tools of the trade (YMMV)

Here Be Deadlines

This is a flyby post because I’m on deadline (What happens when you go to a writers’ retreat and give a talk about why you love deadlines? You get bigger deadlines.)… which means really good things for 2015, but for right now … aieeeee.

So have some picspam and links to nibble on -

Sheila Williams, the venerable editor of Asimov’s, and her daughters answered 10 Questions for GeekMom. How cool is that? She talks about growing up in science fiction and fantasy, the ins and outs of the editorial process, and the amazing Dell Magazine Award.  (But wait, there’s more! Is Sheila Williams a Geek or a Nerd? Find out!)

My story, “Like a Wasp to the Tongue,” appears in Asimov’s this month. A couple reviews already!

And I’ll be talking about wasps and tech with SFSignal very soon too.

Here’s where I was last week, a writers’ retreat in the Pacific Northwest:


Hard at work at RWV2014 (photo: Andrew Williams)

And here too (Powells Book Store, in Portland OR <3 <3 <3). (more…)

Unbound: Authors in the Classroom

School’s back in session, and I’ve been talking with friends about the relationship between authors and education (Especially in light of banned books week.). I haven’t done a tools-of-the-trade post in a while, and I thought we could look at the positive side of school visits – what works and why.

I’ve been on all three sides of school author visits – as a teacher, as a writer-in-the-schools, and as a student. Meeting authors and hearing them talk about what inspired them, and then having them ask what inspired us? Those were some amazing class sessions that challenged me to be a more involved reader and writer. I hope I do the same whenever I walk into a classroom.

So I asked Charlotte, who teaches high school English up at 9,000ft in Colorado; Christie, who is a reading specialist in Philadelphia, PA; and Stacey, an administrator and English teacher in Philadelphia; and authors Alethea Kontis, E.C. Myers, Gregory Frost, Stephanie Kuehn, and Jonathan Maberry to help me out.


The Sneaky Lathe of Poetry

Lathe: n. A machine in which work is rotated about a horizontal axis and shaped by a fixed tool.

Reblogged from my monthly column at Apex Publishing.

If you are not the sort who enjoys poetry, you might think April (being National Poetry Month) is the season for eye-rolling over enforced rhyme schemes and cringing at public displays of meter.

But even if you skip town for the month, poetic voice still shapes your experience in sneaky ways. The results will catch you unawares.

Take some of your favorite titles, as one example.

Don’t look at the stories (or poems), yet. Just the titles. The ones that carve meaning and sound into the smallest of spaces. Swirsky’s “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love” (Apex Magazine), and Valentine’s “A Bead of Jasper, Four Small Stones” (Clarkesworld). Go back further: Ellison’s ”I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream.”

Now look deeper. Look at structure. Poetic forms are reshaping fiction, from the brevity of flash to the use of sectioned prose.

Poetry broke from its restraints a long time ago. (Continue reading…)

Short and sweet: What’s in a Bio?

The author, revealed.

“Please send us a short biographical statement and, if relevant, a few words about your story.”

Words that ring joy and fear in any writer’s heart.  You see that line when you’ve sold a story to an editor – that’s the joy.

Then you realize: you now have to talk about yourself. To an audience. Ah. There’s the fear.

So what’s a joyfearful writer to do?

Behold: several advice-snippets from writers and editors who’ve been here before. (The words ‘funny’ and ‘cheeky’ came up more than once when I asked for tips. But be careful – humor is tough and tone doesn’t always carry over into text. No ironic font for you.)  (more…)

Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest… – do you need them all?

A question to the floor: pinterest2
What social media tools do you use and for what purposes? We could talk all day about Facebook (or on Facebook) – where many writers have fan pages, or post most updates – but let’s go a bit further afield too.

  • Pinterest – Launched in 2010 as a ‘virtual pinboard,’ Pinterest can be used for research (putting photos in buckets), inspiration, and conversation. Check out some really well-curated pinboards for examples: Arin Dembo, Elizabeth Bear, Holly Black, Jenny Lawson, Sara Mueller, and Craig EnglerMine’s a bit sloppy, but I’ve found it a useful place to store things in buckets, so I know where to find them. Broadcast type: public.
  • Tumblr - Founded in 2007, but rising in visibility recently. The tumblr technique is called short-form blogging by the company. I’m new to this one (which is the reason for this post). In some ways, Tumblr is also a pin-board, though its visual interface is linear where Pinterest’s is more of (more…)

Writer Habitats, Abridged

Source: Wikimedia Commons – Antonio Litterio (der. 2011) / Inverse Hypercube (orig.)

Getting together with other writers shakes the dust off. Also, writers know where to find the good coffee.

Here are some commonly used terms for writer habitats, their street definitions, and, when relevant, a few tips for attending one for the first time:

The Viable Paradise Kitchen, part 2: Cooking the Books, fudge edition

Viable Paradise workshop takes place each year in October, on Martha’s Vineyard. Current instructors include James D. Macdonald, Dr. Debra Doyle, Elizabeth Bear, Steven Gould, Steve Brust, Sherwood Smith, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and Patrick Nielsen Hayden

In part 2 of The Viable Paradise Kitchen, we aim to balance part 1 with something sweet. Our friend Bart has helped feed the able hearts and crumbling minds of the annual Viable Paradise workshop for five years. He is known to travel with several varieties of the confection known as fudge, in case of emergencies, sugar crashes, and dudgeon. Cooking the Books specializes in examining the intersections between food and fiction. Today, that intersection is one of Bart’s secret VP fudge recipes, and the whys and wherefores thereof:

From VP Bart:

When you’re writing, isn’t it nice to add a problem to a problem to a problem and see the perfect answer appear?  I see the same problems every year at Viable Paradise Writers’ Workshop: Lots of students are introverts who need an entrance into a group conversation, even something as simple as, “Here, try some of this food we’re eating.”  Lots of students are more homesick than they expected, and the Black Dog has set up shop nearby.  Whether it’s late nights, long walks, anxiety, or descending more stairs than a Duchamp nude, everyone at the workshop burns more calories than normal.  And everyone burning those extra calories needs a fully-functional brain, not one starved for glucose. (more…)