Thursday, February 28, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. This is a fairly decent piece on the start of the current discussions about racism in the knitting community.  The stuff has gone over to plenty of spaces where folks think the discussion knitting does or does not need to have are the same as other places, and, as reflected in the piece, for some folks, they are in the stop talking about it and it will go away part still.  
2. Emma Thompson has written a letter to Skydance to explain why she had to leave a contracted project after their decision to hire a known sexual harasser.  I think we do need to make space for people to learn and improve, but much like the racism discussion above, hoping the behavior of decades has just abated because now he knows that misusing his power is bad would not seem like much consolation to me as an employee.  I appreciate her taking a stand and using her platform to speak out. 
3. This tale of several bookstores in San Diego teaming up to keep the store open during the owner and employee's illness is lovely. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Everything is Politics

A few weeks ago, I thought whew, I need a break from everything, let me settle in and watch a few episodes of "Chopped".
One chef was on the show because his wife was pregnant and the prize money would cover her unpaid maternity leave. Another chef was there because the medical costs for his special needs grandkids were high. And another chef said, with what read to me like a tight smile, she wanted to put the money back into the restaurant she had started after her town had a hurricane. So really, everything is politics. Sure I could fast forward through this part, ignore the reasons these folks have shown up to compete in a food competition. But it's all there. Baked in, if you will. 
So the conversations we've been having about sports, about books, about knitting, we aren't more divided, these things aren't new. And maybe you've never had to wonder if they will think it's weird you're in a yarn shop, maybe you've never had to wonder will this book argue against the existence of people like me, maybe you've never had to worry that going home from the sporting event you'll be pulled over for being out of place, but that's your privilege. Those worries and concerns have always existed for plenty of folks whether they wanted it to or not. So you asking they pack that away is like asking me to just hide one of my hands at knitting group. I could do it. But it would be asking me to doing something hard for me to make things easier for you.  
We all have things we've never had to think about.  One person I follow on Twitter was saying he carries his ID to walk the dog, as he's been asked to show it to get back into the apartment building where he lives. I have been known to go days without mine.  (Being a pedestrian/public transit leaning person admittedly makes this much easier.)  It's really disheartening when you learn that the things you do to relax can hurt people.  But the problem isn't knowing or hearing that they can hurt people.  So we all need to listen better.  

Friday, February 22, 2019

PBA: Going Soon

Public Book Announcement: The Cocky Cockers Anthology is going to be pulled from sites at the end of the month, and appropriate monies donated to the RWA perseverance fund. So, if you've been meaning to purchase it, you have about a week.   It's collection of romance shorts, each involving a cocker spaniel. My short – Cocker on the Porch involves a woman who teams up with her cute next door neighbor to look after an abandoned dog. The book is available on Amazon and Kobo and Apple.  
I will make the story available individually eventually, but the anthology is going to be the better deal.  
Easiest way to be reminded when I have something new or newly available is to join the newsletter.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. The point of social media is generally interaction, and yet some people are basically out there replying for the sake of replying.  This article stratifies the reply guy phenomenon.  I do find that the Ravelry agree/disagree/educational/etc buttons really help.  Sometimes all you have to say is some variation of uh-huh, but people who are used to being heard don't always no how to do that in their head silently. 
2. Smart Bitches has a really good recap of the unfortunate plagiarism scandal recently uncovered in romance.  It involved, at current count bits of 34 books being lifted, which one has to say is an impressive amount of plagiarism.  Their recap includes the books this bestselling author stole from, if you were looking for some great new reads.  
3. Mental Floss has a list of impressive yarnbombing projects

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Some YA Fantasy to Add to Your Lists

One of the things I found doing podcast chats with authors and having seen panels, is that what have you been reading and enjoying lately can be the thing that trips people up.  I have encouraged folks to write down a list, and have it ready.  One of the things you can do creating the list outside of the time pressure to answer is make sure the list is as inclusive as you with.  My friend Adria Quinones posted a list to Twitter that someone projected onto the wall in a workshop at SCBWI.  (The whole thread is worth reading.) The list skewed old, especially on the middle grade side.  Now of course, books don't expire, good books remain good books. It skewed super white.  And being familiar with a number of the settings I can tell you it skewed very Europe or faux Europe.  And so my friend raised her hand and asked the person, are you aware of some great examples by authors that are Indigenous or otherwise of color?  The person was not able to come up with any examples in the moment.  
Now, I am going to tell you, I am a contemporary wonk.  So, I read less fantasy by huge margins.  But consulting my own have read, and to be read pile, and/or having seen an NYT bestseller list or two, I came up with the following: 
A Blade so Black by L. L. McKinney
*Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Warcross by Marie Lu
*Love is a Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Yes, I put this on almost all of my lists.  You can't stop me.)  
*Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyumi
Rebel Soul by Axie Oh
Prophecy by Ellen Oh
Toxic by Lydia Kang
*Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn
Joseph Bruchac's Killer of Enemies
And oh look at that - that's ten.  Now I'm not saying your lists need to be entirely native Americans and/or people of color.  I'm not even saying that this is the only type of inclusion we should strive for.  (The list did contain at least one main character that was disabled as an example. My list contains at least two bisexual characters.)  
But when you keep saying you are all for a wider variety of stories, but put up a list like this, it looks like what you mean is stories just like this, but with darker skinned protagonists.  And I am not casting aspersions on this person, they probably genuinely didn't think about this.  But that's actually why this journey is taking so long, because there are a lot of people not thinking too deeply about their comfort zones.  And I also think if this is a genre you love enough to present on, you should be more widely read in the new stuff. 
Also, yeah, I am really no help with middle grade.  But consulting this list from Book Riot I found these options: 
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Archer's Quest by Linda Sue Park
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Furthermore by Taherah Mafi
Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith
Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh
Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim
The Gauntlet by Karuna Razi
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

*Books I've actually finished.  The rest I am working on.  Swearsies.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

"The Heiress" at Arena Stage

I have a rocky relationship with Henry James. I too had an interest in Freudian theories and so went into "Turn of the Screw" in high school so excited. And well, great premise, he and I will continue to disagree about some of the execution. (Also, yeah, I love Jennifer Crusie's Maybe This Time although I think that one has a different problem in the execution. I love it, but we can email if you have questions about concerns).
"The Heiress" is a different story and yet there are echoes. It is based on James' short story "Washington Square".  James' work is often described as feminist in that it is often very interested in bringing to light how the times and circumstances suppress women. 
In "The Heiress" Catherine is painfully shy and well generally average in the ways that matter on the marriage mart except that she has money, and should come into more as the titular heiress to her father. So when her very bubbly, very pretty cousin brings along her fiance's friend to a family visit, Marcus, is taken with her. Or her house. Or both. (Kudos to the acting and direction here, Marcus is obviously stricken by the sight of Catherine, a thing one wonders about later.)
He visits frequently and, in ways that those trained to recognize grooming suggests that they should love each other forever even if someone, anyone, were to speak ill of them. 
Catherine's widowed aunt supports the relationship, being all for love or companionship. Catherine's father is less certain. Catherine has never been quite as - well - anything as her mother was so he leaps to Marcus being a gold digger quickly. 
James' spark in this story was what if a woman realized her father didn't really love her. How might that affect the choices she made, her swiftness, her eagerness to fall in love. I am not enough of a student to tell you how unique a plot line this was in the 1800's but it is the kind of thing that is fairly familiar now. 
I hesitate to talk spoilers since I always like to go in cold, but if you want to see Catherine realize she is being taken in, and that very few people in her life - for different reasons - have her happiness in mind, you will.  If you want to see much more than that, you will not.  
This version is done in the round. In the round is tough to do in talkie plays, folks pop up like they are nervous. In the case of this play everyone is nervous or anxious most of the play so it worked. The direction allowed for the characters in the party scenes to continue chatting quietly amongst themselves in moments which always seems a bit more natural. I often end up feeling terribly sad for the servant characters in these things who are always running back and forth, dealing with shifting character needs, although I know it adds to the realism and allows for less set management between scenes. 
The set had windows that descended before the show and pulled up out of the way during the action which I found a nice touch. 
The cast was good. It was especially nice to see Lorene Chesley again from "Smart People".

Friday, February 15, 2019

I Still Believe Survivors

CW: Discussion of new pertaining to sexual assault and racism
I try - sometimes  - to stay out of other people's local politics, as a result of living in a city where so many people (looking at you Missouri Congressman) think they get to butt in and tell us how to run the city.  So, I am watching the mess of Virginia's top three politicians, who appear to be at this point: 
Governor I was not that blackface, I was the other blackface
Lt. Governor I do not recall her being unhappy when I shoved my penis in her face
Attorney General Oh, yeah, I have also been photographed in blackface. 
Now sure, we could have a whole discussion about could people have learned more about their internalized racism and misogyny since these various incidents.  Really smart people are doing that already, but I wanted to make one thing clear.  
I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson.  I don't care that Justin Fairfax doesn't remember her crying or thinks it's weird that she didn't follow up and ask him why he chose to force himself on her.  Lots of us have had harmful encounters of all kinds with folks, and then realizing that they were going to continue to act like everything was fine and that our choice was to go along with that fiction or enter into the painful choice of trying to get them to admit that what they did sucked when the behavior they engaged in was so obviously wrong, no one should have to explain to them why it was wrong. 
In my life, I have been lucky enough that none of the folks who mistreated me have ended up running for office, or up for the Supreme Court. Yes, today we are calling that lucky.  
I also believe Meredith Watson.  
And here's the thing, someone somewhere is saying, oh but you shouldn't take away a man's livelihood on the basis of one person's say so.  First, there is no magic number of accusers.  I am well aware that the power is all on the side of assaulters, we have proven that over and over again.  I'm not going to list the various things that make these two credible to me.  But let's pretend I was in charge.  So, if I was in charge, such an accusation would result in the following - the accused being put on administrative leave while an investigation occurred.  But right now Mr. Fairfax gets to sit and keep doing his job.  His job that oversees tons of women.  He has done nothing to demonstrate that he has grown or learned how better to treat women. 
And yes, I understand that this country has a not great record regarding accusations of sexual assault against Black men.  But, I also think we commonly confuse evidence for a law prosecution, with evidence for unfitness for your job.  If there were multiple sexual assault accusations against my local hot drink purveyor, I would not go there.  I would not wait.  My safety and my solidarity with survivors are both more important to me.  If I cannot trust a politician to treat me like a rights having person, then I think that politician has failed in their job.  If it were up to me, he would be gone.  
I recognize that Virginia voters and lawmakers may make a different decision. I hope they do it with an eye to keeping Virginians safe.  

RAINN provides support to survivors who might need assistance in both English - and Spanish

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. This story about a mango pie is fascinating, and makes me hungry.  
2. Chocolate helps build muscles, should you need that data this week. 
3. (Warning this link, autoplays.)  A man found film his dad had taken during World War II on Oahu. He has posted the pictures online, so that folks can check if their family members might be in there.  Link direct to site

Monday, February 11, 2019

"Top Chef" and the Overuse of Terms

So, I usually have little to say about "Top Chef" until we get to Restaurant Wars and therefore, the seasonal examination of team failures.  But they did Restaurant Wars early, which basically meant it was especially prone to failure because the contestants knew each other less well, and also someone made the mistake of thinking they could make ice cream in a busy kitchen that was barely finished.  
But that's okay, they have had tons of team challenges this season, and there's been some expected tossing off of negging statements along the lines of well, that team went for the more party pleasing atmosphere, which I guess, is a choice, and so on. 
Last week's challenge involved a basketball game and two chefs decided to go for chicken and waffles, and one of the chefs grabbed boxed waffle mix* - which when you're all shopping in the same aisles of the same store, I don't know why you felt like there was any anonymity, and they all went off and cooked.  There were fryer issues, so the two sets of chicken and waffles did not end up going head to head with each other.  And when Chef Boxed Waffle had her turn, it had of course made it's way to the judges that someone had used waffle mix.  Now, Sara - Chef Boxed Waffle - is from Kentucky, is apparently a big basketball fan, and had named her dish in a clear nod to the fans witnessing this showdown in the basketball stadium.  I also understand that this is episode ten, they have now all been in this pressure cooker environment for long enough to be a little ragged.  So Sara thought it was totally fair to name her dish in a way guaranteed to get the crowd cheering.  And when asked by the judges if she had used boxed waffle mix, and then one of the other team's chefs started the crowd in on a chant about from scratch, she got her feelings hurt. 
She, in a way that clearly indicated she thought she was the wronged party who was being super nice to even give them a chance to apologize, said, both to the camera, and to the chefs, that she was so hurt, that she didn't think they were playing "like that", and that she couldn't believe she might go home because someone "threw her under the bus".  
Now, for some reason Adrienne seemed to be the focus of a lot of this hurt.  I don't know if that's because Sara felt closer to Adrienne, or Adrienne (Chef From Scratch) was willing to engage (I suspect the chant starter may have just mostly ignored her which is less interesting TV). But as Adrienne ably pointed out, the ingredients you buy are not secret, no one should think there's a cone of silence around a filmed trip to the grocery store.  Did knowing she used the box mix as a starting point affect the judge's decision, who knows?  But let's face it, if they had been the most bomb waffles it would not have mattered.  Also, it was a team challenge, and, after all that drama Sara didn't go home, her teammate did, so I hope she feels bad that she took up all that emotional energy and they all still have to hang out for another day.  
I don't mean to imply you can't have hurt feelings, you can't ever be tired, or sad, because you can.  But it is helpful to remember that sometimes you are not right about who owes you an apology.  So, I hope, whether on or off camera, Sara has now apologized to those she accused of unfairness when by unfairness she meant truth telling.  Yes, there are times when people telling the truth doesn't help anyone.  People being honest about ingredients is not one of them. 

*Here is where I remind you I used another chef getting frozen waffles as a whole metaphor for stereotypes

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. I confess I tend more towards Rachel Hoffman's Unfuck Your Habitat* myself, but found this piece looking at the Shintoism inherent in Marie Kondo's Konmari methodology, and the curious backlash it has received. 
2. Jamelle Bouie's op-ed about how blackface is not the only way to demonstrate overt racism was published, I believe, before the sexual assault allegations about Virginia's Lt. Governor became more prominent, but the piece makes some excellent points about how to better talk about structural racism. 
3. Teen Vogue talked to athletes about periods
*Note: This should not be read to mean I am a good follower of her advice, just that her advice works for my brain. 

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

WriteOnCon - Podcasts and More

So this year I joined the behind the scenes volunteers at WriteOnCon.  It's a kidlit conference held entirely online.  I've participated over the years and this year got the chance to help conduct some of the podcast interviews.  I got the fun job - others were out there transcribing, editing, and of course doing the interviews I didn't do, running live events and so much more.  
Most of these events are behind a registration wall, but the registration can be only $5.  
Obviously, I think the whole event is pretty cool.  Not just the parts with me in them.  But I am going to provide some snippets about each of the interviews I got to do. 
Writing Chapter Books with Debbie Michiko Florence - Before we started recording, we chatted about Connecticut things (she knows my cousin's husband).  We talked publishing journey, and the fun of writing small but fun stories in the chapter book space. 
Shiny New Ideas with Lydia Kang - We talked about the allure of the shiny ideas, how to care for and feed them, and how to make old ideas feel shiny. 
Diverse Forms of Story Not Just Diverse Faces with Henry Lien was incredibly patient as we had a lot of tech difficulties recording, but talked about how increasing diversity in kidlit is also about different types of storytelling.  Also, how he came to create a world with an ice skating form of martial arts. 
Working with Packagers/IP Projects with Anna Meriano - We talked about book packaging and how that level of idea and story generation can work. 
Neurodivergence in Young Adult with Laura Creedle - We talked about balancing things as a writer and writing characters with neurodivergence. 
Researching Historical Fiction with Rosalyn Eves - We talked research and fantasy when to do the research (always) and how to know when to stop.  
Big Reveals - Writing and Self-Discovery with Sally Pla - We talked how writing, both the process and the ideas that call to you, can lead to self discovery and how to really use that for your own and your story's benefit. 
How Word Choice Influences the Feel of the Story with Jasmine Warga - We talked about specificity of words and how they can help you get to know your character and your setting better.  
Writing Gender Empowerment with Diane Magras - We talked about writing stories that delve into gender roles and how characters can demonstrate agency even in historical settings. 

Monday, February 04, 2019

Punching Bags and Intersectionality

Having a foot in YA book world and a foot in Romancelandia has always been interesting. YA was ignored for so long. Romance is often ignored until something comes along to force people to look. So what that these two are some of the largest engines making money in book world. Who even reads? And if they do why would they read that trash? 
So the people within those communities form deep bonds. Those others out there don't get us, but we know. 
And in some ways I think it is exactly that that has made us so unprepared to grapple with issues of racism and other such things. If you feel marginalized it is hard to imagine that you have privelege. 
I saw member of Congress Ilahn Omar talk on "The Daily Show". She had made a statement about how Americans tend to view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. People accused her if using anti-Semitic terminology. She said, as a Muslim her first response was something like I would never. But she had to realize that she had made a statement that played on negative stereotypes about Jews and there were better ways for her to make her point. 
So here we are. There is a thing happening in YA. ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) of a book went out. A few people noted some concerns with anti-Black stereotypes. After some time, the author announced she had asked her publisher to delay her release so further edits could be made. 
Of course, a noted problematic journalist jumped in, claiming he was shining a light on toxic social media. And what happened, a ton on abuse was unleashed on two writers of color. And so lots of people are pointing and answering and you know what isn't happening? 
We are not talking about how the author (who is a Chinese immigrant to the US) might have better prepared to unpack any stereotypes and issues she might have held or how that would appear for an English speaking audience. We are not talking about how many times this had happened and the author did nothing and sold quite fine. We are not talking about how the author's publisher has stayed silent which seems to indicate they are leaving her on her own to hire sensitivity readers. 
We are basically stuck in defense mode because a few white journalists who only show up when there's trouble saw a good story and ran with it. And because editorial boards these days are limited, and clearly also pay little attention to YA unless they smell blood. So we are entering February (the month where romancelandia braces for terrible think pieces) with this article that misrepresents what happened and blames two authors of color for forcing another to pull her book. 
Which is the other thing. We are trying to work hard to get and keep more under represented voices in the room for publishing. And every time something like this happens it's hard to convince people that these places are wonderful and often fun.  

Edited to correct typos.