October 20th, 2015

Thanks to Lizette Wanzer’s amazing grant workshop at the San Francisco Grotto, I spent some time putting myself out there for new writing opportunities this year.

I’m beyond pleased to say that two of these grant applications were approved. One is a Creative Capacity Fund Quick Grant that will enable me to attend BinderCon in New York next month. The other is a Key West Literary Seminar Writers Workshop scholarship to attend Diana Abu Jaber’s weeklong class in January.

Writing a novel is a notoriously slow and solitary process, so it is gratifying–even life-giving–to gain support along the way. I look forwarding to meeting others on the same path, and to learning from the best.

New freelance piece published in Publishers Weekly

October 20th, 2015

This article exists behind a subscription wall, unfortunately, but if you can, check out my latest freelance piece in Publishers Weekly. After a lot of editing and the help of an amazing editor there, we managed to get my trip to London and about seven interviews to fit into a 650-word article. I still have so much good information from my research that I’m thinking about how I might use more of it in another piece.

If you don’t have a PW subscription and would like to know something specific about upcoming Arab speculative fiction, feel free to contact me.

Beyond One Thousand and One Nights: Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015-2016

Genre fiction is gaining ground in the Middle East—and, slowly, the books are moving West…

Publishers Weekly

From Helmet Head to Helmut Lang

October 20th, 2015

At 9:15 a.m. on Sunday morning, I was swinging my bike around into a light headwind on Highway 1. Despite a fog of condensation across my time trial helmet’s visor, I sighted the next woman in my age group and shifted up a gear, accelerating south along the dramatic Pacific coastline. I was on the second leg of Ironman Santa Cruz 70.3 and having the race of my life.

Fewer than twelve hours later, I was sitting upright in a middle airplane seat, sandwiched between two broad passengers on the way to New York City. The trip would lead me to the Publishers Weekly Star Watch reception on Wednesday, where I got to hear Mira Jacob’s viral BuzzFeed speech, and also learned that five hours and nineteen minutes of sustained athletic activity is nearly painless when compared with a short walk in the five-inch Stella McCartney heels I’d bought to wear with this dress.

Forest Avenue Press

Laura Stanfill and me on our way to the party.

I’ve been so busy with editing work that I don’t have time to write a good race report AND give the New York trip the run-down it deserves; and I suspect that the two very different audiences for each will be bored with one (or both) of these efforts. So let’s just jam them into a Procrustean chart.

[Incidentally, I’m finishing this post six weeks after I started it. Lame.]


IMSC: Santa Cruz Pier, California. Also, less than two miles from the Cement Boat, where many 18-foot great white sharks were spotted in the unusually warm water. That’ll make you swim fast.

Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz

Trish, Stacey, Simon, moi, and Erin, ready to out-swim the sharks and sea lions.

NY: Midtown Manhattan, smack in the middle of giant-scale buildings, 99-cent-pizza shops, the Museum of Sex, and not much else.


IMSC: 5 hours, 18 minutes, 58 seconds elapsed between a wild gadarene into the surf, and a soft-sand finishing chute. Let me just say that running a quarter mile through sandcastles, broken crab shells, and ankle-deep dry sand was harder than the foregoing 70.05 miles.

This might have been the most sadistic finish chute in all of Ironman.

This might have been the most sadistic finish chute in all of Ironman.

NY: A day longer than my scheduled return flight on JetBlue, thanks to some poor planning. The banquet was originally scheduled on Rosh Hashanah–oops–and was moved a day later, so I shelled out the $150 to change my flight.


IMSC: To cap off a summer of hard training. I exercise so I can eat. And evidently, I also like to spend money, because no matter how frugal I try to be, triathlon is a ridiculously expensive addiction; albeit a healthier one than drugs, probably.

NY: To continue my wild spending streak. I found a $35 Helmut Lang dress, and proceeded to spend $300 in accessories. This was all worth it because I was supporting my good friend Laura Stanfill of Forest Avenue Press, who was nominated for a Star Watch Award. And being the ace planner she is, she spun the trip into a whirlwind of meet-and-greets with agents, distributors at Perseus, authors, and booksellers. I also visited some clients I’d been eager to meet in person. This insider’s view of the publishing industry blew my mind.

Special gear needed:

12002042_10152987240977447_37723659076377251_nIMSC: Rubber suit, funny helmet, metal-cleated shoes, carbon wheels, and running shoes (oh! you mean the ones I forgot at home? Sigh. I had to bust out the credit card to buy a new pair). Also, 270g of carbohydrates strategically distributed across four water bottles.

NY: Aforementioned nice outfit for the party, plus two nice suits. And a laundromat, because I’ve never visited New York on business in 85-degree weather. I sweated more on a twenty-minute trip from the Flatiron Building to Times Square than I did during the whole race. New Yorkers must spend a fortune in dry cleaning. Might I suggest making every day a casual Friday? (Says the person who lives in California . . .)


IMSC: Eighth place in my age group. I was excited to share the course with my super-fast friends Patricia and Christina, who both qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Australia. The championship is my wife Erin’s dream, too, and I fully expect it’ll happen for her next year. As for me, I have no big triathlon dreams, and my goal was–as ever–just to feel strong and happy during the race. Success.

NY: Also successful. Laura made a ton of great contacts for the press, and gave me some much-appreciated mentoring in the nitty-gritty details of publishing a book. I am happy to say that I will be helping out Forest Avenue Press in an editorial capacity starting next year, and as we both agreed, this intense trip also gave our writer-selves a new perspective on the work of getting a deal. There are so many middlemen between writing and reading; but judging from the good people we met, those middlemen are passionate readers, too, and are part of the economy like anyone else. Still, Mira Jacob’s speech resonates with me, and I am clearer than ever on the need to write as and for the part of the story-loving segment of readers whose identity is different, and difficult to pin down, and part of a wide and diverse spectrum of others who–in some way or other–owe their lives to books.

Review: Rediscovering Palestine (aka, adventures in new research sources)

October 20th, 2015

Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700-1900Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700-1900 by Beshara Doumani
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You won’t know how fascinated you are by the economy of an ancient city until you start reading Doumani’s engrossing portrait of eighteenth-century Nablus. It’s written with the thorough, poignant eye of a biographer and the tacit but relentless authority of a historian: far from the “wasteland” it’s been made out to be in more biased political histories, Palestine had a diverse, thriving economy. Also interesting was the robust capitalism, entrepreneurship, and speculation banking linked all levels of Palestinian society–long before it engaged with the West.

I am supposed to be reading this as research on soap factories, but found myself sidetracked into reading the whole text. It makes me appreciate how detailed, and perhaps even how accurate, a rendering of one’s life can be made by looking only at one’s business activities: orders, contracts, inheritances, suppliers, and sales. I speak mostly as a small businesswoman, but generally, as someone living in the West, it’s difficult to not speculate at times that we are so deeply imprinted by the market that it distorts identity. The text was a clarifying reminder that humans are transactional creatures, and an economy is an intrinsic part of the human environment.

View all my reviews

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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 10.20.11 AM

  • Archives