Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

“My fear,” said Venus, “is that the discovery...



“My fear,” said Venus, “is that the discovery of the matrix will lure her even farther from reality.”


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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sorry, storage unit, #kitsch lives at my house. #JewelT


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#KeepItDown Two eloquent statements that changed my mind about the Confederate flag

Living in Texas, I've grown used to the image of the Confederate flag on everything from pickup trucks and beer cozies to dorm rooms, children's lunch boxes and baby jammies and onesies. For years, I've just rolled my eyes, assuming that living in the South meant having to accept the Confederate flag as if it's as innocuous and unavoidable as the roadside Cracker Barrel.

Last week, two things changed my mind about that:

The first was this bluntly cogent statement by my nephew, Jared Sacramento, which he posted on his Facebook page:
If you don't IMMEDIATELY recognize why the confederate flag is racist and offensive, then you are completely delusional. "Southern pride"? "Southern heritage"? Why are you proud of your racist ancestors? Why are you proud of the time when America went to war over the right to own and torture people? Why are you proud of the people who kidnapped Africans from their home countries, dragged them here kicking and screaming, murdered them, raped them, whipped them, oppressed them, and if that's not enough, after these people lost the war, they spent the next 100 years openly hunting black people down like dogs to lynch them or beat them to death? I'm sorry if that was your great great grandpa, but he was wrong, and we don't need to keep celebrating that. 
In Germany people are ASHAMED of their Nazi ancestors after what they did. Why, 150 years later, is the south still celebrating their worst moment in history? If it's not about racism then why are ALL of the states that fly this flag the most RACIST states in the nation? If it's about "southern heritage" then why don't black southerns fly the confederate flag? If you consider yourself non racist and look at this flag as a symbol of your heritage, you need to get real. 
This flag represents a time in our country where my father would have been HUNG FROM A TREE for loving my mother. It represents a time in our country when I could have been forced to fight other black men to the death so white people could watch, laugh, and bet on it. It represents a time in our country when the entire police force of some cities dressed up in white robes at night looking for people like me to torture and kill because of the color of my skin. Why should African-Americans have to grow up in a world where we are constantly reminded that slavery happened and half the country is still proud of it? 
If this is the heritage you're so proud of, then you are a racist. Stop pretending. Stop clinging on to a symbol of hate when we have a beautiful flag you can fly with 50 stars on it that represents ALL of us.
The second is this video of Bree Newsome, possibly the most awesome woman on the earth or 30 feet above it, taking down the Confederate flag posted at the South Carolina statehouse in 1961 in response to the growing civil rights movement. And then it shows her quietly, proudly going to jail for something the rest of us--as voters, as a culture, as decent human beings--should done a long time ago.

Friday, June 12, 2015

#TheStruggleIsReal Why I’m Not Mad That You Didn’t Hire Me (Freelance editor Jerusha Rodgers on a millennial dilemma)

Today we hear from Jerusha Rodgers (aka "The Plot Whisperer") of Rabid Badger Editing in a post prompted by a conversation about agism in publishing, which I see from the perspective of a, um...let's say "experienced" author/book doctor in my 50s and she sees from the perspective of a fresh new face in her mid-20s. Ironically, yes, she had to explain to me about "the struggle is real."

Shortly after graduating, a friend of mine posted the greatest Facebook status ever: “I would love to reenact some the of the fantasies in Fifty Shades of Grey, specifically the one where she gets a full-time job straight out of college.”

With an economy that clings to safety (read: tradition and money) and a workforce and community that strives for advancement (read: cooler, more accessible stuff), applicants whose limited practical experience is backed up by open minds and inherent expertise in the use of technology often get left out of the running. It’s the struggle forcing many Millennials to create career paths instead of follow them.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a house where I was taught the value of what my mom calls “the tangible intangibles.” Did my year backpacking the world add a highly sought after internship or years of dutiful service at a publishing house to my resume? No. It left a discouraging gap in my renter’s history and an intimate knowledge of third world medicine. But it did teach me how to solve problems under pressure and in the face of complications. It made me find ways to bond with people whom, on the face of it, I had absolutely nothing in common. It changed the way I see opportunity and the way I define advancement. It made me realize that taking a business call at 3am Malaysian time is really not the end of the world; it’s just doing your job well, and that’s worth it. All of these are traits that employers want brought to their projects, but they want them to be learned from twenty years of climbing the corporate ladder. It’s not because there’s anything inherently better about it; it’s just that that’s how it’s been done in the past.

The problem with this line of thought is that the times, they are a-changin’. We no longer live in the world we did twenty years ago, and no one is better prepared to work in the current climate of technology and connectivity than the people who grew up in it. We have a different (read: better) understanding of how things work than what people can learn in an SEO class, but there isn’t a way to put that on your resume. There’s no spot to say, “My social media experience goes back to when you needed a college email address to sign into ‘The Facebook,’ and I knew what MySpace Angles were before there was a name for them.”

Artistic fields are always a gamble, so when the going gets tough, the bosses stop taking chances. They’re less open to “Well, no, I’ve never done that, but I know that I would excel in that project because of X, Y and Z,” because to them sounds like, “Hold my beer and watch this.” It’s totally understandable that employers are nervous to stick their necks (read: wallets) out for a newcomer, but the behind-the-scenes reality is that projects suffer for it. Newcomers push boundaries, bring fresh perspectives and incorporate an understanding of the technology-based world we live in that has taken a lifetime to learn.

And we can never explain why that’s better than twenty years of corporate experience, because if you don’t already know why, you’ll never understand. You’ll just have to hold our gluten-free craft beers and watch this.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Trying to get that adolescent kid to read this summer? SHABOOM. You're Welcome.




I rarely review YA or New Adult fiction for Joni's List, but this book really entertained me, and I think it's a sure bet if you're trying to get your tween/teenage kids to read this summer.

Howard Pickman has a terrible secret. If anyone finds out, it will mean death for everyone he loves. Even worse, he's the new kid at the most abysmal high school in America. All Howard wants to do is remain anonymous, but being a teenager can be dangerous. He'll have to fight true monsters in order to survive.


Monday, June 08, 2015

My Facebook-free summer begins today. And I LIKE it.


A while back I adopted a small policy that triggered big change: "Facebook only while standing." That simple step made me suddenly mindful of the way I'd been unconsciously getting on FB at my desk, in the car, as I lay in bed or sat at the table in a restaurant.

I justify the time I spend on social networks as part of the "platforming" I'm obligated to do as an author and ghostwriter, and I'm more than willing to admit that maybe I'm just not doing it right, but the net gain for me has been very low. It certainly doesn't justify the time it's taken away from reading and writing. Even Mark Coker of Smashwords said this year at LBF that loitering on FB and other social network time-sucks was one of the worst mistakes commonly made by indie and legacy published authors alike. The days when LIKEs converted to book sales have expired. Now we're just nickle and diming ourselves to death.

The only thing I'll really miss is lurking and spying on my kids, their cousins and my former students. I stayed through the first week of June so I could participate in a virtual baby shower for my nephew and his wife, which is the only way our globe-spanning family could come together and the most brilliant thing I've ever seen orchestrated on FB. I also communicate with authors in the UK, Greece, Italy, South America, Australia and France via FB, and I participate in a lively forum for ghostwriters on both sides of the Atlantic.

But as much as FB has the power to bring us together from the far corners of the world, it also pushes us apart by allowing us to imagine that flipping a LIKE on a photo of someone's raspberry blini is the same as being their friend. FB is the hall pass that allows us to feel okay about neglecting real world relationships. It's a local anesthetic that makes us feel less lonely than we really are.

Habits die hard, but I deleted Facebook from my phone this morning, and it didn't hurt one bit. I'll still have Messenger, so the kids can get in touch with Aunt Joni if they need to. I'll have to Skype my Dad and call my sisters. I'll have to read the news and think for myself and watch adorable ducks by the pool instead of kitten videos. I'll read a book in bed, watch passing scenery in the car and gaze across the dinner table at the man I love instead of staring down at my iPhone.

I'll be posting on this blog, and whatever posts here or on my Tumblr gets robo-posted to FB and twitter, but even if it didn't, I don't think I'd be missed. Plenty of clever memes, breakfast shots and daily noise to fill in the slimmest blank. I'll be back in September, and I'm pretty sure I won't have missed anything I haven't seen before.


Sunday, June 07, 2015

"We will need writers who can remember freedom." Please be still for 6 min and listen to Ursula K LeGuin on the art and biz of writing

Ursula K. Le Guin accepts the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th National Book Awards on November 19, 2014:
"The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words..."

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Two of my fabulous girlfriends are at the Tonys!

One you may have heard of: Kristin Chenoweth brought me in to collaborate on her hilarious memoir, A Little Bit Wicked, a few years ago, and we've been friends ever since. She's currently blowing the doors off Broadway in On the Twentieth Century and is up for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical. She's also hosting, because...Cheno.

My other Tony girl is my longtime pal Marianne Adams, director of education at Grandstreet Theatre in Helena, Montana, who was shortlisted (top three of over 4,000 nominees) for the Excellence in Theatre Education Award from the Tonys and Carnegie Melon University.

Marianne and I became friends almost 30 years ago when we appeared together in Crimes of the Heart as Babe (MA) and Lenny (me). Marianne started teaching at Grandstreet Theatre School shortly after that. Over the years, she's made GST a safe, welcoming home for thousands of artsy, smart, interesting, misfit, hyper, hipster, creative kids from preschool to college.

Marianne was nominated by her students and coworkers who'll be glued to the Tonys broadcast on CBS tomorrow night, hoping to catch a glimpse of her in the red carpet.

I'm ecstatic that the Tonys will be honoring a teacher from a small town in Montana alongside the biggest stars on Broadway. Theatre, like publishing, is a lot more than just what happens in New York. As in publishing, there's a lot going on behind the scenes, and the people who work backstage often go uncelebrated.

The fact is Kristin and Marianne are a lot alike: both powerhouse talented, completely dedicated to the art of theatre, enormously giving, loving, intelligent and generous. They've both spent their lives learning, performing and mentoring. They're both hilarious, and I can't imagine my life without either of them.

Break a leg, Kristin and Marianne!


Friday, June 05, 2015

Post your pups on Whatever and Scalzi will donate $$ for speculative fiction diversity

Post a photo of your happy dog or puppy on John Scalzi's Whatever blog before midnight tonight! He's donating a dollar per dog (up to $1000) to Con or Bust,a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction.

Oh, this made me miss Manny and Rosie! (And Redbone and Khan.) Over the years, we've been ridiculously blessed in the puppy department.

Here's the link! Post that pup!

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The Art of Upscale Downsizing: 3 simple rules that transformed my new workspace

Last weekend, the Griz and I moved into our new quasi-retirement digs (read Aging Hippie Lakeside Love Grotto), between thunderstorms and flash flood warnings. As water continued to rise just a few hundred yards from our new place, the complex management sent out text messages warning residents to watch for snakes on the property, and in the spirit of encroaching apocalypse, I did something I've never done before: I made my office my first priority.

Typically, my office (or my cough "office" cough) has been the last room in the house to be finished. This time, my kids are grown, my life is my own, and the Griz is happy to share center stage with the work that keeps me happy and contributing to our solvency. This week I'm scheduled to dive into editing Orna Ross's forthcoming historical novel about W.B. Yeats and his paramour Maud Gonne. It's a beautiful, important book, and I wanted to be ready for it.

My new sunroom office in this one-bedroom apartment is just 8x10 feet--half the size of my upstairs office, with which I'd fought a major organizational/ housekeeping battle, in our old four-bedroom house. I was nervous about the drastic downsizing, but as I worked through the process, I made three simple rules, which turned out to be the three things I love most about my Woolfish "room of one's own":

1) Every object must earn its footprint. For me, that means everything in this room has to A) serve and purpose and B) make me happy. Utilitarian + Joy = worth it.

Making the cut: A Salvador Dali coffee table book doubles as a lap desk. A Dr. Seuss lunchbox that houses paperclips and pushpins. My great-grandma's kitschy plaster cat, now in charge of pens and highlighters. No longer happening: Furniture, wall art and tchotchkes that were nice to have and sometimes hard to let go of but didn't pass a test of archival value ("Will my kids really want this after I'm dead?") or serve a daily need.

Gorgeous thrift store china cabinet: no. Tiger oak chair rescued from a defunct VA hospital: yes. I could have made an argument for the usefulness of either one, but the chair earns that footprint. The cabinet served as a junk collector simply because it was there. No cabinet = no junk. Winning!

2) Nothing but work happens in the workspace. It occurred to me that my most precious natural resources, time and space, are both limited, and my mindset for one naturally influences my mindset for the other. This small square footage is premium real estate, and it's most valuable to me as clean, feng shui friendly floorspace. Cluttering it with plastic bins, file boxes and obsolete computer equipment detracts from the calm, creative vibe I'm striving for, and though a lot of that stuff is arguably work-related, it's not the work I'm working on now, so it doesn't earn a footprint in this space.

Same goes for time clutter. A while back, I declared a "Facebook only while standing" policy, which immediately made me more mindful of the time I was wasting there. I try to justify social network activity as "platforming", but in truth, 90% of that falls more accurately under "farting around". So no more magazines or leisure books on the desk, and no more games or aimless net surfing on the office computer. (Isn't that why God created smart phones?)

Old manuscripts, tax records, press archives, correspondence and keepsakes took up a huge amount of space in my old office and our over-spill storage unit. I invested in a NeatDesk scanner and opted into their whole system. I'm still working through the mass exodus of paper from the storage unit, but the bottom line is: everything that can be digital must be digital. And almost anything can be digital.

I'll admit, I cried letting go of my kids' school projects, which I'd been justifying as decor in my old office. I'm keeping a few framed pieces for the wall here, but everything else is being digitally archived. My plan is to compile a coffee table book for each kid, which will be equally feng shui friendly in their future homes.

3) I work at home; I do not live at work. In the past, when my office got out of control, I could close the door and keep the insanity to myself. My new sunroom office is open to the living room in our new apartment, so it has to jibe with the living room aesthetic, and that forced me to be more mindful of the way my work serves (or or doesn't serve) the greater goal: a happy, healthy home life with this man I love. My work tends to take over at times, and I've learned that allowing work to hog all my time, space and waking thought actually makes me less productive in the long run, because I get fried and don't allow myself to recharge.

While plotting books, I've always built out massive grids of sticky notes on the wall a la A Beautiful Mind. I had stacks of books that were sent to me for reviews and blurbs. I tacked up Max Parish and Ansel Adams calendar art and scrawled notes on corkboards. The purpose of all that (in my head) was part organization, part inspiration, and it worked for me in that space, but it's not what I want to look at when I'm sitting in my living room. Not working. (No, really, I'm not. Seriously! I really mean it this time!)

Going forward, I'll be organizing writing and ghostwriting projects with Scrivener, which allows me to integrate research, character notes, and chapter material. (Try it! You'll like it.) A Passion Planner satisfies my need to physically write things down and brilliantly brings all those random corkboards and creative impulses into an intelligent plan of daily, weekly and monthly actions that pragmatically serve my creative goals. Instead of keeping a file drawer for editing and ghostwriting clients, I'm streamlining editing and book doctor projects via a nifty online system called 17 Hats, which allows me to create typical work flows from first contact to client invoice.

So instead of a blizzard of flailing sticky notes, I now have one powerful, wall-wide work of art that genuinely does serve to inspire me and provides a super cool counterpoint to the more conventional living room art. I got this amazing canvas frame X-Men panel on Overstock.com for less than $100. (It's actually a room divider.) It comes from "The Dark Phoenix Saga", in which Jane Grey (now Phoenix) kicks the stone-cold keister of Emma Frost (aka the White Queen).
Her power is a song within her... a passion beyond human comprehension. She is more alive than she has ever been...
Just the right vibe for a fiercely focused and beautifully functional creative workspace.


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