Happy New Year!
2017 has just begun and already I’ve seen a rejection (thank you Upper Rubber Boot “Women Up To No Good”) and a publication (thank you Kaleidotrope).
It gets better! Yes, it does. And this is the best part…I’m sharing this issue with two of my dear friends and writing family: Julie C. Day’s “One Thousand Paper Cranes” (Julie’s author website here), and Lisa Bergin’s “Scrapie’s Trap” (Lisa blogs with her writers’ group here). I’ve also had the honor of reading poetry with Gwynne Garfinkle before (Live & in person, at WisCon) and now I have the honor of our poetry appearing together–Gwynne’s “The Last Word” is in this same issue.
Life is good.
And with that, dear readers, I have some writing to do!
My poem, “From the Dictionary of Non-Existent Words, A Sampler”, is scheduled to appear in the Winter 2017 issue of Kaleidotrope!!! I will post the link when the poem and issue are live.
It has been a very difficult year. I probably don’t even need to write that, it seems to be true for far too many people, for the obvious societal and social reasons as well as personal ones. I might write a post about some of my own personal challenges later, but for now, let’s leave it at “a difficult year”. Therefore, this news from Fred Coppersmith at Kaleidotrope was a much needed positive, good-things-can-happen-too, don’t-give-up-! reminder for me to keep working, to not give up.
And there’s one other bit of good news that I can share in a couple days.
There is hope. What I work so hard for with my writing does not always get lost in oblivion, does not always fall short. And I will work to remember this, work to share it with you, and work to manifest it for the good of all. And if I forget, if anyone dear to you forgets, please remind them. Remind yourself. There is hope. We affect each other, in a thousand small but not insignificant ways. Let’s be there for each other.
This year has not been easy: a new job that has steadily, repeatedly required me to work overtime; health issues; the usual. But I’m out of credit card debt (student loans are another matter), was able to take my cat to the vet, and I may be able to go to the dentist soon as well.
Through all this I’ve been writing and working with other writers (critiquing and collaborating) when I could find/create the time and energy to do so. I even managed to attend WisCon and present at a panel (despite working 9 days in a row with only one day off before doing another 9 day stint). Honestly, it’s been a struggle. I’ve relied on my dear partner for much support (I’d be starved and unclothed if it weren’t for him). I’ve not seen friends for months. I’d not written for long stretches of time, to say nothing of reading.
But I am writing: I’d carved out the time to take part in TNEO (The Never Ending Odyssey) this summer (which overtime allowed me to pay for), which was wonderful. I also got to meet a writing friend in person for the first time and it was as if we’d known each other for years.
I’d wanted to apply to Grad Schools and to both Clarions if finances allowed (one reason for new job), but reality is setting in–I do not have the time to prepare for and take the GRE, much less a Subject Test as well. I haven’t written anything NEW this year that’s polished, so I’m not sure with what I’d even apply to MFA programs or the Clarions. I’ve revised some stories, including what I’d sent these programs last year, but I’m not sure it’s the best idea to resend those. I do still have a few months before the Clarion applications are due, so there is hope for that. But applying to Grad School or MFAs is not happening this time around, and I am sad about that.
I’m hoping for balance looking forward. I’m not sure I will find it with my current job. For the moment, this is what life is. I’m doing what I can to keep writing. It may be significantly less than I’d like or hoped, but my cat is healthy and I can pay my bills. These things should help the pain of isolation and creative stunting some, shouldn’t they?
I’ll be at WisCon again this year! My work schedule is hectic, but I am making time for a panel.
We’ve even got a hashtag so you can Tweet about it: #BabyWriters
|The Baby Writer Panel|
Because I’ve signed up for Mikki Kendall‘s Comics Writing Workshop at Wiscon (moment for squee-fest and happy-dance!! I believe this is the first year something like this has been offered) I came across this article, Writer Mikki Kendall Talks Dynamite’s Swords of Sorrow, which led me to Race and Romance in Daredevil Season 2 at Women Write about Comics. It got me to thinking about my own criticisms and disappointments with the show and in pop culture media in general.
While I have criticisms (both cultural and writing centered) of the story, I have enjoyed the Daredevil TV show: well produced, good styling, set and wardrobe; interesting cinematography; complex and intriguing story line. But the writing in the 2nd season felt more scattered (possibly because it was–we did follow three major characters: Daredevil/Murdoch, Elektra, and the Punisher). More noticeable this season, too, was Matt’s disregard for other people–he forces others to clean-up his messes despite their clear discomfort regarding his requests, thus placing those people in harmful and dangerous situations. I don’t know if this is intentional on the writers’ behalf, but Matt came off as a spoiled child thinking he’s acting like an adult. (The character that felt most like a hero was Foggy.) Matt’s callous disregard for the consequences of his own actions and for other’s feelings and needs is a point CLARA MAE makes about Murdoch’s treatment of two of his romantic interests, the two WoC–Claire and Elektra. Ignoring another person’s discomfort and safety is abusive behavior. This paragraph really hit home:
Karen is taken on dates and is formally courted by Matt. Claire and Elektra are the women he’s with only under the cover of darkness, where he’s rougher, less considerate, and embodies more masculine aggression. I can’t emphasize enough what kind of message this sends about what the writers and Matt think of women of color, and how harmful it is for WoC to see themselves as the girls who a white man will come to at night, but never take out during the light of day. We know that stories have a marked effect on self esteem, and the less a WoC sees herself portrayed positively in media, the less likely she is to feel like the society she’s in values her as a human being.
What we see around us, we absorb into our psyche. We internalize everything. It’s how we learn and function as a species. So the stories we consume as well as the stories we tell ourselves shape our beliefs and what we feel is right and what we feel is possible. If I remember correctly, at a Wiscon panel, Daniel José Older said that happy endings are subversive. And in this excellent interview with Tor.com, Race, Publishing, and H.P. Lovecraft: A Conversation With Daniel José Older and Victor LaValle, I can actually quote him: “I believe in the revolutionary power of happy endings. Especially when you’re dealing with marginalized people… we need to see that there’s hope.”
Apparently even active female characters must be made more… appealing(?, because why else are the writers undermining her active role) by diminishing her agency and being her own competent character. Karen is filmed/styled as the damsel in distress. I’d like to know why her actions need to be glossed up/over with daintiness and a helpless sheen when she’s the one who killed ruthless Wesley, forged forward in her investigations despite real threats (that killed Ben Ulrich), and in general is not cowering or distressed, but active and getting things done. All this while still doing “feminine” things like taking care of the boys and not getting as beat up as the other romantic interests (who are WoC (who are either under-sexualized or over-sexualized…and how sexuality is related to femininity!)), or killed like Ben. As Clara Mae puts it so well, “I’m not at all arguing that violence should befall Karen, but the treatment of Karen stands in stark contrast with the treatment of Elektra and Claire. If Karen is the princess, protected from the brunt of Hell’s Kitchen by the men around her, then Elektra and Claire are the warriors on the front line.” The history of cultural depictions of women of color as not needing/worthy of protection is long. Related is the sexualization of women–either hyper or under sexualized depending on ethnicity, age (lets not forget age!), and whatever it is men were wanting to justify or fantasize about.
I’d like to see all the female characters given as much rounding and complexity, as much humanity and personality, as Karen is given–attractive (well, this is a difficult “idea” isn’t it? Attractive to whom and why? Usually to the male gaze) and worthy as well as active, inquisitive, resilient, and fallible and human, too. There’s some excellent articles out there on why the strong, black woman stereotype is damaging and not the positive praise it might at first glance seem to be (similarly, the “angry, black woman” and other such stereotypes: article by Sofia Samatar on the hyper visibility & invisibility of academics of color, this article by Stacey Patton at Dame Magazine, and “Amandla Stenberg And The Sad Reality Of The ‘Angry Black Girl’ Stereotype” at the Huffington Post).
“But in a society that finds little to praise in black women, other groups’ appreciation for perceived black female strength can feel like a reductive appreciation.”
In Tamara Winfrey Harris’s article linked to above, educator and social-justice advocate Deborah Latham-White is quoted: “I am unwilling to be the mule for the nation.” I cannot put it more eloquently or more succinctly than that.
To those who point out that the comic is different than the TV show–adaptations are their own entity and it is this entity/medium/iteration that is being critiqued. TV has a history and tropes and stereotypes all its own (related to the comics, of course, because it’s created by people in the same broader cultural context). Many consumers of the Daredevil TV show are unfamiliar with the comics, thus the story they are getting is the TV version, so if something different happened in the comic, that’s in the comic, not in the show.
(Clearly this is not meant to be an exhaustive post, nor is it a definitive post. These are discussions that have been on-going and better written than I’ve come up with. But it’s a discussion that is important and vital. Nothing new here, but hopefully a good reminder and stepping stone along the way.)
So, yeah, I’m very much looking forward to Mikki Kendall’s workshop and dipping my writing toes into the world of comics. I’ve got some ideas bouncing about my head I’d like to see out and about in our world. Here’s hoping they make their way to you all one way or another.
In other news, I received edits for “Backlash of the Rapunzel Incident” from Mad Scientist Review. Things are looking good, people! Very excited about this piece finding a good home.
my Wiscon schedule,
maybe some photos of Spring!
We measure the protagonist’s worth by her perseverance.
My short story “Backlash of the Rapunzel Incident” will be published in August 2016 in the Mad Scientist Journal! Well, I can’t really take the credit since it is Frau Doktor J. G. Holzinger’s, Assistant Professor of Social Behavior and Antiquities, proposal for funding which I merely stumbled upon and forwarded to the Journal. I’m really looking forward to sharing her quirky, fun, alt-alt-historical political thriller of a tale with you later this year, which is to say this is a completely serious and academically fascinating project. I hope she gets her funding.
You’ve let your subscription falter or haven’t heard of this fine Journal? From their “About” page:
Though initially established in 1818, time travel has allowed The Mad Scientist Journal to become the preeminent scientific journal for atypical scientific theories and journeys throughout all of space and time.
Or maybe that’s not actually true. Perhaps it is more accurate to describe this as a mad-scientist themed e-zine. If you are interested in writing for us, please check out our submissions page.
A new story or article is published every Monday. Every Monday.
Will let you all know when publication is imminent!
In the mean time, happy cold and snow (for us Northern Hemispherers).
It’s out! The Book Smugglers have released the “First Contact” anthology. Behold:
“An intergalactic negotiation commences between a husband and wife, and actual aliens from outer space. A romantic encounter kindles between the last human alive and a fallen star. A young woman discovers her ability to choose her fate for the first time. An experimental application questions what it means to be alive and to be self-aware. An overlooked and unheard antiheroine comes of age, and realizes her self-potential.
First Contact: Five Tales of First Encounters collects five short stories that examine the concept of “first contact” from diverse, feminist, and original perspectives.
The Merger by Sunil Patel
Luminous by A.E. Ash
The Vishakanya’s Choice by Roshani Chokshi
Application for the Delegation of First Contact: Questionnaire, Part B by Kathrin Kohler
The Bridegroom by Amelia Mangan
All stories originally published and edited by “The Book Smugglers.”
Goals are a way of putting our selves into the future, achieving desires we now think we’ll want then or desires we have now but can’t fulfill until later. They are ways to achieve something that for any number of reasons we are unable to right this minute. In short, they help us focus and help us remember.
Goals may change. While on our way we may discover something more important, something we didn’t even know or something the process brought into sharper focus. Or, we may achieve the goals and realize we wanted something else entirely. We may achieve them and not feel the satisfaction we thought we would. I think mentioning these things is important because, in general, we could use reminding that Things Change. Sometimes we change (hopefully, and hopefully for the better). Sometimes achieving goals is unfulfilling because we don’t really know what we want. We humans are convoluted beings.
What are writing goals and what are they good for?
Setting writing goals helps me organize my thoughts and desires, the things I want to achieve with my writing but can’t do Right This Minute because writing is a Process and if it happened all at once I’m pretty sure authors would explode or implode or something. Organizing is a very Useful Tool and can improve your writing practice and your life in general. And like any tool, organizing is especially well adapted to some aspects of writing but not to others. Hammers–useful as hell when you need to drive a nail into wood, not so useful when you want to talk to someone on the other side of town (that’s what phones are for). In writing, keeping track of character arc and internal and external conflict and how all these things relate can be tricky. Notes, spreadsheets, pictographs, and other tools help to organize these so you can write and remember what your main character was struggling against (and what she’s struggling toward) so when you write her next scene you can focus on her progression and create the change in her you need to tell this tale.
Goals and organizing help in both plotting out how to expand on a story so that you properly “unpack” all the important details, and they can help you focus on what’s important so your story doesn’t sprawl.
Anything that involves a Process or is a Practice (like a writing practice or meditation practice) is a dynamic experience which evolves and that evolves you. Another way of saying, Things Change. Lots of change happens in writing. It should–to get better at anything you MUST change. That thing you did to keep you on track during your last big project may not work the best this time around, or the way you dealt with character development in your last few stories might not work for this character in this story. And please remember (*looks at self*), things do not change in a linear fashion. Linear or mono-directional or steady and predictable change is a work of fiction used to simplify math problems and other constructs so we can get a general idea of what’s going on and not feel like total idiots. But it’s not real. So we shouldn’t get upset when we make goals and don’t necessarily achieve every milestone on schedule and feel every elation and bit of satisfaction the way we thought we were supposed to.
But being creatures of brains that allow us to move through time in that special ghostly fashion that humans do, we can help ourselves move toward what we hope for and which we don’t have right now. And being creatures of immense complexity and unknowable depths, we can help ourselves understand when the goals change or we change or circumstances change, and through this we can help ourselves see the process for its own sake and not always for the end result.
Because maybe it’s the other way around–maybe we have goals so we can undergo a process, an evolution…
…and thereby change ourselves and know ourselves better.