Theoretical Futures: Sirens Conference and Forthcoming Poetry

It’s almost impossible to look as far into the future as October with any certainty, in this July of 2020.

But I am excited to look forward to theoretically presenting at the Sirens Conference, leading a workshop on speculative poetry!

Verse Versus Reality @ Sirens Conference

“Poetry may be the earliest storytelling form, but much like stories with gods and monsters, these days it is often seen as niche, not of general interest. And poetry that envisions alternative realities? Weirder than weird. But perhaps…not difficult. In this workshop, read some example poetry by fellow Sirens and similar poets, use prompts to create your own transgressive poetry, and form an affirmative writing group to share your work if you choose.”

I’ve been hoping to do something similar with the lovely Sirens community for some time but last year I chose not to attend since I was going to be transitioning to a new school, job location, and home. If Sirens happens in person I’ll be braving my first long-distance trip in mass transit to Denver–if not, I hope to still share this workshop on how to write poems that speak from reality by bending it.

I’ve always loved narrative poetry, and am currently working on a manuscript of poems that have a continuity, if not a strict storyline.

In the fall I’m also looking forward to publishing my first poem with Strange Horizons! “Trust Your Eyes” was the only speculative poem I wrote in a poetry class where we explored form–it is (mostly) a blank verse poem. It’s also influence by cowboy poetry, and about the not-quite-knowing of big open spaces.

I guess that’s fitting.

GUYLINER FOR MILES – a bored writer’s intro to k-pop

Okay. It has been brought to my attention that all my ill-gotten K-Pop knowledge might be turned for good, into a gift for the nations. That is, I could compose a list of jams and MVs to brighten some non-initiate’s day.

Ask, and receive!  I have organized them loosely into attributes, if not moods. This is a sampling drawn from the things I like, obviously, but some were chosen for being classic k-pop, some were chosen because I am biased, and some are just perfect for the list.


[ETA: I found reason to create playlists right on YouTube. While labelling them here was fun, ultimately, I went with mood for the playlists, rather than wit. BEHOLD:

BOUNCY – A K-Pop Mood Playlist

GLIDEY – K-Pop Mood Playlist

EPIC-Y – K-Pop Mood Playlist]

But I will not be removing this adorable post of k-pop by theme:

Masters of Synchronized Dance!

SHINee – SHERLOCK: Clue + Note

INFINITE – The Chaser

EXO – Growl

Super Junior – SORRY SORRY

B.A.P – Warrior

Girls Generation – Run Devil Run


Paranormal Decadance

TVXQ – Mirotic

SHINee – Lucifer

BIGBANG – Monster




BEAST – Fiction

2NE1 – Come Back Home

Sunmi – Full Moon

VIXX – hyde


Threat Level: CUTEST

Girls Generation – Gee

Teen Top – Miss Right

Teen Top – No More Perfume

Orange Caramel – Catallena

Crayon Pop – Bar Bar Bar

Girl’s Day – Oh! My God

B1A4 – Beautiful Target

Wonder Boyz – Tarzan


Fashion is the Enemy

G-DRAGON – Heartbreaker

2NE1 – Follow Me

Kan Mi-Young – Paparazzi

SPICA – Painkiller

 T-ara – Lovey-Dovey (Zombie ver.)


Bizarre Done Better

Wings – Hair Short

Lee Hi – Rose

BIGBANG – Fantastic Baby

Block B – Nallili Mambo

Sunny Hill – The Grasshopper Song

G-Dragon – Coup D’Etat

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!