Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Con Report: Au Contraire, Wellington, August 27-29 2010

Au Contraire was my first convention, and my first convention as a writer. I believe I had a far better time going as a writer than I would have had as a fan, because there was so much stimulating involvement. I struck it lucky on my first go - fantastic panels and workshops, interesting people, and a hectic pace from start to finish.

The Au Contraire that I gleened from the weekend was for writers, by writers. There was some modelling, cosplay, animation and audio, and many people have commented that it was weighted in favour of fandom, but I found there was plenty to keep a writer happy. There were even a few things I had to miss out on because of such a loaded timetable.

Final numbers given at the closing ceremony put attendance at approximately 250, with about 50 overseas attendees. Local attendance was posited as unusually high, considering the number of people who had invested in going to Worldcon in Melbourne the following weekend, instead of partaking of the local fare.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Found in a second hand book store

As per usual, I came home from a trip away with an armful of books. While book shopping in Arty Bees today (love that store), I found a 1984 edition of Joanna Russ' "How to Suppress Women's Writing".

Front cover of Joanna Russ' book How To Suppress Women's Writing, the text describes many ways in which to put a woman's writing down

I was very happy to find this book after a recommendation by Tansy Rayner Roberts in a recent blog post.

Second Hand Book Store Serendipity is beautiful. Inscriptions from previous owners can tell a wonderful story, trace a history of the book. I actually had a choice of two battered copies of the book. The one I chose was because of the following inscription on the inside cover:

A hand written note which says: To Meliors, so she won't have to re-educate herself at 40, love mom
[Image: Inscription reads "For Meliors, So she won't have to re-educate herself at forty. Love, Mom"]

Whoever and wherever you are Meliors, I hope you got the education you deserved.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A quick update from Au Contraire

I've barely had time to breathe all weekend, but I thought I'd give a quick update on how my weekend at Au Contraire is going.

This. Is. Awesome.

I've never been to a con as a writer...scratch that, I've never been to a con. So this is all novelty and Christmas. The people have been wonderful, I've even managed to exercise my limited networking skills to open my mouth and say "hi" to people. Though I haven't worked up the gumption to say hi to Sean Williams, even though I shared an elevator with the guy at one stage. It was one of those "Oh shit oh shit whaddo I say?!" moments. Heh. Listening to his GoH speech was very cool. I'll definitely be checking out more of his work (I only have one of his Orphans books).

Friday night was the launch of "A Foreign Country", an anthology of New Zealand specfic, the first in many a year. Very much looking forward to reading stories from people I've actually met and done workshops with this weekend, and I hope it's a leaping off point for more anthos of it's type, and raising the profile of specfic in NZ. If you're interested, it's available in various independent bookstores like Unity, Arty Bees and University Bookshops, or ask at the library. Also available online for sale.

Last night was the launch of SpecFicNZ. I am now a card carrying member! This is going to become a community for specfic writers in our country, when before we've been disjointed and not very much in communication on a nationwide level. I think it'll be awesome for help, mentoring, feedback and promotion of NZ specfic writers. Ripley Patton, a Christchurch based writer, has been one of those instrumental in putting the organization together. Well done Ripley and team. After a great launch for the organization, I hope great things come from the community.

Working very hard behind the scenes are the concom, and I finally got a chance to say hi and well done to Anna Caro especially. Yay Anna, you're doing a great job!

I've also had the chance to do some fantastic workshops with Juliet Marillier, Russell Kirkpatrick, and Tim Jones (thanks again Tim for humouring a nobody!), and it's been really stimulating stuff. I've been feeling a bit noobie, but it all seems to flow together nicely.

There's still one more full on day of workshops and panels, and I hope I can survive it - I'm a bit blasted after a late night at the Rocky Horror showing.

I've missed a lot out here, because I have to rush to my first panel of the day, but I'll give a fuller report when I get back home.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's off to Au Contraire I go!

I know I haven't blogged much in the last wee while. True to form I start with a bang, and trail out to a fizz. I never said my life was interesting, just full of rejection, and peaks and troughs!

The last two or three weeks have been filled with setbacks of one form or another, usually of my own making. Anxieties, procrastination, missteps, lack of positive head space, and now being sick *hack hack parp*. It's all stuff I'm working on and recognizing that I can't just avoid my foibles by burying myself in a book or game or crafts - those stories won't write and edit themselves.

But this weekend is slightly different. I'm going to be away from writing for yet another Monday (this past Monday I spent in bed sick), but I'm still going to be doing something to help my writing along. Namely, learning a bit about the industry. My Au Contraire printed timetable is a mess of green highlighter, and it looks like I'll be on the go from start to finish each day. Phew! This is my first convention, so what may seem normal to some is all novelty to me. Kid in a candy shop, look out! Going to have to somehow pace myself, or I could be in for a mean-ass crash halfway through.

My editing To Do list has got quite big, but I think I'll live with it if the con weekend goes off with a blast.

Come say hi!* I'll be helping out with the Radio Play Workshop, for starters.

*stalkers and creepy bods not welcome

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Linkages and Introductions 24/08/2010

  • Recently I have started reading RMJ's "Deeply Problematic". I love her writing style, it's so clear and concise, and she has a lot of interesting things to write about in regards to feminism and activism. For example, lately she has been attempting to define certain vernacular, like kyriachy and cis. Another piece I enjoyed, and which had me nodding along in recognition was "Teenage Girls and Internalized Sexism". I also liked the piece "Fat is an adjective, not an attack". Have a wander through her archives, there's plenty of great reading!
  • From Deeply Problematic, I discovered "Questionable Content", a weekday webcomic about a group of indie music loving 20-somethings. The comic is not afraid to tackle subjects like sex, mental health, disability and culture. The comic has actually been running since 2003, so I'm still catching up on it, but so far it's been an excellent read. A criticism I'd offer (one which RMJ at DP has pointed out, amongst others) is that it sometimes uses ableist language.
  • A book I've finished reading this week is Gail Carriger's "Soulless", a fun sexy romp around Victorian London with werewolves, vampires and parasols, oh my. I've been reading such a lot of heavy stuff recently (been dipping into "Daughter's of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the 20th Century", and a Locus Awards anthology) that I'd forgotten what it was like to chill out and read something fluffy. I also admit to not having been interested in romantic fiction for a long long time, and Carriger's book surprised and delighted me with it's mix of steampunk and sex. Alexia Tarabotti is also wonderfully snarky with her charming Victorian smackdown. I look forward to reading the sequels "Changeless" and "Blameless".
  • Cheryl Morgan (who I am looking forward to hearing speak at Au Contraire) has posted a length missive on "Changing images of trans people in Science Fiction and Fantasy literature". It's a long post, but stick with it, it's excellent stuff.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The first rule of Rejection Club 22/08/2010

Here's a rejection I am thoroughly stoked about.

Entered "Slingshot" in Redstone's Towards An Accessible Future competition, where the charter was to write about disability in a SF in a positive light. I didn't win the competition, but my rejection came with very favourable feedback - my story had been considered in the top three!

*happy dance*

I'm really really pleased with this story. I wrote a really engaging protag. In fact, she is (so far) my favourite character in anything I've written. It's a fun space opera-ey setting. I can even imagine spinning it out to book length...when I get to the point with my confidence that I think I'm ready to commit to a book.

I've decided that this Write Monday is going to be dedicated to editing and re-writing. I have a handful of raw stories and rejections that need revisits, and it would be good to get them workshop or submission ready.

Yay Me! That makes me feel really good.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Link Soup 17/08/2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

I love the smell of Rejection in the morning 13/8/2010

"Through The Open Door" rejected by Ideomancer, with feedback.

Whee. Ah well. *shrug, grin*

I'm starting to get a backlog of re-edits and revisits I need to do. Gotta tidy this To Do list up.

Reaffirmation, everyday

Being a Company of One is a tough job.

Writing IS a job. Not one you need Previous Experience or Qualifications for you. You create the position, write the job description and interview yourself for the job - "Am I good enough? Do I know myself well enough? Can I handle the rejection?". Your answer may not always be objective, but that's what hopes and dreams are built on.

But you need more than dreams. You need persistence. You need to believe in your ability to be a storyteller. You need to understand that you will get better with time. You need to be open to criticism.

You have to realize that not matter how much you steel yourself for it, the rejections are gonna hurt.

There will be days you can't laugh the rejections off, sit down and do ANOTHER edit of a piece, find ANOTHER market for it. There will be days when your morale is low, other parts of life are intruding, and getting yet another rejection is another kick in the teeth.

You will wonder "Why am I doing this? Am I a masochist? Does my writing suck? Will I ever get better?"

Persistence, my friend. Pure, bloody minded, hard slog persistence. When you've Made It, these are the days you'll look back on and remember, and smile and say fondly to Oprah "Why yes, it was a difficult and lonely process, and it takes the right balance of ego to push on through".

This is your Character Building.

You will find out a lot about your personality as a Company of One. You may choose to blindly ignore your writing faults and blame The Almighty Editor "They're the one with the problem, not me! They don't see my sheer brilliance!"

Bad Call.

You may operate as a Company of One for a very long time, but there is no harm or shame asking for help or advice. Judge your rejections - form versus feedback. Join a writing group, in real life or online. Find yourself a Reader, if that works for you - for some it doesn't.

It's all standard advice you'll see echoed the publishing industry and blogosphere over. You will feel a little silly for maybe ignoring that advice when you first started out. But it all comes from experience, and yes you have to gain that experience somehow too.

So, hang in there. I know the rejections suck. Balance your ego with your talent, and refine that talent. Find yourself a wee mantra to repeat every day.

"I want this. I can do this. I will get better."

Video: "Affirmation" by Savage Garden, live in Brisbane.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Please sir, can I have moar Rejection? 12/08/2010

"Polly Ticks" rejected by Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. It got into the second step of the slush, so that's something. I like ASIM, their slush process is one of the kindest and most informative I've come across.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this one, because it's a very New Zealand centric story. I need to research more local markets. Needs a bit of a rethink before I send it out again though.

I have two goals to accomplish before the end of the month - finish editing a novelette I want to submit, and write something I'd be happy to submit to the Women Only edition of Realms of Fantasy.

So, hitting the sixth month mark on "Project Lets Become a Writer!", things are steady, and I have a good number of pieces doing the rounds of slush piles. I'm happy with my progress. I'd love to do this full time!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Link Sauce 10/08/2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010

It's my Rejection and I'll pout if I want to edit: 5/8/2010

"Polly Ticks", rejected by Semaphore magazine. Already sent it elsewhere.

Also, had a submission lost in the spam filter at another mag. Have resubmitted. Still waiting.

Edit: I have had a rush of rejections in just the last 24 hours, so I thought I'd combine all my rejection posts for this week into one.

The second rejection was "Me Myself I" with a form letter from Electric Velocipede. Currently deciding on a new market to send it to.

And number three was "Anthropology, Redacted", rejected by Daily Science Fiction.

And she's down on the mat...and one...and two...

I also had to have a wee laugh and noobsob to myself. Via Twitter, Analee Newitz (i09 Editor) said today: "aspiring freelancers: do not begin pitch email with "this was already rejected by [competing publication] - maybe you want it?""

Yum, my foot is SO TASTY. DON'T ask me what I was thinking when I did something very similar, I'm learning, mmmkay? Yup, I so deserve the rejection if I do that.

Time to do the noob dance to the noob song...

...and at the same time, the happy dance to CC Penniston's "Finally". Down with Prop 8!!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This Week in Linkage 4/8/2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On: A Writer Monday Fail

It was inevitable that a Monday Fail would happen. Yesterday my brain went into neutral and I squandered my Good Writing Time.

For an eight hour writing day which I usually start on the dot of 9am, I managed three meagre hours, after starting 45 minutes late.

I wouldn't call it writers block. I had an idea, and at least with that idea I came out of the day with a few pages of notes. I even managed to drag my recalcitrant brain into something resembling first gear and bash out 1200 words. They ended up being 1200 excruciatingly bad words (it started leaning towards bad Teenage Angst Wish Fulfillment, and I swore and declared to eliminate that socially ingrained bullshit from my writing), and I've scrapped them. I spent the afternoon at less that writerly pursuits, which made me even MORE upset come the evening.

I'm funny about my procrastination problem. I know it's going to hurt me, but I still do it.

I could chuck out excuses: I get insomnia from time to time, and the previous night's disturbed sleep left me barely functioning; I hadn't planned my writing session properly and I was working more on an idea than a formed scene (this tends to create my worst writing, which in turn makes me grumpy because I think I'm a crap writer which in turn spirals into creating even more crap...); there's a norwest over the city at the moment that tends to give me weird headaches and makes people a little doolally.

But mostly the biggest excuse is that I just couldn't pull myself together. I know I'll have Off Days. My SO told me I can't be perfect all the time (Why Not! *stampy feet, flail fists*). All the guides and blog posts I read on How To tell me that this is so. It's like any other job - there are some days where you're not top of your game.

It still doesn't stop me from the self flagellation. I have set myself up this one perfectly formed day a week to write. My schedule is clear, and it's undisturbed time. So to squander it is such a waste.

So, lesson learned. This is how crap I'll feel if I waste my Writer Monday. Other people's reaction and mileage may vary when it comes to procrastination. But since I started my writing "career" late, I really do feel the loss of every day that I waste.

Thankfully I woke up this morning with a better idea on how to deal with the concept of yesterday's (s)crap(ped) story. It's always a "phew" moment when I come across a better way to handle a story when it's started to derail...and it's coming more often, thank goodness!