Monday, June 25, 2012

Busy

For the next week or ten days you won't see much of me around here. Perhaps the occasional photo.

It also means I'm no longer speaking with the magisterial 'We' of Clarion West. Back to being private writer citizen. I will, of course, be banging the Write-a-thon drum on Kelley's behalf--but not for a week or two.

Have fun.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Me interviewing Kelley for a Tweet Chat this morning

Do you write? Are you on Twitter? Then you might want to join me and Kelley Eskridge today for the first ever Clarion West Tweet Chat (hashtag #writeathon): Sunday June 24, at 11 a.m. Seattle time (which is 2 p.m. on the East Coast and 7 p.m. for those in the UK; sadly, I don't know what time that is in other parts of the world, but you're all welcome).

I recommend that you download TweetChat, which will then insert the #writeathon hashtag for you and keep all the tweets in the conversation in one place. (It also refreshes quickly--more time for talking!)

Everyone is welcome. I'll be asking Kelley questions about her Write-a-thon experience, from both the perspective of How to keep writing everyday and How to ask sponsors for money. But Kelley will no doubt be happy to answer anything you want to know (and CW staff and volunteers will be standing by to answer CW-related queries). So don't be shy, come hang out for an hour!

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Some women can see a hundred million colours


We saw this cloud right around noon on Wednesday. Those amazing colours lasted only a few minutes. It was basically a cloud-shaped rainbow. This photo doesn't do it justice. (I was in the car.) ETA: apparently it was a fire rainbow.

The most interesting thing about it, though, was that when I first stepped out of the house, I didn't notice it. Kelley did. "Wow," she said. "Look at that cloud!" and pointed. It looked like...a cloud. Utterly unremarkable. Normal cloud colour and everything. "Can't you see it?" she said. I said I could see the cloud, but it was, well, just a cloud. And as we were late, opened the car door, put my polarised sunglasses, and prepared to get in the car...and, Whap! the prismatic colours leapt out at me--not as bright as they are here (the cloud, and the colours, were moving fast; this was the tail-end of the light show, a pale shadow of its main glory) but clear. But Kelley wasn't wearing sunglasses; she could see the colours anyway.

Eventually I could see them, too, even without the sunglasses. But I didn't to begin with. And today I read this article, positing the existence of women who have super vision:
Living among us are people with four cones, who might experience a range of colors invisible to the rest. It’s possible these so-called tetrachromats see a hundred million colors, with each familiar hue fracturing into a hundred more subtle shades for which there are no names, no paint swatches. And because perceiving color is a personal experience, they would have no way of knowing they see far beyond what we consider the limits of human vision.
I sorta like the notion that my sweetie has superpowers...

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Friday, June 22, 2012

An evening with George R.R. Martin: you and just 99 others


Love Game of Thrones? Can't get enough of Wildcards? Think Clarion West is the best thing since sliced bread?

I have just the thing for you: two and a half hours of wine, food, and conversation with George R.R. Martin, in the company of only 99 other guests. Right here in Seattle. The tickets are only $75 and all the proceeds go to benefit Clarion West.

Here are the details:
Saturday July 7, 2012 • 7–9:30 p.m.
The evening will feature a light dinner buffet reception with wine.

Program: 8–9 p.m. George R.R. Martin will be interviewed by award-winning author Connie Willis, followed by Q & A.

Uptown Hideaway

819 5th Ave North, Seattle
Note: Entrance on Aloha St above Crow Restaurant

Attendance at this event is limited to 100 people. $75 per person

To reserve your ticket email davis_fox@clarionwest.org For more information please call Clarion West Executive Director Davis B. Fox at 206 322 7282.
If that sounds like a good deal, then email Davis Fox and come hang out. I'll be there, and Kelley--and, y'know, wine and food and top-flight conversation with exciting writers. All for $75. Plus the priceless satisfaction that, no, it's not about having a fabulous time in incredible company, of course not, it's about helping the future writers of f/sf. The writers who will one day feed your reading habit...

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Queering the landscape

Over at Tor.com, Brit Mandelo ponders the place of Bending the Landscape in the queer speculative fiction firmament:

In the late nineties, Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel produced a landmark series of anthologies collecting gay and lesbian speculative fiction: the Bending the Landscape books, published by Overlook Press. These books have become, in a real sense, classics of queer speculative fiction, and so I’d like to talk a little about them—honor their contribution to the conversation, and introduce them to new readers, too.
The series is made up of three books, each featuring a different genre: science fiction, fantasy, and horror. They were published from 1996-2001. Between them, they won a World Fantasy Award, two Lambda Literary Awards, and two Spectrum Awards—as well as being finalists for an ALA Stonewall Award and a Locus Award. “Time Gypsy” by Ellen Klages, from Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction, was a nominee for the Hugo for Best Novelette in 1999, and for the Nebula in 1998.
It's an interesting piece. I'll look forward to reading more.

I've talked before about putting these books together. They were an enormous amount of work but I'm proud of them. They broke new ground. For some of the writers, it was their first published work; for others, it was their first published f/sf; for yet others, it was their first queer fiction. As Mandelo points out, I was trying to do several things at once.

However, I think the Horror volume was less than a perfect success. This is partly because horror combined with queer leads to some unhappy story confluences: a lot of shame about being different. Not a great message to send, but I had to trust readers, after two pervious volumes, to see the characters as human, not types. Also, to be frank, I'm just not a big fan of horror--for some of the same reasons I don't much care for noir (which I think is the horror fiction of the crime genre). The tropes lead the protagonist and therefore reader into a descending spiral, and removes the possibility of hope. And I like hope, in life and in story.

So the volume as whole wasn't perfect, but there were some truly superb stories. In my opinion the strongest was L. Timmel Duchamp's "Explanations Are Clear." In an alternate universe we lead with that story, and it gets the attention it deserved. But the book is what it is, and, on the whole, it's worth reading.

One day I'll have to see about getting them all back into print. I think they'd make nifty ebooks.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hild and her gemæcce

Someone deeply familiar with the seventh century recently admitted she'd had to go hunting on my other blog, Gemæcca: The story of a novel about Hild of Whitby for the meaning of gemæcca. It occurs to me that if she doesn't know the word, few others will. So here's some thoughts about the term, lightly adapted from a post I wrote four years ago.

I subscribe to British Archaeology, a bi-monthly magazine stuffed with dug-up-in-Britain wonders, covering everything from how to excavate an abandoned Ford Transit Van to discovery of tools created half a million years ago. The thrill factor is variable (I often read it in bed and nod out over the articles). But just as I was beginning Hild, I read a review that knocked my socks off, of a scholarly text about textile production in the early middle ages, Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England, AD 450-700, by Penelope Walton Rogers (CBA, 2007).

I don't normally continue to research once I've begun the the work of actually committing fiction (facts, until they're fully assimilated, tend to sit in great undigested lumps in my imaginative path) but I had to have this book. It took a week or so to arrive and then I promptly devoured it. It not only derailed my imaginative process, it blew the whole thing off its tracks.

The book lays out in detail what Angles and Saxons wore, and how women made it, and how fashions and means of production changed geographically and chronologically. It demonstrates that women must have devoted at least 65% of their time to textile production. Textile production, therefore, more than child care, more than food production, was their major concern. It was a critical task.

We've all read those awful historical novels where the feisty heroine flings her embroidery down and flees the castle to ride her spirited mare through the forest. No. Wouldn't happen. Couldn't happen. Sticking with their weaving and sewing (and sowing, and harvesting and retting and scutching and beating and spinning and dyeing and weaving, and on...) wasn't just some boring gendered task designed to keep women occupied, it was vital to survival and quality of life. Abandoning it meant abandoning the group--the kind of selfishness that would get you shunned and driven out. That is, not optional.

For me, as a writer, that was a problem: if a woman is spending two thirds of her waking life working on textile production, how do I make her life exciting and particular? (This is such a huge subject that it will require its own blog post, so more on this another time.)

The first thing I had to do is reimagine--totally reimagine--the social networks of a small holding, a settlement, a royal court. A lot of cloth production involves cooperative behaviour; a lot involves two-person teams. Immediately, it became clear to me that the notion of 'best friend' would be a deeper, more serious, and quite possibly formalised relationship--perhaps even political at the upper end of the food chain. So then I imagined what that relationship might look like, and then I started hunting for an Old English (in my fiction I'm currently using the term 'Anglisc' but this may change) word to describe that relationship. And the only thing I could find was gemæcca, which according to Old English Made Easy means 'mate, equal, one of a pair, comrade, companion' and 'husband or wife'. I found it a complicated but interesting concept.

So I repurposed the word. And used it as the title for my research blog. And, much later, wondered if I should use gemæcce, with an e. Pronounced something like Yem-ATCH-ee. And frankly I still don't know. I just don't know enough about Old English nouns to be able to work it out (I get lost in the strong vs. weak noun thing and retire in disgust). But I like the 'e' better than the 'a', so that's what I've been using in the novel.

One of Hild's most important relationships is with her gemæcce, Begu. They're not related, they don't have sex, they're utterly different. One a chatterbox, the other mostly silent. One short, one tall. One a thegn's daughter, the other royal. But when they meet they fall in friend-love (as I think most really good friends do). And that friendship sustains them through joy and tedium and horror (as really good friendships do). Yet Begu would never have existed if I hadn't stumbled across that review, if I hadn't formed the sudden conviction that I had to have this book, if I hadn't allowed my whole notion of Hild's life to reform itself.

You never know when some tiny detail will change everything.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hild: risk and reward

From: Anonymous
Actually, this has nothing to do with chive flowers or diet. I am curious how you had the guts/courage/ intestinal fortitude or whatever to basically spend years working on a book like Hild on spec, rather than having a pre-existing contract. That is against the modern grain. I imagine you could say you felt that confident about it and your skill, but could theoretically have had the much confidence back when you started it as well. It seems gutsy, which says a lot about you probably.
It didn't feel gutsy, just necessary.

Hild is the kind of novel that comes along once in a lifetime. It would have killed me to fuck it up.

To give myself a better chance of succeeding, I wanted to encyst the experience to the greatest possible degree, keep it private. I didn't want to have to justify some of my story choices (which, in places, are extreme) before I wrote them; it's much better to be able to show why they're the right choices than to explain laboriously. More importantly, I didn't want to make those choices--which one must in order to sketch out a plot, which in turn one needs to write an outline--until I was there with Hild, living and breathing and understanding every implication of the moment. And I couldn't do that until I'd written everything that goes before that moment--and all the other moments.

My best writing always comes from the process of discovery, the adventure through the unknown, the pure experience. It's my vice as a writer: I'm in love with Finding Out. I do need to know the final scene before I sit down, but then begin and simply head towards then ending and see what happens--and why and how.

Usually, I write the first fifteen or twenty thousand words, stop, read, and reach an understanding of how the novel will develop. Then I write the outline, bank the cheque, and settle in to write.

Hild is different. I knew I would have to invent so many things: the history, the relationships, the narrative techniques. I knew the actual work would be ten times better than any description of it could possibly be. No advance I'd be likely to get would match the final product. So I talked to Kelley, we counted our money, set up Sterling Editing, and said: Fuck it.

Financially, then, yes, it was a risk. Artistically, not so much.

That is, artistically the whole thing was such an enormous gamble that I couldn't even think about it in those terms; I just had to trust my expertise--and trust my hunger, my raw need to recreate this world and populate it with these people.

I can tell half a hundred stories about what, exactly, I was hoping for. They'd all be true. They'd also be less than true. For example, I've said often that before I began I wondered if this book was even possible. On the deepest level, that's rubbish. Deep down, I had no doubt before I even typed the open sentence that that I could create something extraordinary (part of my writing stance is psychotic self-belief). What I wondered was how I was going to do it. I had no clue.

This is not a think-your-way-through-it kind of problem. It requires faith--or madness, or bravado, or all of the above. So on the day I began, I laughed, thought, again, Fuck it! (and Watch this!) and leapt into the void. And the words I needed purled forth: flowing, vinous sentences that spanned with ease that gap between knowing and doing and pulled me to Hild and Hild to me: Hild and her time, her place, her people.

But with every novel I've written, between the first paragraph of the first draft and the final scene of the final rewrite, I have at least two crises of confidence. With Hild I've had several. Each time I simply fell back on my psychotic self-belief, my will: You're a writer. Just do it. And so I did.

As I've said before--as so many people have said, including Toni Morrison--If there's a book you want to read that doesn't exist, write it.

On some level it's that simple.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Bee feet on my food


I've been eating a lot of chive flowers. (A lot, period.) This is a photo I took the other day with my phone. I was particularly struck by the cool bee shades...

I tend to put the flowers in our morning omelette or on top of lunch time Cobb salad (K's phone in case provides handy scale--taken just before addition of flowers--hey, once the flowers are on no power in the 'verse can stop me from eating):



Chive flowers are delicious: a delicate, aromatic, slightly onion-y taste, and a variety of colours (depending on how new they are--newer = darker and richer;  though only on the plant. Once you pick them and tease them into their individual blossoms, they're a uniform pale purple). I'm a sucker for brightly-coloured food. So I'll be sad when the flowers are done. Which will be Really Soon Now.

Also coming Really Soon Now: me back to a regular blogging schedule. Just not quite yet. I still have a lot on my plate (not just food...).

But really. Soon now.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What I've been up to

Things have been a bit quiet around here because I've been busy.

  • I'm back in physical therapy, this time something called neuro-physiotherapy, which is absolutely exhausting me.
  • I've volunteered (on a temporary basis) to coordinate (and, most time-consumingly, build) Clarion West's social media until the permanent coordinator can step in. As the Write-a-thon and main workshop are just about to start, along with all the readings and parties associated with same, I've got a lot on my plate.
  • I've been wrestling with two applications. One was a purely-for-the-fun competition-ish kind of thing far from my usual beaten path (which, no, I'm not going to tell you about here). But the other was an absolute bear, with an insane submission process involving the UI from hell.
But don't despair! I have in mind a couple of longish blog posts: my review of Superior (really! I haven't forgotten!) and some thoughts on lesbian fiction in the US and UK and how genre classification affects that. I definitely want to get those done before all our summer visitors descend on Seattle.

How's your June been? What do you have planned for the rest of it? How many of you are either doing or supporting someone else who's doing the Write-a-thon?

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Battle cry for humanity...

Whenever news like this (the Church of England's idiotic pronouncements about same-sex marriage) get you down, remember this:
 

As Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic said: "Beethoven's Ninth seems to express most completely what human beings are struggling for. It's a battle cry for humanity, the hymn of possibility."

I vote for possibility. How about you?

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Carmina Burana will never be the same...



Many (many!) thanks to Angelique for this. I'll be singing about that octopus all day: Get him some boots! Send him to North Korea... I love Carmina Burana. I love food. I love bizarre cartoons. I don't think there could be a better YouTube video on the planet for me today. You will burst something laughing. I did.

Oh, and just in case you haven't seen it, here's a clip in which the Pine-Sol Lady makes grown men scream. Trust me. You will weep with laughter.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Queer updates

I keep meaning to mention these things as I stumble across them, but then, well, life happens and they fall off my table.

So here's a handful of queer-related news (from The Advocate, Los Angeles Time, and Seattle P-I):

  • Apparently the Cabinet has reached a tipping point. "With June being Pride Month, the list of cabinet secretaries openly supporting marriage equality is growing fast."
  • Marriage equality--a fight over whether the state will keep the marriage law it passed earlier this year--is going on the ballot in Maryland. "Marriage equality opponents needed to gather more than 55,000 signatures to put a repeal of the law up to a majority vote of Maryland's citizens in November. The number of signatures deemed "valid" as part of an unofficial count has now climbed to 70,000..."
  • The Boy Scouts of America are considering allowing gay scouts and scout leaders. "The announcement comes after activist Zach Wahls delivered 275,000 petition signatures to the group and met with its leadership. Wahls, an Eagle Scout who has two moms, was outraged that a lesbian mother had been removed as den leader for a Cub Scout troop. And he got back into his uniform and delivered the petition on her behalf last week."
  • ETA: Over 300 Mormons joined the Salt Lake City Pride Parade: "They came in suits and skirts, and they drew tears and cheers. More than 300 current and former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participated in the Utah Gay Pride Parade on Sunday as part of a group called Mormons Building Bridges."
  • And finally, as expected, same-sex marriage in Washington state has been temporarily blocked and will be decided in a referendum at the polls in November. I love the fact that, publicly, everyone is very optimistic the vote will pass. But I think it will get close and it will get ugly. I'm not looking forward to autumn. If at any point you or your friends or relatives get confused, I would like you to vote to APPROVE Referendum 74. Got that? APPROVE R-74.
You'll be hearing a lot more about this from me as we approach election day.


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Friday, June 8, 2012

The gentrification of lesbian fiction

The Los Angles Review of Books has an interesting piece by Emily Douglas on Sarah Schulman's latest, The Gentrification of the Mind.

I can't speak to the book overall because I haven't read it. But this struck me:
As Schulman provocatively argues, the seemingly astounding success of the gay rights movement over the past five years is itself a symptom of a gentrification of gay politics. It is gayness, she says, that has assimilated to the values embedded in dominant culture — like monogamy and the nuclear family — not straight culture that has integrated the hopes and insights of gay individuals. In so doing, writes Schulman, "...homosexuality loses its transformative potential and strives instead to be banal." "If you ask most people what the most pressing issue for queers is in America today, they will say 'marriage,'" says Schulman. In this, she's proven more right every day, as politicians like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo use support for marriage equality to bolster their liberal bona fides while slashing the budget for public services. But the single-issue focus obscures a host of ways in which gay people continue to struggle for rights and representation. Of the focus on marriage, Schulman asserts:
Inherent in this is the assumption that everything else is great for gay people, and only marriage remains. Yet there is no nationwide antidiscrimination law, and marginalization in publicly funded institutions like schools and the New York City Saint Patrick's Day parade is firmly in place. There is no integration of lesbians of all races or gay men of color's perspectives into the mainstream arts entertainment. Familial homophobia is the status quo. We are not integrated into education curriculum or services. Being out is professionally detrimental in most fields. Most heterosexuals still think of themselves as superior and most gay people submit to this out of necessity or lack of awareness. Basically, in relation to where we should be — we are nowhere. 
Schulman is rightly critical of anyone who identifies marriage as the only issue of importance to queer people. We are in a dizzying state of affairs, where eight states sanction same-sex marriages and straightforward acceptance of the same is ever more de rigueur in polite company, and yet some 90 percent of LGBT teens suffer physical or verbal harassment, and queer-bashing in general is still commonplace. "Today if you are a lesbian and want to get married in Iowa, you are in luck," Schulman writes. "But if you are a human being who would like to read novels with lesbian protagonists with openly lesbian authors, close your eyes and think of England" — where lesbian novelists Sarah Waters and Jeanette Winterson are celebrated.
This perspective seems...not wrong, exactly, but simplistic.

First of all, as someone who is both foreign to the US and a cripple, the notion of same-sex marriage is vital: I want access to my partner's social security benefits, and twenty years ago, being able to marry would have made all the difference in the world to my immigration prospects. These are both issues that are as important to me as being bullied is to queer kids. (Yes, I understand that for some children this is a life or death issue. But so is access to health care. And so, sometimes, is immigration.) And here's the thing: putting same-sex marriage on the books will lead to less overt discrimination in the wider culture. This is basic social science: change the law, and eventually change minds. It's not a simple correlation, because humans being are complex beasties, but it really is clear. I can't think of one federal law that has advanced human rights that has lead to more discrimination long-term.

Secondly, Schulman's thesis--that lesbian novels only get published in the UK--is something she's been saying for at least four years. This is from a 2008 piece in Publishers Weekly:
If you are a lesbian and you want to get married in California, you’re in luck. But if you are a human being who would like to read novels with lesbian protagonists by openly lesbian authors, you’d better move to England. In the U.K., openly lesbian novelists with lesbian content like Jeanette Winterson and Sarah Waters are treated like people, and their books are treated like books. They are published by the most mainstream publishers, represented by high-rolling agents, reviewed in regular newspapers by real critics, contextualized with other British intellectuals, given mainstream awards, broadcast on television as movies... and as a result of all this respect and consideration, they are read by a broad constituency in England and the rest of the world. For those of us writing here in the United States, England seems like the Promised Land.
This repetition doesn't make it less valid, of course, but her analysis has always struck me as...less complicated than the reality. Waters' and Winterson's books have done so well because they're about being lesbian, i.e. about the trials and tribulations of life as same. Not about lesbians just living their lives. Whereas my novels, in which lesbian protagonists are simply human, have been published in the US quite easily--and all are still in print--but UK publishers wouldn't touch them. "Oh, we already have one of those this year," said one, about the Aud books. In other words, they were already publishing one 'lesbian crime novel' and didn't see any reason to publish another; they'd hit their quota.

Lots of other lesbian writers get published in the UK, but their queer characters are often either protagonists celebrated for their difference (i.e. witty--or tragic--outliers) or minor characters acceptable because the real story is about someone else. This is, of course, also mostly true in the US. But here, at least, the market is great enough that small lesbian presses can thrive supplying genre works to hungry readers.

Meanwhile, here in the US I continue to make deals for my novels, all with lesbian protagonists (except Hild, who is...well, you'll just have to wait and see), though not focused on lesbian issues. Perhaps this makes me a gentrified writer. Only readers can be the judge.

But Hild won't be out for a while and, meanwhile, I suspect publishing on both sides of the Atlantic is on the cusp of change with regard to queer . But I'm not sure they'll change in the same direction. I await developments with interest.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

The nuns aren't rolling over

The Vatican vs. uppity nuns battle is shaping up to be misogyny vs. nunsense, or perhaps Vatican vs. Vatican II.

As I said here a few weeks ago, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine on the Faith (CDF--the nice people who brought us the Inquisition) has announced a five-year reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the umbrella organisation that represents about 80% of the 57,000 nuns in this country. This effort will be lead by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain (who just happens to be Archbishop of Seattle).

At the time I wrote, the nuns were trying to figure out what to say: whether to knuckle under or dig in. Last Friday they finally decided. Here's the press release:

[Washington, DC] The national board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) held a special meeting in Washington, DC from May 29-31 to review, and plan a response to, the report issued to LCWR by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 
The board members raised concerns about both the content of the doctrinal assessment and the process by which it was prepared. Board members concluded that the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency. Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission. The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.
The board determined that the conference will take the following steps:
On June 12 the LCWR president and executive director will return to Rome to meet with CDF prefect Cardinal William Levada and the apostolic delegate Archbishop Peter Sartain to raise and discuss the board’s concerns. 
Following the discussions in Rome, the conference will gather its members both in regional meetings and in its August assembly to determine its response to the CDF report 
The board recognizes this matter has deeply touched Catholics and non-Catholics throughout the world as evidenced by the thousands of messages of support as well as the dozens of prayer vigils held in numerous parts of the country. It believes that the matters of faith and justice that capture the hearts of Catholic sisters are clearly shared by many people around the world. As the church and society face tumultuous times, the board believes it is imperative that these matters be addressed by the entire church community in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, and integrity.
This might not sound like much but in political terms it's a cracker. Levelling terms such as 'unsubstantiated accusations,' 'flawed process that lacked transparency,' and causing 'scandal and pain throughout the church' is a naked throwdown.

But it's nothing compared to the interview LCWR president Sr. Pat Farrell gave to the National Catholic Reporter, which ends:
The document [from CDF] actually calls for a renewal of LCWR, but our hope is that out of this and out of broad dialog with bishops and laity there could come some renewal for the church in the United States. And that would be something we would all have to help create together.
What she's saying is: you think we need to change?? We think you need to change, and we've got the laity on our side...

My guess? American schism is closer than ever.

Then on Monday, I read in the Guardian that Sister Margaret Farley, a professor emeritus of Christian ethics at Yale University, has drawn the Vatican's ire for her book, Just Love, a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics:
In a statement approved by pope Benedict and issued on Monday, the Vatican's doctrinal office claims Farley's book, Just Love, a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, "ignores the constant teaching of the Magisterium or, where it is occasionally mentioned, treats it as one opinion among others". 
The statement singles out Farley's claim that many women "have found great good in self-pleasuring – perhaps especially in the discovery of their own possibilities for pleasure – something many had not experienced or even known about in their ordinary sexual relations with husbands or lovers." 
Masturbation, she concludes, "actually serves relationships rather than hindering them". That view, the Vatican stated, contradicted the Catholic belief that masturbation is a "gravely disordered action". 
Farley's approval of gay sex ignored "Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity", while her backing for gay unions was tantamount to "approval of deviant behaviour," the Vatican said. Her openness to divorce and remarriage was deemed as "contravening God's law".
But Farley isn't rolling over. Nor are other US Catholic theologians quoted by the Guardian. And the book is currently #16 on Amazon's bestseller list. I'd love to see it get to #1, and the royalties go to fund LCWR to help the nuns who will be penniless if they get kicked out of the church.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Kelley, Ray Bradbury, and Nature

FIRST of all, Kelley has written a most marvellous and heartfelt piece about the necessity of finding everyday magic to write:
...But am I, today, right now, capable of being the writer I want to be? 
Last year I found my yes. Many of you helped me with that by sponsoring those works, and I am forever grateful.
But I am not being the writer I want to be. I am writing, a lot. Mostly screenwriting, and also building towards some new fiction. But I am losing the time war: I am slowly but surely giving ground to a thousand responsibilities and other challenges of my life right now. I’m doing my best to find the balance. But I need more help to sustain it.
Nicola is the best partner, editor, cheerleader and wellspring of love and support that any writer can have. But I need to know that my writing matters to people who don’t wear my ring. Right now, I need my Layla’s. 
I commit to write on one of my projects every day for the six weeks of the Write-a-thon. I commit to write something good every single day. I won’t be doing flash fiction on my blog — I’ll be working on long-term projects that are deeply important to me. I won’t be walking the highwire in public, but I guarantee I will be doing so in private.
And I will take my sponsors on that journey with me. Every week, I will send my sponsors an email talking about my process that week. What I accomplished. My struggles and successes. The writing challenges and the aha! moments. What I’m thinking about as a writer. Whether I’m finding the balance, and how. This writer’s life. 
If you support me by donating to Clarion West, you are not only helping a wonderful organization — you are helping me. You are telling me that it matters to you whether I show up in spite of whatever is going on in my life. That it matters to you whether I write. 
You’ll be giving me some everyday magic.

Last year, you got to read her magical 41-pieces-in-41-days for free. If you enjoyed that, please consider sponsoring Kelley this year. Writing isn't always easy. You can help.

SECOND, a writer who influenced Kelley strongly (which you'll see if you read this piece she wrote as a direct homage as part of last year's 41 days' Write-a-thon) was Ray Bradbury. We woke up this morning to news of his death. She writes about him here. The Guardian has a more formal obituary.

THIRD, and unconnected to the first two but important to me, Nature has a piece on fatty acid metabolism and MS--in mice, but still, it's another brick in the foundation supporting Dr Angelique Corthals' hypothesis that multiple sclerosis is not a disease of the immune system but the result of faulty lipid metabolism. In other words, yes, MS is a metabolic disorder.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Words matter: creating culture, saving lives

The Lambda Literary Awards were presented last night. It sounds like a wonderful evening. There's a write-up, including a full list of the winners, here.

I took part in it, from the other coast, via Twitter, following the official LLF account, @LambdaLiterary (run last night by @annericefights, a former student of mine), Cecilia Tan (@ceciliatan, wonderful writer and editor of erotica), Sassafras Lowrey (@sassafraslowrey, another great writer), and Charlotte Abbott (@charabbott, who edited The Blue Place--yes, it's a small world...)

Anyway, for me some of the best moments were quotes from honorees:


@ceciliatan: Kate Millett: "I thought I was the only lesbian besides Sappho. And now we're like a nation!", accepting Pioneer Award

@charabbott: "This award matters to me more than any other recognition I could have" - Armistead Maupin, accepting Pioneer Award

@sassafraslowrey: "We're opening up the world to each other and testifying about out lives" Armistead Maupin

@sassafraslowrey: "We all have someone further down the line from us that reaches out to us... " Armistead Maupin

@sassafraslowrey: "there was a moment when all we had was our words to each other " Armistead Maupin

@ceciliatan: "We're all so connected to each other. This revolution was led by writers." -Armistead Maupin

@charabbott: Justin Torres so inspiring about his LLF fellowship & how it helped him become a confident writer as young gay man.

@LambdaLiterary: "Books told me I wasn't alone in the world." Rahul Mehta

@LambdaLiterary: "#LGBT writing saved my life." - Kate Clinton

They all come down to the same thing: writers need community--and writers create wider community; we create culture. Books save lives. Queer books save queer lives.

So, if you're wondering, this is why I spend so much time talking about the Lambda Literary Foundation and Clarion West. Thank you to everyone who reads, who writes, who supports both. Words matter.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Ways writers benefit from Clarion West's Write-a-thon

Clarion West (CW), the best speculative fiction writing workshop in the world, is gearing up for another six-week workshop, in which eighteen students from around the world come to Seattle and are taught by the best writing minds of the genre. They are also gearing up for the Write-a-thon (Wat).

The Wat is a kind of shadow workshop. Hundreds of writers set their own private goals and commit to focussing on their own writing in step with and in support of the main workshop. Each of these Wat participants then seeks sponsorship from their family and friends. That money goes to CW, which uses it wisely* to safeguard the education of future f/sf writers.

A group of generous donors have offered to give CW a $2,000 challenge grant if 200 or more writers sign up for the Wat by June 16th.

As of five minutes ago, CW has 77 writers signed up. Some are big names, at the top of their game. Some are taking their first tentative steps on the path to a writing career. This year will be a banner year: CW are going all-out with support for the Write-a-thon, support for writers. You will be part of a community.**

On CW's website, and on Facebook, Nisi Shawl posted "Five Tips For a Great Write-a-thon," which I'm reproducing here (with permission) along with my comments:

Five Steps to a Great Write-a-thon
1. Set your Write-a-thon goals.
You goal could be writing 500 words a day, or one story per week, or completing a work that’s been languishing in your laptop for months. Or all of the above. We’ve had writers take advantage of the Write-a-thon to submit stories or get a brand new writing project underway.
Last year Kelley wrote 41 stories in 41 days (you can read them all here). This is what's euphemistically called a 'stretch goal.' That is, it will just about kill you. Or, to paraphrase Bilbo Baggins, make you feel like butter spread thin over too much bread. But it also makes you feel like you're flying, that you can do no wordly wrong, that--just possibly, just for a while--you are god. But most people choose something more realistic: revising one old story a week to make it fit for publication; writing on new story in its entirety; writing the first act of a screenplay; polishing a collection--of stories, of poems; making the final push on the novel that's almost there.
2. Decide how you want to involve your donors.
Involving donors can be as simple as telling your friends to visit your Write-a-thon page and see what you’re up to. It’s completely your choice how to handle this. Kelley Eskridge and some others posted weekly updates on their Write-a-thon progress on their webpages or Facebook walls. A few writers have upped the ante by offering character-naming rights for donations of a certain level or above; Pamela Rentz and Karen G. Anderson offered to match donations; we’ve also had a few writers host fundraising events and readings. 
This is where you can get really creative: you can use the involvement of donors as personal/private encouragement, a will-steeler, or you use it as a very public goad: a blinding light shone on you and your practice. Last year, Kelley chose the very public, highwire act of get the prompt, write the piece, post the piece, comment on the piece (read her comments here)--all in one day. Every day. For six weeks in a row. Not everyone has to do that. Go take a look at some of the public pages of this year's participants and see what they're planning.
3. Create your CW profile page.
Here’s where you’ll first tell people about your goals and any special incentives you have for donors. Plus you get to post a short excerpt from your published writing or a work in process. And a photo! Probably your photo, but it could be an avatar or other image significant to your work. You’ll be able to update the profile page during the Write-a-thon, though changes may take a couple of days to get published. You can also include a link on the profile page so people can follow your progress on your blog, website, or Facebook page. 
This is your dagger in the table, your public declaration. You can make it as fancy as you like (a jewelled poniard), or as plain and efficient (a slaughter seax), but you have to stab the table for all the world to see. You have to commit.
4. Tell people about your Write-a-thon goals.
We hope you’ll tell people about the Write-a-thon early and often. You can send folks email, talk about it on your blog or Facebook page — or, if you’re shy, just point people at the Write-a-thon main page where they can see the whole list of Write-a-thon participants. Wondering what to say? Take a look at our Write-a-thon page for the Write-a-thon facts and figures and the overall Write-a-thon goal. The bottom line is that the money raised in the Write-a-thon is what enables us to hold next year’s workshop.
What Kelley did was post her work every single day, along with commentary. And I boosted the signal right here. And we both tweeted and Facebooked ourselves blue in the face. It worked. Kelley raised over $2,500 for Clarion West: to help emerging f/sf writers of the future. Kelley and I love this genre. We know you do, too. Share the love. It brings in $$...
5. Start writing!
And isn’t that really what it’s all about?
This is, of course, the point: to write, to encourage writing, to offer support to all those who write, or might one day write, in our wonderful genre.

Kelley and I got our start in the Clarion system. It's one of the reasons we work so hard to support it: it works.

So if you've been thinking about maybe giving it a try, now is the time: go sign up.

ETA: There are now well over a hundred participants--and there's still over a week to sign up. Join us!

ETA II: We ended up with 228 participants.
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* Kelley is the Chair of the Board. I've met just about everyone involved: it's a very, very strong and stable and smart organisation. I know, for sure, that the ship is well-steered. So even if Kelley got abducted by aliens tomorrow, CW is in safe hands. (There again, if there are aliens running around abducting people, I expect we'd have other things to worry about...)
** This year, there will be weekly Tweetchats (look for the #writeathon hashtag, time and day TBD) where participants can ask questions of an experienced writer, or just share their own progress. This year, the sign-up process has been simplified and streamlined. This year, the Write-a-thon is a big priority for the whole organisation. There are people on Twitter and Facebook ready to answer your questions. You are not alone.

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Perbs in bloom


Well, I meant to write a meaty review of Superior for today but instead lost myself in watching the bees zuzz in and out of the perbs (potted herbs) on the back deck. Tomorrow. Or, y'know, maybe Tuesday...

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Superior


Last year I blogged about a movie about a 12-year old boy with MS who turns into an adult superhero, Superior.

Well, the book is out. I ripped off the plastic cover this morning and after a quick glance, I'm mildly hopeful.

I plan to read it over the weekend and report back

Anyone out there read it yet?

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