Jeffe at San Diego Comic Con!

Jeffe will be at San Diego Comic Con in July!!

There’s a panel of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) talking about getting published.

*****SFWA Writers Reveal the One Big Secret That Got Them Published, Friday, 7/19/19, 6:00p.m. – 7:00p.m., Room: 2*****

Join members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) as they discuss writing careers, tips and tricks, and the one big secret that got them published. Learn how SFWA supports SF and fantasy writers and how it can help you with your creative career. Panelists include Jeffe Kennedy (The Orchid Throne), Marie Andreas (The Diamond Sphinx). Greg van Eekhout (Voyage of the Dogs). Greg Bear (Take Back the Sky; Comic-Con Special Guest). Jonathan Brazee (Fire Ant) and Kyle Aisteach (Little Dystopias).

In addition, the TOR booth will be giving away 30 Galley proofs of THE ORCHID THRONE on Saturday, 7/20/19 at 10am. I’ll be there to sign and chat, so come on by!

How to Recognize and (Maybe) Avoid Burnout

The amazing and delightful Liz Argall, who draws the comic Things without Arms and without Legs, draws while she listens to panels. She did this wonderful sketch of one panel I was on at SFWA’s Nebula Conference. All the panels I was on ended up being wonderful, but this one was particularly amazing. The topic was “Burnout: How to Recognize It and Maybe How to Avoid It Next Time.

It’s a somewhat clunky title, but really wonderful for the topic. Because something that came out of the discussion – moderated by Laura Anne Gilman and including RR Virdi, Tina Connolly, and Rachel Hartman – was that creative burnout is really difficult to extricate ourselves from and not so easy to avoid.

Laura Anne, who did an amazing job of moderating, asked us all to tell our stories of creative burnout or coming close to it, and the commonalities were striking. This was mine:

For twenty years I balanced a career day job as an environmental consultant with writing. I usually wrote 1-2K words/day before switching to the day job. I slowly built my career, making more money each year, and I kept thinking that eventually I’d make enough to quit the day job. Every writer’s dream! Then my team got cut, and I was laid off with decent severance. My company offered to help me find a new job, but I wanted to see if I could make it as a full-time writer. I figured that, ,without the day job absorbing my attention and energy, I could easily double my daily wordcount.

(At this point, the entire room groaned. It was kind of hysterical that this collection of all writers foresaw the error in this.)

I was writing 4-5K/day, building up a self-published series and working up new stuff for trad – and the money was okay – but by July I was feeling ragged. I was sitting in the sun in San Diego, at the RWA Conference, having wine with Thea Harrison. She asked me how I was doing saying, “I hear you’re a full-time writer now – how exciting for you!” And I started to cry. Because I wasn’t having fun and I didn’t understand why. She told me I was starting to burn out and that I needed to get a grip and fix it, that she’d burned herself out and it took years to recover.

The remarkable thing was, for each and every one of us, someone else recognized the burnout and said something. A friend or family member had to point it out. Also, there was crying mentioned in every case, except for RR Virdi, who manfully laid claim “only” to deep depression.

We discussed ways of recovering and avoiding creative burnout, which mostly involved rediscovering play, and the simple joy of creating. Which meant divorcing it from monetization. Sometimes that meant something creative that was NOT writing, or at least, not writing anything that someone else expected or would evaluate.

At the very end, Laura Anne hit us with a statistic from the Mayo Clinic. The number one cause of burnout? Self-identification with your work.

Writers much?

So the final thing we discussed is keeping the boundaries clear, that we are not our books and stories. That’s one reason I try to be very careful to say “My book is a finalist” or “My book won an award,” rather than me. Small measures add up.

 

Leveling Up – What Does It Mean to You?

This week at the SFF Seven we’re talking about leveling up and what that means to us.

Actually, the topic is phrased as: People always say they want to take their writing to the next level. Well, what are the levels, as you see them?

It’s a really good question. Come on over for my answer.

 

Show Me the Money! (Or at Least Don’t Make ME Pay)

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Lit Cons, Fan Cons, Comics Cons: What’s Best For You?

I imagine there will be a variety of replies to this topic – and maybe someone will take on defining each – but I’m taking a bit of a slant and talking about the stance I’ve taken on conventions in general. Come on over to find out more. 

 

Setting the Record Straight

A blustery, blizzardy day here in Santa Fe! My iron fairy sculpture has wind-blown rain and snow frozen to it. Springtime in the Rockies!

We had a lovely time in Tucson over the weekend, though they weren’t a whole lot farther along springwise than we are. A cold winter, with lots of precipitation. We’re hoping that bodes well for a lush and lavish summer.

I know, I know. I am an idealist at heart. 

Last week I had a conversation that really stuck with me. Well, to be honest, I was hurt, which wasn’t at all the intention of the person speaking. See, what happened is, I was talking with an aspiring author of science fiction. She’d been struggling with some structural issues and genre expectations, and she mentioned she’d re-read one of my books to study how I’d done certain things. Which is lovely and flattering! I then offered to read her book for her and see if I had any suggestions to offer. She asked if I was sure and I said, yes, I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t want to. And she said, oh, well, a mutual acquaintance of ours had warned her that I was territorial about science fiction and fantasy so not to expect help from me there.

I was frankly stunned.

You know that feeling, like you’ve been punched? That.

And my friend felt terrible. She even tried to convince me that being territorial about a genre isn’t a bad thing, that lots of people feel that way. I suppose that’s true, that territoriality and jealousy are part and parcel of our profession. But to me those are terribly negative emotions and go against everything I believe in and work toward. 

I don’t hold her to blame for telling me, but I am unhappy with the person who said this thing about me. No, I don’t know who it is. My friend wouldn’t say. It maybe doesn’t matter, except that it reflects on the mindset of that person. I don’t know where they got this idea about me, and since they haven’t said it to my face, I’ll have to speak up for myself here. 

I have to tell you all, I immediately went to Grace Draven and she said “Whaaa?” and then “Who said that and why would they say it? You’re one of the most generous people out there with your help and experience. It’s unfair, unjust, and just totally out in left field.” 

Which made me feel much better. Maybe I should just hold Grace’s purse while she beats them up for me. She’s a good friend. She’d probably help me dispose of the body, too.

As satisfying as that would be, I’d rather set the record straight. No, I’m not territorial about SFF. I’m not sure someone CAN be territorial about an entire genre. Even if I wanted to somehow keep all the SFF-writing to myself, I don’t know how I’d go about it. Decline to read and critique other’s work? Refuse to blurb books written by debut authors? Talk smack about my fellow authors in the genre instead of cheering their releases and sharing good news about them? Walk away from collaborative projects? Go all ninja on their asses and slip poison into their morning coffee?

Demonstrably, I don’t do any of those things. (Except maybe the ninja poison thing, in which case no one will ever know I was there BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!)

I devote a lot of time to supporting my fellow authors and their books, at all levels of the game. In fact, people close to me gently suggest I spend LESS time on stuff that isn’t my own work. I am a Director at Large on the Board of Directors for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) because I want to support the genre and profession. People close to me gently suggest I spend less time on volunteering too. I ignore those gentle suggestions because I believe in giving generously of myself. That’s important to me. Probably one of my most closely held values.

So, you can see why it bothered me that someone out there talked smack about me this way. You could accuse me of many flaws. I’d most likely agree with chagrin on what they are and renew my intentions to do better. But this is not one of them. I am not a person who worries about there being only so much pie to go around. Pies are easy to make. I’m totally in favor of more pie.

I’m really enjoying my friend’s book, too. When she gets it published, I’ll be the first to cheer about it. 

Finding – and Defending – Balance

This photo is from a few weeks ago, but I think I never posted it. Ice on the rain chain and the fairy sculpture my mom gave me in the background. 

It’s been a busy week for me so far. I’m making excellent progress on THE FIERY CITADEL (sequel to THE ORCHID THRONE). I’ve also been making daily inroads on collecting my income tax information for my CPA. And there’s been a lot going on with Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) – where I serve on the Board as a Director at Large – both the peaking of some planned projects and dealing with some problems. We also have elections going on, so yesterday I took some time to answer the “Questions for Candidates” on the SFWA forums.

One person asked the candidates if we’d to prioritize our SFWA work above everything else in my life. I said no. I added that I’d never expect that of any SFWA volunteer.

Hell, I’d never expect that of anyone, for any activity in life. Not 24/7.

We talk a lot about work/life balance, or work/family balance. For me, my life runs the smoothest when I devote some time each day to my various commitments. I have my To Do List color-coded for various activities (I am the Spreadsheet Queen, after all) with time allotted to each. Getting word count happens first because I write best in the mornings and that’s how I keep the roof over our heads and food in the pantry. I also have categories for blogging or doing my podcast, for updating financials – which includes keeping track of royalties and getting money to authors who participate in anthologies with me – for exercise, for errands and household chores, and an hour a day for SFWA. 

Sometimes it’s more; sometimes it’s less.

But overall, balance for me means making every day reflect the pattern I want my overall life to have – and that means some of everything that’s important to me. 

Chatting with friends and hanging out with the hubs? Those things happen every day, too, but I don’t have to put them on a list. 🙂