Subterranean

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The lump in this photo is my cat in his current favorite location, under blankets. Which, right, technically is not subterranean per se as he is not actually underground, but work with me. Things are happening below the surface.

Have been reading Hilary Mantel, late onto the Cromwell trilogy bandwagon (and how amused her version of Cromwell would be at the notion of a “Cromwell bandwagon”) delighted by its nuance and sweep. Evocative prose on a sentence-by-sentence level, incredible command of the setting and giant cast.

Have also been reading Diane Ackerman, specifically Dawn Light, and appreciating her close and lovely observations of the natural world & the seasons (not really separable, I suppose, which is part of the point). Not a book I would have sought out, but when it appeared unexpectedly, it seemed only right to pick it up.

It’s a quiet January, getting things done & trying to be grateful for what’s possible rather than regretting what isn’t.

 

 

2014 in review, 2015 in prospect

I used two tools to come up with a basic overview of what-I-did-in-2014: my calendar, and the bookkeeping program I use to track my freelance work. A bit reductionist, but they do serve to more or less document what I was up to.

Four university events in 2014:

photo credit: Darice Cobb

Kapow! at Eastern Michigan University, a comics art exhibit and panel discussion; also a chance to see old friends who braved the ghastly weather.

 

 

 

photo credit Emma Fierberg

Syracuse University’s student-organized Life Gets Better Together conference, where I was on the keynote panel about the cultural climate for LGBT folks and taught a writing workshop.

 

 

University of Michigan’s Kids Read Comics in the Classroom preconference, another panel! And another opportunity to see old friends, better weather this time.

At Western Oregon University, all by myself this time, talking about Bad Houses with Shaun Huston’s Cultural Geography class. Favorite student response: “Today Sara Ryan came in and she seems pretty kick ass … She has an awesome vibe and spoke about the process of making Bad Houses with great enthusiasm.”

I was a guest at four comic conventions: Emerald City, Wondercon, Kids Read Comics, and the Rose City Comicon.

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I was on yet another panel at YALSA’s Young Adult Literature Symposium, this one on YA Realness: what makes ‘contemporary YA’ feel true to readers? Also participated in the very exciting Book Blitz, where the above photo was taken.

And I taught a couple of workshops, one on comics writing, one with Rosanne Parry on writing with cultural responsiveness, at the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Oregon conference. Also a writing workshop at the Ann Arbor District Library, and four comics writing workshops for teens at Columbus Metropolitan Library.

Whew.

…but wait, did you actually write anything? 

Yes I did: a more-than-usually-self-disclosing essay for an anthology, and a short comic featuring an extremely well-known character for another anthology. Neither has yet appeared but I will tell you when they do. And also other things, which are In Progress.

In 2015, so far I’m most looking forward to teaching at the Lambda Literary Foundation Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices, being a special guest at the San Diego Comic-Con, and — needless to say — progressing on the things that are In Progress. Further bulletins as events warrant.

Books I received as gifts.

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Books have always been my favorite items to give and receive. This holiday friends & family presented me with the following:

  • Evasiondescribed by The Insurgent as “many beautiful stories about surviving in voluntary squalor that are human and touching, yet liberatory and hopeful at the same time.”
  • London Under: the secret history beneath the streetsI’ve enjoyed the other Peter Ackroyd books I’ve read, especially his Shakespeare biography, and anything with a subtitle that includes the phrase ‘secret history’ is likely to pull me in.
  • Americanahwhich I’ve previously read as an audiobook and am happy to have on paper to reread.
  • The Woman Who Borrowed Memories: selected stories. Tove Jansson is one of my all-time favorite authors and I’m ridiculously excited about reading new-to-me stories from her.
  • HavI’ve read other travel books by Jan Morris but had no idea this one existed; a travel book about a place she invented, with an introduction by Ursula K. LeGuin. Sold!
  • The Urban Circus: travels with Mexico’s malabaristas. I have a longstanding interest in circus, and this paragraph from the first chapter is immediately intriguing: “Malabarista. Most dictionaries will tell you it means ‘juggler’, but it’s broader than that. It describes a specific type of circus performer: one whose skill lies in the manipulation of objects. And beneath that it carries a note of ambiguity, a hint at something darker. I have heard that in Chile, it can also mean ‘trickster': one whose skill lies in the manipulation of people.”
  • Godtalk: travels in spiritual AmericaI’m also fascinated by the role religion & spirituality play in people’s lives, so I’m looking forward to this overview of several faiths by an author who took a participatory approach to his investigation.
  • Ilf and Petrov’s American Road Trip: the 1935 travelogue of two Soviet writers, Ilya Ilf and Eugeny PetrovAlmost done with this one already; wry observations and interesting photos.

If I don’t post again before 2015, the above should explain why.

Sighted: stickers in SE Portland

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I often post photos captioned only with the word “Sighted.”

I thought about posting these that way, but I think they have greater impact when viewed as a group. They were all posted on a wooden security fence around one of the many buildings under construction in the neighborhood, close-in southeast Portland, on Division Street.

There were more stickers than I photographed, but we were on our way to (Re)Writing The Future: Social Justice and Science Fiction, and thought, correctly, that there’d be a packed house.

I’d love to properly credit the origin/creators of the stickers; if anyone who sees this knows the story, let me know.

stickers reading "Hello I wish I could:" escape debt, have collective resources, feel safe, get three meals a day stickers reading "Hello I wish I could:" retain long term residents, change city policies, get affordable groceries without getting on a bus, protect my children from being shot Stickers reading "Hello I wish I could:" respected by WHITES, afford to live in my own neighborhood, not be profiled when I walk into a store, trust my neighbors

(Stickers are all the same design; they look like the traditional “HELLO my name is” style, but instead say “HELLO I wish I could…” People have filled them out expressing the following wishes: escape debt, have collective resources, feel safe, eat three meals a day, retain long term residents, change city policies, get affordable groceries without getting on a bus, protect my children from being shot, respected by whites, afford to live in my own neighborhood, not be profiled when I walk in a store, trust my neighbors.)

 

Home from Austin

I just got back from YALSA’s YA Literature Symposium. Although this photo is from a few weeks ago and today I’m wearing a different hoodie, me and the cat are in a similar position as I type this.

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Here are a few things I saw while wandering Austin:

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I really enjoyed being part of the “YA Realness: what makes ‘contemporary realism’ feel true to readers?” panel with Matt de la PeñaCoe Booth, Jo Knowles, and Sara Zarr.

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(photo by Kim Johnson Dare, found via Facebook.)

We didn’t have a moderator, just asked questions of each other, and I liked operating that way; it felt more like we were having the kind of conversation that usually happens outside of official conference sessions, in the hallway or a restaurant or the hotel lobby late at night.

I had many of those latter kinds of conversations too, and I was often reminded of a post I wrote a few years back, “Shapeshifting,” about how the role someone has when you first meet them — how they’re described, or describe themselves, when you’re introduced — is almost certainly not either a. the only role they occupy or b. the one they’ll be in when you meet them again.

Here are before/after pictures of my table at the Book Blitz, an event during which authors are set up at tables with big stacks of their books. Attendees get a small number of tickets that they then ‘spend’ to acquire copies of said books (generously donated by our publishers).

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It was pretty chaotic but in a lovely way. Kudos to the folks responsible for merchandising the books. That curving stack of copies of Bad Houses was merely one among many examples of niftily displayed titles.

Since you’re reading this post I bet you will also find the handouts from GenreQueer: Exploding the Closet and Who gets to tell our stories? Authentic portrayals of Trans* Youth in YA Fiction relevant to your interests.

And a few books I’m reading either directly or indirectly because of the symposium: The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea, Swati Avasthi‘s Chasing ShadowsS. Bear Bergman‘s The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, & Kekla Magoon‘s How It Went Down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some things that have happened and will happen in the future

I had a great time teaching comics writing workshops for kids & teens at Columbus Metropolitan Library! Here’s the group at the Franklinton branch as we’re looking at Carla Speed McNeil’s pencils and inks for a wordless page from Bad Housesto show that we need to write scripts even for scenes where no one’s talking:

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You know what else we need? Diverse books. If you haven’t contributed to the Indiegogo campaign yet, what are you waiting for?

A little background: “diverse books,” like “graphic novels,” is a phrase that may not seem especially resonant if you haven’t been immersed in the circles where it’s in common usage. “Diverse books” is shorthand for books by and about people who’ve been marginalized — whose stories haven’t had the opportunity to occupy much, if any, bookstore and library shelf space — and We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. It’s important work. Help make it happen.

Speaking of diverse books and encouraging writers from marginalized communities, I’m really proud to say that I’ll be the Genre Fiction instructor for the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices next summer! I’ll be focusing on YA and comics writing. Apply!

Finally, very soon, I’m going to Austin for YALSA’s YA Literature Symposium to be on a panel with Sara Zarr, Coe Booth, Jo Knowles & Matt de la Peña on YA Realness: what makes ‘contemporary realism’ feel true to readers? I look forward to seeing some of you there!

 

5 things

1. I’m working in a new space, in my old neighborhood which I haven’t had much occasion to frequent in the decade-plus since I’ve lived there. So the commute puts me in a weird mental state: focused simultaneously on the future and the past.

2. Which I guess is also a thing that happens when seasons change.

3. I got a 2015 calendar from NeuYear.net and am both comforted and aghast by how much is already on it.

4. Took this photo last week at the Oak Harbor Library. I like to think the possum is squinting to see what the owl is reading.

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5. If you’re in Columbus, Ohio, next week you can go to several comics workshops; some taught by Gene Yang,  some by me!

En route

…to Seattle as I type, for an event tomorrow at the Oak Harbor Library with Lish McBride that I’m looking forward to.  Have been finalizing details for other events, too — some comics writing classes for teens at Columbus Metropolitan Library in October, a panel at the YALSA YA Literature Symposium in November — all of which I will no doubt mention again closer to when they’ll be happening, with links even.

In the meantime, Portland has had some dang lovely sunsets lately. Here is one.

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