Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Does This Sound Like A Writers Conference to You?

I saw this statement on Twitter and I got mad. It was about RWA, more specifically the Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech that Suzanne Brockmann gave. And I saw red. 
Before I go all in my short answer is yes it does. I have no idea if the person who said this is an RWA member. 
If RWA writ large was telling me who to vote for in my local government elections, I'd be mad. But I am so over this idea that politics doesn't directly affect each and every one of us. Even if Brockmann hadn't explained eloquently how concerns about offending readers with the mere presence of gay characters had shaped her career, even if she hadn't talked about how it was within our lifetimes that she wrote the second book featuring African American main characters for a particular character before talking about how RWA was working to fight white supremacy and homophobia just as our country was, I want to be done with the idea that people who are artists, writers, actors, or athletes don't have a stake in politics. The number of policies from suppression of LBGTQ+ rights to gun control (or lack thereof) to healthcare to taxes all affect writers. They affect you and me. Sure, there's a time and a place. I probably should not hunt you down in the drug store aisle to ask what you've done to fight fascism today. But let's face it, writers tell stories. Brockmann told stories of her writing and connected that to a larger problem. Does that sound like a writers conference to me? Yes. Even if that had been the whole of the conference, which obviously it wasn't, my answer would be yes. 
And look, if it made you mad - that's fine. I don't agree with every writer, not even every Lifetime Achievement Award winning writer. You don't have to. But don't pretend you're worried we didn't talk enough about writing. If you paid attention to the whole speech, that's exactly what we were doing. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

"Dave" at Arena Stage

I have a confession. Despite being a Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver fan, I have never seen the movie "Dave". It seems vaguely possible that I dismissed it on premise, like ugh, a fake president? How ridiculous. 
Anyway, I was intrigued when I saw it on Arena's new season. As we know, I love a good musical. Several people suggested I should see the movie first, and I decided at this point there was value in going on cold, in not comparing casts. So that's what I did. 
For those with similar pop culture blindspots, Dave is an American history teacher who gets fired due to budget cuts and struggles to pay his ailing dad's health bills, starts taking impersonation gigs, since he looks a bit like the newly elected president. 
He is called on by the actual president to do some crowd waving while the real president, ahem, has sex with his secretary. When the president has a stroke, the staff decide maybe they can have the stand in act as figurehead so they can finish out their plans, which is all fine and good until the American History teacher starts having his own ideas. 
The cast is wonderful. I always scan the bios to see if I should recognize the actor under the wig and there are quite a few familiar faces and voices here. 
The set made much use of circular walls, no surprise really, given circular offices, but it got a little busy at times. 
The show as a whole provided the heart and idealism in the possibilities of government you may be looking for. The songs ranged from heartfelt to hilarious. I don't think there was a crazy memorable one, but that isn't said as a knock. I still left humming. 
Seeing this in a DC crowd, meant there was some chuckling over how easy they make budget changes look. It's also a show that asks an incredible amount of it's leading man. He's hardly off the stage, performs several switcheroos, one involving a trick bed, for the two scenes where Dave and the president swap out. 
I was glad to have the chance to see it. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Suzanne Brockmann - Now a Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

I discovered Suzanne Brockmann in a bookstore.  Strolling through a new to me bookstore on a vacation near a beach, I found Over the Edge. I finished and went back and got Out of Sight. I then went back ad found the beginning of the Troubleshooters series and worked my way through, finding the other series and standalones along the way.  I joined her newsletter list.  I went to a fan event in Atlanta, which I documented here. The event had been timed to precede the RWA conference.  Many of the other attendees knew to stay an extra day for that.  I did not.  (I actually had to come back and move so it was probably just as well.)  But I remembered this RWA thing.  And sometime after that, I read a Meg Cabot blog post where she talked about RWA being the organization that had helped her the most in her career.  It took a little over a year for me to join, but I did.  
Suzanne Brockmann has talked many times about how she pushed to write characters of color, gay characters, and even to make a featured gay character have his own multi-book arc.  And here's the other thing, she is a white, straight, cis-gender author.  She is a multi-bestseller.  Sure, I bet she gets less pushback now, but it's still there.  Yes, no one will always like you.  But, Brenda Jackson and Beverly Jenkins are likely the only African American authors to receive RITAs, and those were lifetime achievement awards.  Not everyone who writes great things will get an award, but such a lack is still glaring.  African American authors are not the only category of authors RWA has failed to acknowledge.  But it's a big, obvious one.  Partway through, Brockmann's speech, I thought about the second thing.  I don't claim to be besties with Jackson and Jenkins (although, hi, universe, drinking buddies would be just fine), but their speeches were wonderful and talked about the struggles they faced and how grateful to receive such an award now.  And Brockmann as a intersectionally privileged person, was able to be a little angry.  It was exactly what I expected of her, and was a powerful demonstration of true allyship. Just like she also had a list of favorite authors other people should go visit at the Literacy Signing.  (A thing, she has actually been doing forever. Not all favorite authors have the same taste as you, but I have discovered lots of great authors from her.)
Brockmann posted the full text, with some notes here.  I have already sent in my feedback that the RITA ceremony was everything I wish for RWA to be and hope for it to become.  

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. As a "West Wing" fan, I think about the episode where they interview a judge who says that privacy is the next big thing we'll be battling out a lot.  So, I took not of the story that one of the genetic ancestry companies is now selling data to pharmaceutical companies
2. This story from the L. A. Times about a person who moved through many literary and non-profit spaces, has lots of ties to the DC area.  And a reminder to folks, scammers may not mean to be scammers, so they often seem and even in their worldview are super genuine.  You being scammed is not a failing. 
3. Apparently there has been some gold prospecting going on in Scotland

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

RWA 2018

Trying to encapsulate RWA 2018 in Denver into a coherent piece, is hard.  
I went to part of the Newsletter class, but quickly reached my brain saturation point, so left and began making dinner plans.  
My WRW chapter had a breakfast which was awesome but meant a second early morning (Day of YA was an early start too). It was great to see people in one room that we don't always get to hang out with at home.  (In fact, some of our members are distance members.)
I was on duty at the PRO Retreat, which means many things came to me in snippets as I ran to help other committee members.  (I also learned an important lesson about standing more than I needed to.)  But the panels talked about the challenges and joys of entering publishing, remembering to take care of your writer self, letting yourself believe that your writing has worth, and how to push through the doubts.  We also gave out the PRO Mentor of the Year award to Cindy Dees, who talked about the PRO to Published initiative in her chapter, and that a lot of it is the PRO writer letting something hold them back.  
The Golden Heart ceremony meant I got to hear my lovely chapter mate Pintip Dunn speak again as emcee.  And watch lovely folks win awards.  I went and huddled in my room before the RITAs because my feet demanded it.  The RITAs were wonderful, and I have a longer story about the Lifetime Achievement Award Winner speech, that I'm going to break out into it's own post.  I thought the theme of both ceremonies, which was very much how writers and authors support each other was wonderful. I was so, so, glad to be there for it.  
Friday I moderated two sessions, which is in fact a clever way to make yourself go to things.  Jennifer Barnes' discussion of Psychology of Fiction was amazing, as was Robin Covington and Avery Flynn's Professional Jealousy.  
Saturday, I volunteered at the registration desk.  I told a story about that here.  I had a wonderful time and look forward to making my way through the recordings for more. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Denver Food

I'm giving Denver Food it's own post so I can rave. The following caveats. I only went to two restaurants not in walking distance of the hotel. I'm sure Denver's food scene is far more expansive than this. 
Monday night we went to Cholon, which among other things, has French onion soup dumplings which is a godsend to someone like me with dietary preferences that eliminate most soup dumplings. They were amaze. As was the fish and the tea infused panna cotta I had for dessert. 
Tuesday morning we hit Snooze for late breakfast, practically brunch. I had avocado hollandaise. 
For dinner we went for pizza. It was large enough that I had leftovers and a sales rep from one of the local micro-brews had a long chat with us about the home grown alcohol scene. 
Wednesday (and Thursday) I got hotel breakfast so went for fast easy lunch at the coffee place. 
For dinner, a writer bud had heard about Ophelia's a self described gastro-brothel. It was a gastro-pub with brothel themed decor and live music. The food was great, and we had fun questioning the wait staff on their back stories. 
Thursday night I had that leftover pizza so I could get in line early for the RITAs. Watching the restaurant hotels get slammed with people all descending for food at the same time meant I felt very wise. 
Friday I was searching for food near Tattered Cover and discovered they had an attached restaurant. I had the veggie burger and rosemary parmesan fries at Good Eats. 
And Saturday I had a craving for Tex Mex
So we went to Otra Vez. I had the nachoes and I ate them all. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Day of YA

I am back from a week in Denver, so lots of posts ahead.  Let's start with Day of YA, put on by the YARWA chapter. 
Christine Gunderson kicked us off, introducing our keynote speaker Pintip Dunn.  Dunn talked about how she had resisted her dream of becoming an author until health reasons forced her to realize some of her stress came from suppressing her dream. And now she is a New York times Bestselling author and (after this year's RITAs) a two time RITA award winner.  Then I announced the Rosemary results, and Monica Jones announced the Athena results.  
Our Industry panel included Kate Brauning, Bess Cozby, Laura Bradford, Michelle Grajkowski, and Kristin Nelson. They talked about the differences between digital and print audiences, especially in YA, and the value of discussing goals. 
Michael Hauge talked about inner circles and also how coming of age stories may approach armor and essence a little differently since young people may not have fully formed their armor and may instead be discovering their armor is not fully ready for the harshness of the adult world.  
Then the winners of the silent auction were announced and then we adjourned.  Looking forward to seeing everyone next year. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Anti-Racism Expansion Pack

I have written about this before but a lot of white people keep saying back then people were all racist/sexist/bigoted. And I beg to differ. But let's pretend for a moment that this was true. That anti-racism was an expansion pack that got released at some point. I am unclear if it was first beta tested by folks of color and then released to white people later. Also for mixed race folks, which release were they in? And if everyone was bigoted who even knew to develop an anti-bigotry expansion, that would be some really visionary thinking. 
Here's what we need to learn to accept. Bigotry used to be far more accepted in many cultures. You could certainly argue that even today, it will get you elected President. 
That doesn't mean that no one noticed that bigotry was bad. I'm really sure that people who were stolen from their homes and forced to be slaves knew that this sucked. It's nicer to think maybe they didn't know. Just like it's nicer to think a few white Europeans were a little bit mean to some of the Native Americans they encountered but mostly everyone was super nice to each other and shared food and there definitely wasn't like decades of bloodshed where the European descended folks constantly stole and hunted Native Americans. Or that time rich Americans overthrew the government of Hawaii because sugar. Or rounded up and jailed a bunch of people because they were good at farming, er, I mean a possible danger to the US because people who looked like them had done a thing. Or...baby jails. This is an abbreviated list. 
But I wrote a paper in my British History class in college about contemporaneous vs. Contemporary views of King John and got the best grade I got all year for looking at how nowadays we were like, well, losing control of France was inevitable and folks at the time were like that was ours, dude, how could you? So, I am perfectly aware that priorities and such change over time. And that is sometimes a good thing. 
But we can enjoy problematic things, be they old or not, and still also say, okay, this bit is crappy. And here's my real question about this anti-racism expansion pack, those of you who keep arguing that everyone was racist then, are you sure your expansion pack is okay? I think it might need to be upgraded so that you can recognize that just about every time someone did a crappy thing, someone else said, ew, what are you doing? Sometimes that second person suffered for speaking out. Sometimes they got pushed away or silenced. But if you think all these movements for change just happened because someone had an aha moment the morning before, gosh, do you have a lot of learning to do. Maybe there's an expansion pack for that too. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. I found this remniscense of the challenges of being a student of color at Oxford interesting. 
2. The Capital Gazette takes a look at how various places have handled being the site of a mass shooting
3. A woman accidentally stole a car she thought was the rental car she'd parked at a store. It took trying to return the car for the mixup to be discovered. 

Monday, July 09, 2018

Passion and Prose - DC Stories

Politics and Prose had another romance panel on Saturday, and this time the theme was DC set stories.  Andie J. Christopher moderated, and Tracey Livesay, Aimee Agresti, and Kelly Maher talked about their stories that are set in DC.  Since some of these are local romance authors, I am friends with several of them.  Agresti and Livesay both have had politicians or politically adjacent folks in their stories.  Maher has not, although things like climate change, and human rights have shown up.  Livesay mentioned she liked writing about areas where there was both power and wide diversity that wasn't New York.  Agresti has politicians, so had DC as an obvious setting choice.  Maher said that she likes writing about cities.  When asked if DC is sexy, Livesay mentioned that power is sexy, as is people who want to change the world.  Maher mentioned competence being sexy.  Agresti said her book, which tips a little more women's fiction has people in it for the right and the wrong reasons, but certainly, she made the choice to have the people who really had great ideas do better.  Christopher did mention a recent article where Trump staffers are having a challenge dating, and asked if the authors thought across the aisle romances that appeared in this timeframe with this administration would be sort of like Nazi romances.  The panel did seem to agree, although Livesay did mention that there was probably still a market for that if an enterprising writer wanted to go for it. There was a comment about the transient nature of the city, particularly if one was writing about political types.  This, and some other comments about the city, led to one audience member letting them know she was a multi-generational DC resident, and if they thought dating here was hard they just weren't trying very hard, especially since there are so many young men out there.  (I of course introduced myself to her later, and told her I was a lifelong resident and that I apologized for their comments.)  
They were asked to name their favorite DC set stories not on this panel.  I confess, I might have been heckle/helping during this segment, so probably missed some of the suggestions. Certainly Nora Roberts has some DC stuff, as does HelenKay Dimon.  
It was a great panel and I appreciate that we're about a year into Politics and Prose's continuing efforts to be a bookstore that serves a romance audience, and I appreciate it.  

Friday, July 06, 2018

"Let's Go Steal a Podcast"

I was back on "Let's Go Steal a Podcast" with Christina and fellow guest Lisa Lin. It's a longer episode as we covered "The First David Job" and "The Second David Job".

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. Candice Patton and Ashleigh Murray talked about how they got some racist backlash for portraying characters that had been white in the comics.  (Warning, there is a video that autoplays depending one what browser you use.)  Anyone who doesn't recognize that Candice Patton and Jesse L. Martin are the heart of that show, well, they are wrong. 
2. Patreon has been cracking down on adult content, partly because the payment systems require it.  This is interesting especially because a lot of Patreon's early growth was them reaching out to folks who worked in realms other sites weren't supporting.  And now, those are in jeopardy. With very little opportunity to adapt on the part of creators since the rules are a bit nebulous. 
3. Capital Gazette reporter Joshua McKerrow's piece on working with Wendi Winters was moving and I imagine recognizable to those who knew her and worked with her. 
Bonus: I like heat.  Within reason.  (Heat index of 122, I start to admit it could be cooler.)  So, I found this Onion piece amusing. 

Monday, July 02, 2018

Heartbroken and Angry

This is the second time someone I worked with was murdered by an abuser with a gun. And the reality is, I'm super lucky. My city has been attacked, workplaces of friends and loved ones have been attacked, mass shootings are becoming so commonplace I didn't even think to keep an eye out for victim's names at first. 
But I'm lucky. I'm still on that first batch of fingers despite having grown up in the murder capital.  Timehop showed me a text from a friend letting me know she was fine after another local mass shooting.  So, there have been other near misses for me.  But, many folks have been to way more funerals than I have. Some folks used up that first hand last week. Or last year. Or a decade ago. 
We have let this happen here in the US. We have decided retroactively that a broad interpretation of the second amendment is the right one. That guns - in the hands of white people - because let's be honest we do not hold the same things true for folks of color - have to be allowed whenever and wherever. Because people who have demonstrated a lack of appropriate boundaries are innocent even though they have actually been proven guilty, and they get to threaten violence with impunity. And no, I don't think it's coincidence that this particular shooter has been mad at the paper for reporting on his harassment for years, but decided this week when our President and others said again that journalists are a danger to us all that yes, this was the week he should kill a bunch of people. 
Certainly no one can expect the ways that people will carry out their words. But let's stop pretending this is an unexpected result. Our President has been calling for violence from the day he announced he was running for office. He has intentionally made an enemy of the press so that anything bad said about him is suspect. 
So a community paper lost a close to quarter of it's staff. And all those staff has friends and family. 
This is not okay. And I'm going to keep working to change it.