A Story Is A Play Is A Novel Is A Show

The first time I changed formats/mediums was in university. I’d written a short story about a girl who realizes her boyfriend’s interest is moreso in the fact that theirs is an interracial relationship than in her. (It would be giving it too much credit to believe the execution lived up to that, since what I mostly remember is the character fumbling with the inconsistencies of what you’d expect your partner to “get”, what level of social maturity/critiquing in which you’d expect they could participate.)

I decided the story was better served as a screenplay, a decision probably not unrelated to the fact that moving from high school into university cut my performances by about 90%. No marching band, no color guard, no repertory theatre, no drill team. But that’s not the point.

The process of transposing a story from the page to the stage or screen is such an exciting (to me) experience. It’s also (sometimes) frustrating, stumping, illuminating, a dozen other things. My willingness/need to do this – not only when I realize a story is better suited to something other than a short story, novella or novel, but also when it would simply be an interesting variation to see it that way in addition – is probably why I’ve always taken exception with people who insist on comparing novels to their film adaptations. Or more accurately, comparing films to their source books. It. Is. Not. The. Same. It’s not supposed to be, it couldn’t possibly be. Get on with it.

So, upon hearing about the Sci-fest (the Los Angeles Science Fiction One-Act Play Festival)

…I decided to take one of my short stories – one that wouldn’t exceed the 20 min run time – and transpose it into a stage play. It was actually pretty easy to make the choice, not just based on length but also on what I thought I could most effectively stage on a budget. (The flash trilogy about planets having their own unique soul conditions or my beloved Jigsaw, whose synopsis is available on my Writing page, did not quite fit this bill.)

The clear choice was Caroline Samir is Alive and Well.

And then I got stuck.

Not inorganically, which is just another way of saying the pause in the process was necessary, but still. Frustration. (Mostly because I had other deadlines…) Because pretty early on, it was apparent that the choice Caroline makes in the short story would not be emotionally satisfying or even possibly defensible on stage. Which means that I needed to reimagine her decision for the physical audience that (if not at sci-fest then someday and somewhere else!) would be watching. And of course it still had to be consistent with who she is.

The good thing about Caroline herself, and one of the reasons I knew this story was the right one to use, is that she is very boldly herself. Probably irritatingly so, for some. Myself included if I had to spend more than 5000 words with her, to be honest. But that possibly made it a bit easier to think of another way her choice would manifest.

So, long story short (not really, we’ve already been here a while, no?), the ending of the stage play is completely different from the ending of the short story. Necessarily so. And I love that.

And don’t get me started on transitioning a novel into a tv series.

Have you ever rewritten a story for a different medium? Did you love it? (Objection. Leading.)

Yes, it *IS* bold to end a blog post with a question when your once conversational community may be gone forever, which is totally your own fault for not blogging in like ever.

Now. Here’s the deal.

As usual, I’d like to share the blame for my blog absence with you. (As in let’s just say we’re both wrong and be done with it.)

The reality is productivity. Every single thing has been written and submitted and crazy amazingly fun opportunities like Issa Rae’s ColorCreative.tv search for tv pilots written by women and writers of color and Sci-fest’s one act play festival and deadlines for these things and others have happened.

Because seriously, people, if you are like me, you’ve been ready for this for a good minute. Yas.

So away I have been getting the little boy settled in his new school (which we love and about which we sing hallelujah), writing all the things (including this one act play that should NOT be taking this long except for all the other writing deadline interruptions, geez), having no free weekends (which is killing my family as we are homebodies and I am only half-joking).

Watching my dog go full-senile. Yes, he’s almost 11 but dang. He hit old age hard. Let’s just say he is no longer the dog that has to go out once a day. O_O Not at all.

Oh and other AMAZINGLY MARVELOUS things still open to submissions?

Just adore Black Balloon and you should look into this.

If any stranger stumbles upon this post and enters either of these, let me know! So cool.

What We Lie About When We Talk About Diversity

People don’t buy books with people of color on the cover.

People don’t read books with people of color as narrator or MC.

People can’t relate.

First of all, one of the best things about that collection of quotes explaining racism is that it calls us out for not identifying who is being racist. Because of the way we police our speech, there are no racists, right? Just racist things that are happening all on their own. Just a machine already in motion (which is true) that no one is controlling (which could be true but that doesn’t negate) that someone is benefiting from. So s/he is responsible for shutting it down.

So we’re not talking about “people.” We’re talking about white people. White people is not a dirty word, you guys, unless you insist on just being people while the rest of us have always been identified by our phenotype or ethnicity. Which says something. (I’m convinced that there are at least a slight number of people who – if they had something pointed out – can get the message.)

And while others have already eloquently spoken on the fact that the thing about diversity is that white people shouldn’t have to be able to relate to everything in the marketplace – which I will sum up as follows: Diversity in literature is having something for everyone, not everything for someone – what I wanna talk about is how that’s baloney. That whole can’t-relate dealie. Is baloney.

Because the thing is: none of us fell out of the womb relating. We were *taught* how to relate to the default voice. From the first reading assignment through to the last, by whom we were assigned to read, by the way we were taught to decipher it, we were taught how to relate to literature.

Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Frost, Atwood, Wharton, and everyone else we read. We were taught how to read them. We were socialized to identify and identify with the style, the imagery, the pentameter, the allusions, the themes. We were taught.

Which means you can learn. Anyone who wants to. Everyone. Because – instead of trying to edit out the minority voice – the standard response should be, lemme stretch myself so I can hear the things I’m not hearing. Let me learn a new way to read, just like all of the western world was taught to hear the white, (mostly) male voice.

Learn to read, y’all.

And if you need to hear it again, please go read this. Because TRUTH:

White is an ethnicity as well. Which is why you can’t take a white character, slap a skin color on, and say, “Tada, now you’re (insert race)!” Because your character, depending on what race and background they have, isn’t going to look at white things the way a white person would.

#We

#Need

#Diverse

#Authors

And I’m keeping my voice.

 

Lightning Crashes

 

Let me tell you about the most frustratingest two days of my June life. (Because, let’s be real. I can’t rightly remember what happened in May. That was May’s problem; none of my business.)

So I have a bucket of projects from novel to flash fiction length out and about, looking for a home. (Does anyone else do this thing where they have several submission lists, in various visual iterations – like each particular project has its own excel workbook and then there’s the linear list of each project and where it’s subbed but then there’s this other thing which is shapes and just a different presentation of the same information because sometimes that’s how my brain needs to ingest information. You do, right? I should mention I am not soliciting diagnoses at this time.)

I tell you about this murder of organizational/administrative/brain-pressure-relieving documents because sometimes dealing with this aspect of the writer life suffices for a day or week while I wait on the next Must Write story/character/scene.

But not this past week. I was/am in the middling stretch with basically all aforementioned projects and I was like, okay, the next step in the thought-it-would-be-a-collection-of-flash-stories story might be transitioning into novellette or novella territory (dude, I wish I could tell you why) and simultaneously wanting to write a new novel for the adult market, but no. Seriously, not a single thought or concept was coming. By which I mean, not a single thought or concept that made sense.

It’s about a killer robot driving instructor, who travels back in time for some reason.

And then as it does, magic happened via the mundanity that is something I experience all the time and BOOM. Scene in my head. So, even though it was a simple scene, I wrote it down. As per yoosh, in the writing, more was revealed, but it was still vague in a way that surprised me. It could be more than one genre, part of more than one story.

So I made a two column list. This is how the story would proceed if it were this genre, this is how the story would proceed if it were this genre. And ho.my.gosh. One of those columns got long and extravagant and the concept turned into a world and ojsdopfjpdogkpdkfophhpodjfg and

It’s not ready to be written but WOW. I can’t. It’s one of those I have no idea how to write this projects and I can.not.wait.

That’s all.

 

‘Cause We Can’t Stop

 

TheNewBelovedYou ain’t even know.

This marvel of marvels, this tastiest of things? Is my new journal. Now, the first observation should rightly be: this is not a Roma Lussa, to which I desired greatly to return after two years of writing in a lined, non-marbelized-edged, decidedly un-handwoven-paged, sans leather not to mention wrap-adverse covered tome. Which I ended up very much enjoying for its delightful thickness.

So the thing is, I am very near the end of a journal and I cannot handle that being the case without knowing where I will write next. Mentally. I can’t handle that mentally. And finding my beloved Roma Lussa has been a challenge (no, the cost of shipping was not acceptable) so I went to Renaud-Bray to see if there was anything I could love. And immediately, no. NO. on all “leather” journals. I put that in quotes because I don’t know what these things are made of but it is not the supple buttery delectability to which I am accustomed, friends. It is not.

But then, I move a journal aside on a top shelf – I feel it’s important for you to accurately picture me on tiptoe here – and there is this. This flabbergasting cover with two glorious hooks, containing larger unlined pages than I have ever journaled on. But it wasn’t what I was looking for so I put it back. And then I came back and picked it up. And I put it down and went about my business. And then, as I was preparing to leave, I came rushing back and picked it up again. And then, darlings, I knew. I could not be without it.

I’ve begun my goodbye to the current journal. The obligatory flipping back to the beginning, seeing where I was, where it began. September 2012.

Le sigh eternal, you guys.

Have I mentioned I love journaling? (Ever?) (At all?)

Rando Calrissian

Like many writers treating this like a j-o-b, I have eleventy things out and about right about now. Novels, novellas, short stories. Only one of which I’m stereotypically worried-bananas-obsessed over because DID THEY GET IT, did they forget they said I could do that, Dear Savior please halp. Like, for real, I don’t even know what to do. And I can’t just leave it be and go submit elsewhere because you’re the one, the one I’ve been looking for, what’s your name?!

Eric WTF

Ahem.

And then anyway.

I just really wanna see Maleficent again. As much as I had ZERO intention of seeing it in 3-D and resultantly paying a grillion bucks to do so because it was the only showing that didn’t make me late to get to my little boy’s award ceremony (the things we do for kids, eh?) – I loved it.

Speaking of movies (of which this summer has a ton I cannot wait to see):

I mean.

I remember falling in love with the trailer for the Rise of the PotA movie – being so scared that it’d hurt me just like the trailer for Terminator: Salvation did. But it didn’t. In the words of Homer Simpson, it did rocketh my world. So much so that I endured the original five Planet of the Apes. (Yes, that’s three links in as many sentences.) And of course, I’m about to do it all over again. Because YAS.

Who’s comin’ with me?

 

 

What Can I Do For You

This is where I started to write a hilarious (to me) post about how when elected, Diverse Author will make the world a better place in general, a la Homer Simpson’s Sanitation Commissioner campaign.

Like any passionate politician, I was going to promise the moon – or at least a doing away with the new PRH logo.

If one can really call it that. I feel like they were going for clean and minimalist, forgetting that they’d gone with PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE as a name. When we all had already decided on Random Penguin.

When you choose to support Diverse Author, you get my personal guarantee that I will fight for the PRH logo we deserve. The one where the penguin is wild-eyed and wearing one sock, possibly brandishing an umbrella. You know, something you’d be proud to have on the spine of your book.

But it would go well beyond rebranding. Diverse Author promises to increase your daily word count by combining things the internet assumes every writer has to begin with. A cat. And a laptop. Using a cat’s innate desire to sleep on your keyboard, I will help you produce record-breaking and experimental content without ever plotting or world-building.

Genius.

I was totally gonna write that post. And then I worried that the joke might be lost on many, if a joke is what we could call it. The strange expectation then that seems to constantly accompany diversity hires – POTUS included – which dictates that we must be The Living End. That which shall set right all the things and purify every iniquity.

The expectation that makes such hires and initiatives unsustainable.

Because the thing to realize is that the world is improved precisely by our having a voice, simply by righting the wrong. Not if we exceed sales expectations with a single bound, not if we surpass our cultural icons and heroes. By taking our place.

You’re welcome.

 

I’m Gonna Shout “Fire” In A Crowded Room

Can we replace “diversity problem” with “delusion”? Google’s mostly white-male staff underline Tech’s delusion sounds more honest. Let’s call it what it is. It reflects a clear and persistent and almost inspired inability or unwillingness to operate in the real and actual world. Concurrently, it reflects a system so lopsided that there is an overrepresentation of white men in the corporate world which, if scrutinized even slightly, would point to significant problems with the socio-educational-economic-everyinstitutionever complex that makes up our nation.

Click-bait titles for self-aggrandizing, pseudo-radical-social-revolutionary stories that in no way challenge the foundation, you’ve done it again.

How do you get Latino children into classical music, NPR? Really?

Somehow get people out of the ethno-social class that is historically and perpetually marginalized. Give them a break from chaotic and desperate circumstances which perpetuate the comparatively high percentages of academic under-performance and criminalization and thereby allow them a longer scope and vision. Give them access to all the things you have access to while doing away with the institutionalized barriers and negative expectations and baggage that inhibit upward mobility and create self-fulfilling prophecies. Because we know that “classical music” is code for something else entirely.

But we also know that no one was genuinely asking in the first place.

We Are The People That You’ll Never Get The Best Of.

fire_07

But this is a reminder: any and all campaigns dedicated to increasing diverse representation have to be constantly self-regulating. Sometimes finding a solution isn’t the first order of business. The first order of business is resetting the way we all think.

Yep, #WeNeedDiverseBooks. But that means #WeNeedDiverseAuthors to write books that reflect the actual reality. This is my story.

 

Morning Glory

Now that I’ve described the mental process of writing as a writer of color (or tried to, anyway), on to what I want to write. Presently, anyway. It evolves and I’m glad for it.

My broseph-in-law, Andy, is actually the person who asked whether I was going to post this somewhere. Having edited gently to remove indicators of to whom this was originally submitted, here is a recent essay about My Story and why it’s being told overwhelmingly in speculative literary form.

*

I’ve long been conscious of what is inaccurately regarded as merely a Black predicament – and that such consciousness isn’t a characteristic of being Black – so, a devourer of gorgeous general fiction, I bared my soul in short stories and novels where the only character more important than language itself was the overwhelming social commentary. Overwhelming because it seemed inherently more aggressive in my present-day settings than the commentary in the work I adored.

My father was born a Black man in the Midwest in 1944 and when Affirmative Action debuted it wasn’t a dig, it was a divine intervention. His isn’t my story.

As much as I love whatever brought us Lupita Nyong’o, the Academy most honors PoC stories sub-titled: When We Were Slaves – but that’s not my story either.

I adore them but I’m not Toni Morrison’s Denver, whose safety and wholeness is most possible in a world necessarily away from white people, or Octavia Butler’s Dana, whose engrossing tale is untellable without reliving the past. I am closer to Elsie in my novella, Keepsake – a clone born of a memory extraction who doesn’t live (and die) as she’s expected, who straddles two worlds, who’s not real but isn’t a Mem, who wants her loved ones to tell her who and what she is until she understands: they don’t know.

It’s not a story I could satisfactorily tell when I was writing purely general fiction. The characters kept getting reduced to their Blackness, to their remarkable ability to express themselves and decode the world. They were all poets and writers and professors, none of which is bad, but it was the “exceptional voice” all over again. It took place in the real world with a decided default class and therefore automatically became an “issue book” from which I shielded loved ones. They wouldn’t understand; they weren’t ready to hear; they’d reveal their own prejudices and I’d be faced with how to respond.

Because my story is having had to choose between the token – a story wherein the Black protagonist is inevitably the only PoC – and the exception – wherein a) the Black character is “not as colored as she seems” and her wavy hair, her green eyes, her lighter-shades-of-coffee skin are incessantly described, or b) every Black character is a genius, a master, a far cry from being average. My story is living in a post-movement world where a “normal” story is what we’re disallowed; we earn a story either because we’re victims still destructively reeling from the world we never made or because we’re noble pantheons of bootstrapping achievement. Society taught me I must be one or the other. But fighting that in black and white sometimes felt reductive, too.

Science fiction lets us hold the truth just far enough away to see it in our world. To speak directly while outfoxing those among us who refuse to acknowledge it or care. Should people need such coddling? Of course not. But if internet comments prove nothing else, privilege cripples. That’s never more obvious than when we call for diversity in the genre, not just on the page but behind the typewriter.

Right now, I write for the colored girls living the normal life we’re not supposed to. Who, like my character Avrilis, are the heroines in their story not because they’re exceptional “for colored girls” – but because they’re exceptional. Because they get to have love and planet-hopping steampunk adventures, too. (And because I know on such a journey, their hair wouldn’t be an after-thought.)

I’ll keep writing it because only after finishing Keepsake did I hear it speak to the way oppression and identity policing aren’t safely in our past, but are woven into a sometimes beautiful world that, yes, can knock the wind out of us when discrimination catches us off-guard.

*

Abrupt finish, I know. The last (omitted) sentence referred, you may have guessed, to the scholarship for which I was applying.

Final thought – which I hope won’t be too big a distraction to my above point: the chasm between genre fiction and the respectability of general fiction is particularly unfair to writers of color. And I say that as someone who didn’t know I’d end up on this side.

While my experience of feeling burdened and caged in cannot be applied to everyone else – because there are clearly too many writers of color writing beautiful and contemporary and yes sometimes historical works of art in general fiction (that give.me.LIFE) – I can’t escape the feeling that by writing anything else, my work is even further from ever being seen as capable of universal truth. I resent the feeling that I’m not writing “important work” anymore. And I disagree. (And heaven forfend, because that steampunky story I keep referring to? It’s YA to boot!) But just in case anyone else is in the same place as me, I wanted to let you know.