Kristin’s 2012 Year in Review

You know how sometimes you have tons of fabulous blog posts planned for a given month, and then suddenly it’s the twenty-first and you have no idea where the time went?

Yeah, that’s why you haven’t seen me in awhile.

This has been a big year for me. So big, in fact, that I decided to spend what many thought was the final day of the world showing you just a few of my key moments from 2012.

7828753730_f88600fb6c1. I got married.

After seven-plus years, long-distance time spent in two different countries, four cross-country moves, good jobs, bad jobs, grief, joy, and everything in between that makes up daily life, Drew and I decided to tie the knot.

Being a bride is one of those fabulous things that takes month of prep (see number 2) and then rushes by in a mere hours, most of them spent in a daze caused by heat, a tight dress, and staying out waaaaaay too late the night before partying with your girlfriends.

It ends quickly, but then you’re left with a few gorgeous memories… like this one.

2. I planned a wedding.

Don’t laugh. Planning a wedding is tons of work, and you have to think of everything from the napkins all the way up to the venue, the music, and the dress. And all those tiny little details add up to wedding, and turn a beautiful day into a magical one.

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3. I made new friends, and got to spend time with old friends.

Most of my friends live in Texas. We met in high school and college, we lived together in Rome, we drank too much on our twenty-first birthdays together, and they held me in their arms after my brother died. They are part of my family.

However, as you grow up, you move apart. It’s hard to see each other that often, and you start to develop new interests. But if you’re lucky, you get to make new friends and add to that existing circle of family-friends.

I am very lucky.

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4. I lost a dear friend.

Furry friends count as family, too, and they never stay long enough. Baby stayed nearly twenty years, though, and was as good a friend as I ever had.

5. I finished Shaken.

Writing a first draft is the easy part. Reading the book 15 times and making changes for every reread is the hard part. Shaken went through three different endings and at least as many different full drafts. Most of the edits were while I was planning the wedding, and some of them were while I was already on submission. I deserve a medal… or possibly a straight jacket, as a reward for my insanity.

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This is my pity-party outfit.

6. I went on submission.

Querying is hard, yo. It’s really, really difficult. It takes hours of research for each agent, it takes weeks of revising a 300-word letter, and even more time to write synopses. And as a reward for all that work, you get rejections by the fistful.

If you’re lucky, you actually get some positive responses, and you get to submit your book for actual consideration. And after that, you get more rejection; the real, painful rejection that delves into why agents hated or just didn’t love your book.

After X-number of rejections (3-4 on actual submissions), Spouse and I instated the pity-party, which typically involved party hats, kazoos, and glowsticks. If you can’t celebrate rejection, what can you celebrate?

7. I got an agent.

The happy thing about rejections, though, is you can know that they’re usually from the people who aren’t right to represent your book. And the person who is right is still out there, waiting to hold your pages in their happy little hands.

The real work is just about to begin, but  I now have someone who loves my work to fight along with me. Further proof that I’m pretty darn lucky.

Things to Do Instead of Nudging an Agent

If, like me, you find yourself with a fair number of partial and full submissions to agents, and those submissions are creeping toward the two- and three-month-old mark, you will (unless you have much more patience than I) find your finger hovering over the SEND and DIRECT MESSAGE buttons.

But nudging is folly, especially when it’s only(?!) been two or three months. Patience is key. You should go distract yourself and, whatever you do, DO NOT PRESS SEND.

How about….

1. Write a new book. (Working on it.)

2. Write a blog post. (Doing it right now.)

3. Read something fabulous. (Anna Karenina, I will conquer you at last!)

4. Read a writing craft book. (Writing the Breakout Novel sounds like something I’d like to do.)

5. Chat with a friend.

6. Watch holiday movies.

7. Make a new playlist for that new book you’re writing.

8. Work out: stave off writer’s butt!

9. Send out some new queries to obsess over.

10. Buy gifts for upcoming holidays/birthdays.

11. Work on something crafty (i.e. use other parts of your brain).

12. Play a video game.

13. Get those clothes out of the dryer and fold them. (Hahahaha yeah but I did this.)

14. Take those bags of old clothes to Goodwill and get them out of the way, finally.

15. Take a walk—listen to that new playlist and do some mental plotting.

16. Blow the dust off your guitar and practice.

17. Call someone you haven’t chatted with in awhile.

18. Go to bed early. (What madness is this?!)

19. Cook dinner instead of eating Lean Cuisine.

20. Finish the National Geographic issue that’s starting to collect dust before another one comes.

21. Figure out how to successfully hunt as a vampire Sim.

22. Plan next year’s garden.

23. Decorate your Christmas/Yule tree.

24. Learn about something you’ve always wanted to do and then do it. (See 11 and 16.)

25. Go tell your new neighbors to turn down their music.

26. Watch Downton Abbey. (Seriously, watch it.)

27. Have a glass of wine and relax.

28. Renew your domain lease and domain mapping subscription. (This might be specific to me.)

29. Lust after the Kindle Fire and then remind yourself why you don’t need it.

30. Learn to use all those fancy features in Scrivener.

31. Dust. (Bahahaha that’s just funny.)

32. Play with your pets.

33. Get dressed and don’t just work in your sweats every day.

34. Read all those articles you’ve archived for ‘later’.

35. JUST FREAKING RELAX ALREADY. Agents are people, too, and sometimes they take a little longer than you would like. But the time will creep by much more slowly if you are constantly biting your nails. Your nails and your mental healthy will do a lot better if you just shut down the computer and do something else.

Someone remind me of this list again next week, ‘kay?

Defining Moments

I can remember every defining moment in my writing career.

1. At 8 years old, I started writing a story about a foal named Midnight. He was black (obviously), and I drew all the pictures in the book myself. I don’t really remember what the book was about, but Midnight sure had some great adventures.

2. At 10 years old, I started scribbling my second book in a little floral-covered notebook. It was pretty heavily influenced by both Braveheart and Dragons of Autumn Twilight. Sometime in the next few years, it turned into a big, epic fantasy, separated from its two parents by a big dose of Anne McCaffrey. I started writing it in a GIANT binder that I carried around with me so that I could write in my free time. All my elementary school friends read it as I wrote it, and I like to think they enjoyed it.

3. After transferring to a new school at 13, I tried to keep up my old habits. I broke out the big binder in class, and a popular girl named Devon, with those late-90s skunk highlights, asked what it was. I told her, and she made fun of me. I put the binder away… for the next five years.

4. In college, I returned to my creative writing–at least in my mind. I was writing on my computer by then, and when my roommate came in one night, she asked what I was doing. “Writing my fantasy book,” I said. “Oh!” she said, surprised. “I’ve just… never seen you actually doing it.” And she was right, because even though I thought of myself as a writer, I never actually did it anymore. But I started again.

5. I told my adviser, junior year, that I was thinking of becoming a reporter because I wanted to be a writer. She said to me, “You know, reporting isn’t writing.” I shrugged it off and became a reporter anyway, but I always remembered that bald statement which is, arguably, true.

5. In Berkeley, California, three years later, I said to my now-husband, “You know, I think I’d like to quit reporting and start really writing. On my own.” He said something semi-dubious, like, “Oh… but what would you write?” I said, “Fiction!” Being the wonderful man he is, who knows what my real dream is, he said, “Oh! You should definitely do that.” So I started writing The Radiometry Conspiracy.

6. In Chimayo, New Mexico, two years later, I finally did quit reporting, and later the next year, I finished that book. I quickly realized it was unpublishable, so I started a new book. One that was funny and smart, and I thought I could probably sell it.

7. On August 30, I sent my first query.

That brings us up to now, after nearly twenty years of hoping and dreaming. I’m still working on querying agents, and still getting as promising results as I could hope for without becoming an overnight success. Monday I got a heart-breaking rejection on a full submission, and I decided to bail on writing the sequel to Shaken until I knew what the future might hold. I handled the full-rejection pretty well, and started plotting a completely new book that very evening. But last night I got a very fast rejection on a query to an agent I didn’t even really love.

And something snapped. I cried and cried and cried. I sat up till 1 a.m. wondering if I’m making the right choice, continuing to pursue a path that is difficult and thankless and–worst of all–unpaid. If I just settled down and went back to reporting, or even took a retail management job, the husband and I could afford to buy a house, have kids, and, well, live a normal life with vacations and bills and hobbies in our free time.

I sat in bed, crying, and wondering if last night was another defining moment: the moment I would give up.

But there was a tiny part of me that just kept insisting that I have other submissions out, other queries out, other stories to tell, and it refused to stop thinking about the new book. So eventually I came to the conclusion that if last night was a defining moment, I wouldn’t know it until later. I went to sleep.

This morning, I sent off some more queries. I did some more plotting. I also got another request.

Maybe last night was a defining moment, but probably not. I’m still here, still dreaming, still writing. I won’t know till later… but there will be a later.

Let Women Speak for Women: How John Scalzi Pissed Me Off

About a month ago, Seanan McGuire (of October Daye fame) wrote a kickass blog post about things she will never, ever do to her characters. She wrote about why she will never write a sexual assault in her novels and how disappointing it is that certain subsets of her readership might expect that to happen. It made the internet rounds, it circulated over Twitter, and it probably even percolated into the Reddit circle of hell.

But, to my knowledge, it didn’t reach the upper stratosphere of male SFF novelist bloggers.

On Friday, Patrick Rothuss shared on Facebook a blog post by John Scalzi called “A Fan Letter to Certain Conservative Politicians.” The essay is a sort of Swiftian satire written from the perspective of a rapist writing to the politicians:

Every time you say ‘I oppose a woman’s right to abortion, even in cases of rape,’ what you’re also saying is ‘I believe that a man who rapes a woman has more of a right to control a woman’s body and life than that woman does.’

It really boils down to that: these wealthy white politicians are saying that ANY man, from rapists to men in power have the right to control women’s lives and bodies. And those man get off on that knowledge.

It’s true. It’s totally true. But by writing this post from this perspective, Scalzi takes control of an issue that belongs almost exclusively to women. He is using his louder megaphone, as a internet-powerful guy, to speak on our behalf.

He’s not alone. Joss Whedon is extolled far and wide as a great feminist, but his strong female characters are inevitably subject to rape and abuse. (*coughBuffyandSpikecough*). And I love Rothfuss for writing strong female characters, but I didn’t see him sharing—or even noticing—Seanan McGuire’s post on a similar topic.

Don’t get me wrong. If I ever meet Scalzi, I’ll give him a high five and buy him a beer. If I meet Rothfuss, I’ll squee and give him hugs. If I meet Whedon, I’ll faint dead away.

But here’s what rubs me the wrong way: in spite of their best intentions, they’re perpetuating the problem.

Scalzi, Rothfuss, and Whedon are—right now—wealthy(ish) white men writing about problems only women face. They are exhibiting the male control they castigate by fighting our fight. I’m not ungrateful, but I’m frustrated that the strongest plays in the feminist fight are coming from men… and even these men don’t seem interested in what women have to say.

They’re taking away our right to fight the good fight.

When women write these posts, they’re quietly applauded, loudly criticized, or just ignored as regurgitating feminist vitriol. So when men like Scalzi step up to the plate, we praise them high and low, and the merits of their argument ring across the internet.

All because they have the lucky position of being a privileged white man writing on behalf of women.

“That’s awesome,” we say, “that they’re using their power to defend women’s rights.”

And it IS. IT IS.

But shouldn’t we women be fighting our own corner? Shouldn’t we be writing the satire? Shouldn’t posts like Seanan McGuire’s be shared all across Facebook and Tweeted with the vengeance of a hundred thousand little blue birds? Shouldn’t one powerful woman be sharing the post of another powerful woman and starting the discussion that way? Instead, I, a woman, found wrote through the internet-fu of one man a post written by another man.

Lots of women write about this issue. I’ve written about feminist woes in fantasy, my friend Emmie Mears has written about women in fantasy and rape issues; but of course, we’re not famous (yet). Yet Seanan McGuire’s series is highly successful, and the male writers talking about feminism and women’s rights don’t even seem to pick up on what she has to say. They’d rather listen to themselves rant and then congratulate each other on their own feminist virtues.

It’s maddening.

Let’s change this. Let’s share the posts that women write. Let Scalzi host a woman on his popular blog. Let Whedon write a female character who never falls prey to violence from a man. Let’s hear from Jane Espenson on the topic. Let’s take back our own goddamned fight and make our own arguments. We don’t need rich white men taking away our rights or trying to give them back to us.

What do you think, readers? Do you think these men should stop trying to ‘save’ women, or do you like having a champion?

Image via HuffingtonPost.com

edit: 8 p.m. EDT
Well, the name calling and threats have started in the moderation queue. We’ve all had our fun, but I think it’s time we take a breather. I’m turning the comments off for the evening.

An Open Letter to Retail Customers

A seriously odd customer today got me thinking about how we all treat the people who wait on us in any service capacity.

Oh, let me back up: I work part-time in retail. I know that cashiering isn’t glamorous, it isn’t exactly intellectually stimulating, and I know it suggests high school students and, well, people with nothing else to do.

But let me tell you a few things. I have a Master’s degree in Journalism, and I’ve worked as a reporter. I’m actually a pretty good reporter. But I don’t like reporting. I don’t mind, however, working retail, and I choose to do so to supplement my household income. I can perform quick arithmetic in my head, I’m scrupulously honest (see above about not enjoying newspaper reporting), and I actually enjoy working in the gorgeous fast-paced setting that is retail sales.

Plus, I work in a semi-New Age store. I meet interesting people, and I get to look at pretty things. I’m a magpie of both shiny things and shiny ideas, so I do get some pleasure out of my work, when it’s going well.

The bad days are very bad, though, and that’s largely because a portion of the population does not appreciate that I’m a human being, not a talking cash register.

So I’d like to ask the internet to remember a few things about the people who wait on you.

1. I am not a child. Don’t accuse me of breaking things or of not keeping my room clean enough. I work hard at this, and I frequently work completely alone. It can be hard to keep up with your demands, but I’m not completely incapable. Just give me a minute to do my job.

2. I don’t want to be hit on. C’mon, guys. I’m a married woman. Plus, I’m not getting paid to flirt. I smile and ask you about your day because it’s polite for me to do so.

3. I don’t like it when salespeople stalk me, either. But sometimes companies expect their employees to do just that. Be understanding. Don’t shoo me like a stray puppy. I’m just doing my job.

4. I’m a pretty smart gal. Don’t assume that because someone is wearing a name-tag, they’re not an educated, intelligent person. Just don’t. You never know someone else’s story.

5. I have feelings, too. I know you’re in a hurry: I am, too. But when my equipment has a fault, or when there’s a long line, I can only do what I can do. Believe me, I’m trying to go as fast as I can. And if I can’t answer your question, don’t yell at me. Don’t take your bad day out on me. Maybe I’m having a bad day, too.

And finally, my gigantic pet-peeve:

Don’t talk on your cellphone when you should be interacting with me. I know that I’m just a function to you, a check-out machine at the front of the store, but I’m not a computer. I have to tell you your total, make sure you found what you needed, ask if you want a receipt, a box, a bag, any number of things. And I can’t do that if you’re not listening. You’re preventing me from doing my job well.

Plus, it’s just rude.

I’m begging you, internet. The next time someone in retail, in service, or on the phone asks you a question or takes a long time, remember that they’re a person. They’re doing a job, but they are not that job. Be nice.