Schedule: Publishers Weekly Star Watch banquet

August 21st, 2015

Less than a week after signing up for BinderCon, my good friend Laura Stanfill of Forest Avenue Press invited me to be her plus-one at a PW awards banquet in New York. I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to be with one of the most talented friends I have on this special night, and this just sounds like so much fun.

WhatInaugural PW Star Watch Celebration Party

When: September 15, 2015

Where: New York, NY

And there’s a cherry on top: I’m eager to meet the nice folks at PW who will be running my piece on Arab science fiction in the October 5 SF/F issue.

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Schedule: BinderCon, NYC, November 6-9

August 21st, 2015

Even as I’m oh-so-overdue for writing about my amazing experience at Shubbak in London last month, I’ve signed myself up for BinderCon, a professional development conference to empower women and gender non‑conforming writers with tools, connections, and strategies to advance their careers. This has been a hugely supportive group of women, and I can’t wait to meet many of them in person and share experiences.

What: BinderCon, hosted by Out of the Binders

When: November 7–9, 2015

Where: New York University campus, Manhattan

And it’s on my birthday, so I guess besides the fact that I can’t spend it with my wife, this is one of the best gifts I’ve given myself in a long time.

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Love Letter to the Weird Things

May 21st, 2015

When you have a job in books, you read all the time. And it’s true: I spend literally every single day of the week reading manuscripts on one or two computer screens, hands hovering over the keyboard, usually poised on the seat of my chair in something like a crouch or a perch; a chiropractor’s nightmare. People ask if I get tired of reading.

Where the work happens.

Where the work happens.

First, I have a really easy job. Nobody’s sick. Nothing is going to fall on me, and nobody is shooting. I work in a cozy office at home, with the cat and both dogs snoring on the rug. Yes, I started this business and worked hard to make it viable, but it still feels like a guilty privilege. I take it as seriously as possible and devote myself the part of it that matters most–offering helpful, effective advice to writers who are staking a major chunk of their future happiness on the chance of publishing novels. I know how this feels because when I’m not editing, I’m writing, too.

That said: I do get tired of being critical. The most delicious thing in the world is a finished novel that isn’t in need of an opinion. At the end of the day (literally) I want to be something more important to writers–simply, purely a reader.

When almost two months go by without reading anything for fun, burnout is imminent. I think of my imagination as a jazzy, colorful pet, and if it starves to death, what good am I to writers? The ability to run loose in somebody else’s fictive dream is part of both the job of being an editor and the joy of being a reader. And what good am I to myself, or anybody I love, without an imagination, and everything else that flows from it–a sense of humor, a sense of fun?

All of this is context. Right now, my desk is surrounded by science fiction. In a sort of remedial frenzy, I scooped up Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, Ferrett Steinmetz’s Flex, Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon, Veronica Roth’s Divergent, and Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor. In short, it’s a speculative buffet for the little imagination creature: sci-fi, urban fantasy, political spec-fic, YA dystopian, and fantasy. Something about Divergent‘s simplicity turned me off after the first few chapters, but I admired Leckie’s respect for her readers’ intelligence, and I loved Steinmetz’s caper, which transforms OCD into beautiful magic. I’m reading Lagoon right now, and loving the setting (Lagos).


Speculative fiction is superfood for the imagination. It’s full of weirdness and wonder. You can be as precious as you like about the craft of writing, but without imagination, where’s the depth? What’s the point? That’s not to say that all fiction should be written about invented worlds, but having encountered many writing teachers and editors who crinkle their noses at speculative fiction as if it’s as the red-headed stepchild of novels that are Worth Our Time, well, to them, I merely point out that we fun people are sitting at this table here and the Picky Eaters Club is over there, next to the really big bowl of plain lettuce.

In short, editing doesn’t ruin the pleasure of reading–not one bit. Knowing how to change a bike tire hardly destroys the pleasure of riding it. Editing is just a way of interacting with my imagination, articulating how the fictive dream wobbles. But first and always, I’m a reader. Reading is a temperament, a lifelong habit, or a bit of both, and I get a near-ridiculous amount of comfort from the knowledge that even if I live to be as old my centenarian grandmother, I will never run out of good books to read.


Shubbak Festival

April 26th, 2015

I’m beyond excited to be attending this year’s Shubbak Festival in London. It includes a weekend of events related to Arab Literature. The highlight, for me, will be the panel “Science Fiction in the Arab World.” (Haven’t I been saying this is a thing?) I can’t wait to bring my notes and ideas home to share, along with book recommendations.

What: Shubbak: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture

When: July 24–26, 2015

Where: The British Library, London, UK

If you’re planning to be there, or have a question you’d like me to ask, let me know! In the meantime, I’ll be busy preparing in the most fun way possible (for a bookworm): digging into a pile of exciting novels, graphic novels, and other literature whose authors will be presenting at the festival.

Project 2015 Is Underway

February 17th, 2015

I mentioned earlier that I’m giving this year the big, open-ended, grandiose designation of Project 2015. Mainly, it’s a reminder to me that every day is what you make of it, good or bad. You can pay attention to things that go wrong and stew in your worries, or you can wrap your arms around your big plans, not knowing where they’ll take you or whether they’ll work out. This includes but is not limited to getting pregnant, publishing ROOM 100, and continuing to grow my editing business of thirteen years, The Threepenny Editor. Being ambitious, they are necessarily long-term goals; and I, not being a masochist, realized that it is preferable to spend the journey in a positive frame of mind.

I’m sure I’ll write more about the first two goals soon. In the meantime, here are the first three installments of the #Project2015 series on how to improve your fiction. As always, I’m open to new clients. If you know of anyone, send ’em my way.

Part 1, “Scaffolding, or How You Build Something Out of Nothing

Part 2, “Make Your Voice Original by Getting Rid of ‘Received Text’

Part 3, “‘Strong Protagonists’ Remind Us How to Feel

More soon!

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