TPOTS SmallBeerPress (Clouet)


It's been a wild ride - from Julian Yap asking me if I wanted to oversee the creation of a "collaborative serial narrative" based on my Riverside novels (Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword, and The Fall of the Kings) . . . to THIS:

. . . the print version of our first season's adventures, which occur about 15 years before the events of Swordspoint.

It's a grand and glorious cover, and of course I'm delighted that people who don't wish to read an online serial now have our story between the covers, as it were.

But for illustrations, my heart still and always will belong to our fantastic weekly illustrator, Kathleen Jennings:


The letter you hope no one ever sends

I got a letter today from a relative, accusing me of something dishonorable that I would never do, and in fact could not have done.

I'm glad I'm in Brussels where there's lots to distract me from my reaction. And I'm glad I'm not 28 any more, because when this kind of thing happened then - and believe me, it did! - I would have written back a very emotional letter defending my integrity foremost; whereas now, I can just look at the facts, convey them to rel. in a straightforward way, and hope that clears things up.

My heart is really with rel., who must be feeling that someone they loved betrayed them, which is one of the worst feelings in the world.

The High Holidays: goofiness counts, too

I did end up going to Simchat Torah ("rejoicing in the Torah") services at Romemu yesterday - and enjoyed every minute of it! We danced and sang in the synagogue, holding each other, holding the torah scrolls, dressed in their silver and embroidery, like a child or a lover in our arms. All that joy and ritual over a TEXT - a collection of carefully-preserved and collected words . . . (made me think, only half-jokingly, that we should have a similar community ceremony at WFC for LOTR and a handful of other Ur Texts!).

But it also reminded me that singing and dancing are as much enjoined on us for the High Holidays as fasting is on Yom Kippur. It's all part of this 40-day continuum. It is a shame that most of us (myself included) usually only go for the painful one, and skip the joy and general goofiness. --Or the sensuality of carrying - and smelling - the etrog & lulav around the synagogue - and then eating outdoors in a Sukka smelling of autumn fruits and leaves - for Succoth…. Something to remember: take the Yom Kippur fast seriously, but remember that it is just part of a whole that includes these others, and give them equal measure.
Madame J. (closeup)


Yes, my friends, the Grey Sweater is this year’s Fashion Must.

How do I know this?

Well, last night, after a delightful evening at the Cirque Alfonse, followed by dinner at L’A.O.C. in New York’s now fashionable Greenwich Village, Delia Sherman & I walked to the subway along the it-used-to-be-funky-and-weird but is now nauseatingly full of trendy and unaffordable big-name boutiques Bleecker Street … and what did we see in *every* window (on mannequins you wouldn’t bring home to meet your mother)? At least one - sometimes 2 or even 3 GREY SWEATERS!!!


And what was I wearing? The dear little grey sweater that Delia knit me 2 years ago.

I leave you to draw your own conclusions.


My LonCon3 Schedule

Imagining Fantasy Lands: The Status Quo Does Not Need Worldbuilding

Friday 16:30 – 18:00, Capital Suite 11 (ExCeL)
Mary Anne Mohanraj (M), Tobias Buckell, Kate Elliott, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Ellen Kushner

Fantasy world-building sometimes comes under fire for its pedantic attention to detail at the expense of pacing or prose style. Do descriptive passages clog up the narrative needlessly, when reader imagination should be filling in the gaps? Where does that leave the landscapes and cultures that are less well represented in the Western genre: can world-building be a tool in subverting reader expectations that would otherwise default to pseudo-medieval Euro-esque? If fantasy is about defamiliarising the familiar, how important is material culture - buildings, furnishings, tools, the organisation of social and commercial space - in creating a fantasy world?
Note: the title of this panel is a reference to Kate Elliott's essay:

Reading: Ellen Kushner
Friday 18:00 - 18:30, London Suite 1 (ExCeL)

:25 - what shall I read??  Something old & well-loved . . . or the WIP?

Translation-Wish, Translation-Obstacles
Friday, Capital Suite 6 (Level 3), 8pm - 9pm

Many of us have read work in our own languages that we would love to propose to Anglophone publishers.  But how to fund a rough translation of such work?  The Interstitial Arts Foundation is looking to create a new initiative to bring translators together with national and international funders to create a way to make something happen!

- I'm not on this one, but I am its Faerie Godmother, so I'll be there! If you're interested in the Interstitial Arts Foundation, this will be a good time to meet some people & talk about it, too.

Autographing 2 - Ellen Kushner

Saturday 13:30 - 15:00, Autographing Space (ExCeL)
o god, please come and hang out with me!!!!  No one is going to want that many autographs, and I am honor bound to sit there for an hour and a half, feeling like an idiot and staring off into space or trying to look busy!  A great time to come say Hi, introduce yourself, offer me small but precious gifts, or just sit around talking about books and shoes. I will be a sitting duck.

Literary Beer

Saturday 17:00 - 18:00, The Bar (ExCeL)
All of the Above, but with Beer. YOU HAVE TO SIGN UP FOR THIS ONE IN ADVANCE (AT THE CON).

Imagining the City

Saturday 19:00 - 20:00, Capital Suite 7+12 (ExCeL)

Science fiction and fantasy are filled with memorable imaginary cities, from Minas Tirith to New Crobuzon, Trantor to Vorbarr Sultana. How do writers imagine their cities? What are the advantages and disadvantages of creating a city from scratch versus using one or more existing models? And are there differences in how SF and fantasy approach this task?
- Cannot wait for this one!!

You've Ruined It For Me

Sunday 19:00 - 20:00, Capital Suite 3 (ExCeL)

Screen adaptations of genre works are big business, and fan conversation about them often revolves around issues of accuracy and deviation. But what are the other discussions we could be having about the relationship between novel and film? How does our experience of an adaptation shape the way we read a particular book, whether for the first time or on a re-read? Is it possible, any more, to talk about The Lord of the Rings without reference to Peter Jackson? Are 'book purists' too defensive against what is, after all, simply someone else's reading of a work with a budget, or do blockbuster adaptations carry a popular cultural weight that makes them hard to escape?
 [MODERATOR! 'Cause what the hell do I know about movies?  But there is The SwordsmanWhose Name was Not Death….. Do you think the play just ruined the book?]

Madame de Jurjewicz

2 LonCon hotel rooms available


Due to my own stupidity, I am blessed (or cursed) with a spare set of rooms for LonCon3 which I do not need but cannot cancel and must therefore pay for:
2 rooms at the Ibis Styles London Excel-custom House Hotel, right across from the convention center & next to the tube stop for easy escape from ExCel-land.
I booked 5 nights each (August 13 - 18) for:

* 1 Standard double, GBP 540
* 1 Superior Double, GBP 590

All offers gratefully considered.
Please feel free to pass this on to any friends who might be wavering about attending, or who were not able to book at hotels close to ExCel, or who signed on for a super-crowded share and have since thought better of it....

I can be reached directly on gmail at KUSHNER (dot) ELLEN etc.

Delia & I WILL be attending the con - but I subsequently booked us at another hotel and then forgot to cancel this one. I do hope my carelessness will allow someone else to get a good room at a good rate!  All offers gratefully considered, however small.  I'll feel a whole lot better knowing someone will get the good of it!

ETA:  And, no, we do not sleep in separate hotel rooms - the second room is for a friend!
*Simon van Alphen by Nicolaes Maes

KING LEAR in Central Park

We saw Lithgow & co's KING LEAR last night at Shakespeare in the Park. Well worth seeing.  Really really smart and interesting direction. Lear & Fool's relationship best I've ever seen:  Fool genuinely bitter about Cordelia's loss at first, all his jokes barbed - then he takes over as Lear's glue & caretaker:  "Keep me in temper" spoken to him and not the gods.  And Edmund a classic Shakespearean sociopath - dispassionate & charming & in cahoots with the audience - in a line with Richard III & Iago - he should always be played that way!  Because of miking, every word crystal clear & some vocal subtlety allowed.  Best Lear-Edgar-Kent-Fool ("I took you for a joint-stool") scene ever, because they were ALL PLAYING OFF EACH OTHER instead of fading into the background when it wasn't their turn.  Edgar's Mad Tom was utterly freaking out the Fool, who kept edging away from him.  Tom very physical, jumped on top of Kent at one point.  Everyone united in trying to protect the unraveling Lear.
Kent genuinely funny, Gloucester genuinely dignified - if a bit of a fool (and his eventual transformation less than satisfying).  Cornwall a true brute; Albany irresistibly reminiscent of a nice Jewish man who just wants everyone to be decent - til he sees it's hopeless.  Cordelia's opening scene terrific, as you can see she & Lear have a special bond, so she expects him to get what she's doing…. and everyone's dawning horror when they realize he means it and is not quite himself and nothing anyone can do about it.  How Kent tries! What a writer, that WS - the number of times Kent refuses to give up….
Best closing lines to a play ever ever ever:
The weight of these sad times we must obey;
Say what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest have borne most; we that are young
Shall never see so much nor live so long.
*Simon van Alphen by Nicolaes Maes

We're all Heirs of Sir Thomas Browne...but some of us take it more seriously than others

Wonderful Samuel R. Delany posted his list of "Children of Dr. Thomas Browne" - that's Sir Thomas Browne to you, author of RELIGIO MEDICI ("A Doctor's Religion"), URN BURIAL, and like that - and invited people to discuss it.*

But one line of Delany's jumped out at me - and with his permission, I share it with you here (in context):

The Brontes? Emily, possibly. But not Charlotte. And not Anne. Writers who (as it were) fetishize straightforwardnes, yes--and see high style as a way to achieve it. That's Browne's legacy. But not clarity. And clarity is one of Charlottes virtues, which lets her out of the direct descendents of Browne. (IMHO.) And she's prior to Flaubert, by a hefty handful of years. Charlotte was a William Makepeace Thackeray freak,** and she did it better than he did. So today we read her more than we do him--good as he was. And he was very good, indeed.

I was introduced to Browne by my beloved Columbia U. Shakespeare professor, Edward Tayler.  That summer, I found an old cloth-bound copy of RELIGIO MEDICI, and read it over and over, trying to untangle the 17th century prose and the thoughts both alien with time, and immediate in humanity.  I'll put some of my favorite quotes in Comments when I have time - meanwhile, what are yours?

Anyhow, I'll take Delany's definition as mine own with pride - indeed, maybe you want to inscribe this on my Literary Monument? (You know, the one that has the life-sized carvings of all my characters mourning my passing - like that one we saw in Prague….?)

She fetishized straightforwardness, and saw high style as a way to achieve it.

*The discussion is Friends locked on Facebook, but I assure you it's well worth reading! As wide-ranging as Delany's considerable intellect - and sometimes as dense to those of us less gifted.  It ranges from Milton to Melville, and his list of "Children" includes Djuna Barnes, Virginia Wolfe, James Agee and D. H. Lawrence.

** Errrrh. I, too, am a Thackeray freak.  Indeed, my favorite Bad Review (of the Swordspoint audiobook) on Amazon is full of righteous indignation that Neil Gaiman compares me to dear Jane Austen, when I am so obviously devoid of all sensibility and am a mere Thackeray bacchante!  I wear the badge with pride.
2French Swordspoint (EK only)

What I learned writing a Fencing Story for GAMES CREATURES PLAY

When I sat down to write "Prise de Fer" for the new Charlaine Harris & Toni L.P. Kelner anthology Games Creatures Play, I knew that I was going to have to go begging wide and far for information on not just fencing, but how modern fencing differs from 18th century sword-fighting.  This is, after all, what the plot hinges on - and no amount of Riverside flummery would serve me in a story set in France in 1963, about a young New Yorker with a terrifying French grand-mere, who goes to a snooty summer-school in Normandy just so she can learn fencing from a 1953 Olympic champion . . . . only to encounter an older inhabitant of the château who wants her to do things his way.

The Modern Fencing bit was easy:  remember what I could of my Basic Fencing college classes (where I triumphed - when I did - with my Glare rather than my Form) . . . and pick the very generous brain of competitive fencer and fellow-author Kat Howard, beginning with her Lightspeed Magazine article "The Pen and the Sword," and then making her answer many questions over the phone.

Then I went on FaceBook & Twitter, with this simple plea:
If anyone knows the fine points of the differences between 18c smallsword fighting and contemporary fencing, you'd better tell me now. #amwriting

Teel James Glenn, Ken Burnside and  many others were terrifically generous with their knowledge, and gave me their permission to share it with you here.  I hope it's as useful to you, someday.

Collapse )

[All boldface notes mine -- including this:

- helpful any? ]

I also owe a great debt of gratitude to swordmaster and Broadway fight director J. Allen Suddeth (Aladdin!!!! yayyy! Newsies!! and and and!), who took me under his wing and invited me to demo bouts and sent me videos and notes . . . . It was such a joy getting to work with all these folks, to deepen friendships and relationships . . . .And to - oh yes - WRITE THE STORY AND PUBLISH IT!!!!!

Here is the BRITISH cover, which I just love:

appears in bookstores on
Tuesday, April 1, 2014 (no fooling)

. . . . with a pretty hot ToC that I am so pleased to be a part of!  I do think the anthology should be subtitled "Stories about Sports by People who really hated sports when they were kids . . . . " -- Take a look at the descriptions, and you'll see ;)
Bryn Mawr: Writing

Want to study writing with Terri Windling, Delia Sherman & me?

I'm delighted to announce that Delia & I will be returning to Hollins University to teach again in Summer 2015 for their MA/MFA Program in Children's Literature - and that Terri Windling joins us there as 2015 Writer-in-Residence!

Now, here's the catch:  In order to study with me, you need to be at least a second year student.  Which means you must apply now for this year's program - deadline March 15th, 2014 ** EXTENDED NOW TO APRIL 15th!** - so that you can begin classes this summer. (Terri & Delia will be available to everyone in 2015. This is just for people who want to take my Advanced Seminar.  And there's nothing to stop you from applying now for 2015!)

Now, don't get your knickers in a twist. You probably are "good enough." The program encourages all levels of students. Seriously.  And there is Financial Aid.  It's a 6-week summer semester, a chance to find out just what you're capable of; and during the year, you can acquire credits through on-line courses.

If you wait to start classes in 2015, you'll get to take Delia Sherman's amazing "Introduction to Fantasy Writing" class, aka "How to read (and think) like a writer!" I didn't think such writing could be taught . . . until I inherited some of her students last year, in my Writing Seminar, and saw how far they'd come since studying with her. Delia works with Fairy Tale, MG fiction, and with the inside of your head and the outside of your pages.

As 2015 Writer-in-Residence, Terri Windling will be lecturing, meeting individually with students to read mss. and give feedback . . . and, of course, hanging out in the Writers' Livingroom (which I founded back in 2011) for the first 2 weeks of this 6-week semester.

I will be teaching a 4-6 person Advanced Seminar again in 2015:  Essentially, a 6-week workshop on how to get your thesis - i.e. your novel - to move forward and keep going.  I work hard to create a supportive atmosphere, with an emphasis students helping each other, not "critiquing" to show off. Both Delia & I keep office hours, and really enjoy meeting one-on-one outside of class.

You also get to take academic classes with the likes of the truly amazing Karen Coats, Brian Attebery, and more - in fact, if you want an M.A. instead of an M.F.A., your primary classes will be with them.  But you still do some Creative Writing for your degree - and if you're an MFA, you still get to take some Academic classes.

And this year, for the first time, Hollins is offering a combined MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating! Artist faculty Ruth Sanderson, Ashley Wolff & Elizabeth Dulemba have become very dear friends; you'll love studying with them.  In fact, much as we love teaching, our other reasons for returning again & again to Hollins are (a) It's in the Blue Ridge Mountains, an area rich with folklore & traditional music (Friday nights! at the Floyd Country Store!!); (b) the chance to hang out all summer with the above-mentioned colleagues, also including Hillary Homzie, Lisa Fraustino, Chip Sullivan, and many more……all creative, funny, charming & supportive teachers who have become dear friends.

Come join us?

Here's how.

**And - because one does not enter grad school lightly or precipitously: Say "Ellen sent me," and our fabulous Program Director will accept applications through April 15th!