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BookNotes: Nevermore

 

Today’s top read: The Estrogen Zone, or how women pioneered creative nonfiction before it was even a thing. All the way back to Nellie Bly, women like Joan Didion, Rachel Carson, Gail Sheehy, and others had to deal with the most rank sexism to fight their way out of the “flamingo pink” women’s pages to get to do real work in the white-male-dominated world of nonfiction and journalism. 

(Lest you think this is ancient history, know that as a young reporter I was assigned to write up weddings. Yes, all the details of the dresses worn to the bridesmaids’ luncheon, too. To be fair, I also got to cover the shooting of U.S. Marshals and eventually got to do real journalism.)

Much of the article is focused on Bly, whose real name was Elizabeth Cochrane and pioneered investigative undercover journalism by getting herself committed to an asylum to uncover how women with mental health issues were mistreated. One such woman’s “mental health” issue was not wanting to be married to her husband anymore, so he dumped her in the asylum. For life. Cochrane and Ida Tarbell and Nell Nelson and Annie Laurie and the amazing Martha Gellhorn exposed injustice and oppression before it was cool, and did it in defiance of a society that insisted their place was to serve men in their homes. It’s from The Fine Art of Literary Fistfighting, a history of creative nonfiction that just vaulted to the top of my wishlist.

• I’m not rehashing Barbenheimer Goes to the Oscars, but Den Of Geek has an interesting piece despite being solidly in Oppy’s camp about the missing women of Oppenheimer. I recall being annoyed at how the women characters were reduced basically to sex objects and background noise (with a notable exception included in the article) but I had forgotten about all the women scientists they ignored or mocked. The movie version of history shouldn’t be more sexist than actual history. I had never thought of Nolan’s work as being overtly male-centered, but now I can’t unsee it. That said, it isn’t fair to say Oppenheimer is solely for male viewers, as that’s in itself a sexist assumption that women aren’t interested in all that sciencey stuff.

• This Week in A.I. Hell: The estate George Carlin sues the podcasters who made an A.I. zombie Carlin special, whereupon the podcasters immediately declared, “Uh, we didn’t use A.I.! We totally wrote it ourselves.” They sound like my students. We’ll see in the depositions, boys. This case has the potential to set legal precedent about the use of A.I. generated images of deceased celebrities without their families’ consent or compensation, thus the backpedaling.

• That creepy author who requested nudes from young women to promote his book, which we talked about last week? His agent dropped him, he appears to have been removed from his speakers bureau, he’s been kicked off a number of boards and organizations… basically, stick a fork in him, he’s done. It’s easy to completely torch your career by being a creeper. Also, he’s very sorry.

• An interesting interview with author Eric A. Stanley on their new book detailing anti-trans/queer violence. They argue that modernity cannot be examined separate from violence and oppression of LGBTQ+ people and their art. “I think a lot of the promises of inclusion are crumbling, and people are unsure what to do. I hope that this will radicalize us all toward demanding an end to this world and [demanding] one [where] we can all survive,” they said. The book is titled Atmospheres ofViolence, and you can read the whole interview at Public Books.

Finally: Happy birthday, Edgar Allan Poe.

Note: Next week I am back on the road, attending the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Kansas City. Daily travelogues and convention write-ups will appear on Patreon, so now is a great time to subscribe! There will be no Show Your Work or BookNotes next week due to the conference, unless I get super ambitious. But I’ll be back the next week!

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The One Where Elizabeth Wins

I’m honored to share that I’ve been awarded an AWP Community Scholarship to attend the 2024 conference in Kansas City.

I was lucky to attend last year’s conference in Seattle, and I absolutely loved it. AWP is one hell of a conference, with about 25 panels per hour aimed for writers and writing programs. It’s got a heavy literary bent, but there is also programming for commercial and genre writers and a LOT for the teaching of writing. And unlike the very white-cis-male spaces we find in publishing, AWP has more diversity in all forms than just about any other space I’ve seen.

A few of the panels I’ve got my eye on:

  • Social justice on the page: How writing and activism feed each other
  • Writing practices for neurodiverse and disabled writers
  • Mapping the creative and pedagogical terrain of community colleges
  • Breaking the rules on chapbooks: New approaches to an old form
  • Women of new fabulism and speculative literature
  • Be Shameless: Everything you need to know to nail promotion
  • Writing life post-MFA: Unearthing the realities
  • A turn of the page: From journalism to creative writing
  • Greater than the sum of its parts: Writing and structuring essay collections
  • The fine art of the craft talk
  • Writing the literary sex scene: Dethroning the male gaze
  • Show (Me) Don’t Tell: Missouri writers grappling with the state of their state
  • Ableism off and on the page
  • How do you eat? Writers talk plainly about funding their writing lives

And about two dozen others among the hundreds available. In addition to the daytime panels, AWP really comes alive at the evening off-site events. Readings are constant, wine-and-cheese receptions and gatherings in dozens of locations every night until the wee hours. I made the grave mistake in Seattle of skipping the nighttime events for the first couple of days, thinking it was like a con room party: fun but skippable. It was only on the third day that I realized it’s where so much of the creative energy of the convention comes from. 

In fact, I wrote a column on ten tips for attending AWP, which you can read here. Tip No. 3 was “The real beauty is in the offsite events.” 

I strongly recommend AWP for beginning writers, established writers, poets, librarians, students, editors, publishers, creative writing teachers, memoirists… basically if you put pen to paper or teach others to do the same, there’s something for you here, particularly in academic and literary circles. 

Having graduated out of student rates, I was very afraid I could not afford to return even though it’s so close to me this year: Kansas City is a mere four hours according to Google Maps, which always means five hours for me. The scholarship makes a huge difference, and I’m incredibly grateful to AWP for its generosity and those of the donors who kick in to help underserved, disabled and low-income writers join in the fray.

If you’re interested, check out the website at awpwriter.org. And let me know if you’ll be there! All adventures are more fun with a fellowship. Didn’t Tolkein teach us that?

 

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September 2023 linkspam

The image above was a sign on the wall of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta, one of the five host hotels for Dragoncon. I was delighted to return to Dragoncon after an absence of eight years, which was just long enough to remember where the food court is, and completely forget which level you need to find the habitrails. 

And if you’ve ever been to Dragoncon, you know why that sign is hilarious.

I had a delightful time at Dragoncon, plus or minus the usual exhaustion and realizing I am too old for late-night partying (but not too old to hobble about the site). Capping attendance has eliminated some of the congestion – certainly better than it was in 2015 – but it’s still one I wouldn’t recommend for people who have problems with heights, crowds or noise. 

A full daily travelogue of my return to Dragoncon posted on the Patreon for all Patrons – and why haven’t you subscribed yet? If you want to see Obi-Wan KENobi, Starlett O’Hara and other awesome costume pics, you should totally sign up
 

Publicity/Appearances

Appearances slowed down a bit in August, what with Dragoncon and the launch of the fall semester. I’m teaching four classes this fall, which kind of takes a little time and attention. But there’s plenty on the way for the Fall Deathmarch! 

Added to the schedule: I’m honored to be hosted by the Martin (Tenn.) Public Library this Saturday! For those who don’t know, I did my first two years of high school at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore and the second two years at Martin Westview High School, and this weekend is my 30th (!!!) reunion. The library is hosting me for a signing before the reunion, and I’m honored to be there.

Then there’s the Spine Book Fair in St. Louis on Sept. 23, followed by a signing at the Society of Professional Journalists conference in Las Vegas on Sept. 29. Also coming up this fall: the Melting Pot in Granite City on Oct. 7 and Writers of the Riverbend on Oct. 14.

As previously announced, I will not be at Archon as it conflicts with SPJ, but the Literary Underworld will be there under my husband’s supervision, so you should be sure to grab books from us at the show! 

Note that my workshop for Plethora of Pens originally slated for Sept. 11 is being rescheduled. I’ll announce the new date when I know it. 

Added to the schedule: presenting at the RWA/St. Louis Writers Guild conference hosted at the St. Louis Central Library on Oct. 21, and I am confirmed as a guest for Midsouthcon in Memphis next March.

Finally: Don’t forget Leclaire Parkfest! It’s not an official author appearance, but I run the St. Andrew’s charity book fair in Edwardsville and we do an extra sale at Parkfest to benefit the American Cancer Society. The festival is Sunday, Oct. 15 at Leclaire Park in Edwardsville, Ill. and it’s a lot of fun! Come by and say hello.

Whew! 

2023 calendar:
• Martin Public Library, Martin, Tenn. Sept. 9 
• Spine Book Fair, St. Louis, Mo. Sept. 23 
• SPJ Conference, Las Vegas. Sept. 28-Oct. 1 (presenter/book signing)
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Sept. 21-Oct. 1 (LitUnd only)
• The Melting Pot, Granite City, Ill. Oct. 7
• Writers of the Riverbend, Alton, Ill. Oct. 14
• Leclaire Parkfest, Edwardsville, Ill. Oct. 15 (charity sale only)
• RWA/St. Louis Writers Guild, St. Louis Central Library, Oct. 21
• ContraKC, Kansas City, Nov. 10-12 (solo and LitUnd)

2024 calendar:
• Association of Writers and Writing Programs, Kansas City, Mo. Feb. 7-10
• Conflation, St. Louis, Mo. Feb. 23-25
• Midsouthcon, Memphis, Tenn. March 22-24 
• Sigma Tau Delta conference, St. Louis, Mo. April 3-6 (tent.)
• ConCarolinas, Charlotte, N.C. May 31-June 2 (tent.)

Journalism

• What’s causing enrollment to drop in Highland schools? (Highland News-Leader and Yahoo News)
• Construction gets underway at Highland’s new primary school (Highland News-Leader and Yahoo News)
• U.S. Steel rejects buyout proposal (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Lemon House Bakes crafts artful sugar cookies (Feast Magazine)
• Speakeasy Parlor taking reservations (Feast Magazine)
• Union resistance stalls sale at Granite City Works (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Community helps Highland police end burglaries (Highland News-Leader and Yahoo News)
• Installation of solar panels projects millions of savings for Highland (Highland News-Leader)
• AFSCME Council ratifies contract with Illinois (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Illinois establishes hubs for ‘clean jobs’ (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• AFSCME Council reaches tentative agreement with state (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Rebuild Illinois includes millions for construction (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Highland provides escape from deadly heat (Highland News-Leader)

Note: Not all articles are available online, and some may be behind paywalls. 

 

Blogs

• Fall Deathmarch (Elizabeth Donald)
• Signing added in Martin, Tenn. (Elizabeth Donald)
• Dragoncon Schedule (Elizabeth Donald and Patreon)

Fiction

I’m happy to announce that my short story “Azrael” has been picked up by parABnormal Magazine at Hiraeth Publishing! Details are here on the blog

• Flashback: Silent (Patreon)
 

Patreon/Medium

• Review: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Patreon)
• Archival evidence (Patreon)
• Free to wear pink (Patreon)
• Dragoncon: Everybody walk the dinosaur (Patreon)
• Dragoncon: 100,000 of your closest friends (Patreon)
• Dragoncon: A roomful of readers (Patreon)
• Dragoncon: Hi Barbie! (Patreon)
• Dragoncon: The roar of unbridled avarice (Patreon)
• Dragoncon: Denouement (Patreon)
• The whispering woods (Medium)

Note: Recently I indexed all the entries I’ve posted on the Patreon going back to its launch in 2018. I wanted new Patrons to be able to easily find the work that they’ve missed, and hopefully seeing how much work is on the Patreon might encourage some good folks to subscribe. (Hint, hint.) Seriously, subscriptions start at $1 a month, and I truly believe some of the best work I’ve ever done is on the Patreon. Check out the index here.

Photography

It’s all on the Patreon! So many awesome costumes at Dragoncon. You should really subscribe

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Fall Deathmarch (a.k.a. tour)

Excuse me, meme. We prefer the term “geeks.”

Semantics aside (and I’m always up for semantics!) I’m off to sunny Atlanta for Dragoncon! It’s great to be returning after many years away – I think my last DC was 2015? 

My reading is at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Hyatt Marietta, and I hope you’ll come. I’ll be giving out a free chapbook to all attendees and will have books for sale. Likewise at my signing, which is at 2:30 p.m. Friday (with Timothy Zahn!) in Westin Overlook and I will sign (almost) anything you put in front of me.

Travelogue will post on Patreon as usual, along with any fun costume pics I get. I’m really looking forward to the annual crazy, and hope my poor bod is up to the abuse. 

Beyond that, the Fall Deathmarch is batshit this year. 

The weekend following Dragoncon, I’m signing at the Martin (Tenn.) Public Library before my 30th (!!) high school reunion.

Sept. 11 I’m speaking to the Plethora of Pens group at the Glen Carbon Library. Topic, er, to be determined.

On Sept. 23 it’s the Spine Book Fair in St. Louis! Note to self: we need a new festival tent…

Then it’s off to Las Vegas for the SPJ National Conference Sept. 28-Oct. 1, where I am a presenter (on freelance journalism) and doing a book signing. No, none of my books have jack to do with journalism unless you count the Dana Franks character in Nocturne Infernum, but they said that doesn’t matter…

Yes, that conflicts with Archon, so I will not be there (sadface) but Jim, Sela Carsen, Nikki Lanahan and Mary Koppenhofer will run the Literary Underworld in my absence. This is the first Archon I will miss since 2007, and I only missed that one because my dad was getting married. (Technically, a family unity ceremony.) While LitUnd will be there in force, we won’t be holding the Traveling Bar. So expect us back with both barrels in 2024!

After that:

• The Melting Pot in Granite City, Ill. on Oct. 7

• Writers of the Riverbend in Alton, Ill. on Oct. 14

• RWA/St. Louis Writers Guild conference at the St. Louis Central Library on Oct. 21 (speaking and signing)

• ContraKC in Kansas City on Nov. 10-12 (full LitUnd booth and traveling bar.)

THEN I UNPACK AND SLEEP. 

Every fall I say, “Why do I do this to myself?” But seeing all of you makes up for the exhaustion and nonsense. If you’re in the vicinity of any of these events, I hope you’ll stop by and say hello. It’ll be good to see you again. 

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Dragoncon Schedule

I’m delighted to be returning to Dragoncon after a long time away! Below is my schedule, where I get to meet up with some old friends and new faces as well. It’s a fairly light schedule, so I may have free time (!) to meet up and chat!

I will have a limited quantity of in-print books for sale at my reading and signing. If you want a book, you might message me in advance to reserve it. As I am flying, I can only bring so many. 

See you in Atlanta!

 

FRIDAY

2:30 p.m. Signing with Timothy Zahn (Overlook, Westin) 

SATURDAY

11:30 a.m. Vampire variety in urban fantasy (Chastain 1-2, Westin)

3:30 p.m. Reading (Marietta, Hyatt)

10 p.m. 101 Interesting ways to kill off a character (Embassy EF, Hyatt)

SUNDAY

10 a.m. Writing effective short horror fiction (Peachtree 1-2, Westin)

MONDAY

2:30 p.m. Forecasting the future of fantastic fiction (Embassy EF, Hyatt) 

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August 2023 Linkspam

Let me start with the big one: my screenplay for “Infinity” was finalist at the Imadjinn film festival, complete with a nifty little trophy for my office. This was the first screenplay I ever wrote, as part of a workshop at the university under Professor Valerie Vogrin, and I was so pleased at its warm reception. 

It’s August, which means travel and fun is winding down in favor of preparing for the fall semester. I’m teaching at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville this fall. The semester starts in two weeks, so if your professor friends seem mopey and distracted (well, more distracted than usual), have sympathy on them. Bring them coffee and sugary treats. Soon, it will be the running of the bulls, and resuming our recitation of “it’s in the syllabus.”

July 27 was Freedom Day, the five-year anniversary of becoming a full-time freelance writer. Of course, those five years were also grad school, but I’ve always loved being my own boss and I’ve deeply enjoyed writing the projects I choose. Each year I’ve written a reflection on Freedom Day, and this year I didn’t, because so much of my career is in flux right now. But we still marked the occasion with ice cream, as my family chooses to celebrate. No regrets.
 

Publicity/Appearances

July was busy! First, I spoke to TechWrite STL on the thrilling subject of grammar. Look, you can make almost any subject interesting with enough snark and memes. By the audience response, they found it a fun exercise and we managed to cover the major pitfalls of the English language without resorting to diagramming sentences.

Next was Imaginarium, where I was honored to share a dinner table with Terry Brooks and had a terrific time catching up with my fellow authors. The Literary Underworld was there in force, and so was the Traveling Bar (always the highlight of the event for us). 

I also joined my fellow members of Cuppa Words at the Alton Night Market on July 20, which saw the collapsing end of my poor traveling table. It was also the Mississippi Valley’s version of OMG are you kidding why do I live here hot. As I have frequently complained as the summers get hotter: If I wanted Tennessee weather, I would have stayed in Tennessee. 

Next up is Dragoncon! It’s been a long time since I joined 75,000 of my closest friends in the Hotlanta marathon. I’m delighted to return and am looking forward to my panels and catching up with the Atlanta crew. My full schedule will be posted on ElizabethDonald.com as soon as I have everything confirmed. If you’re going to be at Dragoncon, please come by my reading! I’d love to see you. 

Sadly, I have had to cancel my appearance at Archon this year. I haven’t missed an Archon since 2007, and that only because my father and stepmother were holding their wedding celebration that weekend. But this year, Archon conflicts with the Society of Professional Journalists’ annual conference. I am still president of the St. Louis Pro chapter, and thus am obligated to attend. I’ve offered to participate in any virtual panels at Archon, should any take place. I have also had to cancel the Edwardsville Book Fair, as I will be running the St. Andrew’s charity book sale during that weekend. 

However, please note that the Literary Underworld WILL be present at Archon! The show can go on without me. My husband Jim Gillentine will be running our booth at our usual table, with the assistance of LitUnd Underlords Sela Carsen, Nikki Lanahan, Mary Koppenhofer and others. Please drop by and say hello! Sadly, we will not be able to offer the Traveling Bar, but we promise to come back in a big way next year!

Added to the fall schedule: the Spine Book Fair in September; a book signing in Las Vegas during the SPJ conference; the Melting Pot in Granite City, Ill. on Oct. 7 and Writers of the Riverbend on Oct. 14. And that’s in addition to the previously scheduled stuff! Whew.

2023 calendar:
• Dragoncon, Atlanta, Ga. Aug. 31-Sept. 4 
• Edwardsville Book Fair, Sept. 9 (charity sale only)
• Spine Book Fair, St. Louis, Mo. Sept. 23 
• SPJ Conference, Las Vegas. Sept. 28-Oct. 1 (presenter/book signing)
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Sept. 21-Oct. 1 (LitUnd only)
• The Melting Pot, Granite City, Ill. Oct. 7
• Writers of the Riverbend, Alton, Ill. Oct. 14
• Leclaire Parkfest, Edwardsville, Ill. Oct. 15 (charity sale only)
• ContraKC, Kansas City, Nov. 10-12 (solo and LitUnd)

2024 calendar:
• Association of Writers and Writing Programs, Kansas City, Mo. Feb. 7-10
• Conflation, St. Louis, Mo. Feb. 23-25
• Midsouthcon, Memphis, Tenn. March 22-24 (tent.)
• Sigma Tau Delta conference, St. Louis, Mo. April 3-6 (tent.)
• ConCarolinas, Charlotte, N.C. May 31-June 2 (tent.)

Journalism/Blogs

• AFSCME council reaches tentative agreement with state of Illinois (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Next phase of Rebuild Illinois includes millions for local construction (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Highland offers places to escape dangerous heat (Yahoo! NewsSportsCanada and Highland News-Leader)
• Budzinski urges grants for pro-union contracts (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• After four years in restoration, Highland’s bell tower is back in place (Highland News-LeaderSportsCanada and Yahoo!News)
• Speakeasy Parlor now taking reservations in Maryville (Feast Magazine)
• Conservation plan will save soil, pollinators and tax dollars, city says (Highland News-Leader and Yahoo!News)
• St. Louis Public Radio votes to form union, first in state history (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Highland sues developer over proposed amenities (Highland News-Leader and Yahoo!News)
• Worker dies in Olin plant explosion (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Imaginarium! (ElizabethDonald blog)
• Night Market at Alton (ElizabethDonald blog)
• Medium changes ahoy (Donald Media blog)
• Two pieces go national (Donald Mediablog)

Note: Not all articles are available online, and some may be behind paywalls. 

 

Fiction

• To Protect and Serve (Patreon)
 

Patreon/Medium

• The original guilty pleasure (Medium)
• Review: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Patreon)
• The whispering woods (Patreon)
• Everything wrong with The Flash and comics movies (Patreon)
• Runner-up (Patreon)
• Wearing the pants in my own damn life, or the IDGAF jeans (Medium)

Note: Recently I indexed all the entries I’ve posted on the Patreon going back to its launch in 2018. I wanted new Patrons to be able to easily find the work that they’ve missed, and hopefully seeing how much work is on the Patreon might encourage some good folks to subscribe. (Hint, hint.) Seriously, subscriptions start at $1 a month, and I truly believe some of the best work I’ve ever done is on the Patreon. Check out the index here.

Photography

• Paris Je T’Aime: Notre Dame (Patreon)

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Imaginarium ahoy!

I’m delighted to return to Imaginarium on its 10th anniversary, having attended nearly every Imaginarium since the first one (give or take a little pandemic.)

I’ll be giving my two-hour “business of writing” seminar on Friday afternoon, with several other panels in between running the Literary Underworld booth. LitUnd authors Jim Gillentine, Steven Shrewsbury, Sela Carsen, and Jennifer Mulvihill will be part of the fun!

Below is my schedule:

• Friday: 1:15 p.m. Business of Writing (two-hour workshop)

• Saturday: 11:30 a.m. Space operas

• Sunday: 10 a.m. Employment options for writers.

Saturday, of course, will be the Imadjinn Awards ceremony and banquet. I am a finalist for the Imadjinn film festival award for unproduced screenplay, and a nominee for the Knost Award, so cross your fingers for me!

We will also be opening the Literary Underworld Traveling Bar in our room on Friday and Saturday nights. Because of course we are.

If you’re in the Louisville area, please come by and join us! Imaginarium is always a lot of fun, and one of the conventions I enjoy attending to learn a little something more and talk with my fellow writers. If all that isn’t enough for you, the GOH is Terry Brooks!

See you in Louisville!
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July 2023 Linkspam

The Summer of Job Hunting has definitely been a challenge to my patience and stress management, on a number of levels. But that isn’t to say I’ve been sitting around my living room breathing into a paper bag, either! 

June kicked off with the long-awaited Paris trip, which was an amazing experience happily shared with my mom, stepdad, and sister. Patreon readers got a daily travelogue of my adventures in Paris, and a full travel essay on Notre Dame is pending. Check out the links below for more details! (What, you’re not a Patreon subscriber? My dudes, it starts at $1 a month and I really feel it’s some of my best work. Make with the clicky and join today!)

In the meantime, I received the incredible news that I’m one of five finalists for the Knost Award. The Michael Knost Wings Award is granted to a writer who is either a new, up-and-coming voice or someone who’s been around for a while and hasn’t gotten the recognition they deserve. I can only assume I’m in the latter category, because 20 years is a long time to be up-and-coming. (What’s the old saying? It takes 20 years to become an overnight sensation?) I was uncharacteristically speechless at the nomination, and very grateful to the committee for considering me – and I’m in fine company, as well. 

To add to the fun, my first screenplay made the finalist list for the Imaginarium Film Festival’s screenplay competition. This screenplay, titled “Infinity,” is based on a novella I wrote several years ago and was developed in workshop during my final semester of grad school under the guidance of Prof. Valerie Vogrin. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the ceremonies next weekend in Louisville!

At the moment, I’m working on the next couple of books for Falstaff, doing as much freelancing work as I can scrounge, and continuing the Great Job Hunt as the fall semester looms. Wish me luck! 

P.S. I am still on Twitter as both author and journalist, as well as Facebook and Instagram with very rare postings on YouTube. I’ve now added TikTok with guidance from my son, who is much hipper than I am, because apparently it’s required. I think that’s enough social media for the moment… 
 

Publicity/Appearances

June kicked off with ConCarolinas, which was a delight as usual. It was great to see old friends like Rachel Brune and Nancy Knight and my awesome publisher, John Hartness. I always enjoy the show, though I keep meaning to schedule an extra day sometime so I can actually see something of Charlotte, N.C. besides the airport and the hotel. 

Paris came only 24 hours after returning to St. Louis, and it wasn’t technically a work trip except I wrote travelogues the entire time, so it counts! Highlights of the trip included Shakespeare & Co., the Opera Garnier (also known as the hangout for the Phantom of the Opera), the Musee d’Orsay, Eiffel Tower and much more. Again, check out Patreon for the details!

Coming up this month is a presentation for TechWrite STL, followed by Imaginarium in Louisville on July 14-16! Terry Brooks is the guest of honor and the film festival is rocking, so if you’re in the vicinity, come see us! We will be bringing the whole Literary Underworld and the Traveling Bar, so you know it’ll be a blast.

2023 calendar:
• TechWrite STL, St. Louis. July, 11. (presenter)
• Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. July 14-16 (guest author)
• Dragoncon, Atlanta, Ga. Aug. 31-Sept. 4 (guest author)
• SPJ Conference, Las Vegas. Sept. 28-Oct. 1 (presenter)
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Sept. 21-Oct. 1 (LitUnd only)
• ContraKC, Kansas City, Date TBA. (guest author)

Journalism/Blogs/Essays

• Olin worker dies in plant explosion (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• SWIC expands manufacturing training program (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Multi-family housing approved for Highland (Highland News-Leader and YahooNews)
• Highland officials trim budgets from local groups (Highland News-Leader and YahooNews)
• Staffers at St. Louis Public Radio to vote on unionization (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Illinois unions made significant gains in recent legislative session (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Aging Highland swimming pool closes nine days after opening (Highland News-Leader and YahooSports Canada)
• Bill to address Illinois food deserts could grow union jobs (St. Louis Labor Tribune)

Note: Not all articles are available online, and some may be behind paywalls. 

 

Fiction

I’m happy to report that the much-delayed annual bonus is finally on its way to my Patreon subscribers! Watch your emails for your survey, Patrons. 
 

Patreon/Medium

• Wearing the pants in my own damn life, or the IDGAF Jeans (Medium and Patreon)
• Con Report: ConCarolinas 2023 (Patreon)
• Paris Je T’aime: Day 1.0 (Patreon)
• Paris Je T’aime: Day 1.5, sipping champagne at Notre Dame (Patreon)
• Paris Je T’aime: Day 2, or adventures in ordering (Patreon)
• Paris Je T’aime: Day 3, the farmer’s market (Patreon)
• Paris Je T’aime: Day 4, of bravery and beauty and books (Patreon)
• Paris Je T’aime: Day 5, “I specifically said Box 5 was to be kept open” (Patreon)
• Paris Je T’aime: Day 6, or dreaming beauty in pictures (Patreon)
• Paris Je T’aime: Day 7, always moving forward (Patreon)
• The MFA Reading List (Medium)

Note: Recently I indexed all the entries I’ve posted on the Patreon going back to its launch in 2018. I wanted new Patrons to be able to easily find the work that they’ve missed, and hopefully seeing how much work is on the Patreon might encourage some good folks to subscribe. (Hint, hint.) Seriously, subscriptions start at $1 a month, and I truly believe some of the best work I’ve ever done is on the Patreon. Check out the index here.

Photography

Just about all of the important photography this month happened in Paris, with the best shots on the Patreon. Some of them will appear on the photography site soon and will be available for purchase! Stay tuned.

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Con Report: ConCarolinas 2023

There’s something wonderfully invigorating about con, the freewheeling friendly atmosphere and hobnobbing with one’s fellow wizards, surrounded by people who get the crazy fun stuff that fascinates you even when the mundane world says, “Huh?”

Who knew this many people can fit in a hotel room?

ConCarolinas is very much a writers’ con. There’s also a film festival, paranormal circuit and gaming track, among others, but since I didn’t interact with those, I couldn’t say how valuable they are. The writers’ track, however, has some truly useful and interesting panels, and hot and cold running writers everywhere.

I shared my table with Rachel Brune, my editor at Crone Girls Press and newly minted acquisitions editor for Falstaff Books’ new horror imprint, Falstaff Dread. Rachel and I go waaaaaay back to the early 2000s and our mutual membership in the Sarah Connor Charm School, and it’s always a delight to see her.

 

There was plenty of discussion of representation in horror, of A.I. and its implications for creatives, of the surge in book banning, the implications of the WGA strike, of various esoteric topics from cryptobiology to warding off evil spirits that could be useful for speculative fiction research. As usual, I only got to attend a fraction of the panels that interested me, as I was working.
My first round was a 9 a.m. panel (because obviously I have angered someone) on trunk novels and other work that will never see daylight. My buddy Jeff Strand and I were on this one. We talked about those early (and not-so-early) works that were, shall we say, learning experiences.
Naturally, I talked about Sanctuary, as an example of a trunk novel that stays in the trunk because of an internal factor – i.e. I believe it’s not good enough to be released. At the time, I trunked it because I knew I was not a good enough writer to tell that story in the manner it deserved. And I think this was the first time I have talked about the sequel, which I wrote sometime around 2001-02 exploring my idea of an interstellar Underground Railroad. This was a very ambitious novel attempted by a twentysomething baby writer who had no idea what she was doing, and had the audacity to think this was her story to tell. I am so glad Amazon KDP did not exist back then.
I still love that universe, and a couple of short stories have made their way to publication based in it. I sometimes wonder if now I am a good enough writer to do those novels justice, and the novels I have outlined to follow them. But for now, it’s trunked.
That’s an example of a novel trunked for an internal reason. External reasons, for example, might be a novel that you feel is strong and powerful, but others have told you it sucks, or now is not the right time for it, or it’s been rejected too many times, etc. There are times when those external factors might be overcome with tenacity, better timing, or reevaluating your approach.
Next up was “what to do after finishing your book,” which I was delighted to discuss with Gabino Iglesias, Gail Z. Martin and others. Some of you know I have a whole two-hour workshop about what you do after you write The End, so naturally I had plenty of things to say. In fact, I think I’m doing that workshop solo at Imaginarium next month, if you’re planning to join us in Louisville.
I really enjoyed some of Gabino’s anecdotes, and so I picked up his Coyote Songs – alas, too late to snag his autograph. Next time!
This was followed by “body shape as the last frontier,” which allowed me to discuss with a friendly audience some of the prejudices we see particularly as women of size. I’ve written before that I see a significant difference in how I am treated in various professional capacities as I grew older and rounder and became disabled. The conversation was very honest, discussing not only weight but male-gaze objectification, disability, race, gender presentation and the body image issues faced by men as well. We could have talked for another two hours on these issues.
This also allowed me to put on my Media Studies Masters hat and talk about cultivation theory for why this issue is important beyond making us feel better about ourselves: what we see in our media tends to impact our impressions of real life. If we see umpteen images of a fat person obsessed with food and gobbling sweets every time she passes the buffet, we will assume that every person of size is that way because they can’t control their eating. (And I delete a rant, but there’s a column in my future on this topic.)
Finally, I got to put on my MFA hat for “Vaguely Based on the Title of the Novel,” a discussion of film adaptations both good and nauseating. Having just finished an entire semester studying adaptation theory, I was the Annoying Academic of the panel. Unlike several of my fellow panelists (Jeff again!) I have never had a work optioned for the screen and while I have written a screenplay for a short film, it’s never been considered by anyone. Thus I presume my academic studies and my work as a film critic were the reasons for putting me on the panel.
Other panels I had to miss included writing morally gray characters, misogyny in romance, avoiding scams in publishing, writing an alternate history, developing a magic system, the author/editor relationship and much, much more. For beginning writers, I can strongly recommend the programming at ConCarolinas for an excellent three-day tutorial.
Because I flew to Charlotte for the con, Rachel collected booze, and so the Literary Underworld (Mini)Bar was open both nights to a full house. Not too shabby a collection for castoffs! Perhaps next year I’ll be able to drive, and Jim and I can bring the full Traveling Bar.
I had a wonderful time in Charlotte (though unfortunately did not get to see anything of the city itself), and learned a great deal as well as connecting with old friends and new. I was delighted to clap for Nancy Knight, writing track director for Dragoncon; and author Nicole Givens Kurtz, who each received lifetime achievement awards from the convention.

Me and Ari!

Also, the media guest of honor was Ari Lehman, the actor who played Jason Voorhees in the first Friday the 13th movie. He’s now a punk rocker (his band name is First Jason) and a big proponent of the Jason film series. My son was madly texting me during opening ceremonies because as a film nerd, he’s a big fan and asked me to tell Ari he really appreciated all that he’d done for the franchise even after he was finished with the role.
I happened to catch Ari right after opening ceremonies, and not only did he offer a selfie, he asked to record a brief video for my son, addressing him by name. I am now Mom of the Year, and Ian was delighted.

 

I share this because we hear so many stories about actors and other performers being selfish shitheels or egotists, and I think people deserve to get kudos when they take the extra step to thrill a fan. 

Now home, for the next leg of the summer travel: PARIS. I’ll be doing a daily travelogue from the City of Lights for

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April 2023 linkspam

What a weird month March was! I kicked off with my much-anticipated trip to Seattle for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs convention, which I wrote about in exhaustive detail for Patreon (see links below). I also posted a great deal on social media and photography is pending, so if you’re interested, you should subscribe to the Patreon and get access to all my previous posts! (See how I subtly worked that in?) I fell completely in love with Seattle and enjoyed the hell out of my time at AWP, returning fully reenergized to make all the words!

Unfortunately, three days after returning from Seattle, I started getting sick. I thought I’d caught the usual confluenza, but by the end of the week I was in hospital with pneumonia in both lungs. I had top-notch medical care, solid insurance coverage and my husband with me the entire time, so I count my blessings while acknowledging the privilege I have to be treated and recover without fear. I’ve been out of hospital a week at the time of this writing, and I’m not yet fully recovered – they say it may be a month or two before my lungs are back at their previous capacity, and I’m also looking at physical therapy for a while. 

I want to thank all the people who sent their well-wishes to me in the hospital and after my release, who sent supportive messages to my husband as he fretted, and offered to help out as best they could with any of our needs. It makes an enormous difference in the isolation and claustrophobia of a hospital room to hear that people are thinking of you and praying for your recovery.

Of course, it had to hit six weeks before graduation, and now I am significantly behind in all the projects I am spinning as I prepare to finish grad school. That also means very little freelance work was done this month. I am canceling most public appearances and reducing much of my “extra” work in an effort to recover physically and catch up on my work. I know you will understand, and rest assured this summer you won’t be able to shut me up. 


 

Publicity/Appearances

As mentioned above, my illness required canceling most appearances this month, including the Second Life writing workshop scheduled for April 1. I’m in communication with VRazetheBar to reschedule the workshop for a later date, after my voice and lungs return to full capacity. I’m looking forward to resuming events in metaverse and real life soon!

The event I couldn’t cancel was the Banned Books roundtable on March 28. As president of both the St. Louis Society of Professional Journalists and SIUE Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society, I was the moderator, and no one was more nervous than my poor understudy when I was in the hospital. Fortunately I got out in time to rest up for the roundtable, my voice held out and I didn’t have a horrible coughing fit in front of a live studio audience. The event was very productive, with a robust conversation ranging over a lot of topics relating to book banning and the current backlash on education. There was news coverage in advance of the event and of the event itself, which I really appreciated. I’m not sure everyone understands exactly how much worse this issue is compared to previous years, but as one of the panelists put it, this is one issue on which journalists cannot afford to stand by the sidelines. The First Amendment protects us all, and it needs us to defend it. 

I’m also keeping my guest lecture on the practical application of journalism ethics for SIUE’s Mass Comm Week, which will also include the First Amendment Free* Food Festival co-sponsored by St. Louis SPJ and the SIUE Alestle every year. That’s when we offer students the opportunity to sign away their First Amendment rights for free pizza, and it always turns out to be a terrific object lesson in the importance of the First Amendment. Other than that, I’m trying to rest until ConCarolinas and Paris in June! 

I’m also glad to announce that I was accepted at Dragoncon once again, and will be returning to the Labor Day marathon after a long absence.

2023 calendar:
• SIUE Mass Comm Week: Ethics, Edwardsville, Ill. April 18 (presenter)
• ConCarolinas, Charlotte, N.C. June 2-4 (guest author)
• TechWrite STL, St. Louis. Date TBA. (presenter)
• Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. July 14-16 (guest author)
• Dragoncon, Atlanta, Ga. (guest author)
• SPJ Conference, Las Vegas. Sept. 28-Oct. 1 (presenter)
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Sept. 21-Oct. 1 (LitUnd only)
• ContraKC, Kansas City, Date TBA. (guest author)

Journalism/Blogs/Essays

• Budzinski introduces LEAP Act to expand apprenticeship programs (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Highland’s budget for 2023-24 looks promising, city manager reports (Highland News-Leader and Yahoo Sports Canada)
• Post Commons becomes cornerstone coffee shop in Alton, Ill. (Feast Magazine)
• Budzinski signs on as co-sponsor to PRO Act (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Illinois contractor forced to pay back wages and fines under Prevailing Wage Act (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Highland man charged in death of 3-month-old infant son (Highland News-Leader)
• Job training, support for Illinois workforce top governor’s agenda (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Funding for annual Highland art festival in limbo as council weighs options (Highland News-Leader)
• Steelworkers union could block sale of Granite City Mill (St. Louis Labor Tribune and Illinois Business Journal)
• Hotel-restaurant complex coming to Highland (Highland News-Leader)
• Granite City hospital sale to California corporation is final (Belleville News-Democrat)
• What Illinois’ paid leave law means for union workers (St. Louis Labor Tribune)

Note: Not all articles are available online, and some may be behind paywalls. 

 

Fiction

Currently bustling away on a screenplay for my adaptation class, the MFA thesis and some badly overdue fiction work I owe to editors who are being astoundingly patient. Nothing to see here yet, move along… 
 

Patreon/Medium

• Ten tips for AWP (Patreon)
• AWP 2023: That’s a wrap (Patreon)
• AWP 2023: Attack of the inkstained wretches (Patreon)
• AWP 2023: Hey, there’s a convention here (Patreon)
• AWP 2023: Klondike Gold Rush (Patreon)
• AWP 2023: The Emerald City, Pt. 1 (Patreon)
• Quote unquote: Ray Bradbury (Patreon)
• AWP 2023: So many evergreens (Patreon)

Note: Recently I indexed all the entries I’ve posted on the Patreon going back to launch in 2018. I wanted new Patrons to be able to easily find the work that they’ve missed, and hopefully seeing how much work is on the Patreon might encourage some good folks to subscribe. (Hint, hint.) Seriously, subscriptions start at $1 a month, and I truly believe some of the best work I’ve ever done is on the Patreon. Check out the index here.

Photography

• Seattle photodump! (Patreon)
• AWP 2023: The Emerald City, Pt. 2 (Patreon)

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