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:  
Also available in print: universal ling:

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


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.  

Edited to update link

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.