Sirens 2014 – Hauntings

When I decided to go to Sirens, I had both info about what it was like…and a tentative picture of what I hoped that meant.

A con where regular attendees could create programming? AW YISS

Probably a lot of people don’t care about creative input to conference or convention programming, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. So after combing through the info on how to submit an idea, and the types of programming accepted, I sent in an idea for a “roundtable”–in which I posed questions that anyone who attended could participate in answering.

I was so thrilled to have my submission accepted. (“The Ghostly Hands – Mothers, Maids, and Mistresses in Literature” is what I went with–something I’d immediately thought about when considering ghosts in literature. I do metaphorical more than literal ghosts…)

This answered one question anyway–was it pretty doable to submit programming? Absolutely. And it felt just like getting an acceptance from a magazine.

While the vibe of a very conversational, small conference really appealed to me, I try not to hold too many expectations of something completely new. I couldn’t help but hope that it would be more relaxed. And about literary discussion of genre fiction–something a lot of convention programming tries for, but lacks because of how general conversation needs to be.

I am determined to go back next year, because it was *exactly* that.

You could (and were encouraged by the format to) sit down with new groups of people and just geek out about stuff. The theme of hauntings ran through the discussions as something to deliberate as a metaphor for women in writing, too. And early October in the Pacific Northwest is a *perfect* time for ghost-stories.

I was new, with only one specific friend to join up with, but everyone I came across was happy to say hello, to strike up conversation. More than I could have hoped, the intimate numbers and common areas meant that it was easy to join other people. The fact that everyone was eager to welcome someone they didn’t know yet–that is a tribute to the organizers and the atmosphere they’ve created.

The Breakfast with Books idea of grabbing your breakfast and then choosing a table for a book-discussion is brilliant. (And now I know why the recommended reading list is actually a Thing You Want to Do.) Having a hike-with-GOH part of the programming is great–having a flexible enough program that when it’s rainy you can all decide for cocoa by the fire instead is even better.

In fact, the schedule was so flexible that there were programming spots open for spontaneous scheduling. I decided I wanted an anime/manga hour–others made sure there was a Legend of Korra watching party.

This is the kind of conference I want to support. So next year I’m not only planning to go, and recruit friends, I’m also going to bring money to spend at their auction, which is rife with tantalizing goods for a cause.

Sirens 2015 is in Denver! If you want the early, early previous-guest price link, contact me for it–they say it’s fine to share.

PLIV: Plot Break!

Now for more on the DUMB STICK theory of plot-breaking…

When drafting or outlining a book, there’s this false idea that a) it’s all common sense or b) it’s purely intellectual.

The exercise of breaking plot, like Melinda Snodgrass described from her Star Trek screen-writing days, is a challenge to that. It also challenges the idea that the writer’s own ideas are sacred. But I’ll let you wrestle with that on your own…

Essentially, you start with the premise that Three-Act Structure is a working formula, and your book can use it for a little better focus.

In the breaks where we got together to play around with this, we kicked off by having the subject (willing subject, I might add) start telling us about their book. Being writers who also design worlds, create characters, think up twists, we would interrupt constantly with questions and commentary. Sometimes more one than the other.

As we tried to fit the story into a structure, sometimes problems became apparent–at least to those trying to “help”.

The main thing brought to this version of workshopping, though, was the willingness of disinterested parties to throw out stupid ideas. To claim the Stick of Dumb, and announce an idea that the actual writer might be horrified by…and then inspired, too.

Shaking loose inspiration can be hard. Having a room full of enthusiastic writers with no reason to fear YOUR failure to throw things out there can be really powerful.

PLIV Mentioned Resources

It is known, that any group of writers gathered together in the name of literature are going to end up shilling.

Not their own work, usually, but the books that have inspired them, taught them something about writing, or just are flat out good. Here’s my compilation of books mentioned during the Paradise Lost Workshop, with a couple of additions I didn’t get to mention.

Non-Fiction, on Writing:

  • Zen and the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury
  • On Writing, Steven King
  • Wired for Story
  • The Ten Percent Solution

Stephanie Leary adds:

My addition:

  • Everything You Need to Know About Men You Can Learn from Dogs (a women’s only resource to character development, as far as I’m concerned)

Excellent Books:

  • The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett (screaming red herring)
  • The Nicolai Chronicles, Dorothy Dunnett (an arc for all 8 books together)
  • Strong Poison & the Lord Peter Whimsey books (character voice)
  • Have Space-Suit, Will Travel – The Star Beast, Robert A. Heinlein

Stephanie Leary was talking about the artist journey in:

  • Faking It by Jennifer Crusie (also see her writing posts at ArghInk for superb lessons in craft/plotting)

My additions:

  • The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner (and sequels) for a twisty road of masterful reveals. When you get to the end, go back and read it over; it was totally fair!
  • Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch for “fistfuls of trouble” and reversals by the pint.

Screenplays, for structure and craft:

  • Casablanca
  • The King’s Speech
  • Dallas Buyer’s Club
  • The English Patient
  • Love, Actually
  • Thor (viewed as “an abusive father ruins family, creating bitter sibling rivalry”)
  • Captain America (first half, anyway)
  • Spiderman II (with Tobey Maguire)

Separately we talked about The Princess Bride and Never-Ending Story as formative movies.

I am going to update this list as others chime in with things I missed! And probably add links, once I’ve got the time to do that fiddly-bit. What did I miss, guys?

PLIV – Paradise Lost Writer’s Workshop

This weekend I learned to wield the Dumb Stick.

I am back from a long weekend in San Antonio, for a second round at Paradise Lost. It’s a workshop and writing retreat limited to alums of Viable Paradise, Taos Toolbox, or members of the SF/F pro forum Codex.

Essentially, this means people who have made a step toward becoming pro in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy field. But because of the specific circles involved, there were lots of connects, via classes of students from the workshops or activity on the Codex Forum. It’s easier to get to know people with certain Venn diagram overlaps in experience…

I feel this photo successfully portrays everyone's personalities...

Themes of the weekend that developed out of the lectures and chats this time were: no one “arrives” and is set for life in publishing… but you can make your own luck by being ready. It may seem a bit mechanical to write to certain structures or even formulaic, but it’s how a professional creates a book that fundamentally works. A publishing career is a crapshoot, so let it be about the fact that you love to write.

And maybe, love to hang out with other writers and talk about the craft?

girl table selfieI hope to post a compilation of recommended books, and an overview of our exercises in “plot breaking”.

First, though, I wanted to post a little more good press for this small workshop. If you can get in, the structure is great with enough food for thought that socializing time is energized, there is free time to write…or better yet, break your book and remake it with other fantastic writer-people helping you out. This is where the Dumb Stick comes into play.

Let’s do this again next year!

Tumblr is an odd blogging format–geared more toward resharing photos and humorous posts than creating your own content. But I’ve taken to it–it’s the scene for young adults, of whom I am fond and also consider my audience.

I started to move my suit-style blog onto a more visible blog from WordPress (no offense to WP; I just don’t have a platform of my own yet and Tumblr’s tag-surfing is active) and since I found a wealth of K-Pop fans to interact with I’ve moved my main energies to my Tumblr blogs.

One thing I was surprised to find got some response was posts of my poetry. I’ve been meaning for a while to include my website here in the loop, when I decide to release a poem for free, instead of continuing to send it around to magazines.

Launching from “mean to” into practice starting… now!

After I Stopped Wearing Red

I made this path myself,
trek after trek.
It winds around the wildflowers,
so each spring it’s different.

The shadows here are deeper than before.

I’ve been on this path all my life,
it seems,
I can’t remember not walking it.
It lies between two halves of my heart,
beautiful with broad-leaved trees.

The shadows here move more often than before.

It is all the same,
even my shoes on it.
I recognize the dust that lies on them
but can’t believe it;
us back on this ground like it’s nothing.

The shadows haven’t had a smell, a name before.

But grandmother is well
and mother is well,
and the hunter is well and I, too,
will be well.

These shadows have been slain before.

 

article for Denizen Magazine – for Third Culture Kid

I pitched an idea for an essay to this lovely webzine, publishing articles on being a child of different cultures, and worked with the editor to put together a personal account of how grief comes into returning “home” sometimes.

Writing something so personal for publication was a new experience, as was publishing non-fiction at all. I am proud of it, and of being part of this cool magazine.

“You Can’t Go Home Again”

We left Yonezawa before 6 a.m., in January. My too-big-for-Japan family clambered into a van with half our belongings crammed into suitcases around us.

We were moving back to the States, and my heart was breaking.

…read the rest here

In Harmony With Ghosts

New poem out!

Or rather, it was new when it was published some time ago. I updated my bibiography but didn’t make a post.

In Harmony With Ghosts

Like “Kami“, this poem is directly written from experience of temples in Japan when I was living there as a teen. I think it’s great that Strong Verse has published both my semi-paranormal travel poems. It’s technically not a spec verse magazine, but I’ve kinda warped it my way a little…

Meta-Memoir

For the year 2013, I have a blog project started–

the posting of my teen journals of moving to Japan, and the following adventures or misadventures.

Of course, 13 y.o. me was hilariously precocious and serious about writing, BUT there is some editing and expansion to be done. So I’m writing a simultaneous commentary, from me, at 26.

Should be full of LoLs, or at least, a lot of pathos. (and bathos. I WAS a teenager.)

Nikki and the B-Sides

SFPA poetry contest

My poem “An Herbwife Lives by the Dragons’ Eyrie” was a finalist, but ultimately didn’t place in the SFPA contest. It was fun to enter something like this, and actually place, though! It has a different sort of feeling from getting personalized rejections from markets…

Looking at the lovely poetry that did place, I can see why mine may have been a choice for one of the initial readers and not the judge–the collection of winning poetry has a definite weird sci-fi beauty, a consciousness of the universe.

Go see them!

2012 Science Fiction Poetry Association Contest Winners