Thursday, March 28, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. Kharma Kelley wrote an excellent primer on what allyship should look like (spoiler, it involves listening). It was in response to some of the ways the discussion around the RWA awards has been derailed, but applies to a lot of communities.  Her earlier piece about how a diversity, equity, and inclusion person views the RITAs is also helpful. As many have said, RWA isn't the only group grappling with this, but that doesn't mean RWA can afford to sit back and hope the rest of society gets fixed first. See also yarn folk.  Etc. 
2. This story of local high school girls who came up with a plan for addressing the misogynistic list rating their looks is both wonderful and sad.  I'm so proud of the students that worked with the administration after the initial response was tepid, but sad that they needed to.  
3. Full disclosure, the author of this piece and I attend the same congregation.  Ryden talks about teaching proper conflict resolution in the age of school shootings. 
4. And I'm sneaking in a fourth this week, since I was introduced to the concept of the suck fairy (and siblings including the racism fairy and homophobia fairy) to describe re-reading an old fave and finding it lacking. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

RITAs and Golden Hearts

I end up wary of some online discussion of RWA's RITAs and Golden Hearts, partly because so much of it cycles through people who don' know how the awards work, and folks, who suggest fixes that are either impractical or equally problematic.  I am sending a letter to the board with a list of suggestions.  I do believe the board wants to fix this.  I also believe that aircraft carrier sized organization or not, change needs to come swiftly.  
But, I also understand that having some of this discussion visible and transparent will help us move forward.  
It is still an honor to be nominated even in a flawed process.  I am still thrilled for the books I loved (or will love, since I haven't read them all) that are on this list. 
Any other organization that produced a list that focused this heavily on white, straight, characters and purported to represent the body of work in romance for 2018, I would yell about it's failure to represent the true breadth of the genre. 
Race is not the only underrepresented group in the RITAs.  My hope is that the changes we make to fix this, will also lift up other authors and characters we are failing to support. 
The Ripped Bodice's State of Diversity in Romance Publishing report relies somewhat on self-reporting and some educated guesswork, and focuses on traditional publishing.  Indie publishing obviously also includes both white authors and authors of color, and so it is not a full picture, but it is something we have numbers for.  Of the 2867 romances published in 2018 by these publishers, overall it averages out to about 6% of these books being by authors of color, which is about 176 books.  
The RITA is capped at 2000 entries.  There are obviously way more than 2000 romances published every year, so there is no way for it to fully capture everything, but that doesn't mean this current process couldn't be fixed to do a better job of representing the genre and the membership.  
This year there are about 3 authors of color nominated.  (The about is because yeah, not every author puts their data out there.  We could have a conversation about why they would need to hide their ethnicity.)
Based on my back of the envelope math, 6% of the 80 finalists, would be 5.  So, we're super close, right folks?  No.  Because we know that authors of color are represented at higher percentages in self-publishing.  (In fact two of the nominated authors of color are self published.) There isn't really a good way to calculate what percentage, to say nothing of how many of these folks participate in RWA.  Any way to try to arrive at these numbers is flawed. I could give you US demographic statistics, but I know there are Canadian, British, South African, and Australian members, to name a few places. 
There is no way to argue that this is just happenstance. The numbers should consistently not be lower than average for all authors of color. If I include Lifetime Achievement awards, the number of winners of color is incredibly low, even when I count folks that won twice, I still barely break double digits.  (Bronwen crunched the numbers of non-Lifetime Achievement awards. And is working to expand it further.)
So, the process as is currently exists, rewards authors of color at about the same rate that traditional publishing does.  The Ripped Bodice said fairly explicitly, that their hope with producing the report was for it to essentially track improvement.  Instead they have seen little to no shift in the overall numbers.  So the RITA's reflecting that means we are reflecting other flawed, systemically biased systems.  

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. The audio ad I heard on a bus recently surprised me, apparently it's a thing now
2. This op ed about New Zealand's response to the attacks was lovely. 
3. This piece looks at how infrastructure changes focused on cyclists, ultimately benefit the whole community. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Dog Watching

I am on the Internet enough that I knew about Blair Braverman. Dog pictures make it far and wide, as do dog stories. I have mixed feelings about sports that reply on animals, even dogs who always seem happy. But I admire (from my couch) people who wish to undertake long endurance tasks. And I usually tune into the last hour or so and move on. 
And then I subscribed to the Iditapod and well, learned a lot of things. Always fascinated by the people that keep going for the honor of 30th place. It is easy to remember that fastest is just one metric. Past winners this year came in in the double digits or had to scratch all together. One team crossed the line only to have the finish discounted when a dog fell ill and died. 
Stories floated about teams where the lead dogs quit wanting to lead and no dog stepping into the gap, so everyone was happy but unfocused. A team that got so worried about the human while crossing the river that they kept trying to turn back to the closest shore. Teams traditionally plan to drop dogs along the way, either illness, or team dynamics, or other issues.  Such that there's an extensive process for having folks along the route ready to help care for non-racing dogs. 
And of course like lots of project teams we have all been on they all started the same day and at the same time and they all had different experiences. Timing of rests and regroups affected everything from stamina to where you were when the snow hit. One racer was able to lend his sled after he scratched to a team that had been patching the sled together. 
Much like reality show teams, much of what filters out to the public is snippets, and of course one-sided since we never get the dogs' perspective. Fans helped schools fundraise while waiting. 
The last two teams are still out there, as I write this.  But the 2019 Iditarod has turned out to be an interesting experience to witness through the internet. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

I Remain Mad

I am mad that New Zealand and Brazil both experienced mass shootings this week. 
I am mad that toxic masculinity, anti-Muslim hatred, and a couple of other from the mixed bag of bigotry led to death again. 
I am mad that mass shootings are frequent enough that commenting on each one seems like a lot of work. 
I'm mad when I think how the NRA worked against DC statehood, because they were worried that giving DC residents the full enfranchisement most other American citizens enjoy might lead to less guns. 
I mad that once again a place of worship was shown to not be a safe space. I mad that I can already point you to other times I have talked about this
I mad because I am reminded that my friend who was murdered at work had taken active shooter training at her church. (She is credited with creating a distraction that saved several of her co-workers lives.)
We just hit the ten year anniversary of Geneva County shooting
We just hit the anniversary of the Dunblane shooting
You know what the UK did after Dunblane? They passed even stricter gun laws. I hope New Zealanders and Brazilians feel empowered to take the steps to keep their fellow citizens safe. 
I wish I had any hope that enough of the US government cared about safety more than they cared about gun manufacturing money. 
I am so sorry. The speed of news travel means we can all join together more quickly in triumph and in tragedy. 
I will continue to not just be mad, but to fight to change what I can in my own disenfranchised city. 
I am so sorry more people are learning the pain of having loved ones ripped away in such tragedy. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. The House voted in support of DC statehood. Which is a step forward.
2. I get why women footballers think a WNFL is the best best to league success, I just wish, well, I still have mixed feeling about the NFL despite their recent settlements with players they mistreated.  But women footballers are a thing I am interested in, so I wish the local team (who has a much better name than their male counerpart) success. 
3. It had not occurred to me that brie butter could be a thing, and now I need some immediately. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

"JQA" at Arena Stage

The writer/director's note in the program warns you that while the writer Aaron Posner did extensive research into the life of John Quincy Adams, the play is not historically accurate. It is reinforced by the characters wearing modernish clothes, with more period like jackets or dresses overtop. When the ensemble members wear aviators when they are in a Secret Service stance, and at one point two characters drink coffee from cardboard to go cups, with heat sleeves. 
Any modern play is speaking to a modern audience regardless of the time period it is set in. This play goes a step further, making no attempt to be a bio-pic or a highlight reel, but instead using characters and settings from John Quincy Adams life - his parents, George Washington, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, his wife Louisa, Frederick Douglass, and Abraham Lincoln, to talk about topics ranging from honestly, legacy, sacrifice, work/life balance, parental styles, slavery, and in the end commitment to doing good. There are four main cast members, and each of them takes a turn being the titular character. The transitions are done through the handing on of one of the jackets displayed at the start of the play. 
The play is in some ways fan fic, a thought exercise about what a man who heavily journaled throughout his life might have handled some conversations we do not have access to. 
Doing such is interesting, I do think the passing reference to "the Jews" and "the rust colored" native Americans are particularly interesting because - while expressed by Clay and likely well in line with his thoughts on such people, its an interesting choice to include in a play that claims to not be historically accurate. Certainly not all characters are good, but that's the only reference to either Jews or native Americans. Their concerns are never revisited. 
I saw Jacqueline Correa in "Native Gardens". It was a delight to see her again. I think this play is an interesting look at a man who served our country far longer in other roles than he ever did as President. 

Friday, March 08, 2019

Let's Go Steal a Podcast

I and the lovely Sally Kilpatrick were back on "Let's Go Steal a Podcast" together with Christina to discuss the two episodes that end season two. Mayoral corruption ahoy! 

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. UU World published an article that made me mad enough to write a letter to the editor.  They have apologized and produced an action plan.  As I said elsewhere I am optimistic but watchful.  The apology links to this thoughtful piece from CB Beal about the harms this piece caused. I think it's great reading for how folks who mean well can cause harm to the very folks they are trying to be allies to and how we can all do better. 
2. This piece talks about how wonderful it has been to see Selma Blair be open about the challenges of showing up to red carpet events, and working with, through, and around her illness. 
3. Naima Cochrane's piece on "Leaving Neverland" talks about how, while different in approach to "Surviving R Kelly", the documentary looks at the long term effects of grooming behavior, and how death does not truly erase some harms.  For survivors who need assistance, RAINN has some support options here. And 1 in 6, which focuses on male survivors, has a chatline also. 

Monday, March 04, 2019

Two Book Events - One Weekend

Friday I went down to One More Page (apparently narrowly missing the Orange Line hubbub) for the romance panel.  Zoey Castile, Adriana Herrera, and Alexis Daria were there.  Zoey asked questions primarily of Adriana, since her book (now out today) is the newest one, although the second in Zoey's series had just come out that week.  Adriana felt strongly that working in Manhattan she saw Dominican and Afro-Dominican people every day, and wanted to see them represented in books. She also said sometimes when you read a book set somewhere in the middle of the country and they will have one Latinx character and she would read and think, hang on, tell me that one's story, how did they get there. Zoey (who also writes as Zoraida Cordova) has a story set in Montana, and she said she picked Montana because she had been there.  And she had gone there herself because it was somewhere that seemed far away from her family.  That was also how she found romance, because she had been reading a lot of literary stuff, but searched out books about Montana and found Nora Roberts' Montana Sky.  
Alexis loves paranormal and sci-fi and space stuff - she'd love to write a Star Trek, btw world - but hadn't found a lot of traction with that, so ended up combining some of her other loves and trying contemporary dance reality series.  She also said that because she'd given the hero in book 1 all these brothers, some folks had expected her to do more stories about the brothers.  (Sidebar here, it's funny to me that this had not occurred to me until she said this, even though I know brothers are often sequel bait.  It probably helps that I was attracted to the dance reality show folks, and it made sense to me that the series would follow the reality show folks.)  
It was a really fun night, and there was wine, which didn't hurt.  
Sunday I was back out there - just regular weekend single tracking this time - for Lenore Appelhans chat about her forthcoming book, Manic Pixie Dream Boy.  Lenore has lived in the area a bit, so there were quite a few writers in the audience.  They did mad libs, and acted out a group therapy scene from the book.  This book started as a project while Lenore was doing an MFA at VCFA, and part of what they wanted her to do was write something a little different than her normal, so she was trying not to kill people this time.  She said it mostly worked.  The book sounds like ti works nicely on a number of levels, so it will be fun even if you haven't read all the YA's or seen all the tropes.  But she did say there were things she had planned at the start that others reading it were like, yeah, I didn't buy that, so she had to figure out how to make those changes.  
So much fun, and now I have to figure out when I will read all these books.