Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Zoning out in the sun

The neighbour cat, Eros (yes, really, but we call him Chow Ciao, because that's what he does: eats and then leaves) has got the right idea this morning: zoning out in the sun without a care in the world.

So I'm taking a leaf from his book and from tomorrow will be mostly absent for a few days, enjoying the beautiful weather.

Perhaps you should, too. Unless, of course, you have something more interesting to do...
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Monday, July 22, 2013

The Day of Mass Delete and General Apology

When I get overwhelmed by work and life (it happens once or twice a year), I simply delete everything in my mailbox.

That day is rapidly approaching. In fact, by the time you read this it might be here. So, if I owe you an email and you've heard nothing, write to me again. Just not for a ten days or so. Life is currently full. And Hild II awaits...

So. Henceforth I declare the third Sunday of July an annual holiday: the Day of Mass Delete and General Apology.

Here's how it works:

  • Warn family, friends, and colleagues what you're about to do
  • Take a deep breath
  • Open your email
  • Select All, and Delete
  • Turn your fucking Wi-Fi off, for at least four hours, and spend a blessed morning/afternoon/evening at mailbox zero
Then blink, sit in the sun with a cup of tea and some luscious pastry, and think about nothing.

Try it. It's worth it.
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How to get sponsors for the Clarion West Write-a-thon

This year, like last, I'm involved on the organisational periphery of Clarion West's Write-a-thon: a fundraiser that not only brings in money for the workshop but motivates hundreds of writers (this year 345 from 22 countries) to write up to their limit. I'm not exaggerating when I say it changes lives.

So, the Write-a-thon is important, for the participating writers and the workshop. Everyone works hard. But I've noticed that many participants, while good at signing up for, committing to, and meeting their writing goals, are not well-versed in asking for sponsorship. This blog post is a How-to...


Once you've signed up, the most important thing you can do for the Write-a-thon is bring in sponsors. That's part of the point, after all: to raise money for your favourite non-profit.

The best way to do that? Ask. There's no way around this part: You have to ask people to sponsor you.

Remember, you're not asking for yourself, you're asking for Clarion West. (Or the NMSS. Or to support research into breast cancer, or Parkinson's, or whatever.)

Kelley did the Write-a-thon in 2010, 2011, and 2012; I got behind her and pushed. We've found that the best way to ask for sponsorship is by email: a personal and personable mass email to a hundred (or so) family, friends, and colleagues.

Here, with her permission, is a copy of the email Kelley send out last year:
I'm reaching out to let you know that once again, I am participating as a writer in the six-week Clarion West Write-a-thon from June 17 to July 27. 
The Write-a-thon raises money for the nonprofit Clarion West Writers Workshop, which I chair. It's like a walk-a-thon with words, or like NaNoWriMo with a nonprofit fundraising component.
Many of you sponsored me last year, and I'm very grateful for your support. I hope you'll consider supporting me this summer. It's not just about giving money to sustain a wonderful workshop. It's also about helping to sustain my writing spirit. Here's more about what your support means personally to me. 
This year, I am offering sponsors the chance to take my writing journey with me. I will  be working every day on current personal writing projects (screenplay, fiction or personal essay). Anyone who donates any amount to Clarion West to sponsor me will receive a weekly email about my writing process and my writing life: what I've accomplished, technical challenges, how I'm finding writing/life balance, my process of making story choices and writing decisions -- whatever my current issues. It will be honest, wide-ranging, and (I hope) helpful for other writers and interesting for readers.
And if you are a writer, please sign up to participate! I guarantee that the Write-a-thon is a wonderful focusing tool, and I'd love to be able to cheer you on.
Finally, I hope you'll help me spread the word to other potential sponsors. I appreciate any publicity you give me.
I hope you're well and happy.
Best as always, 
Tell them what you're doing, who for, and why. Tell them what it means to you, personally. Tell them briefly but clearly. And ask them to support you.

We recommend that you blog, and link (as above) to further detail of what it means to you, to info about the workshop, and to your Write-a-thon page where sponsors can donate.

Donations come in gradually but they will come in. You just have to ask. Seeing the sponsorship numbers mount up will galvinise you and thrill you, spur you to greater heights, and the money will make all the difference in the world to Clarion West. And here's the thing: it's never too late to ask.

So write, ask, and don't forget to blog, tweet and Facebook your progress--and  when you do, always include links to your Clarion West donation page. Make it easy for people to give you (er, Clarion West) money.

Onward! May your mind run free and your words flow...
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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Westercon: a wild and wonderful big tent

photo by Christine Doyle
Westercon 66 rocked the thunderdome.

It was the first time Kelley and I have been co-Guests of Honour at a convention and it turns out we really liked it. The photo above was taken at Opening Ceremonies on Thursday, July 4th. As you can see, we're already having a blast. It was my first July 4th as a US citizen; apart from the heat (it was 110° in Sacramento that day), it was fabulous in every way.

Not only were we writer Guests of Honour, we were celebrating the 25th anniversary of our Clarion '88 class with a reunion. Seven of our class of seventeen showed up. Here we are:
Yes, I'm over-excited to the point of looking completely insane. What can I say? It was a big day. (We took several pix. If I get better ones I'll replace this blurry, mad-looking thing but, hey, until then, this is what I've got.)

I could tell you lots of stories of the weekend: about the cocktail-making robot (it made me a kamikaze), about finally meeting a woman I first talked to about books on AOL almost 20 years ago, about learning a couple of things about how to moderate a great panel, about the wild and varied world that is science fiction fandom, about my understanding about how much the Clarion/Clarion West model matters to me, about how heart-warming it is to watch truly smart organisational dynamics at work.

But today I think I'll keep to only one: how fabulous this Westercon was and why you should plan to go one day.

Westercon 66 was a beautiful demonstration of true understanding and acceptance of, and planning for, diversity. People of many different ages, physical abilities, identities, interests and focus (filkers, readers, costumers, gamers, writers, Star Trek fans, Dr Who fans, writers, podcasters and so many more I lost count) came together in a big, brilliant tent staffed by smart, kind, organised, and efficient con runners.

For me there were two particular high points, one right at the beginning, one at the end.

The night before the convention proper, Kelley and I had dinner with convention staff, members of the con committee, and fellow guests Bjo and John Trimble (the pair who spearheaded the fan effort that saved Star Trek). We heard the story of how the co-chairs, Kevin Roche and Andy Trembley, began their bid to run the convention as a joke but ended up with the serious intent to breathe new life into--electrify, sprinkle with fairy dust--a venerable institution.

Andy and Kevin had a vision: to make Westercon great again, and great for the 21st century; a place where it doesn't matter what your art or fandom or business focus is, it doesn't matter what your gender is (or isn't), it doesn't matter how well you do (or don't) walk, or whether you do or don't have money, you are welcome.

On one panel, about gender presentation in public places (great panel, very ably run by Lance Moore), one of the panelists, Leigh Anne Hildebrand, introduced the term radical hospitality. This means (if I'm interpreting correctly) to anticipate the needs of others and provide for them. In advance. In other words, don't make anyone ask for help; make sure there's already chair at the table, in every sense. Basically, not only Don't be a dick but be actively kind. So, for example, in terms of physical ability: if you see someone looking tired ask if they need a chair--or something else--and make sure you find one. Even better, make sure there are plenty of chairs there already. Make sure the bathrooms are accessible. Make sure there are handrails on the steps to the dais or a ramp. Really go there. Imagine what people will need. Provide it. Beforehand and on the spot. Make everyone feel equally welcome.

This applies to everything. Gender, race, physical ability, religion, diet...

And then at the end of the convention, at the feedback session, we watched in action the most amazing example of one of our personal mottos: Play nicely. Kevin and Andy, together with the con chairs on the two next Westercons (Westercon 67, in Salt Lake City; Westercon 68, in San Diego), sat on stage and solicited--and responded to--every comment, question, and complaint offered by hundreds of attending members.

It was lovely. Most fans offered considered comments, at least half of which were kudos. And for almost every "This is the problem I had," the member offered a possible solution for the future. Sometimes these (in my, admittedly inexperienced, organisational opinion) seemed a little, hmm, impractical, but they were thoughtful, and non-angry. And the con chairs responded: That was a judgement call, or That was totally our mistake, we'd do it differently next time, or I hear you. Here's why we did it that way. And Here's how we'll address that in San Diego, and We will absolutely take that on board for Salt Lake. I loved it; I wish the whole world worked like that. And here's the thing: all those people were different. Different ages, different concerns, different expectations and attitudes and needs. But they all played by the same rule: Be kind, work towards the greater good.

We left the session before the end because it occurred to us (belatedly) that someone in the audience might want to offer a comment/complaint about what we did (or didn't do) as writer Guests of Honour. But otherwise we would have stayed for the whole thing.

Westercon66 reminded me why I love the science fiction community so much. If you get a chance, you should go.

Special thanks to Christine Doyle, Dawn Plaskon, Kevin and Andy and every other staff member who made our time at Westercon not only enormous fun but easy.
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