tbonejenkins: (Just a housewife)
Back in March, I had to turn down writing an article. It bummed me, because I really wanted to write it. But I knew I wouldn't make the deadline.

* I had another essay due the same week (the one coming out in Uncanny Magazine this month)
* I also had my book review deadline for Lightspeed that week.
* And I finished up edits on chapter 36 of Willow, my novel.

I had written all of this down in my bullet journal, which I've been keeping since early February. Let me tell you something; holy cow. Bullet journals are AWESOME. Because I was feeling blue about turning down that article, and thinking I've missed my chance to become a published writer, etc. and so forth. But looking at what I did in the bullet journal reminded me, oh yeah, I couldn't do the article because I'm doing all this other writer stuff.

Thus, turning down that article wasn't a loss of a writing credit. It was TIME MANAGEMENT.
::NOD NOD::

I'm going to start posting writing updates here. Trying to get back into the habit of journaling online. This week, here's what I got going on writerwise:

*Starting in on edits for Chapter 38 of Willow (38 chapter out of 45)
*Researching for a quick short story/prose poem about black mermaids
*Finished first draft of another short story. Letting that rest a week.
tbonejenkins: (Default)

So I've been following with great interest the discussion about dialect in fiction. It started off by Daniel Jose Older's comments of a review of his anthology Long Hidden in Strange Horizons, and followed by Abyss & Apex doing an editorial post on the decision to post two different version of a story with a Carribean dialect. There have been many thoughtful essays on it, including Tobias Buckell, Amal El-Mohtar, and Ferrett Steinmetz, so I don't think I have anything to add except to tell my experience. Which isn't much, but it's my two cents, so take that as you will.

Personally, I've struggled with dialect in my fiction. Growing up, I was the kid who was teased for "talking proper". I understood Shakespeare better than the slang kids used around my neighborhood. So when I write fiction with black kids, I always worry that they don't "sound black enough". But now that I'm thinking about it, I was at least aware of it--we tended to drop our 'g's a lot, mainly in -ing suffixes. "I'm goin to the store."  Using the d sound for th--what's dat? Is it over dere? You know what I miss? 'Fin'. As in "She finna go to the store." "Did you wash the sheets like I axed?" "Man, I FIN to!" 

Interesting aside #1--my mother always mocked us when we said "ovuh dare" for "over there". She said it made us sound like country hicks. That was the only thing she corrected our speech on. Either that or I've blocked out what else she corrected us on.

Interesting aside #2--in college, I dated a white guy who one showed me how to use the 'th' sound. Up to that point, I didn't think there was a difference until he showed me how to place my tongue at the back of my teeth. And by that, he showed me using his tongue. Looking back at it now, I have super mixed feelings about it: on the one hand, there's the dynamic of a white guy teaching a black girl how to speak 'properly' (I'm sure he didn't think about that at all--only thought he was doing a good thing). On the flip side, damn if that wasn't the sexiest linguist lesson I ever had....

So I just wrote those two asides, and I thought huh. Actually, those two asides play a lot into how I write. I'm coming from a background where "proper English" was correct, not just grammar, but also pronunciation. My mother didn't want me and my sisters to sound like uneducated hicks because she wanted us to have clear diction, which in her opinion would get us better jobs than working at McDonalds.. My boyfriend wanted me to speak the way he did. And in the African American community, we don't have the option where the way we speak is consider a "second language" or a "foreign dialect". With us, "white english" equals proper and preferred, "black english" equals ghetto and uneducated. I could show proof, but ain't nobody got time fo dat.

Angry aside #3--I once dropped a white ex-co-worker from Facebook because of that. Seemed to be a nice guy, went to church, volunteered at our community center. When he learned that Obama had been re-elected, he wrote on his wall "Mo welfare fo us all!" I wanted to say, "How can you mentor those kids at the community center and then turn around and write such a thing?" but I was too upset to respond to him Instead, I dropped him like a hot potato.

It would be good to change black english from being a stigma to something more legitimate. One way we can do so is through stories, because it allows us to tell our own narratives. The problem is that there are those who will always see those dialects as low brow and ignorant. How can we move beyond that? I don't have an answer. It's something that is far larger and deeper than I can touch on. The notion that I've been bending  towards the white dominant culture is something I'm just now beginning to recognize in my life. I'm working on a separate blog post about it--it's pretty long and deep, and I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to post it here or somewhere not as public

But what I can do is strive to have more black dialect in my writing. And for me, that means becoming more aware, paying attention, listening. Advocating it more. And having more conversations about it. I liked what Apex Abyss did in putting both versions of Celeste Rita Baker's story "Name Calling" on their site. (Interestingly, I found the original patois version more engaging. I could hear her voice in my head, whereas the edited version was okay, but more muted.)

Isn't that the point of stories? To push us? Transport us? To take us out of our lives and put them into another's?

We also need to give writers a safe space to write stories in their own voices. I thought the point of Long Hidden was to give marginalized voices a chance to be heard. And those voices should include 'black english' because that is just as legitimate. It has its own rhythm, its own music, and to erase that is to erase voices that groaned in captivity, that sang in both joy and sorrow, that shouted for justice, and to this day continues to unsettle, unnerve, and push comfort zones to make itself heard.

Now, if you excuse me, I finna go work on my writin, cause dat’s wha’ its’' ‘bout, son.

tbonejenkins: (Musing Izumi)

I've been busy the past few weeks, and I'm about to get even busier. I'll do another post about that, but real quick, here's what I've been up to:

I did a guest post over at Bill Bodden's blog about keeping yourself going when you're in Revision Hell. Warning: I make a confession about Digimon.

I also knitted a Totoro hat, which I blogged about at Nerds of Color . I talked about cosplay, anime and connecting with other black geeks. It also got a mention over at GeekMom, so yay!

On February 3, I have a short story, "21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus 1)" appearing on Strange Horizons, and it will be illustrated!

Finally, in February, I'm planning to participate in the 2014 Month of Letters Challenge. You may remember I attempted the challenge a couple of years ago, but barely got into it before quitting. Well, I'm going to try it again, and this time, I'm going to be tracking my progress over at HabitRPG . If you're interested in joining me, I have a challenge all set up at the Tavern. (Did I mention that you should check out HabitRPG anyway? They've really changed it the last time I posted about it, adding quests, checklists, pets, cool armor. Making a task list has never been so much fun!). nd if you're not on HabitRPG, check out the Month of Letters Challenge anyway. It's a fun way to get back into the habit of sending snail mail. And if you’re interested in getting a letter from me, leave a comment below and I’ll connect with you to get your address. I’d love to write to you!

tbonejenkins: (Default)

TL;DR version: We’re heading into our final week of our Kickstarter for the anthology I’m in, What Fates Impose, and wow! We just cracked $4000. ONLY 6 MORE DAYS TO GO!!!! Pledge $40 and you will get, along with the book, a handwritten card by me with the personality type of your choice (either Myers/Briggs or StrengthFinders) its description and a humorous fortune written in calligraphy. (Also, if you want to see this post with the pictures, go to my blog at http://tbonecafe.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/what-fates-impose-kickstarter-update-or-me-write-pretty-one-day/)

But if you want to read the long version, I’m going to talk about calligraphy. And by that I mean, what I really want to say is, I want to thank my parents for forcing me to take drafting in high school.

You see, back when I was in high school, when it came time to choose electives, I was all ready and gung ho to take art, because everyone took art. It was fun. My father, for reasons I have yet to figure out, made me take drafting instead. I wish I remembered why. Something to do with my handwriting, I think. Or was it supposed to build character? I asked him the other day and he said, “Hell if I know.” Which was the answer I pretty much expected from him.

But there I was. A sophomore? Yeah, I think it was my sophomore year. I think I was only one of three girls in the class. I remember getting drafting kits, which involves a T-Bar ruler, a bunch of other rulers, a specific type of pencil, and graph paper. And I remember being very, very disgruntled, because while my friends were making fingerpaint murals and macaroni art and pottery, I was drawing lines and measuring  them and drawing more lines and learning how to make capital letters as straight as possible.

I can’t remember what grade I got, but I’m pretty sure I passed it. You ask me what I learned there and I wouldn’t be able to tell you offhand, except that maybe my handwriting got better. Maybe.

I hated drafting class.

Which is interesting because I love calligraphy.

I’ve been fascinated by calligraphy ever since I was a kid. I got several Sheaffer kits for Christmas, you know, the fountain pen kind that came with different types of nibs and different colored ink tubes, and you put the tubes in the barrel and twist the nib on to pierce the tube? And if you wanted to change colors, you were screwed because it meant pulling out the tube carefully so you won’t spill the ink out, then washing out the nib, which took forever, and then screw the new color in, then you had to do the same thing over again so you could go back to the regular color? Yeah, I loved those pens.

I did lots of calligraphy for a while. Mainly, I wrote poems, practiced the alphabet, and did flourishes on envelopes. Probably the highlight of my calligraphy use was when I hand addressed all the envelopes I sent out for my wedding. I was always insecure about my calligraphy, though, because I’ve never had a real steady hand. I couldn’t write in a straight line and my spacing was over the place. Over time, I stopped doing it, but I kept collecting calligraphy supplies in the vain hope that one day, I would pick it up again.

That day came about a month ago, when Nayad, our editor for What Fates Impose was brainstorming on what we could offer as rewards for backers of the anthology. I thought I’d offer a handmade knitted scarf, but I wanted to do something based off my story in the anthology, which deals with the subject of personality assessment. And I thought, “I can write cards that show Myers/Briggs personality types and a a brief description. I can also throw in a short humorous fortune in the end. And I can do it all in calligraphy.”

So I went to my closet and pulled out my calligraphy tools. Since my wedding, I have amassed quite a bit, including a bunch of dipping nibs that I had no clue how to use—I just thought they looked cool. But this now being the age of the internets, I thought it was high time I learned how to use these old-fangled thingies.

And when I learned, I was like WHY AM I KEEPING THESE AT THE BOTTOM OF MY CLOSET? THESE ARE AWESOME!!!!!

Also, ink, because INNNNNNNK!!!!

So then, I made my first mock up, and I grew immediately discouraged because to me, it didn’t come out right.

The lines were kind of crooked and the spacing was off and…

And that’s when all those lessons I took in high school drafting reared up inside me and said. LaShawn, you need to put down some lines and do some measurements. Get some rulers, girl.

And I said, Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

So I got me some rulers, put down some lines, did some measurements, and came up with my second draft, if you will.

Which…actually…still looks lopsided, now that I look at it. Particularly the flourish line. And the personality type still looks shaky (in fact, the first draft, the letters look more stable). But I’m happier about the description. And as I keep practicing, it would get nicer and nicer.

All of this is to say, if you wish to get in on my calligraphy journey, there are two backer rewards left for my calligraphy cards. Pledge $40 and you will get, along with the book, a handwritten card by me with the personality type of your choice (either Myers/Briggs or StrengthFinders) its description and a humorous fortune written in calligraphy. It won’t be super perfect, but I can guarantee it will be authentic.

Oh yes. I want to thank my parents. If it wasn’t for me being forced to take drafting, these calligraphy supplies would still be sitting at the bottom of my closet. Never being used. Collecting dust until, in shame, I sell them to the next poor sop at a garage sale. And I would have never discovered the joy of dipping a nib into ink, shaking the excess off, then sketching the letters into paper just so.

This has brought back the joy of writing.

tbonejenkins: (Izumi with spatula)

My name is LaShawn M. Wanak, and I am a black female writer.

I’ve been making up stories since I was four years old. I’ve been reading fantasy and science fiction when kids were still in their primers. I fell in love with the whole genre and knew exactly what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a black writer, telling black stories, with characters who looked just like me.

I have been writing professionally now for about 9 years. I’ve garnered some sales. My name’s getting a little known. And most importantly, people are reading my stories and are being touched through them. I’m also learning a lot about the industry I’ve chosen. I’ve seen its wonders, and I’ve seen its darker bits.

I’ve been following what’s been happening in SWFA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America for my non-writer friends) and the hullaboo over an essay that was printed in its bulletin a couple of weeks ago. The internets exploded in reaction, most decrying the essay. I did not respond because a) I haven’t read the essay because b) I’m not a SWFA member. And because I’m not a member, I don’t feel that I have enough experience to adequately respond to the situation. Besides, there are many, many others who have done so, and done it very, very well.

One of those was Nora K. Jemisen, who referenced it in her GOH speech at a Continuum in Australia last week. If you haven’t read her speech, read it now. It’s brilliant. It’s honest. It’s hopeful. And best of all, it calls for reconciliation within the SFF community. Reconciliation. This is a word I would hug if I could. It’s a word I’m used to hearing since I work in a Christian ministry, but this is the first time I heard it used within the SFF community. To use Nora’s own words:

“I do not mean a simple removal of the barriers that currently exist within the genre and its fandom, though doing that’s certainly the first step. I mean we must now make an active, conscious effort to establish a literature of the imagination which truly belongs to everyone. - See more at: http://nkjemisin.com/2013/06/continuum-goh-speech/#sthash.XbLijUKw.dpuf

It got me fired up, because yeah, I can see it, writers using bridges of words to reach those who would never step foot in communities that don’t look like their own. Stories that stretch the imagination, that would represent all cultures, that would stretch minds, put them in other people’s shoes. This is totally what I would say is my calling as a writer.

And then this happened.

Sigh.

Right.

Common wisdom for such things is to ignore it, to let this guy spew his hate and not respond. But what this guy did was not only name Nora, but he then linked it to SFWAauthors Twitter feed. SWFA caught wind of it and took it down, but the damage is done.

This is more than just a troll. This is an attack. It goes completely against what Nora called for in her speech. It is used to tear down, to discount her as a writer, as a woman, as a black person, and as human.

And do you know what that post says to me?


This is what happens if you try to make a difference. We like our organization just the way it is. And we define how women are portrayed in SFF. We like our bikinis. We like our women stupid and dependent on us. And we like them all white, because their prettier and sexier than you—well, okay, we’ll allow Asian girls, because they’re nice and quiet and subservient.. And if you try to say anything about it, we will tear you down, rip your head off, drag your name through shit, because that’s what you deserve, you monkey you. So go ahead and write your stories, little little girl. You can even join. But keep your head down, don’t make waves, and most of all, keep your fat lips shut.

There are many writers, not just black writers, not just women writers, but all sorts of writers, who will not join because of this.

And this is why I am writing this post.

I’m writing this because I don’t know if I’m going to join SWFA. I don’t think I’m at the point of my writing career where it would be beneficial to me, at this point. (David Steffen wrote a post that sums up my feelings quite well.) But if I do decide to join in the future, it would be because there are writers like Nora and Mary Robinette Kowal and Jim C. Hines and Nisi Shawl and so many others who have paved the way before me, fighting to bring diversity to a genre that needs it so desperately. Because they refuse to be silent, because they call out bullshit when they see it. Sometimes they’re successful. Sometimes they’re not. And sometimes, people would viciously attack them.

I’m writing this not just to show my support to Nora (and did I tell you she’s going to be GOH at Wiscon in 2014?) but to support her vision of reconciliation that is so much bigger than any one of us. And the only way for that to happen is for us to write our stories, our own stories, and get them published, and write more stories and get those published.

I’m writing this because I am a black female writer, and this affects me deeply.

If you wish to show support for the vision of reconciliation in SFF as well, there are a couple of ways to do it.

1) If you are a member of SWFA, you can demand for the expulsion guy who wrote that damaging post. It’s true that he can say whatever he wants, but to use SWFA as a platform for such harmful threats is uncalled for.

2) If you’re an writer of color, or a woman writer, or genderqueer, keep writing. Don’t let this guy dissuade you from submitting. There are markets out there hungry for your stories. And if you’re an editor or publisher, please, make these voices heard.

3) If you’re a reader, expand your reading tastes. Don’t know where to start? The Carl Brandon Society Awards page has some good recommendations. This Tor post is also has an awesome list of POC and women authors in SFF.

It will take a while, but I do believe SFF can one day reflect true diversity. I’m doing my part, and tomorrow, you’ll see how. And if you can’t wait until tomorrow, here’s a sneak preview.

tbonejenkins: (sad Izumi)

Last Saturday, I returned from another zombie outing with my son to learn that Duotrope will be doing what they've been warning us would happen: as of January 1, 2013, Duotrope will be a paid site. Writers up and down the nets have been having their say about it, so what the heck, I'll do so too.

I use Duotrope. Perhaps not as much as when I was a new writer, but what drew me to Duotrope was the saved search function. I could plug in genre, style, wordcount, for any written piece I wanted to submit and get a customized list of markets. Just recently I got the hang of the feature where you can run a search and exclude markets you've already submitted to. I found that pretty neat. I also made use of the submission tracker, which served more as a backup for me since I also keep track of my submissions through Outlook, which I have written about in an earlier post (I have since upgraded to Outlook 2007 and added a few more custom fields, like keeping track of previous markets I've submitted to). I mainly used Duotrope's tracker so I could add my submission statistics to the response time reports.

But all that's going away...or rather, as of 1/1/2013, we'll now have to start paying for saved searches, submission tracking, the control panel, the deadline calendar, response statistics, etc. A lot of people are decrying that, saying Duotrope is charging too much per year, that limiting the response tracker will skew statistics, etc and so forth.

Me? I'm more like meh.

Since I've been focusing more on my novel, I haven't been on the site all that much. I also know the market field much better now, so that I have a running list in my head of places I could send my subs to. The only time when I go on Duotrope is when I've exhausted those places or to see if a market is temporarily closed. I get my new market news and editor info off Twitter and other sources, I use the deadline calendar sparingly, and I don't use the response statistics at all. And I'll go back to using Outlook as a submission tracker. It's probably better this way--I won't be recording the same information in two different places.

This is not to say I won't miss Duotrope. I think it's a fantastic service. Personally, I think it's ridiculous to spend $50/year on the site. If it was $20 or even $30/year, I would subscribe with no hesitation. But I've reached the point in my writing career where I can survive without Duotrope.

What I feel bad for are new writers. They will be the ones who would benefit from Duotrope the most, and there's a good chance they won't be able to afford it. Used to be, I'd suggest Duotrope as the only go-to source for market information. In 2013, I don't think I'll be able to do that. I can't justify telling them to spend $50 a year on the service. 6 months, maybe, but not a full year.  Then again, Duotrope isn't the only one giving market info. Ralan.comis still free, comes with a free monthly newsletter and can be found on Facebook. And there are tons of info on Twitter. For response times, The Black Hole at Critters.org is, surprisingly, still around, so I can report reponse times there.

I've seen some people suggest a tiered payment option where they pay for certain features like only saved searches, and I agree. The way Duotrope has things now, there's hardly anything left free to entice new writers to pay up, and there's nothing to keep those who are familiar with the service from staying.

With that said, though, I'm not writing off Duotrope entirely. Ferrett Steinmetz goes into more detail about this with his post "A Failure of Duotrope,  A Failure of Their Audience: Thoughts by Someone Who's Been There":

The lesson in this is, “If you use a service that you like, and they’re asking you to pay for it, pay them.”  Doesn’t have to be much.  Like I said, if all you can afford is $5, then pay them $5.  If you’re flat broke and would pay them if you could, well, I’ll count those intentions as good.  But the world does not run on free labor, and at some point labors of love fail to pay for the labors of the stomach.

In the future, to avoid this sort of thing, give when you can.  Stop assuming that “free” means “a buffet for you” and start thinking, “How can I reward these people for their work?”  Maybe you pay it back by volunteering at their site, or telling about it to all your rich friends, or whatever.  But stop dining and dashing, and start helping the world be a better place by rewarding those who do good things.

This is very, very true. Duotrope was indeed a site I liked so much, I contributed to it. Several times. It wasn't much, but I felt that it was a worthwhile service. And there's a very good chance that I would do the same thing again down the road--pay $5 to gather some good searches, and then let the subscription lapse for several months. Duotrope did say that information will be kept on file (though I don't know how intermittent usage work with response time statistics--probably not so well, I'm guessing).

So if you want to pay for Duotrope, go ahead and do so. Granted, the way they dropped this news reminded me of the Netflix fiasco earlier this year, but it's still a good site. And if you wish to get an annual subscription, by all means, do so. And if you don't, try some of the other free sites above. Keep track of your subs in a spreadsheet.

Heck, we're writers. We're supposed to be creative about such things.

tbonejenkins: (Get down to business Izumi)

It's time once again for a update on "What am I doing?"

Short answer: my novel. Long answer: I'm editing my novel.

Really long answer:

In February, I had what one would call a slump. It wasn't depression, actually, nor the blues. I lost my cell phone, and then a couple of celebrities who were part of my childhood world died: Whitney Houston and Davey Jones. I had fallen behind on the Month of Letters activity, and each day that passed accused me that I wasn't using all that fancy paper and stamps I bought. and finally, I found myself deep in revisions in a short story that I had sworn I wouldn't go back to and feeling glum that I hadn't learned a thing at Viable Paradise, because here I was, six months later, going back over revisions and repeating the process of rewriting an entire story from scratch, grumpy because I had put Willow aside again, to finish this short story...

I was reworking a pivotal scene in my short story, angry, tired, and just full of grump, when a part of me split off and said, why are you rewriting this?

Because it needs to be rewritten, I said.

Why?

Because it needs to be stronger.

You thought it was stronger when you rewrote the last time, did you not?

Well, yeah, but that was then. Look at all these weak sentences and--

What did you learn at Viable Paradise?

Huh?

What. Did. You. Learn?

Well, I learned how to trust my words and--

Then stop trying to revise every fricken sentence and send it out.

But let me just finish rewriting this ending--

No.

I should at least change this sentence--

No.

But what about--

No.

I--

No.

Trust. Your. Words.

And suddenly,  it clicked.

I ran spell check, tidied up the story, and sent it out. That was the middle of March.

Then I turned to Willow, and suddenly, I knew how to fix it. After all these years, I knew what I needed to do. Cut. Cut. Cut. And the more I cut, the clearer the story became , with what needed to stay, what needed to be clarified, and what needed to go. I'm learning to look at my scenes with a critical eye, to see if they're needed to advance the story. I'm even learning when not to rewrite. If what I needed to convey works well for that scene, I don't need to rewrite a whole new scenario to make it better. I just tidy it up and move on to the next scene.

As of this writing, I'm now up to Chapter 11. My goal had been to work exclusively on Willow until Worldcon, but I might not be done by then. That's okay, though. I have a synopsis, and I have a pitch. And finally, I can honestly say that the first three chapters are good enough that, if I need to, I can send them out. I won't make a decision on that though until after Worldcon.

But I got something, and that feels good.

Now, I do have some important publishing announcements, but that can wait until the next post. Heck, if you follow me on Facebook and Twitter and Google Plus, you already know the special news. ^_^.

tbonejenkins: (Get down to business Izumi)

Well, I can’t put it off any longer.

The main reason I went to Viable Paradise was to get help for my work-in-process, The Weeping of the Willows. I had reached a point where I was in revision hell, and I needed clear eyes to get myself out of it.

What I learned there was that 1) everyone goes through this, 2) I got a good complex story, and 3) I need to CUT THINGS DOWN. Right now, I have so much happening and so many characters, trying to juggle it all wore me down.

I've looked over my outline and cut out some stuff. Some storylines can wait until the next book. I've combined some characters into the main characters, making the latter stronger. And ::deep breath:: I'm starting all over again.

So you see the Willow in progress counter to the right? It's back to zero.

That was probably the most painful part of this whole process.

But...in theory...this revision would go faster. I no longer have 60 chapters to wade through. It's been streamlined to 45 chapters. We'll see how this works.

Last night, I edited the first page. Only a kazillion more to go. It's a start.

May 2017

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