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For Virginia in Autumn

 

For Virginia in Autumn

for Virginia Mohlere, authoress
by C. S. E. Cooney

not
to be crushed under-
foot, nor to fall
gently
like a bird at worm
but to walk
empurpled
as an empress
dispensing autumn
to the populace

she is the untucked
leaf
of a tallow tree
pretending to be
human
wearing her Orion bracelet
pink hair piled
high, a ragged flag
flying
in the face of winter
showing her reds, her reds
her gold

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Three Feminist Books I’ve Narrated: GILDED SUFFRAGISTS; THE EXTRA WOMAN; GEEK FEMINIST REVOLUTION

GILDED SUFFRAGISTS: The New York Socialites who Fought for Women’s Right to Vote

SYNOPSIS (from Tantor)

“In the early twentieth century over two hundred of New York’s most glamorous socialites joined the suffrage movement. Their names—Astor, Belmont, Rockefeller, Tiffany, Vanderbilt, Whitney, and the like—carried enormous public value. These women were the media darlings of their day because of the extravagance of their costume balls and the opulence of the French couture clothes, and they leveraged their social celebrity for political power, turning women’s right to vote into a fashionable cause.

Although they were dismissed by critics as bored socialites “trying on suffrage as they might the latest couture designs from Paris,” these gilded suffragists were at the epicenter of the great reforms known collectively as the Progressive Era. From championing education for women, to pursuing careers, and advocating for the end of marriage, these women were engaged with the swirl of change that swept through the streets of New York City.

Johanna Neuman restores these women to their rightful place in the story of women’s suffrage. Understanding the need for popular approval for any social change, these socialites used their wealth, power, social connections and style to excite mainstream interest and to diffuse resistance to the cause.”

WHY I LOVED NARRATING IT

So many reasons! It was beautifully and entertainingly written, for one. Deeply researched. It also seemed to make century-old gossip seem as fresh as the latest scandal-tweet.

It had just enough gilding to make it glitter, and indulged enthusiastically in sartorial and architectural descriptions–but it also (and this was the most shocking yet somehow hideously unsurprising part), took a keen and measured look at erasure in history: how white women have erased black women from the feminist movement over and over again; and how a new generation of the women’s movement will ruthlessly work to obliterate evidence of the old, as if liberation were their–and only their–story to tell.

Though the concentration of this book was focused on the nineteen-teens, it stretched tendrils into the 1890’s, and tentacles into the 1920’s, giving us a hint of whence came this major shift in women’s–and human rights’–history, and where, inevitably, it was going.

THE EXTRA WOMAN: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of Women to Live Alone and Like It

SYNOPSIS (from Tantor)

“Marjorie Hillis was working at Vogue when she published the radical self-help book Live Alone and Like It: A Guide for the Extra Woman. With Dorothy Parker–esque wit, she urged spinsters, divorcees, and old maids to shed derogatory labels, and her philosophy became a phenomenon. From the importance of a peignoir to the joy of breakfast in bed (alone), Hillis’s tips made single life desirable and chic.

Now, historian and critic Joanna Scutts reclaims Hillis as the queen of the “Live-Aloners” and explores the turbulent decades that followed, when the status of these “brazen ladies” peaked and then collapsed. The Extra Woman follows Hillis and others like her who forged their independent paths before the 1950s saw them trapped behind picket fences yet again.”

WHY I LOVED NARRATING IT:

Well, for one, I had that song, “Live Alone and Like It,” from Dick Tracy by Stephen Sondheim stuck in my head all week. Here’s Dr. Who’s own Captain Jack (AKA John Barrowman) singing it at a review in 2008, though I’m more familiar with Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall version, from 1992, found here.

Anyway, that was very cheerful. And also–this book, chronologically, follows so closely on the heels of Gilded Suffragists that I about near fell over. It’s like I knew all these things happened in history, but I didn’t understand the order, or how one thing fed into the next, and how the cumulative view brings us to where we are today. This book covers the 1920’s-1960’s, from the flappers, the the Crash, to the Great Depression, to WWII, and then the strange, strange 1950’s, through Kinsey and the 60’s!

And through it all, this woman, Hillis, keeps insisting that women are people, that it was okay to live alone–could even be joyful and glamorous. That it was okay to be single, or divorced, or widowed. That it was okay to be old. That it was your business. That your home was your space to claim.  Not to bother “keeping up with the Joneses” but to pay attention to no one else’s numbers but your own. And to budget the luxuries.

I loved it.

INTERESTING FACTS: 

The author Joanna Scutts is curating a special exhibit at the New York Historical Society called “Hotbed.”

…WHICH I PUT IN THE CALENDAR AND I’LL BE GOING TO! It’s on from the first week of November 2017 to March of 2018.

From the website:

Hotbed explores the vibrant political and artistic scene of Greenwich Village in the early 20th century, where men and women joined forces across the boundaries of class and race to fight for a better world. At the heart of the downtown radicals’ crusade lay women’s rights: to control their own bodies, to do meaningful work, and above all, to vote. Immersive installations and more than 100 artifacts and images—drawn from New-York Historical’s archives and several private collections—bring to life the bohemian scene and its energetic activist spirit. The exhibition is curated by Joanna Scutts, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Women’s History, and Sarah Gordon, Senior Postdoctoral Marie Zimmermann Legacy Fellow in Women’s History, under the direction of Valerie Paley, vice president, chief historian, and director of the Center for Women’s History at the New-York Historical Society, and is on view in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery.”

GEEK FEMINIST REVOLUTION: Essays on Subversion, Tactical Profanity, and the Power of the Media

SYNOPSIS (from HighBridge Audio)

“As geek culture goes mainstream—from Game of Thrones to the Avengers—it’s never been more important to look at the role women play in it, and the future they’re helping to create. Kameron Hurley’s smart, funny, and profane voice guides readers through the world of fandom and the coming revolution in pop culture.

Kameron Hurley—one of the most influential young voices in science fiction and geek culture—presents The Geek Feminist Revolution: Essays on Subversion, Tactical Profanity, And the Power of MediaThe Geek Feminist Revolution is Bad Feminist for the Comic-Con crowd. This powerful collection of essays is about overcoming misogyny in geek culture, the persistence required to succeed as a woman writing science fiction, and imagining a better world and a better future through the stories we write.”

WHY I LOVED NARRATING IT:

This was the first of these three books I narrated, and the first piece of feminist non-fiction I ever had the pleasure to put my mouth to. Egad, it set such FIRES in me. I was buzzing for days. It made me feel very fierce, and very informed–particularly since SF/F is the genre I write in, and I kept bumping into names of peers in my field.

But when taken together with these other two books, and thinking about where women are, and where we came from, and what it means to be a woman right now, working, struggling, trying to rise above apathy, and move toward justice, it just . . . it makes me want to read it all over again–this time for pleasure. And buy copies for friends.

It is a very specific set of essays, focused on a particular time (now) and place (the internet, mostly) and community (geeks everywhere!), but some of that specificity has wide repercussions. Gamer Gate, for example, and trolling, and cyber-bullying, and identity, and survival. I recalled it strongly as I narrated the two more recent releases above, and felt the honor of having narrated it all over again.

(Link to comprehensive audiobook discography here.)

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Casa Hernandooney

Carlos, Mir, and I put up all our new bookshelves over the past few days. Because, hey! I MOVED TO QUEENS!

Boy, those two were like SHELF SURGEONS, and I was like their DEVOTED NURSE.

“Scalpel!”
“Yes, Doctor.”
“Allen wrench!”
“Right here, Doctor.”
“Hammer!”
“On it, Doctor!”
“Thingy. Where’s that thingy…”
“THIS thingy?”
“EXACTLY THAT THINGY!”

I read the instructions out loud and separated out all the little pieces and handed them things at the right time. They did all the work. Often faster than I could read out the simple instruction.

HA! This is how I like to BUILD!

The house is the most INTERESTING shipwreck, but all the bones are in place to build a PALACE.

The wall of boxes is reduced by 2/3s. The furniture is shifted. A few more rooms to unpack, and art to remix and decide on. The conversation is fluid.

But today? Today we’re taking off, to be quiet and rested. Well, I AM ANYWAY. Hernandez and Mikiel are all like, “I’m gonna write novels!” and “I’m gonna devise theatre pieces!”

(This is Mir’s stage directing reel…)

My favorite thing Mir said today, so casually? “It’s always interesting to work with geniuses.”

HA! BECAUSE THAT’S HER LIFE NOW, THE HOT SHOT!

She has this TALENT, you see.

You don’t get into the graduate program for Directing at Columbia University unless you GOT IT. And she’s got IT tattooed in blue across her eyeballs! Of course, you can’t see it, because her eyes are blue.

So, here I am on Facebook. But all around me, ART is being done. Because I live amongst GENIUSES.

So, you know. THAT’S OKAY.

And now, I shall go back to watching Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall.

That’s how I started my morning. This one’s killing me:

Also, on top of EVERYTHING???

Today is Will Alexander‘s BOOK RELEASE DAY for A Properly Unhaunted Place! O HAPPY DAY, WILL!

Last Saturday, the three of us went to see him on a panel at Books of Wonder, along with Tui Sutherland, and Sarah Darer Littman. That was so great!

My favorite thing Will said that day was, “Read widely and wildly.”

(Well, that’s what I REMEMBER, anyway. I didn’t have a notebook, and so couldn’t write down all the cool things everyone said. I only remembered THAT one because of the pleasing alliteration!)

But then, just now, on Facebook, he said–about reading aloud–“A book does need to breathe.”

And I can’t WAIT to “breathe” his new book aloud with Carlos on the couch! We’re going to take turns reading chapters to each other. Because… HAUNTED RENAISSANCE FESTIVALS FTW!!!

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Wednesday 12:26 AM

carlos, you’re sleeping; I’m sneaking

out to write this

on naked tiptoe, bump your leg

as I glissade from my side of the futon

touch your ankle in

beatitude

 

maybe you, mostly dreaming

think I’m in the bathroom, one of those

night calls, natural

no

it’s just there was this poem, fueled

by the last dregs of ice tea and

Excedrin

 

today we

walked the borderlands of lead-dusted

soccer fields, empty picnic tables, while

diamond-cut through chainlink, we beheld

unrealized innovation–

that old abandoned grain-mill in her

havisham wedding shroud, black

mold lace and graffiti greasepaint

 

there,

just up Columbus Street

the flags of IKEA

brave a breastmilk wind

 

today we argued about, what?

about benches, about nothing

some little thing that’s nothing

my throat yipped like a hawk scraping her

chalky beak on the ritual blackboard

of atonement:

 

I shall not speak harshly to those I love

I shall not speak harshly to those I love

I shall not, I shall not . . . 

 

it’s midnight, and I have this poem to write

 

your hair?

when it’s long, is a love-letter and

a gallop of cherubs, a hug hello, a detonated poodle

your hair is every ring I want to wear

yet come the shearing season

my name is murder

 

the shape of your skull is

frozen yogurt sweetness on the sweaty thighs

of August

your eyes sleepy, glitter on your lashes

(see what comes of kissing me?)

you shift your ukulele to your right shoulder

to better take my hand

 

ah, you’re lovely, you’re lovely,

and i

‘m

out of the habit

of poetry

 

 

ETA:
Later that morning, he wrote on my Facebook page:

My love, I have awoken.
You’re sleeping here beside me.
You rose last night to write me
Poetry.

I shudder without moving.
I laugh without a sound.
I wouldn’t want to accidentally wake you
Now

For your sleep was interrupted
Last night for love of me.
I slept through my becoming
Poetry.

But now I am awake, love,
To enjoy the evidence
Of your midnight’s burst of passion-possessed
Dalliance

With me, for me to find today,
Asynchronous of you.
Sleep now. I’ll wake you with kisses at
8:22.

Carlos Hernandez

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Art for Art 3

To continue our “Art inspired by Art” posts about Betsie Withey’s fiber art (read Parts 1 and 2!), here is a letter J9 wrote to her younger sister . . .

Or did she? Sounds more like Gentry mischief to me–letters winging on leaves and wind from one Faerie court to another. Seelie or Unseelie–who can say?

Well, perhaps the author, 9, can say.

(Her writing can also be found at Nin Nyx Natterings.)

Dearest Q,

I love that these flowers allow us to think to each other! That unaligned milliner… wait, no, that’s not the right word… that’s just for hats. Seamstress? Artist? I don’t know. Whatever she is, the magic that B puts into her creations is amazing! Don’t let anyone in either court know that I thought this, but she is better than any of the royalty in both the Seelie and the Unseelie courts rolled together! 

It has been so long, dear sister. How are your hoards of shining children? And your performances… are you still doing them nightly before the court? Do they still love you? Are you still their darling? 

My cluster of cats are doing well. Many of the Unseelie will rent them to ride into the human world for a day. It has turned into quite a lucrative business! I purchased three more of B’s magical flowers so I could stay in constant communication with my precious pussycats. (I only ever rent out three of my traveling cats at a time so I can easily get to them if something is going wrong.) They works wonderfully! In fact, that is how I tested the things to begin with and I’m considering getting more.

Oh dear! I just got contacted by Nemesis, my small back kitty. It looks like I have to go, dear sister. 

Love always,

9

Then, Arts and Culture Writer Nancy Burns-Fusaro of The Westerly Sun, did a great write-up of The Artists’ Cooperative Gallery of Westerly’s new show, and its featured artists–including our Betsie! Read “Stolen Moments” here at The Sun!

Best of all, last Friday, Betsie’s “Perelandra” won BEST IN SHOW: Viewer’s Choice!

CONGRATULATIONS, BETSIE!!!

What follows are a few other pictures and quotes of long-time Betsie admirers!

 

“If you’ve ever admired a flower in my hair, you’ve admired Betsie Withey’s art. She’s a genius.” – Amal El-Mohtar (Author, Editor, Poet, and Winner of the Locus and Nebula Awards)

 

Julia Rios (writer, editor, podcaster, narrator) on her wedding day, with Betsie flower.

 

Shveta Thakrar: writer, social justice activist, part-time nagini. Photo credit and flower-maker, Betsie Withey

 

Caitlyn Paxson, writer and storyteller. Costume and photo by Betsie Withey.

A Fairy’s Wish

by Jessica Bigi

Docile is the wind and
crunching of tinny hooves
and flapping of wings as
they spin the spiders silk
into golden threads and
even the fox at play knows
these aren’t just ordinary
woods as the queen drinks
her tea with sweetened
honey the oak ‘ ash ‘ and
willows know there part as
the flapping of wings chime
and million of harps kitting
silks of plumbs and red
threads into cloaks
of leaves for the royal
masquerade not the spider
sad I could sow this fine
docile is the wind and
the crunching of tinny hooves
and flapping of wings as
they spin spiders silk into
golden threads and even
the fox at play knows these
aren’t just ordinary woods
for a fairy’s wish is a
tapestry of leaves

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Art Inspired By Art 2: Artists Around the Internet Inspired by Betsie Withey, Textile Artist

Continuing yesterday’s post with more Art inspired by Betsie Withey’s Art . . .

Witch’s Gift
By Livia Langley

“This,”
She whispered
As her fingers caressed
My hair, tied
Her velvet-soft soul into it,
“Is the whole of me.
Do with it
Whatever you wish.”
My witch’s smile was
Overflowing with love,
And as honey and moonlight
Dripped from it,
Nectarine-tasting tears
Slipped from mine as I
Pressed my velvet-soft lips to hers.
What would I have done
If she had not accepted them?
Much as my heart wanted to leap
Out of my ribs, my tender flesh,
And into her throat,
I could not give her my heart, my soul in the same way
Without tearing, crushing, burning, and breaking hers
In the process.
But,
It never came to that.
It never will come to that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ONE PURPLE PETAL

By Fran Wilde
Author of Updraft, Cloudbound, and Horizon

In my dream I have a gown
of thistles and moss lit by fireflies.
The hem swooshes a wooded path
as bats swoop the gloaming.

My shoes are felt and berry-bound
they mar no ground, they break no quiet.

And in my hair, flowers ring the seasons’ changes as I circle the earth once, thrice, fifty times, more. In my dream, my gown wears thin

and I patch it with spider’s webs
and morning mist.

In my dream I keep walking, my felt shoes spare,
my feet hardening to earth.
But the fireflies linger and dance
and the flowers go to seed
and when I reach the place where I meant to go?
My gown trails winter with it, and the mist swirls
And one purple petal falls to the snow.

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Betsie Withey Brings the Mystery to Westerly: Perelandra and the Living Hat Exhibit

Dear World,

In honor of Betsie Withey’s debut as one of three Featured Artists at the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery of Westerly in July, I asked some of her friends and fans to send pieces inspired by her art, or even just their favorite pictures of themselves wearing her art!

I’ve also, as you will see below, KIPPED DIRECTLY from Betsie’s FACEBOOK ART PAGE ITSELF! With her permission, of course.

Betsie, at ACGOW. “Putting it together” as the song goes.

This friends & fans project–last minute as it’s been–has gone, as you can well imagine, ABSOLUTELY SPLENDIDLY

Of course, much has depended on who was home JUST NOW and at leisure to write me poetry and flash fiction all in a rush, and send me their favorite Betsie flower pictures–etc–but I’ve been very excited about the response so far.

Hopefully, I can keep adding to this blog as they keep coming in!

 

There’s Betsie again, and our other roommate Jessica Wick–poet, authoress, editor, Goblin Queen.

The show opens the first Friday of July! July 7th! 5-8 PM! Other featured artists include photographer Deborah Napalitano and watercolorist Lizbeth McGee!

Perelandra, my large textile art dress is back on display! With a skirt of now 900 free motion embroidered leaves, it is an ever-continuing labor of love.” – Betsie Withey


About the Artist:

Betsie Withey creates fiber art, knitwear, and large scale textile art/sculptural dresses and hats.  With degrees in both Fashion Design and Fine Arts, Betsie creates magical clothes and accessories.   Her inspiration comes from nature, including all manner of leaves, flowers, roots, and other organic shapes, as well as from folklore, fashion and costume history.

“Here is a design I made specifically for the show: a new philodendron leaf scarf made of all the deep, jewel-toned jungle green silks I could find!”

 

“An abundance of colorful, patterned, textured leaves.”

***

AND NOW,
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN AND NB FRIENDS,
ART INSPIRED BY ART!

***

Fire in the Fiber
By Carlos Hernandez
Author of The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria

Pinch the air, and pull.
The spasming thread between
your thumb and finger is made
of the quiet everyday lightning
alive in every green in the world.
It jumps like a cat by the tail, the thread.
With a flick you toss it into your
open palm, and there, sizzling
with the life you borrowed from life
it settles into the shape of your imaginings:
a leaf-seeming, a flower-not-quite,
fungus-felt bright with its alien reasoning.
None live themselves, for only gods of death
bother with breath. Instead, you make the living
pause, and blink, and remember that
this world that will kill them is beautiful.

 

“Sewing embroidered leaves on to scarves. I always love making things in bright colors, but I feel like making something brown and green next. Something with a color palette straight out of an enchanted forest.” – Betsie Withey

***

OFFERINGS FOR A FAERIE PRINCESS
by Christa Carmen
AKA “Queen of Horrors: Rhode Island”

Inspired by Betsie Withey’s Venus Flytrap Headband/Clip/Embroidered Silk Fascinator

The girl slipped from the shadows like a wraith, squinting in the sunlight and shrinking back from the first of the revelers to come close enough to bump her, wondering why she’d made the journey into town in the first place.

She affixed a somewhat-smile to her face and stepped forward, if not to mingle with the crowd than at least to blend in with it. The first person to approach her, and comment on the unique Venus flytrap piece she wore pinned in her hair was a young girl, not much more than eight years old.

“What a cool headband? Did you get it here at the festival?”

She shook her head, trying not to scowl. “I did not.”

“Where’d you get it?”

“A faerie princess gave it to me.”

“A real princess?”

“No, not a princess. A faerie princess.”

She tried to put some distance between herself and the child, but when she turned to admire some succulents, growing from the spaces between tall wooden slats, there was the child again, stubborn, persistent, inquisitive.

“Could you take me to the faerie princess so that I could get an alien flower for my hair too?”

She sighed. “I cannot. Where is your mother? Shouldn’t she be minding you, keeping you from talking to strangers?”

The little girl looked around. “I think she’s talking to old Mrs. Pennywise. Besides, I’m eight now. I’m allowed to mingle with strangers in the park.”

She was about to comment that she did not imagine this was how childhood worked, when she was granted a view straight across the park, where a tall woman who resembled the child spoke animatedly to a bonneted old lady.

“Come with me,” she said.

“Where are we going?”

“I’m taking you to see the faerie princess as you desire.”

The little girl hooted with delight, and followed close behind, until they reached the spot where the sidewalk led again into shadow.

“Look down there,” she told the little girl, and pointed into the darkened alley.

“Where? Is the faerie princess down there?”

“She is.” She leaned closer to the little girl, gauging the moment when the child would stray completely into shadow.

“Closer,” she commanded. “Closer…”

The Venus flytrap threaded through her hair snapped up the child, dispensing with her in single swallow.

She straightened, and dusted off her hands.

“Very well,” she said. “It seems I won’t have to suffer the festival long to have found a suitable sacrifice for the faerie princess after all. She will be so very, very pleased. ”

And with that, she gave herself over to the shadows, the Venus flytrap whistling a jaunty tune atop her head.

 

Praise for Carmen’s OFFERINGS FOR A FAERIE PRINCESS: “It’s sweet. I liked the part where the girl was eaten.” – Carlos Hernandez, author of The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria.

***

Megan Swanson

Mother of 3
Caregiver
Master Knitter!

 

***

Of Perelandra and the Smile
By Elizabeth Paxson

The days of Perelandra ticked as
hour on hour fine leaves were stitched
Ms. Betsie Withey’s fingers pricked
to bleeding yet the dress took shape
leaf on leaf the form was draped
until her masterpiece was done,
a forest poised as if to walk
in tendriled glory filled the space
while an enigmatic Mona Lisa smile
danced upon the artist’s lovely face
and she replied,
just one more leaf!

***

A Rose in Horns
By C. S. E. Cooney

They say that roses grow from thorns
Though some might disagree
A rose might well arise from horns
As is the case with me

 

***

For more information on Betsie Withey’s art, visit her
FACEBOOK ART PAGE
INSTAGRAM PAGE
PINTEREST PAGE
ETSY SHOP

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IMPRESSIONISTS! The Musical

As I sat, contemplating the name “Lobotomy by Sneezing” for a new band name, after a particularly impressive expulsion of particulate, Hernandez is sitting across from me at the kitchen table, imagining out loud–in verse–“IMPRESSIONISTS! THE MUSICAL!”

A few minutes after I announce to Facebook that THIS was a THING, his comment pops up on my thread:

“You need more art lessons
to make more than impressions!”
the cri-tics say.

But I’d burn every canvas
if I painted their lame-ass
re-DUC-tive way!

They’ve studied art hist’ry
and think they know how to see
the whole of reality:
they announce, “Iife is Tromp l’ouie!”
and poo-poo creativity!

But friends, they’re not right
about the nature of light.
They’ve com-PLETE-ly missed

that the eye must arrange
from our eyes to our brains
like Impressionists!

The eye, dot by dot,
gives importance to what
we can see or cannot;
And thus it’s our lot
to perceive in gestalt!

So to our fine critics,
whose ideas, like emetics,
make OUR gorge rise,

we say keep your traps shut
and do shut the fuck up
till you DON’T spout lies.

But now open your eyes
to the wondrous surprise
of the pigments and dyes
that your retina descries
in the world, color-wise!

Yes, let us be all color-wise.
Yes, let us be all color-wise!”

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, CARLOS HERNANDEZ, DOCTOR DOCTORPANTS, PROFESSIONAL PROFESSOR, AUTHOR OF THE ASSIMILATED CUBAN’S GUIDE TO QUANTUM SANTERIA, AND THE NEXT BIG THING ON BROADWAY!

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This Morning? Children of the World, Being Awesome

I read two great articles today, and I wanted to point your attention to them:

One, Irish News, features a piece about refugee children in Greece collaborating to make a book of fairy tales with Brazilian journalist Debora de Pina Castiglione and her sister Beatriz.

I just went and bought the book on Amazon.

The other one, also about awesome young humans, features an ALL GIRLS TEEN ENGINEERING TEAM called DIYgirls (!!! OMG !!! THEY HAVE A WEBSITE!) creating a solar-powered tent for homeless people. This was on NPR, all praise due.

These articles filled me with a fierce hope.

And now, if you will excuse me, I must go read more about DIYgirls, Making Cool Stuff with Science.

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WisCon 2017: In 2 Distinct Parts

Cons. First you put your foot in you mouth. Then you put on a concert.

FIRST: FOOT IN MOUTH

Our caravan arrives in Madison early Friday afternoon. Finding the hotel was tantamount to negotiating a labyrinth. Registration, bathroom, so on.

Out in the lobby, there is a sudden hubbub of greetings and lunch invitations. I hear someone call my name, I turn and greet my friend . . . But not by her name. By the name of another friend. Yeah.

WORSE.

Worse, I panic. And when she says, “Don’t worry about it,” I’m all like, “No, but I know your name, it’s . . . ” (I have known her for going on five years at least; I’ve been to her readings, watched her on panels, read her articles. I’m a FAN!) “It’s . . . ”

AND ALL I CAN THINK OF, IN BIG FLOATING LETTERS BEFORE MY EYES, IS HER TWITTER HANDLE.

HER FRIKKIN TWITTER HANDLE.

Anyway, I’m an idiot. I felt awful about it all weekend. I would not have hurt this woman’s feelings for the world; I’d’ve cut my tongue out first.

It’s the sort of thing I’m afraid of happening ALL THE TIME. And then it does. The proverbial ax! THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES, snapped free of its dental floss.

It’s different when you’re my grandmother, and all your children AND grandchildren are sort of interchangeable, and you EXPECT to be understood when you call someone “Rosie-Mary-Sho-Therese-Danielle-Suzie-Claire” at any given summoning.

But when you’re not a supercute Mima who is nearly 90 and the Italian Matriarch of four fine generations, it’s just a big ol’, as I have come to call it, FLUSTERF@&K. My ears felt like they were underwater and so did my lungs, and I got all clammy, and maybe in another universe I drowned or something. Or at least SOAKED MY HEAD. As I deserved.

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(Even now, thinking of it, I want to go hide in my closet. Preferably with a chocolate bar and a good book. But no, that would be rewarding execrable behavior… DOH. I die. Cleaver, meet spleen.)

THEN: CONCERT

After that, a few of us went out to lunch, so that was all right.

I didn’t eat anything at that DIVINE Nepalese restaurant, alas. This, because I had about 3 billion tacos for breakfast.

But I did get to sit by Amal El-Mohtar (one of this year’s GUESTS OF HONOR) (I mean, anyone who’s reading this will know that already, right?) (but she’s my friend so I’ll say it again in all caps . . .  THE GUEST OF HONOR: MY AMALFACE!) and go over our setlist for that night. This was great, because, um.

WE HAD TO GIVE A CONCERT THAT NIGHT.

Total rehearsal time? 35 minutes.

Photo Credit: Katie Redding

Earlier, in discussing with Jessica P. Wick (my roommate, Amal’s best friend) how best to plan a concert one didn’t know one was even doing until a few weeks ago, and with the GUEST OF HONOR no less, Jess suggested that I do everything in my power to lower the pressure on Amal.

See, Amal had to travel all the way from a different country, after finishing up comps for her PhD, winning a Nebula Award, and then trundling over to Madison to do all the GUEST OF HONOR things like be on panels and give speeches and PRESIDE OVER A HONEY TASTING. That’s enough to do on a to do list, and I didn’t even mention all the papers she had to grade.

So I put together a setlist called “Brim and Star.” The latter, because that’s one of my nickname’s for Amal (after Emily of New Moon) (and also because she’s a luminous body), and the former because it’s short for my imaginary rockstar name “Brimstone Rhine.”

The set list went like this:

OPENING SONG: The Grand Finale of Mister Fox

POEM: Apple Jack Tangles the Maidy Lac with a Red, Red Ribbon

SONG: Black Widow’s Waltz

POEM: On the Division of Labour

SONG: Lady Knight / Pale Lady

POEM: Pieces

SONG: Foxgirl Song Cycle 1

POEM: Song for An Ancient City

SONG: Sisters Lionheart

POEM: Winter Tree

SONG: Rose’s Garden

POEM: No Poisoned Comb

SONG: Medea’s Dragon

Photo Credit: Randee Dawn

POEM: Turning the Leaves

SONG: After the Rapture

POEM: New Ways

SONG: Daft Jamie

CLOSING SONG: The JubJub

Photo Credit: Katie Redding

Other fine things?

Being on a panel with Amal and Max Gladstone, moderated by K Tempest Bradford, about collaboration. That was really funny. And the chairs were SUPER COMFORTABLE. The comfiest panel I’ve ever been on.

Photo Credit: John O’Neill

Until, that is, we had to start answering questions about the DARK SIDE of collaboration. Nah, okay, it was still great.

I also got to do a group reading–we called it THE FOUR MUSKETEERS–with Jeanine Marie Vaughne, Randee Dawn, and S Brackett Robertson.

Jeanine and Randee read excerpts from their novels (haunted dolls!) (warring Fae!); Brackett read an excerpt from a short story about trolls, tolls, and friendship; and I read from “Though She Be But Little,” forthcoming in Uncanny Magazine this July.

Photo Credit: Katie Redding

So.

What with the delicious meals, catching up with John O’Neill and Brendan Detzner and Karen Meisner (I know we were supposed to nap, Karen, and I babbled instead, so thank you for your time, and I adore you), meeting new people or people I’ve only met on Facebook (walking with Amy Scheiderman to the concert!), the panels I managed to attend, Amal’s gorgeous reading (she read “Seasons of Glass and Iron”–WAAAAHHHH!!!–and then she and Max read from their collaborative novella–WAAAAAHHHH!!!–and it was so good. So great and good), and all the hours I got to spend with three fabulous girlfriends in our hotel room, it was a beautiful time.

Photo Credit: Katie Redding

Also, I bought an Elise Matthesen necklace. GULP. It’s called OUR LADY OF STORMS. It’s all labradorite. And it’s three necklaces in one.

I’ve been on major con burn-out since last year, so WisCon is the last con I’m planning on attending for the foreseeable future.

I may change my mind, but the deep relaxation I feel right now at the thought of never going to another one EVER AGAIN must be nurtured.

Gene Wolfe took me to my first con in 2002. I’ve been going for 15 years, some years to multiple conventions. It’s time, it’s money, it’s work–and yet it’s “supposed” to feel like vacation. And you know? I’d rather go on vacation. Go see a friend in one of those distant lands they live in. Spend three quality days with them alone, not surrounded and busy.

For this year anyway, I’m done with cons.

This was a bright star to end on.

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