a dispatch on distractions and the other writing time

I don’t usually duplicate tiny letters here, but it’s been awhile since I’ve updated and so… I’m getting back to doing these weekly (or close to) so sign up at http://tinyletter.com/gwenda if you want them in your inbox.

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I write this with a cup of coffee in my Justice League coffee mug (which I bought for C one long-ago xmas and promptly claimed, oops) and listening to a mesmerizing instrumental called “Wolf Like Howls From the Bathhouse” by Sonny Smith (from my spotify weekly discover playlist). I usually listen to that playlist as I’m taking my longer dog walks at some point during the week, these days accompanied by the rambunctious, inexhaustible Izzy or Izzy-ma-belle. Except I realized as soon as I put it on, I hadn’t listened to it in weeks and weeks.

Stay with me here.

I’ve been picking up and putting down a lot of books in the last month or two as well. Or reading short, one-sitting pieces, comics mainly (Margie Stohl’s Captain Marvel, guys, the first issues are so good). Last Friday night, I started a book I’d asked C to bring home from the store, the inimitable Mur Lafferty’s Six Wakes. A writer I trust 100 percent on book recs (Kat Howard) had enthusiastically mentioned it on twitter, describing it as murder mystery where clones on a spaceship must solve their own murders. YES, IN. I love Mur’s writing and that is basically a description of my favorite kind of book.

It was like pleasurable lightning to the brain, in the way the right book is–especially when you’ve been in a slump or not reading enough. I realized just how loud it’s been in my mind, or rather, how much the noise from outside intrudes right now. And, boy, is there a lot of noise. And, as previously discussed, it can’t be ignored. The calls must be made, the fight fought.

But.

I purposely structured my year to have big chunks of writing time this winter/spring. Being in fight mode constantly means stress chemicals flooding your brain, means fragmented attention, means your immune system suffers (or is it the bad habits that makes it suffer, or both, she said, blowing her nose). Even my usual downtime staple, television, has been mostly me hitting pause to check twitter of the evening in these past couple of months.

The best moments this month, the moments that remind me why I do this, haven’t been at my desk, feverishly news reading. There have been bright spots there, but all when writing fiction. The better moments have been at events where writers read from or talked about their work, hanging upside down at aerial yoga, at dinners with friends where we laughed over drinks and made random jokes, or on those dog walks. I did love scarfing One Day at a Time on Netflix, a show like a hug, an antidote to the news.

And so… It’s time to get back to work. For me, that means taking in a lot of things that require me to be quieter in the mind and more attentive. I write best when I go on wanders through museums, long winding dog walks (Izzy and I keep seeing discarded playing cards around town, and it’s very I Am the Messenger), listen to new music or a playlist or a non-news-based podcast, watch a movie (without checking twitter or Facebook). So I’m pulling out the old alphasmart neo, the keyboard that connects to nothing except my fingers for writing sessions starting next week. I’m probably going to actively ration my online time, something I’ve never had to do before–I’ve never really had a problem balancing internet time with work; procrastination is part of my process, but it’s usually active procrastination (is that a thing? does it count? probably not)–doing something else while my back brain is figuring out a story problem. Never before have I had this problem, where it’s disrupting my ability to get to work.

Because the first lesson of being a professional writer, in my opinion, is protecting your writing time. Which can definitely mean from yourself and your bad habits, but also from the world and its many distractions. Your writing time isn’t just the time at the keyboard; it’s the time away from it that brings you back there with things to type. I’m not saying I’m not going to engage with politics, as that’s obviously not an option. But. I’m going to be making an effort to engage the world on my terms, rather than its.

Because trust me, it will steal the words from all of us this year. This next four years. And every moment of joy.

I refuse to let it.

Joy is important; the small moments, littered through a week that are bright bubbles in the sea of ordinary life, and so I’m going to do my best to grab them as they surface.

I’ll let you know how I did next week.

Some newsies:

– I’ve got several events coming up in the region in the next few months–the first is tonight, at the InKY Reading Series in Louisville with the delightful Sarah Combs. We have the same cold and everything. Come out and see us!

– Podcasts! I was on two recently. The lovely Rachael Herron does a podcast that’s all the questions writers tend to skip to at the end of interviews, namely just the writing parts, called How Do You Write? We had a blast chatting. And this week a new episode of Speculate! dropped featuring me and Kameron Hurley talking about healthcare and writers with hosts Mike Underwood and Greg Wilson.

– This coming Thursday, I’ll be at Joseph-Beth Lexington chatting with debut author Lara Donnelly about her fabulous Amberlough, which I’m almost done with, and was more brain lightning, following Six Wakes. I’ll sign whatever you want me to sign, and it’s sure to be a fun discussion.

– The Cirque American books are all on sale at Amazon this month! The print editions of Girl on a Wire and Girl in the Shadows are $4.99 and Girl Over Paris’s digital edition of the collected graphic novel is just $1 (yes, ONE BUCK, and it’ll open in your comixology app). You can also preorder the Supernormal Sleuthing Service: The Lost Legacy–we’re writing book two now! And I’m working with the publisher on some preorder things for Lois Lane: Triple Threat, about which more soon (the book description has been updated though if you want a little more info on what’s coming in the book itself).

In the meantime, I wish you all moments of joy in the coming week.

On The ACA: The Fight Of Our Lives — For Our Lives

I remember standing in a crowded conference room gathered around a TV on the morning the Supreme Court was scheduled to issue its ruling on whether the Affordable Care Act was constitutional. The people in the room were all public servants, a mix of appointees and career government types (some both), who’d been quietly preparing for the possibility we would be able to put the measures in the law in place. This was going to be the make or break moment — or so we thought then. In the days before, my boss and I had worked with them and our Governor’s Office to draft statements addressing any possible outcome of the Supreme Court decision.

But we were all pulling for a certain outcome. It was a room filled with nervous hope. You see, most of the people in that room had spent vast periods of their lives trying to help the poor, the needy, the most vulnerable get access to healthcare. The woman who would go on to oversee the rollout of kynect, Kentucky’s healthcare marketplace, Carrie Banahan, had spent her entire life in public service, starting at the bottom of the ladder as a case worker in the field for our Department for Community Based Services decades earlier. Also in the room, Audrey Tayse Haynes, who’d recently been appointed Secretary of our Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and who came out of the Gore team during the Clinton White House (and who was the best Cabinet Secretary I ever worked with, hands down, no contest) before heading into the nonprofit world. I can’t remember if Chris Clark, the IT guru who oversaw the fine details of the marketplace’s technology and design was there, but again, he was a key part of all this and had been working with the Cabinet when it designed the legacy Medicaid system 20 years earlier.

The provisions of the Affordable Care Act were not perfect, but they were still a dream come true for the people in that room, whose lifelong missions had been to get people care, to get people healthier. Government work isn’t glamorous. It is a slog, filled with competing special interests and political pissing contests and more cynics than you’d ever want to be in meetings with. It’s rare that good work will be touted and recognized; your mistakes always will be, usually on the front page of the newspaper, and it’s impossible not to make them. There are never enough resources to go around, particularly in the healthcare world. And so, often, you sit in meetings where people try to figure out how to help some of the people who need it, while being frustrated that you can’t do more, faster, better. To do this work well takes a commitment to the end goal that allows you to cope with all those things and much, much more bullshit.

I can tell you that everyone in that room was committed to that vision: bringing health coverage — good health coverage — to the people of our state. There was no mistake to be made: this would change lives. It might change the entire future of our state.

We were nervous. We were hopeful.

The ruling came down, 5-4, in favor, upholding every major provision, with the exception that the court decided that states must have the right to opt out of Medicaid expansion. That was no small thing, because, of course, the law was designed to expand coverage to the entire population through a mix of tax credits and insurance marketplaces for those uninsured with higher incomes and expanding Medicaid coverage beyond the traditional populations of pregnant women, the elderly and disabled to include people at a certain percent of the poverty level.

But, even so, the room erupted into cheers when the decision was announced. The discussion over what the Medicaid part meant would come, but the good news was very good. We were going to be able to do this.

In the coming months, our team and Governor Steve Beshear’s office kicked into high gear. We studied whether we should do Medicaid expansion, and we began to proceed with designing the marketplace. An independent report showed that Medicaid expansion too good a deal to pass up, in addition to simply being the right thing to do, and everyone worked hard to get the healthcare and advocacy community on board. Over the coming months and years, we would get our insurance industry on board, and even insurance agents, who were extremely skeptical at the beginning. We did public forums and developed videos and did as much education as we could about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, some of which include:

  • No more refusing coverage on the basis of preexisting conditions or charging people more based on health status (smoking, geographic region, family size and age are the only factors considered now);
  • No more charging women more than men, and a limit on how much more older people can be charged based on age;
  • Standards for coverage, so that essential benefits are covered and insurers can’t get away with selling junk plans;
  • No lifetime cap on benefits and a requirement that insurers spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical costs or pay $$ back to customers;
  • Young adults can remain on parents’ plans until age 26;
  • No co-pays for preventive health services and free contraception;
  • Mental and physical health parity, so behavioral health has to be covered at the same level as physical health, including for Medicaid;
  • Creating online marketplaces for uninsured individuals to shop for health coverage, and creating tax credits for certain income levels to make coverage more affordable (as well as providing subsidies for co-pays for some individuals);
  • The requirement that most people have health insurance (I see a lot of protest over this piece, but unless Republicans are willing to discuss single payer as an option, it is the only way to do this);
  • Expanding Medicaid to low-income individuals, up to each state post-Supreme Court ruling.

There are more, but those are most of the big ones.

We did our very best to put the Affordable Care Act in place in Kentucky exactly as it was designed to be. Because our exchange was one of the only ones that worked right away, we in large part became the people who told the story about how the ACA was working in those crucial early months of the marketplace rollouts. Don’t forget that one of the reasons healthcare.gov had problems is because the law assumed states would build marketplaces, but a lot opted out; the law also assumed most states would want to cover low income people. In fact, most of the provisions that haven’t gone as planned can be chalked up to Republican obstructionism. Anyway, I remember being on a plane in 2014 on my way to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books for a panel and buying internet access so I could answer about 20 national reporter questions en route, even though I was technically on vacation. We all took this incredibly seriously. This was our dream. We were more than happy to be transparent and take the questions others couldn’t.

(By the way, I keep seeing this criticism about creating the brand. We did extensive research on how to best get past people’s innate fear and anxiety over dealing with health insurance and on attitudes about Obamacare; we were trying to reach people who had maybe never had health insurance in their adult lives. In fact, two-thirds of those who signed up told us just that. We always used the term Affordable Care Act because Obamacare was obviously politically loaded and created by Republicans as part of their consistent misinformation campaign about the law. Why would we go along with that? Our goal was to get as many people covered as possible, so — as the grant required — we developed a brand and strategy that would do that and stay away from loaded or intimidating terms. That’s the whole story. I’m still disappointed the media bought into Obamacare so quickly and used it in place of ACA.)

It worked. We signed up more than 400,000 people in the first open enrollment period. I believe now we’re around half a million people covered who weren’t; our state experienced one of the biggest drops in uninsured rate in the country. Unpaid care in hospitals dropped almost immediately, and is now at an unprecedented low level. Letters and messages and stories flooded in about people getting diagnosed and treated, about how these programs had saved their lives.

Then, in 2015, there was an electoral upset. Our extremely popular Governor, who had put all these reforms in place, wasn’t eligible to run for reelection. And so, in an election with incredibly low turnout and a Democratic candidate people weren’t so enthused for, there was an upset — a millionaire business type who hated the press, refused to release his tax returns, and vowed to end kynect and all the elements of the Affordable Care Act that went with it immediately (stop me if this sounds familiar) was elected. The election seemed to take them as much by surprise as all of us, and so appointments and the takeover were a bit slow. I’d been waffling about whether it was time to leave my job and become a full-time writer. It was getting hard to do both and feel like a living rational being, but what we were doing mattered. The rollout of the ACA was by far the most rewarding thing I was involved in during my government career.

One of the very first things the new Governor did was order us to get our kynect advertising off the air. This was while an open enrollment period was going on. And that made my decision very easy; I simply could not stay and work for people who were going to do their best to undo all the good that had been done.

The ability to purchase insurance off the exchange was the main reason I was able to leave my state government civil service job of seventeen years. I don’t know what happens if it goes away. This year, at least, I was still able to purchase off healthcare.gov. But I am here to tell you that it is entirely possible, without a great, loud protest, that the Republican Congress will do irreparable harm to these reforms with their repeal stunt. The governor here has been slowed in some things, but barreled ahead with others. I believe many of his successes have been in large part due to speed preventing loud enough protests. The Congress is trying to do the same thing.

Like many self-employed people, the ability to have access to good health insurance is what makes this life possible for me. And Republicans are giving every indication they plan to snatch that away, all the things I listed above, without giving much thought to anything but how quickly they can do it. You can destabilize the private insurance market pretty quickly, guys, you’re definitely proving that. But what you aren’t doing is proving that you have given any real thought to policies that would actually improve upon what we have. What you are proving is that tax cuts to the wealthy are more important. And that you would be more than happy to go back to the old way of doing things, where an estimated 3,000 people a month died due to lack of healthcare.

I’m sure I’m going to hear about how dumb Kentuckians are in response to this post. How dumb everyone who voted for Trump is and how the Republicans have tricked everyone into voting against their self-interest.

It’s true they are liars, and that they are callously attempting repeal with no plan for anything that would be an actual replacement for what we have. It’s true that people have been fooled. It’s true that some of those people are dumb and some of them are racists and sexists. It’s also true that in some cases things are more complicated than that. And that obsessing over those points does absolutely nothing to change what’s happening right now.

I believe we can stop this or at least make it much harder. I believe if the GOP actually goes through with repeal, their days in office are numbered. While it would certainly be political capital for Democrats (something we need right now), the impact on people’s lives is not worth that.

You see, I still believe in that vision we all had in that room. I believe that public policy is about trying to help people, the most you can, the best you can. It’s about the road to that more perfect union. The Affordable Care Act was a good start. It saved lives. It’s still saving lives right this second. Trashing it will not fix the problems; it will only create new ones and bring back old ones.

So, no matter who you voted for: Call your representatives and senators. NOW. Today. Tell them you see what Republicans are doing with these late-night votes and talk of high-risk pools (which have been done before and did not work). Ask them how the Affordable Care Act can be all bad if tens of millions of people are now covered who weren’t before. Tell them you want it protected, and you want time to go over the details of any replacement or “improvement.” Call your state-level reps and senators and governors too, and let them know you’re watching how they react to all this.

Remind these people they work for you, and you believe that every American deserves access to quality, affordable healthcare. Tell them that repeal in and of itself is a stunt, and it will not give them the ratings they want. Tell them that if they do this…

They’re fired.

Out with the old, in with the new, etc.

I don’t usually put the tiny letters up here, but since this is a year-end round-up and look ahead, I thought I would. Sign up if you want to always get them!

Last week I was in a reflective mood and I should have written this then. At that moment, I felt like I was caught up on everything — and mostly, I am — and other than having planned to write more than I did, this is the first year I haven’t been on a major deadline over the holidays. Which was actively nice, particularly in terms of being able to help Isabelle the dog settle in (more on that anon). This week, the weight of all the things that need to be done — next, soon — is back and I wish I’d worked more over the holidays. Ah, brain, never change, I guess. 😉

Since this was my first year as a work-from-home writer, there were some big things I learned and did and, well, it was just a huge transitional year on the personal level. While I know this was a terrible year for many people and for our society as a whole in terms of terrible losses (Carrie Fisher! Prince! Bowie! Alan Rickman! Gwen Ifill! Valuing democracy!), it was a memorably significant one for me. The good news is not once have I regretted or questioned the decision to leave the job; in fact, what I find more than anything is complete shock that I was able to do both careers in tandem for so long. This is better. This year will be better still, in this regard at least, because I think I’ve figured out and settled into a working rhythm.

Let’s do a numbered list, just to make it easy. My 2016 in review and some resolutions/goals for 2017 all blended in together (so I actually finish this!).

1. I traveled A LOT. I have so many good memories of hanging out with writers and friends and readers in many, many locales this year. Some high points — YALLWEST and YALLFEST, North Texas Teen Book Festival, New York Comic-Con and many many more. A low point that makes an excellent memory — RT at the worst hotel in Vegas. Also, the annual Bat Cave retreat on the Outer Banks, this time, celebrating our fifth year. And, of course, the giant 40th birthday palooza aka GwendaGras trip to NYC (Hamilton!), Boston (ReaderCon!), and Northampton (FriendFest!). Christopher’s and my trip to Santa Fe, which was half-work and half-play (it’s not every day you get to ride in GRRM’s Tesla). And then tour with my Dangerous Ladies right after. This was a year in which I hugged many people I adore, and many of them more than once. It’s hard to complain about a year like that. Although I was only home for an entire month once.

(With many of my favorite people in a hotel room in Boston post some truly excellent champagne in honor of my 40th birthday! From left to right: Gavin Grant, mine Christopher Rowe, me, Chris McLaren, Barb Gilly, Kelly Link, Molly Gloss and Richard Butner)

(A picture of a polaroid, as you do, same bat channel — Kelly, me, Barb.)

(The photo insert made me and Margie Stohl upside down, but that’s okay. This is still my favorite picture of us; backstage at YALLFEST. Have you read her first issue on Captain Marvel yet? Well, have you?)

(Me and Christopher standing in line for Hamilton, aka my GIANT BIRTHDAY PRESENT — and a definite highlight of the year!)

(Dangerous Ladies o my heart! Beth Revis, Renee Ahdieh, Megan Shepherd, moi and Megan Miranda!)

This year I definitely still want to do some traveling — and with three book releases scheduled again (more on that), that’s a good thing. But I’m trying to stay home for the first several months this year and more in general in order to write more. Something I learned this year was that butt in my chair at home means way more productivity. Fair enough. What may happen is more short trips for retreats/writing purposes and just a few big events. We’ll see. My calendar is relatively clear of everything but regional events currently up through July. (That won’t last, but we’ll pretend.)

2. I kept going to aerials, though mostly to aerial yoga. My goal is to do more other classes this year! I’ve signed up for some regular yoga and hoop dance so far and I just signed up for an intro to trapeze. All that travel meant my silks training got waysided–it’s just too hard to make progress when you’re not in class consistently, so maybe I’ll take another crack at that too. Being able to end my days by going to see the wonderful ladies at Bella Forza is an A+ treat though and I love it.

3. I had a little more time to breathe. Which meant I got to spend more time with Christopher and with Puck and Emma the Dog (a gift, such a gift to have more time with her this year) and Hemingway the Cat and now Isabelle the Dog, aka Izzy — who we adopted right before Christmas on a shelter site (I saw her on the internet and that’s my super power).

(She and Puck are getting along really well! As are she and Hem! She is around two we think and a complete puppy.)

Anyway, I occasionally went to lunch with people or wrote with a friend. I meandered around town on foot and I went to museums in the middle of the day and to the library almost daily and listened to podcasts and playlists. I recovered. I only realized the other day that I was basically still burned out until, oh, I don’t know a couple of months ago. So I was working, but only when I was doing revisions for Lois 3 did my brain finally feel like it really, fully kicked back on. And I think that’s going to be better going forward…

Because my new plan for this year is to work in focused 90 minute blocks, with rest periods in between for reading or playing on twitter or walking the doggos. Inspired by this NYT article. The goal is to learn how to juggle projects more effectively in the same day, and how to refresh during the actual work week in order to not ever get to that level of max burnout again. In addition, I continue my challenge to myself to go do something fun I wouldn’t have been able to when I had a day job at least once a week, whether it’s a museum or lunch or wandering the library.

4. This is more admission or confession than a report of anything good. But like many people this year, I leaned on some less than healthy stress-relief techniques at time (election, cough cough, I blame Trump). Most of my stresses this year were money related. It was a bigger transition than I realized going from full-time to part-time and freelance and adjusting to the flow of moneys is still happening. I traveled too much, only some of which publishers pay for, and we ate too much crap and had too much wine and etc. So this year, resolving to do better about all that. To budget more aggressively and keep stress lower through #3. While still taking actions and being politically active. Of course. If you want to kick some funds my way, there’s always the Patreon, aka the tip jar for this newsletter, life — and I’ll be posting more there this year.

5. I had books come out! And a comic! This year’s releases (buy them!):

Lois Lane: Double Down, which got a starred review from Kirkus and was just named an honorable mention in Entertainment Weekly’s Best YA Books of 2016 (eep!), and which I still think is better than Fallout and most people seem to agree and you DO need to read it to fully grok Lois Lane: Triple Threat so get on that already. 😉 It’ll be out in paperback in March, so you should snag the HC soon if that’s your pleasure.


Amazon – Barnes and Noble – Indiebound

​Girl in the Shadows, the second novel in the Cirque American world, came out and got very nice reviews from SLJ and White Tops (circus trade magazine!) and nice coverage from the Hollywood Reporter (along with Girl Over Paris), and is where I stuffed all my obsession with women and stage magic and some of my obsession with con artists. It’s a companion to Girl on a Wire with a different main character, so you can read them in any order.


Amazon – Barnes and Noble – Indiebound 

Girl Over Parisoriginally released as a miniseries, now you can get it as a collected graphic novel, along with some extras. This was a complete thrill to work on, and if you wanted to read the Cirque books in order it’s Girl on a Wire, Girl Over Paris, then Girl in the Shadows (though you can read them in any!). Girl Over Paris follows the characters from Girl on a Wire to Paris where they have a run-in with a forward ghost. I’m so very proud of all the hard work everyone did on this — Kate Leth and Ming Doyle are geniuses (and Andrew Dalhouse and Deron Bennett are also, as well as our variant artists Brittney Williams and Jen Bartel).


Amazon – Barnes and Noble – Indiebound – Comixology

Next year’s releases are Lois Lane: Triple Threat and Supernormal Sleuthing Service #1: The Lost Legacy with Christopher Rowe (first middle grade! and some amazing art by Glenn Thomas! sneak peek at the illustrations). Both are out in May and so preorder! Tell your librarians and booksellers, especially about the middle grade because new series! Strange Alchemy, the rebooted, remade Blackwood, will also be coming next fall and more on that as I have it.


Amazon – Barnes and Noble – Indiebound 



(chapter one art!)

Amazon – Barnes and Noble – Indiebound

As far as writing goals, go — I’m working on a secret YA project that I hope will happen (and is my main writing goal this year, to write this novel; Patreon people got to see a working draft of chapter one), and waiting to nail down the details of ANOTHER secret YA project that I am confident is happening (and yay! it’s a dream), and we’re just starting to write the next middle grade (yay, which is going to be even more fun than #1, I’m confident!). Plus, I’ll be on season two of ReMade (you can go read all of season one now!). So, it’s going to be a good busy year with lots of writing. This I predict.

In the meantime, I wish you all the very happiest New Year and that 2017 brings us all more hope and joy than we expect. Here are some dogs.

Love,

G

Stuff I Wrote Things (Yes, Things Made of Words Still Exist)

Hey! Three writing things, because we’ve still got bills to pay over here:

  • So the GIRL OVER PARIS graphic novel came out last week! Available wherever fine books are sold, through your local comic shop, or comixology. You should get it: I’m so proud of everyone’s work on this, best collaboration ever. And it comes with extras! New art from Ming! See the original character designs and her Bird Millman! New art from Jen Bartel, in the form of a gorgeous Jules pin-up! The gorgeous pin-up from Brittney Williams that was the variant cover art for issue #1! (There’s also a Kindle bundle available with all three Cirque American books, so you know.)
  • GIRL ON A WIRE is a Kindle daily deal today only! First in the Cirque American series.
  • My first episode for ReMade, “Mirror of Fate,” is out today! There is smooching…but maybe not the smooching you expect. It’s the smooching you deserve.

Letters For Your Senators/Reps (Please Borrow!)

Calling is great, but I know some of my introverts have a tough time with that. Sending letters is also great — and why not do both, if you can?

 

So I’m putting this here where it’s easily copy and paste-able for your own modification:

Senator Rand Paul
1029 State Street
Bowling Green, KY 42101

Dear Senator Paul:

As a constituent from Lexington, I’m writing to ask you to oppose the appointment of Stephen Bannon to the new president’s administration. While I know this appointment does not require senate confirmation, I encourage you to voice your opposition publicly, with your own party leadership, and in any communications you may have with the president-elect’s transition team.

Why? A few reasons, courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center:

  • Bannon presided over a news empire where he, according to former staffers, “aggressively pushed stories against immigrants, and supported linking minorities to terrorism and crime.”
  • “We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Bannon said in July, using a term that is really just a rebranding of traditional white nationalism.
  • Under Bannon, Breitbart published a call to “hoist [the Confederate flag] high and fly it with pride” only two weeks after the Charleston massacre when the country was still reeling from the horrors of the murders.
  • Under Bannon, Breitbart published an extremist anti-Muslim tract where the author wrote that “rape culture” is “integral” to Islam.

There are plenty more reasons I could list. My grandfather, who hailed from Eastern Kentucky, did not fight in World War II so a wealthy antisemite could be installed in an important White House role. History has its eyes on you, and so does this constituent.

Regards,

Gwenda Bond
Your address

Letter #2

Senator Mitch McConnell
771 Corporate Drive, Suite 108
Lexington, KY 40503

Dear Senator McConnell:

As a constituent from Lexington, I’m writing to express my concern over recently announced appointments to the new president’s administration and proposals being floated to end the filibuster in order to push appointments and legislative measures through the Senate.

To date, the president-elect has proposed or reportedly proposed appointing: Stephen Bannon, a man with ties to neo-nazi groups and with a history of domestic violence who many feel could not even pass a White House background check without the president-elect’s override; Jeff Sessions, who could not be confirmed to a federal judgship in the 1980s because of racist rhetoric; and General Flynn, a dangerously Islamophobic choice for national security advisor.

I don’t ask you to object to these appointments on moral grounds, though I could, because if that would be effective you would already have done so. But consider the strategy here: Do you truly believe your party will have a future if it tries to regress our country to some concept of greatness that never existed? America has often struggled to live the ideals we claim to hold dear — being the great melting pot, with equality for all people, prizing justice and our first amendment rights of free speech and religion — but if we don’t continue to try, if we actively trample on these, then it won’t be Republicans winning and Democrats losing. It will be all of us losing. It will be America losing.

Do you want that to be your legacy? Your office assisted my grandfather with his VA pension for his service in World War II and I know has helped many others among your constituents. I would ask you to consider those people who fought against the exact kind of hateful views that the president-elect now proposes to invite into our government.

Unlike Bannon, most other appointees will face the confirmation process. If you won’t stand up against these appointments, as I strongly urge, please do not remove the means for those with the will to do so.

Regards,

Gwenda Bond 

YOUR ADDRESS

Some Thoughts on Mentoring/Being Mentored

tumblr_m9ddnqd4jw1rnvzfwo1_r1_500So the great mentoring pair-up is complete! If you wrote me and didn’t hear back in one way or another, then feel free to ping again because it’s possible I missed your message. Otherwise, I hope your pairing works out fabulously! I ended up having some writers who didn’t get paired up, mainly because I didn’t have mentors with the right experience for them or because my first priority was pairing up women of color (and that is mainly what people volunteered to do, so I didn’t feel comfortable pairing up otherwise). So I wish all of you guys the best of luck too! And, likewise, I have some writers who volunteered to be mentors that I didn’t end up matching. You are all fabulous; I did my best bewitched attempt to get people together who I felt would be best for both involved.

A few people wanted to know if I had any advice and so I thought I’d just type up some basic guidelines here. I probably should have done this in advance, but oh well. 😉

For Mentors: 

Hey, it’s pretty awesome that you want to pay things forward and help somebody else. I don’t know a single professional writer who hasn’t been mentored along the way, and so thank you for stepping up and volunteering to help out with this project. Don’t underestimate your own experience — if you’ve finished a novel (or a bunch) and gotten an agent, sold a book or published one (or a bunch), edited books, written articles and proposals, or some combination thereof and are comfortable giving feedback and advice, well, you are 100 percent qualified to help this writer I’ve paired you with level up. Most of you writers I know doubt your own accomplishments: stop that.

Most important things: be encouraging and supportive, but honest and firm.

For Those Being Mentored: 

Be open to suggestions, and be honest with your mentor if you feel they’re suggesting something that’s not right for your ms. (Play this card wisely, though, and not just because suggestions feel extreme!)

Don’t waste their time; if you agree on deadlines, let them know if you’re going to miss one early. They’re making space in their schedules to help with your work. You missing a deadline you’ve set together screws up things for you both. Also, this is a good habit to pick up now — you will need it for the rest of your career.

If you feel overwhelmed or don’t know how to attack a project, ask your mentor! That’s what they’re here for.

For both of you, ideas on how this might look, which you can absolutely tailor to meet your needs and available time!

If you’re not sure how to structure things, here are some ideas:

  • Get to know each other a little — exchange info on your backgrounds.
  • Assess where the mentored writer is in the process; do they have a ms. they need to revise? Has it been through edits before? Do they have a feel for their strengths and weaknesses, what they want your help with? Etc.
  • Mentors have writers send you some work, and set a timeline to get back to them with notes.
  • Build in some time to process the notes, and then regroup on next steps: Is this planning a revision and setting some deadlines along the way? Maybe for each 50 pages, maybe helping to plan what the revision will look like and then setting deadlines? Maybe the book is ready or close to ready, in which case, maybe it’s time to put together a query and a list of agents to send it to?
  • Career advice and goal setting: Is it time to start a new project? When will you have your book ready to go out and query agents with by? Accountability and structure is a great thing for new writers to learn.
  • Celebrate and commiserate: Two of the most valuable things writers can offer each other; did your writer NAIL the revision of her first ten pages, did she get a ms. request? YAY. Did she get rejected by an agent? HEY, we’ve all been there. Maybe share a story about a similar setback. Rejection, it comes for us all. 😉
This is all flexible and if, on either side, you feel stumped or frustrated or need an ear at any point — I’m here. You know where to find me. It’s possible your match-up won’t turn out to be a good fit. That doesn’t mean terrible things about either of you. Just be open and talk about things, see if you can make it work and, if not, move on. But, for now, go do great work together!

Let’s Get ReMade Together! (Sorta ;)

Hey! So I haven’t talked much about this here yet, because deadline after deadline after … you guessed it deadline!

In case you’re not familiar with Serial Box, a little explanation. So this company is doing something really interesting with collaborative storytelling, very much playing to writers’ strengths and desire to occasionally not work on our own. I love collaborating with other people and I especially love talking out stories with other writers. The way it works is, each serial — there are five so far — has its own premise and world and staff of writers. There’s a show runner, and it’s a similar process to TV (at least as I understand TV) in that everyone on the staff plots out stories together and then individual writers break off and write episodes. Over the course of 10 or 15 weekly episodes, voila! You have a season, a complete story made out of all those little ones, which you can either read or listen to an audiobook of, approximately 40 min to an hour depending on the format. Ideally, people keep up with the episodes as they come out and then get the fun of discussing their reading with others who are doing the same.

Earlier this year, I was asked if I’d be interested in doing a guest episode for a new serial that was being launched called ReMade. The premise behind ReMade is super-cool and I won’t say too much, because I think it’s more fun to experience it as it unfolds. Here’s what the website says:

“The lives of twenty-three teenagers are forever changed, and it’s not just because they all happen to die within the same minute. “ReMade” in a world they barely recognize–one with robots, space elevators, and unchecked jungle–they must work together to survive. They came from different places, backgrounds, and families, and now they might be the last people on the planet. LOST meets THE MAZE RUNNER in this exciting sci-fi thriller.”

I would suggest thinking of this as an excellent, smart CW show, and once I learned the details of the story (and that I’d be working with Matthew Cody, Kiersten White, E.C. Myers, Andrea Phillips, and Carrie Harris), my answer was yes please. I’m intrigued by the format and short fiction is definitely a place where I want to stretch my muscles a bit more (a natural short story writer I am not). I had so much fun doing my one episode (#10) that I happily said yes to joining the team officially for season two. The serial is currently six episodes in, and new ones drop each Wednesday. This makes it a perfect place to jump on and snarf.

Which brings me to the reason for this post! Next week we all head to New York — along with the wonderful Amy Rose Capetta — who’s joining season two too (yay) for the season two story summit. I decided to listen to all the eps released so far (and then reread the others) this week as a prep, and I’m inviting you to join me!

The first TWO episodes are free at the moment, so you can try it out with no $$ outlay — and then if you want the whole season, you can subscribe and get all the other episodes. If you have an iPhone, the easiest way to experience by far is to download the free Serial Box Publishing app, which will give you both ebook and audio file and syncs between them so you can switch back and forth if you want (and which you can subscribe through). I actually paid to subscribe because I love the app so much. But you can also buy the individual episodes from your favorite ebook retailer, read or listen on the website, etc. The Serial Box website spells all this out.

So, join me, and give it a try! I’ll be listening to an episode each day this week on my walk and tweeting about it using #ReMade — starting with the pilot today — and we’re going to be doing regular Tuesday night chats on twitter (follow @serialboxpub for the details) with the writing staff going forward too. We want to hear from you; it makes it so much more fun to break your heart if you tell us how best to do that. 😉

Want To Pay It Forward? Mentoring Opportunity

So, when I went full-time earlier this year, I realized I might have a little more time to pay it forward and mentor younger/newer writers. I knew immediately I wanted to focus my efforts on writers of color, because I say I’m committed to increasing diversity, so I should put my extra time there, right? Right. Put your time where your mouth is, as it were. And we all know that young writers of color often have a harder time breaking in; I can help with manuscripts, I can help with business advice, I can be a person in someone’s corner.

An opportunity to help out a guy who was having trouble tackling a revision presented itself almost as soon as I came to this realization. Unfortunately, on Friday I learned that the person I’d been helping has been behaving very badly and hurting many women writers and that until the talking started people had been too afraid to speak up, now there was a flood. I believe them. To say I am livid and dismayed is to understate things. But I still believe in my realization earlier this year too. So I tweeted this on Friday night, almost as soon as I learned about the situation:

As you can see, it took on a life of its own. I have, at last count, about 35 or so emails from women of color looking for mentors. I’m on deadline this week, so it will probably be next week before I can sit and truly go through them. I don’t want to turn anyone away. But I can only take on one or two of these writers at most. Do I have time to coordinate this project? Well, I’m going to make time. Because this is important. This was a tweet on a weekend; this is a need.

So this is where you come in, writer friends. Are you a writer who’s further along? Who feels like you could mentor someone? Let me know (comments or email). If I’ve already heard from you–and bless you, six or so volunteers I already have–you don’t need to contact again. I’ve got you. You may wonder, what kind of time commitment are we talking about–I think that’s up to you and the writer you work with. I’ll sort through emails in an attempt to identify who will be a good fit, then work with you to pick who you want to work with out of a few people. Everyone is going to need something slightly different. I look for people who at least have a manuscript complete (and I assume that’s mostly who I’ve heard from), because those are people who are serious enough to have finished a project and who I can help push forward.

For me, mentoring is about providing manuscript feedback and career advice, it can be about helping a person wrap their head around a revision and set deadlines for themselves with outside accountability (aka me). That sort of thing. Your strengths may vary a little, so you may focus on different things. There’s no one way to mentor someone.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also plug a program several people have let me know about: Writing in the Margins. I don’t know all the details, but it’s certainly something I’ll be sharing with these writers (and I know one at least I’ve heard from has been through it already).

Middle Grade Cover Reveal!

I’m so excited to share the cover for the very first middle grade novel from Christopher Rowe and yours truly. Behold! Here’s the cover for The Supernormal Sleuthing Service #1: The Lost Legacy, out next spring from Greenwillow Books!

supernormal-hc-c

I hope you guys love it as much as we do! The artist is Glenn Thomas and he’s also doing black and white interior art.

Here’s the about the book that’ll be on the back of the ARCs:

Three kids. A hotel full of monsters. And a stolen magical artifact that could disrupt the balance between the humans and the supernatural. Welcome to life at Hotel Monster! The first book in the hilarious and spooky series that is Hotel Transylvania meets Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.

Stephen’s dad decided to move them across the country to New York City, where his dad is taking over as head chef in an exclusive hotel. A hotel that has the most elite of clientele: monsters! Surprise! Or as they prefer to be called, supernormals. And an even bigger surprise? Stephen is part supernormal himself. When a magical artifact goes missing and Stephen is framed, he must work with two new friends to navigate this whole new world to clear his name. Consequences can be dire in the world of monsters. Spooky, funny, and full of monstrous hijinks, The Lost Legacy is an inventive and accessible mystery-adventure full of friendship, humor, and a monstrous cast of characters—perfect for fans of Pseudonymous Bosch and R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series.

We’ve had so much fun working with each other and our fabulous editor Martha Mihalick on this book/series and we can’t wait for you guys to step into this world. You can preorder if you like: IndieboundAmazonB&N.