Celebrating Books

 

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.” – Franz Kafka

Nebula Award Winners 2014

10florida53

Wow! I’m really getting good at predicting these things.

The 2014 Nebula Awards held yesterday. And most of my favorites won. The only place where I was off with my predictions was in the Short Story Category, I thought “Alive, Alive Oh,’’ by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley was a definite shoe-in.

Special congratulations goes to Alliette Bodard (a friend) who took home the award for best novellette for The Waiting Stars. She wrote the first science fiction short story I ever read.

I put a link to all the short stories which can be read online for free. You’re welcome.

…………………………………….

Best Novel
Winner: Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)

Best Novella
Winner: ‘‘The Weight of the Sunrise,’’ Vylar Kaftan (Asimov’s 2/13)

Best Novelette
Winner: ‘‘The Waiting Stars,’’ Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky)

Best Short Story
Winner: ‘‘If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,’’ Rachel Swirsky (Apex 3/13)

[Nominees]

‘‘The Sounds of Old Earth,’’ Matthew Kressel

Selkie Stories Are for Losers,’’ Sofia Samatar

‘‘Selected Program Notes from the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer,’’ Kenneth Schneyer

‘‘Alive, Alive Oh,’’ Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
Winner: Gravity

[Nominees]:
Doctor Who: ‘‘The Day of the Doctor’’; Europa Report; Her; The Hunger Games: Catching Fire; Pacific Rim

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book
Winner: Sister Mine, Nalo Hopkinson (Grand Central)

Full list here.

There’s some media buzz about the fact that more women won awards this year than men, so everyone’s happy, for now.

Expect to see me there next year, fingers crossed.

P.S. If you’ve not read Ancilliary Justice by Ann Leckie, you absolutely should. I started reading it last week and I can testify that it’s solid sci-fi, and it’s different.

Hi Honey, I’m Home

welcome back

Hello, it’s been a while.

I feel like I just came home to a wife who I didn’t tell I was going on a 1-month space tour. And now she’s waiting for me at the door, watching me come home with a stupid grin on my face (which is twitching involuntarily in anticipation of a slap).

Look, it’s a long story, don’t make me go into it. Please.

I apologize.

Kiss. Make up.

Forgiven? Good. Now come see what I’ve got for you in my goodie bag.

………………….

Been writing a lot lately. Elizabeth Gilbert drove a nail into my metaphorical head with this.

And so, I made the commitment. 30 minutes bowing before the glorious timer (not the microwave’s, too many blackouts for that to be feasible). And what do you know? Two short stories and a bunch of first drafts later and I’ve gotten more done in 30 days than I did in the 3 preceding months.

Go, me!

In other news, I had another epiphany (the third one since I went on my one-month trip) and everything makes sense – I was born to write. Writing may not pay the bills today, but it will someday (it had better). This is what I came here to do, and as long as there’s a sun beating down on my head every time I step out onto the street, I’ll keep putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

Just like every epiphany, a lot of stuff now make sense in hindsight – my personality (INFP), my obsessive nature, the frustration every time I’m censored,

If you’re a parent, I’m going to say something to you I wish someone told my parents when I was kid – if your kid is gifted, don’t just leave him/her in school, coasting along.

Get involved. It’s called active parenting. At least, it should be.

It is your duty to help your kids find their place of giftedness, their bent as some authors call it.

Guide them. Counsel them. Let them know as much as they can about everything. But please, let them know who they are – let them take tests, go out, meet people, travel… Hmmm, you know what? This should be a post all by itself. So, here.

 

As far writing goes, here’s something interesting. Never ever underestimate the power of the first draft. It’s the hardest part of anything you’re gonna write. And it’s the part that requires you to kill your inner editor. You see, if you’re like me, you write with a clone of yourself looking over your shoulder, constantly criticizing every word as it leaves your fingers.

That clone is the devil. He’s going to stunt your writing, discourage you, make your life a living hell.

Kill him.

I mean it. Stab him, drag him into the field and leave him to the vultures. You know what? This deserves its own blog post. So here you go again.

One of my new hobbies is reading short stories, fantasy and sci-fi, so here’s one. It’s entry level fantasy so I think you’ll find it accessible enough. Have a tissue ready though. Broke my heart.

You’re Welcome.

 

P.S. You may think I’m overcompensating for the one-month leave. You’re right, I am. The silent treatment can be quite unnerving. So leave a comment, just to let me know we’re cool.

Parenting and Epiphanies

Parenting kids career

About that Epiphany.

Had another one; third one this month.

In hindsight, a lot of things that happened and how I responded make sense but getting here was like walking through the shadow of death. The feelings of insecurity, self doubt, confusion, depression (and the list goes on) were nearly too much to bear.

When I saw a lot of my friends getting jobs in banking, PR, in government, it gave me a lot of doubts.

But I’m here, and I’m here body, mind and soul. Writing.

I have my dream job, surrounded by books all day and the lowest point of my job is reading some really horrible manuscripts that land on my desks (last month’s were really really awful). But that’s the dream. At least part one of it. Maybe I should do a post about that too. I’ll think about it.

Meanwhile, here’s something I wished somebody drilled into my parents’ head when I was young(er) – expose your kids to as many career possibilities as possible. A career shouldn’t be just something to make enough money to keep the family sleeping on beds and eating decent meals. Most adults spend a third of their life at a job (if you live in a megacity like Lagos, you’ll spend the next third in traffic).

Your job should integrate with everything else about your life. It should suit your personality. It should drive you to wake up early on Monday morning. It should spur you to get better. It should draw on all your strengths, your individuality and even help you mitigate your weaknesses.

A friend of mine told about a game developer who tweeted sometime ago about working on a new project at the office and looking forward to the weekend to try out a few ideas on the project. I remember thinking, now that is the kind of job I want – something that would make all my synapses function every day, not just weekdays. Because, it’s no more a job. It’s a life passion. A life task.

Here’s where parents should be careful. Look, I know raising kids isn’t easy. There’s no true detailed instruction manual that teaches how to raise kids well. Every parent learns as they go because every kid is unique. And every family is also unique.

But please, don’t shoehorn your kids into careers. Most parents mean well, but the reality of the twenty first century is that some jobs didn’t exist a decade ago. Some are no longer viable jobs. And I believe that the next decade is going to produce so much change – technologically and socioeconomically – that your kids are going to be having cool job titles. Like Social Media Manager (the person with the company twitter password). Or, you know, the guy who annoys people with aggravating posts.

So let your kids live their lives; let them explore as far as possible, read even farther and then let their imagination carry them the rest of the way. Help them learn a new language, a new instrument, a sport. Encourage them to join the debate team. Or the track team. Or take up judo. Travel. Etc.

And if your kid’s gifted, get him/her into a special program. It will save everyone a lot of frustration.

You may be thinking, all these from an epiphany? Well, that’s what happens when you have a lot of free time on your hands and wordpress. So, it is what it is.

Thanks for listening.

Editing and the First Draft

writing and editing

Depending on where you fall in the following spectrum, you’ll have varying dispositions towards an editor :

Bad Writer + Big Ego = Editors are the Worst!

Bad Writer + Reasonable Ego = Editors are a necessary evil!

Good Writer + Humongous Ego = Editors are Butchers!

Good Writer + Sane Ego = My editor is the best!

[I’m really not in the mood for Photoshop so if anyone could do an infographic, I’d really appreciate it.]

Regardless of where you fall in that categorization, there is one editor you should hate with perfect hatred – The Internal Editor.

He is a vampire. And a black hole for creativity.

I used to listen to him all the time. I’d have a really great idea and I’d be writing, then he’d show up with his horn-rimmed glasses, peeking over my shoulder and pointing at my words, saying things like;

 

That’s not the right term to use.

Oh look, you didn’t spell creativity right.

Isn’t there a better way of using that word?

The point is, listening to that voice stops you from doing the most important thing when you’re writing – actually writing. It halts your train of thought and stops the outflow of ideas from your mind.

Editing makes use of the left part of your brain (the rational part). And if you’re being rational, it’s difficult to produce highly creative work (which comes from the right part).

I’ve been in this business for a while now and I can tell you, switching between both hemispheres of the brain stunts productivity. That’s why you’ve got to train yourself to stop listening to the internal editor.

There are over a hundred ways of curbing this spoilsport. You could try writing with a pen and paper while timing yourself; you could type as fast as you can on the keyboard while refusing to correct grammatical blunders; the list goes on. Figuring out how to outsmart him is part of the fun of writing.

Personally, I have two rituals.

First, I do some warm up writing. I write whatever comes to my mind, as fast as it comes to my mind. It doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t even have to be sensible. The aim is to get your right hemisphere pumping and your internal editor snoring. For example, the last exercise I did produced a 2-page rant about how much money I make from my job (don’t worry, no one’s going to see that).

Then, when I’m good and ready, I convince myself that whatever I write today is not going to be published; I’m just checking if the muse is home today. And then I begin.

Speed is of the essence when starting out. I keep telling myself, I’m not editing, I’m writing. I permit myself to have typos. Sometimes, I leave spaces in the prose just to make sure my fingers keep typing. Don’t stop for anything!

The goal is to keep your right brain active, making random associations, divergent and disruptive thinking etc. It’s quite simple once you get the hang of it.

And that’s how you get a first draft. In the history of writing, no first draft has ever been published (not even science publications). You get to go over your successive drafts in rational mode and edit edit edit.

So, the next time you seat down to write, remember to drive a stake through your internal editor’s heart. You’re welcome.

P.S. Don’t hesitate to share tips and rituals you use to curb your own internal editor.