When I was in grad school at USM, I was first assigned to work as a Writing Fellow in the Honors College. My job was to basically lead a small group of first-year students through their writing assignments for the FY Seminar. I was assigned to work with Dr. Michael Salda and Anastasia Feldman, who were team teaching the freshman class of 1995.
Dr. Salda passed away in 2015, but one of his major contributions was to create The Cinderella Project. Working with Dr. Salda, USM grad students in English created a robust site covering various versions of the Cinderella story (pulled from USM's de Grummond Collection) and digitized those, putting them on the web. What this meant was that anyone with internet access could view those texts and learn about them--they could learn, for instance, that there isn't just one culture that embraced the story, as well as see the cultural differences in how the story was told.
When I went to view The Cinderella Project, I found that it no longer exists. USM's site gives me a 404 error.
As noted in his Authuriana obituary, Dr. Salda also maintained archives on Jack & the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood. None of those archives exist anymore. Doing Google searches, though, demonstrates how powerful the projects were--many other faculty used those archives in their own classes. Syllabi and lesson plans are still floating around out there that attempt to link back to the non-existent archives.
Over at the Octave Thanet Project, I've been working my way through the primary texts in the order of publication. Part of that has involved using Google Play Books versions of those texts because:
Ultimately, this type of work is what my PhD trained me to do. And so far I'm having a blast.
While I certainly was influenced by Dr. Paul Reuben's Perspectives in American Literature site, I have to think that were it not for Dr. Salda, I might not be approaching this project in this particular way. Realizing that the work he did on those three archives is gone, I am also considering how to ensure that even once I'm gone, the resources will remain. On the bright side, you can still view snapshots of all three (see urls in the top for easy searching--the links in the snapshots do still work, so if you get to one, you can get to them all) on the WayBack Machine on the Internet Archive.
Hot Springs used to have a huge metaphysical bookstore, The Golden Leaves Bookstore (seen above). It's no longer there from what I can tell, but in the early 1990s I had an experience there that kind of changed my life--just probably not in the way Starr (yes, with two Rs) imagined it might.
UPDATE: The Bill did not pass, so I'm shifting this to behind the break.
Today, I sent my state representative a brief email asking him to oppose House Bill 1218, subtitled "TO PROHIBIT OFFERING OF CERTAIN COURSES, EVENTS, AND ACTIVITIES REGARDING RACE, GENDER, POLITICAL AFFILIATION, SOCIAL CLASS, OR CERTAIN CLASSES OF PEOPLE; AND TO ADJUST FUNDING FOR SCHOOLS THAT OFFER CERTAIN COURSES, EVENTS, AND ACTIVITIES."
I've done NanoWriMo (with varying levels of success) since 2012 with a full on "break" last year (I had just published Homecoming and wanted a rest). So far, I'm pretty happy with my progress in the first two days. Here's what is in my survival kit.
The following entry is probably not for everyone. But, since this is a post about gatekeeping--specifically in terms of who *gets* to write books in a specific genre--I can't identify who it's not for. Let's just say that there are discussions within about sexual orientation, gender identity, butch/femme stereotypes, romance vs. erotica, and even what we mean by "relationship" and "relations."
Some potential trigger words that may appear: TERF, trans, lesbian, LGBTQIA+, gatekeeping, queer--you get the idea. If that list causes you pause you may want to move along.
Also, I totally get if this is a TLDR; for people. I'm going to put in some headings that let you skip around a bit.
If you've read this blog before, it probably is no surprise that I love the book and movie Wonderboys. And, in the chaos that is 2020, I often feel like Grady--unfocused, wearing my security blanket (in my case, the recent pair of elephant pants that I bought on a deep sale, rather than my ex's chenille bathrobe), and at a loss for editing my story down to just what matters.
September is where I try to turn that around.
While there's no substitute for a human editor, there are some wonderful tools which can not only help you save money and time with your editor by presenting them a cleaner manuscript from the start, but which can also help you identify patterns of error and weakness in your writing. Once you know those patterns, you can improve your writing as a whole.
The three tools above (the pictures are linked to their product pages) are the ones I use on a daily basis when writing, revising, and editing. Let's dive a bit deeper into what these are and how I use them.
Above is my most recent completed project--I feel like I can share the picture now that the two moms these were stitched for have received them (so this isn't a spoiler). But, like many of the stitching projects I signed on for prior to leaving teaching, this one took me way longer than I expected.
So, I've seen a lot of discussion about whether we should really be reading White Fragility and promoting it and books like White Like Me right now. And, I have to say that I understand the objection, even though I think those are good books to read.
The point is--don't JUST read those. And maybe don't read those first. Instead, start with books by Angela Davis, Ibram X. Kendi, Malcolm X, Henry Louis Gates, and Cornel West. You may need to go read books by white people about your white person biases after you read these other works and then go BACK to the texts by Black writers to fully respond and process those other works, and that's OK.
But don't just read one book on race by a white person and decide you are done.
Similarly, instead of White Savior narratives like The Help, Green Book, and Hidden Figures consider turning to works by Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, Jesmyn Ward.
These lists are incomplete, but the idea is that if I point you in a direction, you can keep up the momentum, right?
Similarly, in a writer's group I'm in today, a cis woman (she identified herself as such) indicated she wanted to write about a trans character. Then a couple of men jumped in and said they were writing genderless characters or non-binary ones. They all indicated they want to bring a voice to the unrepresented. They were happy because they felt that no one else had done such work before.
While I applaud the attention to non-cis and non-het characters, I see a lot of writers talking about how underrepresented queer writers are. The problem is these well-meaning people aren't looking at the legacy before them and the contemporary writers around them.
So, if you're going to write about queer people, please go out and read works by queer people first. If you are writing fiction that has characters who are genderless or who flout gender conventions, go read Joanna Russ, Marge Piercy, Jeanette Winterson, Octavia Butler, T. Cooper, Leslie Feinberg, Caitlan Kiernan, Poppy Z. Brite (now Billy Martin).
It really only takes a few Google searches to find plenty of new writers to explore. Here are a few listicles to get you started:
15 Trans, Nonbinary, and Gender Nonconforming Writers to Support
Broaden Your Horizons with 19 Must-Reads by Trans and Nonbinary Authors
16 Books Written by Transgender and Nonbinary Authors You Should Already Be Reading
Go to Lambda Literary and explore there. Also, know that there are other organizations out there focused on fiction by LGBTQIA+ authors.
Please, writers, realize that you are entering a conversation that has already been started before you discovered the table existed. Please know where you are situated in that larger context before you decide to speak for a group you are an ally for, but not a member of.