Monday, June 18, 2018

Now vs. Then, a "Project Runway" contestant

Many people know that Christian Siriano came to most people's attention first as a "Project Runway" contestant. I confess he wasn't my favorite that season, but I often like the second or fourth place contestant best.  What was clear was that Siriano already had a clear vision, and an understanding of the larger business.  As a sidenote, I will say, there is often a sense that many of the contestants who go work for other lines, or go back home and set up an etsy shop have not made it, or not been as successful, and I think some of that is that in much the way of many pursuits, probably way more people would like Siriano name recognition and money than want to work like that.  When you consider how few - relatively speaking - "Project Runway" contestants have worked in a larger fashion business, versus, sewing stuff in their living room, it's a little less surprising.  But I digress. 
The hing that fascinates me the most about all of this, is that in Siriano's season, the challenge he did the worst with, was one of their "real" people challenges.  Now, if you look at the list of challenges, it wasn't the first time the designers worked with a non-model. And teenagers can be challenges, and one could certainly argue that prom is different.  But Christian ended up in the bottom for creating something that neither he nor his model liked and it became one of those where the judges more believed that he had had an off day than the designer who got sent home, but it was close.  
And now Siriano is known for designing inclusively* in his line. For being the designer who dresses the celebrities who can't get an outfit for an award ceremony. And I am aware that basing a theory of someone's career based on a highly edited hour of TV is not a great idea, but I do think that's there's something interesting going on, that the moment where he was most in danger was part of design for just this person challenge, and now that is part of what he is most known for. 

*Interestingly he mentions in that interview that "Project Runway" isn't necessarily the best choice for your career.  

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. If you are looking for queer romance recommendations for the Ripped Bodice Bingo, this list at Love in Panels has a bunch of suggestions. 
2. Sarah Gailey's discussion of the sensitivity read that saved her life is both heartfelt and a look at how even those living certain identities can fall victim to the dominant narratives. 
3. This remembrance of Anthony Bourdain got at his passion for both knowledge and people.  He will be greatly missed.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

"How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying" at the Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center's Center Stage series, allows for minimally staged short runs of productions.  This run included a cast of well known folks - Skylar Astin, Betsy Wolfe, Michael Urie, Becky Newton, and John Michael Higgins to name a few.  I had seen "How to Succeed", ahem, quite a few years ago when they did the pre-Broadway revival run with Matthew Broderick.  So it was nice to come back to the same place for this version.  Folks who have seen or heard "Pitch Perfect", "Betty Ugly" or "Waitress" won't be surprised that this was a cast that sang well, and was able to be comedic when necessary.  "How to Succeed" is the story of Finch who finds the titular book and uses it's advice to finesse his way into the fast track in a large corporation.  Along the way he encounters Rosemary, who has goals of her own, aka a husband, and the boss's nephew who lacks Finch's finesse and charm but still wants to get ahead also.  The gender conformity is inherent in script.  That's not to excuse it, it's simply to note that it's not something that can be fixed with clever line updates. 
However, I think the show takes both of their goals seriously.  Certainly Finch gets more time, and Finch is the one who gets to wink at the crowd a lot.  Having Michael Urie play a conniving nephew is practically typecasting, but he was wonderful to watch and it was fun to watch Finch keep one upping him.  There was one moment where a particularly amusing pause in a line from Finch caused Biggley (Higgins) to break for a few seconds before he could recover his lines.  
This production did manage to have multiple people of color.  Usually Miss Jones is cast as African American, in part because she gets the more bluesy bits in "Brotherhood of Man".  But this production also had the wonderful Joaquina Kalukango as Smitty, as well as several ensemble members.  
I really enjoyed the production.  

Monday, June 11, 2018

Some News

I have a short story in the upcoming Cocky Cockers anthology.  My story is a sweet contemporary romance, but there's a good range in there from a number of authors. The lovely Jackie Barbosa wrangled us all together.  And the title is not just in fun, each story includes a cocker spaniel. The money raised from the anthology will go to any legal costs, if necessary, and then to the Romance Writers of America Perserverance Fund, which helps defray the costs of dues and membership fees for members in need.  

The book is up for pre-order on Amazon now.  I'll update via Twitter and newsletter when it's up on the other sites as well.  I'm so excited about this.  
If blogging or Twitter is not your preferred method for keeping up with any book

Sunday, June 10, 2018

One Sentence Summaries

In honor of tonight's Tony Awards, I am presenting one sentence summaries. Disclaimer: I have not seen all of these and well, it is meant to be both humorous and true. 

Best Musical Nominees: 

The Band's Visit - Things happen when you go to the wrong city. See also, band dudes are bad at checking where they are going. 

Frozen - Brand new queen ices over everything and her sister's new boyfriend plots a coup.  

Mean Girls - The patriarchy has taught girls some bad mating habits.  

SpongeBob SquarePants - Volcanoes cause chaos. 

Best Play Nominees: 

The Children - Nuclear explosions cause chaos. 

Farinelli and the King - Musical therapy can help depression and contibrute to adultery. 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Messing with time is a bad idea.  

Junk - Wall Street power brokers like money. 

Latin History for Morons - Everything you should have learned about Latinx folks in school but probably didn't. 

Friday, June 08, 2018


I have been engaging in a complex series of sport superstitions this year. The realization that there are college kids who can't remember when DC sports teams didn't seem like the worst teases was tough. I am not a lifelong hockey fan. I came to it later. But it is currently the only area sports team I ever had season tickets to. All sports are different live, but I maintain that hockey does the best job of welcoming you in and taking you along for a huge ride. 
The the Vegas Knights fans. Welcome to the highs and the lows of sports fandom. 
To the Caps - the players and all the people who make it go, to the fans new and old, and to the rest of you all in DC this week, congrats. I have a New Yorker tell me that never had he seen a city live and die by it's sports teams as much as DC. We are in a great mood right now. 

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. A friend of mine wrote this about her years as a 911 dispatcher, and how calls about people of color just being were a regular occurence.  
2. This remembrance of Kate Spade and what having such a bag meant, was lovely. 
3. I had thoughts about the cancellation of "Roseanne", but I thought one of the targets of one of her online screeds might do better to explain how racism isn't the same as being an edgy comedian

Monday, June 04, 2018

7 Posts: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Taking Responsibility

The ultimate theme of season 3 turned out to be taking responsibility.  I am not a huge fan of big season finale's necessarily, because I feel they often create a scenario where the show constantly has to top itself and yet, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" has managed to do that three times in ways that are both unexpected and predictable.  Anyone who watched the first episode would not have been terribly surprised to watch Rebecca stand up for herself in one relationship only to immediately turn around and make the choice to hook up with Josh mere seconds after they each left a relationship, and then just assume that this meant all the things were perfect.  
And it wasn't a surprise in retrospect that Josh would not marry her, would leave her at the altar, and vowing revenge was wonderful and right and also totally not the healthy choice.  
Rebecca realized that she felt guilty for having been absolved by her friends for the smaller transgressions, and decided in typical Rebecca fashion to go all in and confess all the things, leading to understandable hurt on the part of Paula, Nathan, and Josh.  Normally I would say the big gesture was Rebecca hoping to make herself feel better, and I think there was a little of that.  Confession is good for the soul, but there are some things that you confess to feel better about not having to keep the secret, not because anyone really needs to know what had happened.  And of course, there is always that hope that the truest of friends will hear the whole list and still forgive you.  Ultimately, I think it was partly Rebecca expecting to lose everyone, because she realized that she really had crossed boundaries (and legalities) and wanted to be punished because she doesn't really believe she deserves good things.  
So post confession, having been manipulated by Trent to show up at Nathan's housewarming party with his new girlfriend, because Trent threatened Nathan's life, she shoves Trent off a balcony and then ends up in a scenario where, as Nathan neatly sums it up, it looks like she showed up uninvited to one ex's party in order to attempt to kill another ex.  So, he suggests she make use of her new diagnosis and plead insanity.  But Rebecca, after singing an awesome duet with Nathan about how nothing is their fault, ultimately realizes that that's not the road she wants to take. So she pleads guilty.  
Season 4 is apparently the last season, so I fully expect that the creators are taking us on a final amazing journey. I'm so grateful for this show. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. I have often enjoyed local restaurant - now chain - Busboys and Poets, but this recent "race card" idea seems silly at best and potentially harmful especially without context or training for employees, and as some commenters mentioned when folks may just want food and not conversation. 
2. This piece provides some useful context to the recent "Roseanne" cancellation.  I can certainly see why it has shocked Barr to continue to be the harmful (under the guise of edgy) person she has been for some time and now have it suddenly have consequences.  But I think consequences for harmful behavior are not a bad thing.  
3. If you missed the Twitter thread about the world's tallest waffle stack, or even if you didn't, this story about the attempt is delightful. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Who Tells the Story

I spent part of the long weekend visiting family and two of my cousins started to tell a story about my brother that was about how he fell asleep in a boat without a life jacket and the boat capsized and he was stuck under the hull and my uncle was able to help get him out because he had a life jacket.  The story was apparently one my uncle brought up a lot which is amusing, whereas it sounded vaguely familiar to me so I asked my uncle later that day to tell me the story.  His version (and my mother was there too for corroboration) was that my parents had been out sailing and my brother (who I think was two or three at the time) had fallen asleep in the small space under the deck of the boat (it was a small boat, only a toddler would have fit under there).  The boat capsized (in my parent's defense, my uncle said they passed by a larger sailboat that was taking much of the wind and then as they pulled in front then caught all the wind so the wind on their boat shifted dramatically).  My mother - who had drilled into us always wear a life jacket, have it on and useful, because you never know - had her life jacket on.  My dad did not, so he surfaced quickly but was hanging onto the boat to stay afloat.  My uncle, who was passing by in a motorboat with a friend was wearing his life jacket.  His friend was not.  So it was my uncle and my mom who were able to dive under the boat and retrieve my brother who was wearing a life jacket but probably wasn't awake or aware of what was happening yet.  
The point of this is not to say that my cousins are bad at stories.  They are not.  But because this story had been turned into a repetitive learning opportunity for them it had taken on the tone of bla, bla, bla, yes, dad, you should always wear your life jacket and they did not recall enough to actually make it a useful story for them to pass on to anyone.  (I'm pretty sure that they have great stories to tell.  It will all be fine.)  
But it was an interesting reminder that people's ability to tell a story can be impacted by how it was told to them.  And why.  

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1.  The journalists at a local high school dug into the background of who the Montgomery County Schools are named after, and in particular, how many owned slaves. 
2.  Kilauea is erupting on the big island of Hawaii, which has created a number of interesting things.  Many tourists and even cruise ships assume the whole island is on fire, and there is an intriguing public reaction that something should be done, that I don't seem to find with things like hurricanes or earthquakes.  This interview talks a little about the perspective of some that, well, essentially, volcanoes gonna volcano.  And Pele will do her thing. 
3. For local folks there's an initiative on the ballot in June about the minimum wage for tipped workers.  This City Paper piece sums up many of the arguments for and against. Two of the podcasts in m rotation have covered tipping, including talking to Danny Meyer.  Freakanomics and the Sporkful.  I'm still reading up.  It will clearly affect prices anywhere tips are considered part of the equation, but I'm not convinced that should the primary concern. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

"Snow Child" at Arena Stage

I saw "Snow Child" at Arena Stage Friday.   Mabel  and Jack are homesteaders from Pennsylvania, who up and moved to Alaska in the 1920's after losing a child. They are not handling their first Alaskan winter as homesteaders well. They build a small snow man, a snow child, and dress it in a hat and scarf. Later a young girl accompanied by a fox shows up. The others don't believe Mabel, but she reads the snow child legend and believes it has come true. Their neighbors help them out, but also wonder if it might be best if Mabel and Frank went back and then they could take over their claim. 
There is use of puppetry as the fox, the horse, and other animals make their appearances on stage.
The music is appropriately old American. The songs were both wonderful and odd. It reminded me a bit of "Come From Away", in the sense that the songs sounded a little like something you'd probably heard before around a campfire. 
The cast was great. The musical is inspired by the book by Eowyn Ivey, which I have not read.  There's use of a term Merriam Webster informs me is Chinook for newcomers. That and a passing reference to there being natives somewhere is about all you'll get for any sense that there might be a long history of people in Alaska. This story is all settler.
This came through for me (and I'm paraphrasing because I did not write this down mid-song) the neighbors sing a long about the land belonging to those who get there first. Which, wow. Yes, that's how homesteaders felt, I'm sure. But that is some manifest destiny type thinking their for the folks who showed up in the 1920's to call themselves first. 
The musical is still enjoyable but it does require ignoring all of that. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. This ode to Amy Santiago on the now saved "Brooklyn 99" is fabulous. 
2. The, as it now stand, last RT convention is going on in Reno right now.  This post about cover censorship is now outdated, the resort updated or clarified their stance and the posters are being redone, but I think it's worth looking at, anyway, since posters in and on hotels are a thing I see at a lot of bookish events. 
3. This post about how reading romance can heal is wonderful. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Full Heart

Having begun working with teenagers, ahem, some time ago, many of them are no longer teens.  (Shocking news, people get older every day, story at eleven!)  I am well aware that being a small presence in these teens lives once a week and the occasional long weekend is the teeniest contribution to their lives.  I am also aware that they have all gone off and done various things, from parenthood to medical school to military service to cashier to still searching for that career path and that each of these is valid and awesome and some of them have (horrors) eschewed social media so keeping up on the specifics is tough.  
But this Sunday I, and others, had the amazing chance to watch one of them be ordained as a minister.  As such, I got to sit in the building where I first met her, surrounded by others, some who had watched her grow up, some who knew her from college, or post-college life, or seminary.  I listened to wonderful people talk about journeys, and leadership, and when sometimes someone elucidates the path you are travelling for you, and sometimes no one tells you but something inside you knows.  I listened to people talk about remembering your purpose even as people try to tell you their vision for you and what you should do next.  
We sang joyous songs and then we had the laying of the hands, and I came away just as filled with love and hope as I expect that our newly ordained minister was.  It is not the only or even most important thing one of my former youth kids could become, but it was one that let me participate in this step in the journey, revisit all those who showed up for this special moment, and for that I am very grateful. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

7 Posts: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - Trent

Oh Trent.  One of the things I think Trent does is take a look at how reversing the gender roles of an ex, changes the power dynamics.  Sure, you could argue that Trent and Rebecca never really dated, only fake dated to throw off Josh. But there are two things to note about that.  First, one could argue that boy I kissed while we were proximal to each other tens of years ago who then broke up with me and went back to his girlfriend is just as solid as girl who found my picture, used me as a stand in and then invited me to come visit her to make it look real.  Second, for every rom-com about a girl who does ridiculous things in pursuit of love, there is also one about folks who fake date and fall in love.  So, really, Trent's reasoning is flawed in exactly the same ways that Rebecca's is.  And quite honestly, nothing Trent has done, not researching her college experiences, not creating an intense data file, not trying to spike her wedding to Josh, and not even threatening Nathan to get her to show up somewhere, is really worse than any of the things Rebecca has done.  
The blackmailing Rebecca to let him live with her and bake them appetizers is possibly the only line Rebecca hasn't crossed, and I'm not even sure that is really true.  None of this is to suggest that Trent or Rebecca should engage in these behaviors.  But in the framework of the pursuit of love, we have been culturally conditioned to accept that a little boundary pushing is a sign of dedication.  I listened to a podcast with two screenwriters where they said rom-coms are where the hero does things that would be creepy if they weren't dating.  (Yeah, I deleted the rest of that episode.)  But that is a problem we are facing, there's a lot of pop culture premised on that idea.  You can say it's just a movie or just TV.  But it is not okay to stalk people.  It is not okay to threaten their friends and family, or blackmail them, or interfere in their relationships for the sole purpose of getting that person for yourself.  
Yes, the show is primarily through Rebecca's eyes, so the audience has a little bit more sympathy for her.  But Trent, in addition to being a wrench in Rebecca's plans, is also a mirror.  

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1.Cassie Sharp wrote a great post about being an author without author friends might lead to something like #cockygate.  (Pajiba has a good summary of #cockygate if you have missed that story in the last week.) 
2. This story of a trans-racial adoptee who found his birth mother after he had a health scare gave me many feels. 
3. I am highly amused by the story of condoms in Georgia that are outlawed.  

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

7 Posts: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - Change is hard

It's not like we needed a TV show to tell us change is hard, but I still enjoy how "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" explored that this year.  Many shows look at characters failing to change for an episode or two.  But this season we watched Rebecca try to change her whole life, only to discover she'd fallen into bad patterns with Nathan.  Watching the episode titles switch over from Josh to Nathan was another nice touch.  Paula found that she felt like a teen again she ran into Jeff Channing, (a name that is, ahem, very similar to Josh Chan) and ultimately realized that she liked the life and husband she had.  It wasn't a second choice, it was the right choice.  
Heather had to graduate and figure out who she was if she wasn't a student.  It turns out she's really good at managing things, so she ended up creating a new on site managerial program where she could watch the implementation of the changes she made at several regional stores.  Valencia after spending some time documenting Rebecca's recovery, ultimately parlayed her skills into party planning and also discovered love with a new lady, who reminded her that being from a small town wasn't a bad thing, small towns had made a lot of people.  
And Nathan tried to change and be a less hurtful person, but also tried to have his cake and eat it too, dating Mona and continuing to sleep with Rebecca.  Rebecca after breaking things off with Nathan, only to continue to sleep with him, finally decided that maybe they should try it for real, but was unable to stand in front of his door long enough to try to have a real conversation.  And her therapist expressed optimism that now that Rebecca had a diagnosis, they could make real progress, only to discover that Rebecca was still standing in her own way.  Josh found the loss of his dream job hard and struggled to find a purpose, finding bartending not for him, and trying out dancer at a gay bar, and then DJing for Valencia.  When he expressed concern to his mom after she demanded he clean out the last closet of his stuff at his parents' house and get out, she finally broke it down for him, it was time to move on and also his parents wanted to have sex in the house again.  
So everyone made changes to differing levels of success, and many characters reverted to bad behaviors.  And Nathan, White Josh, and Josh reminded us that guys with abs have problems too. 

Monday, May 07, 2018

Writers and Knitters and Sheep

My writers chapter had a meeting on Saturday, and while some of it was chapter business stuff, some of it was story structure and marketing with Kimberly Kincaid, and both that, and the chance to hang with writer peeps and discuss writer things was wonderful. And then Sunday I went up to Maryland Sheep and Wool with some writer friends and it is always fun to go with someone new to it all, who has never seen all the things and to make sure they get to see our faves but also have space to discover their own. I had not realized that Brooks Farm was packing it in after this show (likely just as well, I usually hit them first and it's not good if I just bust my pretend budget fast). I talked later with a friend about some other yarn folk that have come and gone since we've been festivaling. It is the festival circuit, but it's nice and fun to spend all this time with folks that like crafts of various types.

Friday, May 04, 2018

7 Posts: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - The Many Passions

In the first season Rebecca's dream ghost, that looked just like Dr. Akopian, told her that love comes in many forms, and it can be a passion.  One of the things the show has subtly displayed is that Rebecca has been relentlessly pursuing things, but usually either her job or a boyfriend.  So we know Rebecca fell in love in college and when that fell apart, she was unable to continue there, and after some hospitalization, she ended up at a different high powered institution.  Then she ended up at a high powered law firm where she had done well enough to make partner even though the idea of being partner gave her a panic attack.  So, she runs into Josh, upends her life to move across the country and be a lawyer at a much less high powered firm, but where she will have time to pursue to the fullest extent possible, Josh.  And when the Josh thing didn't work, she then ended up with Nathan (and I know that Greg was in there too, and I'm not forgetting him, but she wasn't done with the Josh dream during the Greg phase).  And then she realized she was repeating patterns, trying to micromanage and level up their relationship by granting him the dream sibling he didn't know he had (because he didn't).  And when she realized that was a bad pattern she ended things with him.  She tried working for Valencia, but was unable to do that without butting into client's lives, so she decides it's time to go back to work.  Only she had forgotten that she had quit (or her mom had quit for her while drugging her, which was a nice nod to continuity, a lot of shows would have skimmed over that while we all wondered if she was using FMLA or what).  So, then she enacts a plan to get the firm back from Nathan.  (Who then continues to work there.  It is still a TV show.)  But then she and Nathan resume the sexual part of their relationship which Rebecca decides is totally not the same as her repeating old patterns.  
All of this is to say that a lot of shows about working women do that great at her job, terrible with feelings thing.  She's a tough boss at work, but her home life is out of control.  And in this case Rebecca is, well, she's clearly a very good lawyer, but there's something to be examined in that she's in a profession where thinking creatively about the truth and manipulating people are lauded skills.  My point is not that lawyers lie or cheat, my point is that Rebecca lies and cheats, and it turns out to be a sometimes lauded skillset as a lawyer, but it makes her not always a great friend or girlfriend.  Or party planner.  And Rebecca flips from job to guy when one isn't working for her. And back again.  

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. Bim Adewunmi does great work, so this discussion of three black women working in and for Kensington and how that fits into the larger discussion romance is having is wonderful. 
2. This look at the work Zeynep Tufecki has been doing about technology and surveillance was very interesting. 
3. And knitting is good for you study finds. 

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

7 Posts: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - Josh and Hector

There was an interesting progression with Josh and Hector in season 3.  In season 1, Josh was back from New York, back with Valencia, back at a job he didn't like.  And then, he got his dream job at Aloha selling electronics, moved in with Valencia, and then well, the relationship stuff changed around a bit, but in some ways, Josh seemed to have found the correct path.  Meanwhile Hector lived at home with his mom, said it was fine since she was his best friend, and they had a relationship podcast together.  Hector and Heather began dating and it honestly seemed like that might be shortlived.  Heather is pretty unsparing in her assessment of people's choices, and yet, they now seem incredibly suited.  Hector is so incredibly steady that he isn't insulted by Heather's truthiness.  Meanwhile Josh, on probation from Aloha, then bounced from job to job, and now without a girlfriend to live with or a steady income had moved back home.  Josh's parents were not excited for him to live with them.  And so, when Josh's mom kicked him out, and he bonded a little more tightly with Hector's mom, Hector realized that it was strange watching his mom bond so tightly with his friend and maybe he was ready to move in with his girlfriend.  
And Hector was great with Heather through her surrogate pregnancy, and now, something that seemed like a shortlived relationship now looks like the most obvious thing.  Meanwhile Josh is still job hopping, and now living with Hector's mom.  So, Hector has progressed forward and Josh has backslid.  

Monday, April 30, 2018

"Two Trains Running" at Arena Stage

Friday night I saw August Wilson's "Two Trains Running" at Arena Stage.  It is part of Wilson's Pittsburgh cycle, it premiered in the 1990's but takes place in 1969.  It looks at seven characters and takes place entirely in a diner in what had been a thriving black neighborhood, and now the city is buying up land for urban renewal.  The characters are the diner and building owner, Memphis, his apparently sole staff member Risa, retired house painter Holloway, thriving funeral parlor owner West, Hambone, and recently released from penitentiary but full of big plans Sterling.  
I can be hard to know how to contextualize a play written in the 1990's and set in the 1960's.  It felt (and looked) of it's time.  The language and concerns seemed of the 1960's.  The characters are interesting and each unique as they try to figure out what's next.  Holloway is mostly retired from house painting and seems to be in the diner all day.  (And kudos' to the costume designer, his shoes all had paint splatters, as did some of his pants.)  Memphis is pleased with himself for owning his building, even if clientele in the diner has sadly declined, because if the city is going to pay him, then all good.  West is doing well with the funeral business, but also wants to buy Memphis' building.  He promises he'll pay more than the city.  Hambone speaks mostly in the repetitive phrase, "I want my ham," based on a long running disagreement with a local business owner who had promised him a ham for a good paint job and then never gave him the ham. Wolf runs numbers, using the diner as one spot people know to come find him to place their bets. Sterling has big plans, seemingly shifting a little each day.  But Holloway is getting a different story from Sterling's former employers.  Rissa works hard and well, she speaks little.  She has scarred legs, possibly done as an attempt to scare off a portion of suitors.  Having recently watched the live performance of "Jesus Christ Superstar" I was a little reminded of Mary Magdalene, in that her purpose is mostly to support others.  Here quite a few of them men express interest - current or past - in Risa's form.  Risa is constantly bringing people coffee, pie, and other food.  Or cleaning up after them.  And certainly, as a server in the diner, that is her job.  But we don't really get the same sense of what Risa wants out of life. Risa is wonderfully kind to Hambone, and very patient with everyone else, even West who constantly asks her for sugar he doesn't use.  
The production was staged in the round and worked well.  In the scene transitions one or occasionally two characters were spotlit while they performed some repetitive motion, to give the audience something to look at as the stage hands reset things, and other characters shifted into new positions.  The ones where the character did something percussive to the beat of the transition music to my eye worked better than some of the more ethereal dance move looking ones.  But that is a matter of taste.  
Overall it was a great performance.  

Saturday, April 28, 2018

7 Posts: Crazy Ex Girlfriend - The office mates

This year we dug a little deeper into some of the office mates that were not Paula, Nathan, or Darryl.  It's hard to succinctly describe the amazingness of Tim singing a song of the grief he experiences learning his wife has never orgasmed with him, or Maya's weird millennial quips that still are on point, such as her note to Paula about seeking more female mentors but needing to be on the side of consent.  Nathan tries to take advantage of Rebecca (via her mom) quitting by hiring a new lawyer who is great at lawyering but turns out to be unable to handle the barrage of emotional support the various co-workers at the firm need. 
And returning to our more well-known office mates, some of the separation of Paula and Rebecca has been great.  Paula learned that her family has to work around her, and her co-workers all think she's the office bitch.  She brings in Sunil to get someone who is on her side, and finds he sides with the others. He tells her she is so used to giving out office criticism, she's not prepared to deal with and appreciate good work, only able to seek the flaws.  

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. This interview with the founder of Duende District a flourishing pop-up bookstore is great, and I say that not just because her awesome lyrical description of the two DC's. 
2. The Vanity Fair piece on the discussion around some of the quotes used from prominent black women in a book about hate, looks at how misattribution and taking a tiny piece of what someone said, devoid the larger context can in fact support the bad structure we should be dismantling. 
3. And Mary Kathryn Nagle spoke about the next play she is working on.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Universal Fancon, the Con That Isn't

So, I had tickets to Universal FanCon for this upcoming weekend.  I was excited to see an intentionally inclusive con show up in my general vicinity, I had been thrilled at the guest list and the delightful accessibility of the schedule.  (Seriously folks, I love a good user friendly schedule in ways that are a little unbecoming.) And while I was checking in on Twitter at the WRW retreat (no I am not addicted to Twitter) I saw a post about postponement.  Now, tracking back, many things have been deleted or updated such that it is a bit hard.  But there had been a kickstarter to get the con going, and apparently a note had gone out to the backers (which I was not one) after one of the hotels had notified congoers that the con was not happening next week.  That was Friday.  It took until Saturday for me, a non-backer, but paid pass holder, to get a passive note that said as I was aware the con had been postponed and they were working on next steps.  
Now, I am going to point you to this post, which details some threads I did see on Twitter (some of which are now deleted) and some I did not.  It is abundantly clear mistakes were made, cancelling a con you've been selling tickets to with only a week's notice barring some catastrophic event is clearly only going to be a result of mismanagement.  
Sidenote: There is a pop-up con, Wicomicon and some other events now happening this weekend in Baltimore.  Many folks had non-refundable travel plans, and/or merchandise already en route to Baltimore so kudos to the folks who have worked to provide that.  Also, for other local peeps, my friends have gone to Blerdcon and enjoyed it, it's in July.  
I want to talk about crappy communication.  I heard about Universal FanCon on Twitter, so perhaps learning about it's demise on Twitter is apropos.  I don't know how others heard about it, but the assumption that I had heard already about a cancellation they had done nothing to communicate to me previously was maddening.  They had no way of knowing I had heard it was "postponed".  Also, to me postponed means we have this alternate date in mind and as soon as the contracts are signed we'll give it to you.  What is clear, from the deletions and the now updated and expanded message on the FanCon site, they planned something they didn't know how to support.  So, basically, this isn't a date problem, this is a bad plan problem, and they don't have any way to hold the same thing on a different date, they can't hold the thing they promised. They just can't.  
I get that this happens.  Sometimes the people with the big dreams are the people who keep assuming someone else is tallying costs.  I can't even imagine what the costs are needed to support such a thing, but I also know, there was a way to know sooner than last Friday that there was a problem.  There was a way to communicate to people better, and more effectively than sending a passive aggressive email on Saturday that says, we guess you heard, we'll work on better communication, that was then followed by radio silence.  The updated message on the website now promises further information by April 25th.  That is a ridiculous amount of silence.  I know their email must be overwhelmed.  But you must be kidding me.  They haven't even addressed some of the most basic questions. 
The lessons to be learned here are about communicating better and I don't think the excuse that the hotel forced them to reveal too soon is sufficient.  I get that people have family and other jobs, I get that tough messages suck to give out, but to be this many days and to mostly have only a nebulous something will happen and maybe we'll give your money back this many days later is absolutely unacceptable.  
I am lucky, I am just out tickets since I am close enough that I can train up, and I tend to be loosey goosey with pre-booking train tickets.  I also paid by credit card, so I have some options as far as recouping my costs.  I'm a little bummed that I decided not to attend AwesomeCon this year, since I was trying to not do all the things, but I'm going to still have a great weekend.  

Monday, April 23, 2018

WRW Retreat

I went to the Washington Romance Writers Retreat - In the Company of Writers - this weekend. I had a wonderful time. Sonali Dev gave a great speech Friday night about how being a chatty child taught her the power of being a storyteller. There was a No Stupid Questions panel about networks and resources for writers. Lani Diane Rich talked about story structure. There was a wonderful YA panel with Mary Strand, Jen Malone, Katy Upperman, and Pintip Dunn. 
I did some volunteering in the afternoon and also participated with the critique workshop. It is possible I won an award for my service running the critique matchup list. Okay, fine, I did. And I appreciate it. 
We did American Author and Katharine Ashe gave a speech about owning her dream to be a romance writer. There was Romance Jeopardy which was heated and terribly unfair. 
Katharine Ashe also talked about habits writers fall into and how to bust them. And Tim Bentler-Jungr returned to wrest final introduction duties back from Mary Strand and Lori Ann Bailey talked about how all her failed dreams led her to romance writing. 
It was a great weekend and as is often the case I didn't get to talk to everyone as much as I wanted but that is kind of the best problem to have. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

7 Posts: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - An actual diagnosis

Trigger warnings for mentions of suicide and other mental illness.  Spoiler warnings for season  3 of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend". 

"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" has been taking a hard look at some of the behavior that gets lauded as kooky in some romantic comedy and what it might mean to be a person who actually does these things.  Season 2 ended with Josh leaving Rebecca at the altar and Rebecca promising revenge and season 3 starts with us learning that Rebecca's initial plans for revenge are, well, they are not great.  After sleeping with Nathan, kidnapping Josh's mom, and then sleeping with Greg's dad after an accidental butt dial, Rebecca realizes she might possibly have ruined everything and goes home to her mom.  In case you couldn't remember where some of Rebecca's bad coping behaviors come from, Rebecca discovers her mom has been drugging her.  Rebecca ultimately overdoses on the medication in an attempt to commit suicide. In the hospital, afterwords, they are able to diagnose her with borderline personality disorder. 
Once Rebecca accepts the diagnosis, she goes all in on being the bestest patient.  I think the show does a really fabulous job of straddling the line between being humorous and yet serious, and I think this season has really tested that.  Rachel's borderline personality disorder is shown as serious, and yet, they also show how some of the tendencies and behaviors are the things that got her through law school and made her successful.  The idea of your strengths also being your weaknesses is often explored in superhero stuff and only played for laughs, haha, that neatfreak, in other shows.  
And, incredibly realistically, Rebecca's diagnosis doesn't solve her problems.  It just gives them context.  

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has both resources and a hotline with English, Spanish, and hard of hearing options. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1.  I am hopeful that the DC Metropolitan Police Department's new training program with the National Museum of African American History and Culture will be helpful. As with other groups working on plans to teach employees about race, it won't solve everything, but it is a helpful step.  Hopefully the police chief is attending a course also. 
2. My most pervasive harassment experience (and I am super lucky) involved a concert where I, among other things, had my butt pinched so repeatedly I was bruised the next day.  Music festivals create an experience that is easy for predators to capitalize on, and have you ever tried finding an employee for help in a crowd of dancing bodies?  It's not easy.  So Teen Vogue's report on what it's like at Coachella saddened but did not surprise me.  Link includes info for RAINN, if you need assistance or more info on sexual assault. 
3. Cark Kassel passed away this week.  This memoriam from the team at NPR is warm and wonderful and contains the most delightful closing photograph, 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

RIP Harry Anderson

I feel like I often reference shows that aired on reruns in the early evening. But amusingly, as someone who hates binging shows, I will watch a rerun of a beloved or even just be liked show over and over, and I think that's in part a function of how I learned to watch TV. The streaming generation will approach it differently. 
So I have seen every episode of "Night Court" multiple times. I remember all the bailiffs. I loved it. Loved it to pieces. When the pilot episode got posted up for streaming I watched afraid. So many things don't stand the test of time. But this did. I laughed. I remembered what I loved and hated about all the characters. And so I am sorry to hear of the passing of Harry Anderson. He brought me so much joy. I wish his family and friends the best. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Root of the Problem

Most have heard about the two men arrested for calmly sitting in a Starbucks in Philadelphia.  Calling the police on people sitting in your establishment - an establishment that has tables, chairs, and wi-fi, aka an establishment you have clearly designed to encourage folks to linger in is incorrect.  
I also think the policies that we've put into place where police are required to respond to all calls, so that nothing slips through the cracks, and that police officers seem encouraged to use discretion only when it turns out there are white people causing problems, is wrong.  
I do not think this is a problem that is created by the policies of any given coffee shop.  I think this is a huge societal problem, it is the same thing that leads store security to more closely examine shoppers of color, it is the same thing that leads to folks of color being harassed or arrested for lingering near an ATM, it is the same thing that leads to policies like stop and frisk.  So, yes, I think this is a problem.  Yes, I hope Starbucks issues better guidelines to store managers about handling customers.  And yes, I think we need to stop calling the police every time anyone does anything that seems inconvenient. 
One of the things that this study from last year found looking at things like stop-and-frisk is that the "out of place" mentality, ie, I assumed that those black people lingering by the ATM were planning to rob the bank, not trying to use the ATM, or otherwise exhibiting customer behavior because I assume black people don't bank in this neighborhood.  Or I assume these people are planning to cause trouble and not waiting to meet a friend in this coffee shop because they are black.  This doesn't ever happen in reverse.  You don't have situations where white people are the minority and they get arrested or hassled for lingering by the ATM or sitting in a coffee shop too long, even though we all know there are parts of cities where white people are less common.  So, this idea of the out of place policing, it only ever gets used against black and brown citizens.  It has no basis in fact or statistics, it does nothing to make anyone safer, and at that point you have to conclude, it's just another excuse to support white supremacy. So, yes, think hard before you call the police. The white supremacy involved in these policies is a feature and not a bug. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Let's Go Steal a Podcast

I had the pleasure of appearing on  Let's Go Steal a Podcast, a "Leverage" podcast, to discuss "The Stork Job" aka an episode about Parker!  (Fine the rest of the gang is there too.)  It was a lot of fun to revisit this episode of this great show. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. An author travelling to the US was sent back.  Certainly authors and public figures are not the only ones I wish were treated better when trying to come and share with Americans, but it is still concerning that our system is this inconsistent.  
2. Also in writing related news, it appears some of the common MFA program rules for writing are based in anti-communism efforts spearheaded by the CIA.  
3. DC has been working to curb new HIV infection rates with a prophylactic drug program known as Prep

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

We Weren't Really Arguing About Data Anyway

One of the things that frustrates me anytime some guy writes a company memo about how women are biologically inferior for some tasks, some new author shows up to explain that men or boys don't read because too many of the books out there have girl cooties, or to ask if black romance authors even exist and write great things at rates similar to their non-black counterparts, is that then we spend a lot of time going for the data.  
Like, actually, back when we thought coding was boring secretarial work, the field was almost entirely women.  So, actually, women and girls read more by a lot, but books about boys and men are still over-represented when it comes to awards.  And maybe, just like we kept arguing that girls and women can read about boys and men, maybe the reverse should be just as true.  And yeah, there are black romance authors and yes they write books worthy of awards.  
We aren't really talking about data.  The dude who wrote that corporate memo, I swear to you has no data to back this up.  And when you listen to TV show making folks say, well, now some networks really want you to try to cast diversely and it's super hard because their just aren't good non-white actors, that's BS too.  I'm sure there are crappy non-white actors.  But I've seen plenty of crappy or mediocre white actors get roles and no one blames the depth of the casting pool on that.  So, again, these are pretend arguments.  I don't want to say don't show up with data.  Because there is someone who didn't know that coding used to be predominately female.  There is someone who didn't know that girls, especially black girls, read more, if we really want to talk about representation.  There are people who maybe didn't know some romance was written by black people.  But remember it isn't really about facts.  
The patriarchy and white supremacy are big strong systems that have only survived this long by convincing people there must be some biological differences that also affect the brain.  There must be some reason.  The fact that the first tool in their bag is bigotry isn't really a surprised.  We are all surrounded by this.  It takes work to unpack it.  Because let's face it, there's no way that this is the first sexist thing that memo dude did.  The women he worked with were, I'm guessing, only shocked by the overtness of the memo.  They already knew he thought they were inferior.  Just like John McEnroe can look at everything Serena Williams has done and still, be certain, that he played better, harder, and faster than she did.  The data does not support this on any level.  But that wasn't a discussion about data.  That was really about McEnroe and his feelings.  Even good old NPR did a piece on the lack of black writers winning RITAs and interviewed...a non-black writer to talk about it.  
And that gets me to the final part of this.  If you want to play the mountain molehill game and pretend that memo dude just wrote down some thoughts.  That every male author who swears they are saving some portion of books for the poor boys who can't find books about boys to read. That every guy who swears it's ridiculous for him to be fired if he maybe accidentally grabbed someone's ass at a professional event one time.  It's never one time.  It isn't.  (We could also argue that making your co-workers feel unsafe one time is enough, but that is a whole other discussion.)  You get to a place where you feel cool saying and doing these things because lots of time when you do, others nod.  They smile.  And you may miss that half of them were gritting their teeth, or sucking it up, because the landscape is littered with people who reported these things to the powers that be and watched nothing happen.  Or were retaliated against.   You get to a place where you feel like you've addressed the diversity problem because you talked to an author of color, even though they weren't of the group you supposedly wanted to talk about the discrimination of.  Close enough.  That's not a data problem.  It's a basic societal problem. 

Friday, April 06, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1.  This discussion of how Orientalism is still pretty mainstream in US entertainment is correct. 
2. Teach Me Tonight posted a link to some of the conversations about the RITA awards and race
3. I snapped up Dread Nation this week (and folks, I do not like zombie books) so enjoyed this interview with author Justina Ireland

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Big problems in My Home Chapter

So, I am going to talk about a thing that happened. I am going to offer a lot of disclaimers and be vague about some things not to protect myself. But because this is one example of a bigger thing that RWA needs to work on and that chapters need to work on. 
Earlier this year there was a chapter meeting with a guest speaker. I did not attend. Several of my friends in the chapter did. 
I heard about it very quickly.   
The speaker had been disorganized and rambly. That happens not infrequently with writers asked to speak alone for long periods. Not everyone is the best judge of how many hours they can fill. It was a single speaker scheduled for the whole day. Some people left after lunch which happens a lot, people have busy schedules. 
In the afternoon session was where things got problematic. The speaker made a comment about how political correctness made humor hard and then followed it up with another statement that began, "I'm not a racist, but...". 
I know that in the room people were uncomfortable. I know that some people were there for there very first meeting. And several talked amongst themselves after the meeting. Some of the newbies reached out to the membership chair and were encouraged to reach out to the board and some discussion occurred on the chapter loop after. 
The ultimate decision of the board was to add a disclaimer that speakers so not represent the views of the chapter and to set up a specific complaint email so it's easy for folks to see where to complain. 
Several things were clear to me as a result of this: 
I totally believe that what this speaker said was a problem. 
Not everyone in the room or on the chapter's board did. 
The response of the board was insufficient at best. 
We lost members as a result and we deserved to. 
I also think we as a group can and should be better and I decided, for the time being, to remain a member to push for change. 
Volunteer run organizations all have resource issues and that does mean not everyone is equipped or ready to handle problems. That doesn't excuse bad responses, and the fact that I think everyone involved meant well doesn't change the fact that no one should pay our chapter money so they can go to meeting that causes harm. 
A lot of the work we need to do will need to happen behind the scenes and I'm well aware that it will take time and I also have thought about where my personal line is that I will walk with my money rather than stay and push. I do have one. But I also have more positive experiences on the scale and cannot as I said expect anyone to give our chapter the benefit of the doubt when we haven't earned it. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

7 Reasons You Might Not Have Noticed

The RWA board released the following statement Friday. There were (and continue to be) a variety of reactions.  It's not a fix.  But acknowledging the problem is the first step.  Some authors asked about other authors of color, Native, etc.  We're not going to fix all of this quickly, but steps are being taken and that's good.  As long as we don't stay stuck in the information gathering phase, then good.  
And some of the reactions were, sigh.  So, here's seven reasons you might not have noticed that there has never been a black author winning a RITA (that wasn't a lifetime achievement) or wondered openly on the internet if there even are black romance authors.  Or readers
1. You're white.  Some of you just recoiled.  They don't have to be.  They just might not have noticed.  I know. There are six more reasons.  But if you joined an organization it's just normal to look around either before or after you joined and look for people who look like you.  Yes that look like you can take many forms:  gender expression, class expression, age, ability, and so on.  But if you didn't notice if there were black people in the organization, if your first response was maybe there aren't black authors, I'm going to assume you are white.  
2.  You are new to North America.  That may seem a big jump, but between We Need Diverse Books and #WeNeedDiverseRomance and #OscarsSoWhite there has been a ton of discussion about how media in North America does not honor and award creators of color at a similar rate to white ones.  Now publishing is, in my humble opinion, doing a tiny bit better with Asian Americans, than Hollywood is, but that's a discussion that's been going on. The Ripped Bodice has been collecting numbers on authors for two years.  And those numbers are pretty similar to the kids books numbers that get published every year too. RWA acknowledging the issue and taking steps to gather better data is joining into a larger discussion already in progress.  
3. You're new to RWA.  Like so new.  So new you don't remember when Brenda Jackson was the first black RITA award winner, or when Beverly Jenkins was the second.  Both for lifetime achievement.  
4. You don't read.  I mean, look, some people are visually impaired and not everything works great with assistive devices, but RWA has posted studies on romance readers.  If you are still playing the there aren't any black romance readers game, then you must not read.  In fact there were questions on the survey results, since several authors felt it likely undercounted readers of color.   
5. All your friends are white.  Maybe there isn't a local chapter where you are.  Or there is but your chapter is very white.  Somehow you've managed to exist in RWA without noticing folks that aren't white.  Or are black.  
6. All your readers are white.  This isn't a fault thing. You can't help who your readers are. But if all your readers are white, when the most read folks often aren't, well, that might mean your marketing is bad.  Also, since I was just at a huge reader event, I will tell you this also means you haven't been to a multi-author event, like say even the RWA Literacy signing.  
7.  You don't like money.  I don't want to conflate readers and authors.  Black authors don't only write black characters, and black readers don't only read black characters.  But part of the larger discussion is that it's a vicious circle.  If RWA honors great romance books and yet seems to ignore those by black authors, then readers have to wonder how useful the awards are.  It will likely never be perfect, there are whole years you couldn't pay me to see any of the Oscar nominated movies, but it's ridiculous to pretend this isn't something we should work on.  But if you still think, today, that there aren't black readers looking for romance, then you are willfully ignoring a segment of the reading population.  You can do that.  There are plenty of authors who do.  But RWA is seeking to serve more authors than that.  For which I am grateful.  

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. More states are working to include tampons and period related supplies as health items (rather than beauty, etc) which exempts them from sales tax
2. I have not yet watched "Rise" even though it is a show about singing that involves a main character who is played by an actress of Pacific Islander heritage (aka this should be so far in my wheelhouse) but I heard it took a bit to gain footing, and well, this may be part of it, as it looks how the lead adult is that guy who thinks he's a great ally...and isn't.  
3. A Muslim focused sex ed group has started.  One of the things they specifically mentioned is for those who are strictly observant, these bodily things don't need shame attached.  We tend to confuse sexual modesty with never talking about having bodies at all, and that helps no one. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Apollycon 2018

I was at Apollycon as a friend's author assistant this weekend.  As such, I didn't see any panels, and mostly participated in the signings and some of the social stuff.  It is a ginormous event.  There were something like 500 authors and about 1500 attendees, so it was big and at one point Saturday as we were gathering stuff up, we saw the line starting and it was impressive.  I can't really speak to how well it worked as a reader, since the advantage of having the assistant badge was that I got to skip a lot of lines and lines are always the part where I start hating everyone.  I did watch one volunteer take over management for a cover model who had developed a big line and keep that line moving and make sure that people got their books signed and photos taken all while keeping as much out of the way of the other lines as they could.  So, I saw folks jumping in and trying to make everyone's experience great. 
I had told a few authors, if this had been a thing when I was a book nerd teenager, oh wow, would I have been all over this.  
All in all I got to say hi to a few authors in the off hours, meet - adjacently - a ton of awesome readers - seriously there were people getting bags, canvases, wooden letters, autograph books, ereader covers, custom photo books, and other paraphernalia signed.  Some even had bios, book covers, and/or pull quotes for each author.  And seeing that much book love, all in one room, was just amazing.  

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1.  Melissa Harris-Perry spoke about how we respond to rage based on race and how recent protests delineate that. 
2. Author Katherine Locke pointed out this story of the tire store that declared an author writer in residence after she found their waiting room where she got her best words. 
3. This suggestion that Sandra Bullock's outfits in "While You Were Sleeping" are secret sleep messages intrigues me. 

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.  

Monday, March 12, 2018

NoVa Teen Bookfest 2018

I went to the NoVa Teen Bookfest on Saturday and the guest list was just amazing.  I foolishly thought I was safe because I already had Dhonielle Clayton's The Belles, Tomi Adeyumi's The Children of Blood and Bone, and a number of these other books in my bookpile.  Silly me.  
The magic panel talked about the issues of developing a magic system, and how having friends who can tell you what you really need to make things grow, or to start up a windstorm is helpful.  The power panel talked about using power for good and evil, and how often their main characters had been told their power is one thing, and discover it's another.  The anthology panel talked about the challenges of how to order anthologies, and how sometimes crafting a narrative means fighting against the front and backloading that the publisher might want.  The climb panel talked about the querying process and how each of them had gotten their start.  Mary Rand Hess and Kwame Alexander talked about teaming up to co-write for Solo. And the thriller panel talked about creating tension and also, in some cases making room for humor.  
I had to miss the keynote so I could head somewhere else, but heard it was awesome.  This was their fifth year, and it was just great.  

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. The internet works in mysterious ways, as this story of a girl who discovered her orthodontist had a tumblr after a post about her made it to her shows. 
2. Kevin Love's post about a panic attack he had mid-game is as interesting as everyone had said. 
3. As someone who lives in a small space, I confess discovering others find them preferable makes me feel better. 

Monday, March 05, 2018

Passion And Prose

Politics and Prose had another romance panel last Tuesday.  This one included Mia Sosa, Eloisa James, Beverly Jenkins, and Lisa Kleypas moderated by NPR's own Petra Mayer. Sosa has written contemporary, Jenkins and Kleypas have written both contemporary and historical, and James has written historical.  The new releases for all but Sosa were historical though, so things tipped a little more in that direction.  They talked about active consent on the part of their heroines being an intentional choice.  They mentioned that we today, often think consent, and fun and interesting sexual positions are all modern things, but, to paraphrase Jenkins, people have been having all kinds of sex, all kinds of ways, for all time.  They also talked about how some of the romances from the 1970's that were a little lax on consent, did so in response to a specific cultural moment.  It was a time where good girls weren't supposed to have and enjoy sex, but if someone came a long and tied them to the bed until they orgasmed, well then.  And that therefore romances of today, whether historical or contemporary, are responding to the idea that consent can be hot and sexy.  There was also mention that dubious or non-consensual things have their time and place, and no one worries that people will read spy novels and think they know how to be a spy, but people do worry very much about what romance readers are learning. 
This led to a discussion that if you unpack some of the what will people learn from reading romances is this fear of women experiencing normal sexual desire.  That no one polices male desire being anywhere and everywhere, but what if women (or non-men) are just out there in public aroused?  They unpacked this further, talking about how this fear is also rooted in fear of people asking for what they want.  Not just in the bedroom, but outside.  
The audience questions were great.  Many people wanted updates or news on favorite characters.  And the signing was a hoot.  If you've every been to a multi-author signing you know there is often a glut.  Folks have their two or three faves of the four, and then it's weird to be stuck standing in front of author 4.  While James and Kleypas stuck to seats (and author tour, folks, I get it) Jenkins and Sosa began working their way down the line.  
I had a great moment not only getting a great author panel, but also getting to see writer friends, author friends, book club friends, and even a church friend.  

Friday, March 02, 2018

Live "It's Been a Minute" Podcast Taping

They held a live taping of "It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders" at NPR headquarters last week and I was there.  So I have seen Aunt Betty, have learned that Sam tapes shoeless, which was fun for us all, and got to watch the taping, which included some stops and starts, and some pickups, but generally felt like a live episode of the show.  They had solicited live best thing that happened to me moments, so we got to watch some people giving those, along with listening to some of them.  
Now having listened to the episode, some of the non-news chatter was cut down for the podcast/show version but mostly it was an in person version of the show you get to listen to.  (No big surprise there.)  It was still fun, and one audience member lad a long but ultimately incredibly touching Best Thing.  (Since that didn't seem to make it into the episode, her family invited some new co-workers over for a game night since their dog had passed away and the house felt too quiet.  The co-workers were new to the US, and said that the night felt exactly like what they had imagined watching game nights on American TV.  And so they felt so touched that this thing they had done to distract themselves, had also been so big for these new friends.)
As we listened to the previously submitted best things, one involved an important question for another listener and a few folks started looking around to see if that person was there, which triggered an large reaction as others turned to see what everyone else was looking at.  (Nothing, so we all will need to wait on that one.) 
I listen to a limited number of straight news podcasts, mostly because so much of my news comes from other forms, but this one snuck onto my list, and I enjoy both the news roundups and the one-on-one interviews. I am sad that Sam is abandoning us for the other coast, but hope he gets lured back soon. 

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. This roundtable with the four African American directing nominees is great. 
2. This 92 year old woman has a part in "Black Panther" which is amazing in part because she decided to begin pursuing acting 4 years ago. 
3. I am intrigued by the decision on the part of Dick's Sporting Goods to stop carrying certain guns and to increase the age for purchase. People often cite the change to the Tylenol and other pain reliever caps after a poisoning incident, but that was a decision made, like this decision from Dick's (and now Walmart) by the business not by the government.  I have concerns about leaving these safety choices solely up to businesses, but am interested that they have decided the potential negative publicity is worse than the money in the long run. (Also, let's remember someone was shot in a Walmart for having a toy gun and Walmart didn't think that meant they should make changes.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Open Letter to "Live With Kelly and Ryan"

Dear Live Team, 
I love this show.  I watched back when it was "Live with Regis".  I watched on days off from school and summers through that Kathy Lee years.  Once I had a job, I actually arranged my schedule so that I could watch the host chat.  I did eventually get a job that was a little less flexible and had to go back to days off. Once I got a DVR, that helped.  And then my job changed to telecommuting.  And the best perk, in my opinion, was being able to have Regis and Kelly, Kelly and Michael, and then Kelly and Ryan on in the background. 
I recognize that contracts and allegations are tricky things. But I cannot in good conscience continue to watch a show that features a sexual harasser as a host.  The show has often invited on guest who where known abusers and harassers.  I usually turned the TV off for those, but could at least enjoy the host chat. 
I know ABC is deeply linked to Ryan Seacrest, but this is the show that I will miss, because victims are more important, especially when the people abusing them have instead of owning up, been using their platform instead to defend themselves and cause further harm to their victims.  Hopefully a change in hosts will make the news, since I won't be able to watch the show.  
I really do love the crew at Live, and appreciate the entertainment you've brought me over the years, but I have to put victims first.  
Tara K
Note: Above is the text of the email I sent to the show yesterday.  After reading this interview I was unable to continue enjoying the show, and since I had talked about it here, I wanted to post this here too. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Feats of Success and Failure

I signed up for the Ravellenics this year.  Even though I had a shawl in progress, a sweater in progress, and some other floaty WIPS, I decided to start a new sweater.  And about the final Wednesday I freaked out.  I was just starting the first sleeve, I wasn't sure I had enough yarn to match the stripes in the body and wanted some time to figure that out, and well, the number of days left was not good.  I had enough yarn to make one sleeve match, as it turns out, but miscalculated how much I needed to make the second sleeve match and well, kept going along.  I decided that the neckline counted as finishing, so I just needed to get the sleeves done and I did and took a picture and then still had time Sunday so started work on the neck.  And then some niggling thing made me check the rules.  Midnight in Korea had been, well, it was several hours past, so oops.  This was my fault for not double checking the absolutely clearly posted time.  So, the sweater is ready for blocking and I don't get a medal and it's just a cute art symbol, and I still have a sweater and I'm still a little sad at myself. 
I watched the mass start cross country 30k for women, one of the final events of the Olympics on Sunday, and one skiier broke out in front fast and basically could not be caught.  It was amazing.  So the race was really on for second, third, and the rest.  A clump of skiers had broken away and two of them were firmly racing for second and they hit a turn and one went straight and one turned and it turns out only one of them was right.  They showed in the overhead shot, you could see both of them sort of look at the other like, wait, it's this way, right? So, the one who went the wrong way then had to get guidance from the race crew as to how she should make her way back, and in the end the skiier she had been neck and neck with got second and she was eighth.  I live in the city I grew up in and there are still days where I am like we should go this way, and others are like no that way, and they are correct.  It seems a lot to ask that as a high caliber athlete you should also have to keep an eye out for errant turns. But, rules are rules.  Wrong turn skiier did really well when you consider she skiied a bit more than everyone else, and hopefully that, and being eighth, which is also nothing to sneeze at will comfort her some.  
Once my sweater is blocked, I'm certainly planning to wear it. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. This article focuses on a soon to be re-released YA book, but also takes a good look at how easy it is for privileged writers to write without fully unpacking their privilege. (For a deeper dive in to response to the revisions, Deb Reese has an updated review here.)
2. Several Asian American skaters at the Olympics have meant some fun microagressions like calling American born athletes immigrants
3. Stacy London's year of going broke is an excellent look at how money and emotion and denial can get all wrapped up together. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lessons of Book Club

1. Everyone experiences a book differently.  
2. No one's experience of the book is more or less valid than yours. 
3. Book club provides an opportunity to discuss and explain your experience of it. 
4. Sometimes that means you think about things you hadn't thought about, or noticed, or focused on your own.  
5. None of that makes your original experience incorrect, but the joy of talking through things with others is deepening or enhancing your experience and learning more about how others experienced it. 
6. You will like things that make other people annoyed and irritated and vice versa.  Sometimes you will even agree with their list of annoyances and still feel that the book worked for you. 
7. Passionate discussions often occur when there is disagreement, there are absolutely ways to be both passionate and respectful of other's experiences.