Thursday, November 19, 2015

Virginia Hills

Hi Friends!
Well then. Whew. I just had an *adventure* in the autumn hills of Virginia. I'd like to tell ya'll about it, but before I start, I feel the need to say a few things:

A great deal of this trip (and every trip) was spent marvelling at how lucky I am to get to spend time with kindred writerly spirits in a beautiful setting. Life could be different. Life could be, and has sometimes been, much harder than it is now. News headlines and letters from loved ones remind me constantly how fragile all of human experience is, and how troubled so many lives are. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn't run off on adventures when this is true. Fear and sadness do their heavy work on me.

And yet, I'm blessed with opportunities, many of which originate from the good people I know and love. I know that to sit these out, and miss these connections, because of the horrors of the world isn't the thing. The thing is to try to live well and wisely. To try to help when I can and do less harm when I can't. To try and make stories that might matter in some small way. At least, that's what I've come to believe in the past couple of years since I left teaching. It isn't always easy to convince myself that it's okay to frolic in the Virginia Hills, and sometimes, frankly, it just isn't. Luckily, this time, Darian, Lola, and I picked up our feet and went for it. I'm glad we went. I'm grateful.

The plan was to spend some quality time with our dear friend and esteemed YA novelist, Tiffany Trent, who makes her home in VA.  (If you haven't read her steampunk novels, I *highly* recommend them, and not just because I like her as a person.) We flew in to DC and immediately began missing Ysabeau Wilce who, alas, wasn't able to join us this time. We rented a vehicle and drove to Lexington that first night and really, all I have to say is Hamilton the musical. Perhaps you didn't hear me: HAMILTON. We listened to this soundtrack while driving through the green and golden Virginia Hills. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, stop reading this and go listen to it. It's so freaking good.)

The next day we breakfasted in our surprisingly historical inn ...

...and then enjoyed some browsing and artsy coffee in the adorable town of Lexington.

It was such a pretty place and I was commenting that I would happily go back when... we saw our first confederate flag. Sigh. So much to say about that topic, but, well, I was disappointed and angry just about every time I saw it on our trip. Which was often.

We left Lexington and made our way through several towns until we arrived at a beautiful farmhouse about an hour outside of Roanoke.

The property included a lovely little fish pond and over 100 acres of forest.

We spent the next few days writing,


goofing around,

and staying up far too late. It was divine, even though Darian and Lola were both suffering from nasty head colds. That didn't stop them from fulfilling a few warboy fantasies from Mad Max: Fury Road:

And then there was the time we drove down to Roanoke to see a beautiful and wicked mythic art show by artist, Anita Allen

With a variety of sculptures made of organic and synthetic materials fused and woven together, Allen's show explored those borderlands where biology meets imagination. I found it fascinating.

Anita and her partner, Mike Allen, are both well known and loved in the fantasy literature world. I'm honored to report that I recently sold one of my poems to Mike for an upcoming issue of Mythic Delirium Magazine. Seeing them both again was lovely, and now I have a picture with my first editor. 

And then there was the time that Darian and I tried to go for a hike in the forests around the farm... 

... and ended up fording a mudslide. This was scary, icky business and, though we laughed a lot, I don't recommend it. 

Unless you happen to be one of these two:

Oh yes, and let's please not forget the time that Tiffany took us to the Friday Night Jamboree in Floyd! There was flatfoot dancing (!!), 

and singing 'bout Satan's Jewel Crown (!!), 

...and abundant joy and merriment. I loved it and hope I get the chance to go back some day.

We also had the chance to meet Tiffany's wonderful family.

Her daughter, known on the internets as Doomlet, is pure joy. Her daddy was kind enough to take us fishing at the pond and Doomlet caught two beautiful bass (and got to hold a couple salamanders too).

Doomlet and I both had owl socks. One of many reasons I'm glad I met her.

There was plenty more. There were bad movies and frightful readings and pumpkin pancakes and there might have been peach moonshine and lampshade dancing. There was definitely hot buttered rum by the fire.

Then it was time to go home, back through the misty hills to DC, and across the grey skies to Seattle.

It was such a good trip. Thank you Tiffany, Ysa, Darian, Lola, Mike, Anita, the owners of our VRBO, and especially all our families for making it possible. 

I'm going to to leave you with this short video of the falling oak leaves outside our house (if it works). I sat under these leaves and wrote for several hours on our first full day and, of all our adventures, that one might have been my favorite.

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. Much love to each and all.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sirens 2015: Rebels & Revolutionaries

I recently attended my third Sirens Conference and am happy to report it was another powerful and life-affirming experience. For those of you who may not have read about this conference here before, Sirens is a small boutique conference for and about women in fantasy literature. This year, Darian and Lola (my dear writer-sisters) traveled with me to Denver, Colorado. I’d been volunteering a bit for Sirens over the course of the year and though I knew the conference had been planned carefully, I still worried that it would somehow not live up to my hopes and past experiences. I need not have worried.

Warning: This post is long because it is primarily for my own records and for other curious Sirens attendees. Certainly, if you’re interested, feel free to scan and browse. This post doesn’t need to be read start to finish, but I highly encourage you to click on some of the links to the wonderful presenters and Guests of Honor who attended this year.


We arrived, checked in, and got to have dinner with some of my new favorite people on the planet: Rosemary Clement, Rook Riley, and Jen Adams (long time online friend who I finally got to meet in person!).

Jen and I:

Keynote: Kate Elliott gave a beautiful, funny, and touching speech on how readers access fantasy worlds, familiar and strange. She suggested, and I think rightly so, that writers have the power to craft truly revolutionary narratives even as they employ some of the tropes, settings, or situations that might seem initially “comfortable” for readers. Also, she's wonderful.


Writing the Fantastic: [Panel]
Kate Elliott, RaeCarson, Yoon Ha Lee, moderated by Amy Tenbrink (Co-founder of Sirens)
This panel was probably the most powerful part of programming for me. Each of the Guests of Honor brought incredible wisdom and humor to the conversation on how they became writers, stayed writers, and continue to fight the good fight. The moments that most affected me were these:

Kate Elliot: “Surround yourself with your comrades… Walk together…”
“Forgive yourself.”

Rae Carson: Sometimes it’s okay to “beat a hasty retreat” in order to “win the war”.  Sometimes, it’s wise to ask yourself, “Do I have room in my heart for rage today?” “Get selfish…. Do the hard thing”.

Yoon Ha Lee: Pick your battles. Like Sun Tzu: “The best way to defeat the enemy is to understand the enemy.”

Women of War, Trauma, and Healing: [Panel]
ArtemisGrey, Catherine Lundoff, T.L. Morganfield, Bethany Powell, s.e. smith
Great discussion of the ways that trauma, whether of an individual or a community, is frequently misrepresented and ignored in fantasy narratives.

Artemis, me, and her twin, Stella:

Keynote: Yoon Ha Lee, who is hilarious and intensely brilliant, spoke about gathering much of his inspiration from gaming. While I’m not currently a gamer myself, after this speech, I’m considering exploring games again. Yoon is precisely the kind of writer I want to be someday: poetic, brave, and imaginative. A few of my take-aways:
-       In fiction, make shit as weird and new as possible. Roleplaying has tons of fodder for this.
-       It’s sometimes more fun when characters level down, rather than leveling up.
-       Whenever people ask how to improve their prose, I tell them to read poetry.

Rosemary Clement enjoying Yoon Ha Lee's Keynote.

Rebelling Against the Binary: Gender in Speculative Fiction: [Roundtable]
Moderated by Jessica Corra
Challenging discussion on the ways in which speculative fiction must evolve to continue to revolutionize the way we conceive gender. Overall, I left this discussion agreeing (I think with many) that our society needs more stories where there are 3 genders, 5 genders, 7 gender systems, where characters have choice of gender, or even where gender is absent and people are… wait for it… people.

No Key, No Problem: [Afternoon Class]
Erynn Moss
Um, we learned how to pick locks. My con is cooler than yours.

Also, I can now use a bobby pin to open handcuffs behind my back. !^&%! Here's a picture of our awesome instructor, Erynn:

I had dinner on Friday at Park Meadows food court with a whole bunch of awesome Sirens, many of whom I met that evening. (Thanks, Erynn, for driving us!)

After dinner: Rested for a while and then visited the bookstore and found THIS BEAUTIFUL BOOK with cover art by Terri Windling-Gayton

Darian, Lola, and I stayed up for awhile drinking cocktails and reading poems from The Moment of Change , edited by Rose Lemberg, aloud to one another in the Fireside Lounge. These, dear friends, are the moments I live for.


Infiltrate the Query Pile: [Workshop]
AmyBoggs, Jennifer Udden
These two generous (and funny!) literary agents gave us helpful reminders about how to structure a query for maximum effect. A few of my take-aways:
-Sometimes a query includes marketing language and clich├ęs and that’s okay.
-Do not reveal your ending! If the agent is asking for 50 pages, pitch those.
-All a query really needs to do is get eyes down to the pages.
* Amy Boggs is currently open for queries. Jennifer Udden is currently closed.

Mother of the Revolution: [Panel]
This was my first time presenting at Sirens and I was *nervous*. I’m happy to say I think it went very well. The audience was engaged, supportive, and each panelist was excellent. We discussed representations of mothers in fantasy literature and explored motherhood in relation to writing. My take-aways:
-Most women, whether mothers or care-givers or neither, come up against societal expectations about motherhood at some point in their lives and yet this is a highly personal, complex, and difficult topic.
-There is a deep need for more and better stories about and around pregnancy, motherhood, and agency within fantasy literature.

(photo by Lola Lindle- thanks!)

Generation K: [Panel]
KathrynCottam, Darian Lindle, Lola Lindle, Kate Tremills
Great discussion of how dystopian novels have evolved in the wake of Hunger Games, 9/11, and social media. A few of my take-aways:
-Revolution can’t exist without rebellion.
-Rebels oppose the existing order and this appeals to teens.
-Revolutionaries propose a new order and this may be harder for many young people to identify with, as they struggle with a flood of choices in their own lives.

Keynote: Rae Carson gave a compassionate and inspiring talk on the major obstacles she's faced as a writer. Honestly, there were too many take-aways to post here:      
-Know your mission as an author before you look for an agent.
-“You might never overcome your obstacles, you might carry them with you the rest of your life, and that’s okay. They can cease to be walls and just be something we work with.”
-Luck matters. Shitty luck happens. We move on and through.

The Iconoclastic Revolutionary: [Panel]
Rae CarsonKate Elliott, Andrea J. Horbinkski, Jennifer Michaels, s.e.smith, Jennifer Udden
Another meaningful discussion of how women fighters and revolutionaries are characterized in fantasy lit. Great analysis of the “lone wolf” figure and how/ why women are often held up to masculine models of rebellion.

Female Game-Changers [Roundtable]
Sherwood Smith
Too many wonderful titles were discussed to list here, but I need to say that Sherwood Smith blew me away with her vast knowledge of female centered fantasy literature and culture. She is *amazing*.

Fan Girls: The Art of Fan Language [Afternoon Class]
Sherwood Smith
We played with fans! I made a fool of myself! Fun was had. =)

Darian, Fan Girl:

Lola had the brilliant idea to order pizza to our room were we got to hang out with several kindred spirits. A truly soul satisfying meal.  I need to mention Rosemary Clement again here, because her workshop was full when I tried to attend (argh!), but if you haven’t met her or read her work, well… DO IT. She’s freaking awesome. And Rook Riley, I sure hope I get to see you again next year!

The Insurgent’s Ball:
Alright, I’m out of words. Here, have some pictures:

The Serenity crew!

Slytherin & Ravenclaw:

Mal and Inara:



Aaaaaand so, Sirens 2015 was phenomenal. I definitely missed some friends who were unable to attend this year, but Sirens 2016 is only 12 months away. The next theme is Lovers!
Details will be here.

I've done my best to include accurate links to so many lovely folks, but please let me know if you see any errors or know of some links I couldn't find. Also, let it be noted that I failed to get pictures of SO MANY wonderful people I was able to see and connect with at Sirens this year. Better to live in the moment, but I do care about so many more folks than I could post here. Hope to see you all next year!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Public Art

Hello dearies!

Lately I've run into a bunch of awesome public art projects around Seattle. I feel the great need to gush about them somewhere. What's that you say? Here? This very blog? I thought is was a writing blog. Yes, I suppose art and writing are well connected. Alright then. That's a lovely idea! =)

First up, the Neototem's Children's Garden by Gloria Bornstein. This series of brass sea creatures is located outside our local Children's Theater and I just adore them. Here are my favorites of the bunch:

Also near the Children's Theater, are a series of silly stone heads arranged in a circle. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find the name of this piece or who the artist is, but we sure love them!

While visiting the South Lake Union water park this summer, I stumbled on this fascinating piece. Again, I can't seem to find any information online about the artist or title, but the concept was intriguing: a tiny, unfinished house, filled with natural sticks and logs. I loved this simple reversal of exterior and interior. It made me think about the various ways we humans attempt to contain and shape our environments.

This next piece by Danielle Foushee we found at Carkeek Park. I love the simple way it interacts with the landscape and suggests so many beautiful natural elements : waves, bubbles, clouds, & wind.

Also at Carkeek is a piece titled "Passage" by Dara Solliday and Savina Mason. It's comprised of a series of gently colored frames that form a portal overlooking the Sound.

And then there are projects that pop up without the blessing of the Parks & Rec Department. Some of them I love just as much, though I know graffitti can be a controversial subject. I have a fondness for this mysterious face in West Ewing Mini Park and not-so-secretly hope that no one cleans it up.

Last, but not least, deep in Carkeek Park is a pretty little orchard where artist and poet Shin Yu Pai patiently stained words onto the fruit itself. I spent an afternoon wandering around searching for the words and it was magical to say the least. Many of the words felt dissonant with the place, words like INDEX and JEFFERSON. But there were others that, for me, seemed to grow from the trees themselves, words like ORIGIN and FOUND.

I certainly enjoy going to museums on occasion, but I also enjoy art in the wide world beyond. The kind of art you can stumble on one autumn afternoon, in a small sunlit orchard.

Thanks for stopping by everyone. Much love.

All photos in this post are by me. You can read more about this last piece at the Poetry Foundation or at Literary Hub . For more information on public art projects in Seattle please see the site on Public Art.