Pitch Wars #PimpMyBio

Hi, I’m Emily Strong! I grew up in western New York but relocated to the Boston area about ten years ago, where I live in a Star-Wars-LEGO-filled apartment with my partner and two cats.

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As a western NY transplant, I have strong opinions on Buffalo wings.

I was a theater kid and went to the Rochester School of the Arts as a drama major for three years (eventually transferred out because I discovered writing and their creative writing program wasn’t a good fit). I still love musical theater (and musical movies, TV episodes, etc) and am currently obsessed with Hamilton.

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I am a fan of a lot of a lot of popular sci-fi and fantasy book, TV, and film series, many of which you can probably guess from my choice of pictures and gifs. My favorite doctor is the 9th and my favorite companion is Donna.

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I am bisexual and write stories in which being queer is normal. Not all of them have queer characters as the protagonists, but queer folks are always heavily represented in the main cast and never receive the Dumbledore treatment.

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I write heroines who are smart and capable and can rescue themselves.

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I write strong female friendships and make sure to have scenes that pass the Bechdel-Wallace test.

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I have PTSD and the dearth of realistic portrayals of reactions to trauma in spec fic has always bothered me. So when traumatic things happen, my characters have realistic, long-term reactions.

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I love antiheroes and morally grey characters.

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My target audience is my friends and I when we were in late high school and college still voraciously reading Tamora Pierce and Sherwood Smith and other YA authors because adult speculative fiction didn’t speak to our lives.

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(Also, Tamora Pierce is my idol)

I am in an awesome writing group called B-Spec (which Gillian Daniels is also in!). We do everything from critiques and a book club to meeting at Panera once a week to write in the midst of chaos. Probably half of my first draft was written in that Panera.

Speaking of which, my novel is a secondary world fantasy. It explores the question of what if the chosen one found out she was pregnant and decided to walk away from her destiny to save her unborn child. The novel focuses on her daughter, Skadi, struggling with the consequences of that choice, and on Skadi’s school rival Muri who believes he is working to end the resulting war but the group he works for is not what they seem. Some hopefully interesting details about my book you won’t get from just the query letter and first chapter:

  • This is an upper YA novel about older teens trying to cope with adult problems, with everything that entails. And they also have teenage problems like figuring out what they want to do with their lives when they are done with school or missing curfews or not being able to find a place to make out in private.
  • The technology level is circa 1700 (think early Scientific Revolution) except where necessity and the existence of magic has accelerated things.
  • This is a dual-lineal society created by a mother goddess. It is not a patriarchal society. Cooking and raising children is shared work. No one ever says “but you’re a girl” or questions women in leadership. There is no rape or sexual violence. Consider it the antithesis of Game of Thrones in this regard.
  • Skadi assists a famous inventor with her research after school and Muri is a street artist.
  • I don’t have an “X meets Y” for the book but the tl;dr is feminist Mallorean starring young Bones and Snape.

Why you should pick me:

  • I enjoy the world and characters that I have created but this is not my “baby.” I want this to be the best book it possibly can be, and a big part of making it better is incorporating feedback.
  • I am very used to receiving constructive criticism on my work in general, and this book in particular. Portions of it have been workshopped through three different writing groups over the years.
  • All that being said, a big part of receiving constructive criticism is knowing what cannot be changed. I know what is essential to the story, and when something isn’t working I am glad to explain why it is important and discuss better ways to approach it.
  • If we ever Skype you will get to meet my cats.

In closing, thanks Lana Pattinson for hosting #PimpMyBio! I somehow managed to do a gif-based post without using any Firefly gifs, so I leave you with this:

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ReaderCon 27 Reflections

I’ve been going to ReaderCon for several years now, and this year I decided to Change Things Up.

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At ReaderCons past I mostly went to panels, and spent oodles in the book room, and hadn’t really taken advantage of the many other offerings. So this year I decided to add in some readings and other things (and went to a wedding on Saturday so I missed a number of the panels I would have been interested in). As a result I was a lot more selective in which ones I attended which (mostly) paid off. I certainly missed a lot of the problems other people experienced, though the lack of diversity was very noticeable on panels not explicitly about diversity.

Panels:

  • Cowboys of Space: Examined our fascination with cowboys and the idea of them as the American mythology. There was a fascinating discussion on how people of color (particularly former slaves during Reconstruction) sought a more egalitarian society in the old west, which has been eliminated from the mythos that is based primarily on movies.
  • There’s a Queer Person at the End of This Book!: Talked about why coming out stories still matter, but it would be so nice to have stories about what comes after (or even that reflect the way people who pass as straight have to come out over and over and over again). Also, in a lot of speculative fiction the romance is a subplot or backstory, so why are they always straight romances? Where are the backstories of gay or poly romances? Why not have more characters be asexual or aromantic when romance is not the point of the book? And most importantly, when there are gay couples WHY AREN’T THEY OPENLY AFFECTIONATE THE WAY THE STRAIGHT COUPLES ARE IN THE SAME BOOK?
  • Challenging the Coercive Muse: The greatest take away from this is that the best way to get past writers block, meet deadlines, etc, is to just write every day. Aside from the fact that no first draft is perfect anyway so might as well write crap and edit it later, pushing through instead of waiting for the muse to strike will give you the experience to know that you can write whenever you need to, you don’t need the lightning.
  • Sensuality and Exploitation: Two of the authors on the panel write erotica and offered great insights on the subject. One of the things that makes writing sex scenes so difficult while we can easily get away with violence is that people’s reactions to sex scenes are deeply personal. One person’s sexy is another person’s disturbing.
  • A Dark and Golden Age: Everything we know about the “dark ages” is wrong. There was one panelist who, uh, shall we say didn’t quite get the point of the panel and Catherine Valente put on her historian hat and shut him down and then called on Ada Palmer in the audience to chime in about what we know from manuscripts from the period.

I also went to readings by James Patrick Kelly, Catherine Valente, and Gillian Daniels (yay BSpec!), and attended the Meet the Pros(e) Party and 80s dance, A Most Readerconnish Miscellany, and the Shirley Jackson Awards. I’ve never gone to the Readerconnish Miscellany before and it was a nice change in pace to see the authors being silly instead of just talking shop. The best bit was when they set the lyrics from one song to the tune of another. “Hello” to the tune of “Sweet Transvestite” was actually an improvement on the song, and Heath Miller had impressive pipes on “Shake it Off” to “Do You Hear the People Sing!”

This was also my first time staying at the con, which meant it was my first time hanging out in the hotel pub and going to parties because I didn’t need to drive home. So I got to meet authors and publishing people, but was mostly an awkward wallflower while my friends who know them from cons past made conversation.

Except for when people asked me to talk about my novel. From those conversations I discovered my elevator pitch is terrible. I could see their eyes glazing over as I talked. So… gotta work on that especially since I need to start my query letter for Pitch Wars.