Willamette Writers logo and image of Tempest

I’m teaching a workshop at the Willamette Writers Conference

The Willamette Writers community recently announced the lineup of teachers and keynote speakers for their conference this summer, and for the first time I’m one of them! There are a ton of amazing writers, editors, and agents on that list and I’m honored to be listed alongside them. Plus, I’ve been hearing wonderful things about this conference for a while and I’m excited to attend and absorb some knowledge myself.

I am still finalizing what I will teach, though I can tell you it will be Writing the Other related. Details on sessions and schedule will be available on March 15th once registration opens. The conference will be July 31 – August 2, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. I don’t have details on pricing yet (I’ll update this post). Last year’s conference started at $275.

Hopefully I’ll see some of you there!

Standing Still

December Microfiction: Standing Still

This month’s free fiction is in honor of the solstice.

In the hour before dawn a chariot climbed through the desert hills toward the Western mountains, the full moon above illuminating the way. The sky was not yet even the barest pink and every star embedded in the body of Nut winked down at the driver and passenger as they broke the night’s silence. They drove past the sealed tombs in the rock, the monuments to past kings, until the beating of the horses’ hooves echoed off the stone of the new monument ahead. Hatshepsut tapped her driver’s shoulder to indicate where they should stop, then squeezed it to keep balance once they did.

“Here, my king?” the driver asked. They were still many feet from the front of the first ramp.

“Yes, I’ll walk the rest of the way,” Hatshepsut said as she climbed down and dusted herself off. “I won’t need to return to the High House until the sun peaks, so you may return to the river to take part in the festival there.”

Even though they’d discussed this before leaving, the driver still looked uncomfortable leaving her king there all alone.

“I’ll be safe. Go.” She said firmly but with a smile.

Click here to read the rest.

Daily Writing Exercises - New Year's Resolution Edition 2020

Daily Writing Exercises – New Year’s Resolution Edition 2020

Is one of your New Year’s Resolutions to write more? Do you want to try building a daily (or at least regular) writing practice? Looking for some creative inspiration for new stories? This class is for you.

Starting January 15, you’ll get a 10 – 20 minute long writing exercise via email every day for 31 days. For the first few weeks the exercises will lean toward the generative, allowing you to play around with craft and character and setting while planting story seeds in your brain. Once those seeds start to grow, the later exercises will help you know more about your characters and the world they inhabit.

Even if you already have stories or novels in progress, you can use these exercises to kick your brain into creative gear without pressure and get into the habit of practicing every day. Doing a short writing exercise can keep your writing muscles limber on days when you don’t have the time or energy to work on your work in progress.

Because many writers thrive on community and support, all participants will have access to a private chat space on Discord where they can share their experience with the exercises and support each other through the month. This is optional! You can also do the exercises on your own and never speak to anyone else ever. ;)

The course costs $40 and grants are available for those who can’t afford it.

Sound good? Register Now or keep reading for more details.

All the deets.

Originality podcast episode 31

Originality podcast episode #31: Being Transparent About Hating the Process

In this episode Aleen talks to Rosemary Orchard and we discuss getting over barriers to creativity, not holding yourself to impossible standards, and establishing a writing ritual that works for you. Also: do you trust strangers to watch your stuff in coffee shops? (I totally do…)

You can listen to the podcast below or on the episode page where you can see the show notes and also subscribe.

The Initiate

November Microfiction: The Initiate

Back to Egypt…


The halls of the temple were quiet; the dawn song sung, the morning light just beginning to peek between the columns. Maatkare passed between them as silently as possible, bare feet barely making a sound on the alabaster floor and just a gentle swish from the linen wrapped around her body. Only sacred sound was permitted here.

The quiet faded the closer she came to the outer courtyard, punctuated by the quacking chirps of the flock waiting for her. She smiled at the sound–it was one reason why she enjoyed this duty above all others. The ibis roamed the courtyard, disturbed by nothing, patient and steady. This flock took a specific path around the upriver end of the city, passing each resting spot with the regularity of the sun. They knew that she, or someone like her, would appear before the heat got intense bearing their favorite food. They also knew – or so she assumed – that she always brought enough for all of them, so they never fought or crowded or menaced her the way geese would. This is why she loved them.

Click here to read the whole story.

Originality podcast episode #30: The XOXO Episode

In my recent post about communities I talked about the importance of Finding Your Tribe. In this episode we discuss this in the context of the XOXO Festival and why creating intentional community spaces at conferences like this one matters. Also ways to get to conferences even if you don’t have the funds to do so.

Let me know what you think of this one in the comments!

You can listen to the podcast below or on the episode page where you can see the show notes and also subscribe.

Even When We Don't Want to be Ourselves

October Microfiction: Even When We Don’t Want to be Ourselves

The stories in this series are based on the artwork of Chiara Bautista which is amazing and gorgeous and you should look at all of it.


Wolf and Bunny artwork by Chiara Bautista

She discarded the rabbit face in the water where the moon self still cast some light. Now that she was here on the earth she wanted a single identity. To be one of the persons.

No matter. The Earth’s rabbits found her, anyway. In the swamplands they approached her in uncharacteristically untimid ways. They knew her for one of them. And she loved them for that.

She wandered the swamps in a funk. She had detached herself from the night sky and dropped here to get some perspective, yet she still wasn’t happy. Or fulfilled. Or even sure what she wanted. To feel. To be. Nothing got solved.

She came upon the skull, half sunk in the mud and grass. She washed it, pressed a bright red flower to the place where an ear would be. That was enough.

Hello. That was the voice of what was left. A girl. No, a fish girl.

“How did you get here? This isn’t your place.”

This isn’t yours, either.

Click here to continue reading.

Squad Goals

Squad Goals – Or: We Need Better Communities

Recently, I finished 2+ weeks of amazing conference experiences. It started with the XOXO Festival in Portland, OR, which I attended for the first time this year. And then a few days later I sailed off for my fourth stint on the Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat Cruise. Having these back to back gave me more insights into a thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately: the value of communities; how we need both large ones and micro communities; how the two types serve different but necessary purposes; and how to foster the best parts of both. Recent events also have me thinking about where communities and friend groups fall down, why that happens, and who tends to feel the impact of it the most.

Ride or Die

On the second Conference day at XOXO YouTube star and insightful film critic Lindsay Ellis delivered her talk on how she dealt with being attacked by an online mob of Nazis over a year-old, snarky tweet. The incident is summarized well over on Wiredi, or you can watch her full talk online:

The bottom line is that hundreds or thousands of neo-Nazis and GamerGaters and similar ilk coordinated an attack on her designed to make her lose her job and fear for her safety. She did not lose her job, but the emotional impact was huge.

And the worst part was that most of her friends did not speak up for her on Twitter and other public online spaces because they knew the attackers would go after anyone who interacted with Lindsay in a positive way. There was one big exception: Hank Green. He tweeted: “This is a Lindsay Ellis appreciation post” which then brought hundreds of positive messages into her mentions. Hank also responded to some of the big names who shared the disingenuous, attacking tweets and posts about her in an attempt to make them understand the real situation. It didn’t always work, but he did that thing.

Lindsay stated that this was the first time in her life as a professional online personage that someone who was higher than her in the power structure–be it in a workplace sense or a social power sense–had stood up for her in this way.

That shocked me. Because I know Lindsay knows many, many of the high profile geeks and online celebs that run in those circles. Many of them are cis-het white dudes; i.e. people with privilege and some measure of protection from these kind of attackers. But Hank Green is, apparently, the only one who stepped up.

Continue reading “Squad Goals – Or: We Need Better Communities”

  1. About halfway down the article. You can search for ‘white genocide’ to find it. []
ORIGINALity episode 29 header

Originality podcast episode #29: Pantser, Plotter, Architect, Spy

In this episode we talk about the F word: failure. Bob Ross didn’t want you to be afraid to fail, and neither do we. So we discuss mistakes and how to frame those experiences to be productive instead of destructive. It’s not as woo-woo as it sounds, I promise.

You can listen to the podcast below or on the episode page where you can see the show notes and also subscribe.

ORIGINALity episode 28 header

Originality podcast episode #28: 50% Art Stuff, 50% Life Stuff

In the past year I’ve had many occasions to think about the value of community and having a close-knit cadre of friends you can count on. It’s key to my mental health, my creativity, and everything that’s important to me. And that’s what this episode is about.

For about a year and a half I’ve been part of an artist’s collective with five other amazing woman who inspire me with their creativity and their compassion: Alethea Kontis, Monica Valentinelli, Stina Leicht, Shveta Thakrar, and Leanna Renee Hieber. I wanted them on the podcast to discuss the wonderful microcommunity we’d built and so I could talk with Aleen about how to take what we’ve done and apply it across time and space. Leanna, unfortunately, could not join us, but I got the other four together for a conversation and the whole thing turned out far better than I’d hoped.

This is one of the episodes of ORIGINALity I’m proudest of and I hope you’ll give it a listen.

It’s also a nice intro into a post going up later this week in which I expand on many of the ideas discussed here about community and trust. That one’s been brewing a while…

You can listen to the podcast below or on the episode page where you can see the show notes and also subscribe.