Even in a little thing
( Today's guest is a British writer I met through one of my publishers. We tend to laugh at some of the same things (although I, personally, do not wish to become a coatrack), which is probably why the introduction stuck. I don't know if that's why Sharyn introduced us to each other, or if she regrets the whole thing. All I know is that I was pleased but not surprised that RJ's post was on someone Medieval and that it has my favourite kind of footnotes.Collapse )
I finished my morning bit of writing, but didn't get back to it later. Learning intervened.
What I'm doing over the next couple of months is refreshing and updating my teaching qualifications. If it all works out, I'll have an ANU certificate at the end and maybe (hopefully) be a Fellow of the HEA. The Fellowship would be extremely handy, and the certificate covers material I've already studied, but not for 16 years.
The real reason for more study (because it's forever since I've done any study, right?) is that the university learning environment has changed so very quickly and radically these last few years that I feel I need a refresher. The university offered their full instruction for early career teachers free, and was happy to include me in the eligible people (they prioritise according to who has most need when the class is too large, but it wasn't too large and so I wasn't bumped off). Today was the overview module, where we worked through understanding the government role and the industry structure and the legal and policy situation.
This is where I sadly discovered that I still enjoy these things. I really like finding ways of doing good jobs within an environment, rather than fighting it. This is why I was recruited by the public service lo, these many years ago and I why I did the advisory bit elsewhere.
No-one expects this understanding of me now, so I'd put it aside (except for occasional days when I read government papers because they're calming) and forgotten how fun it is. It isn't always fun, of course. Some aspects of it are pure nightmare, but I'm afraid I enjoyed it when we were given a list of government agencies that impacted our work. I instantly put together a history (for I used to work in a previous incarnation of one of them) and set out to examine how they impacted various part of the university.
I shouldn't admit to owning this part of my brain. Writing friends have a tendency to look right past me (and not to even ask about my work history) when considering policy and project matters. Writers, as a group, don't see me in this light. I don't know why.
I'm grateful to my new boss for thinking of me and pushing me gently towards the HEA, for my mind is refreshed now and I can go back to the writing quite happily. (and for those friends who didn't realise just how warped my brain was, you have my sympathies.)
Coming up in a few minutes, the next guest for WHM!
I'm finally recovering from the chest infection. It was a really nasty one. I know both of these things because I feel maudlin. This is the kind of day when I should lie beside a fire, reading nineteenth century moral stories for girls, weeping the whole way through.
Instead of doing that, I'm working furiously when I'm at home, and catching up on changes in principles of university teaching when I'm not. Also, I'm running messages, for two fell off the list on Wednesday.
I am, however, drinking hot chocolate. Maudlin has needs, after all.
PS ETA I have no idea why LJ put that heading in. Maybe it's maudlin, too. I have deleted it, for it is not at all related to this post.
( This is important, but it's also sensitive. Sorry for not thinking about using cuts so that people can make their own choices.Collapse )
( Helen Stubbs has written about Dr James Barry, who was a fascinating person. See next post for why this is under a cut. I think we're only just learning now, how to talk about gender in a civilised fashion. Helen has kindly included her sources.Collapse )
I'm finally half-way organised. Memories seem to have stopped invading my day.
Since tomorrow will be broken up, the rest of the day is dedicated to finishing a chapter of the book. Also to tidying and sorting. I don't know how my papers became such a mess, but they are, and until they're sorted I really don't know what else I have to do besides the book and the chapter. This is why I've never moved to using programmes like Scrivener. I can see they're useful, but I have to use a paper brain for advance thinking.
And, in other news, since the designer of my previous userpic is growing up, it's time I ceased embarrassing her publicly. My new picture was taken by one of my Wednesday students, as part of some writing they're doing next week and as part of my teaching resources (now 18,000 photos worth!). I specifically asked for a black swan on Lake Tuggeranong. Why were my students using my camera? I'm training their writing eyes to frame stories just a bit differently.
Carrie Vaughn is the author of the New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty, the most recent installment of which is Kitty in the Underworld. Here most recent novel is the superhero story Dreams of the Golden Age. She's written several other contemporary fantasy and young adult novels, as well as upwards of 70 short stories. She's a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R. R. Martin and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop. An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado. Visit her at http://www.carrievaughn.com.
Whenever I set out to write about actual, historical kickass women, I've had a really hard time choosing which ones -- there are just so many options! Warriors, politicians, rulers, diplomats, pirates, rebels, spies, assassins -- and fighter aces. That's the topic I landed on recently when I wrote my story, "Raisa Stepanova," included in the anthology Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Here's the real history:
Lilia Litviak and Ekaterina Budanova were fighter pilots for the Soviet Union during World War II, and both flew extensive combat missions in the region of Stalingrad. Each of them claimed around a dozen kills, counting both solo and shared kills -- both are designated fighter aces. One of my favorite stories about Litviak tells of a meeting between her and one of the pilots she shot down. The German ace parachuted to safety, was taken prisoner, and asked to see the pilot who had bested him. When he faced Litviak, a petite woman with pixie-like blond hair, he thought it was a joke, until she described every detail of the dogfight in which she'd beaten him. The German pilot tried to give her his pocket watch out of respect -- she refused the token, because he was the enemy.
Soviet women pilots flew some 30,000 combat missions during the war. An all-woman unit of night bombers earned the nickname "Nachthexen" -- Night Witches -- from their German targets, who learned to be terrified of their low-level sneak attacks.
Litviak and Budanova were friends, and both were killed in action in 1943. While my story isn't about them specifically, it's about women like them -- Raisa, who desperate wants to be a fighter ace, and who kicks a lot of enemy ass on that quest. I wrote my story for Dangerous Women to pay tribute to these pilots, because I think they're amazing, and because I want to tell everyone about them.
It's important to talk about these historical figures, because so many of them have been forgotten by history. When I describe Litviak and her colleagues, people are often surprised -- women fighter aces, in World War II? Why, yes. Knowing about these women, and about all the women who've accomplished so much, make all the arguments that have happened in my lifetime about what women can and can't do, what they should and shouldn't do, seem rather ridiculous. Women have already been doing pretty much everything all along. Our society has just forgotten about it. I'm here to remind you.
I underestimated yesterday and so your WHM post is a half day late. I'd exculpate myself and say 'mea culpa' but I'm still Jewish (and besides, if one exculpates oneself then the mea culpa is quite wrong).
How did I underestimate yesterday? I blame the Purim writing. It's almost done. It took longer than it ought to add a few names. By 'a few' I mean 15. This is how many names you and FB friends gave me to put in. Dobby has his own plotline and Conan is somewhat of a barbarian and looks very much like the person who suggested that he had to go in. The hardest to fit into the narrative were Katniss Everdeen and Princess Leia. There are already two prima donna women in the Esther story, and there really wasn't space for a third and a fourth.
In real news, I'm precisely halfway through my book on how fiction writers relate to and use history in their fiction. I'm putting those interviews into wider perspective and it's turning into...something. Not enough bad jokes.
That's the trouble with the more scholarly side of me. I suspect that if anyone asked me for fiction right now, it would have bad jokes in it... I was looking at the Cranky Ladies project and thinking "If they'd asked me, I'd have written about Liquoricia*" and then I thought "Puns!" Also "Medieval paranormal!" It's just as well they didn't ask me. What they did ask was if I was interested in doing a blog post for the book fundraising effort. That's when they discovered their fundraising effort was in Women's History Month. It's good, because it means that more people get to think about history (always good) and about women's history. And it meant I got to write about someone quite special. The post is here: http://fablecroft.com.au/books/cranky-l
The trouble with writing a blogpost when one has about 40% of lung capacity is that fragile memories become fractured and one pastes bits together unintentionally. I conflated the first two years of Australia's Women's History Month in that blogpost: I was the one who did all the tech backup that first year, and it was on Blackboard. It was the second year that we did the big global thing and that the amazing and wonderful Trivium Publishing designed us a purpose-built website and etc.
That very first year had its own problems. The well-known feminist activist who really wanted to lead a chat on her subject and said, right up to an hour before, "I'm fine with computers" and an hour before rang me and said "What's a mouse?" The poor lady started panicking when she realised that she was programmed to do something she had no capacity to do, so I sent her to find a young relative with skills and said young relative worked to her dictation and I was on the phone to the participant the whole time to allay her concerns and generally be there, and all was well.
I did site visits all over the place to help give people the tech capacity. That was one of the bribes Helen gave me to get me involved in WHM, you see. "We have so many powerful women whose voices aren't being heard because they can't use these kinds of programmes." I think my women's stuff and my Jewish stuff were for the same reason - I had to teach people so they could follow their dreams. I spent years teaching Jewish kids how to write Purim plays, for instance. That is, however, another story.
I visited Marian Sawer in her home office to walk her through what she needed to know - that was all she needed - she was one of my best experiences. Kate Lundy just needed to ask a few questions, so we never even met up - she's very tech savvy. Possibly one of the most tech savvy of the politicians. I never understood why the previous government didn't take advantage of this, but no doubt there was a deep, internal reason. Eva Cox was someone else who just dealt with whatever techstuff she needed.
My favourite incident of all time was the second year. Three senior government officials did (from the audience's point of view) one of the best live panels we ever had during the online years. Pat Turner offered her office and arranged food and drink and asked if I'd mind actually being there, in case something went wrong. Her tech person assured her it was fine, but I came anyway, for she wanted me to. No-one thought to check firewalls until I got there. The firewalls for certain government departments are absolutely brilliant. This was tested by several people. We could reach the WHM site, but we couldn't use a chatroom. And the session was live chat. And it had begun...
In the end, all we could do was use someone's laptop and get to the site through dial-up (thus avoiding the firewall entirely). I opened a screen for each of the panelists, and typed what they told me to. I suspect that this - and the fine white wine we were drinking - was one of the reasons the panel was so very good. The three panellists sat on the couches and exchanged stories and jokes in between telling me what to type. Much wine was drunk. We were all the kind of women who get amused by this sort of incident, so we were all very merry, and the three women knew each other well, so I just typed and typed and typed. We started very late and we finished very late, and it was a very wonderful evening.
It's odd that a few days ago this part of my life was buried so deeply that I conflated two years. It's odd that now, even though I have book to write and so much else to do, I can't stop writing about it.
The good news is that the current WHM committee has the archives, for I kept all these wonderful chats and most of the email correspondence that went into setting them up. I delivered them just the other day. The bad news is that I still miss Helen. The Evil Gillian news is that I was speaking quite literally about the smallness of my life in the post about her. But I am still that woman who taught the Australian women's movement (select portions thereof) how to use computers and social media to get where they need to be.
My life is a lot bigger than the physical footprint suggests. So, for that matter, is my waistline.
*The lady whose divorce gave the excuse to dismantle the highly functioning Jewish legal system in England. She reminds me of someone in modern politics, actually. Possibly a mining magnate. Liquoricia's life wasn't all glorious, though, despite her once-vast wealth, and she had a miserable death, so I'm mostly sympathetic to her - just not about the Beth Din thing. Think of current female mining magnates as persecuted other, whose sense of entitlement is constantly battling with the reality of being Jewish: that's Liquoricia, I think.
( Kathleen Cunnningham Guler and I met online through our mutual interest in things Arthurian. However, she didn't choose something even close to Arthurian to write about for today!Collapse )
I'm behind on things today because I've been sleeping. The antibiotics have really begun to do their thing and my body is heaving a sigh of relief and saying "Things are better now, time to sleep." I pointed out to my body that this is a work day and that I've got stuff I want to do, but it's telling me that I've worked all the way through quite a few days that should have been sick days, and it's stopped listening to me. It has decided to go heal itself. Wherever it goes, it drags me with it and so I sleep a great deal and have strange dreams.
In my most recent dream (ten minutes ago), I walked out of Varuna (I need to go back there, sometime) and past a strange wedding, and got myself to Melbourne, where I went to my childhood home instead of to where my mother lives, and I was trying to get to her on the phone to say that I had no idea how to get there from here (in reality, it's easy - train from Glenferrie to Richmond, then change, or tram to Richmond then train or tram to Hawthorn Road then tram) and everything got in the way and went strange in small eerie ways. Do not spend time with horror writers when you are unwell, is all I can say.
In other news... Maxine McArthur gifted me with a zucchini so big that it counts as a marrow. I have unfrozen something from my freezer that looks as if it will stuff it (I think it's someone's idea of bulkogi mix that I was trying), for doing things from scratch is just not going to happen today, and I will need meals for the rest of the week when things will be better, but still not a walk in the park, and lo, I have a lovely zucchini and it says "Eat me."
In other news... I need to write sentences that don't sprawl.
In other news still, I haven't forgotten WHM. We have a lovely guest for today. I just keep falling asleep before I can post things. And it may not be just my whatever-was-wrong-with-me, people kept napping like cats at the retreat, complaining of headache and fatigue and other symptoms. If this is what's wrong with me, it'll be over by tomorrow. I don't think I"ll get my chapter written today, though.