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.)