Writing & Gender Returns

I’m delighted to be able to report that Cat Rambo and I will be offering our Writing & Gender course again in January. How do you go about writing characters whose gender is different from yours? What about all these new, non-binary genders that we hear about these days? Not to mention new sexualities. How can you add gender diversity to your fiction and stay respectful of the various identities you are making use of? Cat and I are here to explain. The course is timed to work for people on either side of the Atlantic (so we can teach it together). If you are interested, details of how to sign up, together with a whole load of other amazing courses that Cat offers, can be found on her blog.

Writing and Gender Class – This Saturday

I’ve trailed this one before, but apparently there are still places left if you want to sign up. This Saturday (evening my time, morning in the USA) I will be helping Cat Rambo teach a class in Writing and Gender. We’ll be covering all of that trans people and non-binary genders that might have some of you confused, and providing tips as to how to approach the issues without having all of your trans readers putting their heads in their hands. Cat, of course, will be doing her usual brilliant writing teaching, while I explain all of the terminology and point out the pitfalls. Full details are available from Cat’s website. I hope to talk to some of you on Saturday.

Penguin Does Diversity

Attention UK writers: the local branch of Random Penguin is making a serious effort to diversify its list by reaching out to members of minority communities and offering training.

The project, called WriteNow, will be running one-day courses in London, Bristol and Newcastle in September, and 10 lucky writers from those will go on to be put on a year-long mentoring program.

Now of course the chances of your being selected may not be good if you say you want to write science fiction or fantasy, though you might get away with it if you said it was YA. Then again, you might have a really good pitch. You will also need to have something in the works that you can show them. For details of how to apply (and you need to get in by July 16th) see here.

Writing and Gender Class

Back in 2012 (when my life was less busy) I took an online writing course taught by Cat Rambo. I wrote about it here.

Cat keeps me updated with new offers just in case I have time to take another one. I have certainly been tempted, especially as she’s started to do one-offs on specific topics (see here). One such course that is right up my street is “Writing and Gender”, but I don’t need to sign up for that one because Cat has kindly asked me to help teach it.

The class will take place on Saturday, August 26, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time. Cat and I haven’t finalized the details as yet, but I’m expecting to be talking about writing trans characters, and helping the class navigate the profusion of genders people are identifying with these days. I will probably mention things like the cis gaze, and victim narratives. Cat writes a bit about the course here.

These classes are not free. The usual charge is $99, or $79 for former students. However, if you really can’t afford it, and very much need that class, you can apply for a scholarship.

An Evening at the BBC

I spent yesterday evening in the staff club at BBC Bristol. That’s because it was the venue for a meeting of our local Sound Women group for women who work in the media. The group is run by my colleague, Miranda, who has regular Friday afternoon show on Ujima as well as occasional gigs in the big leagues. (Miranda used to be a very high profile DJ, but she took time out to raise a child and, well, you know how that goes.)

We had two speakers for the evening. The first was Kalpna Woolf, who had a 25 year career in the BBC, rising from temp to head of production. More recently she has reinvented herself as a cookery writer, and runs an amazing charity called 91 Ways which celebrates the multicultural community of Bristol through food.

The second speaker was top-selling author, Amanda Prowse. Contemporary family dramas are not usually my sort of thing, but a writer is a writer and it was clear just listening to Amanda that she knows how to tell a story and is likely to have a lot of humor in her tales. She’s done extremely well for herself, and clearly has a lot of natural talent. There aren’t many people who can just sit down in front of a computer and just pour out a novel. She’s also got a major commitment to tackling important issues such as infertility, racism, and eating disorders; and makes sure she researches each topic well before starting to write.

It was an excellent evening, and it is great to get to hang out with other women in the media. I’ve already got one potential guest for my show from it.

Talking Representation v Objectification

The lovely people at The Future Fire asked me to do a guest post for them to help promote the Problem Daughters crowdfunding campaign. So of course I wrote something about trans people in fiction. You can find it here. Hopefully those of you thinking of putting trans characters in your stories will find it useful.

Tangentially related to which, this morning on Twitter I spotted this:


But this it a good opportunity to remind you that Dreadnought is out today, so you can now rush to the shops and buy it. I loved it.

Drive By Posting

Well, that’s three days of trans awareness training on the trot. All lovely classes.

Of course that means I’m thinking of little else right now, so all I’m good for is another rant. I am resisting the temptation, partly because I like you folks and don’t want to bore you, and partly because the level of woo woo achieved by today’s anti-trans article in the media was enough to make even the disgraced soon to be very few people’s president of the USA blush with embarrassment.

The trouble is that anti-trans people are like anti-vaxxers. They are convinced that anyone who knows anything about trans medical care must either be in it for the money or be an “activist”, and therefore dismiss everything we say as lies. The more evidence we pile up against them, the more convinced they become that some vast conspiracy is at work. It is pointless engaging directly. What we need to do is engage with people whose minds haven’t been locked down under thousands of layers of tinfoil.

However, the good news is that tomorrow is a writer and publisher day. I am going to Bristol University for this conference, which looks like being absolutely awesome (scroll down for the program). I am, of course, that girl: the one who wrote a story about a famous Egyptologist having a talking mummy in her bedroom closet. This is clearly a conference for me.

Fringe 2017 Underway

The new year of BristolCon Fringe got under way last night. The schedule is a little fuzzy because Jo is handing over the management of the events to Tom Parker, so we don’t as yet have confirmed speakers for the months ahead. However, we did have a cracking event to kick off the year.

Amanda Huskisson had read an open mic events before, but this was her first time as a main guest. We got to hear a bit more from her novel, Melody of the Two Lands. I’m afraid I shamelessly took the opportunity to question her about Egypt. We had a great chat about religion and history. Amanda’s book is very feminist, and I was not surprised to learn that it is set during the reign of Hatshepsut.

You may have seen some things online about this woman pharaoh being a trans guy, but you only have to look at the magnificent tomb she had built for herself at Deir el-Bahri to see that this was someone very much concerned with women’s issues. Her problem was that in order to be pharaoh she also had to be an incarnation of Horus, which I’m sure presented a lot of challenges. Images of her tended to look more male, but in inscriptions she is always referred to as a woman and her name means “Foremost of Noble Ladies”.

One of the more interesting historical facts that came out of the conversation is that the Egyptians used exactly the same instruments as were used by the priests of Cybele in Rome. The double flute and sistrum were used by both cultures, over 1000 years apart.

Amanda’s book still doesn’t have a publisher, but I hope to be able to read it one day.

I’d not met Tej Turner before this event. Jo found him at FantasyCon and, as he’s not far away in Cardiff, coaxed him over the Severn to read for us. Jo has an excellent eye for talent. Tej is working on some epic fantasy, but in the meantime he has one book out from a small press and another (which he read from) due later this year.

The Janus Cycle is essentially a fix-up, with each chapter being a short story narrated by a different character. The book is urban fantasy, but more in the vein of Charles de Lint and Emma Bull than the hot chicks in leather with werewolves thing. There is an overarching story centered on a nightclub called Janus. Tej tells me that each one of the characters has a different gender. There is a lot of alternative culture involved. It isn’t as over the edge as Kathy Acker, but the subject matter does get close to that edge at times.

For Fringe Tej read from the sequel, Dinnusos Rises. Dinnusos is an alternative name for Dionysus so you can see that we have a theme going here. The extracts that Tej read were very funny, and very pointedly political. I think a lot of you folks would like his work. And if you don’t believe me, try this five-star review at Rising Shadow.

Tom has big plans for Fringe, including possibly locating to a different venue with more room and better audio equipment. Hopefully we can also get some budget to pay travel expenses and bring in some bigger names. The original plan was to have one big name writer as the main attraction and one local writer as the support act, which will give the local folks a much better audience.

One of the announcements we had at the end was from Jo. Kristell Ink currently has submissions open for no less than three science fiction anthologies. The deadline is the end of January, but if you write fast or have something in the trunk you should be able to make it. Details here.

For Books’ Sake Does Ghost Stories

The lovely people at For Books’ Sake have announced a new anthology call, and this time it is one that us genre folks can participate in. They are looking for ghost stories (max 7,000 words) by Feb. 26th. You do have to identify as a woman to submit, and pay is minimal, but they are looking for diversity in both authors and subject matter. Further details are available here.

New Fiction by Me at Holdfast

Yesterday a new story by me went live at Holdfast Magazine. They’d asked for stories inspired by Brexit, and I sent them one that had werewolves and trans medicine, and is primarily set in a radio interview. The locations are all in the Bath and Bristol area. If you’d like to read it, you can find it here.

Better still, read their whole Brexit supplement, which includes poetry, a cartoon, and the story of what happens when King Arthur returns post-Brexit to sort things out.

This is also a good time to remind you that the Holdfast crowdfunding campaign is into its final week. They are 73% of the way to their goal and just need a few hundred pounds more to get there. Please back them if you can.

Juliet’s New Venture

I, and Wizard’s Tower, are pleased to note that Juliet E. McKenna will be teaching a creative writing course in Witney, Oxfordshire, this coming autumn. Obviously it is only of interest to people who can get to evening classes in that area, but I know it will be a great course and if it goes well perhaps Juliet will get more teaching gigs. Regardless, it will help her keep writing, which I think is very important.

Juliet writes about the venture here, and further details of the course are available from its website (which I may have had some involvement in creating).

Yesterday on Ujima: Carers, Harassment, Flash, Trans & Faith

Yesterday’s show on Ujima began with a celebration of Carer’s Week. Caring for relatives or friends who are unable to look after themselves is an activity that falls disproportionately on women. With the current fashion for austerity politics, social service safety nets and support for carers are both being cut back. I talked to Jan from the Carer’s Support Service and Fadumo, one of her clients.

From 12:30 Frances and I took a look at some of the issues surrounding the recent campaigns to combat internet harassment. It is a sad commentary on how politics is done these days that the main political parties (Conservatives, Labour and LibDems) have to run their own campaign separate from that run by the minor parties (Women’s Equality Party, Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru), but that’s where we are.

Then again, I don’t think that the major parties would have done anything had WEP not come up with the idea. That makes it an example of how having WEP around forces the bigger parties to pay attention to women’s issues. Of course the big party campaign has Twitter, Facebook and Google as partners. That pretty much ensures that they won’t come up with any meaningful action, and of course the PR disaster of the Demos report they used has pretty much derailed their campaign.

Anyway, congratulations to the LibDems who have decided to back both horses and who on Monday are putting forward some amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill that will specifically tackle the issue of revenge porn. See here for how you can pester your MP to support this.

Ultimately, of course, what we need is a change in social attitudes, and that can only come about through education. Later in the year I will be doing a more in-depth show focusing on the campaign for compulsory personal, social, health and economic education in UK schools. That’s something that even Teresa May supports, so how lefty and progressive can it possibly be?

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

At 13:00 I was joined by Kevlin Henney and Freya J. Morris to preview this year’s National Flash Fiction Day. Both of them had brought stories to read.

Finally from 13:30 I was joined by Surat Shaan Knan of Liberal Judaism. Shaan is a good friend of mine and the person behind the Twilight People project. Obviously we talked about trans people and faith. Many thanks to Shaan for coming all the way from London to be on the show.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

The playlist for the show starts with a Muhammad Ali tribute and then goes into a funk festival:

  • R Kelly – The Greatest
  • James Brown – Make it Funky
  • Patti LaBelle – Lady Marmalade
  • AWB – Pick up the Pieces
  • Parliament – Children of Productions
  • Prince – Alphabet Street
  • Janelle Monáe – Dorothy Dandridge Eyes
  • Chic – I Want Your Love

Because of Finncon I won’t be on air again until mid-July, but hey, that is a good excuse.

Writing Class Scholarships

Cat Rambo runs excellent online writing courses (I can say that because I have taken one). However, being a professional writer, she does need to charge for them. This can be a problem for the more disadvantaged parts of the community. I am therefore delighted to see that going forward each class will have one slot available for free to someone who would not otherwise be able to afford it.

Full details as to how to apply, and an explanation as to why Cat decided to call these things Plunkett scholarships, are available on Cat’s blog. I see that she says that applications from QUILTBAG folk and People of Color are particularly welcome. A special shout out is due to Keffy who inspired the whole thing.

Fantastically Horny Reminder

Over Easter I posted about a crowdfunding campaign for a set of anthologies, including Fantastically Horny, the book that will contain my story, “Camelot Girls Gone Wild”. Yes, it is that book of erotic fantasy tales. Mea Culpa. But people at BristolCon appeared to enjoy the story.

Anyway, Easter is not a good time to publicize that sort of thing, so I am giving it another shot. The campaign page is over here. You don’t have to get my book. You can get the one about retired heroes instead as it looks really interesting. All support gratefully received. Struggling author with blogging habit to feed and all that.

Another Essay on Writing Trans Characters

While I was writing my essay on writing trans characters for Strange Horizons, a young person called Vee was writing one for The Gay YA, a website that focuses on LGBT+ issues in YA fiction (of all genres). Vee’s essay is very different from mine. They’ve been looking at the whole range of trans narratives in YA, including fairly high profile books such as Luna by Julie Anne Peters. When I reviewed that book five years ago I felt that on balance it was a good thing because there were so few trans narratives about. A lot has changed in five years, and I’m a lot less forgiving of books that disturb me. Vee has done a fine job of articulating exactly what is wrong with this type of book. If you are planning on writing a book with a trans character in it, or have an interest in trans issues, please read Vee’s essay and take on board what they say.

Tiptree Award Fellowship

The good folks who run the Tiptree Award have created a Fellowship Program designed to support speculative works during their creation. The Fellowships provide recognition for the new voices who are making visible the many forces that are changing our view of gender today, including those don’t fit within the traditional boundaries of genre fiction. Tiptree Fellows may be writers, artists, scholars, game designers, media producers, remix artists, performers, musicians, or something else entirely.

The Tiptree Fellowship Committee particularly encourages applications from members of communities that have been historically underrepresented in the science fiction and fantasy genre and from creators who are creating speculative narratives in media other than traditional fiction. In keeping with the focus of the Tiptree Award, the selection committee is seeking projects that explore and expand understandings of gender, particularly in relationship to race, nationality, class, disability, sexuality, age, and other factors that set individuals or groups apart as “other.” Fellowship applicants do not need a professional or institutional affiliation, as the intention of the Fellowship program is to support emerging creators who lack institutional support for their work.

Each Fellow will receive $500 and the resulting work will be recognized and promoted by the Tiptree Award. Over time, the Fellowship program will create a network of Fellows who can build connections, provide mutual support, and find opportunities for collaboration.

Information as to how to apply for a Fellowship, and the requirements that Fellows will be expected to fulfill, can be found at the Tiptee Award website.

Today’s Women’s Outlook Show Links

Well I don’t know about you folks, but I thought that went pretty well.

Kevlin Henney can always be relied upon to do great things with flash fiction, and I was delighted to hear that this year Bristol will be the focus for National Flash Fiction Day. I’m really sorry I can’t go to all of the good stuff that Kevlin has planned, but I will be in Finland so I mustn’t complain. If you want to attend the flash workshop on the 22nd, details of BristolCon Fringe meetings are here. Details of all of the events in Bristol on the 27th are here.

Lucienne Boyce is excellent value on the history, and I was really please that her husband, Gerard, came along and read a bit of the John Clare poem. It sounds so modern in places, and the similarities between the 18th Century landlords fencing in common land, and our present-day politicians selling off the NHS, are quite alarming. You can learn more about Lucienne and her books at her website.

I also managed to get in a brief discussion of the work Nicola Griffith has done recently on women and literary awards.

And you can listen to the first hour of the show here.

Hour two begins with a little discussion of the Caitlyn Jenner story and then dives into the interview with Sarah Savage. Before the ads, Sarah talks about her time on My Transsexual Summer. After the break we move on to discuss Trans Pride and her new book, Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl? I really like the fact that Sarah & Fox have chosen to avoid writing about a trans kid and have instead tackled the issue of gender stereotyping of children. if we can stop people obsessing about gender stereotypes the lives of trans people will become immeasurably easier.

Details of tomorrow night’s event in London with Paris Lees, Peter Tatchell and Owen Jones (amongst others) can be found here.

The final segment was with Kalpna Woolf of 91 Ways, a wonderful project that uses food to promote links between Bristol’s many diverse cultures. I’m always happy to discuss food, especially when that involves looking at cuisines all around the world. I expect to be donating a food memory to the 91 Ways website at some point. It may well be something else from Melbourne.

The Mexican restaurant I talk about is Fuego.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

The music on today’s show was as follows:

  • The Story of Beauty – Destiny’s Child
  • Me and Mrs. Jones – Billy Paul
  • Kung Fu Fighting – Carl Douglas
  • The Boxer – Simon & Garfunkel
  • True Trans Soul Rebel – Against Me
  • Get Up, Stand Up – Bob Marley & The Wailers
  • Food for Thought – UB40
  • Living for the City – Stevie Wonder

I know that Against Me isn’t the sort of music that we normally play on Ujima, and to be honest (sorry Laura), they are not really my cup of tea. However, True Trans Soul Rebel is a brilliant pop song. Were it not for the fact that I am completely useless with guitar and cannot sing to save my life, I would love to perform that song. I have been humming it to myself all day.

Oh, and if you listen along you’ll hear mention of something called 50 Voices. I’m appearing in it. So is Kalpna. I’ll have more to say about that in due course.