February Tempest Challenge Day 4

Scott Woods: Just Read Everything He Writes | Tempest Challenge BHM

Just in case you didn’t think I was serious about how I want you to read all kinds of stuff by Black people this month, I bring you a recommendation that isn’t just about a book. I challenge you to read Scott Woods. Just all his stuff. Everything. Don’t hold back.

Scott is many things: a slam poet, a cultural critic, a dude who does not mince words, a true artist. He has two books of poetry out now and soon (hopefully very soon) he’ll have a novel out in the world. I’ve read a draft of that novel. It is fucking fantastic. I cannot wait for it to be out in the world so everyone gets a chance to read it.

Until then, you’re just going to have to satisfy yourself with his other writing. Like his blogs.

Those of you who joined me in the hate pile-on for the movie Gods of Egypt may remember me linking to Scott’s essay on the matter: Gods of Egypt is the most racist film ever.

Gods of Egypt is the most racist film in the last one hundred years. It is the most diabolically conceived, politically incorrect, and unapologetically racist film since The Birth of a Nation (the 1915 white one, not the 2016 black one, and how cool is it that we have to clarify that now?). It is more racist than Song of the South and Soul Man, which is no small feat. It is more racist than Mississippi Burning, The Revenant, The Help and Dragonball Evolution. It is more racist than the eye-rolling Bringing Down the House and The Last Samurai. It manages to somehow be more racist than Blended and Dances With Wolves. It is more racist than Dangerous Minds and its didn’t-bring-shit-to-the-party cousin, Freedom Writers. It is magically more racist than The Green Mile. It has unseated my standing favorite, The Lone Ranger, for most racist movie, and I thought Johnny Depp’s Tonto was going to get us to at least 2020.

His writing is funny and insightful and deep and engaging and you cannot read a bunch of it and come away not understanding that Scott is everything.

And then you read his poetry.

And then you listen to him perform his poetry.

So, here’s what to do next. Go to Scott Woods Makes Lists and subscribe. Then go to Scott Woods Writes and subscribe. Then go to his YouTube channel and subscribe. Then check out Urban Contemporary History Month and We Over Here Now, his poetry collections. Read. It. All.

You can thank me later.

February Tempest Challenge Day 3

The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker | Tempest Challenge BHM

Even people who don’t know much about Black authors know who Alice Walker is or just that the book The Color Purple exists. If you haven’t read that book or watched the movie, you should. Right now. Then, after you’re done, pick up The Temple of My Familiar.

Temple is not exactly a sequel to The Color Purple, though some characters from that book do appear in this one. It’s also not a book that’s easy to classify. It weaves in and out of the lives of several characters across many timelines and, in some cases, many lifetimes. I read the book when I was a teen and didn’t fully grok it, yet also never forgot it. When I read the book as an adult I still didn’t fully grok it, I just appreciated it more. Walker plays with character and structure in this book in ways that are not always successful but are always engaging. The best part is that each of the characters represents some different way of being Black, a rare thing in American novels.

After you finish this book, go read all Walker’s other books because she’s Alice freaking Walker, people.

February Tempest Challenge Day 2

Black Women in 19th Century American Life | Tempest Challenge BHM

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece for NPR Books highlighting literature that proves Black people existed in certain time periods (despite popular misconception) and that, where they existed, they were more than just The Help. My favorite of the books I mentioned is Black Women in Nineteenth-Century American Life: Their Words, Their Thoughts, Their Feelings. I like this one best because it’s a collection of contemporary writings by these women, not just about them. One of the best ways to understand history and the people in it is to read their own words.

The biggest reason I wanted to include this book is because it contains the writings of Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler:

The first African American to publish a medical text… also the first black woman to earn a medical degree. She wasn’t alone in this for long; within a few years she was joined by Rebecca J. Cole and Susan McKinney Steward, and by 1900 there were also Matilda Arabella Evans, Ida Gray Nelson Robbins, Eliza Ann Grier, and Sarah Parker Remond.

For Remond, her career as a doctor was a second one. She was a prominent lecturer and abolitionist who traveled throughout the US and to Europe to lecture against slavery, rouse foreign support for the Union cause, and advocate for freedmen once the war ended. She retired to Florence, Italy — where she earned a medical degree and set up a practice that lasted for 20 years. She never went back to America.

Did you ever learn about this woman in school? I sure didn’t. Just like we didn’t learn about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, or Mary Jackson of Hidden Figures fame.

February Tempest Challenge Day 1

Tempest Challenge: Black History Month Edition

Black History Month 2017 has already gotten off to a dubious start, at least in Washington. Not that this is very surprising. Within that rambling mess of a speech you may note that the specific names mentioned are the names we always hear during February’s festivities–King, Parks, Tubman, Douglass–names that reflect the narrowness of most Black History teachings. Most white people (and, sadly, far too many Black people and other POC) will only hear about Slavery and The Civil Rights Struggle as if these are the only two significant periods in Blackness and as if the people associated with those eras are the only people worth remembering. This is bullshit, of course. Let’s change that.

The Tempest Challenge has been on a hiatus, and the vids will continue to be as I work out what I want to do with that project over the long term. For this, though, I don’t need vids, just a blog.

Here’s what I challenge you to do every day during the month of February: Read something by a Black person that isn’t only about pre-Civil War American slavery, the Civil War, or the Civil Rights Era.

Read fiction, non-fiction, articles, letters, whatever, as long as it’s written by a Black person. Don’t limit your definition of Black Person to African-Americans. Black covers the African diaspora and writers currently in Africa and is not limited to people descended from those brought to the Americas as slaves.

Every day this month I or someone who is awesome will offer you a suggestion here for what to read. Feel free to drop your own suggestions in the comments. Use the #TempestChallenge hashtag on Twitter or Instagram to share your favorite reads.

To get us started, my first suggestion is The Space Traders, a short story by Derrick Bell. You can read it online or you can pick up a copy of Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora and read it there.

There are two pieces of fiction that so effected me that they jacked me up for years after reading them. The first was Kindred by Octavia Butler. The other is The Space Traders. Thought they’re very different stories, the reason they jacked me up so hard is the same. They are both so true that it scared me as a Black person. With Kindred, I easily pictured myself as Dana and thought about what would happen to me if I found myself in her position. I didn’t think I would have survived. It scared me to think that. With The Space Traders, I pondered what would happen if the incident that kicks off the story happened in America right then (I first read this in the early 2000s when Bush 2 was in office) and realized that it would play out as written, which was an upsetting thought.

Bell published this story in 1992. One might have been lulled into thinking that it wasn’t prophetic during the eight years Obama was in office. I challenge anyone to read that story today and tell me that it’s not entirely possible.

If you don’t think so, then you don’t know your Black History.

Write Gear laptop Buying Guide

The Write Gear Laptop Buying Guide For Writers

Episodes 10, 11 and 13[1] of The Write Gear podcast are all about laptops — the best laptop overall, great laptops for if you want something small and light, laptops for small budgets, etc. These episodes, plus the extensive links in the show notes, constitute my Laptop Buying Guide for folks who write.

As I say in the intro to episode 10, “Which laptop should I buy?” the #1 query from writers asking me for tech advice. My answer depends on a lot of factors, but I often end up recommending one of the laptops mentioned in the two podcasts.

Listen to TWG #10: The Best Laptop for Writers right here or subscribe in iTunes

      The Write Gear: Episode 10

Episode 10 Show Notes

Episode 11 is partly about recommending small, inexpensive laptops, though mainly a conversation with Brad Linder about the history of netbooks and the current state of things. We do talk about what you should look for in these netbook-like machines if you go out on the hunt for one.

Listen to TWG #11: Small And Light Laptops for Writers

      The Write Gear: Episode 11

Episode 11 Show Notes

Writers often ask me about Chromebooks because they’re inexpensive and seem like a good idea. My general advice is that you’re better off with an inexpensive PC or even an AlphaSmart over a Chromebook most of the time, though they do have uses as a secondary laptop.

Listen to TWG #13: Are Chromebooks Good For Writers?

      The Write Gear: Episode 13

Episode 13 Show Notes

Keep in mind, my anti-recommendation of Chromebooks is based solely on a writer’s needs. They are great machines for other folks and other purposes. So don’t come banging don my door in anger, Google. I just got it fixed from the last time!


  1. Post updated April 22nd[]
From Farscape to Fountain Pens

The Write Gear #9: From Farscape to Fountain Pens

When I was a wee Tempest, I read in some book by a fancy author that all real writers write with fountain pens. And being a dutiful person who wanted to be a real writer, I took this to heart and went out and bought a fountain pen. And for a few days it was The Best, and then it got ink everywhere and became The Worst.

Does this experience feel familiar to any of you? I bet it does. Fountain pens do seem a proper tool for those of us who still write by hand (more thoughts on that on an earlier post). They may also seem daunting. Are inexpensive fountain pens even any good? If you want something that will last, where do you even go to figure it out? Is dealing with ink as fraught as it seems?

I decided to put these and other newbie questions to Richard Manning, screenwriter, producer, and fountain pen geek. Richard was a producer on Farscape, and started down the long, twisty path to fountain pen love thanks to seeing a certain actor’s fancy Montblanc. Which actor? You’ll just have to listen to our nerdy pen conversation to find out.

Listen to TWG #9: From Farscape to Fountain Pens – A Conversation with Richard Manning right here or subscribe in iTunes

      The Write Gear: Episode 9

There are links to all the pens and inks and websites Richard mentions in the show notes.

So, where my fountain pen geeks at? Fly your flag in the comments or over on Twitter with the hashtag #FountainPenLove.

Tempest is on Patreon! (And Looking For Your Support)

As of this month, I’m officially on Patreon and looking for patrons! You can support me creating cool stuff for $1 per month on up to $500 per month if you have deep pockets like that.

If you listened to my interview on the Less Than Or Equal podcast[1], you might be wondering why I said I was going to launch my Patreon page last year (wow, six months ago…) when I only just did so this month. There are a few reasons, but the biggest one can probably be summed up with the words Impostor Syndrome.

What’s so insidious about Impostor Syndrome is that even though I can identify it in other people and always attempt to beat it back with the “You’re awesome and your voice is needed and I’m glad you’re alive and loud and sharing your talent with the world” stick, I cannot always turn that on myself. Luckily, I do have friends to do so for me. After finally wrestling my brain weasels into a bag, I put my page together and even made a video.

Because I know that people think the Tempest Challenge and the video series that goes with it are valuable. I know that the Write Gear podcast has already helped some writers. I know that my writing on this blog and over at Medium and the other places I publish has added more signal than noise to discussions about genre and race and gender and writing. And I know that you all want to talk about Jem and the Holograms endlessly, just like I do! (And sing the songs, right? RIGHT?) That’s why I finally launched the Patreon, and I hope you’ll click and pledge and support.

Right now the support is for making vids and podcasts and writing non-fiction and not directly for me writing fiction. Why? Because I am a s.l.o.w. writer of fiction. And deadlines do not change that one iota. But I find that my own creative projects are much less draining than my freelance assignments. The opposite, actually: they energize and inform my fiction writing. So by pledging money to me for making vids and podcasts and writing essays and columns, you’re supporting me writing fiction as well.

Plus, you know you wanna see more You Done Fucked Up vids.

You can Make It So[2].


  1. You really should! It’s a great interview, if I say so myself.[]
  2. To all those who click and pledge: Thanks![]
JEMcast Alone Again

New JEMcast: Alone Again

JEMcast Alone Again

On this week’s JEMcast we talk about a bunch of people’s favorite episode: Alone Again. Season 2 seems packed with PSA-type shows. We had two on literacy and now this one about drug use. What I find fascinating is that the main character, Laura, goes through the entire drug addiction arc in the space of 22 episode minutes and 6 days of in-show time.

Feeling depressed/worthless –> falling prey to slick drug dealer with free product –> getting hooked immediately and can’t live without the drugs –> Can’t afford to pay for drugs, so steals from loved ones –> Discovers that drug dealer is the worst ever –> Told they must go to therapy/AA/rehab –> Won’t admit they have a problem –> Finally admits they have a problem. In 6 days.

This episode also provides more evidence that Jerrica is a terrible foster mom as well as the world’s worst CEO.

Listen and let me know what you think! Also, just a reminder: the JEMcast is eligible for the Best Fancast Hugo Award!

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

      JEMcast: Alone Again
Alphasmart and Jennifer Stevenson

The Write Gear #8: All About AlphaSmart

Alphasmart and Jennifer Stevenson

The last Write Gear podcast got a lot of positive attention–even more writers struggle with the distraction thing than I thought. This week’s episode keeps it going with a deep dive into the AlphaSmart. I learned about this wonder of distraction-free writing from a Clarion West classmate back in 2003, and bought one right away. A few years ago I met someone who loved it even more than I did: author Jennifer Stevenson. I knew she’d be the perfect person to talk to about it, and she is.

Check out the podcast for everything you need to know about the AlphaSmart and then click over to the episode page if you want to buy one. There are a few different models available, and I link to them all.

Listen to TWG #8: All About AlphaSmart right here or subscribe in iTunes

      The Write Gear: Episode 8
The Write Gear 7 Tools to Block Electronic Distractions While You Write

The Write Gear 7: Tools to Block Electronic Distractions While You Write

The Write Gear 7 Tools to Block Electronic Distractions While You Write

I used to feel a sense of shame around the fact that I am easily lured away from writing by the Internet shiny things such as notifications and new comments and tweets and whatever. To solve this problem, I would sometimes ask people for suggestions on minimizing or blocking distractions and there would always be one person—usually more—popping up to say that I should just have self discipline instead of looking for crutches.

This is some ol’ bullshit, I hope you know[1].

Not only are there some people who can’t just have self discipline in the way those jerks mean, every person has to own up to their limits or needs and find ways to work with how your brain works. And that sometimes means employing outside help.

That’s what this episode is all about. I’ve found quite a few useful distraction blocking tools to help me, and I hope they’ll help other folks. If you use different tools and have found them useful, please say so in the comments!

Listen to TWG #7: Tools to Block Electronic Distractions While You Write right here or subscribe in iTunes

      The Write Gear: Episode 7


  1. Anytime someone says that “You should just” as if their ability to “Just” isn’t based on factors they never have to think about–i.e. privilege–and is the absolute correct way of being, you have my permission to tell them to go to hell.[]