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Month: December 2011

So long, and thanks…

So long, and thanks…

That was it–the last task. The curtain just came down on my time as Assistant Editor at Lightspeed.

I am so grateful to the John Joseph Adams who I had only just met, who thought I was a pretty good podtern on Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, and as a result gave me the opportunity to learn from him and be a part of what has become an undeniably strong magazine.

I’m so glad I got to know Lightspeed staff mates Jordan London, Andrea Kail, Molly Tanzer, LaShawn Wanak, and Erin Stocks through the magazine–and I was so very happy to get to work with my friends Robyn Lupo, Andrew Liptak, Sandra Wickham, John Remy, Andy Romine, Carole Moleti, Jeremy Tolbert, and Alan Smale. And indirectly, my BFF Wendy Wagner, Assistant Editor at Fantasy Magazine.

I got to interview some amazing writers for the Author Spotlights, one of whom ended up writing our wedding ceremony a year later! (Thanks again, Vylar Kaftan!) I am particularly grateful to Ken Liu, Jake Kerr, and Shelly Li, for letting me muck with their words.

I brushed pixels here and there with many other people through Lightspeed–readers, writers, slushers, colleagues from other magazines, and my life is better for having you in it. I am so glad to know you all.

I don’t know what else to say. A toast, then, with thanks and love: To Lightspeed.

New Year’s resolution: stress reduction

New Year’s resolution: stress reduction

Another year is winding down, and I don’t know about you, but I really needed for it wind down. It was a really good year, in which I reached several important milestones. But I think I need to handle 2012 differently.

Right now I’m just trying to clear my commitments from my plate–I have a novella to proofread, a short story to critique, and a novel to beta read, plus the last few tasks for Lightspeed. When I’m done with those things, I’m going to consider myself done with everything but writing for a while. I’m also really limiting what I get to work on in 2012. Grant Stone and Matt Sanborn Smith introduced me to the concept of the Personal Kanban board–I’ve created one, and just the act of limiting myself to working on three things relieved me of a lot of stress.

That’s really my goal for this year: stress reduction. My primary sources of stress in 2011 were finances, finding time to write, and my day job. A lot of stress came off me at the day job recently, so that’s helping a lot. Getting out from under these last few commitments will free up my evenings to write. And finding the right house at the right price this spring will go a long way toward reducing my monthly expenses.

There are other things that will help, too, like eating better and exercising more. And just moving forward on my projects will eliminate the anxiety that comes with not moving forward. This week is going to be spent tying up loose ends so that I can go into the new year as unencumbered as possible.

What changes are you making in 2012?

Post-Christmas post

Post-Christmas post

…whereever you are and whatever you face
these are the people who’ll make you feel safe in this world…
– Tim Minchin, “White Wine in the Sun

We have returned from our every-other-Christmas with the Yant family.

My family is pretty secular, so Christmas for us is about food and family. We rent a huge house in the mountains that will take all 20 of us, and hang out for three days. Each household family unit is responsible for bringing provisions and cooking one meal for the whole crew. One of my uncles recently started an organic/free-range/grass-fed (depending on the animal) livestock co-op and brought one of his turkeys for dinner–it was 31 lbs.! We were on breakfast duty (two kinds of french toast, sausage, and fruit salad). There’s something very satisfying about cooking for that many people.

Equally satisfying was looking up from my book on Christmas Eve to see that everyone else in the room was reading, too. My adoptive family and I don’t have a lot in common, but we do have that.

This was John’s first Christmas with us–apart from being just a generally interesting and wonderful guy, he also speaks Sports and plays games, so it went very well.

I was commenting yesterday that we’re so lucky that we don’t have any assholes in our family. There is absolutely no one to dread–they’re all just great people and we’re happy to spend time together. I’m glad that my daughter will have cousins in the area when she goes to college next year. In my (adult) experience, sometimes the best remedy for bruises that life inflicts is family.

I hope you had a happy holiday week, too, whatever that looks like for you.

Interview at the Fireside Kickstarter

Interview at the Fireside Kickstarter

Brian White has been interviewing the contributors to Issue #1 of Fireside Magazine. My interview went up this morning. In it I blather a bit about my favorite writers, mention how much I enjoyed working with Ken Liu, and talk a little about my awesome friends, the Inkpunks.

The Kickstarter is just over 30% funded, with 15 days to go. Oh, and remember the Charming Anthony Cardno? He bought the right to have a character named after him in my story! Thanks so much for your support, Anthony! ::rubs hands together and schemes::

Regarding my mother(s), who I love, and MS, which I fucking hate.

Regarding my mother(s), who I love, and MS, which I fucking hate.

tl;dr: Go here and read this article by Nicola Griffith about a new direction in Multiple Sclerosis research. If you care why this matters to me personally, read on.

I am a very fortunate person to be a part of two separate but equally wonderful families. I have a birth family, and an adoptive family–as a result I have two women who I refer to as “my mother.” Interestingly, they were both social workers who worked with children. One of them is a strong, brilliant, vibrant mother of five, living in Colorado. The other I didn’t get much of a chance to know. This post is about, and for, her.

My birth mother was already the single mother of an energetic boy when she discovered that she was pregnant with me. She wisely realized that being the single mother of two was not going to make life better for any of us, so she quietly put me up for adoption. It was 1971, and closed adoptions were the norm–she was told just enough to comfort her, specifically that I would be given to a family in Santa Ynez. There was something about horses. She was (I hope) satisfied that she had done the right thing–she had. I was raised by my adoptive parents to understand that, and have never once wavered in it: She did the best thing she could have done, for all three of us.

What happened next is a little uncertain. What should have happened is that the family who had gone through the adoption process would know full well that their new baby was coming home soon. Presumably that family in Santa Ynez did know, if they really existed. It’s possible that I was even there for a few weeks, because there was a six-week gap between my birth and my arrival at home. What we know for certain was that in December my mom and dad got a call saying, “We have a baby for you. Now.” They were completely unprepared.

But in mid-December, they brought me home.

Mom on the right, with her parents who eventually cared for her full-time. The small thing is me.

Six months later they had a final court date. This was it–I wasn’t really theirs until they got through this. They sweated it out, and I imagine said as little as possible, because something had happened that they didn’t want the court to know about: The week prior, my mother had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

I remember pineapple upside-down cake with little halved cherries. I remember Mom chiding my dad and making him bring me scrambled eggs in bed because he had sent me to bed without dinner for some infraction. I remember the autistic kids she worked with sometimes coming to the house, and her telling me how lucky and blessed we were. I remember her knocking politely on my bedroom door and not freaking out at all when she opened it to discover that I had cut all of the beads apart on my beaded curtains and was busy sorting them on the floor.

And I remember her walking me the two blocks to kindergarten, and having to rest half-way there. I remember the cane that she used after that. And then the stair-cane. And the walker. And the wheelchair.

I’m not sure if it was Primary Progressive, or Progressive Relapsing MS. What I do know is that after the first couple of years there was no relief for her. By the time I was seven, she was confined to a wheel chair. By nine, she was confined largely to her bed. When I was eleven she nearly choked to death on a bite of hot dog in front of me, and a feeding tube had to be put in. She didn’t eat anything by mouth for the last four years of her life. She couldn’t speak for the last two. In 1987 she died in a convalescent care center at the age of 44. She weighed 77 lbs.; the constant, uncontrollable tremors took every calorie they could possibly feed her and more.

I fucking hate MS.

It’s a baffling disease. When I was a kid there were experimental treatments like cobra venom, and standard treatments like Prednisone and Vitamin B12 injections. It seemed to be an auto-immune disorder, but nobody could seem to get much of a foothold on a treatment that worked.

The reason I’m writing about this today is because today a paper was published in the Quarterly Review of Biology that may explain why we’ve got exactly nowhere with this evil goddamn disease. The paper posits that it is not an auto-immune disease at all, but rather a metabolic disorder, much like atherosclerosis. There is a layman’s explanation of the paper by Nicola Griffith here.

I sincerely hope that this is the new direction that’s needed in treating and possibly even preventing Multiple Sclerosis. Nobody should have to go through what my mom did. I became a supporter of end-of-life choices at a very young age precisely because I watched her deteriorate and suffer horribly for a decade and a half, and she expressed to me her wish that she could just die. From what little we knew that seemed like the only option as the disease progresses. This paper may provide a ray of hope that it never has to come to that.

I couched this in a narrative of two mothers, so I suppose I should come back to that. I found my birth mother when I was twenty, and along with her my older brother and three younger sisters. Ma, as she is known, is a wise, witty woman and has been my de facto mother for many years now. I am certain that Mom would have liked her, and would be glad to know that I do still have a mother, when MS robbed us both of really knowing what that was like.

I hope that Dr. Corthals is right, and that the mothers and daughters and fathers and sons of the future will get to face MS with hope instead of despair.

Virginia Catherine Hohmann Yant, 1943-1987

Year’s end and new beginnings

Year’s end and new beginnings

Well, here we are again, at the end of another year. 2011 has been a crazy good one. This year I went to Taos Toolbox, went to a couple of conventions, attended the Hugos and World Fantasy Awards with my multiply-nominated significant other, sold a couple of stories, became an Active member of SFWA, and got married. Not a bad list.

2012 is going to bring a lot of changes. The first one–and to me, it’s a big one–is that I’m leaving Lightspeed after the February issue. January will mark two great years of working on the magazine. It’s been an amazing experience–obviously it’s how I got to know and fall in love with John, but it has also been a tremendous education in writing, editing, and publishing. I have had the privilege of working with some incredibly talented and dedicated editors and authors in my time at Lightspeed. I really can’t express how grateful I am to have had such a tremendous opportunity.

But it’s also a pretty big time sink, and time is something I don’t have enough of. Making the decision to leave was very difficult–I have strong ties to the project on a number of levels, and tears were shed, but I think it’s the right thing to do for now.

It’s also more than a little bit scary. Ever since I first got involved in the SFF community, I’ve been attached to a project–first StarShipSofa (narrator), then Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (podtern), then Lightspeed (assistant editor). Now I’m just…me. Christie Yant, writer. I had to get new business cards and everything. (Note to self: update bio!)

There will be other changes, too–we’ll be looking for a new house in the spring, a place that’s Ours from the start (I had lived in this house already when John moved out here). The right move could change my financial outlook considerably (for the better). I already have my new office decorated in my head. :)

I’ll have a daughter leaving for college in the fall. I can’t imagine a bigger change than that. She’ll be eighteen next month. It’s hard to believe. She was four years old and making art on my bedroom wall with ill-gotten nail polish not that long ago, or so it seems.

And of course there’s writing. 2012 needs to be the Year of the Novel for me. I’m sure there will be short stories here and there, but I need to get my rewrite of Found Objects done, based on the feedback and massive amount of assistance from my Taos classmates; I need to get the graphic novel finished; I need to draft Temperance. (Hopefully all in my new office. I MAY or MAY NOT be spending an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about that.)

Between now and the start of the new year I’ll be spending my time with my family, both immediate and extended. I want to back away from the internet for a little while–do some reading, go for walks, clear my head, and start the new year fresh.

Change is the only constant, and I’m excited about all of the changes coming up for me. I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season, and that all of the changes in your own life are positive ones. May 2012 be our best year yet.

“…and then what happened?”

“…and then what happened?”

Fireside Magazine

Well, we hope that Fireside Magazine will happen.

Fireside Magazine is the brain child of Brian White, a copy editor, self-described “word nerd,” and avid reader of short fiction. Inspired by Neil Gaiman’s anthology Stories, Brian wanted a regular periodical that crossed genres and just made you want to turn the page. So, being the intrepid gentleman that he is, he decided to make one. Here, I’ll let him tell you what it’s all about:

My favorite thing about the boy scouts was camping, and the best thing about that was the nights we’d gather around a bonfire, impossibly big in the eyes of a scrawny 11-year-old city boy. We’d get settled, aching happily from a moonlit game of capture-the-flag, and then the scout master would tell the story. … I wanted to publish something that crossed genres, be it sci-fi, horror, fantasy, crime, mystery, or wherever else I could find good stories, like the ones I used to hear sitting around those fires.

The first issue–if it’s funded–will include four short stories and one comic. The short fiction line-up includes Tobias Buckell, Chuck Wendig, Ken Liu, and, well, me (zomg did I really just get to type that?). The comic will be crafted by the creative team of D.J. Kirkbride and Adam P. Knave. Cover art will be provided by the fabulous Amy Houser.

For now the issues will each be funded by Kickstarter campaigns, with the hope that eventually one issue will pay for the next. Fireside will be available as both a print magazine and an ebook. Right now there are plenty of rewards available for supporters of the campaign, including autographed copies of the print edition, Tuckerization (your name in one of our stories), and original art by Amy.

For readers, Fireside promises to be a genre-crossing dose of good reading. For writers and artists, Brian wants to pay creatives a good wage. If he succeeds, I think we all win. He could use your help.

You can pledge your donation and choose your reward at the Kickstarter site.