APAHM Link Roundup

Over on Twitter I did a daily recommendation for books/stories/articles/blogs, etc by #AAPI creators for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Here’s a roundup of all the recommendations (clearly this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the work out there by AAPI creators, however, I limited myself to things I’ve personally read/watched/listened to).

5/1: Aliette de Bodard’s scifi novella The Tea Master and the Detective, a race and genderbent Sherlock Holmes style murder mystery in space. /1

5/2: Cindy Pon’s wonderful duology, Serpentine and Sacrifice. Read both! My fave of her works (sorry Want). We need more positive (& same/similar age) female friendships. Bonus, no love triangles. Complicated friendship but they never fight over a boy. /2

5/3: R. Kikuo Johnson’s graphic novel, The Night Fisher. A multilayered, frank look/commentary on growing up in modern Hawaii. Echoes the experiences of a few friends of mine. The art is GORGEOUS. I love chiaroscuro style art /3

5/4: Samira Ahmed’s Love, Hate and Other Filters. A meet-cute romcom that also tackles issues about being an Indian Muslim girl in a small Midwestern town. & no love triangle! (I have a theme) #AsianLitBingo rec /4

5/5: Maangchi. She’s kinda my national treasure. Her cookbook is great, but you really need to check out her youtube channel full of vids on how to make Korean food. /5

5/6: They Call Us Bruce podcast. “An unfiltered conversation about what’s happening in Asian America.” I love this podcast & its variety of topics. Jeff Yang’s laugh is kinda the best. /6 https://theycallusbruce.libsyn.com/

5/7: Lurline Wailana McGregor’s Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me. A somewhat bittersweet look at life in modern Hawaii, family struggles, & coming back to your roots. /7

5/8: Going to shift focus a bit & look at identity & some of the struggles involved w/exploring heritage, being “held” to it, assimilation, being “Asian enough,” & the AAPI experience in today’s times /8a

First up, Ken Liu’s essay from the Lightspeed POC Destroy! SF kickstarter re: issues POC often encounter when writing their culture/life. /8b

5/9: Today’s rec: in a similar vein to yesterday’s rec, S. Jae-Jone’s blog post on being “expected to write or perform [our] own marginalizations.” /9

5/10: Today’s rec: Kim Fu’s article from 2016 on AsAm identity in America. “Your face disappoints everyone, the TV told me. You will fit in nowhere.” /10

5/11: Today’s rec: Jenny Zhang’s article on being a POC creator in a white-dominated field. “Put one more way: white people don’t like it when we don’t do well and they don’t like it when we do. But most of all, they don’t like it when they don’t do well.” /11

5/12: Today’s rec: Mike Jung’s interview with DiversifYA. “…racial/ethnic identity has been such an active and complicated part of my individual life experience. I’m Korean-American.” I feel this so hard. /12

5/13: Today’s rec: Michi Trota’s I Don’t See Color, an essay on learning to embrace AsAm identity, which appeared in the first Invisible anthology edited by Jim C. Hines. I ❤ this so much. /13

5/14: Today’s rec: Kat Tanaka Okopnik’s essay in Invisible 2, on raising her AsAm children in a climate still rife with stereotypes and tropes. “I have two young children who are surrounded by media that are leading them to perform the very same problematic tropes about (East) Asians that I grew up around. It’s 2015. Aren’t we supposed to be done with this?”/14

5/15: Today’s rec: Dawn Xiana Moon’s essay in Invisible 3 (yes I’m promoting Invisible a lot bc it’s a great body of work). “While our society pigeonholes Asians as socially-awkward scientists, perpetual foreigners, and weak submissives, I’m determined to show Asians can be creative, tough, and unconventional.”/15

5/16: Today’s rec: Chris Fuchs’ article on the Model Minority myth and why it’s harmful bullshit. /16

5/17: Today’s rec: a roundtable discussion on Asian SFF&H from Mithila Review. Not AsAm specific, but a good discussion on Asian-origin identity, being a creator, & how this intersects with speculative fiction. /17

5/18: Today’s rec: Eunny Hong’s The Birth of Korean Cool: One Nation is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture. Memoir-ish look at S. Korean culture from a KorAm journalist born in the US who moved to Seoul for several years. /18

5/19: Now that we’re well into APAHM, it’s going to get adoptiony here. I have mixed feels about APAHM bc as a transracial adoptee it can feel like my heritage isn’t for me. I’m not the child of immigrants like many earlier recs. I’m an immigrant, but for me, adoption supplants that. Recs focus on adoption (mostly KorAm bc it me) & how it affects identity. /19a

Today’s rec: The Unknown Culture Club: Korean Adoptees, Then & Now, compiled by the Vance Twins. Powerful & at times sad, but important bc these are the words of adoptees, not adoptive parents. Not a “feel good” book. /19b

5/20: Today’s rec: Dreaming a World: Korean Birth Mothers Tell Their Stories, ed. by Sangsoon Han. The title really says it all. This is a tough read—also not a “feel good” book. It’s also the book that’s made me start considering doing a birth search. /20

5/21: Today’s rec: Invisible Asians, by Kim Park Nelson, an academic look at the KorAm adoptee experience. “…as an adoptee, you’re always going to be in between; you’re not Asian enough & you’re not white enough.” Story of my life. /21

5/22: Today’s rec: Mara Smith’s essay on adoption, its complexities, & navigating the demand of being “grateful.” Dear Adoption only publishes work by adoptees & there is a huge variety of viewpoints on the website. /22

5/23: Today’s rec: “Introduction: Rewriting Adoption,” an essay by Nicole Chung. “Adoptees are still trying to find the space to write our lives, instead of being written about.” Also, go preorder her memoir.  /23

5/24: Today’s rec: Lisa See’s The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. CW infanticide. Rare instance of me rec’ing work by writer outside adoption triad. “When did you find out you *weren’t* adopted? How do you know your mother is your birth mother?” /24

5/25: Today’s rec: Karuna Riazi’s The Gauntlet, fun MG fantasy w/great relationship dynamics between siblings, friends, & adult family. “…steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair” /25

5/26: Min Jin Lee’s Free Food for Millionaires. KorAm, child of immigrants, business school, workaholic, poor $ choices, melodramatic AF. It’s a KorAm soap opera in book form. /26

5/27: Today’s rec: Marjorie Liu’s comic/graphic novel Monstress. Beautiful art by Sana Takeda, diverse cast on so many levels (Kippa is my fave), & full of the sweary words. Hugo winner & volume 2 is a current nominee. /27

5/28: Today’s rec: Sister Heart, by Sally Morgan. A bittersweet story told in verse from the main character’s POV: an Aboriginal child stolen from her home & sent to an institution that forces assimilation /28

5/29: Today’s rec: The SEA is Ours, ed. by Jaymee Goh & Joyce Chng. Beautiful anthology of steampunk short stories from SE Asian authors. My faves: The Last Aswang & Unmaking of the Cuadro Amoroso. /29

5/30: Today’s rec: C.B. Lee’s Not Your Sidekick. YA superhero romcom w/bi Vietnamese-Chinese MC. “It’s not that her pronunciation is terrible; it’s just that she should have known it was easier not to try in the first place.” All the feels /30

5/31: We made it to the end! “How Far I’ll Go” cover by several SE Asian singers in (mostly) their native languages. Happy APAHM everyone /31

 

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Norwescon 39 Recap

Norwescon ribbons

My lowly assortment of con ribbons.

Norwescon 39 has come and gone, so here is my recap of a fun weekend. This was my first Norwescon, but hopefully not my last. There were more positives than negatives, though the negatives were aggravating. Thankfully (I guess?), most of the negatives happened right at the beginning and the con experience greatly improved once I got over those hurdles.

The main negatives: 1) Parking is atrocious. The lot at the DoubleTree isn’t small, but for a con with a few thousand people in attendance it doesn’t cut it. Being in Seattle that’s not surprising, but the hotel didn’t do anything to help the situation. The ticket booths to enter the lot were unmanned, so the poor souls that didn’t arrive early on opening day (I didn’t get there until 3pm) got to drive around for however long you could stand it until giving up or being fortunate enough to find someone leaving their spot. I get it, parking frustration isn’t a new thing, but it would’ve been nice if Doubletree had posted a staff member at the ticket booth either directing people away or putting signs up indicating the lot was full (they did start to put up signs later on during the weekend). Because the hotel is right next to the airport there was airport parking/garages available, which kinda sucks, since the con rate for parking at the hotel was $8, and parking at the airport garage was running somewhere in the $20+ range.

2) Registration at the hotel (not Norwescon reg) was super slow when I got in. This is really more on the hotel than Norwescon, since you’d think if the hotel knew thousands more people than usual would be in that weekend then it might be a good idea to have an extra person or two at the registration desk.

Again, not the end of the world or all that unexpected, but coming on the heels of the parking frustration, seeing the row of empty stations at the registration desk and the lone person trying to handle it all…

My #3 actually got fixed by the second day, but originally programming was scheduled up to the hour without a break. As in, panel A goes from 10-11, panel B from 11-12, etc. Without a break period, you’d have panels cutting into the subsequent panel’s time. At the end of each panel there’d be an awkward shuffle to get people out of the room and then to get people waiting in the narrow hall (that’s my #4 gripe) in, settled, get the speakers situated, etc. It really sucked for the authors’ who had readings where the panel before them ran over and ate into their reading time (usually 30min). This did get fixed though, and panels started ending at 10min to the hour.

4) Norwescon is so-so, in my opinion, on being accessibility-friendly. The big plus is that the elevators were decently sized, there were 4 of them, and they ran quickly. I never encountered long waits or broken elevators. The Doubletree in Spokane for Worldcon was a different story. However, the halls for the conference rooms where the panels were held weren’t very wide. I guess Norwescon can get away with it since attendance is only around the 2-3k mark, but there were times where the flow of traffic had to completely stop so that someone in a scooter or wheelchair could move forward because the halls weren’t wide enough to accommodate a lane of traffic moving in both directions.

There also wasn’t a lot of seating available if one needed to sit while waiting for their panel, and what seating there was could end up being a long way from the room where the panel you wanted to attend was located. I know there were volunteers running around, but I’ve been to cons in the past where each room has a door attendant who usually handles getting someone with accessibility needs into the room without fuss or fanfare. I didn’t really see that at Norwescon, but that’s not to say they weren’t around. I’m also not sure if people were issued accessibility badges or stickers or whatnot to access rooms ahead of time.

I went solo to Norwescon and am fortunate to be in a position where most of the accessibility issues don’t impact me anymore, but having been in the situation where they once did I tend to be sensitive/aware of them or the need. Norwescon isn’t the worst with regard to accessibility, but it isn’t the best either. Some of that isn’t its fault in a direct way; they can’t control the physical width of the hallways. But these are things to consider for non-able bodied people.

Now that I’ve ranted about all the negatives (oops. I’ll cut some of it down in post), Norwescon really is a fun con. I think of it as Worldcon Lite. Lots of programming dedicated to the many aspects of SFF fandom, writing, cosplay, etc. An eclectic mix in the Dealer’s Hall, and a nice-sized art show. It was great to be able to meet up with friends that I rarely see otherwise, and to meet some in person that I’d previously only conversed with via social media.

Oh, and the DoubleTree’s food is actually pretty good. Not inexpensive (not surprising), but tasty, and they re-worked some of the items on the menu to cater to attendees with dietary restrictions. Example: the roasted cauliflower soup apparently is normally a vegetarian option, but they made a vegan version for Norwescon. And it was good. Maybe the server who told us that was making it up, but considering that she went back to talk to the chef, I doubt it. Or bravo for going through the work to make up an elaborate story. Never did find out why the bread pudding wasn’t considered vegetarian though.

I mainly attended Norwescon for the Fairwood Writers’ Workshop, which was lovely. My critique session was Saturday night with Catherine Montrose, Elizabeth Guizzetti, Tim McDaniel, and Pat MacEwen. I submitted a short story for the workshop, and was selected for an individual critique. The critiques were held at the top of the DoubleTree tower in the Mountain conference rooms, which do have a few stairs down to the table, though they were quick to note this during the workshop registration process. I imagine accommodations are made if you can’t navigate stairs. Our only gripe about the room was that we couldn’t get the lights to go above what we were calling “mood lighting.” The other room didn’t seem to have that problem, but we managed just fine. It was light enough at 7pm to get by, and dim lighting is a better trade than getting roasted by the sun with all those windows.

The workshop was great from registration to the actual critique. The guidelines were clear, and the workshop was great with communication. They make accommodations so that you don’t get put in the same group for a round robin session with someone you’re already critiquing with outside the workshop if that applies.

My critique went well, and I’m all squeeing inside because overall my story was well-received and doesn’t need a complete rewrite. They gave suggestions for ways to tighten it up and other revisions, and it was pretty nice—and telling—that all four agreed on what the structural flaws were. Onward to revisions I go, and hopefully can get it out to markets in April.

The novel’s progress is steady if also a bit slow. I’m past the first act of the rough draft and wading into the soggy middle. I think I said last blog post that I was hoping to have a post about the novel/my writing quirks…well, maybe next month! It’s only a few days away after all.

I was able to get a crash course on pitching as Jennifer Brozek offered to teach a 2hr class for the workshop participants on Thursday night. My takeaway is that the cobbled together logline I had for the novel was actually decent, but my title needs work. Brozek is a big proponent of titles not being generic, and fulfilling a promise to the reader in that it tells a little something about what the book is about. So I need to work on that. I’ll be attending the one-day workshop hosted by Cascade Writers next month covering the business of writing and will be doing some more pitching there, so this was a nice starter.

1st Workshop Recap- Cascade Writers- How Not to Write a Novel

I recently found out about a local writing group called Cascade Writers. Founded something like 15 years ago by Karen Junker (she uses the title Outreach Coordinator), this group has an impressive number of events–both public and paid–still to come this year.

Karen is lovely. I’m an introvert and generally come across as shy or indifferent until people get to know me (as I think most writers are). So I was hesitant about getting involved with this group.  From my first tentative email Karen has been kind and inviting. She wants people to feel welcome and included, and immediately invited me to a get together she’s hosting for anyone who can come. Whoa. Dude people, workshops are gold for networking opportunities. I’m awful at networking but Karen made me feel comfortable and not like the total dork who knew no one at the event that I totally was. Honestly, everyone was nice at the workshop–the representatives from CW, the authors, and the audience.

Getting ahead of myself. I went to the “How Not to Write a Novel” 3-hr public workshop held at a local library.The four author-speakers were Cat Rambo, Jennifer Brozek, Tina Connolly, and Raven Oak.

Note to Self and others: Don’t forget to eat before a workshop that starts at 12:30. Also, if you arrive half an hour early like I did, don’t wander off on foot in search of a nearby Starbucks because you think you know the general direction of one, like I did. I ended up going into the workshop 15 minutes late (I did eventually find a Starbucks, it wasn’t worth it) and was able to get a seat all the way at the end. And I wasn’t even the last person to get there, yay. I didn’t count, but there was a good number of people there…guessing (and I’m terrible at this) around 60? I’ve never been to a workshop before so I had no idea what to expect. Seemed like a good turnout to me, and apparently about half had never been to an event hosted by a public library. Fun fact.

Anyway, when I walked in the authors were answering some pre-determined questions with Raven Oak acting as the moderator, if you will. They answered questions like “worst advice you ever got,” “best advice,” “tips to writers,” & “what piece of advice do you wish you’d had from the start?”  Not entirely new answers if you’ve taken writing courses, read author interviews, or done some general poking around the net, but the fact that such answers like “butt in chair writing, it sounds easy but is actually one of the hardest parts,” or  “it’s ok to break the rules, but only if you understand and know why you’re breaking them,” continuously pop up shows that they should be taken seriously.

They talked about how they start a novel, and it was interesting that many of them either were from the start or shifted over to becoming more outline-oriented. Nothing wrong with being a pantser (someone who writes from the “seat of their pants” aka no plan), but at some point you need to have an idea of where you’re going and what you’re looking to accomplish with the story. Not setting it in stone because stories will change from start to finish, but having at least a rudimentary road map. They also cautioned about not being the opposite of a pantser–the person who outlines obsessively and spends a year building the-most-perfect-world-ever that they never get any writing done. This is a trap SFF writers in particular seem drawn to, and some never get out. Oh, and revise, people. Just finished that NaNoWriMo novel? Don’t send it off right off the bat. Revise, revise, revise. I hate revisions, but that’s where the real writing happens.

I’ve taken several online classes (that I’ll eventually review) so this wasn’t really “new” information for me, but if you’re a newb to the writing scene, definitely go to these kinds of workshops! Even if you write short fiction or non-fiction, there’s information useful to everyone. The authors encouraged honing your craft with short fiction, or saving those scenes you have to delete because they don’t move the plot forward and using them in short stories later. They gave some general publishing tips. Editing tips. Just because “novel” was in the title didn’t limit the discussion. Don’t be afraid to venture forth!

They introduced people to submission sites like Ralan and Duotrope. These are great ways to find markets for your work, and Duotrope also serves as a submission tracker. I was skeptical about Duotrope until I trialed it. Goodbye Excel spreadsheet tracking my submissions. Ralan is free, and looks like a web relic of the 80s, but it is updated and a good alternative to Duotrope. As Cat Rambo said, if you use it, like it, and are able, please consider donating a few bucks to sites like Ralan so that they can stay around.

There was a Q&A session, then a 5min break. I think it’s time for an interlude with cats and fish.

Cats and Fish

Beth is on top of the tank having a drink, Cogwheel on left, and his sister, Juniper, on the right.

After the break, the authors each read for about 10 minutes from their current or forthcoming books. I haven’t been to a reading since I was a tween (John R. Erickson and his Hank the Cowdog series is much beloved in this house), so I was interested to see what it would be like. After Raven Oak’s reading using a southern drawl true to her character, I’m afraid to ever read my work in public if I need to use an accent. Mine are awful. Hers, on the other hand, was great. A performance that makes you not want to have to go next because you’re like “craaaap. Way to set the bar.” I always wondered how much “acting” you should do to relate what’s going on in the story, and it looks like it’s whatever you makes you comfortable.

After the readings the authors were available for more informal questions and book signings. I chatted with a few to get their opinion on attending WorldCon even though it’s more of a geek con than a writing workshop (they encouraged me to go), and introduced myself to the CW folks. As I said earlier, workshops = great networking opportunities. Even if you’re awkward and afraid like me. Thing is, writing is a solitary gig so it’s nice to have a group of people to commiserate with once in a while. And it’ll be a good excuse to get out of the house.

Looking forward to the premium workshop in July.

ABOUT

Jaime O. Mayer lives in Seattle, Washington, with three needy cats and a patient husband. While she enjoys reading across the science fiction and fantasy spectrum, she has a soft spot for sword and sorcery. Jaime is currently working on honing her craft with short fiction and outlining for a novel.

She has a B.A. from Whitman College and a J.D. from Seattle University School of Law. In the middle of her 2L year, Jaime was in a car accident. Long story short, she realized that she couldn’t keep waiting for “someday” to get serious about writing. After a reluctant return to law school, she also enrolled in an online writing course with Gotham Writers Workshop. It was her first time taking a creative writing class and putting her work out there for serious critiques. She was nervous but had a rewarding experience and learned a lot. Jaime has been writing on a regular basis (finally!) ever since.

Waving her geek flag proudly, Jaime enjoys knitting, gaming (computer, not console), and is an adult-starter on the violin attempting to play video game music. Admittedly a bit weird, she prefers writing first drafts long-hand with a fountain pen.