June 11th, 2021
|04:52 pm - Anonymous commenting turned off|
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April 16th, 2016
|05:50 pm - Free to good home!|
Please let me know if you would like any of the following books!
If you are willing to meet me in Brooklyn or Manhattan, they are free. Otherwise it's whatever it costs me for a flat-rate Priority Mail mailer. (I'll ship internationally for $1 plus shipping, because it's a bit of a hassle.)
Erin Bow - Plain Kate - hardcover
Patrice Kindl - Owl in Love - trade pb
Kij Johnson - Fudoki (has a 1/2" tear on dust jacket) - hardcover
I will be posting this in multiple places and getting rid of unclaimed books fairly quickly, so, MUST ACT SOON, THESE PRICES WON'T LAST, etc.
(This list used to be longer. I had some local friends speak up for some just now. Will be posting more books as I go on, though.)
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April 12th, 2016
I read far too much YA, but most of it's good YA; and when I read science fiction or fantasy or mainstream fiction, it's usually something that's been hyped so much that it's something I can find interesting or admirable even if it's not my thing.
And YA, even when it's not great, at least tends to have the virtue of concision.
(We shall overlook Cassandra Clare for the moment.)
Anyway, I started reading a popular genre romance with a view to outlining it and seeing how to construct a popular genre romance.
And I start yelling as I read: "This scene is nothing but backstory!"
"This scene is entirely limp, it's not story, it's just this happened and then this happened and then this happened!"
"This scene can be totally deleted, it's nothing but transportation and logistics!"
Sometimes I worry about how short my books are, and I would like to write books that are more intricately plotted; but some long books don't have more plot, they just have more padding.
I do realize that probably one of this author's great virtues, to her fans, is all the pleasant and inconsequential moments, this small town she's constructed where everybody's pretty nice to everybody else, and too concerned with each other's love lives; I'm just thinking "I guess I'd be pretty bad at writing romance."
There's also the thing where they've only just met and both characters are thinking, "This person sure is distractingly hot!" I realize that I'm at the far end of the bell curve on this one, but I almost never think a person is distractingly hot unless I've known them for at least a year or so. For all that people make fun of bad YA romances -- and for all that I easily get burned out on bad YA romances -- most of them really do make an effort to show the two love interests as people who get each other, who suit each other, who like each other. I'm not trying to say that one way is better than the other; but YA romances are less likely to make me feel like a weirdo.
(Rest assured that I am NOT making sweeping judgments about romances based just on one blah example! I've read a few romances that I liked. However, they were either funny or historical, which may not be examples I can emulate.)
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April 11th, 2016
Masterpieces are good for the past. They are not good for us. We have the right to say what has been said and even what has not been said in a way that belongs to us, a way that is immediate and direct, corresponding to present modes of feeling, and understandable to everyone. - Antonin Artaud
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April 5th, 2016
One of the reasons Stephen Krashen criticizes learning foreign language grammar in discrete units -- this week we're learning the past tense, next week we're learning the imperfect -- is this idea that one set time frame is enough to teach you that bit of grammar that you're supposed to know. So if you don't understand it the first time around, you don't get another crack at it. If you get sick and miss a couple of classes, too bad!
In Japanese there's something called keigo, which includes all the special verb forms and conjugations that you use to make a phrase more humble or more respectful, which is used for speaking to clients, customers, your boss, your professor -- it depends on context, but essentially, anyone for whom regular standard politeness isn't quite polite enough. I was thinking just now about how bad my keigo skills are. And I realized just why that is.
The last time I was in a class that did any keigo was maybe 1999 or 2000. Japanese III or IV in high school. After that, I did Japanese III and IV in college - and weirdly, we didn't do any keigo in either one, maybe they do that in Japanese II? And I did a year abroad (during which we did no keigo -- it was something you were already supposed to know.) And I think that if you're seriously studying a foreign language the majority of your learning probably happens out of class time, but keigo's not the kind of thing that you get much exposure to by watching TV or reading books. Even if you're a native speaker, it's something you have to put deliberate time and effort into studying, which is why older people are continually lamenting the keigo of the young.
I was reading up on a foreign language approach called the Growing Participator Approach which focuses on acculturating learners into a speech community - where the syntax and vocabulary of a new language are only a small part of the whole package of cultural learning and identity negotiation that happen as you become part of a new community. And it seems to me that my keigo problem is the kind of thing that an approach like the GPA would tackle particularly well. In a traditional classroom setting, you can write business letters, you can roleplay being salespeople trying to sell each other widgets, or the kind of keigo that's used in shops and restaurants -- but I suspect that what really would have made a difference for me is what GPA refers to as 'language helpers/nurturers' (GPA doesn't use 'student/teacher' terminology for reasons that I find both pedagogically sound and charming) guiding me in sociocultural norms in real-life situations where keigo was called for, whether in talking to a professor or writing an email or that first time I went to McDonalds and the cashier said "Are you eating?" using the formal verb, and I was thinking, "Well, that's normally what you do with food..." (It turned out that 'omeshiagari desu ka?' means 'Is it for here?,' as opposed to takeout.)
Japanese people tend to be really reluctant to correct your politeness, though. It's hard to do without the implication of "You're being rude."
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March 31st, 2016
|02:49 pm - Being surprised when the things you love don't love you back|
When I did my one and only gender-related university class, which was about feminism and media in Japan, it actually annoyed the heck out of me. Couldn't I enjoy anything without it being problematic? Were there no things that were Feminist Enough unless they were independent zero-budget productions?
Of course, now that I'm no longer twenty, I have an easier time finding nuance in the world; it's not just learning that It's OK To Be A Fan of Problematic Things, it's kind of making peace with the fact the majority of corporate mainstream media just isn't going to be very socially conscious, or very artistically interesting.
And that doesn't mean that we shouldn't call out the issues that exist! Or that we don't have the right to be disappointed when we have to choose between sitting through the silly tedium of Thor 2 and not going out with our friends at all.
But at the same time, there's so much else out there. "If you don't like what's out there, make your own" is good advice for people who want to make their own, but nobody should have to accept this narrative of being grateful for whatever small bones big corporate entities are willing to throw to you, when there are so many people trying to make good art outside of the constraints of what's commercially viable on a gigantic scale.
The flip side of this, of course, is that it's easy to be fannish about the kind of stuff that's commercially viable on a gigantic scale -- it means that you have readers if you write fanfiction, and viewers if you make vids, and people to squee with if you like to squee -- and writing fanfiction and making vids absolutely can also be ways of making good art outside of the constraints of what's commercially viable on a gigantic scale.
But I am so tired of feeling like my only options are to be excited about the next big blockbuster, or to be cynical about the next big blockbuster.
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March 28th, 2016
TFW it takes about twenty minutes from a discussion to go from "Why do women think there is sexism in publishing????" to "Maybe women just aren't as good at writing books as men, did you ever consider that, huh?"
ANYWAY I am sending off my book to my agent and my editor today \o/
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March 27th, 2016
In calm theological reasoning, he could demonstrate, in the dryest tone, that, if the eternal torment of six bodies and souls were absolutely the necessary means for preserving the eternal blessedness of thirty-six, benevolence would require us to rejoice in it, not in itself considered, but in view of greater good. And when he spoke, not a nerve quivered; the great mysterious sorrow with which the creation groaneth and travaileth, the sorrow from which angels veil their faces, never had touched one vibrating chord either of body or soul; and he laid down the obligations of man to unconditional submission in a style which would have affected a person of delicate sensibility much like being mentally sawn in sunder. Benevolence, when Simeon Brown spoke of it, seemed the grimmest and unloveliest of Gorgons; for his mind seemed to resemble those fountains which petrify everything that falls into them." - Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Minister's Wooing
Stowe is talking here about the Calvinism of early-19th-century New England, but I never realized how much the utilitarianism of Internet Rationalism has in common with that kind of Calvinism -- mostly, in that its believers are particularly eager to congratulate themselves on being tough-minded enough to do the math and very nobly accept the sacrifices of somebody else for the greater good.
Stowe is a much better writer than she's generally given credit for, I think; mostly I hear her talked about as if she's only important for her advocacy of abolition; but actually her style's a lot more graceful and readable than a lot of 19th century writers with better reputations, even if I'm not particularly jazzed about reading a 500-page 19th-century novel about Calvinism. (It IS pretty racist. But not more so than any other 19th century novel by a white author.)
(I have been working through this MIT OpenCourseWare syllabus on American women authors, and this is the end of it, because I already read The House of Mirth.)
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March 24th, 2016
Charlotte Temple is neither a well-written book by modern standards nor an enjoyable one by my standards. The prose is very purple ("pellucid drop of humanity" for "teardrop," for example) and it's sentimental and moralistic.
But it's kind of interesting that it purports to be a pro-listening-to-your-parents, anti-eloping-with-some-guy-you-just-met book; and yet, it seems more of an indictment of a society that trains girl to not speak their own minds, to go with the flow, to be eager to please others, and then acts surprised when girls raised under that system turn out to be rather easily seduced. Not because they are full of lust or disobedience, but because they don't know how to say "Hey, dude, nope, I'm not eloping with you."
Any kind of "feminism is actually BAD for women! psych!" contrarianism has to face the fact that even the most restrictive and confining forms of patriarchy don't actually seem able to protect women even as they claim they're the only thing that can.
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February 27th, 2016
*Reads The Price of Salt*
Ah, having read the book, now I do not need to go to see the movie.
*sees gifset of costume design*
...Yeah. I do need to go see the movie.
My sister and I were having a discussion, wherein we agreed that The Price of Salt was a much more interesting title than Carol, and why did they have to change it? But the title only makes sense within the internal narration of the book, in a line that I can't imagine made it into the movie; so I guess they had to change it. Still could've been something more interesting.
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February 15th, 2016
"I will go get a lunch and try to figure out this structural issue."
Subway to Shake Shack. Escalator is broken, climb three flights of stairs to find Shake Shack too full of people. Back on the subway. Eat lunch. Spend 45 minutes walking in the cold to find a coffee shop with seating. Buy a chai. Sit down with notebook. Figure out my plot within ten minutes.
A successful day!
(I always have an easier time unknotting plots at coffee shops than sitting at home, so this is actually a useful thing to do. And also I had barely left my bed in three days because it has been COLD AF and I felt a need to get outside as soon as it warmed up even a little).
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February 11th, 2016
Having the most frustrating experience arguing in Library Facebook Group about a job posting (part-time!) that requires you to submit a list of books you've read in the last year, to prove that you read widely.
1. The increasingly high burden of job applications. When I was first applying for librarian jobs, I basically just had to submit a cover letter and resume; now, I'm very often having to submit answers to essay questions. Preparing a list of all the books I've read in a year could take a significant amount of time. I think it's unreasonable to ask someone to put that much time into an application when there are a couple hundred other people applying for a job.
2. The EEOC says that you cannot discriminate in employment on the basis of age, disability, national origin, race, religion, or sex. Some states have laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. That's why HR people say you shouldn't even make small talk about someone's religious jewelry in a job interview -- because it raises the possibility that it might turn into an issue. But based on a list of books a person reads, it seems all too easy to draw up a profile of what kind of person they are and what protected categories might apply to them, and discriminate (even subconsciously) on that basis.
There have to be better ways to get at "Do you read a lot, do you read widely, how would you do in reader's advisory situations" than asking for my Diary Of Books Read Which Contains Many Personal Feelings.
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February 4th, 2016
|02:48 pm - Chinese progress!|
I guess I have gone a good long time without studying any more Chinese than a page of reading here and there -- so I Made a Plan, as I am always doing, to read a thousand pages in Chinese this year (they don't have to be long pages!) and watch 52 episodes of hourlong TV.
The first couple weeks of this, I was mostly just trying to get back my forgotten vocabulary, and remember all the very common hanzi that look totally different when they're traditional characters instead of simplified, but I realized even just while watching cheesy Taiwanese dramas that something clicked inside my head -- it was the difference between not being able to understand what I was hearing, even with English subtitles, even when I knew all the words, and being able to understand at least some of it, at least a little bit.
Which is tremendously encouraging when you feel like you've been at a plateau for a long time, and felt that none of the formal studying was actually translating into a better understanding of the language.
I will have to make a post soon about the New Improved Vocabulary System that I've implemented -- it's a bit high-tech (well, it's done entirely using Excel and VLOOKUP, so not THAT high-tech) and solves some of the problems I had been having of just making flash cards for every new word I encountered regardless of rarity.
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January 28th, 2016
I have a story that's now bounced back from Clarkesworld, Liminal, Uncanny, and F&SF -- which ordinarily wouldn't discourage me much, even though I think it's a really good story, you just sometimes have to send them out a lot of times -- except that F&SF has given me constructive criticism. Which I partially agree with, but I've been trying to make the story less rushed since I wrote it, and I can't figure out how to do it. Maybe I'll put it aside for a bit; maybe I'll send it to one of those magazines that has longish response times so I don't have to think about it.
But it's also the stronger part (I thought) of the writing sample I sent in for my MFA applications, so there is a LOT of second-guessing myself here.
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December 30th, 2015
|03:32 pm - Once more on poverty and education|
It's been well-documented that when it comes to test scores, the main thing holding America's students back is poverty. The corporate reformers have been attempting for decades now to boost test scores through their tough love measures of "rigor," "accountability," and "privatization," but despite their best efforts, their precious scores haven't budged. Meanwhile, schools that serve middle and high income populations continue to produce "world class" test results, while those serving lower income populations produce low ones. It has become quite obvious, if it wasn't before, that the most effective way to fix so-called "failing" schools is to fix poverty: this is not a problem with schools, but with our wider society.
But no, the neoliberal idea, the one embraced by every politician, left, right, and center, including Clinton, is that poverty can be magically fixed by fixing our broken schools according to their ideologically driven notions of "reform." You see, in this world view, poverty is the fault of those who are poor, rather than economic policies that we've enacted over the past three decades that have caused 100 percent of income growth to go to those who are already in the top 10 percent. The poor are just too uneducated to figure it out, so we'll drill and kill their kids in the hope that test score results will somehow lead to economic prosperity for all . . . Or something like that.
Teacher Tom, "What Hillary Clinton Said"
I've been enjoying this blog, by a teacher at a progressive preschool, for a couple weeks now; I've been mulling over the ineffectiveness of directive statements and trying to give more informational statements to kids at the library -- "Your voices are a bit loud for the library" rather than "Please lower your voices." Libraries are different from schools -- you're not really in a loco parentis role even with very young children, you don't really have any more authority over children than you do over adults -- but it's interesting as a way to think about things.
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December 29th, 2015
|10:51 am - Twin powers|
(1) I told my sister which book I would like for Christmas. (It was "Gold, Fame, Citrus" by Claire Watkins). By the time she got to the bookstore the only thing she remembered about it was that it was by somebody named Cassandra. She found the book anyway.
(2) Independently and unbeknownst to each other, we bought the exact same pair of pajamas at Target. I don't think I can even blame that one on Twin Powers; I blame capitalism.
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December 23rd, 2015
|06:11 pm - Self-Propagating Fakelore|
One of the many things I retained from my grad school storytelling class was an interest in fakelore, which is to say "the representation of materials written by professional authors as reproductions of the oral traditions of historical and ethnic communities";
During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, newspapers and magazines were filled with so-called "American Indian legends" (in England they were from Africa, India, and other colonies), written as part of what Pearce (1965) terms "savagism," an image making process in which the "savages" of the American west were "tamed" while preserving a facade of the exotic. These stories were set in wigwams and tipis and featured characters with Indian-sounding names (Little Firefly, Laughing Water). Mostly, they told of how extreme love, faith, self-sacrifice, or devotion led to the creation of some natural phenomenon: a star, a flower, or a place of great beauty (a waterfall, an overlook, a clear spring), a narrative formula central to Ovid's Metamorphoses, which heavily prejudiced neo-classical and Romantic expectations for mythology. No such stories were ever told by traditional Native Americans, yet this kind of tale has come to epitomize Indian storytelling, and by now these invented legends have been reprinted in guidebooks, schoolbooks, and tourist propaganda for so long, almost everyone, including many Indians, assumes they are the real thing (Pound 1959).
So when I popped in at this question, my spidey senses tingled. It's a story I'd read myself, probably in the late 1990s, a story that goes something like:
“The earth trembled and a great rift appeared, separating the first man and woman from the rest of the animal kingdom. As the chasm grew deeper and wider, all the other creatures, afraid for their lives, returned to the forest – except for the dog, who after much consideration leapt the perilous rift to stay with the humans on the other side.
His love for humanity was greater than his bond to other creatures, he explained, and he willingly forfeited his place in paradise to prove it…”
What's interesting is that in the oldest sources I can find for the story, the story leans on the Biblical creation story:
A legend tells us that after the creation a gulf gradually opened between Adam and the beasts he had named.
But by the 1990s, the "legend" resurfaces as a "Native American folktale": The earth trembled and a great rift appeared, separating the first man and woman from the rest of the animal kingdom.
The "idealized time of harmony with the animal kingdom" motif fits so well with a certain 1990s stereotype that it doesn't even seem necessary to find a source for this "folktale," or identify a particular tribe it's associated with. (I've seen web sources refer to it as an Ojibwa story and an Anasazi story, but can't find evidence for either; far more often it's just a "Native American legend.")
When we were preparing a story, in my storytelling class, one of the parts of the assignment was to find multiple sources for the story (if it was a traditional story). For one of my assignments I ended up doing The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd, which exists in quite different versions in China and Japan -- and there was a limit to how much I could do because my Chinese was quite terrible. (Not so terrible that I didn't try to struggle through it. But I didn't succeed). I think it really impressed on me what it means to tell a story when you know the culture that it came out of and you know the context around it -- rather than treating it as some artifact that just exists by itself. So I can't help feeling kind of angry and cynical when people just make up a cute story, or hear it third-hand, and then decide that it's the kind of thing that probably sounds like a Native American folktale... based on nothing more than a lifetime of hearing fakelore rather than folklore.
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December 22nd, 2015
I solemnly resolve, in the new year, to give my files meaningful names and put them in meaningful folders, and NOT keep uploading things like "BLANK 12" and "BLANK 13" to my Dropbox.
There -- that's specific, meaningful, action-oriented, realistic, and timely.
Maybe not realistic.
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Guess who finished her application for Iowa State's creative writing and environment program thanks to NYPL's research libraries and a not inconsiderable amount of hustle?
The same person who will not be spending her Boxing Day attempting to write an essay on "Reproductive Horror and the Grotesque in Yoko Ogawa’s 'Pregnancy Diary'." I might actually have to spend TIME with my FAMILY.
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December 21st, 2015
|11:38 am - The most terrifying paragraph I've read today|
“Five years ago I would’ve told you that technology was hurting toys because kids were watching their iPads instead. Now I think it’s helping—even preschoolers are engaging with brands,” says NPD Group’s Juli Lennett.
-From an article on the competition between Mattel and Hasbro over the Disney Princess business.
I swear if I ever going to have children I'm going to raise them in a tree in the wilderness.
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