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Posts tagged ‘Writers’

My Moment with Toni Morrison

Yesterday came the news the legendary author, Toni Morrison, passed away. With so many tributes pouring in, from people who knew her far better than me, I won’t rehash what she did for literature, or America. If you want to know her impact, pay attention to those who speak and write memorials about her.

I didn’t know her at all, but I did meet her once a few years ago. It was at the National Book Festival in DC. I remember standing in line for a couple of hours to get her to sign one of my books. A couple of teenagers stood behind me. They couldn’t have been more than sixteen. Their teacher assigned Beloved as a reading book and both of them decided to spend their Saturday at the books festival.

Morrison did speak, but it was right before the signing, so if you wanted to have a chance of signed book, you had to skip the talk. (I think it was put up on-line later.) It was a hot, sunny day and my feet ached after the first hour. The line grew and grew. I was right in the middle. Maybe I would make it, maybe not.

Finally the line started to move foreword. She was signing one book, that was all. (Not unusual. it keeps the line moving quickly and ensures that most people get something signed.) As I got closer, my feet stopped hurting and my excitement started to build.

Sure enough, when I stepped up for my turn, her assistant said, “Okay, this is the last one.”

I said softly, “Lucky me.” She looked up at me and winked. (Side note: The two kids behind me did get their books signed. She couldn’t turn down teenagers who were holding her book.)

So that was my brief moment. Forgettable to her, but memorable to me. As a young writer, having that brief moment with your heroes is fun. A story you tell when people ask how you got your book signed. She was a legend and I’m glad a got a brief moment with her.

RIP Ms. Morrison.


DC Author Festival 2019

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the DC Author Festival. This event was free and open to the public at the Library of Congress. There, I met a few fellow writers, saw some former classmates of mine, and listened to some great advice.

A few days ago I talked about being a good literary citizen. Whether you are a reader or a writer or both, these kinds of festivals are fun and energizing. I learned some great tips about writing and publishing. My friends and I both agreed that this event was well worth it and even better than some of the other conferences we paid for in the past.

Got to see my friend Jennifer Ryan on her panel about publishing and marketing. (She’s on the far right.) So great to see her giving out advice about her experiences in the publishing world. The best advice comes from those who are living the life. Jennifer is a full-time fiction writer, who is a fellow JHU alum, and has a new book out in June. (Check out her website.) I found her a fellow panelist Susan Shand offered great advice to those embarking on the road to publishing their books.

Next month there are a few other events I want to attend. Definitely looking forward to that!

Dear Robot Reading

Dear Robot Anthology Reading

Wednesday — January 13, 2016 at 7-8:30pm


Upshur Street Books

827 Upshur Street NW

Washington, DC 20011

Join us for a reading with editor Kelly Ann Jacobson and six readers who contributed to Dear Robot, an anthology of nineteen science fiction short stories told in a variety of epistolary styles. Letters, scientific notes, manuals, and emails all tell different stories about the future.

From a behavioral contract for interstellar exchange students to a transmission from an astronaut in space, these sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking stories all use their structure to amplify their message-especially when that message is that a band of deadly robots are chipping away at the door.

Editor Kelly Ann Jacobson is the author of several novels, including Cairo in White and The Troublemakers. Under her pen name, Annabelle Jay, she writes YA fantasy such as The Sun Dragon Series and The Knight Perry. Kelly’s previous anthologies include Answers I’ll Accept: True Accounts of Online Dating and Magical: An Anthology of Fantasy, Fairy Tales, and Other Magical Fiction for Adults.

Tara Campbell
Christina Keller
Marlena Chertock
Diana Bolton
Johnna Schmidt
Jacquelyn Bengfort

Mid-March Post 2015

Not much has changed. I got a couple more rejections, but I have refrained from mailing them back out. One side effect of my school work is that I keep focusing on rewriting and redrafting. So now I’m looking at everything I have ever written and saying – Must rewrite before I send out.

It’s like looking in your closet and hating everything you own. That blue skirt? It would be perfect if it was an inch longer. Or that pink top? If only you had some white pants to go with it… I look at my writing wardrobe and I just want to change everything.

But, but, I have no time. This damn thesis is preoccupying all of my attention. So this challenge has come to a grinding halt. I still have stories out, but I’m not submitting. Once I graduate in May, business will pick up. But for now, the numbers are tiny.

Rejections: 13

Acceptances: 0


Other thoughts:

Damn shame about Terry Prachett. Such a fun writer.

I didn’t know this was a thing, but apparently there are lots of girls who read and talk about their book hauls on Youtube!!??? WHEN DID THIS BECOME A THING. THIS IS SO AWESOME! I need to do this. It looks like so much fun. But alas, my computer is so old that the camera stopped working years ago. And I don’t have a smart phone (yet). So no Youtube for me. Maybe when I manage to get a new computer, I will start. I think that will be fun.

Get in Trouble

Speaking of books – I got the new Kelly Link book a few weeks ago (see pic). I haven’t dived into it yet because I am reading The Historian. (I know I am a few years late to that party, but better late than never.) But as soon as I finish, I’m on to Link’s book.

I still need to get Trigger Warning. Also this spring Kate Atkinson’s new book in the same world as Life After Life will be released. It’s called A God in Ruins. If you didn’t get on board the Atkinson train in 2013, I would suggest you do so now. And if you love Downton Abbey this is in the same vein. Not so much upper and lower class soap opera stuff, but the time period is the same – early twentieth century England – and it has plenty of drama.

Side note: Margaret Atwood has a new book out in the fall. I don’t know what it is about, but I know I will be buying it.

Oh, and a new writer name Benjamin Percy has gotten on my radar. Really, where have I been? I read and excerpt of his book, Red Moon, and I am hooked. That book (or any others he has written) is on my To Buy list. I love discovering cool new (to me) writers.

So that’s it. Challenge is slow. Lot’s of new books out there (or forthcoming). Plus – new season of GOT in April. Yep, it’s starting to look like spring. The sun is shining and it’s starting to warm up. Cherry blossoms are almost here.

Spring 21

Books that Inspire Me #3

Kindred Book 001

Today I saw the movie Selma and thought it was a great film. It shines the spotlight on a moment in the civil rights history. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about for this column, but then I started thinking about writers that have paved the way for me.

Octavia Butler is one of them.

I never really knew what kind of writer I was until I wrote a story about 15 years ago. It was the first time I wrote something that really embodied who I was as a writer. After, I was proud of myself, but didn’t know what to do next. I wasn’t even sure if it was a good story. So I enrolled in a community writing workshop and submitted the story. On the whole, I got a lot of great feedback, but there was one woman (Carol was her name I think), who really explained it to me.

You write magical realism,” she said looking directly at me.

I had never heard that term before. You have to remember that up until that point in my life I spent four years in college studying literature from pre-1950. The closest I got to current novels was an Amy Tan book I read for a one credit reading class. Terms like magical realism were lost on me. So, to the internet I went and after a few days, a whole new world opened up to me. Not just magical realism, but science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I’ve already posted a few times about books that emerged from my searching. Kindred is another.

Funny enough, plenty of my family already knew and loved Butler’s work. Both my mother and aunts had read her. When I mentioned to my Mom if she had ever heard of Butler, she replied, “Oh yes! She’s great. Here, I have a few.”

I started with Clay’s Ark and Mind of My Mind. They are solidly in the SF world. But it was Kindred and more subtle, controlled urban fantasy story that hooked me as a fan. It deals with social issues like race, gender, and family. It has fantasy elements, but is solidly rooted in the real world. All of Butler’s characters are complex. No one is all bad, or all good. I won’t give the plot away, but it is easy to see why many consider this story to be her best. (Note: If anyone knows Oprah or Brad Pitt, tell them about this story. THIS REALLY NEEDS TO BE A MOVIE.)

Signed Copy of Mind of My Mind

Signed Copy of Mind of My Mind

In 2004, I was lucky enough to see her speak in person. I remember waiting in line for her to sign my book. I can’t lie. I was starstruck being in front of her. (And Samuel Delany was there too, but I didn’t have any of my books for him to sign. To this day, that bums me out.) She was a true superstar writer and gone too soon. She died about 14 months after I saw her.

Signed Copy Clay's Ark

Signed Copy Clay’s Ark

I love Tolkien. I love George R.R. Martin. I love Brandon Sanderson and Neil Gaiman. But I think it is important that there be diversity in literature, both characters and the writers themselves. Octavia Butler was not just a great writer, but also added much needed diversity to the speculative writing world. Today there are many writers of color in the speculative field writing and publishing their books. I should know because I collect them and I am one of them.

And we all owe Butler our thanks.

Swimming in the Sea of Literary Writers: Reflections about 2013

Happy New Year!

It’s my first post for 2014!  It’s also my last day of vacation. (BOO!)

Here are some of the highlights of 2013 for me:

1.  Made it half way through my master’s degree.  I need 9 classes and I have completed 5.
2.  Got Margaret Atwood to sign my book.
3.  Wrote more then I ever have in previous years.
4.  Finally went to the dentist and ended up getting a root canal. (Please note — Do not put off going to the dentist.  It is worth it to go regualarly.)
5.  Kept one of my previous resolutions and lost 27lbs.

There are a few other moments, but those are the best.  Even the root canal, which was expensive and painful, counts as a good one, because now I am pain free.  No more chewing on the other side of my mouth.

I would like to talk a bit about the first point.  Getting halfway to my master’s degree is exciting, but it is also draining too.  Quite a few people I came into the program with graduated this sememster.  They opted to take a faster track than myself and are now out the the wide world, master’s degree in hand.  A few are even published. (I’ll put links to some of their work at the end.)  I’m very happy for them and wish them well.

I wonder if they had any of the odd experiences I am having.

I’m speaking of those moments when you realize you are a speculative writer in a sea of literary writers.  There are a handful of others in the program, that I have run into, but mostly we are the strange ones that stand out in the class.  Not necessarily because we are the best writers, but usually because are stories aren’t like anyone elses.  I remember an interview I read about Stephen Graham Jones.  In it, he said that he wrote a story about a guy, who shot invisilble holes in the earth with his invisible gun.  When it came time to workshop it, none of his classmates said anything.  Finally the professor told the class they had to say something and one guy finally spoke up and said, “I don’t know man.  This story was just really weird.”

Yep.  That’s what it’s like.  I should know. 2013 was my year of workshops.  For three straight semesters, I submitted pieces and braved the criticism of my fellow students.  Reactions ranged from flattering, to tough, but fair, to funny, and even the random WTF?.  I am grateful to any thoughtful opinion, even if I didn’t feel it was right for the story.  But I feel self-conscious that my stories aren’t the same.  Sometimes it’s good.  They are memorable and designed to be read multiple times.  Other times, my stories feel like freaks.  They look like strange, ill-formed things that stand out in a sea of perfection.  Hear my inward grown when a really good fellow classmate signs up for the same critique day as me.  I could almost hear the sighs as they read their story first and then my story and mutter, “Why can’t she just write something simple?”

I know some of this is in my head.  In truth, I love my stories and accepted a long time ago that if I wanted to be a good writer I needed to look to Bradbury, Atwood, Bender, and Butler.  Philip Roth and Ernest Hemingway just weren’t going to cut it.  I suppose this is the price I pay.  On the one side, my literary tendencies can come forth and play in the specualtive world.  I get the criticism of those who read and write literary fiction and can analyze those moments.  But the other side is that few of writers read speculative fiction, so when I write about virtual reality, or aliens, the newness can take centerstage.  It helps that a few of us had that same class together and became used to my style, but still the oddness can be a hinderance.

I honestly don’t know if this is something that should change.  I am sure I am gulity of it too.  Since my workshop requirements are over, standard critiquing is over too.  What 2014 will offer in my writing education? I can’t see yet.  I’m sure it will be good, but now it is time for me to work on my own.  Classes might now focus more on analyzing other writers and applying the techniques to my own.  Hopefully this will deepen and improve my writing.
One of my resolutions for 2013 was to get published.  It didn’t happen, but I will keep trying and maybe 2014 will be the year.  I just have to keep submitting.

Here’s to 2014!  Hope your year is full of wonderful moments and interesting stories!

Here are a few of my classmate’s websites —

Like beer?  Like literature?  Head on over to Oliver Grey’s site.
Kelly Ann Jacobson will have not one, but two books out this year!  Check out her site to read excerpts and find links to her short stories and essays.
Want to read more about writer’s lives?  Check out Mike Chin’s blog.  He’s a born storyteller.