2017 Year in Review – Perserverance, Progress, Panic!

This was a good year for me as a writer. For a non-writer it might be hard to understand the glacially-slow pace at which I seem to proceed, and how I can receive so many rejections and still feel like I’m making progress when, a small percentage of the time, something I throw out into the void sticks with a reader, even if that only manifests as a higher-level rejection.

Not to say that I was optimistic month after month. Many times I felt crazy and/or self indulgent for pursuing this secondary career. Most of the time, truthfully.

Still, in 2017 I took a few more steps on the road towards true professionalism. While I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, I’ve progressed thanks to the help and support of many readers and writers. We can’t do this alone and it is ridiculous to pretend we can, or that the stories we write are “ours” – they are always partnerships.

My husband (my literal partner) is usually my first reader and always “gets it.” We read the same books, watch the same TV shows, share common tastes, so it isn’t a big surprise that he can read and enjoy any story I write. That said, we have similar blind spots and he can mentally fill in things I’ve forgotten to put on the page. I gain courage from his praise but take it with a grain of salt as well.

My walk to work

My San Francisco critique group has been a solid foundation for me for years now. We meet every week, which is a big deal! Much commitment from everyone. I’ve been the host for the past year or so, and now that I’ve gotten the new job I’m embarrassed to admit I’m not always the first one to arrive–at my own house. What I appreciate about our group is that while we spend some time saying, “You are an awesome writer and I loved this paragraph,” no one seems to mind us getting right to the problematic bits. I figure it’s like going to the dentist. You don’t want him to spend an hour telling you how 90% of your teeth are pretty, just fix the screwed up one please! We’ve all proven to each other we are serious writers and pages without marks are good pages.

I attended a two-week speculative fiction writing workshop this summer at the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas. IT WAS GREAT. I wrote about my time in Lawrence, then edited, re-edited, saved, went back to previous versions…argh. It’s hard to summarize intense experiences.

I’ll post the play by play sometime, but what I took away from this was a newfound respect for myself and other sci fi writers, as well as good nuts and bolts craft information. The “Repeat Offenders” workshop is for those of us who’ve attended the workshop previously, and because of this everyone in attendance knew the drill and had more to offer, critique-wise.

Chris McKitterick leads the workshop and he is a treasure chest of craft info. Pat Cadigan, the week one guest author, is amazing. I’m not being objective because I like her so much–and she held up one of my stories as an example of how to world-build in 25 words or less (one of the highlights of my writer year). All the attendees were smart and kind and devoted to this crazy path we’ve all chosen. Plus there were lightning storms, fireflies, movie nights and so much other fun stuff.

I also worked as a submissions reader for Shoreline of Infinity. They published my story, “See You Later” (my first professional pub!) and are up to issue 10 – in print no less! 99% of what we get is not ready for publication, but reading bad stories has been a good experience. Being able to articulate why is sometimes hard work, sometimes not so hard. THIS IS NOT SCIENCE FICTION – I scream after slogging through 15 pages of a present day character doing present day things.

I’ve learned so much and put in many hours…but I have to take a break. The Job is taking so much of my brain and eyeball time. I thought I could read submissions during lunch but I don’t always take lunch and the subs began to pile up, leading me to become a bad partner in the evenings as I holed up in the attic reading instead of socializing. Plus, it was cutting into my writing time. With sadness and relief I realized I couldn’t do it all. I’m reading the last batch of stories now and that’s it…at least until I’m not working full time.

Finally, I produced a podcast for SFinSF, science fiction in San Francisco. Once a month, authors read and discuss their work at The American Bookbinder’s Museum. I’ve met so many amazing authors thanks to this event: Kim Stanley Robinson, Daryl Gregory, Annalee Newitz, Robin Sloane, Rudy Rucker, Peter S. Beagle, Pat Murphy…(and more. You can listen to the podcasts here on SomaFM). It’s the same combo of work/love as the rest of this writing stuff. Being part of a community means working as well as playing.

Thanks to reading submissions to Shoreline, work-shopping, writing, revising, critiquing…I’m finally starting to understand how a short story is supposed to function. How the engine of it works. I’ve gotten it right by accident in the past, now I hope to get it right on purpose and I did manage that a few times this year!

Resolution,” sold in 2016, was published in January in Perihelion.

My short story, “See You Later,” was adapted and produced as a play/audio drama at the Edinburgh Book Festival by Shoreline of Infinity–with live actors. I loved that they presented this as a fait accompli, oh hey we are doing this, here is the script. I’m so happy they picked my story. I’d have loved to go see it performed, but I’m really trying to not LOSE money in my writing career, so no last minute flights to Scotland. : )

My short story, “At First Sight,” was accepted by The Overcast to be made into a podcast. I’m in good company there. Tina Connolly, Cat Rambo, and one of my friends from the workshop this summer, J.N. Powell. The producer and reader, J.S. Arquin, has such a great voice. I’m scheduled for April.

“First Contact,” a story I love that kept getting rejected, has been accepted by New Reader magazine, a fledgling online publication. I hope this happens. New pubs are iffy. Doesn’t this first line give you a shiver?  Maybe it’s just me but I feel like I got it right.

By the way – I’ve been paid for all my stories. Not a lot, but I’ve set the bar at semi-pro rates. Non-writers might be surprised to learn that not all publications pay, and some actually charge authors to submit. I’d like to join SFWA (they require a certain number of paid pubs) and not all my venues qualify, but I do get paid! : D

“The Affair” was shortlisted at Freeze Frame Fiction in October, and though it was ultimately rejected they sent me reader comments, and invited me to submit a rewrite when they are next open. The comments were all over the place (more so than the readers at Shoreline) and I struggled to get to the heart of reader’s complaints–but I appreciated the glimpse behind the curtain. At some point it is a question of taste. We forgive flaws when we are enjoying ourselves, so if I’m failing to give the reader a good time that might be my fault, or it might be my story is a bad fit for that reader. When someone dings my 600-word story because none of the three characters is gay…I throw up my hands.

Not quite writing news but related–I did an illustration for a short story I read and liked for Shoreline and was paid for that as well. : )

So: 2017. 40 rejections. 2 acceptances. One story made into a play without me doing anything. Hundreds of hours spent writing, critiquing, workshopping, recording other authors.

My advice to other writers? Keep writing and build partnerships. Get your work read by a critique group. Attend a workshop if you can. Read submissions for a magazine. Get involved in the sci fi community.

My challenge for 2018 is to keep it up. I’m not sure how to do what I did last year now that I’m working full time. I feel very lucky to have a good job, to live in a great city with a partner that supports my goals, amazing friends, and access to so many resources, but our creative spirit is a strange and delicate part of ourselves. We can’t “logic” it in to being.

This picture has nothing to do with writing but much to do with
looking both ways when you cross the street. !!!!

 I’ve not written much since I started my job, but I’m trying not to be hard on myself. I will figure this out. I love my job. It is very sci fi. I work for a software security firm with amazing, smart people who are doing good, ethical work, and it’s pretty close to the ideal job I’d design for myself–though my fictional job might have a lab with robots and 3D printers and laser cutters. I’m three months in and my head is still spinning, in a good way.

I hope 2018 is a creative and successful year for all of us!


The humbling process of learning to write

Sometimes I have a hard time writing a post because I fight with what I want to say vs. what is truly going on in my head and heart.

I wanted to write about how mortified I was by my old blog posts when, years ago, I declared my novel done, or that I was ready to find an agent, or that rules were stupid and stifled my creativity.

Honestly, though, I can’t find the energy to be embarrassed. I might not even be embarrassed. Doesn’t everyone think the first draft of their first novel is perfect? I remember the day I wrote the last line of “Six” in Sugar Lump coffee shop on 24th street in the Mission district. I wanted to stand up and announce it and have everyone cheer. I almost did, and they might have, because people are nice.

Why not enjoy that feeling of triumph? It is a big deal to actually write the first draft. Some people never get that far. I remember chatting with a woman at a literary event and after about half an hour of listening to her blab on and on about her book, I discovered she hadn’t written one freaking word. She didn’t even have the plot figured out. A good friend of mine talks wistfully of wanting to write but being too afraid. He said he’d never show the work to anyone.

So, good for me for being ignorant and optimistic and actually putting way too many words on paper and thinking the thing was done.

The next step was to force my friends to read it. And the thing was HUGE. I later broke it into two books, but this was all of it. My friends are amazing and they did read it and I learned another very important lesson. I’m a pretty self-sufficient person and asking for help at first made me feel uncomfortable, but I knew I absolutely needed it, and what I was asking for would take hours and hours.

Asking for help and getting it…“owing” a debt, all this made me feel unexpectedly more connected and bonded with my friends. We’re in this for the long haul, and we’ll give and get help as we need it.

It also clarified my goal as a writer: to amuse and delight OTHER PEOPLE. Which meant I had to take their critiques seriously. I’m trying to communicate ideas and if they don’t get it, it’s on me, not them. Though my skin isn’t as thick as I’d like it to be, I’m pretty open to honest responses to what I write. The trick is to decipher the root cause of, “I didn’t like the ending,” which might be a problem with the beginning.

Of course the next step was confusion and frustration. The novel started to look like it might have a few loose ends. Someone pointed out that my main character cries a few times every chapter. In fact, everything was too dramatic. Everyone yelling and leaping around and casting sly glances and adverb-ing.

I started to revise, and also write and submit short stories. The rejection letters trickled in. I got annoyed, sure there was some conspiracy. Whoever read the story was too _______ to get it! I was so annoyed about one of my stories being rejected I googled the guy that read it and, because we can learn way too much about people with zero effort, (which I find scary) I had it all figured out. He was young, and unmarried, and lived in Brooklyn so of course he wouldn’t like a story about an unhappy marriage.

Heh, I’m starting to feel some of that embarrassment I couldn’t muster at the beginning of this. The drafts of stories I submitted at this stage did deserve to be rejected. I forgive myself for this phase, but it does seem crazy now.

The problem with some of the conferences and talks I attended was that, in an attempt to encourage writers not to give up, the speakers outlined the many reasons why a story might be rejected even though it is a perfectly great story. As a beginning writer, I grabbed on to those reasons and held tight, and they prevented me from fixing broken stories. I’d get a rejection and think, “I guess they just accepted another story about telepresence tourism.”

When my friend recently won an award, he thanked his parents for telling him there were things he didn’t know that he didn’t know. That’s what we all struggle with when we start something new, and it’s probably a protective shield that allows us to move forward undaunted. Though, at some point, exuberance isn’t enough and ignorance isn’t a shield, it’s a ball and chain.

Then, thank god, I was accepted into the Gunn Center Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop last summer. A slap in the face just when I needed it–as well as a helping hand. As I detailed in another post, it was very straightforward information about how to write from Famous Authors.

What I hadn’t realized was that there is a difference between developing the thick skin we all need to have to handle rejection–and a deaf ear.

I heard critiques by peers (the same kind of all-over-the-place critiques I give!) and learned time-tested “rules” developed by the masters–given to me by actual masters and not “the internet.” I heard, over and over again (to paraphrase), you have to know the rules before you break them. This time, the rules were curated and given to me by people I trusted.

I understand why I was afraid to open the fire hose of rules when it was just me in the attic with the internet. It’s too much. I’m so thankful for patient, real-life teachers, including my weekly writer’s group.

I’m becoming a better writer and hope to continue to improve. In a few years I’ll laugh at this post, and that’s okay. I’ve got a couple of lame analogies about writing I’ll share. It’s like juggling. I was only doing one ball at first. Now I might be up to three on a good day. Pretty soon I’ll be doing five without even thinking about it. Also, and I’m thinking of this because we’ve been watching the California reservoirs overflow, it’s like water. When I first started writing the story was a raging river and I was a leaf. It carried me and I typed and typed and tried to keep up with no idea where I was going. Now I think of the story as water, and me as a hydrologist. I’ve got the water and I’ve got to control it and decide where it will go, how fast, how deep, how wide, and where it will end up. That’s my job.

Litcrawl 2016

or, A Kind of Graduation

My writer’s group gave a reading at Litcrawl. This is a huge deal for me. I probably said it before but I will say it again, a few years ago I stood outside an overcrowded venue wondering how those lucky authors got to read at this event. I didn’t know any authors. None of my friends wrote. I went to a couple writer’s conferences and learned some good stuff but didn’t meet anyone who was a good fit for a critique partner.


Then my husband saw a posting in Bernalwood (local blog) about a writer’s group looking for members. A group that met two blocks from my house. What are the odds?

I went, it worked out, and I’ve been in the group a couple years now. I feel so very lucky. The group is great. None of us are English professors but we muddle along, helping each other out. Everyone is kind, thoughtful, and I gotta say, pretty resilient and willing to take criticism. I’ve learned so much from the critiques I’ve gotten as well as from reading other people’s work and trying to articulate why a passage isn’t working for me.

Doing a public reading at Litcrawl is the culmination of our “writer year” to me. This year especially, it felt like I’d graduated from wanna be writer to actual writer. The event went so well. City Art is a great venue–floor to ceiling windows and plenty of room. We had a big crowd despite the rain (thanks to my friends that showed up!). Everyone from the group read interesting passages, I wasn’t too nervous, I made eye contact and tried to move around a bit, and since no one read after us we got to have a reception.


Something about the evening really clicked with me. We weren’t faking it, we were really doing it!  We had a book table, our group name was in the program, I was drinking wine and eating cheese with friends after doing a reading in San Francisco…at Litcrawl. WOO!


Out of the Comfort Zone

I got back home from Lawrence, Kansas, last night, badly hungover from a raucous evening of a group reading of “The Eye of Argon” (Thank you Andrea.) This included drinking whenever we heard the word “wench,” which turned out to be way too often. It was one of the most “writer’s group” moments of the two weeks and a great note to end on. We were just getting to know each other, so I suppose the next step would have been disagreeing and forming cliques and we simply didn’t have the time for that. “Leave the party while you’re still having fun,” my grandmother said, and she was absolutely right!


Two workshops were held during the two weeks, one for short speculative fiction and one for novel writing, so we all got to hang out which was great

The workshop well-run, well-thought-out, and exactly what I needed right now to get my writing to the next level–and it was physically and emotionally tiring in ways I didn’t expect.


Critique with guest instructor Andy Duncan

I’ve not spent two weeks surrounded by strangers since…I don’t even know when. I suppose when I did study abroad right after college. The effort of being congenial 16+ hours day wore on all of us, I imagine. More than a few participants admitted being introverts (though I’d not have known it). I’m somewhere in the middle, but I do need a good amount time alone in places where I can recharge–such as my house or the SomaFM office, or on long walks.


My home for the workshop was a stripped-down, linoleum-floored, twin-bedded dorm room (and this was the nice dorm I later learned). Not a place to relax. The air conditioner startled me awake at night when it kicked on–though apparently I was lucky as in some rooms it didn’t run at all. The bathroom was down the hall and the shower a claustrophobic plastic coffin that was home to a giant, friendly cockroach.


The town of Lawrence is really cute (aside from some run-down student housing). I love to walk and use that time to mentally unwind, but long walks were more pore-cleansing than soul-cleansing in Kansas in the summer. I’d get out in the morning and walk to the library to read (we critiqued five people a day and though I’d read everything in advance I needed to refresh my memory). By noon the temperatures would be in the 90’s with high humidity and the walk back to the dorm was hell. I returned to my room soaked through and had to actually change clothes before our critiques started at 1pm.

The only real recharge time I got was when I rented a bike and rattled my way up and down the brick streets of Lawrence last Saturday. I got to be a pure tourist for a few hours.

The critique sessions wouldn’t have been so exhausting if I hadn’t been trying so hard pay attention and take notes. This was my first ever workshop and I invested a lot into it–both time and money and lost wages–and I was determined to get everything from it I could.


Jim Gunn giving a critique – possibly calling a story “crudely charming”

The toughest thing was splitting myself into many different personas so that I could give critiques, get critiques, empathize with others, respect others, take things personally, not take things personally, intellectually agree or disagree, emotionally agree or disagree. Sometimes all at once. All while keeping calm and remaining open. Everyone in the group was so polite and even-keel, it made me suspect they were dealing with the same issues. Or maybe they are just better at it. It was my first time after all.

Midway through week one I thought I’d mastered it. I was upbeat. I’d been through a critique of one of my stories and pretty much agreed with people. I was inspired.


Andy Duncan & Jim Gunn (and us workshoppers) at lunch at the Student Union

I hit a snag with my next story. We like to think we have thick skins but innocuous words can slip through and hit us where it hurts. Not only that, but even if a story is 90% there (none of mine were), the point of a critique group is to zero in on the bits that need improvement. It is disheartening to hear person after person not “get it,” and to realize the fault is mine, not theirs.

Chris, the workshop leader, had a top 10 list for every one of our mistakes. “Here,” he’d say, pointing to the printout, “Why I hate your main character. Number seven.”


Chris posted the answers to our writing problems

The point being, fledgling writers all make common mistakes. We need to recognize them and learn the “rules” that will help us avoid making them again. All the writers we admire know these rules by heart–and so do the editors reading our submissions. Opens with a dream? No. Passive voice? No.

The rules are to a game, and the game is getting published professionally. We’d best respect them if we want to play. This simple fact was finally made perfectly clear to me, but only after I dropped my ego and stopped arguing. The workshop served me well in that it stripped away all my conceits. My creative work fell short of the mark. Am I going to go away crying (only for a short time) or pick myself up and fix this?

I will fix it. I like to think that’s why Chris picked us for the workshop, even if it was subconsciously. We don’t give up. We will succeed. In his day job he actually does pick winners – for the Campbell awards.

The short days of workshopping were long. After five hours instruction and giving and getting critiques, my brain was totally fried. With less than a ten-minute break most nights, we gathered and walked to dinner together, usually seeing some fireflies along the way (YAY!!). I struck up a conversation with whoever was by my side, often someone from the novelist workshop that was taking place at the same time.


Kij and Chris leading us to dinner

Once I got some food and drink in me I was ready to go again but that mile walk to the restaurant in the heat each night was tough.

After dinner we’d chat, write, or watch a movie together. Sharing space during the day sometimes overwhelmed me, but communal living at night was a treat. I could drift from room to room, floor to floor (the dorm was three stories) and settle in on the periphery of an interesting conversation, catch the tail end of a movie, play a quick game of Russian roulette with a nerf gun…we relaxed at night and I got to know and like my peers.

My peers. It’s a big step for me to say that but I’m going to go ahead because fuck it, I was accepted into the workshop like everyone else. People who’ve been to Clarion and Odyssey and have more pubs than I have fingers. When will this feeling that I’m faking it end? I was paid for a story. It’s in a print magazine. I’m a writer. Not a great writer yet but working towards it.

Thanks to everyone who spent two weeks giving me sharp pokes in the right direction.

Leaving on a jet plane…

…to Kansas City

I’m in terminal 3 at SFO waiting to take off. I applied for a two-week speculative fiction writer’s workshop about a month and a half ago. I never thought I’d get accepted. They only take 10 people max and it was the last day to apply. What the hell, I figured. No harm in trying.

When I got the acceptance email a week or so later, I almost couldn’t decipher it. Chris, the workshop leader, wrote a long, newsy letter with comments on the story I’d submitted as part of my application, gave me some tips on how to improve it, and somewhere in the midst of that said if I was still interested, I was in.

I’ve gotten so used to rejection letters I almost missed that sentence, especially since it was buried under the story critique. When I finally spotted it and believed it, I whooped! I jumped up and down. I ran around the house.

I’ve never done anything like this. I felt like Lena Dunham in Girls when she went off to the Iowa workshop. This is the right time for this for me. I’ve been in the Alabama Street writers group for almost two years now and I’m getting the hang of giving and getting critiques. I’m freelancing so I can get away. I have a couple stories ready to go. It worked out perfectly.


Now I’m at the airport feeling a bit melancholy about leaving home and maybe a bit nervous as well, which is a surprise, because I am so stoked for this. I’ll be corny and honest and say I’ll miss my husband. I love crawling into bed with him every night. I’ll miss my yard. It is spring and everything is in crazy bloom and hanging out there reading and writing is heaven. I’ll miss my friends & family. I’m also bummed that I’m missing most of the Bay Area Book Festival this weekend. I got tickets to a bunch of talks before I knew I was going away.

I got up early today and managed to see one talk, “Subversive Speculative Fiction” with panelists Jewelle Gomez, Ayize Jama-Everett, Carter Scholz, and Johanna Sinisalo, and moderated by Charlie Jane Anders. It was a great panel and I said hi to Carter Scholz–an author I’d met before at SF in SF.

A member of my writer’s group, Jennifer Ng, rented a booth space in “Literary Lane” to promote her book Ice Cream Travel Guide. I stopped by and bought a copy. Another friend was volunteering at The Center for the Book booth – where they had two small presses set up so people could print a small notebook.


I hated to leave. The festival was just gearing up and it seemed like everything was geared towards me. Information about writing and editing classes, conferences, editing and coaching services. I had tickets to six other talks, including one by Jonathen Lethem, that I had to give away.

I walked back to the BART station, accompanied, literally, by sad violin music.

Now I’m in terminal three. I’ve got time to kill because there was no line at security. No line at all. I’ve never seen anything like it! The man scanning tickets was almost asleep he was so bored. I walked to the far end of the terminal to a secluded area with a great view north. I couldn’t quite see Bernal Hill–but almost. I stress ate a chocolate chip cookie and began to write.

Then the flight attendants arrived. I’d stumbled upon their secret hangout. A group of eight men and women sat down to my right and began to gossip as if I wasn’t there. “They aren’t going to put me on disability due to mental issues.” “I said you want to evict me? Go ahead!” “They put everyone in first class but me, and she said it was based on seniority and I said I KNOW that girl started after me and she said I’ve worked here for twenty years and I said girl you old. Super old.”

I forgot to be sad as I listened to tales of layovers and lipstick that matched nail polish and being raised in Kingstown, Jamaica.

We are all made of stories. I’m going to learn to write mine better!

The Future is Coming…

New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2015

I worked steadily this year, both in writing and at my day jobs, and it’s hard to romanticize either. I wish writing were more dramatic but editing Six is like building a brick wall–one I’m not sure how high or long to make.

San Francisco Sunset

The last sunset of 2015, as viewed now from the attic where I write

The book is actually in good shape. My writer’s group has given extremely helpful critiques and I hired a professional editor give me a high-altitude review of the whole thing. I’m fine-tuning it now and will send this draft to a couple more beta readers, then begin to shop it around in earnest.

I wish I could pat myself on the back for achieving a couple of milestones this year, but I can’t. I feel I haven’t gotten enough done. I think that is the real challenge–getting used to never being done. I’m working on Six, a couple short stories, and a side project in a totally different genre to clear my head. All this is how it should be and preferable to not having anything going but I need to focus on getting more of the pieces finished and out the door.

Enough of my whining. On to…

The Highlights of 2015!!

Shakespeare and Company, Paris.

Shakespeare and Company CatIn January, I almost attended a writer’s group at Shakespeare and Company in Paris. I showed up, as did half a dozen other people, and then a clerk came up to our attic room to tell us it was cancelled.

I was bummed, but I met a couple of interesting people. One women from South Africa had a book published years ago, and to some acclaim, though she now talked of it disparagingly. She was in her mid-30’s so the book must have come out when she was in her 20’s. I was dying to know her name and the name of the book, but I had to be “cool” because she was going out of her way not to mention either despite some pretty obvious hints from me. Another woman had come to Paris “to write.” She wanted to finish her wine-themed memoir. I didn’t say anything but I think going to Paris to write is a terrible idea! Go to Paris and have a good time and then go somewhere boring to write.

Anyway, I felt super writerly just being there. There are things that should be on my to do list that I can’t even imagine until after I’ve already done them, and this was one of them. Writer’s group at Shakespeare and Company. DONE!

She’s Geeky Conference, Sunnyvale California

A great un-conference for women in tech. I was intimidated when I went the first time but everyone assured me that they want to add the “A” to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I highly recommend this event.

South by Southwest, Austin, Texas

Film, Interactive, and Music. We did it all…and I didn’t get catch a cold. Though I did sprain my ankle pretty much as soon as we arrived I didn’t let that stop me. Saw and heard amazing talks (the future of human computer interaction, future crimes, surveillance’s threat to liberty, a look inside DARPA, book publishing and new media, what privacy means now, digital ethics, and of course Bruce Sterling’s famous closing remarks), saw amazing movies (including the world premiere of Ex Machina with a Q&A with the director and cast, and a screening of Mr. Robot, with Director and cast), went to a biohacking party, saw bands, drank too much. The usual! I meant to do a post on this but blogging often feels a lot like procrastinating.

mrrobotcastThe cast and writer of Mr. Robot. I was too shy to get a photo with Christian Slater.

Shoreline of Infinity comes out

My short story See You Later is published in a Scottish science fiction magazine – and I got paid for it!!

Bay Area Book Festival, Berkeley, California

This was the first year for this event and it was PACKED. I’d meant to attend many talks (all free) but most sessions were full. I did get to hear John Scalzi speak, and I introduced myself to Paolo Bacigalupi. I felt bad for him. I was super red and sweaty and looked the crazed fan part perfectly. Said hi to Ransom Stephens who I met a few years ago at the San Francisco Writer’s conference.

Paolo Bacigalupi signing booksPaolo Bacigalupi signs books while his wife waits patiently

Neil Gaiman in conversation with Stuart Brand, San Francisco, California

I blogged about this.

Yes and Yes Yes, Palm Springs, California

My first time at this unconference in Palm Springs. They can explain it better than I:

“A gathering of…

  • thinkers/futurists/nerds/weirdos
  • voracious consumers of and generators of ideas and information
  • creatives that like to engage in conversation about their creative pursuits & the concepts behind them
  • people comfortable with & excited about their own obsessive interest in their odd corner of the world”

Right up my alley. I had a really great time until it was time to fly home and the plane overheated on the runway and we were stuck in the closed-down airport for hours and hours.

YxYYI know this looks like voracious consumers of beer, not ideas, but we found we could do both

EFF anniversary party, San Francisco, California

Yikes…this was an intimidating crowd. Everyone was so smart. Lawyers who argued the such and such case, professors, authors. I met Cory Doctorow (again) and Will Wheaton (what a gracious guy) and gave them both SomaFM t-shirts. It’s tough for me to introduce myself to public figures. It feels really intrusive. OTOH, they are in public so random people like me coming up is an expected annoyance. I’d rather not do it, but it is important for me to close the gap between screen and real, and to gain more empathy for people that put themselves out there in the media. It is a tough job.

EFF and Cory DoctorowI really like Cory Doctorow’s jacket

DEF CON Hacker Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada

DEF CON was great. I finally felt comfortable and not like an impostor the way I did last year. I went to sessions. Parties. DJ’d. Drank. More on this in a future post.

DefConBedside table at a party at DEF CON

XOXO, Portland, Oregon

This was my first time at this “experimental festival celebrating independently-produced art and technology.” Very interesting sessions, interesting attendees, and crazy hot weather for Portland.

I met author/illustrator Jason Porath. He seems to be a friend of a friend and we ended up at the same table at a food truck court. His book, http://www.rejectedprincesses.com/ should be coming out soon.

I got my novella printed at Powell’s Books via an on demand printing machine. It was really cool to see it go from virtual to physical.

Powell's books Portland

I met Carl Steadman and Joey Anuff of Suck. They were a big deal to my crowd back in the day. I talked to Joey Anuff at length about his stint at MTV as well as other things. He was a really nice.



Our writing group read at LitQuake’s LitCrawl

I wrote about this in another post.

Huh, I guess I did a lot this year in addition to working and writing. I didn’t realize until I put it all in one place. If it seems like I go to a lot of conferences, this is true. I spend 95% of my time in front of a computer screen either writing or doing design–and not interacting with people or getting a sense of “the next big thing,” which I’ve got to have a handle on if I’m writing near-future fiction. Going to these kinds of creative conferences allows me to get face to face with people and see what they are excited about.

Also, I need to visualize the next step in my writer career by interacting with successful, published authors and this is a challenge because they aren’t wandering around in the wild. If I wanted to become a programmer or a social media consultant or an architect or a teacher I could walk down to the coffee shop right now and grab one for a chat. It’s harder to find a science fiction writer! Thus, the necessary but awkward introductions at conferences and lectures. I don’t know if all writers would find this necessary but for me it is a great motivator.

My goal for 2016 is to do even more, be even more productive, and GET SIX PUBLISHED.

Happy New Year!!!

A series of Fortunate Events

Saturday night marked a huge milestone in my author career: I read at Litcrawl! Last year the events were so crowded I couldn’t even make it into the audience, let alone imagine being a reader. I was really discouraged. All those venues, all those authors. Would I ever be one of them?

Shortly after this, I saw an announcement in Bernalwood, my neighborhood blog, that the Alabama Street Writer’s Group was looking for new members. Not only that, they met only two blocks from my house. It was too perfect. I’d been wanting to join a writer’s group. I tried the San Francisco Writer’s Workshop, but so many people attended that not all could read, and there wasn’t time to think or give any kind of cogent feedback.

I sent in a story and was invited to join. I’ve been going every week for almost a year now and the experience has been great. I’ve gotten so much helpful advice from the other members. I am learning to really listen, with a completely open mind, because I trust that the people around me love reading and writing and truly want to help me polish my stories. I’ve heard stories about mean writer’s groups with rude and cruel people and thank god no one in this group is like that.

I really enjoy the diversity of writing. We’ve got fiction, memoir, horror, sci fi, YA. The challenge is to not think, I can’t critique this, this isn’t my genre, I don’t know anything about ____. We have to set aside our theoretical ideas of what we do and don’t like and dive right into every piece and help the author realize his or her vision. Plus, every time I analyze someone else’s story it helps me see the weaknesses in my own.

That we would get to read at Litcrawl was an amazing bonus…and as the day approached, a source of some anxiety as well. I’m not much of a public speaker. I’d read in front of people exactly once. I’m not a huge fan of my own voice. I did my best to get over this by reading my story (See You Later – it is the one published in the Scottish science fiction magazine) VERY LOUDLY when no one was home. MANY TIMES. This was good.


Oddly, all my nearest and dearest friends and family were out of town or busy the night of Litcrawl. I was pretty annoyed at first. I mean, seriously?

A few deep breaths later I realized I was lucky. Zero people I knew meant zero pressure. I intend to keep at this for years and years and hopefully do many readings. Everyone can’t come to everything and I’ll be a lot better at this when I’ve gotten more practice.

City Art Gallery was a great venue. Good lighting. Super nice staff.

I was second to last to read. I thought I’d get more and more nervous but I was okay. Nervous but not paralyzed. We had a good-sized crowd but no one I knew, so what the hey! Instead of being worried my face would be super red and I’d stumble over words, I worried that people would be bored–which is a huge step in the right direction.

I have no interest in being a performer, however, I do want my stories to be heard, which in some cases will entail me reading them. I’ve got to allow the audience to concentrate on it and not me. I can’t be nervous or that will make the listeners uncomfortable.

I don’t know if I did it well but I did it! And next time I’ll do it better…and maybe some of my friends will show up.