Stuff I've Been Up To, Spring 2015 Edition

After a long cold discouraging winter, there've been some new developments on my end -- which is great! And QUITE WELCOME, as wow did the back half of 2014 and the first few months of the New Year really put me through the wringer.

Looks like one of my Actually Getting Paid For This comics projects will be announced June-ish, which I'm very excited about. And in the meantime, I have some new work online, and some older work that's been significantly improved upon.

First off, I added color to one of the short comics I drew last year -- Pilgrimage, an SF story set on Mars. You can read it on my website if you're interested, and you can pick up a paper copy if that's more you're style.

I also had a couple of prose stories published! Noise Pollution, about cassette tape magic and literal battle hymns in the East Village, went up on Strange Horizons a couple of weeks ago. And The Last Wild Place, a story about very VERY old frenemies sorting out their damage on the pre-renovation High Line, was reprinted on Fantastic Stories of the Imagination.

A longer, less polished version of The Last Wild Place was a part of Shousetsu Bang*Bang Special Issue #5, and I wrote it largely because my friend ladysisyphus very kindly invited me to. At that point in time, I was pretty active as a fan-writer, was well into the process of writing/drawing my original graphic novel, and had written professionally both for comics and for animation. But it had been quite a long time since I'd written an original prose story of any length.

When I sat down to begin "The Last Wild Place" I was flexing muscles I hadn't really used since high school, and it intimidated the HELL out of me -- for reasons not worth getting into here, my faith in my abilities as a prose writer was at a low point back then, and I honestly don't know if I even would have tried without ladysisyphus's interest and encouragement.

As for the inspirations behind that story, they were two-fold: the hike I took along the High Line with a group of friends in 2005, back when its conversion into a park was still a much-debated question mark; and the dim memory of a Demona/Macbeth fanfic story I had read about a decade earlier. The utility of the former is obvious -- it's an awfully convenient setting for a short story about the passage of time! And in the latter case, well...if you're a fan of Gargoyles, then you'll understand, and if not I'll just let those details remain mysterious.

Noise Pollution was the second story I wrote at Clarion West, and the first that I didn't completely hate. In the months before the workshop I'd been thinking about a magic system based around song, with the twist that only recordings on analog tape retained their power. I spent many long walks through Brooklyn with "Reflektor" blasting out of my headphones, imagining song-battles between monsters that were still vague blurs and a main character who hadn't yet become a little bit of an asshole.

Looking back, it's obvious that Noise Pollution -- then titled Noise Reduction -- completely changed my relationship with CW as a workshop and with myself as a writer. Up until that point, I'd resigned myself to being a mediocre member of the workshop at best and an embarrassment to the program at worst. My "week one" story, written in a state of near-panic after hours of wandering around the University District in a haze of what-the-fuck-am-I-doing, had been clumsy and forgettable. I'd accepted that my work just wasn't going to be very good; that as a comics writer with only a tiny handful of prose publications, I was going to be hilariously out-classed; that every day would be an exhausting struggle to be taken at all seriously. In short, some people had been very unkind to me about my writing over the years, and I had completely internalized their opinions. And if I'm honest, I was more unkind to myself than anyone else had ever been.

Part of the compact of CW is the "cone of silence" around what happens in the classroom, so I won't get into the details. The long and the short of it is, my classmates and my instructor were extremely kind and supportive about that story. They were enthusiastic about the parts they liked, they very obviously had all the best of intentions with their criticisms, and nearly every one of them told me, "This is a publishable story. Fix it and send it out." know, it sounds like such a simple thing! But at that point I had never successfully sold a story to a magazine or anthology I hadn't been personally invited to. I had assumed that my writing wasn't good enough to submit to short fiction markets -- which was part of why I'd applied to CW in the first place! -- and I had never questioned that assumption even in passing.

I'd believed deep in my bones that I was going to make a fool out of myself at CW. Instead I was welcomed by my classmates as an equal, and this experience transformed my relationship with my writing. They seemed genuinely puzzled by my crippling self-consciousness and the fact that I'd made almost no effort to sell my prose to strangers. And in fact, Noise Pollution eventually became my very first "professional" prose sale.

I'm still just getting started with all of this, and my collection of politely-worded form rejections continues to grow. But a start is something! And I'm trying to take a moment to sit and think about how much has changed in the last few years; to really appreciate the bits of good news I've found in my inbox, along with all the bad.

FINALLY: as a part of that effort to be more mindful of the good things in my life, I've decided to start collecting the handful of reviews and other articles that people have posted about my work, which I'll update from time to time. It will probably be of interest only to me, but that's okay -- I get self-conscious about this stuff anyway!

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