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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

REMINDER: Seconds Needed (Best YA not by a Cishet White Man 2000-Present)

What is the very best YA book or series written by a woman or POC or member of the LGBTQ+ community from 2000-the present?   

This poll is from our Year of Diverse Polls. Please check this page out if you have questions about the narrowed focus.

So we're headed into a bit of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants spot here. Starting tomorrow I'm going to be talking a lot about Worldcon 76 since a perfect storm of factors means I actually get to go. I plan to go, and write a little about what I see each day. Then on Monday this poll is going live.

And it's absolutely going to need seconds. (And thirds...and fourths.) Remember, I no longer run quarterfinals and elimination rounds. I will at most run ONE semifinal round. So I will pick between 8-22 of the titles with the most "seconds." 

Please go to the original post for rules, to check out what's there for seconding, and to drop your nomination. The poll will go live on Monday.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Best of 2018 by Month


[Note: Everything in Brackets will disappear in a few weeks.  We now have enough months of 2018 to set up the newest part of our Best of W.A.W. menu––always along those tab menus at the top. It's been a tough year, but we've still managed to do some good writing.]

January

Ursula K. LeGuin (in Memoriam) 
2018 Update Schedule (Buckle up Broflakes and SQiD's) Letting out the throttle on those social justice posts.
A Dozen Ways to Help You Not Write Every Day (If That's Your Jam) "Write every day" is excellent advice, but if you can't....

February

Actual Protip: Don't Do This Terry Goodkind demonstrates what not to do.
J.A.Q.ing Off in the Comments (Social Justice Bard) But I'm just asking questions.
Writing About Writing Needs Your Help We could use your help.

March

Duck Shaped Bigotry Something about ducks and water and....bigots.
15(?) Things Dungeons and Dragons Taught Me About How to Write (Part 1) And not just what the word proficiency means.
Why are Movie Adaptations so Iffy (Mailbox) Book nerds are seldom happy.

April

A Baker's Dozen Random Bits of Writing Advice I Wish Someone Had told ME (And two that someone did) Sometimes the advice doesn't fit neatly into a single topic.
Writing About Writing Staff Meeting Oh those wacky guys.
Writing Prompt: Short Term Goals Where do you want to be this time next year?

May

Words Fucking Matter Calling immigrants "animals" has a long and sordid history.
Fortune Cookie XV Bite sized nuggets of something kind of like wisdom.
Can You get up One More Time (Success in the World of Art) Resilience trumps talent every time.

June

Inspiration: The Little Things (Also Some Little Things) Have you heard the news?
Leela Bruce fights ALL the Dialogue Attribution Advice A Yojimbo style tale of two warring factions.
Twenty Questions (Personal/Meta) Did you just ask me if I got involved with my fans?

July

That Moment We Knew Was Coming I blew up at 5 weeks into summer school. Right on schedule.
We Regret to Inform You Appeals posts shouldn't be this popular, but.....
Twenty Questions (Publishing/Blogging/FB and Social Media) What the hell was I thinking? This post is almost 20 full mailboxes.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

If You're Supporting Writing About Writing Financially


We interrupt your regularly scheduled admin post for an important announcement.

If you've set up some kind of recurring payment to WAW, I sure could use your help.

If you are currently financially supporting Writing About Writing through a monthly contribution to Paypal or through Patreon, first of all, thank you so much. We literally couldn't do it without you. Budgeting is the HARDEST part of the whole "working writer" part right now since my income can fluctuate as much as $500 dollars from month to month. A steady amount I can count on is the reason I've been able to phase out day jobs and side gigs to bring you more writing. Also having food is just....lovely.

However, if you set up your support as an ongoing monthly payment and then forgot about it, you could do me a solid by checking to make sure your credit card information is up to date? Part of Patreon is that a certain number of cards get declined each month, but the number has been aggregating, and it was a couple hundred dollars in August, including a couple of Paypal cards. That's over 15% of my current count-on-able income.

If this payment-fail matches a good time in your life to take a break, then I hate to see you go, but I totally understand. However, for those of you who intended to make the contribution, a quick check would do me a world of favor. Especially if recently you got a replacement card or something.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Patron Muses


The Patron Muses

Though Cathamel retains the Primary Muse status, and is the fiercest ass kicker muse there has ever been, there are a few staunch supporters of Writing About Writing who act as patron/muses.

I can try to sing their praises, but it will never quite be enough. Their name is not hyperbole for they really do inspire me sometimes from the dredges of apathy and the very edge of giving up on this whole "blog thing." When I drag my ass out of bed and want to do anything but writing, it is their unswerving support that gets me going. When I want a six week hiatus during summer school instead of a hybrid of writing as much as I can, it is honoring their contributions that I think of.

And while every single Patreon of even $1, one time Paypal contributor, or individual who dropped a line to tell me they appreciated my work is incredibly important to my continued success surviving capitalism and a lot of bullshit, a few people have gone above and beyond in their support, and deserve a shout out.

Whether they show up to social events with their entire family dressed in Writing About Writing t-shirts (which....don't actually exist, so these were HAND MADE), donate a non-trivial amount to my Patreon month after month, drop a donation on me that is so huge my mouth literally goes dry, assist me in post after post by helping to clean up my copy, or simply aid my social media proliferation by liking and sharing just about every damn thing I post (though this is a harder "in" these days since my social media is too big to keep up with the notifications anymore), and sometimes just being a great healer when I've Social Justice Barded too hard, and I'm out of hit points.  They are who I think of when the writing gets hard and who, when it gets really tough, I realize I wouldn't want to let down.

Right now there are fourteen patron muses (but always room for one more). Julia, Alex, Margaret, Heather, John
, Pol
, Ginger, Kelly
, Alex (another one), Alisha, Hélène, TM Caldwell and two Anonymouses.  I salute you.

I'd also like to give a special extra grateful hat tip to TM Caldwell who has, for years, been a significant fraction of the reason I have been able to phase out day jobs and dedicate more time and energy to writing.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Injury, Productivity, Plan C, and a Good Idea Gone Bad (Personal Update)

Plan A was to wake up and do a Twenty Questions post.

Here's what's gone wrong with Plan A. 

When I conceived of the idea of a Twenty Questions post it was based on a few questions I had gotten over the years that were really not tough to answer. They required a couple of sentences––at most a paragraph––and wouldn't have really made for a robust mailbox. Even two or three or four of them might have seemed a little scant in the "What CHRIS brought to the conversation" department.

Why not bundle 20 of them together?  Then I'd have a decent sized post, a cute little catchy title, and I wouldn't have to write more than a few short paragraphs.

The problem was people kept sending me questions that weren't exactly short answer. "What is the difference between traditional and non-traditional publishing?" "How can I keep writing with executive dysfunction." "Tell me everything ever about writers block and how to stop it."

Not exactly slow balls over the plate. And I know enough about being on the other side of those kinds of questions to have a sense of how it would come across if I gave them a flip answer just to keep it short.

So this morning I woke up, wrote diligently for eight hours, actually kept focus and didn't fart around too much on Facebook and got......exactly five questions done. I like the idea of twenty questions, but I'm going to have to shunt the ones that can be answered quickly into their own folder. Because soliciting questions ends up being basically 20 mailboxes in one post.

So it was time for plan B. Plan B involved jazz hands.

Here's what's gone wrong with Plan B.

The kind of post I can get up in a couple of hours. Maybe the next round of Fortune Cookies or one of the admin posts that I would have done this weekend. But then I started to get a little pain in my kidney which is almost all better but still gets a tiny bit tender after a long day of not taking it easy. I figured that I just needed to lie supine for a few minutes to give it a rest.

Suddenly it was three hours and change later.

I'm no stranger to naps, but usually they're 45 minutes or an hour and I wake up ready to kick some ass, so the fact that I dropped behind the moon for an entire REM cycle after crawling in bed because I was still hurting a bit from a recent hospitalization leads me to believe that I'm still healing.

Waking up after the posting window complicated matters. I could post something after 6pm (especially if it's a post that people might come back to often), but with most of the English speaking world asleep or headed there, it's often a bust if it's some kind of jazz hands.

And so here is plan C.

Plan C is a bit of a "Coming soon!" I still have overdue admin posts to do and emails to dig through so this weekend will probably be a lot of that. (I spent a lot of last weekend convalescing and fast asleep but with the best intentions.) I finish this job on Sunday and am going to try to get to a wedding on top of everything else. (I usually blow off these things, but these are two dear friends and I really am going to try.) Next week should be my first fully recovered week without a lot of running around to do, so I should be able to get a few offerings from this mountain of half finished posts. I even have a guest post! Next Friday I'll be heading to Worldcon, and I actually plan on giving you daily updates about what that's like as it is a "writer thing." Or so I'm told. I'll keep plugging on the next week and at that point we should start to settle into a more familiar groove. At which point, there will be a MASSIVE undertaking to finish series posts and long-promised updates. And if you want the long-range forecast, that'll be about when the changes that all of you have made possible through Patreon donations will start kicking in. Not enough to leave my side gigs and just write, but at the very least, enough to stop taking so many double book pet-sitting jobs.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Won't Someone Think of the Straight White Males (Mailbox)


Diversity polls make me feel bad.

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer a couple each week.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous. Full disclosure––this is a composite of five different letters received since I started doing A Year of Diverse Polls.]


C writes:

I just want to say, as a straight white male who is trying to aspire to write, I can no longer abide your page and your "diverse polls." I understand the intention of them, and on one side I think it's great to promote diversity. On the other side, however, it makes me feel like shit. I feel like I'll never get anywhere with writing, and I shouldn't even try because I'm the wrong race, gender, and sexuality.  

I'm not a racist but why can't we just read books and lift them up based on whether they are good enough and not get into all the identity politics?

I just feel like everyone should be supported, and find it impossible to stick around because all I see are the diversity polls, mocking me. I know you probably won't care, but I'm done with your page. [Note: I added the links above.]

My reply:

I almost just answered this with, "Yeah? How does that feel?" and called it a day, but I suspect the folks who most need to hear it would be the least likely to GET it (in a not-the-reason-Mr-Burton-was-put-on-Earth-sort-of-way), so I'll unpack it a bit more.

C, did you INTEND this to look like performance art? I mean....literally and explicitly lifting your feelings up to the importance of diversity itself? Jesus Buttlicking Christ! I had a Creative Writing teacher who would have yelled at me for lack of realism if I'd ever had a character say something like that. ("No one's going to just SAY that, Brecheen! They'll say they love diversity, but you have to show through their actions that their feelings are more important.")

C, I'm only going to say this half a zillion more times, so listen up. You're not the "wrong" race, gender, sexuality. You are the top of the social hierarchy. You will overperform in the results of your efforts no matter what the quality of your writing is, and (as can be clearly seen from a casual look at any bookstore shelf) mediocrity will not prevent you from having a comfortable career.

People who are not like you––not white, not male, not straight, not cis––will have to work much harder to achieve the same success. The more not like you they are, the harder they will have to work to achieve the same bellwethers.

This is to say nothing of if you're good at writing, in which case you will be hailed as brilliant while other writers of comparable and even greater skill will struggle to find legitimacy, platforms, and recognition if they aren't straight white men like you. These days, naked bigotry is in the White House and marching on the streets, daring anyone to do anything about it. You realize some of these people buy books, vote in the Hugos, +1 or like posts, and are even gatekeepers, right? Right?

(Right?)

This is not to say that being a cishet white male guarantees a career (it doesn't), but the whole rest of the world is going to lift you up through mechanisms unconscious and deliberate over the folks who aren't like you. Overperformance doesn't mean it's impossible to fail, just like setting the difficulty on a video game to easy doesn't mean you'll never die. It just means things will be EASIER for you.

So for ONE year, ONE blog (that barely anyone even reads) will have a set of polls that tries to adjust for that massive "background radiation of everpresent inequality." By running some polls for everyone who isn't advantaged by the deep seated (and sometimes shockingly surface) attitudes of a repugnant and revolting cultural acceptance of every bigotry, I try to make a readership that OFTEN remarks that they "didn't even know some of the names on this list" aware that other writers exist.

I will say this, C. I believe you. Even though the diversity polls are between 1-2% of the posts I put up on my Writing About Writing page (consisting of perhaps six posts in a month where I put up 10-15 things a day), they will be like a mark on a movie theater screen––"all [you] see."

Or rather, all you notice.

See, that's the trick of modern white supremacy (and male supremacy and hetero supremacy). At least the kind that isn't marching in liberal cities to try and pick a fight. Most people don't run around hatefully bigoting. They just ignore every. SINGLE. double standard that benefits them. But then they come out swinging when anyone or anything tries to level the playing field even the tiniest bit.

Because that wouldn't be FAIR, and now, all of a sudden, that matters an awful lot.

The point of having a poll like this is that when you were the beneficiary of unfairness, it didn't make you uncomfortable. You didn't feel "like shit." And not once did you threaten to take your ball and go home or sanctimoniously lecture about not "supporting everyone." So for one year, I hope people examine that unconscious bias they have and do some introspection about the world they usually never bother to question.

However, C, you take care of yourself and have a nice life. Self care IS important. I wouldn't want some attempt at diversity to hurt your feels. But we're not going to elevate your feelings to the point of being just as important as representation here.

Just be glad you only ever had to weather the RESPONSE to bigotry instead of the bigotry itself because if having to see yourself not represented in a single year of polls makes you feel like shit, the acute realities of genuine bigotry with institutional power differentials to back it up and actual harm would have absolutely gone Dr. Marr on your crystalline ass. #27yearoldpopculturereferenceFTW

And as always, if you announce your departure like I'm United Airlines, you will find that the door locks behind you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

July's Best (2018)

Unsurprisingly, things were a little thin around here during July. The 25 hours a week of teaching I added to my already ridiculous schedule crashed hard into my ability to, with the usual frequency, write the kinds of articles that do well.

Fortunately, I take my own folksy wisdom advice, and I keep writing even through the rough patches. Even when I'm slogging home at 8pm from a day of teaching, pet sitting, and kid wrangling. Posts go up, even if most of them suck, and we end up with a few that resonate through the din.

Here are the articles that shall be going on to fame and fortune in our Greatest Hits Menu for the month of July.

That Moment We Knew Was Coming I hit the end of my gas tank right on schedule during week 5 of teaching summer school.

We Regret to Inform You  Might have been the title, but this appeals post actually did better than most of the others.

Twenty Questions (Publishing/Blogging/FB and Social Media) The twenty questions is an idea I cooked up for surviving the summer school blitz by having a bunch of short answer questions instead of one with a long answer. Unfortunately this one was more like twenty regular mailboxes. *whew!*

Monday, August 6, 2018

Best Y.A. Book (or Series) 2000-Present Not Written by a Cis Het White Man

What is the very best Y.A. fiction (book or series) written by a woman or POC or member of the LGBTQ+ community in the last 18 years?  

This poll is from our Year of Diverse Polls. Please check this page out if you have questions about the narrowed focus.

As we continue with the most popular polls we've ever done here at Writing About Writing (but without the cis het white guys) we will have to break one of the most popular categories ever up into chunks by time in order to keep it from getting unruly. So if the date of copyright is 1999 or before, it'll be the next poll.

[I'm trying to jump back into things, but it may be a bit of a ramp up to our full fledged, kick ass posting schedule, especially on the "on camera" side of the blog. Not only are there about ten "admin" posts that need posting (everything from our 2018 Best Of menu, that now has enough entries to create, to a shout out to the first 6 month's patron muses), but I have probably 40-50 hours of editing work and menu clean up that needs to be done as well and a bunch of emails that require my attention. And jury duty hit this week if you can believe that shit. I probably won't get called, and I'll never make a jury if I do get called because A) I seem to understand the burden of proof that "reasonable doubt" entails and B) I tell them openly that I think the modern criminal justice system upholds white supremacy––no prosecutor would ever let me within a country mile of their juries, but it might still be several hours out of writing time since I am currently pet sitting almost two hours drive from where I would have to report. And to top it all off, I'm still healing from my hospital stay. I can only write for a little while before sitting up really starts to be uncomfortable and I need to lie back down. That little fucker must have really torn up some shit on its way through. I'm really terrible at convalescing and I hate it, but even I know not to mess around with getting enough rest after landing in the hospital.]

The Rules:

  1. Please note the diversity requirements above. 
  2. As always, I leave the niggling over "YA" to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. If you feel like Water for Elephants is young adult, I will furrow my brow, make an "Erm?" noise, and shrug. (Though you may need to show your work in order to get the seconds you'll need to make the poll.) I'll only throw them out if they get super ridiculous. 
  3. You may nominate two (2) books or series. If you nominate three or more I become a megalomaniacal gatekeeper on a cheap power trip. But more importantly for you, I will NOT take any nominations beyond the second that you suggest. (I will consider a long list to be "seconds" if someone else nominates them as well, and will only take the first two.)
  4. You may (and absolutely should) second as many nominations of others as you wish. Also stop back in and see if anyone has put up something you want to see go onto the poll. This one is going to have fierce competition.
  5. Put your nominations here. I will take nominations only as comments and only on this post. (No comments on FB posts or G+ will be considered nominations.) If you can't comment for some reason because of Blogger, send me an email (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) stating exactly that, and I will personally put your comment up. I am not likely to see a comment on social media even if it says you were unable to leave a comment here. 
  6. You are nominating WRITTEN young adult fiction, not their movie portrayals. If you thought Jennifer Lawrence was awesome in The Hunger Games movies, but you didn't really care for the books, then that shouldn't be your nomination.
  7. This is probably well known by vets of this blog by now, but there will be no more endless elimination rounds. I will take somewhere between 8-20 best performing titles and at MOST run a single semifinal round. So second the titles you want even if they already have one. (Yes, I guess that would make them thirds, fourths, etc...) The competition on THIS poll is going to be FIERCE so please come back and second, third, fourth, and twenty-fifth everything you want to see go on to the poll.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Hospitalized (Personal Update and a Sprig of Advice)

Hi everyone.

If you're not following me somewhere on Facebook (or you're on my page but at the mercy of The Algorithm™) you may not know that I spent Tuesday night doubled over in pain and Wednesday morning in the hospital.

It was a kidney stone. I'm going to be okay. But that's the reason the last couple of days have been a wash and I'm going to be off track until next week-ish.

I have thoughts, and maybe it would be better not to try to write them in a growing Norco haze, but I want you all to be the best artists you can be and the best writers you can be, and that means you have to have one foot in the world.

I know there's this powerful and seductive image that romanticizes the artist so poor they can't afford health insurance or even a modest dental plan, but please take care of yourselves. Obviously affording ANY health care under capitalism can be a bit of a privilege, but making sure the priorities of health come before you buy into a lifestyle obsession, ultimately, will make you a better artist than hanging out at a trendy bohemian coffee klatsch.

But shit will go wrong. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but it will eventually because that's how life rolls. And a $3000 hospital bill or trying to tough-it-out on an infection or something you can't tough out will kick your art's ass when you are laid out for weeks instead of days or have to get a job to pay your bills. Or just are in too much pain to create.

You don't have to buy into the lifestyle obsession––in fact, it really helps not to––but take care of yourself. Your art is not somehow separate from your watery meat sack.