Thursday, December 31, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. I found this Food and Wine piece about what the customer is always right ethos has brought us in pandemic restauranting interesting.  I have heard similar things from folks working other retail this year.  
2. I have always been into tea, but this piece on the soothing nature of tea rituals was lovely.  And helped me get a little deeper into tea instagram.  
3. The story of the search for bucatini is a fascinating dive into supply chain economics, weird food rules, and other things.  

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Pop Culture and Consent

Over on the substack I have a discussion about consent in pop culture, and tease an upcoming series of posts.  

Monday, December 28, 2020

Calendar Dates

As someone who has made a habit of checking silly holidays for a while (no surprise to my Twitter followers) I am well aware of the simultaneous randomness and importance of what are often arbitrarily decided days.  I was in a coaching session around September and someone said that even for those of us not in school and without school aged kids, we are used to thinking of September as a fresh start. The same is true for those who observe a New Year in the fall.  Hawaiians traditionally observed a new year around the end of November.  As cultures around the world accepted the current calendar, January 1st became a thing.  And of course Lunar New Year happens for some in February, others in April. There are more than just those.  
So when one determines the year to have changed is in some ways arbitrary. But arbitrary is not the same as meaningless.  For many of us, January will likely look similar to December in that we will still be amid a pandemic.  We will still need to carry on in ways that two years ago many of us did not.  But just as the cells in our bodies constantly renew themselves, there is something very lovely about the idea that a change in the date can bring on additional inner change.  
I am aware that I wrote a whole entire post about blaming the year for long term systemic problems, and I stand by it.  Nonetheless, while I don't much believe in attaching long term change just to a flipping of the calendar page (virtual or not), I firmly believe in hope and optimism.  I believe in renewed energy to work for and work on changing things for the better. Whether it's learning new skills, reinstating things that make our bodies feel more in balance, or just looking forward to a year that holds the possibility of change.  
 I have a quote thingie, and one of the quotes comes from Max Frisch.  It says, "Time does not change us. It just unfolds us."  
May we all unfold in the ways we wish to in this next year.  

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1.  Hey Alma had a post on the mainstreaming of alt right memes.  
2. This Eater article on one former co-worker of David Chang's and how reading his memoir felt as he attempted to contextualize his anger as regrettable for himself but less so for the targets of it was fascinating.  Also someday we will want to talk about the privilege of being unable to remember specific harmful things you said to folks.
3. If you didn't have ice cream chain consults with pharmacies on your 2020 bingo card, please add it.  Yes the Dippin Dots folks are helping those who need to keep the vaccine cold.    

Monday, December 21, 2020

I Did Not Set My Toaster Oven on Fire

I do sometimes like a dramatic headline.  As I mentioned over on the substack newletter, one of my go to recipes this year has been baked oatmeal. I read a thing eons ago that suggested automating lunch.  That if you could simplify part of your meal decisions, or make choices that provide easy leftovers or repeats, you will be happier.  I find this works well for me.  Baking or cooking up a batch of something that provides four meals takes care of well, four meals.  I was using berries in the baked oatmeal in summer. And as we moved into fall I've used apples, apples and peanut butter, and lately, apples and cranberries.  
My oven is kind of a pain in the butt, so I often use my toaster oven.  The one I have right now has a timer, and for things I've made over and over and don't need to check on this timer is great.  I can pop the baked oatmeal in, set the timer for thirty minutes and go to sit on the couch (whole feet away) and ignore it.  
I used a slightly different measuring cup this time, and noticed things looked a little different.  Not crazy different, but a little. I set the timer and went to go watch Sunday service, and while I was sitting there I thought, hmm, what is that smell. My toaster oven has gotten a lot of use, so sometimes - even though I scrub the crumb tray regularly, a little crust or two of something chars up.  But this smelled different. So, while I was sure it was fine, I decided to get up and check.  Just in time to see a tiny flame.  
I turned off the toaster oven.  The flame had already flickered out, but in an abundance of caution, I left the door shut and grabbed some hot pads.  I probably also should have unplugged it.  When no new flames appeared I carefully opened the door, and saw that the baked oatmeal had puffed up enough that one piece of it had been pressed against the upper element of the toaster oven. The element has a metal guard, so nothing can easily touch the element directly.   
The baked oatmeal was mostly baked and it was only a small piece that had puffed up against the guard.  I managed to avoid even setting the smoke alarm off.  (Yes I am sure the smoke alarm works. I was fast - this time.)    
It was a good reminder though. That small changes can affect things that seem automatic.  That the things you are used to doing still carry risk.  And that one way to test your sense of smell in a respiratory pandemic is to cook things.
  

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. This story about Texas wedding photographers made its way across my Twitter feed yesterday.  Wedding staff put up with a lot in normal years. I have attended several weddings where the cold did not slow down the bride's desire for outdoor pictures (all in non-pandemic years, I should say) so I can only imagine that this story - while not reflective of all pandemic wedding parties, is not as much of an outlier as we might hope. 
2. I can only imagine this skunk discovered on the Maui docks was very confused.  Since skunks are not native to Maui his capture was necessary.  
3. Several Harlequin Desire authors put together their thoughts on Brenda Jackson reaching the 25 year mark as a Desire writer, which is an achievement.  

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Things We Carry Forward

To quote that Tiktok, the pandemic isn't over just because you're over it.  But we are in a place, after a lot of logistics ande can imagine that maybe by this time next year, we will be emerging from the pandemic.  And so it is too soon for many things, but I've been thinking a bit about the things we want to learn and carry forward, and those we do not.  One of the things when RWA imploded last year that I said to a lot of folks, is the hard work you did (if you did) wasn't wasted.  The fact that folks mobilized to take steps to correct things, happened because people recognized that what was happening was wrong.  Not all of them, of course.  But enough.  And there are plenty of people who think everything is fine now, because new leadership, and now the President-elect is a Black woman, so it's all fixed.  Racism is gone now.  Spoiler alert, racism is not gone now.  Not in RWA, not elsewhere.
So, the pandemic.  I wrote a lot at the beginning about what working remotely is really like.  But, a lot of people have discovered a lot more jobs can be done remotely.  And so here is an unofficial list of some of the things that I would like to see remain from this experience.  
-Don't go places if you feel sick.  Now there are caveats of course.  As someone with chronic allergies myself, I have sneezed or coughed, or both, every day of this pandemic.  (Nothing like an upper respiratory pandemic to really make you aware of that.)  So sure, don't go nowhere ever just because you have a chronic condition. But if you have a cold, don't sneeze on your friends and co-workers because it's just a cold.  Wear masks.  Warn people you are under the weather so they can take their own proactive steps.  
-Similarly, I hope companies really take a look at leave policies and our culture around sick days.  Sick days should be days spent not checking email, not attending calls.  And if your company can't live without that person for twenty four or more hours, that's a staffing problem. 
-Let's all keep washing our hands and hand sanitizing a lot. We can all make keeping ourselves and others safer a priority. 
-Telework is only cheaper for the company, not the employee.  There are also tax implications.  You need to pay employees with that understanding.  
-Speaking of pay, it turns out a lot of people we might not have considered previously important parts of our functioning society are.  
 -Everyone deserves access to food. 
-Everyone deserves access to healthcare
-The governing decisions made at local levels are important.  But the purpose of a federal system is so that each of us in not reliant on the hope that the jurisdiction next to us isn't making reckless or unsafe choices.  
-Parks matter.
-Libraries matter.  
-When gatherings such as committees, worship, and conferences are held online, it can allow greater access to folks around the world. Folks who even in a time of travel would not be able to make it. 
-Similar to the telework thing, just because your special guests and speakers do not need to travel, does not mean their time isn't valuable.  
This list is only a start.  But it seemed useful to start thinking about the things I want to carry forward, so I can keep an eye out for attempts to roll them back.  

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1.  The Smithsonian is doing a day long event with panels about pandemic life tomorrow, and also collecting responses to questions about pandemic life from the public.  
2.  I have seen Michelle Buteau at a 2 Dope Queens event, and also in "Always Be My Baby" so found this interview with her fun.  
3. This piece on Beverly Jenkins is lovely because Ms. Beverly is, but also gets at an interesting truth. Some historical fiction shows a picture of the things you did or did not learn about in history in a much more compelling way.  

Monday, December 07, 2020

Language Apps

Full disclosure, I have only tried a few language apps.  Aka Duolingo and Mango.  I have also done in person instruction for several.  I am a terrible dabbler.  But there are so many.  I say having learned parts of six.  
So, I've been learning Hawaiian on Duolingo since it was added in Beta, which at this point is about two years ago.  I have learned a lot of words.  I have googled a few things.  Hawaiian is a verb subject object language (as opposed to subject verb object or all the other variations). I figured out some things. 
I had previously used Duolingo to brush up on languages I had previously done in person instruction for. It works very well for that.  Now the benefit of the immersion approach that Duolingo is essentially doing is that you figure things out for yourself.  If a language has a word or character that essentially means this is possessive now, you will eventually figure that out if you are familiar with languages that do that.  Similarly you might deduce on your own, okay, that word just appears to go in front of proper nouns.  Also duolingo has an owl that cheers you on if that is a thing that you are into.  
Mango stops to explain things to you.  Not a lot of things so far.  Mango also introduces you to words and then asks you to know them rather than giving you a phrase and expecting you to magically figure out what it means.  (Yes, I know you can press on the word in Duolingo.)  Mango then does review cards and asks you to self report whether you got it right or not.  Which would be very easy to cheat on.  
I am using the free version of Duolingo and the free version of Mango right now for Hawaiian.  I am theoretically much farther along in Duolingo, but the difference in lesson progression means I am learning things in each that help me with the other.  
The DC library card - and perhaps yours to - also has access to Mango subscription, Hawaiian just turns out to be one of the free languages so I haven't tested that part of it.  

Friday, December 04, 2020

Elsewhere on the Web

Over on the newsletter, I'm talking about how flowers and instagram made me like one or both of these things. 

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. This interview with Glynn Turman looked at some great work he has done in his life and now on the latest season of "Fargo" (which I have not yet watched). 
2. Alexander Chee wrote a lovely piece about how for those for whom computers are not the first way we learned to write, writing on a computer might make it harder to finish.  
3. NPR's Book Concierge is a pocket of joy, even if I side eye the use of Let's Talk About Sex as a tag for both non fiction about sex and romance.  But some great books on there, and helps search for gift giving since everyone knows books are the best gifts. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Pandemic NaNo


It's often tempting to attribute great meaning to how the drafting process of a project went.  But - much like "Project Runway" there are projects that I was sure was the best thing while drafting that I liked less on reflection.  There are projects that were so hard to draft, that I loved when I put aside and then re-reread later.  There are projects that were great but didn't fit what they were meant for which meant changing projects or changing tactics, or abandoning an agreed upon plan.  
NaNo is sort of random.  It's a month and a deadline and a community.  But every year some is like why November (there's Camp in April and July), why 50k, why?  And the answer is essentially because. That's what they decided.  You can write more or less.  You can be a rebel.  You can do it in whatever way works for you.  If twitter sprints or discord or zoom sprints stress you out, then don't.  If virtual chats with folks you haven't met stress you out, don't.  Do the things that work and discard those that don't. 
So, all of that is to say I wrote this year.  I wrote fast.  I wrote so fast I was constantly saying to folks it's going well so far, but I'm probably gonna crash soon. I said that not because I'm a pessimist but because I know that as a panster there's a tricky balance to writing fast enough to capture all the ideas swirling and yet not so fast that I bonk against the wall because I haven't given the idea well time to refill.  And yet, I did not bonk.  I rolled past 50k and the story kept going.  
As a pantser I often don't know when the story will end, and a lot of people find that silly because of course there is story structure and the story ends after the goal is achieved.  And I know that. But well, I often think I'm about two scenes from that and discover I am not.  Some of this of course gets fixed and tightened up in editing.  But well, I kept writing.  And writing.  
And I reached a finish.  And it was - for me - a very long first draft.  I hardly ever remember things like description and feelings. All of those are things I layer in, so my drafts almost always get longer in editing even as some scenes get cut.  I have been going through doing some minor touchups so that when I get to really dive into edits I at least won't have to fix gibberish sentences.  (When things are flowing I get very typolicious.) 
So,as I said, pandemic brain means who knows what kind of editing effort this story will really need, but I wrote a thing that I really love.  I wrote a thing I am somewhat excited to edit.  (I hate editing a lot.  I know it's a necessary step.  I agree that it needs to happen.  But you can't make me like it.  Some people hate drafting.  I love drafting.  I hate editing.)  
And while the NaNo community felt a little different this year, it was still great.  The folks who were able to make time for more screen time this year were much appreciated.  And those who weren't but still plugged away on their stories are fab too.  


Final wordcount: 73469

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Aloha to You - Now Available in Print

Exciting news, my paper peeps. Aloha to You, the starting novella in my City Complications series is now available in print.  Novellas can get a little pricey in print format, but I know there are folks who for a variety of reasons prefer paper, so that is now available.  I am going to get the others available in print, but it takes time, and it's getting juggled with other publishing priorities, so be patient with me.  
The blurb and link to the original post which includes content info is here; 
Aloha to You - A City Complications Novella Seth is an aspiring journalist stuck in a day job he hates. When he interviews a DC-based lei maker he finds himself drawn to Adriana's non-traditional approach to following her dreams. But will his doubts about her approach ultimately be their undoing? Adriana's already learned the dangers of living a life partially on line. She has set up boundaries and routines to keep herself safe. But it turns out routine can get a little, well, routine. Will Seth be the perfect addition to her life, or further proof that trusting others always ends in tears? Some people have to find their dreams, Some people make them. 
Content notes here
Available at multiple etailers - universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/4XZnd6  
Also available in print: universal ling: https://books2read.com/u/m2Ml9O

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thankful Numbers

1. For all the challenges living in small spaces close to others create, especially in pandemic times, the ability to walk to so many of the things I need be they essentials, or just sunny spots with flowers, has been one I am particularly grateful for this year.  
2. My cat has always been great at figuring out when to nap, when to demand attention, and when to eat, and when to tell the human that she has misunderstood the schedule.  This example of clear boundaries has been a useful reminder.  
3. Friends who pivoted quickly to online gatherings so that my social life, while obviously changed, is full in ways that matter.  And friends who said, nope, we'll move to other forms of communication in the interim.  
4. Yarn dyers and pattern designers who rose to the challenge of people who had greater couch time this year.  
5. Those who have continued to show up to jobs in apartment buildings, in transit, in delivery, on farms, in small businesses, and in restaurants.  My ability to socially distance is entirely reliant on this, and I am eternally grateful.  
6.  Health care workers, up to and including the often unsung medical coders, medical researchers, janitorial staff, and others who have continued showing up in a situation that grew both dangerous and tiring. 
7. Authors.  I am grateful to count myself among your number, but the kidlit and the romance community continue to show that folks who believe in hopeful futures can provide worlds to escape in, can pivot to virtual book events, and can organize together raising funds for typhoons, voting, and other such things. 
8. Everyone who took time to engage more fully with anti-racism and other social justice movements this year.  
9.  Parents and child care workers.  I am not a parent, but am well aware that this has been a tough year for everyone raising up tiny humans.  Not a year that makes a lot of sense for many tiny humans either.  
10. Gardeners and landscapers. I have been relying on pictures of the gardens I normally would have visited many more times this year.  And this reduced access to the fancier botanicals meant I have hunted a little harder through my own neighborhood this year.  I have a brown thumb, but greatly appreciate those who take the time to put color onto their lawn or in other shared spaces where I can enjoy it too.   

Monday, November 23, 2020

"The Burdens" through Play-PerView

Content note: discussions of abusive language, discussions of elder murder, offstage death of an elder.  
"The Burdens" is a two person play.  The two siblings communicate primarily by text, email, voicemail, and the occasional talking directly to the audience.  The siblings are Jewish, on opposite coasts, and clearly are close but also disconnected in the way that adult siblings often are, especially when one is still on the same coast as the relatives, and one isn't.  
Also because they are texting there are timing things, autocorrects, and also emotional disconnects.  
Their grandfather is one hundred, requires a lot of special care, and is draining their mother's finances, and also the grandfather is not super nice.  The brother is an aspiring musician who works in a pharmacy.  The sister is a lawyer, and is married with kids, to a husband who is not sure that she should be so involved in all the day to day of her family's life and certainly not be providing the level of financial assistance she is.  And well, it starts to seem like things would be better if their grandfather was dead. 
The play is set in a specific time, with autocorrect and old AOL accounts.  The sibs seem like they are gen X, having experienced a specific moment in time in technology.  
It seems like it would be odd to watch a couple play siblings,  But - well they are very good actors, so I hesitate to attribute this to something other than skill, but it seems like folks who are close would make similar expressions and do things that actually look like people who grew up together.  It could also be that they are very skilled. 
This play was very well suited to both Zoom format and to a week when folks generally gather with family.  
I did miss a live audience a bit, because there is nothing like the collective gasp of an audience when characters fight and we all know they crossed a line, even if they might also be a little bit right.   
The recording of the reading remains available for the next few days.  

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. Nicole CHung wrote beautifully about how grieving in pandemic times doesn't lack closure, since grief is not a thing that neatly ends, but can feel without some of the markers we are used to having and we begin or progress through the grief process. 
2. It continues to be a year for restaurants.  I enjoyed this list from Esquire not just because it featured some local food, but also this peek into how restaurants are trying to navigate this situation. 
3. Amber Riley and Angelica Ross had a wonderful conversation about Riley's post-Glee life and her new album.  
Also you may have heard that there is a Romancing the Runoff auction occurring through next week.  The monies are being split between Fair Fight, Black Voters Matter, and the New Georgia Project.  You can also donate directly if auctions stress you out, or search for some of the buy now items.  

Monday, November 16, 2020

Thoughts on Other's Thoughts about "The Scottsboro Boys"

I wanted to take a longer time to ruminate a little on this oral history of "The Scottsboro Boys".  First, this history is amazing, both for the peek into the creator's visions, the original casts feelings about the production, and some coverage of the response and reaction.  
I liked the production when I had a chance to see it staged locally.  And certainly at this point the show exists and no one is putting that back into the bottle. The only thing to be discussed is should it continue to be performed. And again, since I have seen it, my thoughts are clear.  But the thing I found interesting, is that the creative team feels very strongly that they were misunderstood in their intentions and well, I'm not sure that they were.  
The show attempts a really tricky thing - it takes a specific form of entertainment that was originally used to create the ultimate in punching down comedy.  Minstrel shows made fun of black people, Jewish people, and probably many more that the performers knew could get a laugh from the audience.  The show is trying to reclaim this. To take a case most people did not learn about in their history class, even though it created changes to the justice system that exist today, and let the minstrels be the folks who really never got to tell their own stories.  And having Black actors play the white police, the white lawyers, and the white women who are accusing the boys.  
But there's an interesting layer of having a mostly white creative team shepherd a reclaiming of something that traditionally harmed Black people.  Am I saying white people can't tell stories about Black people?  No.  But the idea - as one of the creators says in the history that well, I wonder if they would have protested us if we were Black - well, that's not a neutral question, right?  Because let's face it, we have all seen and heard stories that were told by people who meant very well, and who fumbled in part because they did not have the cultural know how needed to tell a story.  And it is not unfair for people to decide that they can't trust a mostly white team to tell a particular story with the care and nuance needed.  And it is not unfair for folks to be upset that a mostly white creative team got an opportunity to put on a show with only one white character when that is something Black creators have not had access and opportunity to do.  
One of the things I did not talk about in my post about the performance I saw was the incredible awkwardness of watching that show.  Not because of the cast - who were wonderful.  But because the show is trying to essentially lull you with typical musical rhythms into jokes about injustice.  And so many of the things that occur that are joke shaped, if you will, are quite awful.  But of course, humans also laugh when things are too awkward, too scary, and even sometimes just too much.  So as an audience member the places you decide to laugh and the places the person next to you, or rows away from you may be very different.  And you have no way to press pause and be like - are you laughing because it's funny or because it's awful. 
I think this is also why it had great success at small theaters.  The audiences for small theaters are often more aware that some shows are fun and some shows are to make you think and some shows do both.  And small theaters often utilize lobby space for coordinated exhibits and other think pieces.  They use the program to provide context.  In the oral history they talked about showing a documentary to kids and parents before they agreed to the show in their school. That's a lot of pre-work.  
Media often has to signal to the audience what they are in for, and I think perhaps small theaters are better suited to that level of work.  Of course, part of it could be that telling chat with the promoters who were like, yeah, we didn't know how to pitch a show about kids on trial.   


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. I caught up to L. D. Lewis' post about Fiyahcon.  It provides some great blueprints for other cons and workshops and events to draw from.  
2. Jemele Hill wrote about how Vice President elect Harris' historic position as the first Black, first Asian American, and first woman in the role would not elide how tough it was for her to get there. Also, if you've noticed the specificity of those firsts, in addition to specificity being prefered by folks finally getting representation, it is also because the first Native American Vice President was Charles Curtis, who was of Kaw, Osage, and Potawatomi descent.  Yep, another thing I certainly didn't learn in my history class.  
3.Dan Feinberg wrote a lovely appreciation for the tricky balance of smart and kind that Alex Trebek achieved in his long hosting of "Jeopardy".  Cancer is a jerk. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

"Toni Stone" - Live Reading Through Play Per View

Content note: historically accurate terms for Black people used both colloquially and as insults, historically accurate use of a word for mentally challenged folks, sexual harassment, crude language, your momma jokes.  

I had tickets to see "Toni Stone" in April.  Obviously, that didn't happen. I dropped the ball on getting my hands on the limited release recording of the Roundabout Theater performance, so when Play Per View announced the reading, I jumped on it.  
In some ways, this play where Toni spends a lot of time directly addressing the audience, interspersed with conversations at the bar, and the dugout, is suited to a video conference style reading.  It is especially amusing to watch someone show back up with a new name and a new hat, but of course, in live theater, it is often obvious that that is the same person just as a new character now.  
Toni speaks in a particular dialect, and that helps to ground the character quickly.  She is literal, enamored with baseball facts, and sure of her strengths and weaknesses.  
I love a giant group conversation, and often think it is the fastest way to get a sense of the characters, so this play worked well for me.  The characters often butt into conversations that they were clearly not present for, creating a collegial feel of sitting in listening to a recounting of a story that they all know parts of.  
There were a couple weird things, typical for a video chat these days - email alert sounds (I assume from the stage manager), a time or two a name didn't change with a character shift.  These were small things and honestly, I've seen live plays with issues too.  
This playwright also wrote "Smart People" which I enjoyed, so she is clearly someone I need to keep an eye on.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Perfection

I was recently reminded that perfect used to essentially mean finished.  It came up in reference to perfect unions, in the sense that perfect unions were not intended to be without flaws, just whole.  Since November is NaNo season it of course made me think of drafts.  Now of course there are many kinds of writers.  Some writers need to polish all the bits as they go to more fully understand the world they are building.  To write 50k words in 30 days, especially with a life and a food centric holiday stuffed in there, you have to write fast.  And for many people , that means writing messy.  The draft you produce at a pace of 1667 words a day many not be polished, and will unlikely be perfect in the shiny and beautiful sense of the word.  For most genres 50k of words may not even be a complete story.  
One of the many pep talks one year that the NaNo team sent out focused on getting into the habit of finishing.  Whether a messy drafter or a polisher (and I have at times been both) finishing a story is a habit worth building if being a writer is a goal.  It doesn't matter if the story is free of errant commas or still has [insert conversation where the villain monologues a bit here] within it, having built a story that has a foundation is a good habit.  
It doesn't work for everyone.  Some writers can't write the end when the middle is still muddied. So the definition of finished when it comes to first drafts especially may be very different for each writer.  But building a habit of something that feels ready for you to come back to and fix - whether it's a deep excavation, or a few polishing passes is a goal worth moving towards.  

Friday, November 06, 2020

Over on the Newsletter

I'm talking about why I like having a book on my phone.  Not all of them.  But maybe one.  


Thursday, November 05, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. I have made limited exceptions to my no US news until the votes are all counted, but this piece by Sarah Kendzior reminds us that while the outcome is pending, the systemic problems are already visible.
Also, while the Hawai'i congressional race was somewhat uneventful, this note that with six native Americans in Congress, we have created a new record for representation.   
2. These photos of a special line set up for COVID 19 positive voters in St. Louis are a stunning reminder of the lengths folks have gone to vote, and to make sure it was safe to vote in this election.  
3. The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center has put together a digital care package, that includes among other things stories of food folks ate as remedies and meditation packages and poems.  

Monday, November 02, 2020

Another Election Story

Once upon a time, a relative of mine ran for election.  (I am actually related to a few people who have now or in the past chosen political service. None of them share my last name, which amuses me because well, my last name makes people assume I am related to politicians.)  In a show of support, I took time off work and drove several states away to be there for whatever happened that election night.  
I caught up with family, we grabbed dinner, and then headed to the place designated for the campaign staff and volunteers to gather for the results.  I was basically there due sheer nepotism, having done nothing to support the campaign other than show up once everything was done. 
The race was close.  But around ten pm or so, to my best recollection, the local stations were willing to predict that at the current rate of returns, my relative was going to win.  Relative's opponent was less sure.  So, after about another hour, my relative spoke to those assembled to say that while there had been no official concession on the part of opponent, it looked like the campaign had been successful thanks to the work of those gathered and those who had voted.  
Shortly after that, once I had gotten close enough to give relative a hug, I decided I had a long car trip back and I was going to go to bed. 
Savvy readers might already suspect that the year I refer to is 2000.  That I had gone to bed while the presidential election was also undecided and assumed I would have the news when I woke up in the morning.  As it turns out I breakfasted and waved goodbye to family and returned myself to the DC area and still didn't know.  
I could show you charts of how many votes are normally counted on election day (not many, really, not even with electronic voting in the picture) but all of this is really to say the following.  There are many, many things about this year and this election that are very different.  Not knowing the real, true, full, elections results - if that is what happens, because I don't have a crystal ball - will not be.  
So my advice is this: vote, if you haven't already, and you can.  Rest.  Engage in self-care.  And remember that your brain sometimes tells you that watching results is good for you, but sometimes the sleep, the time watching a movie, and so on is just as useful, if not more.  You can set up someone who will text you when something actually happens.  Or await the news alerts.   

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. Author Darcie Little Badger talked about being a debut author in a pandemic and adding to the expanding canon of Native American fiction. 
2. I was looking up something else and ran into this summer piece about the "Golden Girls" episode with the mudpacks, and how rewatching reveals so much more rape culture and racism than just the mudpacks.  I completed my full rewatch of "Designing Woman", where I found similar things, and also some gay panic and some transphobia. There were moments it was worth revisiting, but a lot of what it told me was that the sitcom mentality of folks being terrible for 22 minutes to come together in harmony in the end is perhaps left in the past.   Also, that link contains discussion of a rape that is baked into the backstory of one Golden Girl.  RAINN has resources for both victims of sexual assault and those seeking to support them.  Hotline here: National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org
3. I caught up to this Blair Braverman piece about how some of the lessons of sled dogs can apply to pandemic life. 

Monday, October 26, 2020

7 Things: NaNoWriMo in a Pandemic Edition

1. Long time readers can probably guess what I'm going to say at this point.  I've been noodling on book like things since high school.  NaNoWriMo was the first time I finished something that wasn't an assignment for a creative writing class.  It was a mess.  At one point the characters started making up songs.  And singing them.  But I wrote a beginning, middle, and end.  
2. Since that first NaNo I participated in, I've written things during NaNo and outside of NaNo.  I joined writer's organizations.  Took more classes.  And learned more by writing more.  But NaNo taught me I could finish a thing.  
3.  The pace of NaNo is not ideal for everyone.  Let me peel off my official NaNo gear for a sec - if you think the camaraderie of doing a thing while other people are also doing a thing is useful to you, I suggest doing it even if 50k is not a good goal for you.  
4. On the flip side, if trying to aim for 50k and not getting it will depress you, no need to make yourself sad in a pandemic.  And if you do a secret NaNo, where you don't announce and don't even tell anyone until you emerge with a fully formed story, that works too.  
5. I normally advise folks who choose to participate to try one write in. This year everything is virtual.  I'm still going to suggest trying one.  But if learning the forums, and discord, and chat, and twitter, and whatever else your region or group is using to connect this year is too much - then don't.  If you have only been using video conferences for work you might discover they are more interesting when the goal is more fun, and you might not.  
6. It might be clear from this list, but I'm a pantser, in some ways about life too.  I try things, I quit things, I pick up new things.  If all of that makes you itchy, go make a plan.  Just try to leave room - especially this year - for things to work a little differently than expected.  
7.  However you get words is good.  Things that don't get you words - assuming those things are not work, sleep, spouse, kids, taking medication, etc, that you really cannot give up for a month - are not good.  This is an unexpected year.  Processes that worked for you before may not work this year.  That's not you.  But try to appreciate the discoveries. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Cozy Spectrum

In a discussion (held via video conference) last week, a friend mentioned that the clothes that felt like a delightful contrast to work clothes prior to the pandemic are starting to feel less comfortable. In a similar discussion, I listened to one person say that wearing heels has always made their feet hurt, and most people's responses boiled down to, well, you get used to it.  
I personally gave up heels a while back.  They always hurt.  I have tripped and fallen in a gravel parking lot while on my way into a ball, and let me tell you, the heels do not make up for your bloody knee.  I tried a variety of comfort brands.  And for me, while I still love a comfort shoe, the hurt and potential danger involved in training myself how to be in heels, did not seem worth the reward.  Now this is not to say I think heels should not exist or that people who are willing to put up with the discomfort, or who have learned how to navigate the world in heels are wrong.  I applaud their fortitude.  
But there are things about a large change to your life that can allow you to evaluate what previously had seemed acceptable.  Those cargo pants that were such a nice contrast to a skirt and hose, may now feel restrictive.  In contrast, I put on one of my fancier stretchy pants (the ones that call themselves dress pant yoga pants) and found myself feeling like a person who gets things done.  (In fairness, it is the stretchy plus the fancy that helps a lot.)  
I know there are people who are back at work, or who never got to stop going to work.  And to them this conversation about the stretchiness of pants, about throwing a cute top over a pair of raggedy sweats because on video conferences, you can keep your bottom off camera with some care is a little silly.  It is.  
It's hard not to sound like an out of touch tech bro every time I revel at a local restaurant's pivot towards farm pickups or pop ups.  Because these changes are happening because things are very bad and folks are struggling on multiple levels.
But if you have the privilege of time to ponder your work from home clothes, you can take a look at the norms we used to accept, and figure out which ones we're not going to return to.    

Places on the Web This Week

Got a post over on the newsletter with third quarter reading. And I'll be both behind the scenes and in the chat for Fiyahcon this week, so feel free to wave if you are there also.  (Tickets are sold out, but there are some events open to all.)
Editor note: Apologies, I accidentally reposted instead of updating this. Fiyahcon has happened. Some material will be available in the archive.

Three Interesting Things

1. Chloe Gong gave an interview talking about the interesting balance of being a debut author and a college student, and also how some folks assume you can't have been working on anything long based on age alone.   
2. R. Eric Thomas has a delightful summary of the Chrisness that might have made it into your timeline this week. 
3.R. O. Kwon talked about how doing something - in her case texting voters - let her get to a place where the hopefulness she had been faking became more real

Monday, October 19, 2020

Vision and Reality

I was really quite honored to be behind the scenes at Fiyahcon this weekend.  I say this not just because it was a great con.  I say this not just because I got to sit in on some great panels.  I say this not just because I feel like as part of the team I have to.  I say this because it was very clear from the beginning that this was a con that wanted to make a really amazing thing happen.  And every moment of stress, or working to problem solve, it was all, from start to finish about creating a great experience for the attendees.  
Now, I always feel like someone thinks I am secretly sub-blogging some other event.  I am not, in this moment.  And I've been behind the scenes in various ways for several cons and that is usually the focus.  
But it reminded me that sometimes it is so easy, especially as writers, especially as people dealing with the publishing industry, to get stuck on the vision, and fail to appreciate the reality.  As I reminded several people, I have been to longstanding, well-established, in person cons where a panel got moved to a different room, a speaker showed up late, or there were technically difficulties that delayed something.  
And amid a pandemic where we've all been on a virtual gathering where someone's screen froze, someone's naked child showed up, someone's doorbell rang, we have all learned that these things happen and no amount of planning can address all of them.  (Although if anyone knows the goddess of virtual gathering's preferred offerings, I am ready to make some. Also, these are hypothetical examples.  To my knowledge there are no naked children in the Fiyahcon archives.) 
Publishing will do that to you.  You get published, but what was your print run?  What stores are you in?  What awards were you nominated for?  It's easy to keep looking to the goals you haven't yet met and forget to look at the one's achieved.  
Fiyahcon lived up to its name. I can't wait to see what they have planned for the next one.  

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. Clergy burnout is a thing I had thought about, and this post from Anne Helen talks to quite a few about the specific contours of things right now. 
2. City Paper asked hospitality workers to share some photos representing the pandemic. 
3. If you have found enjoyment through "Schitt's Creek" this chat with Catherine O'Hara about the costumes may appeal to you. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

RIP to Cat Bordhi and Annie Modesitt

I talk about knitting a little less on the blog these days, but well, it's been kind of a year. In the early days of things, as I was learning about best knitting tools, I discovered the interchangeables I still use to this day, having tried several others and always come back - the Denise. They had a Cat Bordhi pattern on their website in case you wanted to make a little bag for your needle case. I was intrigued as a little bag was literally the first knitting project I ever finished. I then dug around and found that she was known for moebius things and having accidentally moebiused a thing, I wanted to try doing it intentionally. I think it was at the now defunct yarn store that I encountered an Annie Modesitt book. I bought it. I attempted several things in it. Those of you who have ever done an Annie Modesitt pattern know she does uniquely constructed items, mixing textures, shapes, and such things. Some of these things were a little above my skill level at the time but I didn't really know enough to know that. (Sometimes that's the best way to level up, really.) 
I brought the Gigi scarf pattern to my first knit night. I discovered that navy yarn is a terrible choice for the poor lighting of a sandwich shop so I brought another project the next time. According to my Ravelry page Victory was the third sweater I ever finished. It was bottom up, something I rarely do these days, and had - in addition to some unusual construction - an error. Again, I didn't know enough until another person working on it messaged me and I compared my sweater to the picture. (There is now errata.) I love mine but knit it in alpaca so it has to be very warm.
Cancer took both of them this year which is very rude.
There are other designers I've knit more recently and/or more frequently, but their stamp on the knitting world is clear. Lots of love to their families and friends. It is an especially odd time to grieve. 

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. A children's book is drawing a lot of attention in Hungary, and has in part become a symbol of resistance. 
2. Author V. E. Schwab wrote a lyrical in part description of her process of coming out
3. I am fascinated by this miniature puppet fashion show.  It's obviously not a replacement for fashion week, but we all cope with pandemics in our own ways. 

Friday, October 02, 2020

Banned Books Week

I've done a lot of Banned Books posts over the years.  Since we have reached a decade marker, the ALA compiled the top 100 books that were banned or challenged over the last decade.  I have read less than I expected, but I read less picture books of late.  Some were assigned reading in school.  Some I adored.  Some I meh-ed.  Some I disliked and think are not great books, although having read many of these challenges I doubt the folks that challenged them were concerned about the same things I was.  
There are many books I have concerns about.  There are many books that are written by people who I don't think deserve the time and energy we have already spent on their thoughts.  There are many books that if I was reading with children or saw a child in my care read, I'd be like, okay we're gonna have a book club chat about that.  
And libraries weed collections, just as I occasionally take a deep look at the books on my shelves.  Some books wouldn't make me sad to see the reader numbers go down.  
But a lot of these books aren't on the list because they contain underdeveloped and or dated ideas about race and sex.  They are there because they make people uncomfortable.  Or they use words that have fallen out of favor and we somehow think people can't read a word and not use it in casual conversation.  Or they contain people being naked.  (Seriously, The Naked Cowboy is a picture book about a cowboy taking a bath.) 
And it isn't enough that folks want to not read or have their children read this book.  They want it away.  They think they know better than the collection librarians.  And librarians are - brace yourself - not perfect.  But they should be working on developing a collection for the whole community, not one segment of it. 

In other news, over on substack I talked about some baking recipes

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. One of the bitter ironies of the news about uninformed hysterectomies performed in ICE detainment camps is that many people who want one for medical reasons, have to go through endless hoops to get one.  Teen Vogue looks at this dichotomy.  
2. A friend pointed me to this story about a writer drawing from seemingly disparate sources to inform his work. 
3. A zoo separated parrots that were encouraging each other to swear.  Fascinatingly this is the same zoo that had a parrot that did cover songs.  (Link in story to that story also.)

Monday, September 28, 2020

Caution Fatigue

I saw the term caution fatigue and it resonated. Being cautious is hard. I had a thing that required an in person meetup on Saturday and everyone I was meeting with was masked and engaging in some social distancing, but it's so easy to forget. I walked over to someone and leaned close to point to the part of the paper that they needed. I realized my error and backed up and of course we were both masked. In travelling to and from the location there were folks wandering the streets unmasked, showing no care for social distancing. Folk carrying their masks in their hands on metro*. Folks, who like me, clearly hadn't ridden a bus in a while so stood near the front to enter and had to be directed to the back. 
We have changed how so many interactions work and it's hard. It's hard to be in a constant state of learning. It's hard to remember all these new rules. 
And of course when you are trying to maintain a new habit, like watch less TV and you forget and flip the TV on, it's so easy to keep it on. Right? You've already failed, might as well enjoy the failure.
After I shared germs with more people than I had planned for the day, I could have also gone grocery shopping, gone to a restaurant, done lots of things and just figured, what the heck. Instead I went home. And I am going to try to be extra cautious for the next two weeks. 
But it's hard. Because I also want pizza or queso or something else that doesn't currently exist in my apartment. 
The thing I was reading suggested exercise will help. (It was a place that offers exercise classes, so grain of salt there.) But the idea that keeping our physical and emotional selves well in whatever manner we choose has some value. We are all learning and doing a lot of things differently. There will be days we do not meet our own standards. And that's okay. But it is worth continuing to try our best. 

*Masks are required to be worn the entire time on metro, as the signs and audio announcements remind you. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. As a proud owner of several Bailiwick Clothing Company items, I found this quick interview with the owner about the news that DC will be slowly adding an additional area code fascinating. 
2. The NFL has another currently unemployed player - Eric Reid - and it's hard to believe it's related to talent
3. This post about dating tips in the pandemic world was great. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

New Release - Hot Bartender

I have a new story out today, it's Hot Bartender. 
Louise's fast fingers and social media savvy have her spreading the story of a first date gone weird on social media.  But every story needs a good ending.  And Louise just told the world that she's dating the bartender now.
Except Louise doesn't really remember doing that. Oops. But he is nice. And hot.
Zane has been watching Louise have a series of first dates that all end with her chatting with him at the bar. Can he convince her he's just the change of pace she needs? 
-This story operates as a standalone, but Seth, Adriana, Rafe, and Felicia all make appearances (from Aloha to You, and Undercover Bridesmaid respectively.)
-It also includes, not necessarily in order, found friends, a this is of course temporary dating situation (spoiler, they might  be wrong about that), nosy parents, a pushy sister, and quite a bit of food discussion.    
-The opening chapter of this story was loosely inspired by actual events that took place in a bar in DC. The real life dude planned six dates.  I tried to do the math on that and found it odd, so I let truth be even stranger than fiction.  
-Hospitality is a huge industry in DC, and of course in current conditions it is being hammered.  It didn't seem like fantasy to write about a thriving bar scene when I first wrote it, and of course, we'll get back there.  In the interim, shout out to the folks trying to pivot in this new world and keep in contact with their customers.
-I did not intend to put two list making heroines back to back, but well, some people need lists for their jobs, and some people pretend lists make them organized.  Louise is a little more of the latter.    
-I had separately been researching Maryland's history as the Gretna Green of the mid-Atlantic.  I discovered that Maryland has now added a twenty four hour waiting period.  (Although there are still some B&B's on the border that invite you to just make it a special trip.)  And then I discovered the proxy filing process in DC and well, the writer brain was inspired.  
 
 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Imperfect But Workable

People say things like don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good and mostly I ignore them. I don't disagree but I have never been much of a perfectionist. I am realizing that sometimes idealism gets you to the same place. So sure, some days the internet glitches and I can't do all the things I want to in the way I want to. And it's easy to be like well, I quit everything or everyone must suffer through my bad connection with me. And sometimes it means I will listen more than I talk (always a good thing to work on, I say as a big talker) and sometimes it means you do have to call it for the day, or move to voice, or use the chat function more.
This can be true of bigger life goals too. I think there are maybe only a handful of folks having the 2020 they had planned, but that doesn't mean no one is doing anything.
Plenty of things are happening and continuing to happen, this year. And yes, plenty of people are having to put a lot of things on hold and that sucks. Some people are sick. Some people are overburdened and unsure when help will arrive. 
But the things that are and can happen still exist and even if it's just a happy hour by video chat, that's still a cool thing. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Newsletter - What to Watch

Over on the newsletter, I'm talking about how I figure out what to watch on TV, and a few things I have been watching new and old.  

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. This article from the now former Facebook data scientist about the work they were and were not doing to stop false posts about political events around the world was certainly food for thought. 
2. 730 DC did a survey on quarantine pods and posted a round up of the data
3. Verzuz - which autocorrect tried to fix for me - reached two legends this past weekend.  And while I ended up watching the tail end of an epic tennis game (men's tennis takes too long) I enjoyed watching the twitter reaction and these two posts about the experience.  

Monday, September 14, 2020

It's Not 2020's Fault

I understand that things in many places suck on many levels right now.  I also understand that anthropomorphizing 2020 (or whatever year) to be the doom bringer is something you can do safely and without causing offense or harm to anyone else.  As far as I'm aware, 2020 has no kin who will come tell you to be nicer.  And I really don't want to take away people's outlets.  
But, I have seen folks blame the year for things a lot in the past few years and I think there is a subtle trap inherent within this.  It is not 2020's fault, as an example that there is a global pandemic.  Heck the virus has 19 in it for a reason, because that's when it was discovered.  And the reality is vaccines for viruses take time, and herd immunity relies on vaccines.  I can't speak for all of you, but I live somewhere where testing is still only available to some (I am fine y'all, I am part of the some), where an unusually large portion of our population is considered essential, where the surrounding areas have leapt ahead of us in opening up, and we opened indoor dining before opening schools, and now we're going to watch the results of these combined decisions play out in continued infection rates for some time.  None of this is 2020's fault.  This is prioritizing capitalism over people's lives. It's expensive to keep things closed, but, as we're discovering, businesses can't survive when their staff keep getting sick, and so the businesses close and we have less revenue and it turns out that's just as expensive.  
Many people have been working too hard, carrying multiple jobs and multiple roles both paid and unpaid, and so it turns out having to spend more time figuring out where and when and how to get food is a lot. Worrying about job stability is a lot.  Worrying about kids is a lot. Worrying about chronically ill loved ones is a lot.  
Things are on fire.  Things are flooded.  We miss being able to do a lot of things.  I get it.  This is not a great time. 
But, well, why am I yucking people's yum here.  Because something someone said to me struck me.  They said, well, who would have known that in addition to a pandemic we'd have all this social justice stuff?  And my immediate reaction was, um, well, anyone who had been paying attention for the last decade or so.  
But I think in some ways that encapsulates the problem. The problem isn't the year.  Just about everything we're experiencing right now is something we were warned about and we decided would be fine.  Well sure, things seem to catch on fire more, but it just happens.  Well sure, hurricanes are flooding things, but that's what people get for living near water.  Well sure, asking people to carry three jobs to live is a lot, but that's what they get for choosing those jobs.  Some people really like having three jobs.  Well sure, opening bars and restaurants is risky, but what are we supposed to do, pay people to stay home?  Well sure, we've long known that some police officers kill people, but we have to wait for the whole story. 
So my concern is that focusing on the year, allows us to assume that when the calendar flips once again, things will all be fixed.  And none of these things are getting fixed without work.  
Yes, I am aware that people are so tired.  I am tired.  I get it.  And if all you can do right now is keep the people in your household okay, then you do that.  I mean that sincerely.  Surviving another day is job 1.  Everything else comes after that. 
But please don't blame the year for things not getting fixed.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. Washingtonian spoke with seven DC area families with a family member killed by police over the last few years.  I assume this was already in the works before Deon Kay's recent killing.   
2. Friend data is not often as applicable as it seems, but I certainly have seen friends move - in with family and such already in this pandemic.  I've had people tell me everyone (everyone is always two friends of mine, right) is leaving cities.  But this was the first piece I saw that looked at the housing disparity, behind some of the numbers so far.  
3. I have been lucky enough to see this mural in Mount Pleasant since it is on my way to places with food, and this peek into the artist's experience of painting it was lovely. 

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Ripped Bodice Bingo - Recap

Because I actually won a prize last year, I was a more passive participant this year.  I posted some suggestions for books I had previously read over here
Here's some books I read this summer that hit on one or more of these categories.  I read more islands and secret identities than I might have expected. 

Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar - Debut novel
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson - Jewelry on cover, debut novel, midsummer ball
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wlsner - Debut novel, jewelry on cover
Nottingham by Anna Burke - Secret identity, accidentally in the wilderness
The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole - Secret Identity, title is a pun
The Girl Next Door by Chelsea M. Cameron - I am on a boat
Jeremiah by Jayce Ellis - Healthcare professional, debut
Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson- set on an island
Check Please by Ngozi Ukazu - Title is a pun
40-Love by Olivia Dade- I am on a boat, set on an island, title is a pun
The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon - ice cream, secret identity
The Queen's Gambit by Jessie Mihalik - The Final Frontier 
Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron- Debut novel, Midsummer Ball
A Duke a Lady and a Baby by Vanessa Riley - set on an island, secret identity
A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer - secret identity, accidentally in the wilderness
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall- set on an island, meddling matchmakers

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. This chat with some local theaters was interesting in part because it discussed the front heavy nature of putting on a show and balancing audience concerns.  
2. This chat with a so-called last responder in an area hard hit by corona virus was fascinating. 
3. Tom and Lorenzo collated their posts on Chadwick Boseman's looks.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Who Tells the Story?

Years ago, I pitched a YA to an agent that involved a multiracial Hawaiian, Chinese, and white girl investigating the Fall Queen election at her school and well, accidentally unraveling a few conspiracies. The agent asked me if I minded sharing my own ethnicity. I responded that I am in fact Hawaiian, Chinese, and white. The agent then told me a story about how she had once acquired a story about a non-white or not just white character from an author she suspected was not of a similar background and so she just didn't ask. That way if acquiring editors asked her, she could just say she didn't know.
I smiled and nodded. 
That agent ultimately did not acquire me and honestly I should look at that story because I think it had the bones of a great idea but I wasn't quite there yet.
I bring this up now to say that specific portion of the exchange stuck with me. I was always able to identify the mercenary nature of it. I do understand that part of agenting is mercenary. 
And I mention it was years ago because it's quite possible that agent has learned and changed her viewpoint on this. 
I will also tell you I also got a rejection from an agent who specifically requested stories about Pacific Islanders who did not ask for my ethnicity and took time to tell me that my story was not about Pacific Islanders (it was indeed about Hawaiians) and that she had family who lived in Hawaii. (Me too!)
So I do understand that there are lots of ways to make mistakes and ultimately in either of these cases I feel certain had the agent loved the pages more, my ethnicity would not have mattered. 
But, there are reasons the own voices movement gathered some steam.  It is because people with greater knowledge and understanding of a culture tell stories that fill a gap.  People diving into the tiny details of their culture, tell stories that in the end are more universal. 
But we've all also seen the Lee and Low numbers on publishing diversity and the Ripped Bodice numbers.  There are still more white people writing stories about everything.  
But, it is easy, as a white person, to think that the reason your story isn't getting acquired is because it's not diverse.  
The thing is, as we know from the Lee and Low numbers, a lot of people - agents and editors - are getting stories that fall outside their cultural knowledge.  Of course, a good story is a good story.  But stories that fall outside your area of cultural knowledge can cause harms that you yourself had not been trained to know about.  That doesn't make you a bad person.  But it means collectively, the industry has to do better.   
If I wrote a great story about a group that is woefully underrepresented in fiction then yeah, it is especially incumbent on me and the others involved in bringing this story to people to make sure the book does what it is supposed to and harms the least amount of people. 
So, a deal announcement was recently made for a person who grew up on Hawaii but is not Hawaiian, who appears to have been inspired by a random thing that she saw in a cross cultural display that she may or may not understand to be a cross cultural display. (Deal announcements often don't allow for subtleties.) 
And it matters. The book may be great. But an author who's been out there saying she should get to tell stories about native Hawaiians because most of them are dead these days - well, it does not appear that she is approaching the subject with sensitivity or cultural understanding. 
Am I saying no one can write about anyone else? No! Am I saying if you are going to assume that because you grew up next to something that you understand it without doing work, then it sounds like you aren't ready? Yes.
So I started this with a discussion of agents, because I think agents and editors need to think about this too. If they are acquiring stories, they need to figure out how to ask what makes you qualified to tell this story? And yes, hire sensitivity readers. But you should know people to call to look at it before you acquire. Because sometimes story problems are big. And you owe it to the author and agent to know what kind of ask you might need to make in the editing process. And if you don't know, then why are you acquiring such a story?

Edited to note: The author in question has pulled the book. The concerns that got us to this point remain.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Talking Theater - Newsletter

Over on the newsletter, I'm talking about ways to fill the theater-sized hole in my heart right now.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. Susanna Barkati talks about the limits of labels in regards to being a biracial Indian and British American.
2. YA Pride has had a number of wonderful guest pieces this week, including this one from K. Ancrum about how fanfic provides a safe haven for readers and writers. 
3. Sarah Kuhn's Angry Asian Man piece on community, burnout, and kindness is just an amazing read.

Edited to correct numbering.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Forced Change

I've been working on a project where I talk a lot about authorial choices.  And one of the things that came up was that fiction likes using things like pregnancy, car accidents, death of a family member, because they are moments that make it very clear to the audience that whatever happens after this moment, the character will be changed. 
Well, and then my computer died.  To be clear, a piece of the power cord broke off inside the computer such that it can no longer be charged and of course, a new charger cannot be placed inside it.  In the middle of a pandemic. 
And because it's a pandemic computers are very popular items these days, where many households now have multiple people who need to do multiple things all requiring an internet enabled computer.  So yeah.  I should have a new to me one next week.  And in the interim, I have a small computer that basically has enough memory to have about 4 things open at any given time (Ie about 62 less things than I normally have open).  I hadn't used this one in a while.  It was purchased for its portability, but well, was never the choice for the everyday computer. 
And I'm very lucky.  I can afford to take a few less productive days.  I can afford to replace my computer.
I am never going to be grateful to be spending money for a thing I wasn't planning to purchase this year.  But it has given me time to reflect when the last time I allowed myself to have a few days where I didn't have to get six to ten things done. Perhaps a slowdown is not a bad idea.  I've been encouraging others to take vacation days even if they spend them sitting on the couch in front of the same laptop just chilling.  And I have been failing to follow my own advice. 
So, I'm going to give that a shot. 


Thursday, August 20, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. This piece about a joke t-shirt, so fully encapsulates a thing I have witnessed so many times that I had jokingly been calling it sexual osmosis.  (As if folks seem to think that their proximity through marriage or other partnership to a culture means they know it likely better than you do.)  
2. This piece on Vivan Stephens, a founder of RWA, is an interesting look into how some of the issues RWA is grappling with were baked in from the start.  Also she is an incredible woman, well deserving of such a lengthy piece.  
3. An oddity at the Linz chocolate factory meant that there was a brief chocolate snow shower.  (Note: Video autoplays no long after opening.) 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Goodbye to a Pocket Friend

I met Corey Alexander who also wrote as Xan West on Twitter.  They had such a thoughtful interest in books, particularly romance books that were demonstrating protagonists find and falling in love that there might not be quite as many of.  I said to someone when I first heard they had passed, that they had excellent taste in books, which of course I consider an incredible compliment.  They also did a lot of work talking about things that romance and publishing could do to make all books better and safer places for readers.  It was a joy for me to see a rec list from Corey because so often I would have read two of them but not the others, and the two I had read I adored, so I knew this list was meant for me.  
It looks like it may have been complications of diabetes that led to their death, which is a sad reminder that our current healthcare system makes things tough for folks with chronic illnesses, and that the pandemic has only exacerbated that.  
Here's their round up of their fave YA they read last year
And here's their list of fave romance they read last year.  

Monday, August 17, 2020

Hope is a Discipline

I first heard this from activist Mariame Kaba.  As a person who has a high positivity strength, I find I sometimes have to remind myself of this.  I think this can often be the case, that folks who tend naturally in one direction, hit a speedbump in something and have to work a bit. Because we tend to build and practice things around the stuff we aren't as good at, it can be easy to let the stuff we are good at slide.
And of course, the challenge is there are people out there who assume things are going to work out without doing any work.  And gosh, wouldn't that be nice.  
When Mr. Rogers said to look for the helpers he was talking to kids.  So, we have hopefully, in a variety of ways, become the helpers that kids of today would look to.  And of course there are days when that is a lot.  
But thinking of hope as a discipline, rather than a thing that magically shows up when you need it, is helpful to me.  It means I can practice, I can get better.  And if I'm having a day where it seems hard, I might need to think about changing my practice or seeking out new teachers.  

Friday, August 14, 2020

Newsletter - Part 2

Over on the newsletter, I've got part two of figuring out what to read and maybe how attending virtual book events can help.  

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Three Interesting Things

Content note:  Discussion of a documentary about sexual assault.  
RAINN has resources here:  The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7: Telephone: 800.656.HOPE (4673) Online chat: online.rainn.org EspaƱol: rainn.org/es  

1. This discussion of the behind the scenes editing concerns with the folks behind the documentary series "Surviving R. Kelly" was fascinating both, as the story notes, now that it has been nominated for an Emmy, and because, I do think on balance the series centered the survivors, but there were moments watching it where, as someone versed in reality TV tropes, I braced a bit that they were going to veer in a different direction. Also, warning that the link that follows contains an accompanying story image, where the perpetrator is larger than the survivors.  
2. I was saddened to see that this (and additional announcements since this piece) was the result of the weeks of pushing on the part of the various Bon Appetit video employees.  I wish them all well in their new and/or adjusted roles, and hope this push towards salary transparency will benefit them in the future. 
3. Tom and Lorenzo did a piece on Elle Wood's pink dress in the final act of "Legally Blonde".  Note: as "Legally Blonde" features sexual harassment, there are references to sexual harassment. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Viruses are Not Punishment

A friend of mine mentioned a comment a coworker made. I share this not to co-opt their story but to note a thing I expect we are all going to face. 
A co-worker commented they were low on leave because they had to quarantine when my friend got sick. 
Now it's possible they meant it the way you refer to lots of things. Like I am out of bread because I ate it all yesterday. 
It is human nature to try to dive in to find errors in what people who got sick did, so that we can feel assured that we would never do the thing that they did and therefore we will be safe.
As someone who has been wearing face coverings everywhere for months, upping the hand washing, limiting people interactions, and turning down offers to visit both family and friends, I get it. I am working hard to do everything I can to keep myself well, and also those I interact with as safe as I can.
But I also recognize it's an imperfect plan. The virus itself does not care how many masks I own, what song I sang while washing my hands, or how often I sanitized my phone. The virus is going to infect when and where it can. I will not get bonus points for the days I didn't leave my apartment. If I get it, I certainly want to be able to provide a good accounting of my movements to the appropriate people. 
But my contracting an infectious virus will mean simply that a virus whose sole purpose is to snack on humans got me. It will not mean I am or was less good than those who are uninfected. And yes, I know that there are folks out there taking less precautions than me, willingly and unwillingly. The virus does not care. It's going to get the people it can. Some of them will be making their first tiny exception. Some won't. The virus does not care. 
And, the reality is this. Crappy leave and sick day policies are neither the fault of the virus or the folks who contracted it and possibly exposed you. In fact, if I had to guess, I would suggest that crappy leave and sick day policies are part of why we're going to see infections continue. Here in DC small businesses are only required to offer two sick days for the year. Many teachers I know get very few sick days, because schools recognize so many holidays. So why would you need more? So we can tell people to skip work if they feel sick, but we aren't backing that up with policy. 
And I have to tell you, my last company mostly believed sick meant you checked your email only four times that day. 
So, all of this is to say, this pandemic is revealing and exacerbating some huge flaws in our society. That is barely the fault of the virus. It is not the fault of those who are sick.