Interview: I’m on Less Than Or Equal!

Less than or equal

I know I shared this on social media back when it happened. I didn’t share it on the blog, though! And if you missed it, you must listen.

Aleen Simms, who is on the JEMcast with me, has a podcast of her own called Less Than Or Equal where she interviews people. She’s an excellent interviewer, knowing just when to ask questions and just when to let people be brilliant. I was quite honored that she wanted me to be on the show.

If you don’t already subscribe to her show, you need to. But listen to the episode I’m on first, because it’s awesome and interesting. We talk about Jem, of course, and also music, and my college days, and Tempest Challenges, and other stuff.

New JEMcast: The Treasure Hunt

S2E8: The Treasure Hunt

In this week’s episode we talk about The Treasure Hunt. Not one of my favorites. However, Alex Knight couldn’t record with Aleen Simms and I and so we had to wing it. We didn’t have Alex’s deeply detailed show notes to go off of, just my snarky rewatch tweets. And the both of us giggled through the entire thing. It was fun, tho.

Sadly, the episode itself is not that great in my opinion. And Aleen and I both agreed that the songs were meh. But yay reading, right? Right.

Subscribe to the JEMcast on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, or via RSS. Or listen below.

      JEMcast: The Treasure Hunt

New Episode: The Write Gear – Windows Tablets

The Write Gear Episode 2

The Write Gear episode 2 is out. This time I’m talking about Windows Tablets and asking the question: Is there any good reason to get a tablet over a laptop? If you want a tablet to be a productivity companion and not just a thing you play games on or read with, then you already need a keyboard and then you’ve got a de facto laptop, right?

There are some compelling reasons to go with a tablet, which I discuss in the episode. It’s less than 15 minutes! And super informative, though I say so myself.

Subscribe! Or stream below.

      The Write Gear: Episode 2

How We Write and How We Talk About How We Write

How We Write

For the past week I’ve been mulling over this excellent post on Neurodiversity, Writing Process, And Writing Instruction by Leah Pope of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She talks about how academia sometimes fails students by not making it apparent that there is no one best writing process and that if a student can’t follow a process proscribed to them by some professor or professional writer, it doesn’t mean they’re doing writing wrong.

The narrative we spin through the mainstream writing processes we learn and teach is not always an accessible one. As Rick Godden’s essay in How We Write demonstrates, not all of us have the option of following a model of daily writing or scheduled writing periods. Physical realities make highly regimented writing rituals impractical, even impossible, for Godden, as well as a not insignificant number of our colleagues and students. Preferring or needing to use dictation or screen-reading software in order to write might mean that recommendations about drafting or revision practices sometimes simply won’t work or will be excessively time-consuming within that physical reality. Such diverse groups of writers — at the undergraduate, graduate, even professional academic level — are often left on their own to sort out an effective writing process, frequently without resources like the standard Writing Center conference, which does not easily accommodate accessibility software.

I would suggest that writing is always a neurodiverse process. Regardless of label-happy diagnoses, one “normal” writer, if there is such a thing, will always be different in some way than another “normal” writer. We already acknowledge this with matters of timing: I am a morning writer, but that is considered no better or worse than my friend who writes best in the middle of the night. The logic behind accepting and encouraging our students to explore writing at different times of day (in different settings, in different media, etc) could be extended to make advice about writing processes more accessible to a more diverse range of students. No one (to my knowledge) is saying that having difficulty following one writing process or another makes a student a bad or ineffective writer, but I don’t believe we are saying often enough that there are endless possible ways to write by which a person can be an effective writer.

On that bolded point–Pope may not see that in the UW Writing Center, but it certainly happens among fiction writers.[1]

At the start of my short fiction classes I talk to my students about this Daniel José Older piece where he reads the idea that a writer must write every day for filth:

Writing advice blogs say it. Your favorite writers say it. MFA programs say it.

Write every single day.

It’s one of the most common pieces of writing advice and it’s wildly off base. I get it: The idea is to stay on your grind no matter what, don’t get discouraged, don’t slow down even when the muse isn’t cooperating and non-writing life tugs at your sleeve. In this convoluted, simplified version of the truly complex nature of creativity, missing a day is tantamount to giving up, the gateway drug to joining the masses of non-writing slouches.

Nonsense.

Here’s what stops more people from writing than anything else: shame. That creeping, nagging sense of ‘should be,’ ‘should have been,’ and ‘if only I had…’ Shame lives in the body, it clenches our muscles when we sit at the keyboard, takes up valuable mental space with useless, repetitive conversations. Shame, and the resulting paralysis, are what happen when the whole world drills into you that you should be writing every day and you’re not.

wild applause

From here I do actually assign them a daily writing exercise for the duration of the class (I lay out the reason why in this post), but I hope I don’t make them feel like they have to keep doing it forever to be a Real Writer™. My hope is that they’ll figure out what works best for them and to try, at least for some weeks, to do regular writing each day.

Pope’s article has me thinking more about my approach as a teacher and whether I’ve thought enough about neurodiversity as I plan out classes.

I’m fully on board with the truth that no one way works for every writer and that the process that works for you is the best process. It can be hard to find a process that works as long as you keep hearing that things must be done this one way. I agree with Pope that this can be solved by more openness and that there’s not enough discussion about writing processes–discussion without judgment, that is. It would be beneficial for writers to be able to talk about what works for them without making it sound as though one way is a certified Best Way and also without having their way scoffed at by people who do things differently. There’s a fine line between advice or suggestion and a command from on high (which has less to do with intention and more with framing). It would be nice to find that line, make it thicker, and stay firmly on one side of it.

At the end of her post, Pope makes this call to action:

I believe it would be good for us… to talk more honestly about how we actually write. By sharing our psychological experiences of writing, we might just find our way toward happier, healthier, and more productive writing.

Let’s do this! I’d love it if working writers of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, stage and screen answered this “simple” question: How Do You Write? What processes do you find successful? What was your journey to what works?

I’d also love to collect these for my students. Not only as a guide, but also proof: There are many ways to make writing work for you.

You can do so in the comments of this post. Or share your process on Twitter with the hashtag #HowWeWrite. On Facebook, comment here. On Tumblr, reblog and comment on this post and tag it how we write. On Google+ tag your posts #HowWeWrite.

I can’t wait to see all the different answers and explanations.

Footnotes

  1. Whenever some version of this discussion happens I think of this old post by John Scalzi that I always think of as “Writing: Find the Time or Don’t… As Long As You’re A Comfortably Middle Class, Neurotypical White Man”. One of the major examples gives for a person writing under extreme hardship ignores many, many factors that made it possible for that writer to keep writing: a white collar job he wasn’t in danger of losing, medical care that was comprehensive and not tenuous, medical care he could afford, a vast support network of people specifically devoted to him. Not everyone has all of this, and that’s not even getting into different levels of ability.[]

Do you have a pair of JemStar earrings? Because I do!

According to Amazon, on October 15th of last year Light-up Synergy earrings went on sale and no one told me. I feel as though Amazon should have contacted me personally to say: buy these things, they are for you. Amazon has failed.

No matter! I found out about them (from fellow JEMcaster Alex Knight) and immediately obtained a pair because they are Jem’s earrings and they light up. Plus, they cost $8.

The day they arrived in the mail I did an unboxing video because this is what we do now, we film ourselves unboxing things.

Now of course you want these earrings, right? Buy them here. And then subscribe to the JEMcast.

New JEMcast: Father’s Day

JemCast Father's day

On this week’s JEMcast we talk about the episode “Father’s Day,” one I have always liked but I rarely watch because it’s very emotional. Because I rarely watch it, I had forgotten a very important piece of character background revealed in this episode. It’s about Pizzazz, and it explains SO MUCH. To find out what it is, you have to listen.

I also get super weepy about this song:

I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING.

ahem.

If you’re a regular listener of the JEMcast you know all about the Raymond Crime Family theory. I’d love to hear if you think my theory bears out some of the info we discover in this episode.

Okay, no more teasing you. Listen below or subscribe via iTunes or whatever other podcast program you use with the RSS feed.

      JEMcast - Father's Day

New Podcast! The Write Gear (Check Out Episode 1)

write gear episode 1

Many years ago at WisCon I was on a panel about the tools writers use to write. It was mainly technology–laptops, tablets, AlphaSmarts, software–but I think at least one person showed off a fancy pen. I enjoyed the panel so much I suggested to my fellow panelists that we do a podcast.

A bunch of stuff happened, there were several false starts, I worried over the non-pristine quality of the audio, life got in the way.

But last year I started being a regular on a little podcast you might have heard of: The JEMcast. Doing that podcast every week and learning some of the backend stuff gave me confidence and I started thinking about doing that podcast about writing tools…

After some advice from other podcasters (in particular the always generous Howard Tayler) and help from Twitter in coming up with a name and help from my friend Emma Onstott in creating a logo and help from Hologram Radio head Alex Knight with everything else, I finally got the first episode of The Write Gear out the door last week. You can listen to me talk about the most interesting laptops announced at CES earlier this month–most interesting for writers, that is.

      The Write Gear: Episode 1

The podcast will come out weekly and is a mix of me talking about gadgets and tech and me interviewing writers and other experts about the gear they use to write. That includes pens and paper alongside screens and keyboards. And yes, there will be an entire episode devoted to fountain pens at some point.

I hope you all like it and subscribe and stuff (iTunes | RSS). And if you want me to cover something on this podcast, drop me a note in the comments.

12 Days of New Years – Day 2: Take More And Better Pictures

Another day, another resolution! Today is all about the images.

If you follow me on social media you probably noticed a spate of photo albums coming from my Google+ account. My phone auto uploads all of my pictures, and I finally got around to collecting them into albums. I’m sharing a few each day on G+, which auto-posts to Twitter, FB, etc. You can see them all here.

I took a ton of pictures, but looking through them all I don’t have as many as I thought. And while I am a proponent of experiencing life and not just taking 10,000 pictures of it, I’d still like more of a record of all my traveling and hanging with people.

I’d also like to get better at photography. Learn to use something other than Auto mode on the fancy camera I drag everywhere. My smartphone will continue to be my primary camera, but I want to be more deliberate about when I break out the real thing.

So sometime this year I will take an online class and learn some photography techniques. I bet this will help me up my selfie game.

12 Days of New Years – Day 1: Communicating More With My Peeps

communication chat

It’s a new year and even though there’s always a wave of anti-resolution-making in the air around this time, I am going to make a few. 12, in fact. Because I like to use arbitrary demarcations of time as ways to kickstart changes in my life. Last year it was packing up my stuff, leaving New York City, and traveling around the country (did I mention that here? I should probably write a post. *marks that as a resolution*). Now to decide what it will be this year.

2016 Resolution #1: Communicating More With My Peeps

One of the best things about the past year has been spending time hanging out with and talking to fabulous and wonderful people I usually only see at conventions. And, in some cases, I haven’t seen them at conventions at all due to life stuff. I enjoyed reconnecting with my friends a great deal, but I can’t be in every city every month, still. Damn you, teleporter technology Apple is clearly keeping from us.

One way of keeping up with folks that I’ve found useful over the past two years is Google Hangout group chats. On Hangouts you can instant message one person or several people. If you create a group chat, you can even name the room the way we used to on AOL or ICQ back in the day. Google will save that group of people as a chat entity even if you close the window.

I’ve been part of an ongoing group chat for over a year now and love it. We pop in to talk to each other whenever someone is around, and if everyone else is busy that’s just fine. Anyone can initiate a video call, though no one is obligated to answer it. Having a pre-existing group also makes it easier to reach out to people when I want to talk. I know I’m not disturbing them, and they know they don’t have to answer me right away, just when they see the message and have time to respond.

I want more of this in my life! So over the next few weeks I’m going to start setting up group hangouts and seeing if people are down with it. If you wanna start one with me and we’re already friends on G+ or GMail, all you have to do is add me + one other person to get it going. You can add more people later.

I have a few other communication ideas (including more snail mail!) that I’ll implement throughout the year. The exact medium isn’t as important as being more in touch with people I love. We can’t all always be in the same city or at every convention, so let’s make use of this lovely SFnal technology!

Last Minute Gifts For Writers: Put An Online Class Under The Tree*

Drew Coffman Writer's Block I

It’s Christmas week. And you still don’t know what gift you’re going to give the special writer in your life for the holidays. They have everything—a great laptop, a tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard, a copy of Scrivener, fully paid Dropbox, and a Pro subscription to Evernote. What else is there to give?

Lean in close and I will tell you.

Give them the gift of an online writing class.

Classes help writers at any level build skills as well as community, equally important for writers who wish to pursue a publishing career. The big name workshops such as Clarion, Clarion West, Viable Paradise, Odyssey, etc., require both a monetary and time commitment not all writers can afford. But an online writing class makes it possible to do everything from home and fit the classwork into an existing schedule. Some online classes only ask for a weekend commitment.

And for those weekend classes, you know what else makes a great gift? The promise that you will arrange things for that weekend so the writer you’re gifting doesn’t have to worry about anything else, from kids to cooking meals to walking the dogs, except the class. That right there is almost as amazing a gift as the class.

I can see I have you convinced. But, you ask, where can I find online classes for the writer in my life? Once again, I have the answer:

Weekend Classes

Short Story Intensive taught by Mary Robinette Kowal

Think you never have time to write? Think again. Mary Robinette Kowal wrote her first Hugo-nominated short story “Evil Robot Monkey” in ninety minutes. If you have ninety minutes, you can have a story — all it takes is understanding how to make every word work double-time. In this workshop, learn the same techniques she uses to create new fiction. Through exercises focusing on viewpoint, dialogue, and plot, you’ll learn how to let nothing go to waste. By the end of this three day workshop, participants will be given a writing prompt and complete their own short story.

Price: $275

Dates

  • February 26 – 28, 2016
  • March 25 – 27, 2016
  • April 22 – 24, 2016

 

The Art of Writing the Other – Weekend Intensive taught by Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford

Writers know that it’s important to write about characters whose gender, sexual orientation, religion, racial heritage, or other aspect of identity differs from their own. But many are afraid to do so for fear that they will get it wrong–horribly, offensively wrong–and think it is better not even to try. In truth, it is possible to write the Other sensitively and convincingly, and this workshop can start you on the path to doing just that.

Price: $250 + service fee

Dates: January 1 – 3, 2016


 

Multi-Week Classes

Creative NonFiction Workshop SPRING 2016 taught by Brooke Benoit

This 8-week workshop is designed to do a whole bunch of things for you and your craft. Firstly, assignments simply motivate some of us who are otherwise floundering in our writing practice. Engaging and varied exercises are planned with flexibility to meet your needs and to get you writing. Then there is the opportunity to acquire some new skills through direct feedback on your work from a professional editor and writer, as well as all the helpful little tips I will be providing you with. You will also get fresh weekly reader feedback through peer reviews of your work.

Price: $220

Start Date: February 2, 2016


 

The Architecture of Fiction taught by Nick Mamatas

Where does your story start? How on Earth do you keep it going? What’s the difference between ending a story and just stopping it? Regardless of genre, length, or form, every story has a beginning, middle, and an ending—in no particular order. Beginning writers often start their stories in the wrong place, confuse action with plot, and then end a scene a bit too early… or too late. In four weeks, award-winning novelist, anthologist, and editor Nick Mamatas will guide you up and down the path of storytelling—through the architecture of fiction. This workshop will give you the tools you need to move through a story with confidence—whether it’s a novel, novella, or short story.

Price: $350

Start Date: January 21, 2016


 

The Brainery Online Workshops for Speculative Fiction Writers

Classes begin the week of Jnauary 25th and are scheduled based on student availability.

Novel Workshop and YA Novel Workshop taught by Jilly Dreadful, Ph.D.

Designed for writers with a complete (though not necessarily finished) manuscript in need of a full critique. The goal is to help shape first drafts into stronger second drafts and to help writers develop strategies for revision and expansion. Students will receive in-depth critiques from their peers and the instructor.

Price: $500


Short Fiction Writing and the Other taught by K. Tempest Bradford

A brand new class designed for writers who want to include characters in their fiction whose gender, sexual orientation, religion, racial heritage, or other aspect of identity differs from their own, but are hesitant to do so for fear that they will get it horribly, offensively wrong. Students will learn strategies for writing the “Other” sensitively and convincingly as well as strengthen their short story writing craft in general through a combination of readings, analysis of published fiction, writing exercises, peer critiques, and developing, writing, and revising stories in a safe, supportive atmosphere. In addition to instruction and in-depth critiques from Bradford, students will also benefit from guest lectures exclusive to this class from authors Nisi Shawl and Max Gladstone.

Price: $575


 

Short Fiction taught by Valerie Valdes

A workshop designed for speculative fiction writers looking to produce submission-ready short fiction in the form of flash fiction, short stories or standalone novel excerpts. Participants will deepen their theory and practice through the discussion of course readings, a continually evolving feedback loop from the instructor and classmates, as well as the kind of accountability that a community of peers can provide. Writers work on four submissions during the program: two new and/or original works, up to 7500 words in length, a revision of one of the two previously submitted pieces, and a work of flash fiction 1000 words or less.

Price: $475


 

Science Fiction Fairy Tales taught by Jilly Dreadful, Ph.D.

A hypoxic-style workshop designed to push students to challenge themselves as writers and to question the conventions and limits of what it means to remix fairy tales in modern ways. Every week students will consider a different fairy tale and science theme pairing, and remix it using experimental methods. Students will write (on average) 750-1500 words weekly, as well as discuss each other’s work.

Price: $500


 

This represents classes I’m aware of that are open to enrollment right now. If you know of any other online classes that fit this description, please add them in the comments.

Now, get to those links are give the writer in your life who has everything else a craft-building class of amazeballs and be a holiday hero.

*Yes, I know, not everyone celebrates Christmas and thus has a tree. But really, the image of putting the Internet under a tree is too good to pass up.