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2013 Narrate Reading Lists

It is that time of year...

Each year, Narrate Conferences' staff tackles a reading list for both Sirens, our women-in-fantasy-literature conference that just had it's fourth successful year, and our young-adult conference that is currently in development. These are the staff lists; those of you familiar with the Sirens website will notice that this is not the shorter list that we include on the site. But that doesn't mean you can't read from this list, if you want!

Sirens 2013 Reading ListCollapse )

YA Conference Needs a Name 2013 Reading ListCollapse )

A Story, and Two Questions

So this morning, I am running approximately eight minutes late. On Monday mornings, I seem to have trouble, first, getting out of bed and, then, getting out of the shower. Let's not analyze that.

So I'm running approximately eight minutes late and I'm in the kitchen making a sandwich for lunch, which I do every single weekday. (I'm just saying that this is a normal occurrence with which I am ridiculously familiar.) I opened a new jar of peanut butter (having used the last one up making ginormous ants on a log of DOOM last night; shut up) and threw away the peanut-butter-safety-seal thinger, and as I was walking to the counter to put peanut butter on my sandwich, I noticed that I had a bit of red squishy stuff on my thumb. So I'm looking at it, wondering if maybe it's jam, which is already on my six-year-old approved sandwich. I try to wipe off the red squishy stuff, only to discover THAT IT IS ATTACHED TO MY THUMB BECAUSE IT IS SKIN AND THE RED STUFF WAS BLOOD AND I SWEAR THAT I DID NOT CUT IT WITH A BUTTER KNIFE. (I have to say that last part because my roommate is regularly freaked-the-fuck out because I lick knives. Let me rephrase, pervs: I lick things like butter, jam and cream cheese off knives. But never, ever peanut butter, which causes endless dishwashing consternation.) I can only assume that I have the peanut-butter-safety-seal version of a paper cut. BUT IT IS GINORMOUS. ALSO I AM WEARING A BLUEBERRY MUFFIN BANDAID, WHICH THE PEOPLE AT WORK THINK IS RETARDED, BUT I HAVE STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE BANDAIDS, OKAY, BITCHES?



1) I am going to Yellowstone and Grand Teton this year. What should I do?

2) I am about to buy books. What should I buy?

Completely Awesome Things

Completely Awesome Thing 1: How to Draw a (Ridiculously Cute) Penguin

Completely Awesome Thing 2: (Ridiculously Cute) R2-D2 Ballerina

There are only two Things. Did you not read your Dr. Seuss?

Sirens in 2012

...and on November 1, we roll out a new Sirens website.

Alas, while most folks go home from Sirens each year and hunker down with tea and toast and blankies to recover from the inevitable conference flu and then wander off to places like World Fantasy Con and then create amazing Hallowe'en costumes, part of my team sits down to update an entire website top to bottom: design, fonts, text, downloads, systems, CafePress items, the whole nine yards and then some. And in a year when we decide to move -- yes, MOVE -- Sirens to a whole 'nother state with a whole 'nother space and a whole 'nother tax code, a normally Herculean task becomes, well, monstrous. Because let me tell you, before we can put prices on a website, we have to run a (successful!) budget. Before we can put hotel reservations information on a website, we have to wrangle discount codes from a new hotel. Before we can put directions on a website, we have to find a (local) volunteer who knows the area. (Woefully, before we can put a third guest on the site, we have to wait for a publisher to sign off -- and we're still waiting.) It's a beast.

Thankfully, smilie117, owlman, generalmanda, coraa, vlamidala and halliet are experienced dragon-slayers.

In 2012, Sirens, a conference on women in fantasy literature, is moving. This isn't something we take lightly. It looks simple enough from the outside: we're moving to a lower altitude that is closer to an airport, after all, but in a location that's still a resort, still has a spa and is still gorgeous. But for us it means beginning to pay sales tax; worrying about the timing, logistics and costs of shipping all of our conference materials several states away; working with a new hotel with new space and new quirks; trying to figure out how to get everyone through an airport that we haven't been to a million times; hoping that people on the East Coast are still able to attend; researching new suppliers (and new flight schedules); and trying to find a way to feed everyone cheaply and on time. This task, too, is a beast.

Thankfully, I have a team of dragon-slayers.

In 2012, Sirens, a conference on women in fantasy literature, is moving. We're heading west, land of dreams, where societal expectations have long been trampled beneath practicalities and destinies. We're heading to Skamania Lodge, a resort 45 minutes east of Portland, Oregon, barely on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. The Cascades surround the Gorge, but Stevenson, Washington is at a measly 207 feet above sea level.

In 2012, Sirens is focusing on tales re-told. You might think immediately of fairy tales, but I think of Scheherazade, who saved her life by telling stories she knew. Anything that's a fantastic retelling of myth, legend or folklore is fair game -- as is anything related to women in fantasy literature, whether or not its about retalling tales. And remember: all programming is presented by attendees for attendees, so start thinking.

So take a stroll through the website, will you? Check out the information on the new location (and the pretty, pretty pictures). Perhaps check out our CafePress store (and tell me which monsterscape bag to buy). And truly, I hope you like the new location, the new theme, and the new website.


2012 Narrate Reading Lists

As you might have come to expect, with a new Sirens, comes a new Narrate reading list. For those of you unfamiliar with the drill, each year, Narrate rolls out a reading list for both Sirens, its current conference about women in fantasy literature, and its in-development conference on young adult literature.

Our staff tackle huge chunks of these lists each year, and a handful of staff members finish both lists each year. We find that, in order to present conferences on books, we need to be relatively well-read in those books. We also find that having a reading list gets us out of our reading patterns, makes us consider books we wouldn’t otherwise have read, and sometimes surprises us. We also have attendees and other interested folks who like to see the lists and use them as reading lists or recommendations or what-have-you.

And remember, these are good books, not-so-good books, popular books, critically acclaimed books, controversial books, all kinds of books. This is a reading list for a conference staff, and we figure, if our attendees are reading them, we should be, too.

So if you’re interested in the lists for 2012, here they are:

Narrate Conferences 2012 Reading Lists

SirensCollapse )

YA Conference Needs a NameCollapse )



Another October, another weekend of women in fantasy with Sirens.

I love Sirens.

And the end of Sirens always makes me verklempt.

As most of you know, back several years, my team spent a few years doing Harry Potter conferences. Those were terrific conferences, full of important ideas and a community of amazing people who came together over one fantastic series. But, to me, they weren’t vital. They were fun, they were challenging and interesting and so significant to the fan community, but they weren’t vital to who I am or what I do or what I think of the world.

Sirens, to me, is vital.

Sirens is a conference of women in fantasy literature. Women (mostly) from around the world come in to discuss books, yes, and authors, but also the place of women in fantasy literature, the place of female characters in fantasy literature, and sometimes, how fantasy literature can change the place of women in the world. We have academics, we have authors, we have such smart, dynamic readers, all of whom are welcome to have a voice in our discussions.

Sirens gives me context. It gives me perspective. It gives me ideas and validation and fun, funny, brilliant friends. It gives me power. It gives me hope.

Remember, I spend my days working for a company that, at its top levels, is comprised almost entirely of men. Smart men, sometimes brilliant men, but men, who see the world in a very specific, often homogenous way. I love it, but it’s so ridiculously single-faceted. And I spend so much time doing it that it’s too easy to forget that the world is more than that and that I’m more than that.

Sirens is, I hope, a safe space for women to discuss something that is, I hope, as dear to their hearts as it is to mine: fantasy literature full of daring, adventurous, powerful, smart women. Worlds where women can run countries and slay dragons and change the world. Worlds where nursing and teaching and child-rearing are valued. Worlds where beauty is nice, but intelligence and fairness and charity are nicer.

Sirens is, I hope, a retreat from a world of expectations to a place that is, I hope, welcoming of ideas and brilliance and power and, yes, monstrous, fey, warrior women.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of what we’ve accomplished with Sirens as I was when Nnedi Okorafor stood up at her keynote address last weekend and proudly declared herself a "monstrous woman from a long line of monstrous women." Unless perhaps it was last year when Terri Windling made a room of people cry with her keynote address on women reclaiming the power of women’s stories. Or perhaps the year before that when everyone stayed up way past bedtime to hear Tamora Pierce speak for three hours about her feminist journey with fantasy literature. Or when someone who has been silent all weekend raises her hand at a roundtable and shares her journey and her thoughts. Or every single time a woman at Sirens says to me, “I’ve never shared this, but…”

Every time an attendee tells me how important Sirens is to her, I’m proud. Every time an attendee tells me how much she needs Sirens, I’m proud. Every time an attendee presents or volunteers or donates or tells her friends to come to Sirens, I’m proud, because that means that Sirens is important to her, too.

Sirens makes me proud because we’re accomplishing something vital, something critical, something essential. I hope everyone this year went home feeling a little bit smarter, a little bit validated, a little bit energized and a lot more powerful.


Next year, Sirens returns.

Dates: We’ll still be in October, this time October 11-14, 2012.

Location: In 2012, though, we’ll be in the Columbia River Gorge, in Stevenson, Washington, outside Portland, Oregon. The resort, Skamania Lodge, is a bit different from the Vail Cascade. It’s in the grand tradition of the great lodges of the Pacific Northwest, with a soaring lobby and a roaring fire and grand views of the Columbia River and surrounding mountains. It’s almost 8,000 feet lower than Vail, at 207 feet above sea level. It’s only 45 minutes or so from the Portland airport. But the view might be even better than the view in Vail. I know that seems impossible, but trust me: we have a river, we have soaring peaks, and we have forests. And the shuttle ride will take you right up the Columbia River Gorge.

Theme: Next year, we’re going to celebrate the tradition of female storytellers. Scheherazade saved her life by telling tales – and many women around the world would tell you the same of themselves, at least symbolically. Fairy tales, of course, are fair game, but so are fantastic re-tellings of myths, legends and folklore from all cultures and regions. If you don’t already have ideas for programming, I’m happy to give you some of mine.

Guests: Malinda Lo is coming! If you don’t know her work, go read Ash and Huntress at once. The former turns the tale of Cinderella on its head in the best way possible. The latter draws influences from Chinese culture and bases details on the I Ching. Kate Bernheimer is also coming! If you don’t know her name, you ought to know her work: she edited My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, a collection of adult re-tellings of fairy tales from around the world by well-known authors, which has been nominated for a World Fantasy Award this year. She has a tremendous body of academic work in the field of folklore and fairy tales, and she has written and edited many fictional works in the same field. The third guest, well, I’m still prodding at a publisher to let her come play, but I’m crossing my fingers that I can divulge her name and the brilliance of her work soon.

Which is all to say that, if women in fantasy literature is important to you, you should join us next year. Past attendees will have the sort-of secret link to early registration tomorrow; perhaps they’d be willing to share it. And our website for 2012 – a year of tales and storytellers and smart, terrific women – will be up on November 1. Come join us!


Five Awesome Things

1) I have a saga in which I said all sorts of nasty, annoyed things about Yosemite last week. Yes, the national park. Yes, I know. But I am happy to report that nothing about Yosemite is overrated at all. It was, in fact, completely amazing. I would join the park service, but I hear there are mice in their cabins, and mice are not amazing.

2) Veronica Roth's Divergent was also amazing. Violent and thoughtful and bloody and manipulative and ruthless and relentless and have I mentioned violent? I would read it again right now, except that (2(a)!) I have an ARC of Laini Taylor's new book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and if a book by an amazing author uses the phrase "nonessential penises," I have to read it at once.

3) Dresses from Macy's came and now I have something to wear to my brother's wedding next weekend and I can send the rest of the dresses back to Macy's. Good for me, bad for Macy's. Also, it is harder than you think to find a dress for a beach wedding following by Old Country Buffet and backyard horseshoes, especially when the bride is wearing something full-length, beaded and strapless.

4) Accordingly to Hal Higdon, I still have time to train for my half-marathon in September, even though I have been fat and lazy lately. *\o/*

5) In a few weeks, I will be in New Orleans, where I will spend a lot of time sitting, eating and watching the boats go by. This may throw a wrench into (4), but I am helpless before beignets.
A few months ago, I was searching for female monster books to put on the 2011 Sirens reading list, and I stumbled across Dia Reeves's Bleeding Violet. Happily, authors have started to make the first chapters of books available on their websites, so I was able to take a sneak peek at Bleeding Violet (which was a very good thing because the cover of this book? Lord, the cover makes this look like the worst of the paranormal romance books).

Bleeding Violet, chapter one: Hanna shows up in Portero, alone, in the middle of the night. She's talking to her dead father (not a ghost, but perhaps a hallucination? Perhaps a spirit. I was never quite sure), about to meet her mother for the first time. But, in her inimitable Hanna way, instead of knocking, she listens to her father's advice, enters her mother's house uninvited, and starts making a sandwich, waking her mother in the process. At the end of the chapter, Hanna's mom asks Hanna, casually, if she's killed her aunt, and Hanna, just as casually, says she might have.


Okay, maybe lots of you could have not bought this book. Whatever. I bought the book.

Bleeding VioletCollapse )

Which also means that when Slice of Cherry came out on January 4, and Amazon.com, those incompetent fuckers, weren't going to ship it FOR THREE WEEKS, I canceled my order and Marbles, knowing my obsession, bought it for me for Epiphany. (What? Any holiday's a good holiday for gift-giving!)

Slice of CherryCollapse )

I suspect it takes the right type of person to love these books. :)) These aren't books where people try to be good, whatever that means. They're powerful books, where women are fearless, angry and resourceful. Dia Reeves doesn't write shrinking-violet settings or plots or girls. And I really, really love her for it.


Nov. 8th, 2010

This weekend I: missed a happy hour because I was still at work; went to a basketball game; got a box of energy-saving lighting accessories (e.g., light bulbs) at said basketball game (yeah, I don't know either); got home waaaaay too late; slept in waaaaay too long; mailed stuff; picked up boxes of books (and a birdhouse for grandma) from our apartment office; took two naps; watched five football games; read 2.8 books; ran twice; sorted out Christmas presents; realized I have no idea what to get grandma; talked to my mom, who told me to buy grandma bras; bought grandma bras in obnoxious FUN colors; did some Christmas shopping; made pumpkin muffins; watched Phil The Amazing Race, a whole lot of Buffy and some cupcake girls; reminded myself again that I do not need to open a bakery/bookstore; did laundry; made the bed; put the clean clothes, unfolded, on the floor and ignored them; went to the grocery store; watched vlamidala run a marathon via Twitter; made cowboy steak; ate potato chips for breakfast; skipped lunch (twice); killed a fly (of the lethargic, ginormous, late fall variety); and slept a lot, but still not enough.

What did you do?

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