Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Looking for help with your writing?

Stuck on your novel? Have a short story you want critiqued? Need help polishing your query letter? I might be the person you're looking for.

I work with writers and offer both critiques of finished work as well as mentoring through ongoing writing projects. Here's a bit about what that means:

Critique services are where you send me a finished piece of work, from short story to novel length, and I read it with a critical eye. I make notes about what works and what doesn't, and I make these notes in a rigorous fashion - not "You suck! You can't write! Those words aren't even a sentence, omg!!1!" - but I am not going to lie and tell you that your writing is awesome if it is not. I will pay your writing the respect of taking it seriously. Note: this does not include line edits or copy edits. I will also look at query letters and offer feedback on those.

Mentoring services are for people who want to work on a specific thing, or a specific project, with close assistance. I know this sounds vague, but really, I will work with you to design a support system for what you need as a writer. This can be a short term or long term relationship, and again, I will work with you on anything from short fiction to novels. In fact, one of the most common mentoring services I offer is reading of and feedback on novels in progress.

In answer to some frequently asked questions:

Yes, I charge for these services. Rates and turnaround times vary by project length and involvement. Please query at the linked email address below.

I am happy to work with any writer, at any level of experience, in any genre. You don't need to send me audition pages. I work more with writers of fiction than of nonfiction, but if you have a nonfiction project you want help with, go ahead and ask.

One of my current clients, Martin Cahill, who has made professional sales and been accepted into Clarion, has some very kind words about working together.

Here's some information on me, in case you are wondering who you'd be working with: I have over 20 professional short fiction sales. My work has been performed on NPR, included in a year’s best anthology, and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. I am a graduate of Clarion at UCSD, and am represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. Additionally, I have a Ph.D. in English Literature, and have taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Minnesota, and Stonybrook University. I have also taught an Intro to Writing SFF course with LitReactor.

If you're interested, or have questions, please contact me here, at KatWithSword@gmail.com.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Not All Men

Friday night, a 22-year old man went on a shooting rampage, leaving six people dead aside from himself, and seven others injured. It appears to have been a premeditated act, one inspired by the young man's feeling that he was owed something by women, something that they had not given him. In a video message, he said he was going to go to the hottest sorority house at UCSB, and "slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blond slut" in there.

After hearing the news this morning, I posted a quote from Margaret Atwood on twitter. "Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them."

It didn't take long before I was told that I was wrong, that I was generalizing, that this wasn't about men killing women but people killing people, that only psychopaths kill people, that men could have psycho ex-girlfriends, too. That by posting a quote like that, I was part of the problem. 

Never mind the statistics

It's a thing that happens, whenever I talk about an act of violence or aggression, committed by men against women. I get told, "not all men." As if I didn't know any men, had lived all of my life in a same-sex bubble.

The thing is, of course I know. Of course I get that. Most of the men I know are kind, are compassionate, are people I am proud to consider my friends.

I know some very good men, men who have literally put themselves between me and the man harassing me. I believe that most men would do that. But not all men.

I know that most men are decent human beings, who would never call a woman a bitch because she chooses not to speak to him. Most men. But not all men.

Most men do not follow women who don't want to talk to them down the street, yelling streams of obscenities at them, because they just want some time. Most men. But not all men.

Most men would never put a drug in a woman's drink, or get her so drunk she can't even speak, or use coercion, or violence, to force her to have sex with him. Most men. But not all men.

Most men would not kill their intimate partner, because she has chosen to leave them. Most men. But not all men.

Most men would never go on a shooting rampage, because they believed that they were owed sex by women.

Most men.

Sadly, not all men.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Stories and where you can find them

I'm delighted to have a story in the brand new issue of Interfictions. The entire issue is well worth checking out - interesting fiction, poetry, and nonfiction articles.  My short story is called "To Hold the Mirror." The seed of it was first planted in my brain by a mention of solitary bees on last year's Elementary finale. This is the bee that appears in my story - I think it's very beautiful. The other interesting and nonspoilery thing you might like to know is that the Silver Swan of John Joseph Merlin is a real thing, and it is spectacular.

Speaking of John Josephs, I am also very pleased to announce that my short story, "Locally Grown, Organic," will appear in a forthcoming anthology edited by John Joseph Adams, Help Fund My Robot Army & Other Improbable Crowd Funding Projects. You can read "Help Fund My Robot Army!!!" the story that inspired this anthology, here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Trigger Warning: Contains Literature

There's been a recent flutter of discussion over trigger warnings for literature in the college classroom. (I know the discussion is ongoing in other areas as well - as a former lit professor, I am limiting my discussion to the area I have personal experience with.) The negative reaction seems to be two-fold. First, that this is censorship and second, that it will lead to people abusing the system, so as not to be offended.

As to the first, nope. Sorry. Not censorship. Announcing the content of something is not the same as banning that content.

As to the second.

I taught at the undergraduate level for seven years. Five of them as a grad student, two as a postdoc. More semesters than not, I had a student come and tell me that she was sorry she'd missed classes, or not been herself, or done poorly on an assignment. She had been raped, it had messed her up, she was getting better. That was always how the conversations went.

I don't believe in censorship. I don't believe in trying to make art small. I don't believe anything is off limits. I believe that part of the reason art matters is that it has power.

But, for the most part, we get to choose the art we're exposed to. We can walk out of a movie, turn off the radio, close the book. That's not the case in the classroom, where walking out can have consequences, where there may not be a choice to close the book, to drop the class.

I believe that while one of the roles of a literature professor is to challenge her students, that is not done by traumatizing them. And make no mistake - a trigger is not something that makes you feel mildly uncomfortable. It's not something that simply offends you. It's something that causes a trauma. 

I don't believe that we hide from the big issues, that we should pretend like they don't happen, that we should teach nothing but literature about things that are easy to think about, that everyone can agree on. But if literature matters because it has power, then I think it's important to remember what power can do to those who are, for whatever reason, powerless.

So yes, once I'd gotten to where I was in charge of my own syllabus and classroom, I warned students about the material I was going to teach. I'd offer alternate assignments if they were requested. Was it possible that I had students who approached me for alternate assignments for reasons other than trauma? Sure, but I'd rather fail literature by allowing someone who doesn't want to stretch their brain a way out, than fail an actual human being by forcing them to relive something traumatic.