"So (and I address this now to the theoretical audience of those on the other, privileged end of the inequality) if you, as a white person, are afraid of writing about us: then be afraid. Carry in your heart the fear of doing further injustice to a people into whose blood oppression has become so incorporated that our institutions and our media echo with the dual strains of self-loathing and adulation for those who are not us. Live with the anxiety of questioning your assumptions about a people that is not more American than America, not a race composed only of tourist guides and call-center agents and overseas foreign workers and shoe-crazy society matrons and celebrity politicians, not your "little brown brothers and sisters"; whose richness and diversity and pursuit of individual identity all too often escape the surface view to which most observers are confined. Confront your blind spots and your privilege in having the luxury of overlooking this inequality because you aren't disenfranchised by it. Cast away the viewpoints that tag our similarities as proof of the good points of the Philippines and relegate our differences to the status of "disadvantage" or "compensation for..." in those instances when you do choose to acknowledge that we aren't "just like you". Grasp the difficulty that comes with having to ask yourself whether you are condescending, whether you are offending beliefs that are not held without reason, whether you are perpetuating a mindset that plays at well-intentioned assistance while diminishing fundamental freedoms to choose our own goods. We've had 'well-intentioned assistance'; the Americans called it benevolent rule. Delve into our history, the blood of our politics and our wars; soak yourself in it, in the grit and the grime of our daily living, until you understand why we rage and why we have cut out our tongues."I've written and re-written what I want to say here about a dozen times. As a white writer, I feel like ephemere has given an answer to an old question: whether white writers should write characters of color. A simple "yes" or "no" isn't good enough. Sitting with the fear, constantly challenging one's own privilege, acknowledge of one's inexpertise... self-awareness and respect... those aren't the this-or-that answers we often look for. The question is complicated, and so is the answer. Avoiding writing characters of color out of fear boils down to avoiding the fear, and is a privilege. As is writing characters of color without keeping that fear in the forefront, because I think that fear, that awareness mingled with accountability, is what is required to deconstruct privilege, and sweeping it under the bed does nothing toward that.
Salsa performance group also started last month. My partner and I have dreamed up some amazing moves for part of the choreography. This also means I hurt on a regular basis.
Black Widow's Walk is moving along. I adore the book but loathe writing middles. I'm pushing it forward out of sheer stubborness right now. I just finished a scene where some of the Spinners are busking on the street (stringed instruments + rain = bad) and in the next scene I return to the High Court, where one villian manipulates another villian. There will be deception involved, and someone is going to get Spun into oblivion.
This weekend I intend on studying, writing BWW, writing papers, studying, eating chocolate, seeing Valentine's Day, studying, making brownies, and celebrating a friend's birthday. Hopefully my next weekend will be more restful.
I recently reread Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith and Exiles: The Ruins of Ambrai by Melanie Rawn. I haven't reread Exiles in some years, so until recently I'd forgotten how utterly amazing it is. It's a complex, heartbreaking political fantasy that plays with gender roles. As always, I love love love Rawn's heroes and heroines.
Next quarter I'm going to host a giveaway contest for a book or two that I've read or reread recently that feature strong heroines. Why? Because I wish there were more books like Exiles and Skin Game and The Raven Prince, and I think the only way to change people's standards of what isn't acceptable characterization of women is to provide examples of what is.
"As girls we are taught that we do not belong to ourselves: our time, our sexuality, our ambition, must be channeled into fulfilling the needs of others while our own needs are dismissed as unimportant, trivial, ‘female’.As Veronica from Dangerous Beauty says, "A woman's greatest, and most hard-won asset... is an education."
The need to write isn’t about the desire to find meaning in the world, but to make meaning. If you have it, you know it; it’s lived inside you from a young age and will never leave. It will continue to call and nag and eat away at your soul until you start to do something about it. To deny it, to allow others to deny it, is to kill off a part of your personhood."
I'm currently reading Califia's Daughters by Leigh Richards, a present-day post-apocalyptic based on the Amazon women of Mexico/California from the 1500s. (Present-day California is rumored to be named after Queen Califia.) A plague has killed off most of the men, leaving women to take up what had once been men's roles. It's not particularly fast-paced, but I sense that there's an epic plot twist coming that I'm hoping is worth the wait.
I recently won an ARC of Liz Maverick's Crimson & Steam, the first paranormal romance with steampunk elements that I've heard of. I'm hoping it arrives in the mail before I leave for home next weekend, otherwise I may not get to post a review until after it comes out later this month.
Also: I'm deeply saddened that The Hunger Games is not coming out in paperback until July 2010. That's nearly two years after it came out in hardback.
In psych news, Experiment #1 has been laid to rest. I turned in my final paper and gave a presentation on it last week (nothing was statistically significant, nada, nothing) and now all I have left for school is my final on Tuesday. Over break I'm going to be studying for the GRE, researching one of my pet theories for a possible experiment, reading books, and eating candy canes. And writing BWW... but let's not think about that right now.
Oh! And I forgot to mention: Congress was fabulous. I took class taught by Liz Lira, a 16-time national and 6-time world champion. One of my favorite of her performances is from the 2002 Mayan World Championships. No pictures yet, but hopefully soon.
Still plugging along on BWW. Over the past two days I've begun compiling character bios, writing up a few paragraphs about the primary and secondary characters, as well as the two prominent Guilds. Yes, I'm doing this after having just passed the 1/3 mark. I don't typically write bios (I have a long list of characters and their basic characteristics so I can keep track of whose hair color is whose, but that's it) but right now it's helpful for fleshing out their motivations. Several characters have portrayed animosity toward each other for foggy reasons that I was able to finally figure out (at least in part) today.
When I first started writing BWW, it was like trying to write two books at once: the BWW-that-used-to-be (the first time I tried to write it at age 16, back then titled Discord) and the BWW-that-I-wanted-it-to-be. The book in its current incarnation is neither of those. I actually tossed out a lot of the worldbuilding and plot I had brainstormed throughout August in favor of my older stuff, albeit with a lot of editing, but more and more I've been able to incorporate the stuff I threw out into the Spinners' Guild history. Which is quite spiffy, in my opinion. I liked what I was trying to do, and though it didn't work for the book where it's at now, it does set the past up nicely to cause all sorts of trouble for the present.
My primary experiment goes live this week, and so I'm going to be getting up at 6:30AM every day for the next week to run labs at 8AM. Just the thought of getting up that early makes me wince.
To anyone participating in NaNoWriMo: How's that going for you?
"So you know how you spent four or more years in college learning about what books mean and how to analyze novels for hidden meaning, and where you learned that the best books are the ones with subtext upon which you can write a twenty page paper on the use of metaphor as an elucidation of the philosophical constructs of the protagonist's society?I kept telling my English teachers in high school that Elie Wiesel's Night doesn't have as much symbology as they thought it did, but they never believed me. Here's my favorite part:
Yeah. Forget all that."
"...so don't tell me what your novel is about. Tell me what happens. And hopefully you've written a novel in which things actually do happen. Because I like novels where things happen. Happening is good."In the past I have had pseudo-writer friends who think themselves quite literary and want to write stories about the struggles of humankind. And when I ask them about what happens in their book, they talk about the pain the MC endures, the major themes, and describes the plot in very, very vague terms. Which means they don't really describe the plot at all.
Not that themes are inherently bad. However, if the theme of the story isforbidden love, then the reader will pick up on itif you describe the story as "two star-crossed lovers fight to be together." This is a straight-forward explaination of what actually happens.
Over at Dear Author, today there's a special guest post on cultural appropriation. It's a really wonderful discussion on the intersection of culture, white privilege, and romance novels. I highly recommend reading the entire thing.
"Romance suffers from the same problem SF/F does. It’s very, very white. It would also seem that readers are far more okay with reading about vampires and werewolves and demons and angels than characters of colour. That is not okay. Think about what this means for a second. And imagine, if you will, being erased in stories or always in the background, a victim, evil, maybe the best friend or sidekick. . .but never the hero of your own story. This is what appropriation does to people of colour."Unfortunately, I knew before clicking the link that there would be a ridiculous amount of racefail going down in the comments. I responded to a few in the thread, but here are some extra special gems:
Lisa: "What an annoying post. The only point of it that I can see is to try to make me feel guilty because I like to to read about white people in love. I’m sorry but I don’t have the energy to read with all my great sense of “white guilt” for the racial sins of the past, present and future."You don't have the energy to read about your white privilege? If only nonwhites didn't have to live with your racism!
Amber: "And as a “white” person living in rural America, most of them DON’T apply to me."The majority of the comments were insightful. However, there was at least one occasion when a person of color made a statement about racism and white privilege and was informed that they were off-topic.
Caligi: "My point is that these “white” romances don’t even represent white culture all that well either. I don’t totally accept the term “white privilege.” You think white people are really that different? White people are as diverse a group as Asians and black Americans. Some of us play the game and succeed in politics or business, and the rest of us are shut out."
There are days like today where I just want to walk away from other people's ignorance. Unfortunately, there are people who don't have the option to simply walk away.
# cups of tea: Four and a half.
# of experiments currently being worked on: Three.*
# of hours in the lab working with data: Numerous.
I had a huge midterm for stats/experimental design yesterday, among other things, which have had me running around trying to get everything ready. On the bright side, the exam wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.
Progress on BWW is touch-and-go. I think I've thrown the idea of writing every day out the window, and am settling for writing whenever possible. There are only so many sacrifices I can make before my schoolwork/physical self suffers for it. (I already managed to injure my left leg earlier this week at salsa while doing lifts with an inexperienced partner. Clearly, my sanity was lacking, because I never would have compensated so much for his lack of grip otherwise.**)
On the bright side, in BWW Deahnna and Zephyr are no longer at a fete. Instead, they're in the library. As in, the library scene that I've been wanting to write for ages. I'm about 2k in and it's still got a little while to go.
I made double chocolate Andes mint brownies today. They're gooey and deliciously amazing.
*Coding the data for one, preparing to begin running labs for the second, and in the initial planning stages of the third.
**When coming down from the lift, I knew he wasn't holding on to me tightly enough and took the majority of my weight onto a single leg. Done multiple times, this can hurt.
My characters have been attending the same fete for the last 10k. I'm officially no longer a fan of huge parties. On the bright side, at least one person's dead, and a lot more people are about to die. (And I only have one more scene to go before I can change settings. Huzzah!)
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Now look where I'm at:
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In celebration of a new laptop and wordcount milestone, here's a snippet from one of the more recent scenes in Black Widow's Walk.
( The air grew damp )
Thank you to everyone for your patience with me! I hope to resume a normal life now.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I succumbed. Follow me on Twitter.
It was ridiculously diffiult trying to find a decent combination of my first and middle names. (I'm refraining from using my last name in any online context because I don't want searches of me to come up when I'm applying to grad school or, even later, when googling for any psychological papers that may include me in the author byline. Also, my last name isn't particularly fantasy-esque, and thus for branding purposes I don't know if I would want or be able to publish under it.)
Also, the writing. She is moving along.
Also: I wanted to mention that I'm very, very saddened by the passing of Patrick Swayze. Coincidentally, not long before I found out about his death yesterday, someone asked me what my favorite movie was. I grew up watching the movie Dirty Dancing and it's a HUGE part of the reason I love dancing as much as I do. Yesterday I watched it again and rewound to each of the dance clips. I realize that Michael Jackson represented childhood for a lot of people, but Patrick Swayze represented mine.
Still reading Palimpsest. I haven't had much time to myself that hasn't been dedicated to writing or sleeping since training began, but hopefully I'll finish it this weekend.
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On a related note, Kate Elliot asks: Have you read any epic fantasies with female characters prominently portrayed? (I'd like to add, do you know any epic fantasies with female characters prominently portrayed as strong?) They've developed quite a list already, but I bet the list for epic fantasies that don't portray women, especially strong women, is even longer.
A while ago, SJMaas posted an entry with pictures of her desk. Since I'm ridiculously proud (probably more so than can be justified) of putting together mine, here's what's on it:
There's nothing on the walls at the moment because they were sprayed with mud and thus blue tape doesn't stick to them very well. I'm hoping to get a few tackboards for notes and a white board for novel plotting and/or psych experiment planning soon. I live pretty minimally and don't like a lot clutter, so my current set-up it really nice.
1-3 are usually carried around in my purse.
1. Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente. I usually keep a book or two around (though I have more on my bookcase).
2. Moleskine notebook containing various writerly ideas and a decent chunk of world-building for Black Widow's Walk.
3. The mandatory iPod. Complete with coconut gummy earphones.
4. My beta fish, Magnolia. He's about a year and half old and named after a street in downtown Bellingham, WA.
5. Lavender and cedarwood oil and reeds. Its twin is in the living room and is currently spreading tendrils of vanilla-goodness everywhere. My goal is for our apartment to be the best-smelling place in the world.
6. Dell laptop where all the writing occurs. The wallpaper is a friend and I posing backstage before a salsa performance in June. (I'm the one with the sunglasses). I like it because my dance shoes are reflected in the mirror. Black Widow's Walk and its accompanying files (a tentative and vague scene list, the pitch, names, etc.) is contained in the folder by my shoulder.
7. Mandatory coffee cup. It was filled with 2% milk at the time, but usually it's tea.
Kidding. But still an amusing thought.
While waiting for the cable guy to fix my internet the other day, I read about half of Palimpsest. Valente's prose is luxurious and sprawling. The story still has me confused, but it's becoming clearer. It definitely resonates with Charles de Lint's work, and it's refreshing to read a fantasy that's minus the typical forms of magic or bloodshed.
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I had hoped to write more tonight, but halfway through I realized the scene I had anticipated on writing next simply couldn't happen yet. The two leads don't trust each other enough, and it's going to take a little more time before they do. I shuffled some scenes around; hopefully this order will flow better.
I know I'm behind on commenting, but I will, soon! I hope your weeks have been wonderful.
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I just finished writing two relatively head-hurting scenes in Black Widow's Walk. They're transitionary scenes, and so their main purpose (among others) was to get the story from point A to point B. Thus led to me pacing around my room trying to think up ways to make them more interesting to read and less boring to write. I finished chapter two and started chapter three in the head of a secondary character with malicious intentions. Oddly, her head's fun to be in. I'm not sure what that says about me. I also found a historical tidbit that fits in very nicely with what I imagined when I dreamt up a book based on the title Black Widow's Walk. (The title came first, the story came after.)
On Wednesday I'm going to be moving into my new apartment! College doesn't start back up again until later this month, but I'm returning early to attend a week and a half of training workshops related to survivor advocacy and violence prevention. It's a yearly thing to brush up on old knowledge, and I'll get to bond with the new team members.
My cable will hopefully be set up by Thursday night. Unfortunately, the summer's pretty much over, and it's going to get busy from here on out. I'll update as often as I can!
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( in the glory of the maelstrom )
Now that I'm properly exhausted, time to sleep.
In regards to Black Widow's Walk, I figure I might as well post the pitch if I'm going to rambling on about the book. (For those on the access-list, sorry for repeat content.) Keep in mind that by the time the book's finished, the pitch in its current state probably won't be quite so accurate anymore.
( the only ones that know what's real and what's not are the assassins )
Deahnna's way of coping with her schizophrenic tendencies is to constantly surround herself with music, which often means she resorts to humming. I've had this amusing impulse all day to plop her down in the real world and give her an ipod.
I realized today that I've been working on this book in some form or another every day for almost the past month. There was definitely a point where I was walking downtown to Starbucks everyday to brainstorm, and certain baristas automatically asked if I wanted an iced tall caramel macchiato the moment I walked in the door. I haven't had that kind of dedication to a book since before I started college. Hopefully I'll keep it up when I go back later this month.
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I've noticed that I've barely described the environment at all, focusing more on the characters and their actions. My scenes have been somewhat on the short side because of it. I think it's an automatic impulse for me to downplay description after reading so many fantasy novels where there would be paragraphs after paragraphs of it.
I finished reading Naamah's Kiss yesterday. It's good in its own way, but not as good as her other novels. The pressing conflict just isn't there, and Moirin doesn't have to make any serious sacrifices. A huge draw for me in any novel is the level of the stakes involved. The greater the stakes, the greater the reward. A book without stakes that invoke emotional investment can still be good... but it won't be one of my favorites.
However, I will say this: Carey's portrayal of pansexuality through her main characters makes me very, very happy. In fact, I think her work qualifies for Outer Alliance membership: "As a member of the Outer Alliance, I advocate for queer speculative fiction and those who create, publish and support it, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity. I make sure this is reflected in my actions and my work." Link found via Amanda Downum, whose book I'll probably be reading next, because its luscious cover and badass female necromancer keeps staring at me from across the room.
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I texted my former roommate asking if she could read it and tell me if I was an awful human being (she does so enjoy informing people when they're awful human beings). She read it, gave me some feedback, and basically told me that I wasn't a disgrace to the population (yet). Major sigh of relief.
It's been a dark and twisty, to quote Meredith Grey, past few scenes. I've had to walk away from it at points. I'm hoping with the scene I begin tonight, a new character will add some light-hearted banter into the mix, and though the book will always be dark and twisty at heart, it'll cheer up a little more from here.
On a brighter note, I went to Borders today and came away with Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente (an urban fantasy harking back to the more traditional lines of Charles de Lint), The Drowning City by Amanda Downum (sword & sorcery?), and The Fire King by Marjorie M. Liu (paranormal romance).
I also picked up Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson, a recent YA debut. I've been uber excited for this book because I'm, um, kind of obsessed with my major. Social cognition (how we think when we interact with others + how we think in general) is a lover of mine. In the fall I'm going to be conducting research with one of my professors on stereotypes and prejudice.
I probably won't get to read these for a little while because of I have oodles of other books to read, but I'll ramble on about them when I do.
I'm currently reading Namaah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey. It's a signed copy I bought through The Signed Page many months ago. I actually met Carey back in June, when she did a reading in Seattle. She was witty and charming, and personalized my copy of Santa Olivia.
It dawned on me this morning that I tolerate (if not enjoy) some things about Carey's books that I wouldn't and don't in most others. Whereas it's a common suggestion to start writing the book at the last possible moment, right in the middle of the action, the beginnings of the novels in Carey's Kushiel series are drawn out. A lot happens, it's just... not right away. Something about her writing style is so beautiful and languid that I can't help but want to read further.
I've been devouring Namaah's Kiss in bits and pieces, in part because I want to make it last as long as possible, and in part because I've been busy with other things. My room is in boxes, but at least after today it's in organized boxes.
I've also been thinking about age. Five years ago, at 15, I wanted to be a published teenage novelist. It was a lofty goal, and one I eventually let go the closer I got to 19 (because no way was a book going to be picked up and published within a year before I turned 20). I turned 20 earlier this month. I didn't think about it much at the time, but then I ran into Teens Writing for Teens via theinkymuse. I wish a blog like that had existed five years ago! I never knew there were so many teen writers out there seriously pursuing publishing. At the time, I had only known a small handful of others.
Unfortunately, it seems like most of the writers I've run into that are around my current age write almost exclusively YA. This puts me in the weird position of wanting to talk with people my own age about writing and publishing, but also wanting to write adult fiction. BWW is not YA. It's not even in the general vicinity of YA. Many of the books I read are also, for the most part, decidely not YA. Perhaps I should put up a warning for this blog.
On the bright side, I've expanded my blog roll for the first time in a long while after finding some wonderful journals.
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