Monday, March 19, 2018

Our Inappropriate Friends

While I often comment on things happening in book world, and more specifically romance and YA, I have been both processing and trying to not speak over the victims.  There was a twitter thread about one YA harasser in particular (Daniel Handler), that was posted by a longtime friend of Handler's who talked about how of course he was bawdy and inappropriate, that's also exactly why kids loved him.  There was rightful pushback as people noted that bawdy and having fictional characters tee-hee about masturbation is not the same as telling librarians you meet at a book event to go make out with strangers. Telling an inappropriate joke in a friend's living room is not the same as making a racist joke as you introduce a black award winner.  
So, it is with this I bring up the recent issues in romance, with Santino Hassell, who turned out to be engaging in inappropriate behavior with fans and fellow authors.  And the subsequent revelations about Sarah Lyons, who worked at Riptide (one of Hassell's publishers).  I've known Lyons a while.  I liked her.  But nothing in that story sounded unlike her to me. (The victim has since gotten a number of threats, so I'm not going to link to that.) And so, I have had to sit back and think about what that means.  I met her at a fan event, so our relationship started in a setting where the power dynamics were pretty equal.  Discussions that were appropriate between us, would not necessarily have been appropriate between co-workers or editors and writers. 
Olivia Waite had a good thread on Twitter recently where she talked about how outside of romance, many people assume we are all either dried up prunes who've never had good sex and have to write about it, or randy sex addicts who think about it so much and must constantly be practicing for our writing.  There doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground.  But as such, outsiders often harass us, assuming that we are all fair game, since there are fictional people having sex in our books, we must enjoy being touched by strangers, having strangers discuss their sex lives with us without warning.  And that within romance, most of us get that discussing the emotional arc of a sex scene is professional talk and that is distinct from discussing whatever I may or may not have been up to last night.  
All of this is to say, I'm so sorry for all the people hurt by this.  We, big we, in romance need to think about how we can prevent these types of situations.  Waite had said in her thread she didn't think romance had a higher than average issue with harassment, and I think that's true.  But it's also clear that we all still have a lot of work to do.  
NB: RAINN has a number of resources for survivors of all kinds of sexual assault. 
NB 2: I had previously recommended Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell's co-written book.  In light of things, the book has been pulled from publication. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Ashley Woodfolk in Conversation with Tiffany Jackson at Politics and Prose

I was back at Politics and Prose Monday to see Ashley Woodfolk talking with Tiffany Jackson about Woodfolk's The Beauty That Remains.  Woodfolk had a number of family members in the audience which I always find fun.  Jackson asked her to detail her whole journey to getting published so they could all appreciate the work and time that had gone into it.  Jackson said she had had a debut event with a lot her friends and family where she did that, so that people would understand and hopefully not do that, "I've always wanted to write a book" thing, like it's something you could knock out some long weekend. 
Woodfolk's book is about grief, three teens who all just lost someone close to them and the different ways they handle that.  Jackson said Shay was her favorite.  Woodfolk said each was an interesting character to write.  Shay is trying to make everyone else see that it's all okay, Autumn is confused and guilty, and Logan is mad and destructive.  So each was a different aspect and outlet to write. 
Her brother asked about the title change.  The book was originally titled Unraveling Lovely after the band that connects the three characters.  But her editor was concerned that the title sounded a little too romancey, and while there is some smooching, it's not the focus of the book.  However Woodfolk really didn't like the alternate titles suggested so had done a lot of work coming up with an alternate title, which was what they went with.  
It was a great night, and apparently Woodfolk's mom was the one who helped set it up, so thanks.  

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. Keah Brown wrote this about how some remembrances of Stephen Hawking have been ableist
2. This interview with Kelly Marie Tran was delightful. 
3. Tess Sharpe's interview about her latest book and the response to writing a violent female character was fascinating. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Familiar at Woolly Mammoth

I went to what was the second to last performance of "Familiar" at Woolly Mammoth on Sunday, so this is mostly a review for if this show gets restaged elsewhere. The show looks at a Zimbabwean American family in Minnesota. The eldest of two daughters is getting married, she's the lawyer, got five and ten year plans daughter.  She is marrying a white dude from her not the same flavor of Christian church that her parents raised her in.  Meanwhile, the younger daughter has just arrived back from her first trip to Zimbabwe, she's a singer/songwriter/feng shui artist. So there are family tensions, family secrets, a surprise wedding guest, and lots of discussions about whether the two daughters should have been raised with more of a sense of their Zimbabwean heritage, or if the chance to do it now should they choose is enough.  It was quite simply wonderful.  I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard at a play.  The characters felt incredibly real, and their attempts to navigate the things they did not know, felt they should know, or wished they had more of a connection to, from watching football to performing a Zimbabwean Shona ritual for the wedding. 
It was also touching, poignant, and great.  The set was essentially a living room, and while for parts the cast goes off stage, a lot of it, they are onstage reacting to various family discussions, and everyone did a wonderful job.  The theater had an interactive bit outside about cultures and heritages one is born to and that one finds, which added an interesting layer.  Looking forward to more from this playwright.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Jonny Sun at Politics and Prose

Jonny Sun was at Politics and Prose Saturday night, and I was pretty excited.  I am a fan of the Twitter account, and had been meaning to pick up the book, but it had been out of stock the few times I had looked, and so, I figured this was a great chance.  Plus, he was chatting with NPR's Linda Holmes, which is always good stuff.  
They talked about while Sun had done things like theater and comedy in school, those were extracurriculars, while he studied engineering and later architecture. So Twitter ended up being a great medium, he could do it while walking between classes, on quick breaks, or what have you.  Sun chose an alien avatar kind of without thinking.  Holmes asked if the positivity of the account was an intentional choice. Sun said yes, he wanted to talk about things like anxiety and imposter syndrome, but also wanted to have a thing that was cute but serious. That things that are adorable can be equally as important.  
He talked about the drawing process and that the minimalism was something he worked on and that when the book offer came, a lot of what they worked on in editing was having the story build well and still arc, while he kept the differing storylines overlapping so that it was kind of like logging into twitter on any given day and getting snippets. 
A child came up and asked about the mispellings, and Sun said that it tied into the idea that as a Canadian in a new city in the US for school, he felt that things were different and he was trying to learn and that's why he had used the alien idea, and that part of that he felt was the idea that an actual alien would make spelling errors.  
It was a great evening and pretty fun to go to an event where so many people had clearly not only read, but reread the book.