Monday, June 11, 2018

Really getting to like this Sunburst thing...

The 2018 Sunburst longlist is up, and I'm on it again--this time for my short story "Yellowcat", a sort of literary horror story that found a home with Grain Magazine.  It's actually not available to read online: Grain is a print-only magazine, and a lovely one, which you should definitely consider buying.

Other people on this year's longlist include so many wonderful fellow travelers, including Kari Maaren, Rati Mehrotra, Sandra Kasturi, Kate Heartfield, Kate Story, Fonda Lee, Lesley Livingston and Terri Favro: all fantastic writers with whom I'm so grateful to share a community and the occasional drink.

It's been ten years since I began writing (!) and every time something goes well for me, a nice review, an award or nomination, I feel humbled by the quality of the work I see around me, joyful to be considered in the same breath, and delighted by the many organizations and individuals dedicated to raising the profile of the work we do.

To all of you who read, review, share, post, and talk about stories: thank you!

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 in Stories

It's that writerly tradition: the year-end post!  I don't always make one, but I usually wish I had.  This year I received the gift of an unexpected day off from work and I'm going to make the most of it!

2017 short fiction from me, which I hope you'll kindly consider when making your award nominations:

"Wooden Boxes Lined with the Tongues of Doves", Beneath Ceaseless Skies: a bleak and difficult start to the year, even more than usual for my work. This story doesn't make it easy for the reader.

"Dinners in Wartime", Liminal: this one's also quite bleak, inspired by the suicide of someone I cared about. Trigger warning, friends; I don't know if this story's emotional payload will hit you the way it hit me to write, but please take care of yourselves. 

"Yellowcat", Grain Magazine: not actually available to read online so you'll have to trust me on how fantastic it is!

"Le lundi de la matraque (Nightstick Monday)", Strange Horizons: Immortal screwup Gus Hillyard returns in this story of a violent moment in Canadian history. Gus is always willing to take up someone else's fight, and not always able to tease out who's right or how far to go.

"Number One Draft Pick", The Sum of Us: this anthology focuses on caregiving, and my story features a service dog, her handler, and a hockey player dealing with a seizure disorder.  It's the first time I've written about hockey, and it brought me a lot of joy, ending my year of stories on a high note.

2017 fiction recommendations from others, collecting basically everything I have liked this year and a whole bunch more.  It wasn't a great reading year for me so I defer to two wonderful folks who have read more widely:

A.C. Wise recommends novels and novellas and short fiction 

Maria Haskins: 2017 suggested reading list

2017 successes for Spells of Blood and Kin, which I'm noting here because although this year was tough in some ways, boy did it contain some high points!
Spells of Blood and Kin won the Sunburst, and appeared in the CBC's holiday gift guide

And finally, a plug for a new thing I added to my life in 2017: Shelter Movers, a nonprofit organization which helps people leave abusive relationships without losing their belongings.  I resolved after last year's US election that some of my work in the world needed to be direct, one-to-one assistance of vulnerable people (in addition to the donations I already make, and the constant work of keeping my writing conscious and empathetic).  And boy does this fit the bill.  I'm proud of what we do there.

Wishing all the readers and writers out there a wonderful 2018!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Still riding that win...

Yes, that's me, accepting my Sunburst Award from chair Rebecca Simkin (who is wonderful even apart from the fact that she has just handed me a medal and a cheque).  I am, once again, so thrilled to be honoured this way.  The other works and writers who have been recognized with this award are beyond amazing!

Since I believe in celebrating wins when we get'em, I wore my medal all night at the bar.  (I may or may not have worn it to bed.)

This win is a very happy ending for Spells of Blood and KinIt's not totally an ending, of course--it remains in print and on sale in stores--but unless there's a movie deal or something (hi, producers! You're all reading this, right?) it will take a back seat to newer works.  Some of those newer works will also be written by me (uh, not right away, but watch this space).

I won't be a debut novelist next time around.  I'll be a grizzled veteran (not a should see how much grey hair I have now).  I can't wait.

2017 has treated a lot of us roughly, I have to say, but I'm coming out of it with this little sun in my pocket.  It's so much more than I expected, and I'm taking it as a sign for how much more the future has in store.  2018: I'm on the horizon, and I'm climbing up.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

2017 Sunburst Awards

I started writing Spells of Blood and Kin ages ago: 2008, the year I attended the Viable Paradise writing workshop.  Nine years.

Nine years ago, I had just lost my father.  I was trying to write something light, something to distract myself from loss and difficulty.  I should have known I didn't work that way, but it took me a while to understand.  When I did, the book I ended up writing was pretty different.

Today, I won the Sunburst Award for that book.  In the jury's statement, one bit really stood out to me:
"Humphrey's use of a real, contemporary Canadian setting and her refusal to allow her characters any easy victories set this novel apart from a field of strong competitors."  
Italics mine.  I was going to say easy victories aren't a thing I understand, but I do understand that this is a matter of perspective and privilege.  
I also understand that the victories that we treasure are the ones for which we worked, and it's true that the characters in this book work hard for the comparatively small victories they manage.  This felt true to me when I was writing it, and still today.

This particular victory, then, feels incredibly satisfying in terms of how I worked for it, and also staggeringly lucky in that so many others did too.  The other nominees are amazing!  Have you read these books?!  It's an honour even to be mentioned in the same breath.  Please go forward and read all the works nominated for the Sunburst in every category!

Writing can be an extremely long game.  I had no idea, back in 2008, what I was going to write, or how I was going to sell it.  I only knew that I had a pressing desire to write at all, and that it was going to be about a witch.  No single day held a particular breakthrough, but so many days held words in them, and the words built up into pages, and finally here I am.  Maybe this will be you.  Maybe this will be me again.  I can't wait to keep moving forward through all the days and their words.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Two years since I saw my book's face!

A lot has happened since I last posted!  Most recently, Spells of Blood and Kin, whose cover reveal was two years ago, has now been in the world for a full year and was recently shortlisted for a Sunburst Award!

As a debut novelist who works in the book business, I had two hopes for this book: earn out my advance in the first year (kind of arbitrary, but a generally accepted hallmark of good-enough sales), and get nominated for something.  Neither of these things were very much within my control, of course--you write the best book you can, and you promote it as well as you know how, but there's a huge amount of randomness in the market.  I'm lucky to have had a successful tour, some friends in my corner, and some good reviews!  It's pretty great to have checked both boxes!

Other cool things happening right now: The Sum of Us is officially out!  This anthology focuses on caregivers in a speculative fiction context, with a portion of profits going to the Canadian Mental Health Association.  It includes my story "Number One Draft Pick" (why YES, it IS about hockey, funny you should ask).

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

#FictionFightsBack: the Civil Liberties Edition

Today you can read a new Gus story: Le lundi de la matraque (Nightstick Monday), now at Strange Horizons.  There is also a podcast of it, read by Anaea Lay, and a fantastic cover illustration by Matthew Filipkowski:

If you don't already know Gus Hillyard, she is a recurring character in my work.  She's semi-immortal and hungry for violence.  She walks the tightrope of her own nature, trying to do good with all the wrong tools.  It drives her to drink, and wreck things a lot.

This story, like most of the stories Gus appears in, is about choosing ideals over people, choosing people over ideals, and paying a price either way.  It's about an era of Canadian history that a lot of us don't learn much about: when I started the research I was surprised at how much violence I didn't learn about in history class.

Many people who lived through that history are still around.  And like most history, it isn't past: it's still unfolding around us, or beneath us, or through us.  I wrote this story well before the recent US election and the wave of massive protests that followed; I was thinking of the setting as an era of revolution that has since ended, but already my understanding has changed, and I have begun to think of the last hundred years as an era of revolution that still goes on.

To honour the spirit of resistance, the paycheque for this story has been donated to the ACLU, as part of the #FictionFightsBack initiative.

If you like Gus, here are some other places she appears:
Who in Mortal Chains, one of my earliest published stories, which takes place a couple of years before "Le lundi de la matraque"
Spells of Blood and Kin, my first novel, in which Gus is not the protagonist but steals a scene here and there

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Story birthday + #FictionFightsBack

Today you can read my latest short story, "Wooden Boxes Lined with the Tongues of Doves", at Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  You can also listen to the audio version read by the awesome Michael J. DeLuca.

This story's a dark one (I know: shocker).  The title was a gift from a friend of a friend: I don't even know the name of the person who thought of it, but that person told it to my BFF who gave it to me, and I wrote it on a scrap of napkin (as you do) and carried it around for years before turning it into this.  If the person who thought up this title ever reads this, I hope you like what you set in motion!

There's a fantastic initiative happening right now called #FictionFightsBack.  It was started by S.L. Huang as a way to combat authoritarianism and bigotry in the wake of the recent US election.  Huang writes:
The nutshell is simple: write stories that push back against bigotry, oppression, or authoritarianism in some way, and donate the proceeds to an organization that does the same.
"Wooden Boxes Lined with the Tongues of Doves" is about people being silenced, constrained and betrayed by those who have power over them.  The choices they make in response are hard, and have hard consequences.  I sometimes write about people resisting oppression gloriously and then thriving...but this is not one of those stories.  Just so you know.

I believe in compassion for people who have to do tough things to save themselves. I'm donating the entire payment for this story to Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood provides a lot of valuable health services: birth control, reproductive health, LGBTQIA health, and yes, abortions.  I believe all of these services, including abortion, are essential and life-saving.  As a Canadian I have relatively easy access to this kind of care; I'm disturbed by how hard it already is for Americans, and it may be about to get harder.  If you're one of the many Americans worried about your health prospects as the Republicans propose to defund PP, my heart goes out to you, and so does the donation from this story.