Earlier this year I met Tom Pepperdine who runs The Real Writing Process podcast. It's a wonderful podcast that features writers talking about, well, their process. Usually authors do interviews when they're plugging their newest book and the questions mostly revolve around that particular book, how it got started, what it's about, etc. What's great about Tom's podcast is that he asks questions that get to the heart of how a writer works, what they do or don't do, and what rules they follow or just can't (like me with the "write every day" rule: not gonna happen!). He asks questions that make you really consider what it is you DO when you sit down to work on a new project, from conception to drafting to editing to even publication. I got to sit down with him over some gin and we talked for an hour about everything and anything. You can find that specific episode here, but do take a look at the table of contents and listen to other interviews, some with established authors and some with newer ones. (And this podcast is available on a number of platforms; an internet search will show you your options!).
After being invited to be on a panel last year at Comic Con in London, this Sunday I get do it again! This time I'll be talking about BookTok with authors Travis Baldree and Tasha Suri. More info here.
Every few months a new version or sequel or whatever of older IP (film, tv show, comics, whatevs) is released and certain people come out of the woodwork to raise holy hell (aka whine) about it. "They've ruined my childhood." "They've made it woke." "The writing is bad." (this last one isn't the writing, it's the fact that character X is now female or not white, etc., etc., but pointing to the writing is a way of pushing the blame somewhere else)
Fact is, if you were a kid when you first engaged with this story, you didn't necessarily fully "get it". There were likely messages or references going on that either passed right by you or you didn't fully understand, but they were there, because they were created by adults. Now that you're an adult, you see the themes or the references. It's you who has changed, not the material, not really. And new kids now will watch these same stories and also might not get all of the levels of what's going on.
Also, the creators of whatever new version or sequel grew up with these stories, too, and are putting their spin on them now. They lived with these stories and lived with those themes, same as you. Stories evolve because we grow up.
Get over it.
There isn't a writer alive (or one I know) that doesn't have a ridiculous collection of notebooks.
I have them all. To prove it, I emptied the bottom desk drawer of them and took photographic evidence. The green velvet one? From 2009 and has been written in. So far, though, the others are still empty. I don't, however, have that belief anymore that I have to wait for an idea that is "good enough" to allow me to use a pretty notebook. (That belief is related to my propensity to write in my books; they're tools, not sacred artefacts!)
But, more often than not, when I start a new writing project I crave organization over anything else, and so the majority of my writing notebooks are for taking research notes and they tend more toward the spiral bound, containing tab separators, cheap-as-possible side of things. I currently have 3 of them going. So, yes, like any writer I have a collection of unused notebooks. They'll get their turn.
On Saturday, I am joining Teika Marija Smits and Lucy A McLaren on a panel at 10.15am GMT to discuss Feminism in SFF as part of the British Fantasy Society's 50th Anniversary/Golden Jubilee event. This is one part of a full day of online events that you can join via Zoom. More info on my panel here or click here to register for £5 the day's events.
Over at the Journey Through Sci-Fi podcast, I talked to James & Matt about the TV series of The Handmaid's Tale. It's no secret that I have opinions on politics and how the state tries to control women's bodies, and so I definitely have opinions about Gilead! You can find the podcast episode here.
As of June 1, I became an ex-academic. Things weren't good and then the pandemic hit, and things really weren't good but there was no room to think about how to change or fix any of it while we were teaching online and dealing with students' mental health and all of the related elements of working in a pandemic. Then, last September, I had this moment while at a convention where the thought of doing this again--of planning a semester or a year, then teaching and doing all of the constant admin plus all of the constant new things and changes that management piles on regardless of those of us on the "front lines" yelling UNCLE!--made me want to scream. I realized that I just didn't want it anymore. Stick a fork in me, I was done.
Teaching creative writing at university is a dream job. I know other writers and former PhD students who would basically crawl over my dead body to get the gig. And you know what? They can have it. I loved it when I started, truly. I knew how lucky I was. I loved being in the classroom and working with students, either in a group or one-on-one. Working with newer writers, helping them develop, was the best part of the job. But it became the only good part of the job, overwhelmed by all of the other crap that sucked the air out of the room and left me exhausted, mentally and physically. And HE is unforgiving. What it used to be, even a couple of decades ago, and what it is now (due to becoming a business with "butts in seats" the metric of success) are so different. A fellow ex-academic said to me a few years back that the job isn't doable anymore, that in the past decade it has changed so much from what it was envisioned to be to what it actually is now that lecturers don't have the actual time to do all of the tasks, etc., they are responsible for. Workloads are overwhelming. Mine was 144%, without everything accounted for. And I was told that the math would be "tweaked" so that it didn't look so bad. That was the last straw for me after years of overloaded workloads and a shitty boss at one point who bullied me and threatened that I wouldn't have a job in a year or two if I didn't do X amount of uncredited work to keep students. That dream job became a nightmare, became just a job instead of a calling.
So I sat down last October with my partner and talked it through and came up with a plan. And this spring I gave notice. My bosses were very nice about it, but no one asked how they could keep me. And this showed me that instead of being an integral part of the school or department I was just a cog and that someone else would be slotted into my place easily enough. So I was able to walk away feeling that it's going to be okay and that I will be able to figure something else out instead of slogging through the remaining years until retirement. I know that quitting a stable, well-paying job in the middle of the worst economic mess in decades is not the best timing ever, but a job that is killing me faster than I am dying is a job I don't want.
Today is my first "real" day of unemployment. June 1st, last week, was my first official day, but I had to go do an event and then we had the big Jubilee weekend, so today, Monday, is the beginning, with me not waking up and checking my work email first thing. I have days to fill now without external expectations. I am taking a few months off to get over some of the burnout, finish a book that's due at the end of the summer, finish a novel that I've been trying to finish for a while, and work on some new writing projects (more on those later) plus do some things I have missed, like sewing. Then I will go back to freelancing for a while and, maybe, develop some new things like online courses and a mentoring programme, or train in a new (to me) but related field.
I have talents and skills; I know my worth; it is time to live a life that makes me feel fulfilled and happy and excited to get up in the morning. It's time to change.
I'm excited to say that I am hitting a bit of a milestone later this week: I've been invited to be on a panel at London ComicCon! I'll be on Friday's panel How To Scare People: Horror Authors On Turning Your Blood Cold with Verity Holloway, RA Williams, and Kim Newman. Afterward I get to sit at the Forbidden Planet booth and sign my book, so if you see this and are interested in saying hi, do stop by!
So here's a thing that happened:
I have made the shortlist for the British Fantasy Society Best Newcomer for Threading the Labyrinth
the short list for Best Fantasy Novel for Threading the Labyrinth!
So my weird haunted garden book, the one that I couldn't get an agent for (one agent told me NOT to publish it, that it wasn't the right thing for my debut, while another who I met in person in a meeting about the book asked for a full and then ghosted me), the one that was just too not-clearly one genre or another for people, has made it to 3 shortlists overall. And my wonderful house, Unsung Stories, has made the shortlist for Best Indie Press.
This just proves that you never know what'll happen. Oh, and that 'newcomer' doesn't mean you MUST publish before you're 25 or 30 or, hell, even 45! So keep on writing!
The ink is dry so I can share that Val Nolan, my good friend and fellow Creative Writing lecturer, and I are writing a book together! We have signed with award-winning Luna Press to write a book about writing SFF sub-genres, addressed to students and newer writers, working title Spec Fic for Newbies. We're tackling a variety of sub-genres in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, with a quick & dirty history for each, a description of why it's fun to write, things to watch out for/consider, and an activity or two to get you started. Plus a couple of quick 'conversations' about those genres that intersect even more, such as Weird Fiction and Science Fantasy. Publication date is set for Easter 2023. More info here: https://www.lunapresspublishing.com/post/tiffani-angus-val-nolan-welcome-to-the-luna-family
Mostly thoughts on writing and the creative life.