First Cup of Coffee – March 29, 2022

Ah, good morning. Everyone this is Jeffe Kennedy author of fantasy romance and romantic fantasy I’m here with my first cup of coffee and with a cat if you’re on video you may have seen the tail go by and here he is. Ah, he jumped up on my desk right? as the camera was going live Jackson say hello to everybody I don’t know why he takes he has to be up here right now except that he’s been very much into loving lately. And so now you get to see his but because that’s how a cat shows their love now you’ gonna sit there. Okay, he said right there she’s sitting off to the side now you want see I left my office door open because David’s taking a bath here. We go. We can have first cup of coffee with a cat. Yeah cats don’t like coffee. So today is Tuesday March Twenty Ninth hope you all are doing well, it’s a rainy Tuesday here in Sara Fe I don’t know if Jackson’s thinking that maybe he wants to go out already. You want me to leave him in the photo range there. We go, you can see the back of his head. Um. Yeah, sorry I’m thoroughly distracted by the cap visit. That’s why I get for leaving my door open. So let’s see. Um, yeah, wick’s going well for me so far hope it’s going well for you I did get my 2000 words yesterday. It’s it’s interesting. It’s um. Much easier to get them on Monday after a couple days rest and then harder towards the end of the week so I have to see is um, is 2000 a day really sustainable I sure hope it is because I don’t want to slow down more than that. But I do have to abide by my. Own advice right? find out what your process is and own it there. He goes going on his merry way. So that was special day though. It doesn’t that mean something the cat comes to visit. You. So probably not the households where you have lots of cats that come and visit you all the time it seemed like I had a few things to talk about today and now I don’t know what any of them are all right um.

So 1 thing I do know I want to talk about is I mentioned. Um well I guess ah was on Friday when I was talking about the set changes in membership requirements and I mentioned the story about how my. My story Pearl got published in 2 different magazines almost at the same time by accident. Um, and I mentioned that it was the second time that that happened to me and the. First time was in this wyoming wildlife magazine which was the magazine and is still the magazine for ah wyoming game and fish. So I was living up in Wyoming at the time and I worked for wyoming gamon fish I was working in the lab there as I was finishing my master’s degree because I was cutting bait getting my master’s and going to become a writer so I’d started writing essays. But still had to finish writing my master’s thesis and I had I was sending out essays places all the time. Yeah, and I talked about this some on Friday I think yeah that I had um. You know my ping pong method where I would send a story out I would have it at 3 places at a time which looking back on it I was really proud of my I’m really proud of myself that I did that it was a good way to do it by. Treating it like ping pong as soon as rejection comes in you send out another you, you deemphasize the importance of a rejection. All a rejection is is noticed that you need to send it out somewhere else. Um I’ve never been able to. Subscribe to the what seems to me overly perky advice like when people say every rejection you get put you that much closer to publication. Um I I never really got that one but it was a. You send it out. They send it back I could get behind the ping pong thing and I had my list of publications of the order that I wanted things published in organized um I sorted by different criteria.

Um I didn’t always know what I was doing for instance I did not understand I mentioned this on Friday when I was talking about trying to get that science fiction story published I didn’t understand the arcania of the science fiction and fantasy short fiction market. Which I now understand much better than I did then and yet I still find it. Um, arcane I guess I’m glad I’m a novelist. There’s it’s a very particular community. The short fiction market and I did not understand then. That there were ah the the qualifying markets that would qualify you for SFWA membership and people would submit to those first because that would be more likely to make them SFWA members and really it’s supposed to be that they paid pro rates and. Take this moment to do ah a little bit of a plug for so what? because what we’re doing is now that we’ve changed membership requirements. We’re creating a much more comprehensive scorecard for marketplaces that will take into account many more things than whether or not they pay per rates. Because just because a marketplace pays what we consider to be and really we need to change our lingo I need to do that too minimum pro rate minimum pro rate is ¢8 a word which is like you guys rock bottom I’ve talked about how you know like. And back in the day the glory days I got paid a dollar a word, a dollar a word and we’re calling minimum pro rates ¢8 a word that is a little bit differentlayer. Um, but I don’t know what voice that was so. We need to take into account the fact that even though marketplace may pay a sense a word that that doesn’t necessarily put food on the table right? which is really our goal we want writers to be paid. Professional rates. We want people to be able to make a living from their art and their craft. So. There are other things about marketplaces whether they are open to submissions. There are some marketplaces that say they’re open to submissions. But really, they only take. Stuff that they solicit or that come through agents not necessarily bad but it it is a factor in is this something that a writer can access. Um you know, like what kind of commitment. Do they have to to bipac.

Um, how responsive are they? what are their contract terms like how soon do they pay a market may promise to pay a minimum professional rate but drag their feet forever. They might try for right? Scraps. So these are all things that we want to take into account and we’re going to end up giving different markets scores and you know like the more they pay the higher they score they get. But also there’s other scores in there. And this short fiction committee has been working really hard on this and they’re amazing and eventually I would like to expand this out to novel markets and so forth and you know like even. Online retailers. What score would we give Amazon I mean we make the money there which ends up being like the make or break right? but responsiveness can be lacking although we do sapwa has an Amazon Liaison who has been very responsive I can email her and she has replied quickly. So so that’s something and that’s good to have for when we we saved that for when we need to escalate things. So anyway, um. Here I was back in the day sending out lots of short fiction pieces and to all kinds of markets and so I had sent the I had sent an essay to Wyoming wildlife and I don’t think I’d realized it at the time. But. Actually I was no longer working for game of fish I had been working for game and fish and was no longer because I had gotten this job as an editor writer with a petroleum group because I was building my writing chops and but the editor of the magazine Chris Madson didn’t realize that. And they had this policy where they did not pay department employees for articles and so imagine my surprise when David brought home the magazine because all employees got a free copy. Got a free subscription. And here was my essay by Jeffe Kennedy least correct by line this time called bullets and it was about me learning David teaching me how to shoot a ah gun which I didn’t want to learn how to do? Um, so.

Not only did they not pay me but I had no idea I was going to print it and this is this is an example of not a great marketplace right? because they and this happens sometimes magazines just they edit your story and they don’t tell you anything about it. So I ended up having to go to like the higher ups in game and fish and be like you know. Basically they stole my story and Chris Madson had to apologize and pay me I did get paid I don’t remember what I got paid. It may have been a dollar award because I was bringing out like all of the industry guns. They’re you know fighting for those rights even then right Um, and part of the concession part of the I know to make it up to me. Which I thought was funny so there was this guy who was um, his name was John Kennedy no relation unless it’s like way way back was I don’t remember what his title was but he was one of the higher ups in the agency part of it was is he said that they would agree to publish. Like 2 more essays from me to make up for this and so all I had to do was like send the ideas to Chris Manson who was like really pissed that he got called out on the carpet for doing this. It was a shitty thing to do. He should have never done that in the first place but he was really mad to get caught. And that he’d made the mistake you know I think he thought I was an employee so he could just publish it and do whatever the hell he wanted so you are all storytellers I assume or you would not be story. Readers. You would not be listening to this podcast I bet you can guess where this story is going. Yes I I never published another thing with that magazine I sent Chris all kinds of essay ideas and he ignored ignored me entirely and I had told John Kennedy that this would happen and he’s like oh I don’t think so but he also didn’t care once he dealt with the problem and came up with the solution. He um, moved on with his life. Um, but it’s interesting because it’s one of the ways that um. Publishing I’m trying to think of um, the analogy for this though but like every industry takes advantage of the creators as much as they can. We know all these stories about you know, like the um, the movie companies.

Having their stables of actors and controlling their actors lives and you know you see the biopics on that like about Judy Garland and that sort of thing we know things about like the record companies and how they use the talent and try to control the talent and. The same thing happens in the publishing world traditional publishing from short fiction markets to the publishers who don’t put the books out in the world. They they will take advantage of the creator as much as possible. And it’s not It’s not always malicious and in fact I think a lot of them would would protest me saneness and I may get protests about this because they will say no that they. They love their writers. They love their creators without their creators. They wouldn’t have content and they understand this and they know this but the thing is is that they are also in business they are doing this thing because it’s a business for them and so yes, they need the content and they love the content but they’re not. Doing this out of the goodness of their heart now I will caveat this that there are some short fiction markets in particular that and even some small presses that are doing in out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re also struggling because they yeah you know there but there I’m not being articulate, um, a lot of them are struggling because they’re trying to do their best but they aren’t necessarily um, doing as well as the cutthroat ones which is ironic right? So what’s the what’s the solution here. What are we talking about? ah. I think it’s that being your own champion that you just have to be ready to fight for yourself. Um, you know if we go to the the rock band example one of the things that we we can see in the movies that we know that happens is that the rock bands get out there and they’re. They’re partying I mean it’s a really difficult schedule. You know they’re going from place to place and they’re clock shifted and they’re partying hard and they’re encouraged to party and very often they are. Everything’s deducted from what they’re making I have a. Friend who dated a member of Dokken remember them back in the day and he like failed to pay taxes for a lot of years and he got levied these enormous fines and blew all his money in.

Much later was like living in his mother’s sewing room. He had nothing left. So the thing is is that you don’t there’s never an excuse to not be smart about your business practices and I think that the business minded people know this about creators is that creators. Are not necessarily business minded. We don’t want to be right? But if we did. We’d be in business right? But you got to learn, you’ve got to be ready to fight for your rights and you have to be ready to you know to get mean with people you know and not all of us like to do that either. But you have to keep in mind that if they can take advantage of you. It’s usually to their benefit to do so my nose is so itchy today. That’s why I keep pausing I’m sure it’s like the allergy thing getting pollen itches. So you know I guess the other message I have here is that I didn’t have any way to leverage Wyoming wildlife or wyoming game and fish after that point once I had signed that agreement. There was no no further penalty. And really I didn’t have a whole lot of leverage to begin with other than threatening to expose them. You know it was ah that’s often. The only recourse we have against these groups or companies or corporations right? is. To make them look bad to threaten their sales. That’s the only thing they really care about getting fish is a government agency so it was a little bit different there. Um, but ultimately they have the ability to resist and so. That’s what we have to do as creators. That’s why we have organizations like se to be able to band together to create that leverage and to support each other so that’s and death the sermon I suppose. Ah, yeah I don’t think I have anything else to talk about today I hope that you all have a wonderful Tuesday and I will talk to you all on Thursday you all take care bye bye.

Back Off, Man!

This is one of my long-time friends back in Wyoming. We worked at the Wyoming Game and Fish Laboratory together, along with David. She’s still there and I’m betting she’ll be Director someday.

That era formed a big chunk of my life. Physiology, wildlife, the community of academic and applied scientists. Like all groups formed around a field of study, we had our jargon, our in-jokes. We once went around a party of Zoology & Physiology types and asked each person there this question: if you saw a dead animal by the side of the road, what would you do with it?

Yeah, see – a lot of you out there are kind of squinting at the screen now and saying, “um, do with it?”

The only people at the party who did not say “take it home and put it in the freezer” were spouses. For years I had any number of dead animals in my freezers, both at home and in various lab spaces. People sometimes asked me if they could put frozen dead animals in the Physiology lab chest freezers, because we always had extra space.

What? They might come in useful.

I still have a bobcat skull that I spent months cleaning.

At any rate, I thought of this the other day when the HVAC guy came. Don’t ask – just cross your fingers that our heat-exchanger isn’t cracked. He looked at the tag from the gas service showing the very high CO values they’d picked up when we called them and asked me if the gas company had explained what those high values meant. I scrambled for a way to respond and fell back on “We’re both scientists, so…” HVAC guy nodded.

It’s something I want to say sometimes, like when the dental hygienist is explaining in painstaking detail about gum health – and sometimes getting it wrong – that I’m a physiologist and I already understand about epidermal layers. It makes me wish for a t-shirt like my friend’s bumper sticker, back in Wyoming:


This classic line, of course, brought to you by Dr. Peter Venkman of the Ghostbusters. Which should tell you right there that it was being used to justify somewhat un-scientific activities.

Still, it’s a great line and an even better attitude.

Maybe I’ll get a tattoo…

A River of Garbage

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

I recall this one particularly annoyed one of my classmates, long ago back in AP English at Overland High, lo these many years ago.

I wanted to ask him how many wedding ceremonies he hadn’t sat through, not to hear this kind of claptrap before. Leave the parents and cleave unto each other. Like the joint candle and blow out your own. I’ve always imagined Wallace Stevens sticking his tongue in his cheek for this one. If a man and a woman can be one, no reason you can’t throw a blackbird into the mix as well. Not unlike Steve Martin’s classic scene in The Jerk, leaving and taking the only thing he needs, gradually adding more and more useless items. After the initial assumption, it doesn’t really matter what else you add in.

Don’t change what all you’re piling on top; change the initial assumption.

There’s an idea out there that things don’t and can’t change. When people talk about efforts to address environmental issues and global climate change, there’s a thread running through the arguments that this is how things have always been. That change is impossible. What we don’t always have a good perspective on is how much things have already changed.

David sent me the letters below. The Game & Fish crew found these letters from 1932 when they cleaned out some old files. Hopefully you can read them — I made them as big as I could. You might have to use your screen zoom.

It’s shocking, isn’t it, that they’re arguing about dumping garbage in the Columbia? After all, they’re very careful to dump it from the bridge in the best spot, with the swiftest current. You laugh to read it.

And that’s a mark of change.

It’s something to think about, amidst the shouting, wailing and gnashing of teeth that things can’t change. Someday, someone like yourself might look back on the debates of today and be amused that there was ever a question.