Friday, February 28, 2014

Deadlines, deadlines . . . dead.

As my deadline has gotten closer, I've been steadily working on certain things for my manuscript, but then there was still a little sprint to the finish line. I'd done what I'd thought would be my final edit of the thing already last week, but as I was coding the manuscript's headers and making a style guide for my publisher and processing some of its peculiarities with instructions for typesetters, I was also . . . you guessed it, reading it again. Just to be sure, you know.

But even though this is the first time I've had a very specific deadline for a book-length manuscript, I seem to have been . . . doing quite a lot of other stuff, and let's be honest, most of it was not as important as what I should have been doing with the book. My priorities are pretty weird sometimes. My usual productivity expectations are pretty high--I like to make one video per month for each of my two YouTube channels, one webcomic a week for my fantasy story comic, one webcomic a month for my joke comic for writers, and a karaoke video each week. I also like fitting in reading, baking, hanging out with friends, and keeping up the blogging, tweeting, blog reading, and even watching an occasional silly show on my computer. Add to that the fact that I am sometimes also writing my own new material, editing my own material, and editing other people's stuff--while still trying to hold down a day job and do household chores and do other projects and find time to sleep--and I am a Very Busy Girl who sometimes doesn't quite know how to prioritize.

So, keeping with the theme, I made a comic about how sometimes I procrastinate on the important things by doing stuff like making comics. It's kind of meta actually.

And . . . just so you know . . .

Yes, I did turn the book in. Now it will never be just mine again.

Though I guess it never was in the first place.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

House Pride!

My friends on Facebook were talking about Harry Potter-themed clothes and it made me want to go buy a shirt to show off my house pride. So I did.

Any time I've taken any kind of Sorting quiz, I get Ravenclaw. It's pretty obvious why, I think, but I've noticed that a lot of people have a LOT invested in their idea of what Hogwarts house they'd be in, and I don't think another house besides Ravenclaw would fit me. The fans of Harry Potter have explored the mythology of the houses extensively, and come up with all kinds of ideas about the houses that weren't specifically discussed in the books, and now it's kind of taken on a culture of its own.

I was thinking about how aspects of books sometimes resonate with people in unexpected ways, and the Hogwarts houses have definitely been one of those pieces of recent mythology that have made their way into our culture. You'll find people passionately defining and philosophizing on their houses, defending Slytherin with "they're not all evil, they're ambitious!" mantras, analyzing fictional characters or celebrities and putting them in houses, and even making entertainment recommendations based on what house you identify with. (Check out this awesome post on queer lit that does that!)

I've noticed people really enjoy being "sorted," so to speak; they like seeing themselves analyzed, and they like seeing their traits put into a perspective that lets them celebrate it and fasten themselves to an identity. People do similar things with Myers-Briggs types, or left-brained vs. right-brained, or Zodiac signs; it doesn't surprise me that elements of fiction are similarly fascinating to readers. There's a part in one of my books--Bad Fairy--that makes me wonder if readers will react to it with a similar type of connection.The fairy characters get to undertake a unit of elemental studies in their magick classes, so they devote a week each to explore Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. And in doing so, they change their entire lifestyle--they eat differently, dress differently, act differently. If my book were to become really well-known and popular, I wonder how many people would execute their own Elemental Weeks?

So I wrote an elemental quiz you can take. It's on my author website. It's a pretty in-depth quiz designed to "sort" you according to element, and has detailed personality profiles in the results. And I used an avatar maker to illustrate the results pages with images that are pretty close to what my protagonist might have been wearing during those exercises.

Air: If you're Air, you value the intellectual, the mental, and the logical.  You love the big picture—the concept, the philosophy, the idea—more than you love the details.

While celebrating Air, the characters wear light-colored, roomy clothes and feather jewelry, eat light and airy foods, and focus on intellectual or scholarly pursuits. My character spends a lot of time reading and researching with the windows open, and climbing in the trees.
Fire: If you're Fire, you value the passionate, the exciting, and the intense.  You love the juice of life—the experience of it—more than you value accomplishments or possessions.

While celebrating Fire, the characters wear loud and daring clothes and flashy jewelry, eat spicy and flame-cooked foods, and focus on change and energy. My character spends a lot of time getting into mischief, following her impulses, and getting into fights.
Water: If you're Water, you value compassion, caring, and deep feeling.  Your heart is your guide in everything you do, and you are very tuned in to other people’s experiences.

While celebrating Water, the characters wear flowing layers and seashell jewelry, eat soups and liquid foods, and focus on introspection and emotion. My character spends a lot of time perfecting future-telling techniques and going with the flow.
Earth: If you're Earth, you value practicality, common sense, and patience.  You have realistic expectations for your life, and prefer the tried and true to the up and coming.

While celebrating Earth, the characters wear heavy, practical clothing and flower jewelry, eat solid and grain-based foods, and focus on domestic duties and practical applications. My character spends a lot of time gardening and taking a realistic look at her options.

So what element are you guys? I doubt it's any surprise to anyone that I always get Air.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Books I Love: Julie Anne Peters

Another installment of my Books I Love series!

Julie Anne Peters writes primarily YA books about underrepresented topics and unusual protagonists in the contemporary world. I've enjoyed many of her books from lesbian characters' perspectives, and some of her books include gay characters or transgender characters. One of the most special things about Julie Anne Peters is that her books don't lie to you. They present the sometimes harsh realities of LGBT teens: Yes, sometimes your parents kick you out. Yes, sometimes you experience homophobia or transphobia. Yes, sometimes people are horrible to you. Yes, sometimes you can suffer from internalized oppression. And yes, sometimes there is a way out, but it isn't easy. I appreciate that she doesn't rose-color her characters' experiences, though sometimes that means reading her books is depressing. That said, there is some determined hope going on as well, and despite all the darkness, I could still see the light at the end of the tunnel in her characters' lives.

Some of her books that I recommend:

Between Mom and Jo
Nick has two moms--well, technically he has Mom and Jo, lesbian parents whom he loves very much. But of course he deals with classmates who don't understand, who think he must be gay because his parents are, etc. The real trouble begins when he gets older and his parents split up. Problem is, since Mom and Jo were never "legally" married, that leaves Jo with absolutely NO rights with regards to visitation for Nick . . . to Nick's own dismay. This book deals realistically with the trials and tribulations inherent in alternative family life, and it highlights how much unnecessary heartbreak results from society's refusal to protect gay people's families with the rights heterosexuals receive automatically. 

Far From Xanadu
In a small town, it's difficult being the only lesbian. A girl who goes by the name "Mike" is Coalton's only gay girl (though she has a gay guy friend), and that makes it very unlikely that she'll find someone to have a relationship with if she wants to stay in town. She likes softball and is good at plumbing and does a lot of typically boyish things, and even though her peers and the townspeople in general don't really "get" her, she's never felt like an outcast. Coalton is "home" and she belongs. But then she gets a crush on a straight girl: Xanadu, who's been transplanted into the town as basically a punishment. Fascinated, Mike tries pursuing Xanadu, but all Xanadu wants to do is pursue hot guys who are jerks to both of them. Unfortunately, she strings Mike along just enough to keep a glimmer of hope alive in her dreams. Mike has to figure out what to do with her unrequited love before her unrealistic expectations and her broken heart lead her to follow in her father's footsteps. This book expertly tackles the subject of being in love with someone who can't love back.

Keeping You a Secret
Holland has the supposed dream life--hot boyfriend, great college prospectives, awesome social life. And then a very out gay girl shows up in school and Holland realizes they have something in common--something she didn't even know she had the capacity to feel--and suddenly she knows why her dream life never felt like her dream. And unfortunately, some of her other dreams begin to drift out of reach in her pursuit of the girl she loves. The book is wonderfully and powerfully written, and so emotionally REAL--any teen, gay, straight, or bi should read this, and perhaps a lot of adults wouldn't have the patience for the "who am I?" routine but some will still relate to it. It helps gay teens not only by providing characters like themselves but by being realistic about the possible outcomes of coming out--i.e., you WILL experience rejection and you WILL be denied certain things for the rest of your life if you commit yourself to being true to your orientation. I think it's important that gay kids are provided with a story that depicts what could actually happen to them and why they may want to do it anyway--reassuring them that though the road might be bumpy, it will ultimately be for the best . . . just not particularly easy anymore. I love that there was no sugar-coated ending.  

This was a book told from the point of view of a girl with a transgender sibling. Make no mistake, it's not the trans girl's story; it's her sister's. I think reading it would still help young trans people understand that they're not alone, but it's more focused on the family relationship and the experience of having a family member who's trans. The writing style is realistic and the characters are well-written. I especially appreciated that Regan--Luna's sister--is supportive but not unrealistic; she sometimes gets angry at her sister and misgenders her as a brother, experiencing selfish teenage thoughts and getting annoyed that keeping this secret and being supportive is causing friction in her own relationships. Telling the story from a family member's perspective helped because it showed the family issues in first person--the voice is mainly sympathetic but not empathetic, which is an important difference. The reader can really pick up on Luna's frustration and deep-seated desire to be recognized as female, and it is realistic in that her transgender status is shown to not be the same as being a transvestite or being a person with a fetish or sexual quirk. In Luna's case, she experienced herself as a girl since childhood, and many trans kids have thought of themselves as a different gender from the one they were designated since they were old enough to know what gender is. That's reflected in Luna's experience--she liked Barbie and taking the role of the mother while playing house, and even though her father pushed her toward baseball and her mother was in denial about her being trans, she always knew who she was. This is the story of her trying to come out and embrace the woman she really is--and the story of the sister who helps her realize her dreams. 

There are other books by this author that are about non-LGBT outsider experiences as well, but these are my favorites. She has another book coming out in June entitled Lies My Girlfriend Told Me. It's going on my to-read list!

Monday, February 24, 2014

30-Week Blog Challenge Week 25: A Favorite Photo

I'm back with the Monday blog challenge! The lady in charge is Marie at Mom Gets Real. The questions are right here:


And Week 25's prompt is . . .


Okay, how about . . . THIS ONE!

I love this picture because it's incredibly eighties.

This did not take place in the eighties; it was Eighties Night at the skating rink. So I wore my bangles, my whistle earrings, and my eighties charm necklace as a belt. And then skated to eighties music all night.

My friend Heather took this picture. She was there too.

Skating is so awesome. :D

Sunday, February 23, 2014

New video on education for writers

I get a lot of questions from aspiring writers about what kind of education they "need." This is my answer, with a little bit of reflection about the purpose of a career. Maybe I'll say something that speaks to you. :)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Big Reveal on Protagonists' Careers

In the latest entry from The Literary Engineer, a group of authors (including me!) discuss the question of the week:

"Do you put a lot of thought into picking the jobs of your main characters?"

Read answers from several writers here on the blog post!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Style guides are awesome

I'm not sure how many of you folks already knew this, but I've worked as a freelance editor for well over a decade.

Some time ago, my fiction agent joked that whenever my book sells, my edit letter from the acquiring agent would be blank. Because she knows I'm kind of ridiculous when it comes to language. Well, my deadline is coming up for my nonfiction book now, and soon I'll be getting my first edit letter from a publisher. However, because I'm an editor myself, I figured that if I knew what style guide they use, I could deliver a cleaner copy.

So I asked for the style guide, and yes, they had one I could use. And what's even better is it's based on Chicago, the style guide I generally use and am most familiar with. I read through the eight-page document and found nothing surprising. There were a couple preferences with numbers and percentages (numerals vs. spelling them out, specifically) that I had to update as per their guidelines. But I was kinda tickled that just about everything else was stuff I already knew.
  • Yep, I use the serial comma.
  • Yes, I space my ellipses properly.
  • I already indicate plurals the way I should.
  • I was already abbreviating dates with the apostrophe before the year facing the right way.
  • I'm aware of all the dash rules--how en dashes indicate ranges and em dashes for in-text offsets and other uses.
  • Capitalization is already how they like it.
  • I hyphenate almost everything the way they want and don't hyphenate almost everything they don't want hyphenated. There are a couple hyphenation issues I want to keep nonstandard because they will confuse people otherwise (e.g., "nonasexual" and "nonsexual" are different things, and "non-asexual" and "non-sexual" make it clearer).
  • Names of publications, TV shows, and blogs were already italicized.
But one of the last things I will need to do is code my manuscript, which basically means I have to mark certain things (e.g., illustrations, text boxes containing quotes, three different levels of headings). I guess this makes for easier typesetting later and helps avoid wonky variations in formatting. I also have to (gasp!) pull all my footnotes out, replace the superscripts with bracketed roman numbers, and make a separate document of just the footnotes. ARGH.

Still, this is not at all intimidating. But who knows if something scary awaits me in an upcoming edit letter. . . .


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My haircut

In case you didn't see on, oh, Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, yes, I cut my hair!

This is absolutely the shortest I've had my hair since 1990. When I was in like seventh grade.

Weird how little I've changed.
I haven't had a haircut in ten years. This is me right after the last time I cut my hair, in 2004:

Long hair has always been kinda my trademark. And I guess it's a good one for me because I'm so little that it doesn't take that long to grow it so it extends an appreciable distance down my back. I have spent most of my life with hair past my waist. But ever since I was about 18, I haven't been able to maintain healthy hair at that length for some reason. Maybe because I started putting it in weird styles or something.

But really, the last foot of my hair, at least, was really raggedy for years before this chop. I decided to make a deliberate effort to take care of it really well, get regular trims every eight weeks, and document how long it takes for it to grow back. Here are my before pictures:

And here are my after pictures on the day I got it cut:

I don't really like having short hair, but it's not bothering me the way it did when I got the last haircut ten years ago. It's kind of a novelty to not have it in the way of a purse strap and not having to put it up to go to the bathroom or brush my teeth, and certain styles look really different--if I pull it back with clips on either side it's really perky looking, and people keep saying it makes me look younger (which I guess should be a good thing as I'm in my mid-thirties?). I'll enjoy it while it lasts, but it'll get long again pretty fast.

Monday, February 17, 2014

30-Week Blog Challenge Week 24: About Your Childhood

I'm back with the Monday blog challenge! The lady in charge is Marie at Mom Gets Real. The questions are right here:


And Week 24's prompt is . . .


Well where the heck do you start with a question like that?

Oh, I know.

Newborn Julie

I was born on January 17, 1978, in Summit, New Jersey. I had hair even then! My mom was snowed into the hospital when she was having me. Maybe that's why I still hate the cold?

I was a happy oldest child but I don't remember being an only child because my sister was born about a year later.

Yep, perfect 1970s family.
We moved to Kernersville, North Carolina, in 1980. I was a precocious reader and late walker (probably because everyone was always carrying me around and reading to me). I learned to read at two years of age and had a really big vocabulary for my age. I liked reading to my sister and with adults.

With Grandma and Grandpa
I also liked coloring and art.
We moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1982. My mom sent my sister and me to a nursery school some of the time, where I learned songs and read books and enjoyed company with other kids. My dad was working in low-level banking jobs and my mom did various things--waiting tables, managing apartments, etc. My mom spent a LOT of time with us and fostered my creative leanings. I started writing little "books" and illustrating them myself, and they actually made sense.

My first "book," maybe

Soon enough my mom had another baby. Yet another sister!

Mommy with Big Sisters Julie and Pattie--and baby Lindsay!
Shortly after the baby was born I got to go to kindergarten. My teacher wasn't exactly sure what to do with a kindergartner who was reading on an upper elementary level so she didn't bother with putting me in a reading group and just sent me to the computer lab with the fifth graders during reading time. I got a ten-year-old buddy who taught me how to program in Logo. I liked that little turtle. I preferred hanging out with older people and wasn't very good at getting along with kids my own age. Oh, and I was obsessed with The Smurfs and Woody Woodpecker for some reason.

Smurfs lunchbox! Can't get cooler.
In kindergarten I was the youngest participant in the Young Authors Conference after I wrote a book--sort of--about colors, and illustrated it. I got to go around to different classrooms in the school and read my book out loud to other students in the upper grades. It was a lot of fun. I'm sure it was around that time that I started telling people I wanted to be an author when I grew up.

In kindergarten I had a party for my birthday and got to invite the entire class. It was pretty awesome. I didn't have another party like that until I was a teenager.

We moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1984. I fixated on the Ewoks cartoon even though I hadn't seen Star Wars and enjoyed dressing up as an Ewok. Haha. In first grade I started getting sent to another school for the gifted program a couple times a week. I mostly seem to remember a lot of free play, geometric blocks, and brain teasers. Also, my dad got a piano and he was a great pianist so he would practice and play and my sisters and I would dance. He started giving me piano lessons when I was about seven. My sister also got piano lessons but wasn't very interested. I kept going with it for a long time and enjoyed playing duets with my dad.

Predictably, I continued to enjoy reading, writing, singing, and art. My family had a lot of artsiness in it--my aunt was a painter, my dad could play several instruments, my grandfather was a cantor, my grandmother was a professional singer and had even been on Broadway--so I had a lot of support and inspiration. I liked writing little poems and of course my teachers and parents enjoyed the heck out of that. In second grade I won a county-wide poster contest and won a savings bond. It was in the newspaper and everything!

I didn't have a whole lot of friends, but my first best friend was a girl called Grace. I don't really remember us having a whole lot in common, but we had fun together. She wasn't into cartoons like I was, though. I started a several-year obsession with The Popples on television and wanted to collect all the toys, and managed to get a pretty impressive collection. My second best friend, Ellen, was my younger sister's age and liked Care Bears, so we had some fun playing with our toys and making up games. Sometimes we'd record us making up stories on a tape recorder, or have dance contests in the hallway playing our Madonna cassettes.

As an older elementary kid I began to go to Hebrew school; my dad's side of the family was Jewish. I was always a language geek so I took to it very well, though I was kind of irritated that I couldn't even spell my name in Hebrew. (The language doesn't have a J. I was using my Hebrew middle name, Rachel. Oddly enough my Hebrew first name is Shira. I don't know why I wasn't using that.) My sister and I also entered Brownie Girl Scouts. It wasn't very fun for me, but occasionally something was enjoyable. I just didn't connect with any of the kids there and didn't like our leader. To tell you the truth I just liked the uniforms, and enjoyed drawing pictures of all the pieces of the different uniforms. I was convinced I was going to go on to Junior Girl Scouts, Cadette Girl Scouts, and someday become a leader. I did actually go on to Juniors, but didn't stay long. It probably would've been different if we actually did the stuff you could earn badges for. Another extracurricular thing we did was gymnastics lessons--my sisters and I did that together, plus our friend Ellen--but other than that I wasn't really an active kid. It was still mostly reading and writing and whatnot.

I joined the fourth grade chorus when I was allowed, and really enjoyed learning multiple parts for the songs or creating harmony for them. I struggled to use my double-deck tape recorder to make harmony recordings but I just couldn't get it to work. Beyond that I began to be very focused on documenting and organizing information, and just loved creating a cataloging system for my books, making lists of favorite songs, and paying attention to various routines. I'd always had a messy desk until fourth grade, and my teacher in that classroom turned me around and helped me get organized. (I thought she was mean at first but she really helped me.) Our family got an Apple II (a cast-off from my computer genius uncle) and we'd play games on it and I learned to program a little, too. I was forever making games and quizzes about my own life. I also started a novel when I was in fourth grade. I never finished it, but it had maybe seven chapters when I got tired of it. I also wrote a funny short story called "Wendy West Saves the World."

Fifth grade brought a "big buddies/little buddies" program and I got paired with an adorable kindergartner. I liked reading with her, and since my youngest sister and my little buddy were in the same class, our families became friends.

I stayed in the chorus for fifth grade and my sister entered it in fourth grade. I really liked singing but I think it wasn't challenging enough for me at that point--the most we ever tried was two-part harmony, and I'd been introduced to music so early in my life that I found it boring--plus we were singing Christmas carols for the holiday concerts and I didn't really relate to it because I wasn't raised with Christmas. My sister and I got photos taken when we were in the same holiday concert and we were both kind of weirded out by posing in front of Christmas trees.

My family took a Disney World trip in 1988 on my grandpa's dime, and we had a family reunion. And weirdly enough, shortly after that we found out my dad's job was transfering him to Florida and we were going to move there. It was really hard on me to leave my best friend. I remember seeing her mom driving her away after our last playdate and running after the car. I was very melodramatic about how I was never going to see her again, and though my mom insisted that we would visit, we never did. That really was the last time I saw her.

My family moved to Sarasota, Florida, in 1989. That was a pretty weird summer: the bank was putting my dad's entire family up in a swanky condo while we house-hunted, and we literally lived on the beach for two months. I got my ears pierced, got a tan, started wearing makeup, and felt pretty oddly grown up.

Yeah, I was eleven.
Middle school was a pretty crap time for me. I didn't adjust well--it was probably some combination of being in a new state, being in a new school, changing classes, and hitting my awkward years. I dealt with a fair amount of bullying, felt directionless, and thought I was ugly. My hair got fried from too much swimming in chlorinated pools--when you have very light hair, it can absorb the chlorine and turn green, which mine did!--and so I had to have it cut. And then I got braces on top of that. I kind of hated everything.

Seventh grade brought joining the orchestra, and I enjoyed learning to play violin and kind of being a music geek. I was still of course very into reading and writing, but I was also pretty depressed and lonely. I took some tennis lessons around age twelve and enjoyed doing that, and my grandparents moved to the area so I started spending more time with them. I also played a lot of video games because our family got a Nintendo system. And I still liked watching cartoons.

In eighth grade I took some jazz dancing lessons and enjoyed them. I had a couple friends from strings class or through school--mostly other people who didn't fit in well--and I stayed with the orchestra through the end of middle school. My parents began to send my sisters and me to an after-school place called Girls, Inc., and I became a junior staff there and supervised in the art room. At age fourteen I started the first novel I would actually finish, entitled Double Vision. It was a silly science fiction book about teenage twins who solved a creepy mystery at their school. I was pretty excited about finally getting to say I wrote a whole book, even though it was of course terrible. My art skills improved a little because the art room staff leader took me under her wing and gave me some pointers.

Before and after lessons with the art teacher

When I graduated to high school I joined the chorus and quickly found out that I was sort of exceptional there, so I threw my whole life into singing. I made friends, won awards, made the All-State chorus, and came out of my shell a little. During that year, I started in beginning all-girls' chorus, but got switched halfway through the year to the more advanced mixed chorus after getting the highest musicianship scores in the 9th/10th grade division in my school. It was all pretty great.

I also got my first boyfriend, Peter, but didn't care for kissing him, so that was pretty weird. Anyway, sadly enough, after I'd auditioned and been accepted into the school's exclusive show choir, I found out my family was moving, and it was pretty devastating. I almost wanted to petition my parents to let me live with my grandparents so I could continue with the chorus, but I still ended up moving to Tampa and finding new friends and new chorus-related accomplishments. I also wrote another book while in high school, and dated another guy, and found my first long-lasting best friend, and still loved cartoons (especially Animaniacs, probably mostly because of the music). I wrote silly stories and made a movie out of one of them with a friend and my sister. I even went on to major in music. But that's not really "childhood" anymore, so I guess that's where I'll end this ramble.

Me, age 15

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pitch Wars Success Interview AND The Big Reveal on Critique Partners!

In the latest entry from The Literary Engineer, a group of authors (including me!) discuss the question of the week:

"Do you use beta readers or critique partners?"

Read answers from several writers here on the blog post!

And . . . dun-dun-DUN . . . my Pitch Wars mentee and I are on Brenda Drake's blog today in a success story interview!

Pitch Wars Success Story: Whitney Fletcher and Julie Sondra Decker!

(This interview is a lot of fun, you guys!)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Forgive me for being a little bit silly for a moment, but I must squee.

My first advance check came in the mail.

Like most authors, I don't do this for the money. I would write--and have been writing--no matter what. Regardless of whether it's read, whether it's loved, whether it's paid for, I am writing. But there comes a time in the life of a professional author when someone decides her ideas, her craft, her thoughts are worth paying for, and I have to say it's . . . sort of a whammy. In a good way.

There will be more of these checks, of course . . . this is just an advance, and if all goes well the book will sell awesomely and I'll be getting more of these thin sheets of validation, but this is a first in my life. I've been paid to write. Someone bought my book. A publisher decided my words were valuable enough to exchange for dollars. And readers will indicate that they want to digest my ideas by paying for a nicely packaged version of those words.

I'm a bona fide professional at the thing I most love to do in the whole world.

Clearly this requires that I demonstrate spotless decorum in the public arena forever after.

Okay, not really.

Yes, you're supposed to use the money to buy food,
then eat the food. But I cut out the middleman.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Speaking at IvyQ

Hi people! So I thought I'd talk a little bit about what my speaking engagement at IvyQ was like.

I was invited to speak at the IvyQ Conference--a pan-ivy queer conference--on the subject of asexuality. I was given complete freedom as to what I wanted to make my workshop about, too, and since this was a queer meeting of the minds I figured I should cover something relating to that. Asexuality 101 is tiring and probably unnecessary for a crowd like this, so I focused my presentation on the relationship between the asexual community and the queer community. Here is the summary of the workshop that appeared in the program:

So Princeton paid to fly my chilly bum up to New Jersey, where they put me up in a really nice hotel and even sent me shuttles for all my transportation. (I got off the plane and there was a guy standing there with a sign bearing my name, just like in the movies!) There was snow everywhere--not exactly this Floridian's idea of a good time--but it didn't actually snow while I was there, so I was lucky.

My cool hotel!
More or less as soon as I got to my room, I got a call from Ryan, whom I met during Pitch Wars. (He was my first alternate!) He lives in the area and thought it would be cool to take me out for hoagies, so that is what we did. It was pretty awesome to meet one of my writing pals--albeit a very new writing pal--and I must say my hoagie at Hoagie Haven was quite good. (I had an omelet one!)

The next day I had to do my talk. I got up and hopped on a shuttle to Princeton with some other presenters, and was able to make it there in time to go to another person's workshop. It was about transgressing gender, and though it was quite low-key it was pretty cool. Then I got to take a break and go over to Princeton's LGBT center! And I tell you what, their space is super cute! They had a whole queer library and nice people to talk to, and I even met someone who said she was familiar with my work because she uses my videos for education. ::faints:: Someone else who wandered through the area pointed me out and asked me if I make Internet videos. I was like, huh. Wow.

I got to have super awesome avocado sushi in their café, and then I went back over to the classrooms so I could give my talk. There were slight technical difficulties because their projector uses a serial port and my computer did not have a serial port, so I borrowed one of the volunteers' computers and transfered my presentation onto it. Unfortunately we also didn't get to record it; I'd asked whether we could have the event recorded so I could use it for education later, but that didn't come through. And I'm kicking myself because since my laptop wasn't being used for the presentation, I could have just set it somewhere and used it to make a low-quality recording of my talk. But I didn't think of it because we were late starting due to the technical difficulties.

The presentation itself went fabulously. I don't normally get nervous for public speaking or singing or anything like that, but at the last conference I felt a little anxious doing my presentation. This time I had zero nervousness . . . it was informal, low-key, friendly. I had thought a worst-case scenario for this could have included some hostility because I was covering some sensitive subjects about poor treatment by the queer community against the asexual community (though I made it clear that I have personally felt welcomed in queer spaces and believe these voices to be a minority), but still, reading out some of the harsh and harassing comments could have triggered some anger in the wrong setting. I'm grateful that it didn't happen.

There were no real speed bumps and I got a little audience participation like I'd hoped. My presentation ran EXACTLY the right amount of time (which was good because I was afraid of going over). I brought just enough handouts. I got to meet a couple other asexual people and one person who actually ran the Princeton asexuality group. Two folks asked me to send them a copy of my PowerPoint slides. It was pretty great.

After that I went to a presentation on consent under capitalism, and then I had to go catch my shuttle back to my hotel. I was sad that I couldn't stay for the keynote speaker, because it was Janet Mock. I love her! And if I may say it, I was super impressed that of over 25 speakers, a minority of us were white (only about maybe five). This is something I've been hoping to see for a long time--queer people of color getting the credit and billing they deserve as leaders of our community. The asexuality awareness movement is still pretty white. For a lot of reasons that I can't begin to tackle in this blog post unless I wanna be here all day.

Then, as if that day wasn't awesome enough, I got to spend the evening eating IHOP food with my long-time critique partner and friend Jay! We've both read and beat the crap out of each other's work over the years, and we connect on so many great levels and have so much in common, but I'd never so much as heard his voice or seen him on video. We hung out all night eating our pancakes and rambling, but I was pretty tired and sadly had to go to bed pretty early. I hope to see him again soon--maybe at a conference or something. I went to bed, left for Tampa in the morning, and met someone on the plane who had good taste in books and had actually seen me in the asexuality documentary. Haha! (She liked my Facebook author page and I guess we'll be in touch, maybe.)

Now that all that traveling is over, I guess I get to buckle down and work on my book. I have a deadline to turn the manuscript in . . . in less than a month. Hoo boy.

See you when I come out of the editing cave. . . .

Monday, February 10, 2014

30-Week Blog Challenge Week 23: A Letter to Your Parents

I'm back with the Monday blog challenge! The lady in charge is Marie at Mom Gets Real. The questions are right here:


And Week 23's prompt is . . .


Dear Mom and Dad,

The older I get, the more I know how fortunate I've been to have you as my parents. When I was a child you provided a safe place for me to grow up and gave my verbally precocious self the brain food I needed to set my own pace and thrive. When I was a teen you had the right balance of freedom and careful awareness to make me feel I could explore my identity without restrictions. When I went to college, you supported me financially and emotionally so I had every opportunity. And when I became a young woman, you let me decide who that woman would be.

When I compare notes with friends who grew up with less of the kind of support you offered me, I realize how much of who I became depended on being fostered and encouraged the way I was. I always felt that home was a place I could be myself. I never felt pressured to adopt ideas that hurt me--my choices and feelings about religion, sexuality, livelihood, and independence were respected and acknowledged. I know now that many people I know grew up without that foundation of safety--that they sometimes had to come home to judgment and violence--and as the years pass I grow ever more grateful that I had so little to move past, to unlearn, to unpack, to leave behind. Being your daughter has been a privilege, and I hope I keep making you proud of your choices. I love knowing that you like how I turned out, and I don't know if you give yourselves enough credit for the part you played, but you should. You really should.

I love you the maximum.