Summer

There’s a perception that academics have their summers ‘off,’ which is sometimes true, if you aren’t scrambling desperately to pick up summer classes because your neoliberal university flat-out refuses to pay its adjuncts a fair wage the rest of the year, oops that went in a direction I didn’t intend but while I’m here, Kev and I are hosting the faculty union barbecue tomorrow, please come and we will talk about our bargaining goals for this coming year and feed you much food because the revolution requires deliciousness, the army marches on its stomachs…
 
…okay, resetting.
 
There’s a perception that academics have their summers ‘off,’ but that’s actually our main research & writing time. What that means in my case is that classes end in early May, then there’s finals, then grading for finals, then I collapse for a day in utter exhaustion (the semester is a sprint, but also a marathon), then there’s catching up on all the household stuff that has completely fallen apart in the last frantic weeks of the semester, then I go to WisCon which is basically a week solid between prep and time there and recovery, so today, today is actually the start of my summer.
 
Plan for summer weekdays:
 
– go to bed by 10 (not quite there yet, due to shifting back from WisCon up until 3, but getting there)
– up at 6, coffee and gardening and garden photos before it gets hot, FB and goofing off
– 7:30 – 9:30, writing (internet off at router). At 9:30, send Margaret accountability text with what I’ve done.
– 9:45 – 10:00 – drop kids at art camp
– 10 – 3: more writing if so motivated, but fine if not, lots of reading, drawing practice, go to gym, internet and SLF work, e-mails, thinking about writing (often more important than actual writing)
– 3 – 9: family time, craft time, gardening once it cools down, socializing, etc.
– 9-10: time with Kev
 
I’m going to try to protect the 7:30 – 3 slot, so if I don’t want to socialize or have meetings with you then, it’s me, not you!
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2018 WisCon

The SLF party went really well, and I’m hoping to do it again next year at WisCon and make it a regular thing. Keffy and Nibedita were there promoting Glittership, Beth had copies of her new book, Liminal Spaces, and I sold quite a few copies of my books — my original cookbook, in particular, sold like hotcakes, possibly because I was serving various curries at the party. Fun! I would change a few things — I ran out of time to make SLF materials, so definitely need to do that, and I think it’d help to have a slideshow running with information on the organization. Also, it’d be great if the room had a couch! We’ll see what we can do next year…

Elsewhere, there’s a discussion going about exclusive spaces at conventions, where the pros tend to gather, etc. And that’s a fine conversation to have, but I wanted to say that for me, as someone who has gone from fan to newbie writer to emerging writer to mid-career established — getting access to the pro spaces is not the most important thing.

I don’t want to discount access. It can be helpful, having a conversation with an editor or a senior writer or an agent at the right time (though the valuable bits never seem to come when you might expect them to).

Mostly, though, the vast benefits to my career have come from spending time with my peers, making joyful work together.

At this particular con, Diane Silver sent a note a few weeks before the con, proposing a spontaneous poetry reading to a few friends. It was lightly attended, but that didn’t really matter — it was a pure pleasure, reading and listening to poetry for an hour in the midst of a busy con. Making space for contemplation. It reminded me that I did some good work, when I was writing the cancer poems that found their way in Perennial. I haven’t written much poetry lately, so it’s a useful reminder to make more space for it. And then last night, at a critique session, Jackiesaid that she thought I should try to publish my poems before putting them on Facebook. And I honestly have never really considered that, and I’m not sure if I’m going to do it now, but the notion is spinning in my brain, so we’ll see. It may turn into something fruitful.

Another example — I met Kel more than 20 years ago, a friend of Jed’s. I went to their wedding, and I was delighted when they published “Miss Parker Down the Bung,” in the magazine I’d founded. It remains one of my favorite stories SH ever bought. Flash forward two decades — they’ve moved across the country, developed an interest in game design, and when Benjamin Rosenbaum is looking for someone to co-teach a game class, I think of Kel and put them in touch. Soon Kel was teaching classes on their own, and when I casually mention that I have an idea for a game, they put together a breakfast meeting here at WisCon with me and an artist and a student of theirs, and we sketch out a process for brainstorming a video game over the next few months — if it goes well, we’ll be Kickstarting it early next year. I couldn’t have predicted any of this from that first meeting.

Now I’m seeing out the last of WisCon with Anthony Ha, who I just met this year, sitting across a table at Michelangelo’s. Ben (another Strange Horizons writer whom I met a decade ago) put together a group reading with us and David Moles. I also met David around that same time — he and Ben quickly became two of my favorite people in the world, and I could listen to them amiably argue forever. I don’t know Anthony very well, but after a few hours reading his wonderful story and critiquing together yesterday and a few hours chatting in the hotel hot tub and our room, I can already tell I think he’s pretty great, and look forward to spending more time with him. And maybe some productive artistic collaboration will come out of it down the line, and maybe not — probably not, actually, because even just at WisCon, there are a hundred times more interesting people doing interesting things than I could possibly find time and energy to create with.

I suppose my point with all of this is that if you’re a new writer, and you’re going to a convention, don’t spend all your time and energy trying to hang out with the big names. Sure, a little bar time listening to Gardner Dozoisand Sheila Williams talk about editing Asimov’s was always entertaining and enlightening to a young writer (and now I’m missing Gardner all over again).

But — to the extent that your energy and sociability levels allow — just talk to people. Writers, readers, artists, costumers, filkers. Let them get to know you, know what you do, what you care about, who you are. Encourage them to share their own talents and passions.

Maybe someday someone like David Moles will make a chibi version of you and put it on a poster and slap it up on a wall, and then maybe someone will come up to you at the Signout with a copy of your book that came out four years ago and say they enjoyed your reading so much, and could you please sign this?

And whether or not that happens, in the talking and the laughing and the making art together, there will be a lot of joy.

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WisCon!

Belatedly posting my WisCon schedule — come say hi!

Friday: 1 – 3:45: Curry Powder booth
4:00 – teaching Creation of Éa rounding (in honor of Ursula)
5:30 – POC Dinner
6:00 – Meet the artists reception

Saturday:
12:45 – 2:15: art show volunteer shift
2:30 – 3:45: Spontaneous poetry reading, University C
9 p.m. – 3 a.m.: SLF / Perennial launch party (curry! marshmallows!)

Sunday:
8:30 – 9:45 a.m.: Activism in the Mainstream World panel
12:45 – 2:15: art show volunteer shift
2:30 – 3:45 p.m.: Ghosts ‘n Gnostics joint reading with Anthony Ha, David Moles, Benjamin Rosenbaum

Monday:
11:30 – 12:45: SignOut
Monday 1 – 2: Informal Roundsinging, right outside the SignOut — come sing out WisCon with me and Jed….

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Summer Schedule

Thinking about my upcoming summer, getting writing done. I think I’m going to try to start each week by planning out what I’ll write when. I’m going to aim for spending two hours every morning writing, whatever else is going on, and if I accomplish that, great. If I want to keep writing, that’s bonus. I will try to take an actual hour-long lunch break, even if the writing is going well, to stretch and clear my head. Afternoons for domestic / cooking / reading / relaxing. Evenings for the kids, and then check in to see if I want to write more after they’ve gone to sleep, because that’s another 2-3 hour stretch, and often, that’s a good writing time for me. But if I want to hang out with Kev instead, or knit and watch tv, that’s fine too. And I’m going to plan out what I’m actually working on in advance, rather than feeling paralyzed by choice.
 
I looked at this week just now, and it looks like this:
 
***
 
Monday: Go to airport @ 9:30, settled into a cafe by 10:30. Revise “Moon Maid” for George, and send to him by 4. Yes, I’m already breaking my pattern, but it’s a travel day, and travel is weird. Flight home @ 5, rest and relax with family in evening. (I’m going to the airport that early to save the con staff an hour-long extra trip to take me; I can work in an airport cafe just as easily as a hotel cafe.)
 
Tuesday: No writing in morning — doctor appointment which takes priority. Health trumps everything. Then drop off two baskets’ worth of supplies to the Garden Club, spend an hour helping them make baskets for the raffle. Go into campus, lunch with a colleague, pick up student portfolios, finish grading by end of day. Summer doesn’t really start until grading is in, and I’m going to try not to procrastinate it this year.
 
Wednesday: Real start to summer schedule. 7:30 – 9:30: Work on revising “Flight” to novella-length (I’m cutting down 80,000 words to 40,000; it’s going to be an adventure). 9:30 – 10:30: Decorate hat with fresh flowers from the garden for the ‘parade of hats.’ 11 – 2: Garden Club spring luncheon. Evening: go into city for book launch of Good Company at The Book Cellar.
 
Thursday: 7:30 – 9:30: Work on revising “Flight” to novella-length. 10:00 – 11:00: Therapist appointment. Afternoon: Make strawberry-soursop marshmallows, and tamarind-ginger-chili marshmallows. Think about intergalactic chef / florist story, maybe sketch some of it out.
 
Friday: 8:30 – 9:30 coffee with Capuder (kids’ principal). 9:30 – 11:30: Work on revising “Flight” to novella-length. Clean house, get set up for evening. 7 – 10: Host OPALGA potluck.
 
*****
 
So that’s only hosting one event (good), going to four things (more than optimal, need to watch that), and lots of moving things around to make it work, which is not ideal; better to get into a routine. But it takes time to settle into things — hopefully the following week I can do a better job of protecting that 7:30 – 9:30 time slot for writing.
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Intentionality

I want to be less haphazard about my writing, more intentional, on various fronts. What I work on, when I work on it, and when I do other activities that take time away from writing / family, which have to be the main priorities.

WHAT I WRITE AND WHEN:

Part of the problem is that I write in multiple genres, which means I have to read in multiple genres and I love reading but it is time consuming, and it also works best if I immerse in a genre for at least a little while, reading at least 3-5 things, so I can start making connections between them. And when I’m jumping around between things (for both writing and reading), my brain starts getting really stressed and anxious, trying to keep track of everything, so I think focusing down would help.

So I have sent some WisCon workshopping friends the opening 15K of the new SF novel, and we’ll workshop it at WisCon at the end of May. June I’m going to dedicate to trying to finish a full draft of that novel (need at least 50K more words, but working full-time, that should be feasible.) July, I’d like to go back to the memoir; I have a ton of material that needs to be drastically reorganized and knocked into shape. August, it would be nice to actually be on vacation, before the semester starts up again in mid-August. Two weeks with no writing expectations would be good for me, I think, and I tend to get so anxious about the start of school and the summer days slipping away that I have a hard time concentrating to write anyway. That leaves May for finishing up one Wild Cards story, drafting another, and either continuing the mainstream YA novel or drafting this new middle grade fantasy novel. Or both? And then slip in short stories and food writing here and there all summer, when I need a break from books. Okay, that’s a plan.

SCHEDULE:

May: Wild Cards (2 stories due), mainstream YA novel, middle-grade fantasy, food writing

June: SF novel, short stories in that universe, food writing

July: memoir, lit fic short stories, food writing

Aug: vacation

TRAVEL:

I’ve also been thinking a lot about what takes me away from writing. I love to travel, but it’s inevitably disruptive. Maybe I need to take a break from it for a while, or at least limit it severely. Six trips / year? If there’s one to visit Kev’s parents and one to visit mine, that doesn’t leave much room for conference travel, but maybe that’s what needs to happen. I already have more than that scheduled for this year — I think 7 total at the moment, but I can put a hard lock on it now, and try to pull back in 2019.

OTHER ACTIVITIES:

Similarly, I need to be more careful about local events, esp. ones I’m hosting. I hate to say no, when there are so many interesting things that people are doing, and I want to come out and support, but time is limited. It just is. Attending one event / week, and hosting one event / month? Is that a reasonable limit? Maybe I’ll try it for the summer and see how it goes.

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Middle

Folks, there is something wrong with me. I just looked up how long a middle grade book is — about 15K – 35K — and I am having the worst temptation to try to draft one this weekend while I’m out of town. I already have ENOUGH writing projects.

I just want to write something for Kavya to read. Something with a Sri Lankan-American girl and magic in, ideally with unicorns, because she is unicorn-obsessed at the moment. I have other writing projects; I have a host of them. But the temptation to try to knock this out right now is STEEP.

I am going to stall it by reading one of her favorite middle-grade books first, The Menagerie, book 1. That’ll help, right?

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Detroit

I head to Detroit for PenguiCon tomorrow — hope to see some of you there! My schedule below (the link has a fancier version).

Friday, May 4
– 6 p.m.: Opening Ceremonies

Saturday, May 5
– 1 p.m.: Writing Excuses Podcast
– 2 p.m.: Teams & Types
– 3 p.m.: Code of Conduct
– 6 p.m.: Writing Productivity

Sunday, May 6
– 10 a.m.: Crowdfunding for Creatives
– 12 p.m.: Writing Excuses Reading
– 3 p.m.: Closing Ceremonies

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