Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wednesday Factoid: Money

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Do you come from a family "of money"?

Well, not really.

My family was never rich and we did not grow up with extravagant vacations or expensive possessions. And I remember when times were tight here and there. But by some standards, we were probably pretty wealthy, and I certainly know that my family was the well-off one in my friend group.

We always had a house from the time that I was a young child; we always had at least one car but usually two and on a few occasions three; we got spoiled on our birthdays and present-giving holidays; we did not worry about where our next meal was coming from. When I was in high school nearly all of the parties with my friend group happened at my house because we had a big house (five bedrooms, three baths, with a dining room, living room, and den area).

I wasn't particularly aware of the differences between me and my friends when I was in school, but I did know that my dad had a good job and that we could afford services like cable television, extra phone lines, and basic expenses whenever emergencies came up if we wanted to. And when I went to college, I got a scholarship to pay for my tuition and my parents agreed to just pay for me to live off campus because I wanted to. They spent four years giving me nearly $500 a month (though that was contingent upon my staying in school and getting good enough grades to keep the scholarship; they didn't want me to have a job because they thought it might threaten my schoolwork). We were able to afford medical costs and occasional big purchases like a computer for me to take to college and all that.

I don't feel like I come from "a family of money," but it's undeniable that I had a ton of privileges and comforts that many of my friends did not.

Monday, September 28, 2015

What's your favorite?

As you may know if you follow my stuff, I did a Q&A on my other YouTube channel last week to celebrate reaching 5,000 subscribers.


There were some pretty interesting questions; some of them asked me to discuss what I think about certain asexuality issues, or inquired about my politics, or asked about my writing techniques or life experiences. But a large number of them just prompted me to choose a favorite.

Favorite food? Favorite book? Favorite music? Favorite color? Favorite TV show? Favorite movie? Favorite hobby?

Like many people, I have a really hard time answering these kinds of questions--not only because I have lots of favorites in most cases, but because there's no real way to quantify and rank my levels of liking these things, and I think the people asking are looking for an insight to what your favorites mean about you just as much as they might be looking for common ground.

I don't like choosing one movie to communicate something about who I am. If I pick a drama, people immediately say "oh she likes emotional and serious movies" and conclude that I wouldn't appreciate silly humor, but that's not accurate. If I name a YA book as my favorite, I might be misinterpreted as a person who won't read literary adult fiction. If I name a favorite band from the 80s, people might think I stopped listening to new music when I was a teenager. Obviously people aren't consciously making these conclusions about me if I choose one favorite, but it does inform their interpretations of me. That's why if I ever am bizarrely asked to provide one and only one "favorite" of something in one of these categories, I often end up choosing something fairly obscure so the person asking won't be able to make that conclusion. Maybe it's supposed to be an exercise for me to really think about it and be able to answer this question, but I'm not into communicating about myself in shortcuts.

What might be my favorite not only fluctuates with time and with introduction of new choices, but with my mood or current outlook. I also think that identifying one thing as my "favorite" imbues it with importance even from me--like that if I have ever called something my favorite, I'll look at it differently even though I know how arbitrary I can be sometimes with my favoritism.

So if you ever hear me say "oh that's my favorite [x]," I'm oversimplifying a LOT and I'm expressing an opinion that's sure to be fleeting.

And I think that's also probably pretty common.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Personal Digest Saturday: September 19 – September 25

Life news this week: 
  • The week didn't really go like I wanted. Mostly because making and editing the video for my 5,000 subscriber special took FOREVER and then it had rendering problems too. I recorded it on Saturday and got it half edited, edited the other half on Sunday, and dealt with all the rendering problems on Monday.
  • Went to my mom's on Tuesday. We had dinner (scalloped potatoes and corn) and I made oatmeal cookies with raisins! I made the 5,000 subscriber video public that night before going to bed, after making sure it didn't have any errors in the uploaded version.
  • The video is really freaking cute, guys. It's also really freaking long. But I answered a lot of cool questions in it! 88 questions to be exact! This is it.
  • An interview I did a while back with Tech Insider finally dropped.
  • Wednesday was Jeaux Day again. For the first time in a while we had our meeting at my house because America's Got Talent is over so we didn't need to use his TV. We ate at Five Guys and goofed around doing nothing.
  • Thursday was more new cartoons! I went to Jeaux's after work and we saw the new Steven Universe and Gravity Falls, both of which were great. Had my usual call with Victor during the wee hours.
  • Also spent the latter half of the week trying to complete edits for my mentee. I'm (disappointingly) not done yet. I thought I would be by now. But all the video glitches and the extra social stuff got in the way.
New reviews of my book:
Places featured:
  • "What it's like to be completely asexual": Tech Insider interview with me.
  • LGBTQ Fall Book Releases to Be Excited About: Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian recommends my book on this list of new fall stuff. Initially it was identified as just released, but when I notified them that it was a year old and doesn't really satisfy the post description of new books for this season, the post got incorrectly modified to state that the paperback is newly out this month. (It's not out 'til next month. But close enough!)
Reading progress:

  • Completed reading: Nothing because I'm busy.
  • Currently reading: Asexuality: A Brief Introduction by Asexuality Archive.

New singing performances:

Here I'm singing "Eat It" by Weird Al.


New drawings:

Webcomic Negative One Issue 0541: "My Fault."

New videos:

My 5000 Subscribers Epic Q&A video is out!

New photos:  

None. I'm lazy. :(

Social media counts: 

YouTube subscribers: 5,087 for swankivy (19 new this week), 509 for JulieSondra (3 new). Twitter followers: 680 for swankivy (4 new), 1,169 for JulieSondra (1 new). Facebook: 287 friends (friended someone's alternate account) and 182 followers (lost 2) for swankivy, 610 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 55 likes for Negative One (1 new), 110 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,150 (9 new).

Thursday, September 24, 2015

How I Became a Procrastinator

Let me preface this by saying I am not, in fact, a procrastinator.

I'm kind of the opposite, really. Which is what this post is about.

I am very good at getting into my lane, buckling down, doing everything completely and thoroughly and comprehensively, and putting it down at the end. This has been my preferred way of working since I was a child, and I was basically in heaven the year I had a teacher who taught lessons in the morning and turned us loose to work on the classwork in any order we wanted in the afternoon. I could bang everything out and finish quickly and get to free reading or doodling or whatever. It was so restrictive to go at the pace others had set and wait for them to be ready, but that was part of learning to respect others and have patience.

Group projects were always a mess for me. I was the kid who would get homework done on the bus home if I could, because I hated the feeling of having something hanging over my head that needed to get done, and I certainly couldn't enjoy the things I loved if I was putting off assignments so I could do the fun things first. So group projects that involved waiting for other people to do their parts--and accepting that almost all of them DID like to procrastinate and would literally wait until the last minute with someone standing over them guiding them and tapping their foot--were always really stressful.

So I would do extra work, or assume leadership/organizational roles so I could put some of the work off my plate, or proactively ask questions so I could get it done and stop thinking about it. And even with projects I liked, it was satisfying to do them quickly and do them well. Especially since that meant there would still be lots of time to fix things if they didn't work right at the end.

That's kind of where I started getting into trouble when I was older.

Teachers expected me to procrastinate. They damn near banked on it. So sometimes when I would do as much of the project as I could given the terms, I would later find teachers offering clarification or specifics they had not offered before, and the work I'd already done became inappropriate or would have to be modified. I would end up doing more work because I tried to do it "too" early.

The same happened in life outside of school. I'd try to prepare for something by packing early or gathering information, and then someone would change their mind about a date for travel or the focus of their article, and my preparation would be unnecessary. And sometimes the people who changed the situation would act like I was silly for preparing my life as if they'd actually meant what they said. So over time, I learned that people generally do procrastinate, and if I don't do it too, I may be doing unnecessary work or might be mocked for it.

I think this is also why I prefer to work alone on creative projects. There's this terrible drag that happens when I'm the fast one and my partner(s) won't speed up, and even if their procrastination inconveniences me or destroys the project altogether, I'm treated like a jerk for expecting them to do their part, especially if they've disappointed me before and I learn from the experience and provide more check-ins the next time. This sort of thing led to me writing someone else's lesson plans for them the night before a project was due in college because the ones they gave me were terrible, or having to run out and buy a gift because the other person who insisted they would finish making the item just didn't get around to it (and didn't tell me in time for me to help), or suddenly being in a position to lend a large amount of money to someone when they let a chronic problem become an emergency.

Basically, being the person who doesn't procrastinate has led me to sometimes trust that others aren't procrastinating even when I know they will, and then I have to save their asses.

I don't like always having to be the ass-saver.

So there have been times when I just procrastinate with them. So I don't end up being treated like I said "I told you so" even though I never say that. So I don't create a gulf that makes people resent me as if I worked fast or did a lot of work just to show them up. So I don't end up being asked to carry them again

It's still uncomfortable sometimes for me to put a project down and say "I'm going to do it later," knowing I could just full-steam it and be done, but what I've also learned is that there is sometimes value in waiting. If I do it at the usual pace, with other people, sometimes I see other ways to approach it or even have access to them helping me. It isn't unheard-of, and I'm not closed to it. But I naturally operate best with delayed gratification; if I really want to enjoy a snack or watch something mindless on YouTube, I'd much rather use that as a reward for finishing something than jump to the reward and put off doing the hard thing. 

It kinda weirds me out that so many people consistently choose the fun thing or the easy thing or the "reward" and put off their responsibilities so thoroughly that someone else has to come scrape them off the floor or help them carry their burdens, because I don't even enjoy the fun thing as much if I know I'm engaging in it while avoiding what I should be doing, but I think we've established that I am not most people.

I am no longer actively anxious about unresolved responsibilities the way I was when I was a kid, so I've certainly learned some coping strategies and learned to put things off if it is beneficial to put them off. I've learned how to tell when I should slow down or avoid immediate immersion or take my time, especially if other people are involved or affected by it, and it helps that I take on a HUGE load of projects voluntarily (so switching between them and having a ton of balls in the air is my default state now); I probably look like I'm procrastinating sometimes, but more than likely the thing I haven't done is just not at the top of the list.

People sometimes tell me I need to learn to relax and learn to slack off, but to be honest, I think I know how to relax. It's just that I really enjoy the projects I choose, and even though they are difficult sometimes, they are also really satisfying. It's kinda frustrating sometimes when people tell me I would enjoy being more like them when I know I don't. And when I tell them I am just not satisfied by chilling out and being low-key about getting stuff done, they tell me I should be. That I need to learn to be satisfied by different things, and that I need to redefine what makes me happy. And that's the sort of thing I've heard in several avenues of my life from people who just don't understand the concept of different happinesses for different people. You cannot assume someone isn't happy because they are satisfied by different things or in different ways, or because they do not have what you do or what you want. And you cannot judge someone incapable of understanding what they want for themselves just because you can't wrap your mind around what it would be like to want that. It really irritates me when people see how I operate and inform me, condescendingly, that I clearly just need to relax.

And to them, "relax" means "procrastinate." "Stop being efficient, even though you like it best that way." "Just learn to indulge." Ignoring that the way I "indulge" is to satisfy my obligations and responsibilities (and some of the creative projects I choose to put on my plate). I had to do a lot of thinking before I understood that this doesn't need to change before I can be healthy and well-adjusted. I am already a healthy and well-adjusted person, partly because I listened to myself (within reason) when determining what needs to be satisfied for me to be happy. I am not unhappy just because I am driven. I am not on the verge of collapse just because sometimes my passions become exhausting. I am not suffering when I hold myself to high standards of productivity and meet my goals consistently. I am not just rationalizing pathological mechanisms of coping so I can pretend I'm okay.

But what I am doing is realizing that it is okay for others to procrastinate even though I tend not to, and it is okay for them to be happiest the way they are, too. It is a bummer sometimes when I have to clean up their messes, but I think most people are (or have been) the mess-cleaner-upper in some aspect of their lives. I have learned that sometimes I need to procrastinate (and find ways to be okay with that) in order to function with other people, and most of the time I know the difference between the times I should push to prioritize something and the times when I need to be okay with putting something on the back burner.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wednesday Factoid: Band Obsession

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What's a band you've been obsessed with lately?

I can't answer this because I really have had no significant musical discoveries in the last year or so. I guess the closest thing I have to an answer to this is associated with the most significant "obsession" I have right now, though--my current favorite cartoon Steven Universe features a ton of music, and I like it enough that I listen to it in the background sometimes while I'm drawing or doing other things. It's written by a few different people; some of the major songs are written by Rebecca Sugar or Jeff Liu and performed by the cast, and most of the background/ambient music is written by Aivi & Surasshu.

A couple favorites:


Monday, September 21, 2015

Not the place

Hopefully what I am about to type won't sound too much like a full-on temper tantrum.

So I spent the weekend working on a cool Q&A video for my personal YouTube channel in celebration of hitting 5,000 subscribers a few weeks back. I had invited viewers and subscribers to submit questions, promising that I would make a video answering them when I hit 5,000 subscribers. I spent a good deal of time answering the questions and trying to make the video entertaining. I'm not done with it yet because my program choked trying to render it, and I still have to figure out how I'm going to fix that. But here's what I want to rant about.

Someone who shall remain nameless contacted me to ask why I was planning personal content and whether a video of this nature would really be appropriate considering how narcissistic it sounds.

That's right, I started a channel on YouTube to talk about what I want to talk about, and over 5,000 people have tuned in to watch me do it, but now I'm not supposed to use my space for anything too personal.

I've gotten messages instructing me to make my Tumblr blog "more professional" from people who followed me for the asexuality essays and were dismayed to see the occasional shitpost. I've gotten messages scolding me for tweeting about food because they followed me for author stuff. I've gotten "disappointed" comments on YouTube suggesting that my occasional mention of my book (which is 100% related to one of the primary themes of the channel) has rendered my channel nothing but a sales pitch. I've gotten an exasperated behind-my-back comment about my content on Facebook which amounted to why doesn't she post about anything except writing stuff, Internet jerks, and gay cartoons?  

And now someone believes my YouTube isn't the place to post silly personal videos.

Look, I understand that I frequently represent my community; that I am known widely for certain kinds of content; that people learn about me from one of my creations and then might be disappointed to find that I don't focus all my creative energy on doing that thing.

But I'll be damned if I'm expected to apologize for being a person.

I get to say what my spaces are "for."

I love the Internet partly because we create our stages for whatever performances we want. Some stages are actually created for only certain kinds of content, like theme blogs and info channels and tip-offering Twitter accounts. But most of them are basically for variety acts, and that includes nearly all of the social media and creativity platforms I have elected to create content for. I am ALWAYS going to do a variety of things, and those interests and activities of mine will leak into every aspect of my life online.

The idea that my own blogs and YouTube channels are being interpreted as not the place for what I want to put there is baffling to me. I create valuable content sometimes, and that does not mean I'm therefore barred from doing anything else, or from being silly, or from mixing it up a little. This is my "writing blog," but it's distinct from my author site because it is about me as a person who is a writer. And people who are not interested in that do not have to read it--or if they are only interested in my writing advice, I have helpfully created tags that people can use to browse only the content they want. On YouTube, people can choose to only click the asexuality videos, or the cartoon videos, or the karaoke videos. Or they can stop watching videos they're not finding interesting. Or they can unsubscribe to me if I don't produce enough of the content they came for. What I object to is the idea that they get to tell me what I should make. In my own spaces.

These are my spaces. It is not "narcissistic" to want my spaces to be my spaces. They are also public, and I invite people to share in consuming the content I put there, but I am going to choose what that content is. It is pretty obvious that I've always been what some might term an "oversharer," but I don't care if people aren't interested in everything I say. If you are not into it it doesn't hurt me at all, and if it's not your thing, I didn't make it for you. The implication, of course, is that what's irrelevant to uninterested people is therefore objectively uninteresting and not worth creating--and more than once I have received messages from people who deliberately took the time to contact me personally and tell me not to make stuff. Because they do not care about it. Because they cannot imagine anyone being interested. I have had this reaction from people regarding the same content that earned me 5,000+ subscribers and got me a book deal

~Well maybe YouTube just isn't the place for you to-- ~

YouTube isn't the place for me to make an indulgent video about my thoughts and opinions? Then where the hell is?

The Internet is full of all kinds of horseshit and nobody needs to be telling me my content's quality or subject matter does not meet some arbitrary standard. I do not have to satisfy someone else's standards of quality to deserve a channel. My work does not have to be good before it can be made and shared. And furthermore, I have literally thousands of people paying attention to my work, so clearly at least some of what I make is interesting to some people. I think I'm doing okay here and do not need to be lectured on what content does not warrant sharing.

To be honest, the critical comments are pretty rare and the engagements and interactions I receive are plentiful (sometimes overwhelming!), and some of my readers have told me they love that I'm a well-rounded person in addition to a creator of useful or entertaining content. They want to know more about me, talk to me, interact with me, share with me, learn about me. People who are popular on YouTube get a following with a core group of subscribers who are quite curious about the creators' personal lives. I opened my comments up to subscribers for a couple of weeks and got around a hundred questions. Some of my YouTube audience does not follow me in other places and welcomed the opportunity to engage with me that way. And for those who are only interested in my asexuality videos or aren't interested in a Q&A video, I'm sure the way they'll deal with it is not watching it.

If you want to talk about narcissism, how about the people who think my YouTube channels, blogs, and social media accounts should cater to their interests?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Personal Digest Saturday: September 12 – September 18

Life news this week: 
  • Mom's birthday happened, but I didn't get to go visit her like I'd planned, so I had to eat all the biscuits I'd baked for her. Boo.
  • My friend Mike came over to visit from Gainesville. He used to be my neighbor over there in my college town. He arrived on Sunday morning and we spent the day just chatting while I drew my comic, and we hiked to the candy store. The next two days he stayed with me and we went out to dinner one night and ordered in pizza the other, and we finished watching the last episodes of House, M.D.. Weird that we won't have that anymore! And of course we talked about cartoons a LOT.
  • Mike left on Wednesday morning and then it was on to Jeaux Day. I met him after work and we ate at Holy Hog because they have good sides and I wasn't very hungry. Then we saw America's Got Talent at his house and listened to Night Vale. AGT was having its last results episode and it decided to stretch it out to a two-hour program so we didn't have time to watch it all since Jeaux works nights. I actually had to work that night too, because I wasn't finished with a project, so I went BACK to work and finished the project about midnight. Whew!
  • Then Thursday was packed full of stuff too. I went to Jeaux's house after work to finish watching the AGT results show and then we watched the new episode of Steven Universe and then I had to go to book club, where we discussed The Martian (yay!) and went out to dinner at Panera. And then home for my usual Thursday night call with Victor while drawing.
  • Nothing else really happened this week--just so much social stuff and trying to cram everything in. This weekend I am going to catch up on a bunch of stuff and make videos and chill!
       Reading progress:

      • Completed reading: Nothing because I'm busy.
      • Currently reading: Asexuality: A Brief Introduction by Asexuality Archive.

      New singing performances:

      Here I'm singing "Cornflake Girl" by Tori Amos.

      New drawings:

      Webcomic Negative One Issue 0540: "Real Dogs."

      Webcomic So You Write Issue 52: "One Star."

      New videos:


      New photos:  

      Just my haircut comparisons this time.

      Front, February 2014
      Front, September 2015
      Back, February 2014
      Back, September 2015

      Social media counts: 

      YouTube subscribers: 5,068 for swankivy (26 new this week), 506 for JulieSondra (3 new). Twitter followers: 676 for swankivy (2 new), 1,168 for JulieSondra (lost the 3 that followed me last week, 'cause that's how spambots are I guess). Facebook: 286 friends (lost 2, no clue who) and 184 followers (lost the same 2) for swankivy, 609 likes for JulieSondra (5 new), 54 likes for Negative One (no change), 110 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,141 (1 new).

      Thursday, September 17, 2015

      Your "right" to use slurs

      This is a slightly modified repost of a Tumblr ramble I posted the other day. It was well received so I figured I should share it here too.

      Here in the writing community, we of course feel that freedom to write what we please is of utmost importance. We depend for our success, happiness, and livelihood on having the right to choose our words and spread them. So of course some might get a little bit jumpy if it's implied that certain words are or should be off limits to certain groups, while perhaps still being accessible to other groups. 

      Specifically, I'm talking about slurs and the conversation around who can use them.

      Primarily, I'm talking about slurs that have been and continue to be used as dehumanizing terms for groups of people based on sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or gender identity.

      In the circles I travel in, we frequently hear about the importance of including slurs in the category of words we should all have access to equally, lest we violate the delicate flower of "free speech" and damage our principles at the roots. Countering that, we hear other folks saying slurs should either be avoided or only used by people who have been or could have been described by them in a reclaimed sense. Which is always answered by cries of "double standards" and "censorship." 

      Here’s the thing about ~free speech~ people and their all-important ~right~ to use slurs:

      Every time I see someone “fighting” for the right to speak freely, including any and all slurs, I always wonder if they actually think their rights have been infringed upon. Because last time I checked, they do not get arrested or fined or targeted with institutional oppression for using those words. They still DO have the right to say them.

      And the people who have historically been harmed by those slurs also have the right to get upset about it, express their anger, and make those people feel that they have done something inappropriate. That’s what freedom is. That’s what happens in a society where you are free to speak anything that comes into your head. Sometimes you will say something and lots of people will be pissed off at you. You are not “free” from that. You do not have the right to be protected from the outrage that sometimes happens when you do something outrageous.

      If you think you are fighting for “freedom” by continuing to use slurs that target other groups, or that you are standing up for a basic right surrounding your use of words that harm others, think about the message people are sending you when they challenge your message. They are not saying you can’t say these things (because clearly you can, as you continue to remind us by bleating intentionally offensive words while claiming your “right” to do so is under attack). They are saying you shouldn’t. That you shouldn’t want to because you are harming people in ways you cannot possibly understand.

      Telling you you shouldn’t want to use these words is not the same as censoring you, or putting you in jail, or shooting you. For the record, those are things that have happened to people in association with the words you think are just words--words which were and are used to dehumanize and “other” people who were and sometimes still are second-class citizens. Words that are reminders of a past and present (and probable future) in which people targeted by them had/have no rights, or rights that were not/are not applied fairly. Words that were and are used by people who robbed them of their rights. People you’re associating yourself with by using the language associated with their hate. You’re continuing to harm and treat others as less important than you if you believe your access to a word is more important than the effects those words have on others.

      xkcd comic

      Ask yourself why those words are so important for you to have access to. You may actually think it’s about the principle of the thing--that if you can’t have it, then nobody should have it--but if they’re simultaneously “just words” that shouldn’t offend anyone AND vitally important for you to be able to speak without consequence, what message are you sending to people when you won’t stop using them? That those words are about your rights, not about their pain? That those words shouldn’t hurt them, but hurt you tremendously if you are asked not to say them?

      Nothing happens to you if you decide through common decency not to use a word with a hateful history. Nothing changes for you if you listen. And no, the PC police are not “coming for you” if you admit refraining from using these words is the decent thing to do. They are not going to slippery slope their way into limiting your opinionated YouTube comments and accusing you of thought crimes. They’re literally saying “this is a word that was used in association with my oppression, so if you want to stop contributing to the culture that oppresses me, one thing you can do is stop using it.” Asking you to stop using a word isn’t the same thing as accusing you of various -isms, nor is it a violation of your rights. 

      But if you continue using it after people tell you it is associated with -isms, don’t complain if they treat you like a whatever-ist. That includes criticizing you, not wanting to be friendly with you, removing themselves from having to hear your opinions, and sometimes refusing to give you platforms or opportunities because they don’t want to promote the ideas of whatever-ists and make that environment unsafe for everyone else. 

      It isn’t a matter of “making someone feel bad” or “people being too sensitive” or “people looking to be offended.” If you think you have a rights violation when people tell you maybe it’s not a good idea to use a word with a painful history, you certainly can’t turn around and tell others they’re crying over nothing because of words. It is clearly not “just a word” to the people it hurts, and if you’re this adamant about retaining unchallenged access to it, it clearly is not “just a word” to you either.

      Wednesday, September 16, 2015

      Wednesday Factoid: Conversation

      Today's Wednesday Factoid is: How do you start a conversation?

      Depends on the context, of course--is it in person? Online? Real-time or through letters? Friendly conversation or a business inquiry?

      But in general, conversations I want to start begin with intention. I usually don't have a need to talk to people just to talk. Obviously family and friends are an exception--I start conversations with them without agenda pretty frequently, just to see how they're doing or because they want me to listen or update them--but if the conversation is with someone I want to converse with about a particular topic or I want to ask them about it, I'll start with a polite greeting and immediately say why I am talking to them.

      One of the many reasons online conversations on, say, online dating sites fail is that the initiator doesn't give the respondent anything to talk about. They just say hey. Or what's up. Or point out something generic about a recent holiday or the weather. So if I'm talking to someone, I immediately say the reason I want to have the conversation. It could be as simple as finding out they like writing and asking them what they write, or pointing out that they're wearing a shirt featuring my favorite band and getting into a chat about concert experiences or other musical tastes.

      I like to start conversations based on what I have in common with someone or what I suspect I have in common with someone. I'll ask specific questions to put the other person at ease and invite them into sharing an exchange of information with me, and chances are we'll both enjoy the experience.

      Tuesday, September 15, 2015

      Just didn't connect

      Sometimes when someone doesn't like a book, they can explain exactly why. They might have a problem with the content or the message. They may have thought the character motivations were unclear or preposterous. They could have found the writing style awkward or dense or simplistic. And sometimes, when this someone is a person evaluating your work, it can be helpful to you if they explain their why.

      But the most difficult thing to hear might just be "I just didn't connect."

      Sometimes this a euphemism for "I thought your book was terrible for X reason or Y reason, but I either can't or am not willing to relay those reasons to you, either for fear of hurting you or for fear of looking like a jerk (or both)."

      But more often, it really is what it sounds like. The person just doesn't like books like yours. Maybe they prefer books they can personally relate to, and yours isn't relatable for them. Maybe they have trouble suspending disbelief for your science fiction concept, or don't find romances compelling, or can't drum up any enthusiasm for whether your fantasy novel's questing party can recover the world-saving artifact. Maybe they have a particular difficulty connecting to books that are written in third person, or in present tense.

      And this "I just didn't connect to it" response goes all the way up to editors at big publishing houses and all the way down to readers deciding what to buy.

      We all have preferences. It's doubtful that anyone who reads is going to say they are equally interested in all well-written books. And unless you personally continue to "give a fair chance" to books that open with action that doesn't grab you and books whose descriptions sound pretty boring to you, you should understand why this happens. Agents and editors frequently have to re-read books they sign multiple times, and both types of publishing professionals are gambling on whether readers will like what they like, because agents don't get paid at all unless they sell the book to a publisher and publishers won't make back the money they spent on producing the book if readers don't like it enough to pay money for it.

      Publishing works the way it does because readers work the way they do. Except for situations like school reading or other assignments, we generally don't have any obligation to read things we don't want to read, and publishing industry professionals are in the same boat. If they don't want to read it, they probably won't be able to convince others that they want to read it.

      So don't go into publishing, into story-writing, into creative careers in general if you think subjectivity doesn't or shouldn't exist. Don't expect "equal" or "fair" treatment, or for anyone to humor you. No one is obligated to read a predetermined amount of your book before deciding they don't want to read more, and no one is obligated to defend liking a book that you think isn't as good as yours. People will like things for reasons you don't agree with or don't understand or don't have in common with them. It could be you're writing stuff that not many people are interested in, or it could be that you're writing it in a way that doesn't make it easy to fall in love with, but either way if you're encountering lukewarm interest and "didn't connect" responses every time you attempt to engage readers, you might try asking yourself what makes YOU connect.

      What is it about the books you love that made you keep reading them after page 1? What is it about the books you love that made them work so well for you? What was it about the books you love that makes you call them the books you love? How did those authors draw you in? You might think you're doing the same thing they are, or doing it as well as they are, but actually look at what they're doing. What do they do on page one? What do they do over the course of their story? What do your favorite authors have in common? You may be skipping some steps. You may be including or not including elements that turn people on or off.

      Or you may be showing it to people who just didn't connect and there's nothing you can do about it.

      You should always look at your material first, think about what you might be able to improve, but it isn't always your fault. It isn't always an actual flaw or problem with your work. You should be open to the idea that it might be, but not eternally convinced that it must be if some readers tell you they don't connect.

      There isn't one right way to write a book, but if your first tries aren't getting you the results you want and you're determined to reach those results, try doing what worked for the authors you like. It works a lot better than blaming your audience or throwing up your hands and quitting. And it feels a lot better too. I promise.

      Saturday, September 12, 2015

      Personal Digest Saturday: September 5 – September 11

      Life news this week: 
      • Holiday weekend! I spent most of the weekend sending out my Pitch Wars feedback and working on collecting some visual aids for my upcoming 5,000-subscriber Q&A video, which would be pretty boring if I was just reading and answering with no variety. Unfortunately it took longer than I wanted it to. :P
      • I sent out some short story submissions too. Still hoping to sell one more this year to meet my New Year's resolution of selling two stories.
      • Had Mom over on Tuesday. We ate at Panera and went shopping and lounged around watching silly videos. I wasn't feeling very good. Just tired and probably not sleeping enough. Mommy slept over and left in the morning at the same time that I left to go to work.
      • Wednesday was Jeaux Day and we ate at IHOP, went shopping for comics, and watched America's Got Talent and Gravity Falls at his house.
      • On Thursday I went to Jeaux's house briefly after work because we wanted to watch the new episode of Steven Universe together, which we did. We talked about the episode and then I went home to do some reading.
      • And Friday my friend Yasmin surprised me at work with food. I got rice and cake. Quite tasty! I baked biscuits and finished making comics and that's about it.
          New reviews of my book:
           Reading progress:

          New singing performances:

          Here I'm singing "1985" by Bowling For Soup.

          New drawings:

          Webcomic Negative One Issue 0539: "Because I Can."

          New videos:


          New photos:  

          Just a blurry picture of me with my Crying Breakfast Friends stickers.

          Social media counts: 

          YouTube subscribers: 5,042 for swankivy (18 new this week), 503 for JulieSondra (no change). Twitter followers: 674 for swankivy (2 new), 1,171 for JulieSondra (3 new). Facebook: 288 friends (no change) and 186 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 604 likes for JulieSondra (8 new), 54 likes for Negative One (no change), 110 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,140 (13 new).

          Thursday, September 10, 2015

          The Fans

          As some of you might have noticed *ahem* I like cartoons. After a pretty long break, one of my favorites is coming back from hiatus today and I'm going to a friend's house after work to watch a new episode. Everybody in the fandom is freaking out about it, throwing around fan theories, and even making art about what they want to happen. And, of course, preparing to have their emotions fried. When fans get invested in something, their enthusiasm really shows.

          It's been a while for me since I've been in anything like that--pretty sure the last time was about eight years ago, when I was feverishly consuming the manga issues for Eyeshield 21 as they were being published in Japan and weren't even available in my country yet--but I'm sure having a great time with it. And this is certainly the first time in a while that I've been into something that's actually popular in my country. You know your thing is a "thing" when they start selling the merchandise at Hot Topic.

          I've never been the hugest fan of Harry Potter, but I liked the books. The hype surrounding Harry Potter is STILL pretty amazing, but when the books were still coming out I was working at a bookstore. You can imagine I saw my share of crazed fans.

          I don't write or read fanfiction, but I know people love writing it as a way of participating in their fandom. They draw fan art. They produce songs inspired by the fictional work. They create online quizzes featuring trivia or personality analyses based on the characters, and they post reaction videos and they write blogs full of theories, analyses, and responses.

          Some authors don't like it.

          There have actually been authors and creators who go out of their way to stop fans from celebrating their work in this way. I've heard the most about cracking down on fanfiction because people are taking their characters and doing stuff with them, and sometimes that "stuff" can be, well, adult. Yes, if something gets popular enough (and in some cases popularity isn't necessary), there will be porn of it in both text and art form. This is true of Harry Potter. This is true of the children's cartoon that I watch.

          Fans are kind of weird.

          Now, as far as I know, many authors have a policy of not reading fanfiction because they don't want fans thinking they "stole" ideas from derivative works. If they state upfront that they don't read fan works, people won't be as likely to accuse them of using their ideas, though I'm pretty sure you would get laughed out of court if you tried to pursue legal action to stop a creator from using "your" ideas after you used theirs to create it in the first place. And some creators are pretty disturbed by the adult-themed creations (especially if they create children's media), and make statements or pursue action to get them removed.

          My perspective on it is that fans are gonna fan.

          Some of them are going to do so in sort of gross and inappropriate ways, but if you're a creator and you holler about this, you're probably going to attract more people looking to pervert your work on purpose. I don't really agree with creating pornography from someone's non-pornographic creation, but I accept that people are going to do it, and that a (usually small) subsection of a popular work's fans like to explore all of their favorite fictional works through adult-themed art or stories.

          I'm similarly not a fan of people taking existing characters and grafting different thoughts or feelings onto them (like making them attracted to a character they're not attracted to in the original story, or giving them a different past, or creating an alternate version of them), but these are also very popular ways fans like to interact with media. People sometimes write alternative universes where Harry Potter got together with Hermione instead of Ginny. People sometimes draw fan art featuring if Harry and Ron were gay. A surprisingly popular pairing is taking the character Hermione and putting her in various adult scenarios with her teacher Professor Snape. It's weird to me because I fall in love with certain fictional creations because of how their creators created them, and I wouldn't want to interact with that thing by saying "hey, I love this so much that I'm going to recreate it with fundamental differences," but lots of people enjoy this form of creativity, and in a way it's a bit like fairy tale retelling (which you all know I like to do, though I think it's different since fairy tales are not single-author stories with a set of regular, specific characters). 

          This is just how some people like to celebrate their favorite stories besides just consuming it and talking about it. I guess writing a story about something that didn't happen in the canon is not much different from drawing a picture of the characters doing something they've never done in canon, though I think it's more appealing when it features scenarios that could have happened or could happen later. Ultimately it's all about imagination and enthusiasm. And even though I probably wouldn't want to look at or read "alternate universe" or pornographic derivative works from any of my creations, I would be happy if my stuff got popular enough that people got invested in it and showed their investment by creating derivative works.

          I have received some fan art over the years, which is fun because often the artists will create a scenario they enjoy imagining or put the characters in clothes or situations they wouldn't be in in the real story. Sometimes it's something they wish I would write about. 
          Artist Corinne depicted a reunion of two of
          my webcomic characters, even though
          this can't really happen. 

          And sometimes it's a silly joke.
          Artist Jessie imagines what would happen to my character
          Delia from
          Bad Fairy if the economy tanked and
          she had to get a job as a tooth fairy

          I've also received a very few pieces of fanfiction. The fanfic in particular makes me a little uncomfortable, because I know where the authors "get it wrong" when they make my characters say things they wouldn't say and do things they wouldn't do, but as long as I remind myself that it's their interpretation and they're just playing, it's not as difficult to read. And sometimes it's illuminating; when someone "gets your character wrong," sometimes you're actually seeing how they think your character is and how they're coming across, and you can gain new perspective on your own writing. (Of course, sometimes they're changing them on purpose, but many fanfiction authors try to write established characters "in character.") 

          It's also neat to see which characters and which scenarios get written about the most and therefore must have captured readers' imaginations. In the digital age, we have access to our audiences in ways we did not have before, and while I would not want to use that connection to deliberately write my work for crowd-pleasing or fan service, it can sometimes be illuminating. I'm sometimes surprised by which issues of my webcomic inspire the most comments (and what they're commenting about), and the parts of my novels that others like don't necessarily tend to be the ones I like the best. That subjectivity becomes more real, more solid, when you can see your audience's reaction right in front of you.

          It must be kind of amazing and frightening at the same time when your creation Really Takes Off, and there are hundreds of thousands of fan creations about something you came up with every week, and I'm sure there's an increased sense of responsibility too; you want to make sure you're doing something good with the microphone that got handed to you, and you know any mistake or misinterpretation will be amplified and broadcast to throngs of followers who may be elated or devastated based on just about anything you say. When J.K. Rowling says anything new about her characters, it literally makes the news, and thousands of blogs analyze it and critique it and put it in context with everything else we know. It's intimidating, but it's also such an incredible opportunity. Rowling mentioned the sexual orientation of her character Dumbledore during an interview once and the news still hasn't shut up about it:

          She was criticized for this because people would have preferred Dumbledore be presented as gay in the actual text if that was the case, and yet it was only implied in the foggiest way. She got some crap for trying to suggest she created gay characters when she had to point out they were gay after the fact for anyone to figure it out. (Of course, some people would have preferred that he not be anything but straight at all, but I think a lot of those people were already boycotting Harry Potter over the witchcraft, though you might be surprised how many people were suddenly disgusted at the implication that a children's book contained gay characters.) 

          And then when it comes to sexual orientations outside of heteronormativity in children's material, here we have Steven Universe with multiple queer characters just being queer all over the place with no fanfare in the show. Because they don't use the Actual Words "lesbian" or "queer" or "gay" or "femme nonbinary" or anything like that in the show, people are sometimes confused about whether this is "representation." It's been discussed in interviews here and there. For example:
          Question: Steven Universe has really pushed gender norms and supported queer representation on television, was it always the plan to show real love and a loving nurturing “non traditional” family on this series, or did the characters just fall into place as you began working on it?

          Rebecca Sugar: The show was always very much about family, because Steven is based on my younger brother Steven Sugar, and I really wanted to get at the unconditional love and support I get from him and try to give to him and that we get from our parents, so that’s always been the foundation of the show! I don’t believe that those themes are exclusive to traditional families or heteronormative characters, and I’m very uninterested in trading on genericisms, or talking about what is or isn’t “normal.” I think so much entertainment deals in those terms that almost everyone is left feeling abnormal if there’s anything specific about their life at all. I hope to represent people who have felt a lack of representation, but I hope to also show people who have felt represented that they can also relate to characters that are not heteronormative, and to families that are not traditional, maybe even more so than the more generic characters and families that they’ve been seeing on TV. 
          And one of the directors/co-developers of the show, Ian Jones-Quartey, was asked about the romantic relationship between a couple of female-presenting characters, and he came up with this on Twitter:

          This was following some brouhaha where Ian said it's okay for people to imagine whatever they want, and some other people took that to mean that he agrees that it's valid to interpret these characters' romantic relationship as friendship, thus ripping away much-needed representation. Even though he later established that he believed they were canonically in a romantic relationship, he was trying to say he's fine with people making up their own stories about characters he helped bring to the world. He has to be especially careful about what he says because people might use it to suggest he supports things he does not support. Creators of very popular media have to be so delicate about their interaction with fans, because someone will always use their words to shove in someone else's face.

          With my nonfiction publications, I've of course been in that situation--do I support this, would I recommend that, hey let's get a statement from this chick because then we can claim "the asexual community says X." With fiction, what you say can certainly intersect with the real world but so much of it is about a world that only comes from inside your head. And then people still want to interpret it their way, put their own characters in your settings or take your characters and put them into their own settings, and put words into your characters' mouths (and sometimes your own).

          Like I said, fans gonna fan.

          On the one hand, it's a little scary, especially since you never know whether something you wrote is going to end up under that spotlight.

          And on the other hand, I think I wouldn't have it any other way.

          Wednesday, September 9, 2015

          Wednesday Factoid: Strange Food

          Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten?

          I'm not an adventurous eater so I probably don't have a very interesting answer to this.

          I might eat a few things other people think are weird. Like baby food, egg roll wrappers, and artichokes (not just the hearts). But I guess if I have to pick one weirdest food it would probably be something I ate in Japan.

          I tried a bunch of different sushi (all vegetarian) and managed to consume a natto roll. I thought it was good! Not sure what other foreigners are always complaining about! If you don't know what the big deal is about natto, you should know it is a fermented soybean dish that is perceived as kind of slimy and smells like feet. People apparently fear it. When I was visiting Japan, a school child asked me "can you eat natto?" Like can you, is it physically possible? Well, apparently yes. And it was anticlimactic. I just ate it. It was fine.

          Making okonomiyaki was kind of neat too, and maybe strange to some people.

          It's like a do-it-yourself grilling thing where you mix the batter and other ingredients up in a bowl and cook it on the in-table grill like a pancake and eat it.

          Like I said, I am not an adventurous eater. Sorry to disappoint you.

          Monday, September 7, 2015

          Pitch Wars feedback is out!

          Just a short one today to say I spent part of the weekend sending out all my feedback to everyone who applied to me in Pitch Wars. I think I wrote around 600 to 800 words for each Pitch Wars participant, with a little more sent to the people whose additional chapters I sampled.

          Many of them have replied to the feedback, and I'm amazed (though not surprised) that everyone's being so gracious about it.

          It's hard to take feedback. Especially on the heels of disappointment if you didn't get into this particular contest. Even if the feedback comes with some praise, every piece of feedback that would seem pretty tame to most people will feel like a pick-axe on your heart sometimes--especially if you're not used to it, haven't had much critique, or thought you were really close only to hear that someone thinks you have a lot of work to do.

          And yet everyone's being so nice about how I beat them up.

          I would honestly expect people who are seeking agents to be professionals here. That's why I'm not surprised it's like this. And many of them have been very understanding about the fact that the Pitch Wars mentors are usually pretty busy people who have volunteered for the contest and should be prioritizing edits with their mentees. They've made it clear to me that they saw my feedback as above and beyond the call of duty, and they've expressed so much gratefulness and appreciation.

          I don't need them to lick my butt or praise me for paddling their babies. But it's just so affirming to hear that I made the right choice in offering feedback to everyone. I don't do it for the praise or to get followers on Twitter. I do it because every time I see someone reaching this level of expertise, feeling they're ready to make that step into the professional world, I know that person must be serious. So I take them seriously. And I treat each one--for the minutes I can spare--like it's the only story in the world, knowing they'll probably put my words to good use in fertilizing their gardens.

          If they weren't willing to do that, they probably wouldn't be willing to do research on publishing or enter contests like this anyway.

          So this is my thank-you to everyone who's expressed thanks to me, and I hope you all continue your quests and reach the destinations you desire.

          Saturday, September 5, 2015

          Personal Digest Saturday: August 30 – September 4

          Life news this week: 
          • So the biggest news was Pitch Wars, of course, and as everyone who reads this blog knows I selected a mentee (Lynn Forrest) and began work on her book. Leading up to that choice was a lot of reading on Saturday. I was still trying to decide on Sunday and I only had until Monday to declare. I felt good about my decision once it was over, though.
          • My sister called on Saturday and I got to chat with her for a while.
          • My mom came over during the wee hours (I seriously mean like 4 AM) on what was technically Sunday and we made grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. It's funny that my mom is a weird night owl like me. And later on Sunday I got to chat with my dad on the phone.
          • I was back to work on Monday, and had to spend the first three days of the week folding more than three thousand fliers to send out for some workshop stuff. I had to put stamps, address labels, and sealing stickers on them too. I wore tape on my fingers so I didn't kill my skin, and it worked.
          • Tuesday I slept over at my mom's. We ate ravioli and spring rolls and she gave me a weird ice cream thing too. I watched the Pitch Wars video with the mentors discussing the contest and then the surprise at the end with the mentee announcement. It was fun celebrating with my new mentee on Twitter, even though I was distracted since I was at my mom's.
          • Wednesday was Jeaux Day and we ate at Flipper's, and then did our usual America's Got Talent watching and updated ourselves on the latest Night Vale.
          • I finally started sending the feedback out to the authors who submitted to me on Friday night/Saturday morning. Kinda disappointing because I had it all ready to go and then just couldn't scrounge up the time to send each letter to 91 individual people. Oh well. Doing it now!
              New reviews of my book:
              Places featured:
                • Dahlia's Guide to Bookish Twitter: Author and Twitter pal Dahlia Adler recommended people follow me on a list of worthy Twitter authors to follow, specifically if you want to learn about asexuality.
                 Reading progress:

                New singing performances:

                Here I'm singing "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan.

                New drawings:

                Webcomic Negative One Issue 0538: "Names For Us."

                New videos:


                New photos:  

                Me with TINY COKE BOTTLES my mom got me!

                Relaxing on the air mattress where I sleep at my mom's.
                Social media counts: 

                YouTube subscribers: 5,024 for swankivy (22 new this week), 503 for JulieSondra (1 new). Twitter followers: 672 for swankivy (1 new), 1,168 for JulieSondra (12 new). Facebook: 288 friends (friended my cousin and another ace activist) and 185 followers (lost 1) for swankivy, 596 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 54 likes for Negative One (no change), 110 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,127 (lost 2, hmm, could it be because I reblogged something feminist? Maybe).