Thursday, June 30, 2011

eReaders: 12% of us have one

Good news from Pew Research Center's survey (run from April 26 to May 22 among 2,277 adults, margin of error = +/- 2%) on e-Reader ownership:

The share of adults in the United States who own an e-book reader doubled to 12% in May, 2011 from 6% in November 2010. E-readers, such as a Kindle or Nook, are portable devices designed to allow readers to download and read books and periodicals. This is the first time since the Pew Internet Project began measuring e-reader use in April 2009 that ownership of this device has reached double digits among U.S. adults.

Tablet computers—portable devices similar to e-readers but designed for more interactive web functions—have not seen the same level of growth in recent months. In May 2011, 8% of adults report owning a tablet computer such as an iPad, Samsung Galaxy or Motorola Xoom. This is roughly the same percentage of adults who reported owning this kind of device in January 2011 (7%), and represents just a 3 percentage-point increase in ownership since November 2010. Prior to that, tablet ownership had been climbing relatively quickly.

As the only purpose of a Kindle or a Nook or Kobo is long-form reading, I find this pretty damn thrilling: people still like to read. A significant chunk of us seem to like it better than doinking around on the intarweb. This is nothing but good news for writers.

Having said that, e-Reader ownership is still far behind other nifty toys:

But please note that desktop and laptop ownership is roughly on a par. We're heading for an untethered world. I know that many people read on their laptop Kindle (and other) apps. I wish Pew had split out the smartphone from dumbphone numbers, so we could take a guess at how many readers also use their Kindle phone apps. (I do, but not often.)

If you're one of those writers dithering over whether or not to put your work up (Smashwords, Amazon, wherever), burn this survey into your brain and then bear in mind there's lots of data to show that Kindle (and other device) owners read more novels than the average reader. This is your audience. Make your work available to them.


Kelley's latest Clarion West write-a-thon piece, "Monkeybar Hope," is up. It's very cool:
Cammy picked Portia because she could hang by her knees from the top of the monkeybars, way up high, and Cammy longed to do it too. She knew it would feel like… well, she didn’t have a word for it yet. She was working on that: she sounded out a new word with her dad every day from the old calendar. He had put in the trash because it was a new year and he didn’t need it anymore, but how could you not need words? [more]

So go read it. It will make you grin. Read the others here. Consider sponsoring Kelley.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Port like cello music

One of the gifts we got for our anniversary was a bottle of 40 year-old port:

We haven't cracked it yet, but I know when we do it's going to taste like cello music. You'll understand when you read Kelley's latest Clarion West write-a-thon piece, "The Taste of You":

One of the things I love about Charlie is that he’s a hard man whose music tastes so sweet. He goes on stage like he’s ready for a fight, his shaved head and his scowl, his jailhouse tattoos, the skull etched on his synthesizer, and he sings songs so brutal they make people flinch. Bad love, violent ends, hopelessness, despair, barely containable rage. And it all tastes like strawberries and cream. It’s such a kick: Charlie’s wailing I’m gonna kill my girlfriend with a mallet and a stake, and I’m in the VIP zone by the sound board wanting to eat the music with a spoon and then lick the bowl. [more]

So go read it. Read the others here. Consider sponsoring Kelley.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More on Pixar's 'Brave'

Well, it sounds as though someone is fucking something up somewhere with Pixar's first girl-lead movie, Brave. According to Wikipedia, Brenda Chapman (whose idea the whole thing was, supposedly--all my info is from Wikipedia and IMdb--and who is credited as writer, along with Irene Mecchi) was replaced as director by Mark Andrews in October 2010. IMdB has an interesting discussion thread, in which various people put forward opinions on the 'creative difference' between Pixar and Chapman. They suggest gender problems (attractiveness of the leads; worrying about male audience numbers). They suggest storytelling problems (too radical; not linear enough). They suggest all kinds of things. As far as I can tell, they're just guessing.

So right now my hope is that this is just one of Pixar's Oh, this story isn't working, let's fix it, moves. (They've done it before, with things like Ratatouille--which I enjoyed--and Cars 2, which, frankly, sounds dreadful.) But my worry is it's some silly notion about how a Disney Princess needs to look and behave. (I find the bouncing red tresses a troublesome indication.) I expect we'll find out.

Oh, and to answer a question posed in yesterday's comments: as far as I know, this isn't based on any existing fairytale or legend. (Though I'm guessing it borrows from several. Hey, that's what film does.)

Despite all this, I still want to see it. You?




Kelley's latest Clarion West write-a-thon piece, "The Heart of the Matter," is up:

Here was the day when the newly dead returned to finish particular business with the living: a crowded hour of violence and love in breakfast nooks, in bars, motels, alleys, the bedrooms of children come home with sharp teeth. The living knew whether to expect the dead, and whom. Passion and rage were things that cried out for closure, and so the dead came with soft open arms to pull the living into love, or strong hard hands to pull them into pieces. Everyone else locked their doors and turned up the music loud. [more]

So go read it. Read the others here. Consider sponsoring Kelley.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Trailer: Brave, from Pixar


Oh, I want to see this right now. Now. Mist, menhirs, sword and ponies, monsters in the forest, a wee girl with a bow and arrow... Now now now. But it's not out til June 2012. Gaaargh!!

In the spirit of the Russ Pledge I'd like to point out that this is the first Pixar film with a girl lead and it was co-directed by Brenda Chapman (with Mark Andrews). So, go Pixar, go Disney. Don't fuck it up...

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Introducing the new perbs

Last year, I grew a bunch of herbs in pots on the back deck. I called them the perbs (as opposed to the herbs that grew in the garden and the kerbs that still grow in the kitchen). Winters aren't kind to herbs around here, so at the end of last summer I solemnly harvested everything (but the sage, chives, and thyme) and, y'know, ate them. The sage hung on, and the chives died down and burst forth in spring. I let them flower so I could make something tasty, then cut them back hard. When I did that, I saw that the thyme has hung on, too, just. Here's a closeup:

Even though we don't seem to be having a summer this year, I've decided to try again, so here are the new perbs:

The little pots, anticlockwise from top left (the big pot is the chives and thyme): marjoram, more thyme, rosemary, sage (the survivor), parsley, and then, on the right and mostly out of the picture, oregano.

Say hello. Make your peace. You'll be seeing more of them in the coming weeks.


Meanwhile, Kelley's latest piece for the Clarion West Write-a-Thon is up: "Bubble."Think of Bubble as a four-legged beat cop.

A single white whisker on a black cat marked a leader, and Bubble the Brave led well. He made his neighborhood rounds twice every day. He rubbed noses and smelled scent messages for status reports. He stiff-walked the impetuous young ones back into right-thinking when they needed it. He rough-tumbled kittens to toughen them up. One memorable week, he and a select crew — Scooter, Pirate, Catfish and Bill — routed a Labrador that had recently moved into the neighborhood. The dog went limping, one eye blind, and never came back. It had to be done: the dog was insane, a cat-killer, a child-biter. It had a taste for blood. One day, Bubble knew, it would have turned on its people. They had no cat to protect them, and Bubble considered them his responsibility too. [more]

I like this one. Just the thing for a cloudy Monday morning. Go read it. Read the others here. Consider sponsoring Kelley: it's all for a good cause. After all, Kelley and I wouldn't have met and you most likely wouldn't be reading this blog if it wasn't for a Clarion workshop. I couldn't have gone without the partial scholarship they awarded me--the kind of financial help you'll be providing when you sponsor the Write-a-Thon.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Clarion romance, 23 years on

Kelley and me, 1989

Today is the 23rd anniversary of the day I met Kelley. I told the story in my multi-media memoir, And Now We are Going to Have a Party. I was 27, just arrived at Michigan State University for the six-week Clarion writers' workshop. I felt alien, English, and alone...

I'd never stayed in a dorm before, especially not one in humid 98-degree heat with no air-conditioning. Not one full of straight white people with wedding rings and big shiny teeth. Not one where all the pre-paid cafeteria food was useless to me. The cooked food was meat-based (I was vegetarian), or covered with cheese (I'm allergic). The bread was white spongy stuff that looked more like mattress filling than anything a human being should put in her mouth--and mouldy to boot. Worse, oh much worse: Midwesterners thought tea came in a glass over ice.

So there I was, trying to breathe air like warm potato soup. Workshop not due to start until the next day. (Half the workshop was already there. But these were the scary, white-teethed straight people.) Broke. Starving.

"Hey," I said to Sue Ellen, another Clarion student, across the hall (the one who made me this nameplate from rubber dinosaur stamps). "Where's the bar?"

"Oh," she said, "it's dry."

"Yes, I can see that it hasn't rained for a while, but where's the fucking bar?"

"No, no, you don't understand. The campus is dry. There's no bar."

I stared at her. "No bar?"

"No bar."

By this time it was late. It was hot. I'd have to walk miles to find a supermarket and I was exhausted by travel and the forceful and repeated ejection of my stomach contents for the last few hours. I went to bed.

The next morning, after a breakfast I couldn't eat, I accosted another workshop member, one who actually lived in town and so knew where things were. "Can you point me to the nearest supermarket so I can buy some beer?"

He smiled and said cheerily, "It's Sunday."

"Sunday. I see." I took a breath, determined to speak slowly and clearly and in a tone adapted to the meanest understanding. "Sunday. Yes. Now please give me directions to a supermarket."

"No, no," he said. "You don't understand. It's Sunday. Supermarkets don't sell beer on Sunday."

"No beer," I said.

"That's right!" He twirled his wedding ring and said, "Let's go hang out with the rest of the gang!"

I followed him numbly. Six weeks of this. No beer. No air conditioning. No food. No tea. No real people. What had I done?

I talked to a group of my fellow students. We were mutually incomprehensible but we kept trying and eventually I came to understand that Clarion, for these people, was a big deal. They knew what to expect: workshopping, personal conferences with the teacher of each week, fun and games with water pistols (or "squirt guns"). They knew the teachers' work, and by reputation. Everyone but me had brought their own computers. Many of them had corresponded before the workshop (they'd all received a variety of forms and participant lists and information sheets that had never made it to the UK). I asked them if they'd known, then, that it was a dry campus and there was no beer on Sundays at the supermarket. Why, yes, they said. Well, then, had any of them brought anything, any beer or wine or fucking Tennesee sipping whisky? Why, no. They were puzzled. We stared at each other, aliens.

After an inedible lunch I sat in my cheerless room and contemplated the wall. Minutes ticked by. Hours. The last few students arrived. I heard them trundling their vast carts of stuff--cushions, posters, blankets, PCs, special mugs, slippers, mosquito repellant, water pistols, and clothes, lots of clothes--down the corridor then thumpings as they customised their rooms and called out to each other and made friends. I stared some more at the bare wall.

Thunder clouds were gathering. It was one hundred and five degrees. The air was thick and slippery and difficult to breath. Tim Powers was here, ran the word. First meeting at 6:00 pm. I didn't even know who Tim Powers was.

My wall was institutional green, my bed blanket babyshit yellow. I was to share my bathroom with a woman called Peg, in the room to my left (the room to my right was not yet taken). I examined the bathroom. Grey tile. No shampoo or soap or hand lotion.

About three o'clock I heard another cart trundling down the corridor, but also a noise I didn't recognise. I stuck my head out of my door.

Thunk, thunk, thunk. A woman on crutches gimping down the corridor after the deputy director of the workshop, who was pushing her cart.

She had long blonde hair to her bum. Her bum was in Calvin Klein shorts. Her legs were also long, and the colour of sun-toasted biscuit. One ankle was wrapped in one of those nasty 'flesh'-coloured Ace bandages. Sprained, I diagnosed. Her arms were long and golden, too, and her fingers.

I have never actually run into a sheet of cling film and bounced to a full stop, but I can guess how it feels. I looked at this woman and I felt a soft shock. As I tried to breathe something strange was happening. Pathways in my brain were being reorganised. It was as though every cell in my body lined up like iron filings and pointed at her. It felt irrevocable.

"Hello," I said, and withdrew into my room. The newcomer thunked into the empty room next door. Next door, oh god. Just one thin sheet of plasterboard between me and all that golden longness.

I was deeply angry. I'd flown thousands of miles, risked everything. I was here to work, to learn. I'd been sensing the change heading my way, but it was work, it was writing, it was art. Not...this.

And then it was six o'clock, and the newcomer and I walked together to our first workshop meeting. Her name was Kelley. She'd sprained her ankle doing Wing Chun. I knew I was lost.
Kelley in her dorm room, 1988, tired after marathon writing

I was right. Lost lost lost. And found, of course. It gets better every year. As I said this morning when I woke up and beamed at Kelley: today we have food I can eat, real tea, and some fucking beer! Life is good.




Meanwhile, Kelley's latest piece for the Clarion West Write-a-Thon is up. This one will make you blink:

“Is she aware?” Caroline said.

“Of course,” the Clockmaker said, quite dispassionately.

The pendulum swung steadily. A beautiful clock. Old. It might have been keeping time for centuries.

The minute hand clicked to 11:57.

“Is she suffering?”

The Clockmaker said, “It does not cause her physical pain to be small and wooden.” [more]

You can read all of them so far here. If you like them, consider sponsoring her.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cowboys and aliens trailer

Looks as though it might be a couple of hours of mindless summer fun. Arrives July 19th.

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Now we can get married in New York

1993

Last night, in a dramatic floor vote that ended at 10:30 pm, the New York Senate voted 33/29 for same-sex marriage. It's already been signed by Gov. Cuomo and will go into effect in 30 days. The New York Times has the story here.

Unlike most other state where same-sex marriage is legal, there aren't any residency requirements. Kelley and I could fly to New York next month, have a glorious party, and come home married.

We won't be doing that.

We had our wedding in 1993. It held no force of law, but much of love and community. We've been married in our hearts and in the eyes of our friends and family for nearly eighteen years. We're also registered domestic partners in the state of Washington with all the rights and responsibilities of a married couple--on the state level. So we won't be getting married again until it's meaningful on the federal level. And, as I've said before, this time there will be presents! And plenty of Champagne:

But, wow, people. New York! I can feel the tide turning... Happy Pride to us all!

ETA: Kelley's latest Clarion West Write-a-Thon piece is up:

We all like Coach Adler pretty well, but he is only about three years out of some swamp college in the buttcrack of Mississippi, and he talks funny. So we all thought he was saying Today we talk about mercy. Even me. It was possible: he gets us together after practice to talk about all kinds of things he thinks will improve us, from protecting our knees to the Seven Habits of People Who Read That Book. But although I still care about lacrosse, I don’t really give a shit about being a highly effective person, because what difference does it make if some stupid germ or whatever wait what is he writing on the board… [more]

If you like it, you can them all here. Please consider sponsoring her.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Money matters

Over at Sterling Editing we have our usual roundup of links of interest to emerging writers. I was struck by the Behler Blog post, "It's not about the money,"

I think it’s an established fact that we get into this amazing writing thing because we’re compelled to – that there is some burning force inside our souls urging us to put our thoughts to paper. Secondly, publishing isn’t a place where many get fabulously rich and can afford to make writing their sole occupation. Most writers still need their day jobs. That said, does it mean that authors shouldn’t be paid?

Writing is a verb and a noun (gerund). It's process and product. The 'product' part means 'intended for sale.' Sales involve money. There's no getting around it. I've made my living from writing, on and off, for nearly twenty years. I can't afford to not keep my eye on the money. Which means paying attention to business: advances; royalties; changing technologies; changing deal structures; changing role of agents; foreign rights; reprints; special editions; speaking fees; teaching fees...

Money keeps food on the table, beer in the fridge, and a roof over my head. Money from sales of the product is what enables the process. Money matters.

And speaking of money, Kelley is getting very, very close to that $2,000 sponsorship goal for her Clarion West Write-a-Thon. And you know what happens when she hits that mark? Naked writing!

So go read her latest piece:

The man who walks the cliff’s edge is dreaming wide awake. Below him, the sea spreads to the edge of the world, from which it brings no news; only salty secret whispers to the sand, whroom, whroom, a full-body lick to the rocks, ohhhhhh. Sometimes when the man is on the beach, the sea leaves debris at his feet like a hunting cat lays down the rabbit’s carcass in a cave where hungry kittens tumble and play. Sometimes when the man is in the water, he and the sea are kittens together. Sometimes they play rough. [more]

And go sponsor her. (Need more convincing? Read all the other pieces here.)

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Herbs, kerbs, perbs, and honeysuckle

It's a grey day here, a mizzle of drizzle. But the garden is lush. Next time the sun comes out, I'll take some photos.

We lost our rosemary bush earlier this month so we're going to try grow some in pots on the back deck, grow them until they're strong enough to transplant for winter. Here's how it used to look:

Anyway, seeing as we're growing rosemary, ah, what the hell, we're going to go whole hog with perbs again. Though not basil--we've got plenty of those in the kerbian Aerogarden. I'd planned to do flowers this summer but now we have a new fence to cover:

So in a week or so we'll be planting clematis and honeysuckle--we'll soon have plenty of flowers out there.

Meanwhile, Kelley's latest piece for the Clarion West Write-a-Thon is up. This one has teeth:

Madeline is driving to her lover, and even now, Maddy loves to drive. Not the motorway parking lot, not the commuter creep; certainly not all those red lights. Red is for stop. Driving is for go go go.

She is driving to Lizzie. She has a bottle of water and a go-cup of coffee in the holder. She’s jacked on the starch of road food and the fear that her soul connection to a woman 500 miles away is fraying fast, and all she can do is drive. Give herself to the road, to the big blue hand of day, the huge dark mouth of night, the machine and the music, the journey and the destination. [more]

You can read all of them so far here. If you like them, consider sponsoring her. I'll be over here in a corner, working on Hild. What will you be up to today? And tomorrow? And the weekend?

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hild rises from the swamp

Hild is progressing nicely.

The first draft started at 976 pages. About 40% of the way through the rewrite I'd lost 54 pages.

But now 58% of the way through and have lost only 44 pages. You lose some, you gain some.

When I delete scenes (and characters, and plot lines, and places) I get a pang. But it's also satisfying to lose the false trails I'd wandered down while trying to find my way into the heart of the book. Characters and plot arcs are firming up. It's like watching Luke's X-wing rise from the swamp. (Ooof, need to find a seventh-century metaphor...)

If I have time in the next few days and if you all promise to be very, very good, I'll see if I can find a couple of pages I won't be able to use in the final version to post here. Sometime in the next few days. Maybe. If you're good.

Meanwhile, Kelley's latest piece for the Clarion West Write-a-Thon is up:

Jet poked me hard in the shoulder. “That fucking hurts,” I said.

“No swearing on the bus,” the driver said automatically, without even looking in the mirror.

Jet said, “What’s wrong, Cassie? You look like your cat died.”

“I don’t have a cat.”

“I know, that’s why it’s okay to say it. If you really had a cat, it would be completely insensitive.”

I went back to staring out the school bus window.

“So what is it?” she said. “You look like your pony died.” [more]

You can read all of them so far here. If you like them, consider sponsoring her.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Go vote for best f/sf novels eva at NPR

In case you haven't heard, NPR is soliciting votes for the 100 best F/SF novels of all time. This would be a great opportunity to fulfill your Russ Pledge and go talk about all those books by women you've enjoyed. Leave your comments for NPR here.

For those who like counting things, it might be an interesting exercise to take a look at how many times books by men are mentioned and how many times those by women. (I hardly have time to turn around this week, so sadly must decline the honour, but I'd be very happy to publicise the fruits of others' labour.)

Also, Kelley's latest piece of Clarion West Write-a-Thon fabulousness is up:

“What did you do before?” the soldier said.

“I was an administrative assistant,” Mary said.

“Camp librarian,” he said. “Military and community. Liase with the teachers and commander’s personal admin. Next.”

“Wait…. you have books?”

He gave her an Are you stupid? look. She flinched. Of course there were no books. Shakespeare was the extra lining in your clothes that kept you warm. Romance novels lit your cookfires. Jane Austen wiped the diarrhea from your child’s bottoms. And the pages of all those self-help books made great stuffing for the chinks in a drafty barracks. [more]

You still have more than five weeks to sponsor Kelley and get her to write a little something for you. She's scarily good. (Read all her entries so far here.)

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes

Now this is what I'd like to do with my estate--if, y'know, I had one. From the New York Times, the announcement of the richest literary prize in the US: the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes of $150,000 each awarded every year to seven to nine playwrights and writers of fiction and nonfiction. That's richer than any other literary prize I can think of except the Nobel.

Here's the part that put a gleam in my eye:

The prizes are meant to reward both established and promising writers, and Mr. Windham, who never went to college himself, specifically requested that writers with no academic affiliation be considered.
[...]
Mr. Windham and Sandy Campbell, his companion of 45 years, were a well-known couple in New York’s gay literary circles.

But here's one of the UK prizes I've got my eye on for Hild: the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction, awarded this year to Andrea Levy (for The Long Song--which I've just downloaded) and last year to Hilary Mantel (for Wolf Hall). Exciting times.

I'm also really excited by Kelley's writing today for the Clarion West Write-a-Thon. She really hits it out of the park:

Sandy Gustafson lost his faith the day he met Jesus.

It happened during the 10 AM service, which Sandy laughingly advertised as the Pre-Brunch Special: get right with God and still make your 11:30 reservation. Episcopalians liked to have their needs respected. [more...]

Now I've got to go eat lunch in the sun, then bring my tea inside and work on Hild. I am officially psyched!

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Clarion West Write-a-Thon begins

Kelley has started her forty-one days of writing for the Clarion West Write-a-Thon. Her first piece is up, prompted by the phrase, "The Far West."

Great and terrible things come from the Far West; great and terrible things flock to it. The road through the desert brings them all past the Last Chance for Whatever, where Beth Harvey sells gasoline and milk, men’s ties, dog whistles, a selection of stuffed animals, sometimes herself. “The sign says Whatever, Lucas,” she told me once. “People need what they need.” [more]

There's much--much more, and it's good stuff--over at her blog. Go read it. Go sponsor her. (Suggested donation: $35, but any amount, large or small, is good. FYI, you can sponsor any CW writer anytime in the next six weeks, but early is good; it encourages everyone.)

If you're an emerging writer, and want to learn about the editing process of raw writing, you might like to visit Sterling Editing, where Kelley will be posting her CW writing every morning:

I am posting it here as incentive for other writers to practice your editing and story-building skills. You’re welcome to leave a comment: what do you see that’s working, or not working? What can you apply to your own writing? Is there anything you’d like me to comment on? Let’s talk about whatever you like.

Go read. Go play. If you like it, give some money.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Queer rights at the U.N. - The needle moves

Yesterday the U.N. Human Rights Council voted in favor of a declaration, put forward by South Africa, that expressed "grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity."

It's a very mild statement, and it only just passed, 23 to 19.* But it's an historic step: the very first UN resolution according quiltbag** people human rights. As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "This represents a historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face around the world based solely on who they are and whom they love."

Now there's a formal process for the UN to record and track abuses against quiltbag citizens--violence, anti-queer laws, etc. The needle moves. Fingers crossed for next week's NY Senate vote on same-sex marriage. If you live in New York, please call your senator. Every vote counts.



*Here's how the various countries stacked up:

States supporting the resolution: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Hungary, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, Thailand, UK, USA, Uruguay

States against the resolution: Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Jordan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Moldova, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Uganda.

Abstentions: Burkina Faso, China, Zambia

Absent: Kyrgyzstan, Libya (suspended)

Co-Sponsors of the resolution: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, and Uruguay.
(From International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission)

** I get tired of LGBTQIA, so I just add a 'u' (undecided? unworried?) and play anagramme

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Snippet of naked writing

Here's a downpayment on the naked writing that will begin on Sunday in support of Kelley's Clarion West Write-a-Thon.

The moon is full
the room brims with light
I am lying in a fairytale

I wrote that at one in the morning night before last: the moon was so bright I couldn't sleep. So bright I didn't have to turn the light on to write.

Will I use it in anything? Probably not. It's just a momentary flash and sparkle, like the raindrops flung from a wet dog. Pretty but nothing new.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

X-Wing! Lego!

Guess what I'll be doing for the next few days?

It's a present from a friend who understands the mind-melting frustration of not being able to work. I haven't played with Lego since I was five or six. Should be interesting. I expect it'll end up as a kind of W-Wing once I've finished with it.

I wonder if they make Lego kits for things like seashells. Or, y'know, ammonites. I'd probably find that very soothing, figuring out the phi shape with little plastic bricks...

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Glottering: a new word

Yesterday I invented a new word, glottering--except, it turns out, it was invented long ago. Tuh. 'The stork glottereth, this is a kind of fictitious terms from the sound, chattereth.' -- R. Holme, in 1688. (Via the OED. Of course.)

But back to my word (Holme's word, the stork's word, whatever). Let me give you context. I was thinking about rain. Thinking about Hild standing under a tree when it starts to rain. And, half asleep, trying to catch the scent and feel of early summer rain, I jotted this:

Sudden rain pattered and slapped the leaves: glottering rain, thick and cold as mud slung from a shovel.

Why am I telling you this? Because it's an example of what my writing looks like as it arrives, naked naked and newborn. And if you pony up a few dollars to sponsor Kelley's Clarion West Write-a-Thon and if the total comes to $2,000 or more, OR (if you're a writer) you sign up for the Write-a-Thon and say so in the comments today, I'll promise to post more naked words here during the six-week Write-a-Thon which starts on Sunday. I can't promise I'll invent a new word every time (or steal one, or borrow one, whatever). But some of the snippets will be much more substantial. And sometimes I'll then talk about how I would/n't use said snippet, and/or how I'd edit it.

For example, I might rewrite the above snippet as:

Glottering rain slapped and slid through the leaves, cold as mud.

Or maybe I'd just leave 'glottering' out of it completely. It is a bit precious. There again, I like the hint of clot and clatter and glottal (with it's connotation of mucous) the word invokes. But mud does some of that work. Or I could leave out 'mud'. Or... Well, there are a score of ways I could approach this.

So go on. Go give some money or time to Clarion West. Or sign up to write for six weeks. You know you want to.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Science fiction by women for 4th graders?

A few days ago, a teacher (or librarian?) told me she'd like to be able to recommend some science fiction for her 4th grade students. (For those of you who aren't American: I believe 4th graders are nine or ten years old.)

She would like some of those books to be by women.

Anyone got any suggestions?

ETA: While fantasy recs are always good--please don't stop--I'd like to see some science fiction suggestions, too. Let have some space ships, people!

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Hild update

I'm now just past halfway through my first-pass rewrite of Hild. I've already lost more than fifty pages. If you recall the initial stats, you'll understand that this means the second draft will most likely be under 900 pages. But, y'know, maybe not. And sometimes the third draft mysteriously grows...

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Being ill, Sesame Street style

You've probably figured out by now that I'm ill with something other than MS. I have a variety of doctors (internist, rheumatologist, gastroenterologist, orthopedist) trying to figure things out. This has involved several tests. And a lot of blood being drawn. (Fifteen tubes so far.) I'm still waiting for the results from the most recent batch (it'll be at least 10 days) but as every single doctor so far, when faced with test results, raises his--yep, they're all men--eyebrows, purses his lips, tugs his beard and says, "Well, that's not unheard of but it is unusual," I'm imagining the next consult over my labs will go something like this:


(Via The Spandrel Shop. Thanks, Angelique.)

That is, I doubt they'll be able to label it neatly but they'll be able to address some of the more egregious symptoms. (Don't stand in front of the fan...) Then whatever this flare-up is will pass and I'll get back to blogging about something more serious than hand puppets. But, hey, they're such apt hand puppets! Yupyupyupyupyup!

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Awful sartorial choices of 1997

Holly Wade Matter recently posted these photos of me and Kelley, from 1997, on Facebook. Aargh!!



All I can say is: our sartorial style has developed in the last fourteen years; we have better haircuts; we've lost weight. But I still think Kelley is the best thing since beer.

Holly, in case you didn't know, is a great writer. I published two of her stories in Bending the Landscape. ("Watersnakes" in the Fantasy volume, and "Memorabilia" in Horror--though it could just as easily have been in the SF volume.)

Go find something of hers and read it. I'll be over here, thanking the stars I no longer have long hair...

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Smack-you-in-the-heart simplicity of joy

Kelley has an essay up at @U2 about her recent experience at a show here in Seattle. She's been inundated with email from fans all day. You'll see why if you read it.

Oh, and if you like this, then consider sponsoring Kelley for the Clarion West Write-a-Thon, in which she'll write something like this (or, y'know, not like this) every morning for 41 days in a row.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Feminist SF conversations worth reading

Three interesting posts this weeks about feminist sf. I count all three women as my friends. I'm going to link and cut-and-paste but not offer too much editorial input mainly because, frankly, typing really hurts right now.

First, here's Timmi Duchamp over at Aqueduct:

Over at Torque Control, Niall Harrison has posted transcript of a BBC Woman's Hour segment that I (and perhaps others) have been having a difficult time trying to access, featuring a discussion by Gwyneth Jones, Karen Traviss, and Farah Mendlesohn about their take on the current situation of women writers and readers in science fiction. The discussion opens with Gwyneth voicing her regret at not having adopted a male pseudonym from the beginning of her career. I can understand that regret, since--providing she either disguised her physical appearnce or chose not to have a public life as a writer, which is, to say the least, difficult these days, given how important a public face is for selling one's work--she'd have been taken more seriously than she is now. (Arguably, she's taken more seriously than just about any other woman science fiction writer today than Ursula K. Le Guin. But she is also, I think, regretting the effect of the female name on her sales.

You should read the transcript. It is the foundation on which Gwyneth was building in her Guardian podcast the other day. (Plus, it's pretty damn interesting: it illuminates the state of British SF from the very different perspectives of two working writers.)

Then, in the same forum, Gwyneth Jones responds:

...it’s a shame if all sf books that feature a few female characters, having female lifes, are labelled feminist, & therefore marked as unreadable by large swathes of the general sf reading public. I have been worried about being part of that effect.

I'm in an awkward position in relation to the debate about the parlous state of "female sf writers" in the UK (where the situation really is bad, by the way. According to Torque Control, which I take to be reliable, only Trisha Sullivan and Justina Robson currently have mainstream publishing contracts). The trouble is, I believe that the “problem” the fans are are worrying over is largely of their own making. We get what we celebrate, says Dean Kamon (inventor and science populariser). I don't know much about the man, but that sounds right. UKSF fandom has not celebrated female writers. Sf’s highly active fanbase says “it’s the publishers” but I don’t believe that. I’m sure genre publishers and editors have an agenda, and they probably favour traditional male-ordered sf, but they’re not fanatics. They follow the money. If the sf community had been getting excited about women writers, if sf novels by women had been anticipated, talked about, discussed, on an enthusiastic scale, the wider sf reading public would have taken notice, the publishers would have been seeing interesting sales figures and they’d have reacted positively.

It hasn’t happened.

Do read it. Gwyneth is always interesting. And she's very sharp.

And then Cheryl Morgan responds to Gwyneth, on Cheryl's Mewsings:

First wave feminism was the Suffragettes. That’s fairly clear. Second wave feminism was the movement that started in the 60s and 70s. In theory it was about equal rights for women in all areas of life. In practice it was sometimes more about equal rights for middle class white women, and occasionally about the rights of middle class white lesbian separatists. Sheila Jeffreys is a good example of how things can go so very badly wrong.

Third wave feminism, as I understand it, grew out of a cross-fertilization between feminism and the civil rights movement. Basically feminists realized that discrimination against women was just a small part of a much wider social problem. They also got the idea that working together with other groups on the bottom of the social ladder: people of color, the poor, LGBT people, the disabled and so on, would strengthen their position, not weaken it.

Third wave feminism, then, is not just about the “Battle of the Sexes”, it is about human rights. I’ll quite happily label a post about the rights of gay men “feminist”. But not everyone would. If you still see feminism as simply a matter of “men v women” then you may well see some of my posts as “seeing sexism where none exists” (as I and others have been accused of recently).

This is all thought-provoking stuff. I find I don't much care for 'wave' labelling. It was different in both countries (I've lived a long time in both) and even within regions of those countries. And then in other countries (e.g. France and the Netherlands, and Australia and New Zealand). Feminism is evolving. Some of us stick at the place we're comfortable. Some of us are never entirely comfortable. Some of us keep changing. Some of us just muddle along doing our best.

The point for me is that we all do have to keep trying, and talking, and figuring it out. And forgiving each other when we put our feet in our mouths. (Or when what we say gets misrepresented and/or taken out of context.)

I've just finished an interview with BBC Radio 4, which will be a two-part documentary about sf and the exploration of gender roles. I was ill. The interviewer I was expecting didn't show up. There were technical problems. Much of what I say will be edited and presented out of order. (I'm not complaining; that's how good multi-interviewee radio works.) What it sounds as though I'm saying to those who eventually listen to the documentary will most probably not much resemble what I was trying to convey. But we do our best. We muddle along. And meanwhile we try to learn from each other.

And the point is, after all, to talk about women writers as often as we can. Anyone got anyone they'd like to mention today?

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley

Large chunks of the last couple of days have been the kind of days when I'd rather be somewhere else (health stuff; no, I don't particularly want to talk about it today). So I dug out an old favourite, Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword and shut the world out. I want to take this opportunity to give a shoutout to all good stories with happy endings (and swords, and ponies, and magic, and battles!). The world needs more sword and pony books. Especially ones with big cats, heroism, and saving the day.

I'm too tired to tell you why it's such a great book, but if you want to know what I like in general about YA then read this post.

I hope you all have a favourite book that can whisk you away from the less-than-thrilling moment of life when necessary.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Albee vs. McDermid: what acceptance speeches tell us about women, men, and art

Last month, at the 23rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards, the Lambda Literary Foundation honoured Val McDermid and Edward Albee with the Pioneer Award. Below are their acceptance speeches.

Full disclosure: I have met both Albee and McDermid. The meeting with Albee was not a happy one. (He very probably won't remember it, but I do: he was savage. It took every ounce of my will to not attack him in return. In context, it would have been inappropriate. I'll tell that story one day.) Val, on the other hand, has become a friend. I tell you this so you can take it into account when weighing my opinion; I am not wholly disinterested.

As people and as writers McDermid and Albee come from very different perspectives. As people they've surmounted different obstacles and as artists are focused on different concerns. Even so, their acceptance speeches epitomise the difference between men and women artists and how they see their place in the world.

Albee talked about himself, compared himself to Proust and other dead greats. (Implication: I'm the greatest alive.) He talked of Art as transcendence. McDermid, on the other hand, talked of how she couldn't have been where she was without the pioneering work of those who had gone before her: Mary Wings, Barbara Wilson, Katherine Forrest. She talked about writers and readers as a continuum to be cherished.

Albee's stance: Me. McDermid's stance: Us.

I think the same thing happens on a wider gender level: male writers tend to talk about men only; women talk about both women and men. This is why women writers get disappeared: instead of taking up half the airspace on chat shows and recommended lists, they get a quarter. (If that.) Women's art as recessive gene...

If we don't start deliberately breeding women's art back into the conversation (by, for example, encouraging people to take the Russ Pledge), it will die out.

But I'm getting off track. Albee, I think, has a point when he talks about not being limited by labels. I, too, prefer to be a writer, not a lesbian writer (or woman writer, or sf writer, or crime writer--though I don't mind being an English writer, no doubt because 'English' is rarely used as a perjorative, and therefore limiting, term). His mistake was to not acknowledge that many readers need (and want, and enjoy) queer protagonists or themes in our literature, and then compounded his error by sounding dismissive of those who do. Given the context, he comes across as defensive, self-absorbed, and graceless. It's a pity. But judge for yourself:

For those of you who have never accepted an award, here are the basic rules: don't attack anyone, be grateful, be gracious, be generous. (Also, unless it's a lifetime/special award--as the Pioneer Award is--be brief.) Val McDermid knows how it's done:

Now you tell me: who would you rather have over for dinner?

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Marvellous and strange

Much deliciousness. Including baking (ginger scones!). And fine weather--seriously, two whole days of over 70 degrees. First time in...well, probably since September last year.

Our garden's been through some changes: the rosemary bush died of root rot (all that rain...). The lavender is humming with bees and being flittered over by butterflies. Yesterday we saw our first rose bloom. Today there were eight of them. The chive flowers (what remains) are proving to be catnip for bees.

Speaking of cats, Chow Ciao turns out to have a twin. No wonder she's eating so much. I looked out of the window yesterday and thought I was seeing double. I blinked. Sat down. Took a breath. But there really were two of them. One of them is paler and fatter than the other, but otherwise they're the same.

And just to prove that silver linings are everywhere, although we lost a lot of our privacy last year when the neighbours took down their 20' high laurel hedge (and regained much of it with the new fence), we now get the most beautiful southwest light in the evening. It transforms our house in the evening. Magical.

That's it. I hope your weekend was marvellous and strange, too.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Good Life

As I mentioned yesterday, Kelley bakes. One of my favourite treats is apple and blackberry crumble. Here's a photo:

Kelley has thoughtfully provided the recipe here. (Substitute blackberries for rhubarb, and don't add the lemon zest. I find myself less and less enamoured of citrus.) Then pour the best cream you can find over the whole thing. Yum! We took one to our neighbours, in exchange for the huge bag of salad greens from their garden.

Anyway, Kelley's thing is baking. My thing is McGyver meals. (Just for fun, here's another one.) Last weekend I decided to finally make something using the flowers our chives insist on sprouting. This is what I came up with:

I don't have a name for it, but it's basically roasted asparagus, sauteed chicken and mushrooms, cooked up with a roux and white wine and cream, served over egg noodles, and sprinkled with chive flowers. (Two things: roast the asparagus with olive oil at 400℉ for about 11 minutes, and tease the chive flowers apart into their constituent bell-like thingies. Oh, and when you make the roux, do make sure you heat it slowly and thoroughly. I hate the taste of uncooked flour. I bet you do, too.)

We ate the whole thing with a salad made from our neighbour's greens (five or six different things) and grated carrot, with a dressing made from tofu and our home-grown basil. Then we passed out feeling all back-to-the-landish and self-sufficient. And, y'know, full.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Want to see my naked work? Sponsor Kelley!

This is a repost of Kelley's post about the Clarion West Write-a-Thon. Sponsor her! It's a great cause and she's a fab writer. (Also very good looking. And she bakes...) As added incentive, if enough of you commit enough money ($2,000 or more for Kelley), I'll join in and write some stuff in the mornings, too, occasionally. I'll post it for public consumption: raw and unfussed with.

So. Want to see my naked work? More importantly, want to see Kelley's, and want to support an organisation that helps sharpen the writers of tomorrow? Then go pledge money.

41 days of writing. Want a piece of that?

3 June 2011

The Clarion West Writers Workshop Write-a-thon is about to begin! Please consider sponsoring me as I commit to write — and post — something new every day for 41 days.

What’s a Write-a-thon? Imagine a combination of NaNoWriMo and a walk-a-thon. Writers sign up to participate; we set a writing goal; we recruit sponsors to donate to Clarion West; and then we write for six weeks, from June 19 to July 29. It’s a great way to get some work done and help raise money for a great organization. (There’s more information on Clarion West at the end of this post, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it.)

This year, instead of working on a Sacred Precious No You Can’t Look Because It’s A Work In Progress And It Will Melt, Melt! project, I’ve decided to write something I can share every day.

Here’s the deal: Before I turn to my current writing project or my editing work for the day, I will write something short and brand new. I think of it as “priming the pump,” and as my chance to throw out ideas and see what sticks. These pieces will not be stories: they will be conversations, scenes, moments, ideas. Perhaps they’ll be seeds for new work down the road, perhaps they’ll simply be what comes out of my writing brain that day. Some of them will probably suck (grin). I think some will probably be pretty good. Whatever comes up, it’s my goal to stretch with these pieces, and perhaps explore new territory in my work.

I’ll post my writing here every day, and will be cross-posting to Sterling Editing, where I’ll be encouraging people to practice their editing skills on me.

And you can get in on the game! If you’re willing to pledge $35 or more to Clarion West, you can provide a prompt for a day’s writing: an object, an idea, a thought. I’ll write something based on that, and dedicate it to you. (Please note, I’m not accepting Tuckerization requests because these won’t be complete stories.)

I hope you’ll consider sponsoring me in the Write-a-thon for any amount that feels good to you — every single dollar counts, and no donation is too small. I am grateful for any support you care to give.

And if you’re a writer, please also consider participating! You can set any goal you want: start a project, finish one, or simply recommit to writing for 10 minutes every day. It’s a chance for all of us to write together, and to keep each other strong. That’s worth a million bucks, in my opinion.

Thank you. Enjoy your day.

(Edited to clarify that although I’ve set the bar at $35 for the custom prompt, I am grateful for any support at any level from $1 up. Every single dollar makes a difference!)

——

About the Clarion West Writers Workshop

For nearly 30 years, Clarion West has helped emerging writers of speculative fiction kickstart their professional lives. Every year, we select 18 writers to attend our six-week intensive residential writing workshop. Each week, a different professional writer or editor leads daily workshopping, offers additional lectures and private conferences, and gives a public reading of their own work. We encourage students to write a new story every week, and to stretch as far as they possibly can.

It’s a transformative experience for many writers.

CW graduates have gone on to great careers and have won every major award in speculative fiction. CW is committed to expanding the field of SF to include women writers, writers of color, and LGBT writers. Our instructors are the best writers and editors in the field, and have included Chuck Palahniuk, Octavia Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, George R. R. Martin, Karen Joy Fowler, Samuel R. Delany, Cory Doctorow, Joanna Russ, Greg Bear, Nancy Kress, and many more.

I’m the Board Chair of Clarion West, and both Nicola and I have taught at the workshop.

The Write-a-thon is CW’s biggest fundraising activity of the year. Last year, 75 writers signed up. This year, CW has set a stretch goal of 100 writers participating. If you’re a writer, we hope you’ll consider being one of them. If you’re a reader of speculative fiction, we hope you’ll consider sponsoring one of the fine writers who are participating. Do you know a writer? Persuade him or her to sign up, and then support their work with a donation to Clarion West!

Yeah, I used the word 'naked' in a headline. Get over it. It's for a good cause.

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Friday, June 3, 2011

Hey, at least I'm "sharp-eyed"

The Guardian books podcast is up (many thanks to Cheryl for pointing it out). They include mention of the recent fuss over women's status/visibility in UK sf. I'm identified not as a novelist, or even as English, but as a "sharp-eyed blogger in Seattle." (No doubt this would surprise my optometrist.) That's how women sf writers get disappeared.

My friend Gwyneth Jones gets put in the hot seat and does her best to offer perspective. But it's a difficult position (I know; I've been there: everyone's in a hurry, all they want is a provocative soundbite). I think irony (cf Gwyneth's statement regarding women taking over the genre 'for a whole decade' in the 70s) is risky in this kind of situation and I'm not convinced her commentary was entirely successful. I feel for us all on this one.

Listen to it here. (The sf segment starts at 27:00.)

Onwards and upwards...

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A pretty for you

I'm not around much today, so I thought I'd offer you this photo I took of my office window a couple of weeks ago: chambered nautilus (yes, it's real), stained glass, and blossom.

At some point soon I'll write a wee photo essay about my work space. Until then, picture me sitting at my desk by the window, working on Hild...

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

I want this

If you want to have all the info about women and sf at you fingertips, I suspect you could do a lot worse than start with Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy, an encyclopedia in 2 volumes edited by Robin Anne Reid. For all the nifty contents, see Reid's comments to a previous blog post, starting here.

Coming soon: a list of other non-fiction books on the topic that I'd love to own--and think you should, too. While I'm about other business, feel free to leave comments.

Some examples to get you started: In the Chinks of the World Machine, Sarah Lefanu, On Joanna Russ, Farah Mendlesohn, The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction, Justine Larbalestier.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Taking the Russ pledge

The fabulous Cheryl Morgan has written a blog post, Female Invisibility Bingo, about the post I did at the weekend about how women writers' sf gets disappeared. The comments are wonderful: smart and constructive.

And then there's this post in the Guardian, by David Barnett, "The incredible shrinking presence of women SF writers." The comments devolve rapidly. Not for the faint of heart.

Between them they form a sterling demonstration of how the post frames the response. Also of different audiences producing different results.

To be clear, in this blog (and in life in general) I'm only interested in moving forward, in improving the visibility of women writers on the shelves and in the media, and securing that visibility for the future. I don't give a fig for assigning blame.

The single most important thing we (readers, writers, journalists, critics, publishers, editors, etc.) can do is talk about women writers whenever we talk about men. And if we honestly can't think of women 'good enough' to match those men, then we should wonder aloud (or in print) why that is so. If it's appropriate (it might not be, always) we should point to the historical bias that consistently reduces the stature of women's literature; we should point to Joanna Russ's How to Suppress Women's Writing, which is still the best book I've ever read on the subject. We should take the pledge to make a considerable and consistent effort to mention women's work which, consciously or unconsciously, has been suppressed. Call it the Russ Pledge. I like to think she would have approved.

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