satire of courtly romances featuring errant knights and damsels and other such things, it helps that I’ve done some reading of the classic Arthurian tales, which provides good context.

What I’m Writing

Half of my week was taken up with traveling to Orlando for a work conference, so I didn’t get around to actually putting words on the page.

However, I spent several hours this weekend beginning the process of organizing my writing life. The system I developed should work — mostly. Paper drafts of all my poetry is problematic, since it would be ridiculous to have an individual file for each poem, so I’m still trying to work that out (and likely it will be best to keep poetry primarily on my laptop rather than in print). Works great for fiction, scripts, and nonfiction, though. I’m planning to post about the system sometime this week.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish organization. Edit and prep poetry for reading on Thursday. Prep poetry chapbook for submission.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Accomplishing my goal of running six miles on Sunday was amazing and has me feeling that I can accomplish all sorts of things at the moment. I’m hoping that feeling will linger.

Where I’ll Be

March 26: I’ll be a featured performer at Cito.FAME.us at Iguanas in San Jose. The open mic begins at 9 pm and I’ll be opening, so come early, if you want to see me perform.

Linky Goodness

21 Ways to Break Out of a Slump provides a list of simple measures to switch things up, like heading out to the farmers market or do a cell phone detox. I particularly liked its link to a 30 Day Spring Cleaning Challenge, which would be a challenge indeed, but represents an awesome approach to something I’ve been meaning to do.

The 2014 Best of the Net Anthology has been released for those looking for some good fiction, poetry, and nonfiction reading.

Huzzah! and things

Thing One: The printer works! It actually works! Honestly and for real! Huzzah!

Thing Two: Last nights Cito.FAME.us open mic was mellow and lovely. Performers had to rock without the mic, so a lot of fantastic acapella. Khaliah shinned with joy as she shared her Dance of Peace and Ang Whee read and sang some beautiful words. Everyone was wonderful.

Since there were only a few people signed up, so I was able to read a number of poems, rather than just one — a nice warm up for March 26th, when I’ll be featuring.

Thing Three: I’m off on a work trip to Orlando tomorrow, where I’ll be through Wednesday. Therefore, there will likely be little to no blog posting next week, unless I get a gumption.

FOGcon Recap

My weekend was filled with FOGcon and I’m pleasantly exhausted. It’s always a blast to go, reconnect with friends, and talk about speculative fiction and movies and other geekery. This year I also did karaoke for the first time and despite my pounding heart had quite a lot of fun.

Catherynne M. Valente and Kim Stanley Robinson were the Honored Guests, and they both were wonderful speakers, providing some great insights on the panels.

Panels

I enjoyed just about every panel I went to, but here are a few of my personal favorites.

Stories within Stories within Stories within Stories…, including panelists Elwin Cotman, Catherynne Valente, Phyllis Holliday, and Andrés Santiago Perez-Bergquist, with Sunil Patel as moderator. The panel discuses a number of topics relating to nested stories.

One especially interesting thought, for me, was the idea that nested stories reflect how life works, in that we are the center of our own stories and our lives are filled with interjections and asides, from the gossip we tell a friend to the stories we relate about ourselves to the wikipedia article we pause to look up in the middle of a conversation. We are constantly stopped by interjecting narrative and it was even suggested that we are the frame narrative for every book we read.

For writers, it was noted that nested stories can sometimes be an engaging way to slip in exposition, reveal layers to the world, or characterization. However, the story needs to be just as compelling as the main (frame) narrative. Since it is interrupting the narrative flow, the first line of the interjected story had better be better than what came before it so that it doesn’t turn readers away. It was also noted that some nested stories work better as fragments instead of complete tales.

Notable book recommendations:
The French Lieutenants Woman, by John Fowles
Was, by Geoff Ryman
Order of the Stick, comic by Rich Burlew

Continue reading “FOGcon Recap”

FogCon Homework: Reading Red Mars and Six-Gun Snow White

I’m stoked to be attending FogCon this weekend, where Kim Stanley Robinson and Catherynne M. Valente will be honored guests. In preparation for the excitement, I’ve been doing some homework to mentally prepare by reading Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson and Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente. Joanna Russ will be the Honored Ghost, so I am currently rereading The Female Man.

I’ve also semi-recently read and reviewed Valente’s Palimpsest and Robinson’s 2312.

While both authors write very different kinds of books, they each present richly detailed universes.

Continue reading “FogCon Homework: Reading Red Mars and Six-Gun Snow White”

Love in the air – poetry, music, laughter, and joy

Cito.FAME.Us celebrated it’s first Valentines Day party last night, with pink and red paper hearts and little chocolates for all — not to mention an amazing crew of artists, including poets, musicians, and some smooth moved dancers. Love of many forms was expressed and shared.

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Chris Quality handed out his Lyrical Fitness album at the event.

Our Hella Famous host, Lindsey Leong, shared a moving, deeply felt poem. It always amazes me how she can hold such a safe space for everyone who comes to her events. She’s an amazing poet and such a wonderful soul.

Chris Quality is a fantastic hip hop artist. He helped plan the event along with Lindsey, and is another generous soul. Each time I’ve seen him, he’s just been one of the happiest people I’ve met. He handed flowers out to all the ladies (and some gentlemen) with the help of Mohamed X, who also rocked the mic last night.

A stunning song came from the lips of the beautiful Miachalah, who I hope I will get to see perform more in the future.

Mc Tate performed a series of amazing spoken work pieces, that had my head spinning trying to cling to some of his wicked phrases and metaphors. I hope he publishes a collection soon, so I can have those words on my shelf, where I can look at them anytime I want.

The always delightful Q&A performed several sweet folksy songs. They get better and better every time I hear them, which was especially impressive since Quinn was feeling sick last night.

Melissa Baxter was taking photographs of the performers all night long and also belted out a best friends song from the Wicked musical.

I also want to send love to Lorenz Dumuk, who didn’t perform last night, but helped to set up the fantastic back drops and sets for the show. Hugs to you, friend.

Amid all these fantastic artists and wonderful people, it was an honor to be able to share one of my poems, a piece I wrote especially for the event, called “As a Single Lady Alone on Valentines Day” (which I’ll be submitting for publication as soon as I make some edits). I was grateful for the positive feedback to be able to just be there and share in the experience.

PS. I want to be able to help promote the performers with this post, so itf there is anyone who performed who I forgot to add here, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add you to the list.

Feeling That Community Soul

I almost talked myself out of going to the Cito.FAME.us open mic tonight. It’s easy to do, since the mic goes late and my morning starts early tomorrow. But one of my goals is to attend an open mic at least once a month and I finished a poem today just in time to perform it.

I’m so glad I went, because the event turned out to be hella mellow, a small group of regulars, all showing love for each other.

The feature performer was Lyneisha, who has an amazing soulful voice. She performed several covers and shared some of her own words. She’s amazing.

And really every one was amazing, sharing their words and songs and beats. The atmosphere was loving and supportive and just perfect.

Thank you to Lindsey Leong, Scorpiana, Chris Quality, X-Ray (ChrisCross0411 on YouTube), and everyone for being fabulous tonight. I wish you all success and joy.

(PS. Prior to the event, I spent some time at a coffee shop writing and made a fraction of progress on my novel in verse. Just the beginning of one poem, but any progress is good progress and it felt good.)

Ahhh! Zombies run!

Zombies and survivors ran together during the Running with Zombies 5K fun run event in San Jose, which I participated in with my sister, both of us shambling out of bed bright and early Saturday, donned decaying flesh, and set out to run our brains out.

Despite some confusion as to where to park (the online directions were wrong), my sister and I had a rotting good time at the race. It kicked off with an air raid siren. The sky was grey and bleak with a slight mist, matching the tone of the event as we ran along the quite, closed off streets of San Jose, making it feel as though the city was a dead zone. The terrain then carried us through winding trails of a park where scattered zombies snarled at runners (some caged behind a chain link fence), past a abandoned and dilapidated building, and down a dirt, vacant feeling path where slow shuffling zombies wandered (one dragging the plastic corpse of a half eaten pig).

It was fun to see all the people who came, from young kids to wizened adults, many of whom came as zombies. Some got fairly creative with their costumes, including a zombie Star Trek officer.

As I haven’t been actively training as much as I would like, I felt a wee slow during the three-mile run and was definitely below my usual pace. But, hey, I was undead at the time, so I have an excuse and it was a shotgun blast of fun. I’d do it again in a heartbeat (if I had one). I think I’ll rise to the occasion again next year.

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Survivors and zombies assemble before the the race start line.
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Me and my undead sister.
zombies in a cage
Caged!

Five Things Make a Post

1. Last Thursday (July 17), I rolled down to Iguana’s in San Jose to participate in an open mic with the same group of artists I joined previously. The open mic was filled with a variety of wonderful, creative, inspired performers. The Hella Famous Lindsey Leong was a damn good host, full of energy and joyful humor in the face of the struggle, and of course it was a delight to once again see my favorite dynamic duo Q&A — Alice and Quynh. As I hoped, I managed to finish my new poem in time to read at the open mic. It was a wonderful, supportive environment and such a delight to be a part of.

2. Progress on the novel! The Board spawned new post-its, which has helped me shape out more of the beginning of The Cold Nothing Taste of Winter. I now know where I’m planning to start with Adam’s POV, which is a huge relief.

3. I just learned about #365feministselfie, in which women (and I’m sure some men) have been posting daily or weekly or whenever selfies. I love the idea of using the selfie as a form of personal empowerment, especially for marginalized groups. The challenge started at the beginning of the year (so I’m late to the party). Viva la Feminista is where the challenge started and it has a great explanation as to the why. I’ll be posting my selfies on instagram and tumblr.

4. This really should be number one, but the Monster (my niece) turned two on Monday. She has two new princess dresses and has paraded around shouting, “I’m a princess!” Love her so much!!

5. Tonight the Writing Gang reunited! Even though one of our members has transplanted herself to the East Coast (*sniff*), we will meet by skype to discuss our work.

Lifting Our Voices to the Moon

Last Friday night was lovely. I attended Glowing with the Moon, an open mic hosted by my amazing, wonderful poet friend, Lorenz Dumuk. Lorenz is an amazing poet and one of the kindest, most generous-hearted people I know.

The night included a mix of featured poets and open mic participants with a variety of styles, including Yvette McDonald, Lindsey Leong, Scorpiana Xlynn, and others. The out pouring of words as the sky darkened into night was wonderful.

Q&A also performed a couple of sets. The musical duo is comprised of Quynh Nguyen and Alice D. Chen. They play a mixture of covers and original music in a style that is sweet and slightly eerie. They don’t have a website or facebook page that I can link to yet, but they have definitely made a groupie of me.

Lorenz presented several lovely counterparts to the mixture of spoken word and music:

  • He asked everyone to participate in a salt-art table, to draw out our dreams or what we’re looking to let go off in salt, then to sweep it into a bag, which he will later take and return to the ocean.
  • At another point, he asked everyone to stand up and greet a stranger, saying our name, what we hoped to call to ourselves, and what fears we wanted to let go of — the result was an opening up to someone new, perhaps letting in a little vulnerability along the way.
  • Since it was that kind of night, Lorenz also asked us to close our eyes and listen to the wind singing in hushed tones in the trees around us.

I don’t know that I can properly explain how grounding and wonderful a night Friday was and what a great community these artists and poets are. I find myself sometimes longing for community of this kind, a creatively charged group casting their words into the world (I do have my Writing Gang, though life has intervened making it hard for us to gather). Such kinds of communities makes me feel alive to words.

As I usually do after such an event, I went home and threw some words down on a poem I’ve been working on for a while. There’s going to be another open mic at Iguanas in San Jose on Thursday. My goal is to finish this poem in time to read it at the Thursday open mic, which is intimidating since this poem makes me feel vulnerable writing it, let alone reading it out loud to others.

I hope everyone is having a lovely week, full of creativity and joy.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ― Anaïs Nin

While the weekend was spent celebrating Mammas, both my own mom and my sister who is fantastic with the Little Monster, I somehow managed to be somewhat productive this week.

On Tuesday, fellow poet Lorenz Dumuk (@LorenzDumuk) and I visited a friend’s classroom to read our poetry as part of her English class. As I haven’t read in ages, I was feeling rather nervous and kind of rushed through my pieces, but as usual Lorenz was amazing. He is a powerhouse of spoken word and it’s always inspiring to watch him offer up words to an audience.

Afterward, I went home and started reading Jessie Carty’s new book of poetry, Practicing Disaster,* in order to hold on to the galvanizing feeling created with poetry.

As a result of all this hearing and reading of fantastic poetry, I poured out five poem drafts all in one go, one of which I posted up on wattpad, called “Kamikaze.”

The juiced writerly feeling didn’t fade away, and I ended up putting together a Friday Flash. The short short story, called “Four and Twenty” is a bit about baking pies and a bit about a murder of crows. I plan to make a habit of posting a Friday Flash at least once a month.

My goal for the week is to edit the poem drafts and put together a small submission to a journal. I also have one submission still out that I haven’t heard back from, which I need to send an inquiry on.

*Jessie Carty sent me a review copy of her book. I should have the review up middle of the week, which I plan to follow with an interview with the poet (something I have never done before, eek!).

She is Beautiful

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A foggy Sunday morning in Santa Cruz.

20140326-094251.jpgLast Sunday (March 23*), I rolled out of bed at the unfortunate hour of 6 a.m., fell into my running gear, and drove into Santa Cruz with my sister to participate in the She is Beautiful run, an event that supports the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center. My sister planned to run the 10K and I would run the 5K.

The morning was foggy and chill as we parked our car and we rubbed at our arms as we hiked up the hill to check into the event. At least the cold woke us up; all sleepiness falling away in the face of the damp chill. There were complications with our bibs (which for a short while could not be found), but before long we were at the starting line with a multitude of women — many in pink — waiting to start the race.

Then we were off an running (well, it was walking at first, due to the crowds). We both fell into our own rhythm and my sister soon outpaced me, and I found myself running alone but not lonely among the throngs of women.

And what wonderful, beautiful women there were of all shapes, sizes, and ages, from elementary school kids to older women with wrinkles and greying hair. Women of amazing athletic skill and women power walking through the course. Thin women and round women. Mothers pushing strollers or with babies in packs strung across their chests. Disabled women in wheelchairs or using canes. And everyone cheering everyone else on.

At one point, a supporter on the sidelines, called out to the crowds, “You’re beautiful!”

I choked up and almost cried, because they really were and I was apart of that and it was an amazing feeling of love and community. I breathed and held back my happy tears and kept running.

I ran the entire way (minus the short bit of walking at the beginning and one short stretch of walking up the final hill). I wasn’t the fastest runner, but I did it. I accomplished my goal and that felt amazing.

As far as my first real running event goes, it was wonderful — such an empowering experience and it has me looking forward to the next one. Maybe next time, I’ll stretch myself further and god for a 10K.

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Sister Pilar and I, smiling and ready for our race.

 

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Many beautiful women crossing the finish line.

*Yes, it’s taken me a whole week to write this post.

A new stage adaptation of Pride & Prejudice

Sunday night discovered that San Jose Stage Company was doing a reading of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Neither of us had any idea what was meant by “reading” in this case, because it was at a theater rather than a book store. But we are both Austen lovers and couldn’t miss the opportunity of seeing this.

It turned out that, inspired by her own love of the book, Halsey Varady (one of the actresses in the troupe) had written an adapted stage play for the novel and this was the first public reading of her newly written play.

The ensemble cast (about eight) was fantastic. The only staging was a set of chairs all in a row and a set of music stands in front of them and during the reading. When it was their turn to speak, they came up to a music stand, placed their script binder down, and read their part. They occasionally switched positions and used very minimal blocking to scene shifts clear, but otherwise that was it. The lack of stage set or costumes in no way detracted from the performance, and the actors proved that, with the right cast, such stage design is unnecessary.

Also, though the actors playing Elizabeth and Darcy stayed in the same character throughout, the rest of the ensemble played two, sometimes three different characters. It was amazing to see them just stand, step up to the music stand and disappear into a new character. A couple of times, I thought additional actors had magically appeared out of the thin air, they were that great.

One of the wonderful things about the performance was how Varady managed to bring out the humor from Pride and Prejudice. She chose her favorite lines and was able to utilize punchlines without loosing any of the linguistic flair of Austen’s linguistic style. It all worked well, and the tightened up the storytelling was hilariously entertaining. (I honestly never laughed so hard at Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s dinner at Rosings.)

After the performance, Halsey Varady spoke to the audience and asked for feedback. There weren’t many critiques, because it was so polished.

The idea is for the play to be transitioned into a full stage play or a radio show (or both), any and all I’d love to see happen — because I’d love to go see it again.

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FOGcon Followup

I’ve been meaning to do a wrap up of FOGcon 4 with a detailed account of the panels I attended like I did with Day One (mentions a panel discussing rape), but I have not had the time or energy to pull it off. I also have to play catch up with two movie review posts that are long overdue, so I’m going to present you with the FOGcon short version here, which is:

It was fabulous.

The honored guests, Seanan McGuire and Tim Powers, were both great. Seanan McGuire was hilarious and nearly had me falling off my chair laughing at some points, and she’s also powerful in the way she passionately speaks on subjects she cares about. Tim Powers was funny and wonderful in entirely different ways. It’s always great to meet the authors you enjoy reading, especially if you find them delightful.

FOGcon also featured an Honored Ghost: James Tiptree, Jr. and there was a panel dedicated to her memory. Moderator and panalists, Debbie Notkin, Bradford Lyau, Pat Murphy, and Naamen Gobert Tilahun were wonderfully passionate and knowledgeable about her life and work, making it a wonderful panel to attend. I haven’t read any of Tiptree’s work, but now it’s clear I’m going to have to.

In fact, throughout the event I found the panels and discussions entertaining and mind-opening.

Also, I picked up some lovely books.

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Book grab include:

  • The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow by Cory Doctorow
  • The Science of Herself by Karen Joy Fowler
  • The Wild Girls by Ursula K. Le Guinn
  • Report from Planet Midnight by Nalo Hopkinson
  • Links: A Collection of Short Stories by Kaylia M. Metcalfe
  • Not pictured: a short story mini-chapbook called “Rats!” by Brett James, as well as a copy of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Realms of Fantasy

The “Plus…” series of books are very cool, because in addition to including a novella, they also include essays and interviews and other goodies.

The entire experience of FOGcon left me feeling inspired and joyful and wanting to get back to writing, which is exactly the feeling I need right now.

FOGcon 5 (2015) will have the theme “The Traveler” and will have Kim Stanley Robinson and Catherynne M. Valente as honored guests (OMG!), which sounds so amazing. The dates will immediately go into my calendar and I just hope that I don’t have any work trips that will conflict with the event.

#FOGcon – Night One

Trigger Warning: General mention and discussion of rape.

When I pulled into the hotel parking lot this evening, all I wanted to do was sneak up to my room and hide. I knew there were still FOGcon panels and such going on

It happens. Sometimes the idea of being social is just too much and I just need to be alone in a quiet room disengaging until I’ve recharged.

So, I spent the first hour just relaxing and looking through the panels to see what I wanted to do tomorrow. Along the way, I learned that there was a late night panel, called “When is Your Heroine Finally Going to be Raped?” with Seanan McGuire, Sasha Pixlee, and Karen Williams, with Alison Moon as the moderator.

The panel was inspired by this blog post by Seanan McGuire, in which she describes her reaction to one of her fans asking the above question — her answer: never.

I remembered reading that blog post when she first put it up (I recommend it to anyone interested in the subject of rape culture) and I was curious about the discussion.

Also, it was based on the desire to see and possible meet Seanan McGuire that I gathered myself up to come to FOGcon in the first place this year, so it seemed like such a shame to sit in my room. So, I found myself finding the energy to get out of my pajamas and back into real clothes, so I could go to the panel.

It was a heavy topic for my introduction to this year’s con, but it was fascinating and everyone on the panel was great.

Here are a few thoughts and quotes that came out of the discussion:
Continue reading “#FOGcon – Night One”

Off to FOGcon

Welp, I’m off to FOGcon, a small-scale scif/fantasy convention, where I will listen to panels on all the geeky things I love and chatting with some of my writerly friends and other good things. It’ll be nice to escape reality for a while.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a lovely, lovely weekend!

I've been rejected. Yay!

Thing the First
Yesterday I received a rejection on the poetry collection I sent to Toad Lily Press.

My response: “Well, that’s disappointing. But thank god.”

To which my mom was quite astonished and I proceeded to enthusiastically explain to her about the importance of SASEs, how not putting one with your submission could very well mean having your submission thrown out without having it read, how I had spent the last several weeks flailing, because I was sure I had forgotten to include said SASE with my submission.

So, um, yeah, HUGE relief that I didn’t make the idiotic mistake of forgetting to include a SASE, so much so that it soothed the sting of the rejection quite a bit.

No, seriously, I can’t tell you how stoked I am that I included the SASE.

Thing the Second
Looking over my 2013 goals this week reminded me that I wanted to try to get to 12 spoke work/open mics/author readings this year, and thus far I hadn’t. In general, I just want to be engaged with live performances, from spoken word to stage plays to music, all of which inspires me in different ways.

So, I started looking around for what’s in the area and found that Poetic Justice Wednesdays was going on at the Fahrenheit Bar in San Jose. I dropped in (after convincing my sister she had no choice but to join me) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was impressed by the skill of the poets and musicians who presented, their lips tumbling truths into the microphone. It’s the kind of impressive performances that intimidate me a bit, because I don’t feel good enough to do the same. But I’ll get myself up there someday soon.

 

Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to comment either her or there.

Being an update sort of listy thing after a long reprieve

Hi, guys! It’s been a few weeks, and even longer since I posted a “massive list of goals” update, so… here ya go.

Things I Have Done
1. Attended Writers with Drinks, which had readings by Sarah Kuhn (I must buy her book, One Con Glory), Malinda Lo, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Glen David Gold (whose memoirs are hilarious), and Amber Benson, all of whom were fantastic in varying ways. It was hosted by the wonderful Charlie Jane Anders (aka [info]charliegrrrl), and her introductions, which are really long elaborate and fantastical stories, are definitely one of the highlights of going to the event.

2. Attended S.G. Browne’s signing and reading for his new book, Lucky Bastard, at the Booksmith. It was quite fun, and the book looks to be as funny as his other two books.

3. Also attended the Thursday night open mic at The Usuals, which both my friend Lorenz and I read at (and it went quite well, though I have a tendency to speak too close to the mic). It’s a new venue, built in the back of a clothing store, but it’s a great space, and I look forward to reading there again soon. I also encourage other poets or songsters to attend and participate.

4. I completed the first draft of the short story intended for an anthology, but blew the anthology deadline. So, it’s a halfway success, because at least I have a story that can be edited and submitted elsewhere.

5.
I sent out two poetry/flash submissions, and received one rejection and one acceptance. The rejection was a rather positive one, and encouraged me to submit again, which I shall.

I also received an email from a publication, saying that they wanted to include a poem they published in an upcoming anthology they are producing. An acceptance without a submission is so amazingly awesomesauce :D.

6. I completed 30 new poems (well, 32, if you count the two I didn’t post) in 30 days for the Nation Poetry Month Challenge. Seven of those poems were completed in an hour just before bedtime on April 30th, so there is a varying degree of quality throughout the lot. If you’re interested, you can check out the poems here on my tumblr.

Things I Need to Do
1. COMPLETE MY TAXES (it’s ridiculous that I haven’t, cause they’re so easy)
2. Write the flash fiction story that’s bouncing in my head.
3. Focus on edits, including rewrites for White Noise and other stories in the draft queue.
4. Submit at least one story mentioned above.
5. Submit one poetry set, ideally the 15-25 poems for a chapbook market.
6. EXCERCISE: yoga, running, hiking, whatever. Just something. My body needs it.

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*It occurs to me that my definition of long needs reevaluation, as it’s only been a week or two, but it seems like forever.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal.]

FOGcon Roundup

Took me a couple of days to recover from the wonderfulness that was Fogcon, one of those delightful events that left me exhausted and, honestly, a little drained.

It started out Saturday with my reading (well, technically it started Friday, but I didn’t feel like dealing with traffic). My reading went well, though there were only a handful of people or so in the room, so very small, but that’s fine. I read a bunch of my poems, and got a good response from those present. I also got to hear Alyc Helms read from her unpublished novel, The Adventures of Mr. Mystic and the Dragons of Heaven, which seems like it will be a rather fun urban fantasy/superhero novel when it’s published (she’s shopping it at the moment).

About midday I went to Nalo Hopkinson‘s presentation on everyday culture. So many people tell her they don’t have any culture, and she asserts that they certainly do. As a way of presenting that, she had the group play ring games, hand clapping games, and other yard school games, which filled the morning with rhyme, rhythm, and laughter. It was very joyful.

I also saw here do a reading of her new book, a YA novel called, The Chaos, which I had to immediately go our and buy. She signed it for me with a smile. I’m eagerly looking forward to reading it, as I recently read her book Brown Girl in the Ring (which was wonderful and I’ll review later).

The first panel I was on was called “You Are Not Your Rejection Slips,” in which a couple of editors and my fellow authors and I discussed how to handle rejection. It was a good panel, I think. It’s a hard subject for me to feel that any new insights to discover, because rejection is just so normal for a writer; there’s no getting around it. It’s hard for me to judge, because I was one of the speakers and I was rather nervous. At one point, I opened my mouth to speak and then froze up entirely, but I think I finished well.

That night, I attended a panel about Body Image and it was absolutely amazing. It didn’t deal so much with body weight, but rather delved into more difficult topics, such as how gender (male, female, transgender), race, disability, or many other factors in a person’s life can contribute to how people see themselves and how they are seen by other people.

One of the things discussed that sticks with me is the concept of “helpfullness,” and how it can actually be very injuring or harmful, especially if the help is unasked for. It can be things like telling someone a new diet for them to try out, telling a transgender man that if he cut his hair he would look more masculine, or telling someone with a health issue about this great new thing that might fix it. The problem with helpfulness like this is that it assumes that the person being addressed hasn’t had the presence of mind to think of this “great new idea” before. But even more so, the panel said, it stems from a place of discomfort and fear, because the underlining message is, “Who you are makes me uncomfortable, so here are some things you can do that will make you fit how I think you should be, so I can be more comfortable.”

Much, much more was covered and discussed. The entire discussion was very respectful of each opinion throughout, and the result was incredibly powerful.

That night, [info]mslorelei also gave a rather awesome (and x-rated) reading a story she wrote. The story is (I believe) a part of a new ebook of hers that just came out, which is very cool. I really liked how the story was about two people holding on to love, as well as being rather sexy. 🙂

On Sunday morning, bright and early, I was on a panel called “Loving Something Problematic,” which discussed how you balance loving a book, movie, game, etc., when that thing you love clearly has some elements that are troubling, such as racism, sexism, or other isms, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt.

Again, I was very nervous about being on this panel, especially as it was a more challenging subject. I kind of approached the discussion from the point of view that I was new (within the last couple of years) to the concept of white privilege and issues of racism, transmisogyny, ablism, and other new isms that I had been recently learning.

My fellow panelists, Nalo Hopkinson, M. Christian, and Carolyn Cooper, were great, and Liz Argall was fabulous as the moderator. I started to shrink into my shell at the beginning, and at a well timed point, Liz addressed a question directly at me. As soon as I started speaking, I started to relax into a little bit more and was able to better insert myself into the conversation.

I wish I could present you with some of the great things my fellow panelists said, but I was so busy trying not to dissolve under my nervousness and trying to be present enough to communicate that I don’t exactly remember the details all that well. I’m told the panel went well though, and before we knew it the time was up and we had to let another panel come in. Pretty much everyone there wished the discussion could have gone on longer, so that’s a really good sign.

So those were the main highlights of the con for me, though there was a ton more that went on and several times I wished I could time travel or duplicate myself so I could go to more than one panel at a time. I can’t wait for next year, and I’m eager to try out some larger cons.

For the future, I will definitely be getting a hotel room, rather than drive back and forth from the con. The late night and early morning drives was torture, and contributed to my state of absolute exhaustion. It was worth it, though. SO much fun. (^_^)

[Cross-posted to my livejournal.]

Two Things

1. Today is Nation Autism Day, and I am wearing blue in recognition. (Hopefully you are, too?)

2. Once again it is National Poetry Month, the month in which I try to write a poem everyday for thirty days straight, a challenge I always manage to get halfway through and fail. As you may have noted, I’m already a day behind, so at some point today, I owe you two poems, which will posted to my Tumblr (cross-posted everyday for the whole month is just a pain in the ass).

Okay, three things: I also need to do a post later today on how FOGcon went… Short answer: FANTASTIC.

FogCon, here I come (and other stuff)

Welp, I have signed up to attend FogCon, which will be the first con I will have ever gone, too. I am most excited,* especially as I will be doing a reading and participating in a couple of panels.

My schedule for FogCon:

Saturday, March 31
9-10:15 a.m. – I shall be doing a reading with Alyc Helms and Norm Sperling. (Have no idea what I’m going to read yet, though.)

4:30-5:45 p.m. – Panel: You Are Not Your Rejection Slips
Sacramento Room
Learn techniques for coping with the inevitable ups and downs of a writing career. How can you maintain a sense of self-worth after a hundred rejection slips? How do you handle the feelings of being simultaneously the most brilliant writer ever and the biggest pile of s*** in the field?

Moderator:    Cassie Alexander
Panelists:    Andrea Blythe, Gabrielle Harbowy, John Joseph Adams, Christie Yant

Sunday, April 1
9-10:15 a.m. – Panel: Loving Something Problematic
Salon B/C
Most of us have at least a few books, movies, or TV shows that we love that are also problematic in their depiction of race, gender, class, or something else. How can we be fans of these things while still acknowledging their flaws? How can we discuss the flaws in these works without incurring the wrath of devoted fans?

Moderator: Liz Argall
Panelists:    M. Christian, Andrea Blythe, Carolyn Cooper, Nalo Hopkinson

I am superbly nervous about being on panels. I think I have enough to say about each topic that I won’t sound like a total dunce, but we’ll see how it goes.

Learn more about the various panels going on here.
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In other news…, I have been doing things.

Orlando, FL – My work trip for my day job went well. Saturday was spent lounging by the pool, getting some sun, drinking cocktails, reading, and generally being lazy. Sunday it rained all day, but it was that lovely warm tropical rain, so my coworker and I still went down to the pool. We went for a swim in the rain, had some cocktails, and spent the rest of the day generally being lazy.

So, the vacation part of the trip was successfully vacationy and the work portion at the exposition was also successful. I made a lot of good contacts and my boss seemed pleased when I reported back.

Cirque du Soleil: Totem – I took my mom to go see the Cirque last night under the big top. It was dazzling and awesome. Amazing costumes and performances, feats of strength, twirls through the air, and so forth. I won’t try to describe the amazing trapeze artists or the cup tossing unicyclists. (As a side note, the only thing that lessened my enjoyment was the obvious appropriation and over simplification of indigenous cultures for the sake of entertainment. I suppose it’ll give me something to talk about at the “Loving Something Problematic” panel.)

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*I shall get to check something off on my massive list of goals! For joy!

[Cross-posted to my livejournal.]