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There was a story I wanted to tell. It was about a drug-addicted stripper in post-apocalyptic Edmonton and the dealer who wanted to save her and through her himself (or at least assuage his guilt). It’s not really a long story, or a complicated story but it took me a very long time and a lot of thought to figure out how to tell it.
I tried telling it from her point of view. I tried telling it from his point of view. I tried using an omniscient narrator. I tried 2nd person point of view (oh yes I did!). I tried starting before the apocalypse. I tried starting at the end and working backward…
You get the idea.
No matter what I did it was a struggle. And the biggest reason it was a struggle was because I was pretty sure at least part of this story needed to be told from the woman’s point of view but she didn’t really have any agency.
Agency, in case you’re unfamiliar is… well, I’ll steal this description which came from Patricia C. Wrede — “The best short definition I found was “Agency is an actor’s ability to make purposeful choices.” (“Actor” in this sense being “a person who takes action,” not “Robert Downey, Jr.”)” (Source: http://www.pcwrede.com/agency-in-fiction/).
Normally when I discover that one of my characters lacks agency I rewrite them to give them some… but (because reasons!) that’s not what I did in this case. Instead I made the story about her lack of agency in a ‘This character has no real agency… but can she find some by the end of the story?’ kind of way. And it worked! Or, at least it worked enough for me to get the story written.
And it worked for the judges of the In Places Between short story contest at When Words Collide last year, because they chose it as the winner.
If you’d like to see if it works for you, you can download a free copy here:
I thought I had lots of time to get around to making an award eligibility blog post… and then World Weaver Press tweeted yesterday to remind people about all the things they’d published that were eligible and I started flailing like, “OMG nominations are open!!”
So here is my rather brief and very belated list of works I did last year which would be eligible for award nomination this year:
Short Story “Starry Night”, In Places Between short story contest, IFWA, August 2017
Non-fiction Haunted Hospitals (co-written with Mark Leslie), Dundurn Press, August, 2017
Anthologies D is for Dinosaur, Poise and Pen Publishing, February 21, 2017 Equus, World Weaver Press, July 18, 2017 Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say, World Weaver Press, November 28, 2017
I am also eligible for short form editor for my work in the aforementioned anthologies, and for long form editor for my work on Dream Eater by K. Bird Lincoln.
If you are nominating for any major awards (and I count the Auroras among those) and would like to read any of my eligible works, just get in touch and we’ll make it happen.
I’m not going to even attempt to give a blow-by-blow accounting of When Words Collide because I couldn’t possibly. Not only would this post be impossibly long but my over-stressed memory is so bad these days that I would absolutely forget something or somebody and that would make me sad.
In fact, even while I was at the con if people asked how my weekend was going I would usually say “Ask me on Tuesday”. This weekend was fantastic, but simultaneously a bit overwhelming (which, really, is kind of my theme for 2017).
Well, it’s Tuesday so let me just say, my weekend was fantastic 🙂
First of all there was this:
This year has been hard. I severely over-scheduled myself and the stress of that, coupled with dealing with some non-work things and a slight depression has taken quite a toll on me. I’m not going to go into details about that (that’s a topic for a different blog post) but, yeah, it’s been difficult. So when Barbara gave me a copy of this photograph which she’s entitled “Believe” along with some incredibly encouraging and supportive words I cried. It means more to me than I can put in words to have someone say, “I see what you’re doing. Great job. Keep it up. And also, are you okay?”
I’ll be framing this photo and hanging it over my desk.
Thank you Barbara.
And a special thank you also to Ellen who provided similar but different validation to my work and additional incentive to keep on keepin’ on. With your incredible energy, enthusiasm and propensity for thinking out of the box I can’t wait to see what you create in the years to come.
Ever since I launched Fae at my very first WWC it’s been a sort of tradition for me to launch each new installment of the Magical Menageries there. Equus was no different.
I mean, it was different, but we launched it there just the same 😉
This is what our panel looked like. Well, to be honest Megan looked a wee bit different in person than she does in that photograph. I can’t imagine why…*
We have, from left to right, Hal J. Friesen, Susan MacGregor, C.S. MacCath, M.L.D Curelas , Sandra Wickham, V.F. LeSann (Leslie Van Zwol and Megan Fennell, Pat Flewwelling, Chadwick Ginther and Cat McDonald.
In addition to Equus contributors there are two D is for Dinosaur authors included in that rowdy bunch.
The reading was awesome and included flying cellphones, yeehaws, accents galore, laughs and tears. I am so lucky that I get to work with such amazing people.
And then this happened:
At The In Places Between judging where they critique the finalists. I am a finalist. O_o #wwc2017
I’ve never won a short story contest before, I was pretty stunned and kind of floated through the rest of the day in a weird state of shock.
In Places Between is a short story contest organized by the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association that is dedicated to the memory of Robyn Herrington. In fact, the dedication on the associated anthology which contains all the stories that were finalists in the contest says:
Dedicated to the memory of
Robyn Meta Herrington (1961 – 2004)
Who believed so passionately in paying it forward,
She still is.
I never met Robyn but after winning the contest dedicated to her memory I spent some time with Barb Galler-Smith learning about her. She sounds amazing and I can only hope people speak so highly of me once I’m gone as they do of her. Thank you, Barb, for sharing some of your memories with me.
Before the con was done I had one more panel. This one was with Mark Leslie where we talked about collaborative publishing and how Haunted Hospitals came to be. The panel turned into an interesting discussion between Mark, myself and the audience and was a lovely way to end the programming.
The next day was time to come home, and on the drive back to Edmonton with S.G. Wong she helped me unknot a really annoying characterization problem for a novel that’s been collecting dust on my desk for years. Now, I’m really excited to re-write the thing over the three day novel weekend (I’m not officially registered), which is a much better state of mind than the ‘What am I going to write? What am I going to write?’ one I had been in before that. So yay!
Overall it was an awesome weekend, made so by many, many people (most of which aren’t listed here by name because if I did this blog post would be far too long). If you organised, volunteered or attended When Words Collide thank you for helping make it an amazing weekend.
See you next year!
*Just guessing here but it might be because she’s a brat…