Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A White Female Writer's Manifesto

There's so much in the social media and media landscapes about race, diversity, and social change. For the most part, I've remained silent while quietly reblogging posts in support of #BlackLivesMatter and #WeNeedDiverseBooks as well as a host of other issues in what feels like a too-quickly-but-not-quickly-enough changing world.

And it has felt right to stay back and not push my voice into the discussion - my voice isn't the voice that really needs to be heard.

I've also been struggling with issues of representation in my own fiction and whether including characters who aren't like me - white and female - is appropriately reflecting the world or co-opting someone else's story and voice. I have to admit that my first published novel had few characters who did not fall into the white-as-default problem. And it is a problem. If I wanted my work to reflect a world I wanted to live in, then I had to do better than that. I had to write non-white characters into my stories.

But to do that, I had to understand my own position and advantages. And I realized that I could articulate what I've been thinking about both to come to personal clarity and that it might be helpful for other writers and artists in my situation. So, for what it's worth, here is one white woman writer's manifesto:

  • I recognize that because I am white and because I was adopted into a white middle-class family, I started my life (okay, I was 5 days old) with a host of advantages that others - especially non-whites - did not, and,
  • whereas,  I admit that I was fairly blind to many of those advantages for much of my early life, and,
  • whereas, I admit that I read Atlas Shrugged when I was 14 and for a brief time, bought into the whole 'bootstraps' thing. (It was a mercifully brief time) and, 
  • whereas, I recognize that I have lived the majority of my life in a mono-culture bubble in neighborhoods that are nowhere near as diverse as the world at large, and, 
  • whereas, I recognize that as much as I try to be aware of my words, I am certain I have said insensitive things to people of different backgrounds than mine,

Therefore,  I will:

  • seek out diverse voices in all art and literature,
  • support the work of artists and writers from diverse backgrounds, especially in telling their own stories,
  • actively challenge racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, classist (etc) language when I encounter it,
  • actively work to include characters of all backgrounds in my own writing with sensitivity and care,
  • actively challenge the white-as-default narrative in my work and others,
  • actively listen and accept critical feedback when I make mistakes,
  • refrain from making anyone else's story about me, and
  • be an ally in any way that I can.

I fully expect that some/many will disagree with me. I don't speak for any entire class or race or gender here. These are my ramblings. And I also don't expect any cookies or pats on the head for this. It's simply what I needed to articulate FOR MYSELF, out loud.

I welcome your thoughts, with the caveat that any nastiness will be deleted.



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Sunday, April 17, 2016

11 things I've Learned So Far: On publishing book number 6

Concept sketch: Dreadnought And Shuttle
Book 3 of Halcyone Space and soon to be my 6th published novel

I've been writing for a long time. Not as long as some, but longer than others. I published my first novel in February of 2012. Novel number 6 will be out in June of 2016. I've managed to have one really amazing booklaunch with a ton of success right out of the gate and other books that have just burbled along, barely making their expenses. I'm not sure any of this makes me any sort of expert, but I have learned a lot along the way. Here are 11 things that I've been thinking about:

  1. No one has the secret formula for marketing success. If they say they do, they are lying Mclieface liars. 
  2.  And the corollary: There will always be someone angling to sell you some essential service that will bring you success. This is just a new flavor of snake oil.
  3. Once you move past a very basic minimum level of competency, there is little correlation between commercial success and quality of writing. This is neither the sign of the creative apocalypse, nor any indictment of anyone's writing or taste.
  4. Related to the above: Enjoyment is largely subjective. And you can't write a book for everyone.
  5. There is no one way to write a book. There is no inherent virtue in being a plotter or a pantser or any combination thereof. If there were a single magical formula, there would not be so many craft books published.
  6. No, not everyone has a book in them. It is likely that everyone has at least a story to tell, but that's not the same thing. (In the same way that I can take a photograph but am not a photographer and I can hum a tune but am not a composer.)
  7. Creating a book is work. And yet it's not work in the way being a physical therapist is work, for example (speaking from experience here) or probably any manner of jobs. The work of creation requires the ability to connect to the unconscious, simultaneously achieving a particular liminal state while managing to express that state in the mundane world and with prosaic (pun somewhat intended!) tools.
  8. Originality is less important that most artists believe. Readers want the familiar, only different.
  9. The rules of grammar and syntax, et. al. are important, but they're not heavenly writ. Ultimately, they distill down to one commandment: thou shalt not confuse the reader.
  10. Reviews are opinions. You get to decide how much stock you put in them. However, holding to your creative vision without being willing to consider feedback is dangerous arrogance. Figure out how to find a balance between being fully porous and completely sealed off.
  11. Readers do not owe you their time.
    Respect the value of your hard work.

    These two things may seem contradictory. They are not.

Your mileage may vary on any of these. That's okay.  What are some of the things you've learned in your creative life?



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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Waiting, on hold

"Hold the line, please" Photo by Muffet, used with permission, cc license

As I type this, I am literally on hold, listening to artificially cheerful and utterly generic music, punctuated by a recorded message about how all the representatives are busy, blah, blah blah.

That is actually an easier 'hold' to deal with then the more abstract issue of waiting for answers.

I feel like I'm in an endless holding pattern in my life and on multiple fronts.

  • Waiting for word on my submission to Angry Robot's open fantasy call. The novel I submitted had been requested during their last submission period, and the editor who read it had asked me to revise and resubmit. When I had finished the revision, the editor had left the publisher, so I sent it for their call that ended in January. I have high hopes, but tempered by the knowledge that so much in this business is subjective and what one editor loved, another might be tepid about.
  • Waiting for the final cover art for DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE.  Chris Howard is an extremely talented artist and writer, who also has a stressful day job, along with his own writing career to manage. I've worked with him before and know what he sends me will rock. I'm just impatient and excited. (And here, take a look at the concept sketch! Love it!) 
This is Dev. She's working on sabotaging the spaceship she's being held captive on.  
  • Waiting to hear about an idea I had to create a choose-your-own-adventure type text game from the fantasy world of my Changeling's Choice novels.
  • Waiting/hoping to see improvement from a medical treatment a family member is undergoing. It's not something I can talk about without betraying confidences, but it's something that's been weighing heavily on my mind and heart, and something I have absolutely no control over.
  • Waiting to hear back from the sellers of a farm/farmhouse in Western Mass. We're looking to 'buy the farm' (don't worry - that's literally, not figuratively!) as the next step in our pre-retirement life. I've seen the property and it's wonderful. My husband has not been able to get out there b/c of work and travel, but we're hoping to schedule a time to see it the weekend of April 23/24 and keeping fingers crossed that it's still available.
This is where I want to write all the words!
  •  Waiting to hear back from several authors I've contacted about reading/blurbing DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE. These are all writers I have some connection with and I did my best to craft a polite and compelling request, but everyone's time is limited, and I know what I'm asking is a large favor in terms of time and commitment. 
I'm not someone who does well with ambiguity. Honestly, I'd prefer a 'no' to silence, so having all these things up in the air makes for a very discomfited Lisa.  I am doing the best I can to stay focused and positive and spent a good chunk of yesterday brainstorming for the choose-your-own-adventure game as well as the final copyedits for DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE. Today, I'm actually feeling more grounded and settled. Work is definitely my antidote to anxiety.

I'm definitely hanging in there and keeping the faith in writer-land.



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Friday, April 01, 2016

Things that feed my soul

Neil getting some puppy-love: dogspotting in Iceland

There is so much in the world to weigh down even the lightest of spirits, so today I thought I would do a 'my favorite things' roundup.


My younger son introduced me to this competition/activity/lifestyle. Dogspotting is the practice of keeping track of your encounters with dogs in the wild. There are rules. Certain kinds of 'spots' get certain numbers of points. You can lose points, too, if a dog is looking at you with a knowing smile and a wink, for example. It's a mix of the utterly serious and the totally silly and I love it. I check the FB group every day for the photos other dogspotters post. I rarely post photos of my own, but they seem to embrace lazy spotters like me.

I get by with a little help from my friends

This lovely quilt arrived in the mail today - a gift from a wonderful friend, talented writer, and creative quilter, Lynn Viehl.

It was a surprise and when I opened the box, I teared up. She knows I've been dealing with some difficult things in my personal life and the caring and kindness of this gift nearly unraveled me. In a good way. I feel wrapped in her concern and her love.

I am blessed with an amazing community of friends, near and far, with whom I can celebrate and commiserate. They feed my soul.

Music Hath Charms

Over the past few weeks, I have become enamored of/obsessed with the music of Hamilton. I have listened to the entire show more times than I can count and find more and more to love with each repetition. I am a serial monogamist when it comes to music: I'll listen to something constantly for weeks or months until the whole of it is embedded in my mind and move to something else.

I'm definitely still in my Hamilton phase and I'm not sure it's going to go away anytime soon. There's almost always some kind of soundtrack in my mind and music has always spoken to me.

What are some other of my favorite things?

Good coffee
Dark Chocolate
A starry sky
A bad pun
Belly laughs
A fireplace
Warming my ice-cold feet against my husband at night
Playing with clay
Cooking for friends

Your turn!

What feeds your soul when everything seems dark?


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