Tag Archives: writing

Quick Stop to DC, or How I Learned to Anticipate Gentrification

trans character writing panel imageI just jumped into DC this weekend after an absence of a few years, taking a quick flight from Detroit while we’re still on vacation to attend an LGBTQ book festival on U Street. It’s been truly fantastic to see old friends and have the kinds of sincere conversations that are hard to find with people one meets in one’s forties instead of in one’s more vulnerable youth. I suppose we erect sturdy fortresses in the interim, but I’m not sure why or if that’s helpful for us.

The OutWrite festival was successful, and here it is only in its fourth year. It would have been nice to know before I left Walla Walla that I’d be responsible for bringing my own books to sell, because then I’d have had more than my reader’s copy with me. (Crossing fingers the Internet pulls through for me and people shop online to get them.) I was grateful to see so many familiar faces, people I’ve known from when I lived in the District and did earlier activism there, and get to meet some new folks who are doing interesting work in LGBT literature. Read More…

Notes from the Writing Trans Genres Conference

I like to write up my thoughts as I’m attending a conference or just after I walk away from it, while the plethora of conversations are still swirling around in my brain. It’s a little reminiscent of how I studied in primary school, by taking in as much of the school day as  Icould and then writing up my notes later. Maybe I need to move my fingers around to set the thoughts in place, I’m not sure.

I just finished up my participation in the Writing Trans Genres conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba. There were at least four generations of trans authors and thinkers there, maybe 250 of us, roughly. At least it felt like a quarter of a thousand. I didn’t do a head count and I didn’t ask the organizers. I didn’t want to miss even a moment of it—unlike truly humongous conferences like the Popular Cultural Association Conference or the BookExpo, where there is no hope of going to every panel, this was more intimate and almost comprehensible in scope, until people started talking. At that point there were so many ideas all in one animated stream that it took a lot of energy on my part to keep up with the conversation and concepts. But maybe I’m just an exhausted parent of two kids under the age of three. This conference was marked by several laudable characteristics not commonly found at conferences: Read More…

The Thing About Writing a Book Series

little box writing a letterThe Unintentional Time Traveler may be my debut novel but it is also the first in five planned books about Jackson Inman/Jacqueline Bishop and their adventures. I’ve taken the long game approach and drawn out the character and story arcs for the protagonist(s), and mapped out the antagonists for each episode in the series (there will be a continuing villain and a “local” antagonist specific to each). Despite my best laid plans, I’m prepared for the story to veer a bit from its supposed trajectories. Back in my project management days, I would have called this tendency “scope creep.”

Nowadays I’ll just say that it comes with the territory of the subconscious—because some significant percentage of my creative writing process is done by the characters themselves. Or maybe the tips of my fingers have their own intentions. Or maybe what Chip Delany refers to as the “dark matter” of his mind is a thing that happens for other writers, too. I was working on a completely different project a few weeks ago—an ensemble novel about four gender non-conforming people from different eras who come together to build a high school for queer and trans youth—when I realized the scene was getting away from me. As if I wasn’t my own person, I was typing out that the character was getting in someone’s face in a law firm, and then security showed up and hauled him away, his shoes leaving temporary scrape marks in the beige carpet. Wait, what? That’s not how this scene goes. That’s not what I architected to happen. And I’m the creator of this little universe, correct? Read More…

Transience

It’s an obvious statement to declare that I’m tired. I still get hammered with rapid-fire thoughts but the parts of my body I use for speech can’t keep up, so I wind up cutting my sentences short and fingering the lid of my iced mocha. I’m living at DEFCON 3 of irritation. Things like red light runners, people who take up spare seats next to them with their possessions so nobody else can sit down, line cutters, are all a hair away from my personal rendition of the riot act. No, you can’t put your plate of crumbs on my table at the coffee shop. Gee, I would rather you not drive in two lanes or loud talk your way through the produce aisle as if I care about the conversation you’re having with your invisible Bluetooth friend. I marvel that we’ve gone from Copernicus to nanotechnology in less than a millennium, but I’m a little perplexed that we use our progress for cat videos and Katy Perry. (No offense to Ms. Perry. Your video with Elmo is adorable and it keeps my toddler happy for two minutes and forty-one seconds.)

There’s an upside to having scant shreds of time for oneself and limitless aggravation, however. Priorities are quickly reset. Relationships, ranked. Anything lower than say, dedicated hobby, is truncated right off the schedule. Annoying people, curtailed. Poof, gone, vamoose. Bye Felicia is spoken to anyone who isn’t long-term important. And conflicts, when one needs to have them, are over in short order. Don’t process with me as you argue, because I’ll cut to the base issue. Dang, if only this had been my strategy when I was 23 and not 43. I could have lived a couple of additional lifetimes or something, with all of the saved time.

Limited time has also sped up my writing process—when I can get my brain to work well enough to generate writing, that is. But if the circuits are firing, I find I’m not dilly-dallying with junk like Facebook and email, I’m just writing. I carved out three new story arcs for my time travel series this week (Note to self: negotiate with publisher about the series) and got restarted on writing those 10,000 words I lost when my hard drive died last month. I don’t know when I’ll have a steady block of writing time again so I WRITEWRITEWRITE whenever I have the chance. Tomorrow may not show its face. Write when you get the chance, Maroon. Read More…

Questions Nobody Asks Me About My Novel

cover for TUTTOne of the reasons I enjoy interviews about my writing (other than the most ridiculous ego-tripping reasons, of course) is because it gives me insight into how people are interpreting my work, which is often something new or that I wasn’t creating intentionally. Sometimes an interview veers in an unexpected direction, and then I’m joyful as I get caught up talking about texts and narrative and form and extrapolating into popular culture more generally. But often there are pieces of the story that I think are glaring for readers but that never come up in conversation. So for my love of talking about textuality and literature, I thought I’d go over a few aspects of The Unintentional Time Traveler that haven’t come up in any of my Q&As.

The protagonist’s name(s)—I could answer this self-imposed question in a few different ways. First, “Jackson” is an intentional play on patrilineage, which the character winds up disrupting by choosing at the end to spend a lot of time as Jacqueline instead of in the time of Jackson’s actual life. But more important to me was the iconic use of the name “Jack” as it appears in scads of children’s literature: nursery rhymes, Jack & Jill, Jack & the Beanstalk, Jack Frost, Jack Sprat, etc. It’s almost at the level of generic marker for boys. So I wanted to create a narrative that took the mainstay name and immersed it in a novel that was focused on LGBT themes and characters. I want to see our stories and our lives within this greater mythology and literature, not apart from it. Jack was the perfect moniker to use to make this kind of a statement. And Inman is the name of a family I know from Washington, DC, but it’s also a great double entredre.  Read More…

Twitter for Writers

A few folks have asked me about Twitter over the years and how such a terse medium can be helpful for writers. What content can one even get communicated in so few characters?

The answer is: a lot. If we stop thinking about Twitter as the site of traditional content that takes eight hundred or more words to convey, and start thinking of it as a touchpoint and springboard or longer form pieces, then the possibilities open up. There are scads of great posts out there on growing followers, how to identify good accounts to follow, and so on, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. Here are a few of those, as introductory Twitterverse items.

The thing for writers (or anyone, really) to do to get started on Twitter is to set up a profile, find people who are already on Twitter who you know or by your interests, and start generating content. Let’s take these in turn. Read More…

Why I Wrote The Unintentional Time Traveler

The short answer, of course, is “Because I wanted to.” Last summer at the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Emerging Writer Workshop in Los Angeles, someone asked Sarah Schulman how she figures out if she should “trunk” (meaning put aside) a book project. She may have blinked once or twice before answering, but her response was her classic curtness:

Why would I start any book I didn’t want to finish?

Well played, Ms. Schulman. And of course, it makes sense for a veteran writer and focused activist to say something along those lines. I try to write with confidence. Fortunately, it comes more easily during book number 5 (with two earlier trunked books in a forgotten computer somewhere in my house) than in my first foray for long form. Now if an idea kicks around in my head long enough, I grant it some kind of existence, either as back story, short story, or full-fledged novel.

So it was with The Unintentional Time Traveler. I’ve wondered and pondered my past history as an epileptic for a couple of decades now, trying to process what it meant for a person who didn’t know any differently at the time. I also love time travel stories, everything from H.G. Wells to Dr. Who. The more I tried to come up with reasons to write this story, the more reasons I identified, as if some kind of narrative fission was happening.  That was also a sign that this was a story worth telling and never ever trunking. So here are just a few ideas behind the book: Read More…

Make Time to Write

When I was an intrepid tween writer I came across a quote by Stephen King that went something like “Writers write. I meet people all the time who say they’re writers, and when I ask what they’re working on, they tell me they’ve never written a word. They’re not writers. Writers write.” Apologies to Mr. King for the paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it. What this did to my consciousness as someone who really wanted to be a writer was set an external expectation on me. If I ever stopped writing, I could no longer call myself a writer. I had to be a shark, always swimming, always moving, or poof! I’d disappear in the mist of my own failure. So I wrote and wrote, terrible stories but interesting to me, and definitely definitive in setting up the foundation of my craft. Early on I was fascinated by ordinary people in near-extreme circumstances, and the relationships between them. I submitted to summer writing programs between my high school years, getting rejected a lot and accepted a couple of times, and then I absorbed as much as I could from the other writers around me.

I saw that folks each had their own rituals for writing, their habits, good and bad, and their tendencies, like being a night owl or a midday writer. They also took on the specific task of writing differently. Some wrote and rewrote through their first draft, others plowed through and got to the nitty gritty in later drafts. One woman spent months writing backstory and plotting reveals and twists before she ever got into the manuscript, and another friend jumped in and let the words take her wherever they happened to go. There were tradeoffs for every strategy of course, but taken in aggregate they led to a literature among us. That is what literature should do—provide an avenue for people who need to tell a story of importance to someone else. If the process of writing is varied, so is the access to writing. So it behooves us who care about the characters in our heads to open a space for the writing to happen. Here are a few of my ideas, humbly offered with no expectations for agreement. Read More…

Thoughtful Gifts for the Harried Writer in Your Life

drawer unit on castorsI’ve done a gift list here and there in years past and it’s had the requisite nice pen/journal/#1 writer mug suggestions which come on, is so 2006. This year I’ve tried to come up with some items that are maybe less obvious but still helpful. Writers need to focus, after all, or they don’t write enough and then they get grumpy. So think of this list as grump-avoidance.

1. Noise-canceling head phones: You’ve got your nice cup of caffeine at your side, your trusty, beaten-up laptop, and two reference books next to you, and you plug in your white earbuds, only to realize that your physiology of your right outer ear is incompatible with Apple’s design, and holy hell those college kids three tables over sure are LOUD. Writing is not happening in this scenario. Make writing happen. These headphones from Creative are much more affordable than most at $60 (Bose is more like $300), and they’re well rated. Cut out the noise, and the fiddling with plastic. Read More…

If a Tweet Falls in the Forest, Does It Make a Sound?

waterfall in a forestThere’s a woman in the coffee shop, standing around waiting for her $4.50 espresso drink, and I’m guessing she’s impatient because she’s pacing in a wide 8 figure. She needs a cello accompaniment, something moody to go with her dark gray fleece jacket cinched tight at the waist, and her Ralph Lauren glasses (worth approximately 100 pricey espresso drinks). I’m betting she’s a little guilty that she’s such a Type A personality, because every so often she flashes me a smile and then it’s gone as she checks her gold watch again. I like her but I find myself mildly worried for her. I want to invent a whole back story for her but I can’t decide where to begin. I think it’s a funny story but nothing is coming to me.

Two years ago, three and four years ago I loved writing humor, loved making people laugh, especially if adversity was the target. It’s been such a long-used coping mechanism of mine that I figured it was part of my personality. Coping skills what they are, I see retroactively that it was in response to a 25-year long string of stressful episodes, and not me. I hate giving up pieces of myself when I think they’re real, because blah, change sucks and is hard and all of that. But it’s also the only lasting path to improvement that I’ve found.  Read More…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,045 other followers

%d bloggers like this: