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.
During today's Common Ground: Law Enforcement & Our Community event, Beth Waldrup gave a list of books (go about 30 minutes in to that video) as resources, and I wanted to share that list here with links.
Note: Clicking the cover will take you to an Amazon page. These are not affiliate links. Do consider, though, if you use Amazon to also make use of their Smile option. I use it to donate funds to the H&P Animal Alliance with every purchase. Alternatively, if you don't want to shop Amazon (and I totally understand why some folks don't want to) check out eBooks.com for your digital copy needs and ThriftBooks.com for used copies.
Library option: Our public library is part of the Arkansas Digital Consortium. The following books are part of that collection, although you will have to get on the waitlist: Stamped from the Beginning, How to be an Antiracist, The Hate U Give.
Three books seems to be about all I can get through during COVID-19 in a month.
Writing these days is sparse. I keep picking at Long Weekend, and I'm finding myself slowly rising above the COVID-19 distraction on some days. I know if I can focus for a couple of days in a row, I'm likely to get hooked into the characters enough that I will pick up some speed.
Hi, all! I wanted to share a couple of "greatest hits" posts with everyone, and also to add to the resources I've shared with you in the past. Earlier today, I heard from Barbara Lincoln:
"I would just like to say a quick word of thanks! As a youth services librarian and educator, I've been running a fun writers workshop for 12-15 year olds and thought you might enjoy hearing that we were able to get some great use out of your older post, 'Writerly Resources: Free and Low-Cost' before the self-quarantine and social distancing. We were even able to use some of this information for our most recent group project! Thanks so much for sharing!"
I'm so honored that folks are not only reading this blog, but also that people are finding what I post useful. As a former writing instructor, there's no better feeling than that I've helped someone on their journey.
"I hope you don't mind, but one of our youngest, Amelia has also asked me if I could share an article that she and her mother found together on writing basics for young writers, which includes a great breakdown of potential writing careers, education options and essential skills, self-publishing, book proposals, the editing process, etc. I've included it below if you'd like to review!"
The resource Amelia found is "Writing Careers: The Business Behind Becoming an Author." I took a look, and what a great resource, indeed! Thank you, Amelia! And thank you to Barbara for passing this information along.
In addition to linking to that resources post from December of 2019, I wanted to remind everyone of my "DIY Writer's Retreat" takeaways post, which seems especially relevant now that we are all staying home. Hopefully these resources, which include some great podcasts, will help people feel connected and a little less alone.
And--I have a new favorite writing podcast! Check out Writing Excuses. 15 seasons of 15 minute long podcasts. Quick listening for a walk around the block.
As is evident from my reading rate being cut to 1/3rd of previous months, I am distracted by COVID-19. So, for March, two memoirs is the total of completed reading.
Both of these are enjoyable reads, even as they contain a lot of sadness. A couple of things to know: In the Dream House is written in an experimental form--very short chapters that all start with "Dream House as X". Some readers found this distracting and hated it. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author, and I found it less distracting than I might have if I were reading it off the page.
I will say that the book felt like an MFA thesis to me because of the ways the idea of the Dream House is put through the grinder, the way the author is constantly placing the text she wrote in context with other literary and pop culture texts (and I include movies as "text" here). So, if you try this one, be ready to give up expectations for structure and go with it. You will find things here that you recognize from your own past relationships, I suspect. I sure did.
With Maupin's memoir, realize that if you are a fan of Tales of the City that you won't get much of that here. The book is very much about Maupin's pre-fame days. The book is rich with photos of Maupin as he grew up, and he paints a portrait of his earlier life that does shed light on where his characters like Mary Ann Singleton and Michael Tolliver originated.
I was reading a New Adult novel by a writer whose thrillers I love, but it was too simple and nothing seemed to be happening in the plot. It is the start of a series, so I gave it as much chance as I could manage to set things up, but in the end I made it 50% of the way through and skipped to the last chapter. I'm not going to name it, as I am sure in a different time I would blaze through it. As it was it was slow plotted enough that it helped ensure I drifted off to sleep fairly quickly.
I hope everyone is well and can find something to hold your attention other than the news and the terrible unfolding of the pandemic.
As someone who has worked from home for years, I have the self-entertainment down. I'll be working on some of my stock-piled stitching projects, but realize that not everyone has a craft or hobby they engage in.
Our plans have changed for D's vacation next week, and we are staying put. The raised beds need to be cleaned out and our back patio needs some attention. And, of course, the dogs will need their regular walk about next week.
If you're stuck in the house and want things to do beyond binge-watching TV, check these sites out.
Needlework & Crafts:
Looking to learn a new language? Sites like DuoLingo and Babbel provide free exercises and lessons. I need to get back to my Spanish lessons so next time I'm in Oaxaca I can buy a new suitcase to haul back all the mezcal (true story---I managed to navigate a department store purchase last year for this very purpose. Thanks DuoLingo!).
This might also be a great time to take a course on Coursera. If you're not into a certificate, their courses are free.
Don't forget: a lot of fun can be had with a deck of cards. Bicycle Card Company's site lists rules of play for all kinds of games--even solitaire.
I am still getting in about six reads a month, but I suspect that will slow down a bit because I am starting to work on a manuscript again and have some travel coming up this month.
Because I was still in Kindle Unlimited in February as a reader, I blazed through the most recent Jack Daniels novels. Shot Girl was amazing and Chaser was a bit of a return to the slapstick humor of Harry McGlade and packing a bajillion villains in one novel. Shot Girl is a definite read, though, even if you are feeling a little fatigued by Konrath's series. He has, in both, reinvented Herb, which is a nice touch after so many fat jokes about the guy.
Tig Notaro's book will appeal to those who love the show One Mississippi as it covers much of the same time period--her mother's sudden death, Tig's battle with breast cancer, and her finding the love of her life. I listened to this one.
I also listened to The Underground Railroad. What a great history lesson of a novel (and I mean that in the best way possible). I look forward to The Nickel Boys.
The two non-fiction books here were both review choices--you will find Depressed to Daring's review up on Reedsy Discovery and my review of A Leader's Guide to Memorable Speeches in the upcoming issue of Physician Family.
I hope everyone is meeting their reading goals!