First months of 2013
The beginning of 2013 has flown by for me. Partly it's because I was sick for most of January, so that whole month feels like a blur of sniffling and huddling under quilts. I did, however, spend a fabulous weekend at Arisia. I was on 13 program items, which is really a lot! You can hear one of them on Outer Alliance Podcast #28, and you can see panel notes for a few others on my journal.
This month, I attended Boskone, where I was on a much more manageable 6 panels. I've been posting some notes for those under the Boskone tag on my journal. There are still a couple more to come, and then also Outer Alliance Podcast #29, which is a recording of the Boskone QUILTBAG panel. I met wonderful people at both conventions, so despite my month of illness, 2013 is off to a pretty great start.
I am also utterly delighted to discover that I've made the Galactic Suburbia Award shortlist for the second year in a row. This award calls attention to wonderful people and projects, so it's a real honor to be part of it. Full details here.
"Seeds" is a Pushcart Prize nominee!Just found out the delightful news that Niteblade chose "Seeds" as one of their three Pushcart nominated poems for this year. This is a wonderful honor, and I'm in fabulous company, too. My co-nominees from Niteblade include Lisa Bradley, Sara Cleto, and Brittany Warman, excellent poets all! I'm also excited to see K. V. Taylor nominated in the fiction category. So wonderful to see friends get some well-deserved recognition.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I need to go down to my local coffee shop and get a celebratory cupcake!
New Poem and PodcastWhile I was away at WorldCon (which was wonderful and overwhelming), two new things went out into the world. My poem "Seeds" about Persephone appeared in the September issue of Niteblade, and the August edition of the Broadly Speaking Podcast went up. I was a guest on Broadly Speaking this time, participating in a lovely conversation about interstitial fiction. Larissa Niec was the moderator, and Catherine Lundoff and Kristen McDermott were my co-panelists.
WorldCon!August has been a very big month for new stuff. I had a story in Daily Science Fiction, an interview in Stone Telling, a poem in Jabberwocky, and I was a guest twice on The Skiffy and Fanty Show (once to discuss movie sequels and such with the awesome Stina Leicht, and once as part of the Torture Cinema series with hosts Shaun and Paul).
Now I'm off to Chicago for the World Sicience Fiction Convention this weekend. If you're attending, here's where you can find me:
*Thursday: 3-4pm -- Volunteering at the London 2014 bid desk
*Friday 9:00-10:30am -- Writing Gender Roles in Science fiction (in Columbus IJ with Anne Lyle, Catherine Lundoff, Joan D. Vinge, and Victor Raymond)
*Friday 2-3pm -- Volunteering at the London 2014 bid desk
*Saturday 3:00-4:30pm -- Kaffeeklastch, though I may ask my group if they would like to end a half hour early because...
*Saturday 4:00-6:00pm -- Strange Horizons tea party (in the State Suite, co-hosted by Brit Mandelo, Jed Hartman, and Niall Harrison)
*Saturday 6:00pm-7:30pm -- Feminism in Fantasy (in Crystal C with Joan D. Vinge, Sandy Lindow, Sarah Hans, and Valerie Estelle Frankel)
*Monday 11:00am -- Reading (in DuSable)
Do say hello if you see me!
Tips for Moderating Panels at ConventionsBecause Readercon is coming up soon, my friend Claire asked for advice on moderating panels at conventions. It turns out I've done enough research and had enough experience that I actually had a lot to say on the subject. Claire asked if I'd post my notes publicly, so here they are:
1) Remember first and foremost that your job on any panel is to keep the audience entertained and engaged. If things go off topic, but people are interested in that tangent, it's okay to follow the tangent for a bit. If things are going exactly according to plan, but people seem unengaged, it's time to change things up somehow. Never stay for too too long on one subject (or one tiny aspect of a larger subject, anyway).
2) People have most likely come to this panel for one of two reasons. The first is that they know and like one or more of the panelists, and would like to hear them speak. The second is that they like the look of the panel description as it appears in the program. Knowing these two things, consider it your task to make sure that all the panelists get chances to speak more than a tiny amount, and to address the subject matter described in the panel in at least three different ways--there is nothing quite so disappointing as arriving at a panel where the description sounds very exciting, only to have the moderator undercut it ("I know the description says this is about contemporary fantasy fairy tale retellings, but everyone's totally sick of those. Let's focus on aliens in space opera fairy tales instead.").
3) To make things go smoothly, it helps if you have done some prep-work. If you've been provided a list of e-mail addresses for your fellow panelists, you might want to send a message in advance with a brief explanation of your game plan. Something along the lines of:
"I'm going to introduce the panel by name and tell the audience that we will have a discussion for x minutes before we open up to audience questions for the last y minutes of the panel. Then I'll read the official description and ask each of you to introduce yourselves in a brief way. I will spend the remainder of the first x minutes asking you all some questions, and making sure everyone has a chance to speak. If there's anything you particularly hope to talk about in this discussion, please let me know."
Of course, you would also want to add salutations and pleasantries. You might also end the message by asking if that plan sounds all right, and welcoming their suggestions for changes to the overall plan. In practice, I have never had anyone ask me to change my plan, but people seem to like the idea that they do have input. I have sometimes gotten good suggestions for things to talk about, too.
If you have not been provided a list a of e-mails you can either skip this step, or you can try asking the event organizers for contact info if you feel like doing that.
4) On the day of the panel, be very clear from the start that you'll be taking questions at whichever time you intend to take them, and that you are the leader of the discussion. People will accept your authority if you lay it out up front. If you haven't explicitly stated it, and people start to overtake the conversation (panelists or audience members), it can be very difficult to wrestle the conversation into a meaningful shape. At 5 minutes before the panel is supposed to end, stop taking questions, tell everyone it's time to wrap up, and ask your panelists for any final remarks. End the panel on time (several minutes before the next panel is scheduled to begin) so that the next group can come in and get started promptly. This all sounds very authoritarian, but it you say it with clarity and good-naturedness, most likely no one will mind.
5) Have some specific questions in mind (and bonus points if you have one question specifically related to each panelist's work), but don't think of them as a list to get through. Use them as a guide to start the conversation, and then to bring it back on track if it starts to stall or wander too far. Be open and flexible about following the natural conversational path as long as that path is interesting and the audience is engaged. If you believe that every panelist has something interesting to say, and that your job is to help them have a chance to say it, you'll usually be right, and everyone will be pleased with the end result.
6) If one person is dominating the conversation, it's okay to stop them, even mid-sentence. Just make it seem like a natural segue, and bring the conversation specifically to a panelist who hasn't spoken as much. ("You've brought up an interesting point, Jane. Bob, since you also write science fantasy, I'm wondering what you think about Jane's observation. Do you agree that all fairy tales should feature aliens from now on?").
7) Have fun. If you have fun, chances are everyone else will too.
Bonus tip: If you've got microphones available, use them. Even if you don't think you need them, other people might benefit from the amplification. Some audience members might feel unable or unwilling to complain when they can't hear you, so it's better to err on the louder and clearer side.
P.S. If you're coming to Readercon, I hope to see you there! I'll be reading in the Mythic Poetry group reading at 11am on Friday, and then leading the Codex Writers group reading at noon on Friday. The Outer Alliance is also having a meetup Friday at 9pm in the lobby. Do say hello!
For My Birthday, I Made Myself a Chapbook
My Birthday is the 28th of May, and I love to make things, so I made myself a present. Specifically, I took a story I wrote earlier this year, commissioned Erik Amundsen to illustrate it, and tried my hand at bookbinding for the first time. Here are some pictures for you, and you can listen to me reading an excerpt of the story on this month's Broad Pod (there are several other interesting excerpts on this episode, including one by Catherine Lundoff, who co-hosted the Outer Alliance party with me at WisCon last month). My excerpt starts at about the 6:50 mark, and lasts for roughly 6 minutes.
Here's the back cover copy:
Gretel has lived for a very long time, and for most of that time, her life has sucked. This year is no exception. She's responsible for taking care of her brother (who happens to be an annoying cat now), she's hopelessly in love with her indifferent boss, and then there's that tendency to see the future whether she wants to or not...
If you want to buy a copy, I'll have some at Readercon and WorldCon, or you can order one directly from me (send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org). They're $10 if you buy directly from me, and $12 if you are ordering them and need one shipped within the United States. For international shipping, e-mail me, and we'll work something out. Each book is handbound with different colorful coverstock and endpapers.
New Broadly Speaking PodcastI hosted the April 2012 Broadly Speaking Podcast, and it is a really exciting one! The topic for April was Changelings and Transformation, and I had three guests with a variety of fantastic things to say.
First, this year's Tiptree Award winner, Andrea Hairston, talked to me about her book, Redwood and Wildfire, which features a diverse cast of characters trying to make their way in the entertainment world during the popular transition from theatre to film. I absolutely loved this book (which has so much blues music infused throughout, that it sank into my subconscious and I actually sang a blues song about my cat in my sleep... yes, really), and Andrea had lots of fascinating things to say about the history of film and about people of color who worked as performers in the early 20th century.
Next, Shira Lipkin talked to me about her Rhysling and Pushcart nominated poem, "The Changeling's Lament", which appeared in Stone Telling, and which has been noticed by something like 150,000 people! Shira talked about being genderqueer, and about the way that otherness is a big part of changeling stories.
Finally, Cat Rambo talked to me about her short fiction, especially "Clockwork Fairies", which is a steampunk story with a black heroine with a passion for mechanics in Victorian England. Cat also talked about the changeling trope in terms of Othering, and we ended up coming back to Andrea's story at the very end of our conversation--a nice way to bring the podcast full circle.
More news very soon! I should have a comprehensive WisCon schedule for anyone who wants to find me there, and I have a few more things in the works that will be unveiled soon, too. It's very hard not to just spill everything right this second, so I'm going to wander away from the keyboard before I get myself into trouble.
New Things Out in the Second Half of MarchIt seems sometimes like everything tends to happen at once. Today marks the release of two new things.
The seventh issue of Stone Telling is out now, and this issue is particularly dear to me, as it's all about QUILTBAG content. I did a Roundtable with a record nine contributors (who all had great things to say!), and Rose Lemberg also made a surprise cameo appearance in the conversation. You can check out the whole issue here. It's full of excellent poems and articles.
The other thing I did this month that's out today is the latest episode of the Broadly Speaking podcast. This month's theme is humor, and host Justine Graykin decided to adapt that theme to encompass laughing at our own foibles as we attempted to put together a tutorial on how to create and edit a podcast. There was a lot of trial and error as Justine navigated the uncertain waters of Skype conference calling for the first time, and we had all sorts of interruptions, including one participant having to step out due to a tornado warning! Overall, the whole episode runs about an hour, and does have a lot of useful information about how to put a podcast together, so if you're interested in podcasting, it's not a bad place to start! You can listen to that here.
Finally, earlier this month, I posted the 18th episode of the Outer Alliance Podcast, which features Jennifer Pelland talking about her new novel, Machine, and belly dancing, and cats, and lots of really interesting stuff. That's available here, and as a bonus, the show notes also features a very silly picture of us from Boskone, in which Jen is flipping off a unicorn.
Cinderella Jump Rope RhymesWoke up this morning to discover that Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes is out! This makes up for my grumbliness about the time change!
This project started ages ago in a flurry of silly comments on Erik Amundsen's LiveJournal. Now it's a beautifully illustrated chapbook full of subversive takes on the old "Cinderella dressed in yella" rhyme, with poems by Erik Amundsen, Nadia Bulkin, Kyle Davis, Francesca Forrest, Samantha Henderson, Rose Lemberg, me, and Sonya Taaffe, and illustrations by Adam Oehlers.
Best of all, if you buy this, part of the purchase price will go to help animals! Erzebet Yellowboy has a few charities in mind, and plans to send donations to a new one each quarter. Very exciting.
Two New Things!This is a big week for me! I have a poem out in Volume 4, No. 1 of Midnight Screaming, and an article about QUILTBAG speculative fiction in issue 34 of Apex Magazine. Very exciting!
The poem is called "Curse Breaking", and I read it at Readercon last July during the Rhysling poetry slan. It's about my father, who died 12 years ago this month.
The article is a general overview of how QUILTBAG spec fic has changed over the years, some unfortunately persistent stereotypes, and some ideas for how to keep improving the genre. I got to recommend a few good books, but the amount of things I didn't get to include is staggering. I'm amazed at the breadth of quality QUILTBAG spec fic out there.
In the end of January, I said I was planning to participate in Mary Robinette Kowal's Month of Letters project. I did, and it was great fun! I sent 29 thank you notes to authors and creators (one for each day in the month of February), and the only thing that made me sad was how many fantastic authors I didn't get to include in the project. I took some pictures of the cards I made, so one day soon, I'll try to upload them and share the fun.