Tuesday, February 20, 2018

So you want to be an ally

This post emerged from my observations and experiences, especially over the past year and in response to the #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo movements. This is by no means an authoritative or complete guide to allyship - that would be a pretty large ego-driven statement - but it is something that's been bouncing around my head and I thought I would start to lay it down in words.

I welcome comments and suggestions.

1. Examine and understand your motivations

You don't get cookies or gold stars or a cool t-shirt for performing the role of ally. It's not something you can cross off your bucket list, like "Visit Iceland" or "Climb Mt. Everest."

Being an ally is a position or identity you stake out in your life. An avocation, if you will. More like being an amateur painter or musician. And as such, it means committing to a lifetime of practice and learning.

And if your motivation for being an ally is "so people think I'm a good person", stop. Just stop. You are making this all about you and your ego.

2. You must be willing to risk your position

Congratulations - you have come to a point that many do not: you recognize that you have benefited from society's inherent biases. That while you may have worked hard for what you have, you started out at a more privileged position or easier difficulty level. And you want to do something about it. That's great. A level playing field seems like the right thing to fight for.

There is no fight without risk.
There is no change without loss.

You may lose your standing in your family, your place of worship, your profession, your neighborhood.

If you do your work well, you may see yourself be passed over for promotion or opportunity in favor of someone in a less privileged position. And that may hurt, because deep down, whatever our politics or outward actions, we believe we earn what we have achieved.

Understand that in a more equitable world, you may not always get the winning lottery ticket. If you've always gotten them in the past, that will feel like a loss, instead of a correction to a rigged game.

3. Amplify, don't shout over

The main jobs of an ally are to listen, educate, and amplify.

Listen: make sure you really understand what the people you wish to ally with want. And this may be more difficult than you think. There is rarely complete consensus in any group and just as you cannot speak for all white people, you cannot think that anyone speaks for all people of color, or all women, or all people in the LGBTQ communities, or all Muslims, or, or, or. And that's not even acknowledging that individuals can and do belong to more than one marginalized group.

Educate: Educate yourself and your fellow folks in privileged positions. Read foundational source texts from folks in marginalized groups. For all that is good and pure in the world, DO NOT MAKE THOSE YOU WISH TO ALLY WITH do the emotional labor of educating you.

Amplify: Here's an example: Imagine you are an actor. Spend time actively promoting movies with actors from marginalized groups. Talk them up on social media. When someone praises your role in a specific show, thank them and recommend something from a group you wish to be an ally with. Same for artists, musicians, writers, etc. Use your platform to boost voices that wouldn't otherwise be heard.

Frequent shops owned by people from marginalized groups. Use the power of your economic privilege to support them.

Signal boost; don't obliterate with your voice. That's a callback to point #1: If you are talking OVER marginalized voices in your effort to be an ally, you aren't. That's ego. Examine your motivations.


I wrote this post as much as a reminder for myself as well as for my fellow white folks, both allies and potential allies. I know this is not a complete list and if I have make any errors or omissions, I apologize and will edit as needed. 

Know that this is hard work.
Know that you will make mistakes.
This is okay; learn from your mistakes.
No change happens easily.
Change can happen.
It must.


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Thursday, January 18, 2018

A lifetime of learning

Fred Rogers, image in the public domain

From the outside, I pretty much look like a competent grown-up. Someone who has it all together. Well, I have been circling around the sun on this blue planet for over 5 decades, so I've had a long time to learn some stuff. But the reality is, I'm still learning and I'm still changing. And, no, I don't have all the answers.

I have learned to think deeply about all sorts of things and especially to interrogate my own most closely held beliefs. Honestly? That's my definition of adulthood - being willing to examine your biases and change them. It's toddlers who hold to irrational beliefs and throw tantrums when they are challenged. Grown ups shouldn't do that.

All too often they/we do.

These are some of the things I've been thinking about/lessons I'm working to learn:

1. Not everything is about me. Not everything is for me. Every space doesn't need to cater to me. Shutting up & listening without needing to offer my opinion is a useful skill.

I'm a white, cis, het woman in her middle age. I have A perspective, but not THE perspective. And to be honest, my perspective is more widely understood and accepted than those of someone more marginalized than me. While in some contexts, I may be the marginalized voice, in so many more, I am privileged. My job, when I am privileged, is to clear the way for other perspectives. And not expect a cookie or a pat on the head for it.

2. I have the responsibility to ask for what I want, not the guarantee that I will get it. 

I spent far too much time worrying about pleasing (or simply appeasing) people around me. Somehow, I was convinced that I was only likable if I catered to what everyone around me wanted and needed. This does a number of very unhealthy things: It made me believe that what I wanted was not important. It made me believe that I had to manage other people's emotions at the expense of my own. It made me believe that others - if they truly cared about me - would know what I wanted or needed. In short, it encouraged me to act in a passive aggressive way and to deny my own agency and personhood. 

3. I have learned that empathy is not the same as subsuming my needs for someone else's. 

This is closely linked to the point above. I had to learn that I had the right to have preferences that differed from those of the people around me. This reverberates in small matters and large: the movie you want to watch, the way in which you and a partner express sexuality. 

4. Disagreeing doesn't mean the end of a relationship. . . 

I used to believe I had to agree with/enjoy everything my friends did, or I was being troublesome or rude or disruptive. Somehow I was convinced that by saying "No, I don't want" or "I don't like" would end the friendship. It was *my* job to bend to the needs of those around me. What I've learned is that clearly having an opinion doesn't negate the opinions of others. We can like different things and still be friends. I know! Radical! 

5. Except sometimes it does. 

Opinions about favorite Doctors (Doctor Who), or Star Trek franchises, or pie varieties are not fatal differences. (Though I will fight with all my strength if you tell me that canned pumpkin makes as good a pie as fresh.)
I have given myself permission this year to distance myself from individuals in my life who hold political beliefs I feel are incompatible with empathy and democracy. If you make a joke in which you 'punch down' and when I try to talk to you about it, you tell me I have no sense of humor, I will walk away. If your facebook feed is full of memes that are actively hurtful to people in my life, I will walk away. If you continually act to bait me or my friends in arguments manufactured to make us justify our existence, I will walk away.  


Finally, I may indeed judge myself and others by Mr. Rogers's standards of decency. If he would have been disappointed, perhaps we need to rethink our actions. 

If you have lessons you'd like to share, please add them in comments. This list is certainly not exhaustive and I'm still learning every day. Just don't challenge me about the pumpkin pie. ;) 


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Monday, January 08, 2018

My Arisia Schedule

I'll probably be wearing my TARDIS sneakers. . . 

This coming weekend, I'll be attending Arisia, one of the Boston area Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions. It's one of my favorite cons - essentially a 4 day party with a hotel full of fellow geeks.

Cosplayers and gamers and authors, oh my.

In addition to several panels and a reading, I'll be hanging out in the dealer's room with the lovely ladies of Broad Universe.

I'll have copies of my novels to autograph and look forward to chatting with readers, friends, and fans.

I hope to see you there!

Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading Adams Sat 10:00 AM

Description Come discover your new favorite writer as members of Broad Universe read short excerpts from their work. Each writer has just a few minutes to show you what she’s capable of! We offer chocolate and the chance to win prizes. Broad Universe is an international organization that supports women writers, editors, and publishers.

Kids and Families on the Autism Spectrum Burroughs Sat 11:30 AM

Description In this open-ended discussion, we will explore a wide range of issues related to children, parenting, communication strategies, schooling, and family issues that often come up when someone in the family (or perhaps more than one person!) is on the autism spectrum. The goal is for everyone to come away with a better understanding of how to work with themselves and with the people around them, whether they identify as an Aspie or not. Bring your questions!
Prospective participant information Panel participants can be people who identify as on the spectrum, those who are in close relationships with people who do, or professionals who have experience in this area.

Technology's not a Cure: Disability in SFF Burroughs Sat 4:00 PM

Description Uncanny Magazine's _Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction_ Kickstarter reached almost all of its stretch goals, and completed funding. _Defying Doomsday_, an anthology of post-apocalyptic survival fiction that focuses on disabled characters was published in 2016. The conversation around disability in SFF is growing, but there are still many problems and problematic tropes in common use. Where do we, as a genre, need to go to create a better genre for disability representation?

Writing Series, Sequels, and Spin-Offs Douglas Sun 2:30 PM

Description It's no secret that book series have a better chance of discoverability. What’s the secret to writing a successful series? How do you plan and develop multi-book series that sell? Create series arcs? And how do you keep track of multiple plotlines and characters across many books? How can you expand existing material to create a series? And when is it time to pull the plug and move onto other things?

Oh, and I'll also be displaying my ceramics in the art show!


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Friday, December 29, 2017

2017: A Year in this Writer's Life

I suspect most of you will understand when I say I won't be sorry to see the last of 2017. With a few notable exceptions, it was a difficult year, personally, professionally, and in the world at large.

Still, I have been fortunate. I have good health care and our family has financial stability. Those two things alone make me an outlier.

And, while I haven't written as much in 2017 as I had wanted or planned to,  it was still a full year of writing news and personal news.

Writing Life

Chris Howard knocks it out of the park again with this cover image.


2017 saw the publication of PARALLAX, the 4th book of my space opera science fiction series Halcyone Space. 

I also contributed a new original short story to the anthology ORPHANS IN THE BLACK called "In the Clutch", unrelated to the universe of the Halcyone Space books. It's a bit of an homage to Earnest Shackleton and the Endurance mission. With reptilian aliens. 

Writing in Progress

The drafting of book 5 (A STAR IN THE VOID) has been going more slowly than I had anticipated, but I'm still working within my original publication time frame of Summer 2018. 

After several false starts, I finished another short story for an upcoming themed anthology and am awaiting editorial notes. It's a bit more on the literary side than my novels and I'll be interested in seeing what readers make of it.

In other new writing, the Vito Nonce project that I'm co-writing with Rick Wayne has taken a brief hiatus as both of us are working on finishing current series, but will be a focus in the new year. 

So between novels, short stories, blog posts, and poetry, I've probably eked out 50,000 new words in 2017. Considerably less output than I've managed in prior years, but I'll take it as a victory. 

Events and Honors

I addition to attending ARISIA (and garnering an invitation to participate in 2018) and participating in programs at BOSKONE and READERCON, this year marked a convention first: 

One of these days I'll learn to to take goofy photos.
But not this day.

I was invited to be a Guest of Honor at G.A.M.E. in Springfield, MO. They folks at G.A.M.E. were gracious and welcoming and I had a great time meeting old and new fans and talking about SF&F tropes that needed to die. 

This year also found me in Denver to attend MILE HIGH CON. The highlight was getting to meet Nathan Lowell in person for the first time since meeting him virtually 4 years ago.

DERELICT picked up a new honor in 2017: It was chosen as the inaugural title for a new Feminist Book of the Month Club, featuring speculative fiction titles. It also had another run on Amazon as a best seller during a sale in the fall, introducing the series to a new group of readers. (Welcome!)

This fall, I was able to spend a productive and wonderful week in the company of writing community friends from Writer Unboxed when we gathered for a retreat in the wilds of Vermont. 

And finally, in December I was interviewed by my fellow Broad Universe member Rona Gofstein along with Kevin Ross Emory on their show: Dragons & Unicorns & other creative creatures. 

So if you've ever been curious about my creative process, my stories, my ceramics work, or just what to hear my squeaky voice and watch me talk with my hands, have a look. 

Personal Life 

Star Field Farm rises

In January of 2017, my husband and I closed on a home in Central Massachusetts on a 54 acre piece of property that is part farmland, part Rivendell. Ultimately, it will be where we retire to. In the meanwhile, it will be a personal and writing retreat space.

In March of 2017, my gallbladder and I decided to part ways. It was less an amicable divorce than a forced separation. I don't know how it is faring, but I'm a lot healthier without it in my life. 

My birth mother, circa 1962
The year ended with an incredible discovery: my birth family. After decades of searching, and after believing that door had closed permanently, I have made contact with aunts, uncles, and cousins related to my (late) birth mother. It has been quite a journey finding new family in my 50s and discovering that, yes, poetry and geek are carried in the genes.

I suspect that I'll be continuing to process what this all means for me over the coming year both in my journaling, my poetry, and my stories. 

In looking forward to 2018, I wish you all a year of creative energy, of personal growth and breakthroughs, and most importantly, of peace and joy.


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