Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In which I plan to unleash the Pussy Hurricane

The title for this post came to me from a cherished friend who is one of very few people in my life from whom I'd accept large-scale guidance on the direction of my fiction.  She's earned this right by being the only person to have read absolutely everything I've written in the last four years.

She's read a few things in draft which you, the world, haven't seen yet, since I haven't sold them yet.  She says my fiction really comes to life when I write women protagonists, and she asks me to do more of that (the above-mentioned hurricane).

This advice comes at an interesting time for me.  When I first started writing seriously, in university, I had a hard time writing believable female characters.  Partly due to internalized misogyny: it's only recently that women's works have become more included in the cultural canon, and the literary education I received as a kid was pretty heavily weighted in favour of the dominance of men's works and men's stories, which in turn influenced how I write.

More personally, I'm told I'm a pretty atypical woman in some ways.  When I tried to write characters like myself, I'd get feedback that they weren't believable as women even though they were just reflecting my own experience.  The woman who was supposed to be a mentor to me in university told me in front of an entire seminar that I didn't know how to be a woman.  I'm still not sure what she meant, but at the time, sadly, I believed her.

I've gotten over a lot of this, thanks to repeated encounters with smart feminists making arguments like this one (thanks, Foz Meadows!) and also thanks to the process of growing up and owning my experience.  I'm feeling excited and confident about my writing, and more than ever, I'm feeling that it reflects and develops my own best self.

But all of that is about me, and I sometimes worry that what's good for me isn't particularly good for the world.

And then I come across something like this discussion begun by Liz Bourke.  It's a lively, wonderful post about the dearth of older female protagonists in speculative fiction.  The comments section includes recommendations...and even when defining 'older' women as over 35 (!), the list is disappointingly short, although full of things I look forward to reading.

It's a timely reminder that writing my own truth--as a woman over 35, as a queer person, as a person who experiences gender unusually, as a person--is not only good for me.  It's good for readers.  It's good for other writers.  It's even good for the business.

I'm not saying I'm now going to plan some kind of authorial-insert cookie-cutter version of myself for all of my protagonists, but I am feeling like I no longer have to go through the process of translating my characters into cultural defaults.  They can be who they are.  They must be who they are.  And if that means they're odd women, older women, other women, so be it.

We can be soldiers now, you know.  (We've been soldiers all along.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In which I apparently did make a New Year's resolution after all

As you know, Bob, Duotrope began charging authors for its service and content as of Jan 1.  I chose not to sign up, even though the amount they're asking is exactly what I voluntarily paid when paying was optional.

Why pay when it wasn't required?  I figured it was worth some amount to a whole bunch of people who would find it a financial burden to contribute, so I chipped in more than what I felt was my share in order to hopefully keep it accessible to everyone.  Now that the benefit would accrue only to me, the cost is totally not worth it.

I'm extremely happy with this decision now that I've gone a couple of weeks without Duotrope.

I don't miss the submission tracking--I have a spreadsheet for that anyway, which is pretty epic, since I am an Excel geek courtesy of years of corporate life.

I don't miss the market listings--I have a market list of my own, on which I've ranked the various pro markets according to all kinds of personal factors, and so far, I haven't submitted outside that list except for anthologies, which I usually find out about through word of mouth anyway.

I especially don't miss the response time statistics.  For the few months I used Duotrope, I was playing this unintentional yet sadistic game with myself: watching the response times of markets where I had a submission in, trying to figure out if I'd made it past the first readers, trying to read into these numbers some indication of my worth.

That, in case you were wondering, is a colossal waste of time.

I have as many submissions out right now as ever (not many) and yet, since I've withdrawn from Duotrope, I haven't spent any time at all wondering who's read them yet and how long it's going to be until I hear back.

Instead, I've written a new story.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

In which I have a new story

Project Write Faster is showing strong results so far--I began this story during Christmas, scarcely three weeks ago, and the first draft is already complete.  May I be this productive all winter!  In fact, I wish the same for any of you that write.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

In which I think about bodies

My colleague has an eight-year-old daughter who worries about having fat thighs.

Let's pause to contemplate this.  She's eight.  She's active--she rides her bike and hikes with her dad--and she's skinny.  And so what if she wasn't skinny... (a) that would be fine and (b) she's eight.

This kid isn't a woman yet, won't be for years, and she's already dealing with the pernicious body-consciousness that women face.  She knows the standard, and she knows she doesn't measure up.

What she doesn't know yet is that it's a fucked-up standard, and that no one measures up.  The most beautiful women in the world don't even measure up.  Tabloid headlines find imperfections in Jennifer Lawrence, Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez.  How's a kid supposed to read that?

I really want to fight this standard.  I want beauty to not even be a standard.  I want beauty to be a grace note, something we can enjoy and celebrate, but not a job we have to do, not a price of entry.

How does this tie into writing?  I think it goes along with committing to diversity in general.  Speculative fiction, like romance, has a lot of examples of princessy female characters whose worth is partly situated in their beauty, and while I don't at all want people to stop writing beauty if that's what moves them, I feel a need to go out of my way to write characters whose relationship with beauty is complicated.

I don't want to forget that beauty can't be separated from sex and class and race and every other axis of oppression.  I don't want to forget that beauty and its lack can both be used as weapons, especially against women.

And I don't ever, ever want to leave a kid feeling like there's something wrong with her thighs.